I don't have that much to say about this past Friday's 12 Monkeys — it's a lot of set-up, and Cole and Cassandra both spend the whole episode spinning their wheels. But it does set up the show's first ever conflict between changing the past and actually building a plausible future. Spoilers ahead...
So like I said, neither Cole nor Cassandra has much to do this week. Cole basically spends the whole episode buried in the wreckage of Wexler's compound, only to emerge and find that it's 2017, not 2015, and the plague has struck after all. Cassandra, meanwhile, goes to Chechnya to look for Cole — hoping she won't find him, because that'll mean they succeeded. (And because Cole is zapped forward 2 years, she's fooled into thinking they did.)
But the meat of the episode has to do with events in 2043, where we discover Project Spearhead, the organization that Dr Jones and Whitley left behind to start their time-travel research. And while the Splinter project is all about trying to fix the past, Spearhead is all aimed at building a possible future — they have a ton of computer servers, trying to come up with a vaccine that can anticipate any possible mutation of the virus before it happens. And then, the human race can finally be safe, and not have to live in fear of future mutations.
Unfortunately, the power core of the time machine is burnt out, so Dr. Jones needs the Spearhead core. So there's only one core, and two possible uses for it: time travel, or vaccine development. The past, or the future. Dr. Jones makes a strong argument that time travel is the better path, because they can bring back all the people they lost, and restore human culture. But Foster, the head of Spearhead, believes that's a pipe dream.
There are vague hints that Foster is kind of a dictator — he spouts religious lingo a lot, and seems to have built the kind of "perfect community" that generally signifies fascism in a post-apocalyptic setting. Plus we hear that when some of the military leaders tried to abandon Spearhead to go to a more remote setting and stop searching for a cure to the virus, Foster had them executed and it was kind of a bloodbath.
Jones claims that Foster's project has only cured an old mutation of the virus, from 2033, and they'll never be able to cure all the current and future strains — but it's hard to tell if that's really true.
Foster does make Jones a somewhat reasonable offer — he'll lend her his power core long enough for Jones to retrieve Cole from the past, but then she has to go work for him. But she sees that as "servitude," and decides instead she's just going to take his power core — by any means necessary. One possible obstacle: Whitley's dad, an uptight military man, is head of security at Spearhead.
In the end, it comes down to two kids: Jones' daughter Hannah, who died in the plague and could be restored to life if Jones can change the timeline. And Ramse's son, that Ramse meets for the first time at Spearhead, who's living there with Ramse's ex-girlfriend Elena. One child represents a lost past, the other represents a future that could spring up here and now, with no revision of history necessary.
I've actually already seen the rest of the first season of 12 Monkeys, because Syfy sent out screeners of the whole shebang. And so I know how this all turns out. Without disclosing any spoilers, suffice to say that we're treading into murkier territory from here on out.
The show is about to get even darker — although, sadly, there are also some parts of the final episodes where I felt as though the show is starting collapse under its own weight. (Much the same way Continuum started to.) Some of the plot twists felt rushed and a bit out of left field.
The good news is, these themes about the nature and ethics of time travel, as seen in this latest episode, keep getting developed with an admirable persistence. And the character studies of Cole, Cassandra and Jones continue to get developed in a fascinating way. All in all, strap yourselves in because the timelines are about to get pretty insane.