06 “The Red Forest” (12 Monkeys season 1) [SPOILERS]


12 monkeys

Making time travel make sense in a narative, dramatic story is a real headache.

For one thing, to the best of my knowledge it doesn’t exist at the moment. So making it actually realistic involves some jumps of imagination. Then you have to make it serve the actual story you’re trying to tell, the narative developments you’re trying to push forward.

This is almost certainly why time travel stories inevitibly end up with internal contradictions. I’ve previously mentioned Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” as my ideal time travel story, but it is a short story. As the story gets longer, more and more little niggles are going to work their way in.

It’s not necessarily a problem. A TV series, for instance, centred around time travel can be fun, exciting, entertaining, interesting, even if not being 100% internally consistent.

Doesn’t mean I won’t pick it apart, mind.

Last episode, Cole successfully torched the Night Room and its sample of the virus, but after Cassie was captured he splintered into an alternate 2043, where West 7 control the facility. Finding the alternate Dr Jones, Cole discovers that Cassie died 2015, and so never left her message. Cole persuades Ramse, the head of West 7 in the new timeline, to let him go back and find her. In 2015, Cole and Cassie’s ex Aaron track he down to a Twelve Monkeys facility.

The conclusion to the last episode was, to be honest, brilliant. Cole walking out into the ruined facility, and seeing his supposed victory turned to ashes — even without explanation, it was a triumphant ending. It’s a shame that this episode didn’t take a little more time with that.

Tracking down alternate Jones, he quickly convinces her that his story is true, despite his face not being one of the ones she sent back in time. His blood being “in flux” is scientific bollocks, but makes sense as an explanation for her quick turnaround.

Similarly, the brilliant moment where he comes face to face with an eyepatch-wearing Ramse who is West 7’s leader — Ramse buried the dead cole in this timeline, killed by Jones’ soldiers since she didn’t recognise his name from Dr Railly’s message, which she didn’t leave, because she died. The fact that Cole can riff off personal information about Ramse explains why he accepts the time travel story — but his being convinced to drain the core and send Cole back in time makes less sense.

Cassie, meanwhile (Is it really meanwhile, 30 years prior? -Ed), has been taken to some sort of Army of the Twelve Monkeys facility, where an unnamed woman puts her through the same thing that it seemed Goines was, taking some psychogenic substance and being sent to an imaginary “red forest”. It’s about meeting with The Witness, who knows that Cassie is important, and is almost certainly some time traveller or other. Maybe even a future future Cole, as I suspect the corpse in the Night Room was.

Cole recruits Aaron, which makes sense since he can’t cross his own path, and he too is convinced a little too quickly, party because Cole namedrops Operation Troy, some CIA op which has something to do with the coming apocalypse. Against the odds, the hapless (Clueless.. -Ed) pair find their way to where Cassie is being held, just in time to rescue her. As she and Aaron escape to safety, Cole splinters back to the future — his future — but not before putting a bullet in the Pallid Man.

Ramse is all jokes, but tipped off by alternate Jones, Cole asks her about the cost of his time travel. And yes, every time he splinters he breaks his body a little more. Eventually, it will kill him.

So here’s a theory: what if the virus is a product of his repeated splintering? What if, eventually, he ends up hundreds of years in the past where he dies, becoming the corpse in the Night Room, and the ultimate origin of the virus which wipes out the world. It would be neat, and would fit with what’s come so far.

The time travel is a bit less clean this episode though. Cole surely has rewritten time, and then rewritten it again. Time can be rewritten, so surely a closed loop is not the only answer. My head hurts…

What I would say is that this would have been better as two episodes. It was in far too much of a hurry, and we should have probably had a first episode in the alternate future — with Cassie’s torture in the past — as he tries to convince Ramse to send him back. And then the second episode would be the rescue.

Despite that, though, there’s a lot to praise about this episode. The story was good, tense, and we have even more hinted-at tidbits to ponder on. Particularly we now know that there is something mystically sinister about The Witness, and that he almost certainly doesn’t exist corporeally in 2015. I wonder if the substance given to Cassie and Goines is related to Jones’ time travel drugs, allowing the mind to travel from the past to the future to speak with The Witness, whoever he or she is.

12 Monkeys is shaping up into every inch of brilliance I could hope for from it.

  • Discount Julian Assange/Edward Snowden, Adam Wexler, speaks like an absolute knob. And is almost certainly going to be a big part of the end of the world.
  • The two wolf metaphor is stupid. In fact, most of Ramse’s metaphors seem to be stupid.
  • At least alternate Ramse had an eyepatch, rather than a goatee.
  • I had wondered whether Aaron was going to play a bigger role. He’s been a bit sidelined since the first couple of episodes.
  • And is the Pallid Man really dead? He was a bit pantomime villain, but I quite liked him.
  • Those alternate memories, of a bullet and a glass of something (Looked like milk -Ed). That’s going to be significant.
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