Even apart from its many other delights, Syfy's decision to make a TV series of 12 Monkeys will have been worth it just for this weird-ass scene where businessmen wheel out a thousand-year-old frozen corpse in a Japanese nightclub. Now THAT's a party! Watch for yourself.
I love the coke-snorting and 80s references like Goines telling Nakano, "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto." So awesome.
So the bulk of last Friday's episode of 12 Monkeys has to do with Jose Ramse's journey after he goes back in time to 1987. He stops James Cole from preventing the deadly virus at its source, and stabs Cole — apparently fatally. Then Ramse rots in a Japanese prison for years, while the Army of the Twelve Monkeys sends him care packages and he learns to outwit a prison bully.
Eventually, the Army of the Twelve Monkeys gets Ramse out of there and brings him to their compound, where he's hailed as the Traveler. He gives them insider info on how to get the virus and how to outwit Cole during the "period of interference." And we see how Ramse was there, the whole time, helping the Monkeys to defeat Cole while maintaining the sequence of events that led to Ramse going back in time originally.
But actually, the time traveler who does the most to make the virus happen in this episode is Cole himself — we see how a young(ish) Leland Goines isn't terribly interested in buying the thousand-year-old Himalayan corpsicle, because the Japanese cut their cocaine with too much laxative. Until Cole attacks Leland and happens to tell him that there's a deadly virus inside the corpse — and Cole also tells Leland that the Army of the Twelve Monkeys ends the world, which Leland will later tell Cole.
So really, all of this is Cole's fault. His interference has caused the whole problem — even apart from the extreme likelihood that the frozen corpse is Cole's own.
Ramse seems pretty gung ho to join the bad guys and assist them in committing mass murder — it's one thing to try and prevent interference with a historical atrociity, and quite another to mastermind it. But I guess the time in a Japanese prison is supposed to have hardened him, including all the Sun Tzu reading.
When Ramse gives the Twelve Monkeys the future version of the Pale Man's amulet, which he got from Jennifer Goines, they put it together with the present-day version — and just like with the two versions of Cassandra Railly's watch, there's a huge burst of energy. Except this time, it turns all the vegetation red. So Cassandra wasn't hallucinating when she saw the plant turn red after Cole jumped through time. And the Twelve Monkeys' obsession with a red forest is something to do with time-travel?
This whole business with Ramse feels very "closed loop," and the Monkeys even talk openly about making sure the cycle happens the same way it always has. This show is definitely a lot more invested in sleight-of-hand time-travel magic tricks than I had thought at first — which is great, if that's your cup of tea. (I tend to prefer my time-travel to be messy.)
In any case, the Ramse storyline answers a few questions, but also opens up a few new ones — like, how did Nakano know that this particular Himalayan corpse is a lot more valuable than it appears? Does he know more than he's letting on?
More importantly, who told the Army of the Twelve Monkeys that Ramse was in a Japanese prison, and that he was from the future? There has to be another time-traveler, someone who knew enough to tell the Twelve Monkeys about Ramse's son and the fact that Ramse was carrying the future version of the Pallid Man's medallion.
Also, at Ramse's advice, the Twelve Monkeys become the major investor in Leland Goines' company, Markridge — so why do they have to break in and murder a ton of people in the laboratory to find out where Markridge keeps its dangerous samples? Why not just use their access as owners of the company?
In any case, having Ramse working for the Twelve Monkeys makes the stakes a lot more personal and intense, because now it's brother against brother. And Ramse — who barely seems to have aged — thinks Cole is dead after being stabbed in 1987.
Whereas, in fact, Cole isn't dead — they managed to slingshot him to 2015 at the last minute, but in the process Dr. Jones and her gang in 2043 lost their "tether" to him.
A big part of the episode, meanwhile, deals with Leland Goines' daughter, Jennifer, who's already a little girl in 1987. (Note Young Leland's sort of disturbing reaction to the mention of Jennifer.) We learn that Leland shipped Jennifer's mother away early on. And Leland knew that Jennifer didn't kill those people in the lab, thanks to security footage. But Leland wants Jennifer to stay locked up in the mental institution, because that's where she belongs. Ouch.
So in the end, Jennifer gets "rescued" from her fugitive existence by the Striking Woman, who brushes her hair creepily — SO creepily — and offers Jennifer the chance to be "a good daughter" again. And the Pallid Man tells Ramse that they're "securing [his] future" by moving Jennifer into position. (So she'll be there in 2043 to give him the medallion?)
Another victory for the Twelve Monkeys: They succeed in turning Aaron into a traitor. He tries to convince Cassandra Railly that Cole is probably dead, and that they should just try to find a way to survive the plague, instead of preventing it. And when she tells him to go back to his boss, Senator Royce, he does — but instead of trying to convince Royce to stop the plague, he asks to be involved in a new private-sector project to create an infrastructure for surviving disasters. And who's in charge of that project? The Striking Woman! Dun dun dun...
And Aaron's not the only one abandoning the cause. Whitley has had enough — now that they've lost the tether to James Cole, the mission is over. And all the deaths, at Spearhead and elsewhere, have apparently been for nothing. Whitley has one last drink with Dr. Jones, and then takes his leave. Jones, meanwhile, tells her assistant that she has stay right here — and that hope is a luxury for people who aren't burdened by fate (as she is.)
I guess this show's closed-loop time-travel stuff is another way of getting at the question of fate versus free will, but it's starting to look as though the loops are tied so tight that any freedom of motion will only happen at the margins. Which, I guess, is the point, maybe?
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.