09 “Tomorrow” (12 Monkeys season 1) [SPOILERS]


12 monkeys

12 Monkeys has secured it’s renewal for a second series then. I’m glad, of course, but I do have some issues around how this story has been pacing itself. It seems in an unseemly hurry for a time travel show.

Not that the pacing is a bad thing, but for a series with a second season on the horizon (and hopefully more to follow) I do wonder quite what knots it will end up tying itself in. Things are already getting pretty convoluted.

It could, I suppose, go full Fringe and completely reset the timeline.

I’m sure that they can find something to do with the extra room, but I do hope they have an endgame in mind. They are adapting a single film, and the dangers of cramming too much ancillary “stuff” in with it is surely plain to see.

Surely?

After last episode left him trapped in 2017 Chechnya, whilst the virus rages around him, this time Cole makes contact with the authorities, who take him to an older Cassie. In the future, Jones puts into effect her bloody plan to take Spearhead’s power core. And flashbacks show us how Ramse and Cole ended up at Project Splinter in the first place.

The one thing I’ve praised throughout this adaptation so far is its darkness. This episode, though, takes it to another level. The final shot of the last episode was a holocaust-esque scene of bodies lined up for burial. 2017, then, is the plague in full swing, sweeping across the world. People are rioting in the streets, for a cure which will never come.

Cole’s presence doesn’t actually achieve much. Cassie is dying by the time he gets there, and only gives him a piece of paper with an address before she passes away in his arms. Cole will see her again, she confirms that much, but Cole is actually there when she dies. She refuses to change the path he’s on though, directing him to look for “the red forest” of a few episodes back. So Cole is on course, presumably?

The real action, though, is in the future. Jones denounces Foster’s apparent cure as being for an old mutation, and rallies her troops to attack Spearhead. Whitley manages (Somehow… -Ed) to convince his father to turn on Foster, whilst Jones puts a bullet in the Colonel himself — after explaining that she used to be a mother, neatly summing up her own obsessive devotion to her mission.

She storms the facility, gunning down anyone against her over a flashback monologue of explaining the need for her mission. She sounds and looks every bit the zealot and despot that Foster was. They take the core by force, only losing a few men in the process — one of the eggheads, and Whitley’s dad. She hooks up the core and brings Cole back.

Except, she lied. Foster had cured the 2033 mutation, but also the (latest) 2041 version. Jones lied to her people, to inspire them to attack Spearhead. She lied to everyone, because her goal is not the best for humanity, but to undo everything that happened with the plague, including the death of her child. So she burns what seems to be the proof that Foster was right, and goes back to the time machine. Never mind the people she’s slaughtered, never mind those she could save.

It’s actually, I think, a strain of moral relativism. If Jones succeeds, nobody has actually died, nobody has actually suffered. To tell the truth, I see little difference between that and Foster’s “God planned it all” rhetoric. It’s all just a version of the end justifies the means, which in turn is a plea that it will. There’s shades of grey here, and nothing is black and white.

Interspersed, we have the story of Ramse and Cole, on the run. After a botched attempt to attack Whitley’s men, they are taken into custody, where Jones plucks Cole out for the mission. Nothing new there; but what is new is that Cole said no. Ramse was the one who bought into it, and foiled an escape attempt, forcing his friend to co-operate.

Now the roles have switched. Cole, fresh from Cassie’s death, is committed and re-energised for the mission, no matter what the cost. Ramse, with a son to look after now, has seen the lengths Jones will go to for her own mission, and is disillusioned with the whole thing, and the two friends come to blows in the time machine room.

So, 12 Monkeys is one of my favourite shows of the moment, and that’s not purely because it doesn’t feel the need to stop its broadcast schedule periodically for absolutely no reason (*cough*Gotham*cough* -Ed). The darkness, the palpable grit of humanity on the edge of extinction, is shown here through the protagonists — or who should be the protagonists. It’s some of the best close examination of humanity I’ve seen in an SF TV series in a long while. Everyone, deep down, is a horrible person in some way, because that’s what they have to be in order to survive.

Good stuff, then.

  • 2017 Cassie features a grey streak of hair, a la Rogue from X-Men. Or, for that matter, Wolverine’s greying temples in Days of Future Past. It’s better than old woman make up or CGI, I guess…
  • What was Jennifer Goines doing in 2017? She seemed to be giving a speech about the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. Was she…was she forming the army…in the future(ish)?
  • Why couldn’t Jones have sent Foster’s cure back to 2015?
  • Foster’s security is appalling. How did Jones manage to get a gun into their cosy little chat?
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