07 “The Keys” (12 Monkeys season 1) [SPOILERS]


12 monkeys

The thing I like about 12 Monkeys is how it embraces its weird. In true Terry Gilliam style, it doesn’t mind getting a little odd, both in terms of plot, character and setting.

The last few episodes have really opened that up, each answer to a question heralding a whole plethora more still to be answered. And not in an annoying way, or even an obtuse way. It’s actual storytelling, which despite the twists and turns feels like it knows where it’s going, even if it doesn’t necessarily know how it’s getting there.

Which is alright by me, as long as it doesn’t come unspooled on the way there. I still don’t know what the show creators’ vision for this is. Is it just going to run until everyone gets bored of it? (Hopefully not… -Ed) I’ve long thought around about the fourth or fifth season is where most shows should call it a day. Battlestar Galactica pitched it just right. Farscape probably deserved one more. Breaking Bad should have called it a day at the end of season five (Controversial… -Ed).

I’m not sure whether 12 Monkeys can quite manage an indefinite run, but what it can do is make its time as exciting and entertaining as the first six episodes have been.

So let’s feed the beast, shall we?

After correcting the past last week, in order to fix the future, Cole is going after Operation Troy. Cole, Cassie and Aaron try to stop the CIA using the virus to take out a hacker holed up in Chechnya, as both the heroes and the Army of the Twelve Monkeys make a play for it.

We seem to be going around the houses a little with 12 Monkeys at the moment. Cole destroyed Markridge’s sample of the virus, but now it looks like the CIA who will end the world. Not a new concept, but pretty feasible nonetheless.

Remember back in the first episode, when Cole and Cassie gatecrashed Leland Goines’ party as he was announcing that virologist as a “goddamned rolling stone”? No? Well, he was developing the virus as a weapon for the CIA, which they now plan to use against a fictionalised Edward Snowden, Adam Wexler.

The time-bending comes into play here. Cole leaves Aaron and Cassie to figure out the specifics of Operation Troy when he comes back in a week’s time. And minutes after he leaves, Cassie gets a call from Cole in Chechnya, saying the operation is going down now.

Leaving that aside for a moment, Cassie and Aaron still really don’t get time travel. I can sort of understand the latter, but Dr Railly has had a lot of time to get used to this. And it’s not that hard. A week into the future, Cole finds out that operation has already happened. So he goes back in time to stop it. Simples, as a Chechnyan meerkat might say. The endless re-explanation is irritatingly unnecessary.

So Cole tracks down the courier of the virus, in time to see him gunned down by the Twelve Monkeys. He escapes with the virus, but before Cassie can tell him how to destroy it, he’s captured by the Checnyan troops holed up with Wexler. Who is a dick, by the way. A complete nihilist, who thinks that actually the destruction of the human race might be a good thing.

The virus is unleashed, and everyone at the compound is infected — excepting Cole, who is immune. And, helpfully, the troops call the Russian military for evac. Which is exactly what the virus needs, of course.

Cassie and Aaron go to the CIA, and once they get past the disbelieving intelligence officers, they end up in the command centre. With the Russian evac on the way, the only way to stop the spread of the virus is a missile strike on the compound. And Cole has to keep the phone signal open so they can target it. For some reason…

Now, he obviously survives. I know this because we’re only just over halfway through the season. We don’t see him splinter away though, and Cassie is left, a week on, to send Cole to what is as far as she knows is his death.

It’s an emotionally well-aimed scene, with Cassie holding back telling Cole everything for the sake of “the mission”. She does, mirroring his own desire at the museum at the start of the episode, as if they can’t just be them for a bit. It’s touching, and shows the heart beneath the weird and the time-bending.

Cole accepts that he has it coming, and he convinces Wexler that the world is full of innocents who don’t deserve to die. Which is exactly why thius works. Even though we can be pretty sure that Cole isn’t dead, we know that he would be willing to die. Not just because he can prevent the plague, but because he feels guilty about what the collapse of civilisation made him into.

And it’s a sign of how invested in the mission that Cassie is that she plays her part, even knowing where Cole is going.

  • Why does Wexler repeat his order to the Chechnyans in English? For his prisoner’s benefit?
  • The senator tells a small-town story about a loyal dog. Really…
  • Anyone who talks about “uploading” a virus is well and truly a jackass.
  • Does everyone know about the Army of the Twelve Monkeys? Why was it so hard for Cole to find information on them then? Or Jones et al, in the future?
  • Convenient that the phone rings right after Wexler dies.
  • “You are walking through a red forest, and the grass is long…”
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