Synopsis of 1×13: Cole and Cassandra try for a final confrontation with the Witness, while Jones faces a new threat to the mission.
“It took time travel to create time travel…there are no straight lines, brother.”
Or so says Ramse, making everyone’s brains hurt, yet again.
12 Monkeys is consistently compelling, and by it’s very nature constantly surprising. The finale of season one was no exception. It was a whirlwind of closing story loops and opening (or sometimes, reopening) others, all tracking back to the central theme of fate versus destiny and the myth of free will.
The most impressive thing was the way this episode mirrored the series premiere – by which I mean it literally flipped many of those same events on their heads. The inciting incident of the pilot, and really the story engine of the entire show, was how Cole’s time travel always landed him back at Cassie’s doorstep.
The first time they meet, he’s shot by the police, only to reappear to her two years later, still bleeding as if it just happened. He’s always been the chess piece, the one slipping in and out of time, without really belonging anywhere. Now, it’s Cassie. Her world was already coming down around her ears, and after she and Ramse shoot each other in the final minutes of the episode, Cole uses the machine to send her back to Jones and save her life.
This means that Cassie is now the time traveler – sent into 2043 in the midst of the rebellion, in the world Cole came from, and Cole is now stuck in her time without her, unable to time travel. It’s a perfect reversal of where they started out.
This is significant both because they’ll be forced to see the world, and the onset of the plague from each other’s perspectives, and because, after finally finding some calm in the storm, they’re once again ripped apart by the same obstacles that kept them apart, even though their places are reversed. Despite everything they’ve done, and how much change they’ve affected, they haven’t really changed anything.
Also in terms of reversal, there’s been a definite motivation and characterization shift for both Cassie and Cole. In the past few episodes, we’ve seen Cassie become much harder, less forgiving, and Cole become more understanding and less brash and ‘savage’ then when we first met him. This truly came to a head this week as we saw Cole reluctant and sorry about beating up Aaron for information on the investors. He was certainly angry and desperate, but he openly admits that he doesn’t want it to be this way.
Meanwhile Cassie stands to one side, her expression ruthless and vindictive. She used to love this man, but after everything, she’s not sorry to see him hurt. This also makes me think that Aaron, always the moral compass and comforting voice of reason, is about to become the antagonist (I know he burned alive and everything, but can you say Disney Death? We haven’t seen the last of him. I’d put money on it).
This means that his all-consuming desire to protect what he loves (Cassie) will ultimately be his downfall. A motivation that has always been altruistic, becomes selfish in the face of the end of the world. And it’s ironic, because his great lengths to save her over everyone else, are the reason he ended up actually losing her. It’s seriously messing me up to think about (and I love it).
In 2015, we find out that ‘The Twelve’ the Markridge investors have been referencing, are babies. Actual human babies, specifically, the babies that will grow up to be the Mysterious Blue People that everyone’s favorite asshole Deacon, has just joined forces with to take over the machine in 2043.
The Striking Woman narrates that this was their ultimate design; that now Ramse will be found dead at the machine in 2015, where Cassie shot him, and Cole will run off and waste away into obscurity – that it was preordained, and their work could now continue uninhibited. As she says this, we see Cole stop fleeing the facility and go back for Ramse. Spitting in the face of fate. They leave the facility together in 2015 just as Deacon and The Twelve take it over in 2043.
This gives us our arc for season two – what does Markridge want with the machine, and why did they need to wait for the plague to wipe out the earth’s population before doing it?
My favorite thing about this show has always been the Butterfly Effect. Nothing anyone does is meaningless, even if it seems that way at the time, and even though their actions may or may not actually change time. Cole doesn’t know that it’s ‘written’ for Ramse to die, he went back for him, because it was the right thing to do. But what changed?
If the Striking Woman was right about everything that’s happened up until now, what’s different in this timeline that made Cole go back when they already knew he didn’t? And what does it mean for him to save Ramse when the biggest theme of the show has been that nothing can truly change time? Why does Jennifer Goines have the virus in her suitcase?!
You can bet next season will address that, along with Cole’s changing role in the revolution now that he’s trapped in a time before the end of the world, and Cassie’s role, now that she’s thrust into the middle of the plague and the war between Jones, The Twelve and the West Seven.
And hopefully it will address Jones’ final question: Now that so many years have passed, now that the world is starting to rebuild and even in the wreckage there are families and good people – even if they can find a way to turn back time and stop the plague from ever happening, should they?