Last Friday's episode of 12 Monkeys took a lot of audacious, dark risks. And it added to our sense that this show is piling on the mythos, in good ways and bad. There are now several extra layers of mystery and foreshadowing on top of what we already knew. But most importantly... did someone explain time travel?

The basic plot of "Divine Move" was about three characters who are tempted to destroy the world to save someone they love: Jose Ramse wants to prevent Cole from time-traveling and changing the past, for the sake of his son. Oliver Peters recreates the M5-10 virus for the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, to save his already-dead husband. And Aaron Marker seems to be making a deal with the Twelve Monkeys, in order to save Cassandra at the expense of everyone else.


But the big surprise — which we revealed last week — was the appearance of Future Jennifer Goines, as the leader of an all-female post-apocalyptic cult called the Daughters. And she's still as crazy as ever — but she appears to tell Jose Ramse, who she already knows will become a time traveler, about what's going to happen to him.

She says that she and Ramse still have work to do, to "undo what I've done, what you've done, what Cole's done." And she says that they can't stop the plague, which either means she's delusional or she's figured out something about time travel that the others haven't gotten yet. She says that Ramse is a good friend [to Cole, I'm guessing] — or rather, that he will be, in the future.


Also, Jennifer says:

Not everything is pre-ordained, no matter how it may seem. They say things happen for a reason. That is a lie. Death can be both cause and effect. That's how it works. No straight lines.


The "not everything is pre-ordained" thing seems significant. It hints that some of the stuff that's already "happened" can be changed, permanently, but that not everything can. I'm guessing that's where this show is hinting it's going to land in the end — some big things are fixed and immutable, but you can make tweaks here and there. But we'll find out, I guess.

And Jennifer gives Ramse a medallion, that she says is his. And he's going to need it later. This is the second time in as many weeks this show has had a time-traveler give someone something that they'll need, once he travels back in time. Last week, it was an address that Cassandra gave to Cole.

I have to admit, this kind of foreshadowing and obsessive hinting at mysteries isn't my favorite kind of time-travel storytelling — but it fits in with the "some things haven't happened to Ramse and Cole yet, but they have for other people" trope this show is leaning on.


Lotsa mythos

In any case, the mythos is getting a lot thicker on the ground, somewhat at the expense of the characters. You have:

1) The Red Forest, which crops up when Cassandra is in the bar and randomly sees the leaves on one of the plants turn red. Meanwhile, Jennifer Goines mentions that "the herb" makes her see pictures, but it's "not red unless he's been there."


2) Cole keeps seeing visions of a glass of milk breaking on the ground, which is probably something from his childhood. (It feels like a callback to the movie, in which Cole remembers something traumatic from his childhood, but can't remember the details.)

3) The Witness, the mysterious figure inside the Army of the Twelve Monkeys who, Jennifer says, knows what caused the plague. He/she "sees, did see, will see." (Strong hint here that the Witness is another time traveler.)

Ramse burns his bridges

Desperate to protect Elena and their son from any changes to the timeline, Ramse goes back to the Splinter project and steals all the injections Cole needs to to travel through time. And then he lights the crazy conspiracy board-room on fire! So while Cole is recuperating inside an intensive care thingy, Dr. Jones sends Whitley after Ramse, and while Ramse is talking to Jennifer Goines, things go pear-shaped and Elena is shot.


This causes Ramse to become twice as enraged. He leaves his son with the encampment of survivors that they were staying with, and goes back to Splinter intending to blow up the time machine. But after he loses his bomb and is locked in the chamber with the time machine, he decides instead to go back in time to 1987 and stop Cole there. Which is where we leave him.

The episode's title, "Divine Move," refers to something in the game of Go, which is Ramse's favorite game. It's a brilliantly unconventional move that turns a losing game into a winning game. (I know this because of an episode of Teen Wolf that referenced it.)


I had mixed feelings about the Ramse storyline in this episode — for one thing, Elena never became a fleshed-out enough character for me to feel her death as anything other than a cheap attempt at giving Ramse a motivation. Given how many flashbacks this show has thrown at us, it could have given us a few Elena flashbacks.

And meanwhile, Max — who has gotten a lot of exposure in flashbacks, and seemed at one point to be getting groomed to be a major character — gets killed off in a rather cursory fashion, as though the show changed its mind about her. I'm all for characters getting a surprising death that reminds us that nobody is safe, but it had been so long since Max had significant screen time, I almost forgot she was around.

So both women's deaths feel a bit like a waste, in different but related ways. Neither of them was a character who I felt particularly invested in, and that seemed like a bit of a problem.


Cassandra is getting bitter (and maybe drunk)

The episode actually begins with Cassandra and Aaron being happy, in the mistaken belief that Cole was erased from time after the Chechnya bombing and the plague was averted. They're planning some extreme vacations, including skydiving and whatnot. "When did we become such adrenaline junkies?" They wonder.


But then Cole shows up, and Aaron is pretty pissed. He no longer believes that Cole can keep Cassandra from dying — it's already happened once, that Aaron knows of —and he's lost faith in Cole. Meanwhile, Cassandra is feeling bitter and burned out after all their pyrrhic victories.

But nevertheless, Cassandra manages to track down Oliver Peters, the "Rolling Stone" scientist who creates the virus — but it's too late. He's already created it all over again, for the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. (And his husband is already dead, even though they promised to spare him.) When Oliver asks Cassandra to shoot him so he can never make the virus again, she seems very, very tempted — but then she tells him to run and hide, instead.

While Cassandra confronts Oliver, Aaron is getting an offer from the Twelve Monkeys — if Aaron helps them, they will make sure Cassandra survives the plague. He seems mighty tempted.


And in fact, when Cassandra talks about Oliver, and why she spared him, she mentions that he was doing it to save the person he loved (theme alert!), but that's no excuse. And Aaron seems to relate, in a very personal way, to the notion of sacrificing the world to save one person.

Dr. Jones feels remorse

Now that Dr. Jones has been responsible for massacring half the people at Project Spearhead, she feels kind of bad about it. And she's changed her tune — whereas before, she believed that if they changed history, none of their actions will have happened and thus it'll be all good, she now believes that even if they wipe out this timeline, their actions still "happened," in some sense. And maybe someone, someday will judge them for what they've done.


Whitley asks her if she's started believing in God thanks to Foster's preaching, and she replies that God's wrath does not require her belief.

Later, after everything goes south with the mission to retrieve the injections from Ramse, Whitley says that it's true that they're going to be judged. And he no longer seems to be so gung-ho about following Jones' crazy orders.

I keep saying that this show is starting to remind me of Continuum — another show that I love, which features twisty time-travel mechanics and thought-provoking ideas, but sometimes piles on a few too many twists and bits of mythos for its own good.


But actually, on reflection, it's reminding me more of Fringe — because all of that crazy wheel-spinning plot development is in the service of exploring the notion of guilt, and of people who do unforgivable things in the name of their loved ones. And even though some stuff is bugging me about this show lately, it does in fact feel like a worthy successor to Fringe in the ways that count.

Contact the author at