12 Monkeys Season One
Recap & Commentary III
Episodes 10 – 13
Episode 10 – Divine Move
In the splinter chamber Dr. Adler is making notes by speaking into a voice recorder and by extension giving us needed exposition. It’s been three days since the core came online and Cole is in Year 2015.
Meanwhile, behind Dr. Adler in the meeting room, Ramse is stealing the time travel injections, after which he knocks out Adler and lights the room on fire. At least Ramse dragged Adler out of the room before making off with the precious injections.
Cassie hasn’t seen Cole since the mission in Chechnya, which has allowed Aaron to move on and attempt to make a move of his own with Cassie again. Cole shows up and breaks up a tiny moment of happiness. Aaron stomps off and throws a fit as he leaves the “Red Well” bookstore. (By the way, that is the coolest name ever for a used bookstore.)
Cassie and Cole head out to find Oliver Peters, the original designer of the M5-10 virus. Cassie notices that Cole isn’t well, the time travel is slowly killing him, he’s breaking down with every mission. They don’t find Oliver, only a dead scientist in a lab, but instead they find a journal with the notes and instructions to produce the virus.
Cole is breaking down physically and Cassie is breaking down emotionally, psychologically from this mission.
Cole is brought back early with news about the White Dragon Club in Tokyo, 1987. But Jones has news of her own, the burnt room and missing injections. Cole collapses and they usher him into a glass tube chamber to stabilize him on a molecular level. Science, technology! It sound a little silly, it looks a little silly, but if the writers want us to believe this will help him, it’s a small thing and easily forgivable when so much else is killer awesome about 12 Monkeys.
Cassie researches and finds monkeys used for scientific research. Of course it’s monkeys, what else?
Jennifer and the daughters show up near Ramse’s camp.
Cole convinces Jones to keep Ramse, Elena and Sam safe when Whitley goes on a mission to get the injections back. Jones commits to their safety, but does tell Whitley that the injections should be chosen above all else, should it come down to a fight. As always, the mission comes first.
Ramse approaches the daughters and sees the older Jennifer for the first time.
Cassie tries to convince Aaron to get onboard with their mission, but an unintended consequence happens and Aaron is convinced of something else. He’ll soon have his own mission, to ensure the survival of him and Cassie when the plague happens. This mission of his forces him to make bad alliances.
Perhaps the most important scene in the episode, one of the most in the season. Rames speaks with Jennifer, the Jennifer that has seen the end of the story unfold. He’s shocked to learn that she knows so much and knows so many people. She speaks of death, how it’s both cause and effect, no straight lines, the Witness, and more primary speak. All of it fascinating to see, especially having watched the other seasons and then this again. While she speaks of death, one of Whitley’s men accidentally kills Elena back at the camp. Now it’s just Ramse and Sam. More than ever the thought of losing Sam, of losing his only son, his only family is unthinkable and motivates him to make brash new moves. Before Ramse leaves Jennifer, she gives him the Witness necklace that she stole from the Tall man while in the Night Room.
Cassie and Aaron look for Peters in a shipping container yard.
Why is it always a shipping port or an abandoned warehouse?
- That’s a poignant, yet funny, question asked in an episode of Continuum once. Think about it, you’ll see what we mean.
Cassie finds Dr. Peters, but it’s too late, the Monkey army already has M5-10. Oliver does mention the twelve, the messengers, which is a great way of pointing to the events at the end of this season and of course the coming of the 12 Messengers, the killing of the primaries and the coming of the Red Forest in Season 2 of 12 Monkeys.
Meanwhile, Aaron meets “The Striking Woman”, AKA Olivia, AKA The Real Witness. But for now we only know her as the Striking Woman. She tells Aaron that Dr. Railly is very important and asks what he would do to keep her alive. He’s looking to ensure their safety and right on cue, she shows up and basically offers him a way to keep them safe. Oh Aaron, if only you could take back your choices. What love makes us do sometimes.
Ramse shows up and is on his own murderous mission. Dr. Jones prepares the machine, while Ramse makes his way to the splinter chamber. When he gets there he plants C4 on the machine and plans to blow it up. Ramse blames Dr. Jones for Elena’s death and if her mission succeeds, he’ll lose his son too.
In this moment, Ramse confronts Jones’s motives based on her loss of Hannah. Max intercedes, but events keep escalating until Ramse is Atari once more. He injects himself and has the tech send him away in the machine. Out of moves, lost is love, fears of losing his son, he hopes in this moment to repair things in another time. And then, Ramse becomes a time traveler, and over time, he’ll be known as more than that alone.
Max dies from Ramse’s gunshot and even though he had some treatment, Cole may be making his last trip through time to chase Ramse back to 1987, Tokyo.
Ramse, then Cole arrive in Tokyo, which leads directly into the next episode.
Episode 11 – Shonin
This is one of my favorite episodes of 12 Monkeys. Now that Ramse is also a time traveler and at the same time Cole’s adversary, the show takes on another level of urgency.
In the White Dragon club, we see Leland Goines and the guy trying to sell him the Himalayan corpse containing the virus. This is where Cole mentions the Army of the 12 Monkeys, the end of the world and the virus, the very words that Goines tells Cole about in the future. Cole loses a fight to Ramse, stabbed with a butterfly knife and Goines decides to buy the remains and they let Ramse go. Just before a Chinese mobster puts a bullet in Cole’s head, Jones has Cole slingshot splintered to Cassie.
Ramse spends seven years in a cold and violent Chinese prison. During which he receives letters from Olivia, who for the first time calls him “Traveler.” The story of the Traveler is long and storied by the 12 Monkeys, known to them from the Witness. He reads books, the Art of War and eventually overcomes his brutal oppressor in a very cool way. He ends his torment by using his mind, his learned use of the Chinese language and the teachings found in the books sent to him by Olivia.
Upon release from prison, the Monkeys perform an induction ceremony of sorts by causing a paradox. They place the necklace that Jennifer gave him next to the one that the Tall man was wearing, the same Witness symbol from two different times, which causes a paradox and all green plants into red ones in the area. This is the second time we’ve seen green plants turn red from a time event happening nearby. This is a major theme explored in season two.
This episode gets even better when we see an overview of many key events of 12 Monkeys so far, but this time we see them through the eyes of Ramse, who spends many years in the past, from 1987 to 2015. He helps shape events, make investments, and key decisions for the 12 Monkey Army using his memories of tomorrow, his knowledge of future events, having himself witnessed the travels of Cole for Jones’s mission. Everything’s changing, green to red. Poor Jennifer, her dad sure was a prick. No wonder she was excited by and thankful to Cole for killing him.
I’ve often wondered why Olivia and the Monkeys insisted on Jennifer being the one to release the virus around the world. On its face, it doesn’t make sense, the reasons are obvious. I have a new theory.
What if the Witness from the future communicated with Olivia through visions had by the red tea and told her that Jennifer must be the one for the job?
What if the future Witness wants Jennifer to release the virus because in doing so would corrupt her forever, cause her to break once and for all?
What if the future Witness knew that Jennifer would not succeed in 2015, and had her believe she was the one for the job and not succeeding would cause her to break once and for all?
In every possible explanation, I’m sure of one thing, the future Witness knows how important Jennifer is to the entire story and wants to destroy her by any means necessary.
Episode 12 – Paradox
Cole was slingshot from 1987 to 2015, where Jones hopes that Cassie can save him from his knife wound. We see a much younger Dr. Jones in New York City and the address that Cassie gave Cole in 2017 was of Katerina’s home. Cassie convinced Jones to come to the bookstore to help Cole. When they get back, Cole realizes that Jones has always known him. Even with Cassie and Jones trying to help him Cole is convinced that it’s over for him, he’s going to die.
Dr. Jones has her team digging deep with new research. From their findings we learn that the virus dispersal may have been from flying around the world. We also learn that Markridge got a new CEO in 2015, cut to Jennifer claiming her thrown as head of her father’s company.
Jennifer proves this with “article blah, subsection yada” Emily Hampshire is great throughout this episode, showing signs of what she can do and what she will do as part of the main cast starting in season two.
Cassie and Jones comes up with an insane plan, causing a paradox inside of Cole to save his life. Now they only need a sample of his younger self’s blood. At the same time Aaron’s true intentions are solidified and he makes a deal with Olivia, meaning, he betrays them by giving up their location. Like Jennifer before, when Aaron meets with the striking woman, we see more of what Olivia, Alisen Down, is capable of with an expanded role.
Cassie and Jones head out to find young Cole. On the way we learn that Jones is pregnant with Hannah. Once there they convince Cole’s dad to bring young Cole back to the bookstore so they can get a blood sample for their crazy paradox plan.
Red vines and red leaves are randomly appearing in the splinter chair that sits in the middle of the time machine’s temporal stream. Jone’s asks Adler to look into this strange phenomenon. We learn later, in the next episode, just where and when these vines are coming from.
Adult Cole and his dad have a nice heart to heart. Cole learns more about his mom and how his parents met each other. While Cassie draws blood from young Cole, his father and him recite a line that we hear a few more times in subsequent seasons of 12 Monkeys.
“The only failure is giving up.”
Soon after Cassie gets a call from Aaron and learns of his betrayal.
Right after this Cassie sees the Tall man’s hat in a car driving by and she races back to warn everyone. In slow motion we see everybody escaping and Cole’s dad stays in the alley to protect them as they drive off. Young Cole sees his father gunned down before him. This is a scene referencing the original films that inspired the 12 Monkeys TV show. In this case, young Cole sees his father gunned down, as adult Cole is inside the bookstore waiting for the Tall man to arrive before he injects himself with the paradox of his making, his blood. In the episodes leading up to this one, Cole’s had visions, like memories unsolidified, fleeting and coming randomly of a glass of milk smashing, etc. He was having visions as an adult of what he would witness, and did witness as a child in his near future and at the same time his near past.
All of this leads to a remarkable event, the paradox and rebirth of James Cole in the Year 2015. Like the paradox events that we have witnessed before on 12 Monkeys, a brilliant white light envelops Cole, emanating from the core of his body. His veins and the blood within glowed and his entire body raised off the floor of the bookstore, as if defying gravity. While Cole didn’t exactly portray the Christ pose of being on a cross, with his arms out wide, he did raise them halfway up and in a way this was meant to resemble Christ’s death and then resurrection in a small way. Cole is reborn and completely renewed, as he’s left lying naked on his side in a fetal position on the floor. Young Cole, who just lost his father, is left at an orphanage, where he meets Ramse on the first day.
Before the episode ends, we see the 12 Messengers for the first time as well as Deacon, who are all teamed up to attack Jones’s facility in the next and final episode of season one.
Episode 13 – Arms of Mine
Like so many other times through the 12 Monkeys series, this episode begins with that old song and a voice over asking, “where are you right now? somewhere warm? with someone you love?” The montage is over soon enough and after the 12 Monkeys title sequence plays, a very different scene comes on the screen.
Cole is punching the living crap out of Aaron, who’s tied to a chair in an abandoned warehouse with Cassie looking on. They are trying to find out who the players in the Army of the 12 Monkeys are. Aaron only gives up a link between the Monkeys and Markridge before he makes a fatal mistake by attempting to escape and fight Cole. They leave Aaron behind, trapped in a room of fire.
The strange red plants keep showing up in the splinter chamber.
Cassie and Cole head to see Jennifer, the new CEO of Markridge. After she gives a presentation that only Jennifer could write, Cassie and Cole ask for her help to determine who is the mystery Monkey investor. Ethan Seki is Ramse. The search for Ramse and all of their answers leads them back home to Raritan Valley National Laboratory. The same facility where the time machine exists in 2015. Jennifer tells someone on the phone, probably Olivia, that she’s given the info to Cassie and Cole. Why? Hopefully we’ll find out in season 4.
Deacon and the Messengers prepare to invade Raritan of the future by sending a thousand birds to clog the air exhaust of the reactor core.
Inside Raritan of the past, where Dr. Jones, the other Jones and ex-husband of Katarina continues his testing of the time machine by sending plants 28 years into the future. This is where the red plants have been coming from.
The 12 Messengers and Deacon storm the proverbial castle to take over Raritan of the future and the time machine. Jones resorts to desperate measures and prepares the same C4 that Ramse tried to use in hope of destroying the machine to keep it out of the hands of the Messengers.
Just as the Messengers are showing up to the splinter chamber in the future, Ramse has arrived himself in the same place in the past. He has unrestricted access to the machine, this is what money can buy.
Meanwhile, Cassie and Cole also arrive at Raritan and soon will face off with Ramse in the splinter chamber in the past. These two events happen in the same splinter chamber and the two scenes are edited to cut back and forth, to show both confrontations over the time machine, happening in two different times.
Cassie and Cole believe Ramse wants to destroy the machine, but instead he wants to use it, giving him a trip back to the future and his son. Jones isn’t sure what the invaders plan, but in any case, she’s ready to destroy the machine.
We learn about quantum entanglement from this episode, even though the term isn’t directly addressed, there is obviously a connection between the machine in both times, one established by Dr. Jones sending plants from 2015, forward in time to the machine of 2043.
The showdowns in the splinter chamber in both times end very differently. Cassie chooses to shoot her enemy, which shows how far she’s come and points to how far she’ll go in season 2. Cassie’s choice results in three people being shot, her, Ramse and the Monkey bodyguard.
Dr. Jones chooses not to fight or hurt her precious machine, instead she barters for the lives of her and her people. Perhaps she never intended to destroy the machine, but instead used the C4 as final bargaining chip to ensure their survival.
In 2015, both Ramse and Cassie are bleeding out near the time machine and a shot with a single injection of super time travel medicine. Ramse gives this shot to Cole and tells him to send Cassie to Year 2043, so Jones could save her. This is where Cassie finally becomes a time traveler. It’s very satisfying when the head Messenger is awestruck by Cassie arriving in their time. I always love it when a guy, who thinks he knows everything, admits that he doesn’t know as much as he originally thought.
This is where Cole really changes things. Cole sends Cassie to Year 2043 and he saves Ramse, who’s cycle was supposed to end that day in the chamber. When Olivia believes what the Witness has spoken, that Ramse would die, this alone tells me that Jennifer was helping to direct Cole and Cassie there to kill Ramse.
Olivia of 2015 is a total zealot and believes everything the Witness has spoken. She believed that Ramse died next to the machine that he helped to finance, a loose end taken care of from her perspective. She also believed Cole to disappear into obscurity, since he can no longer travel in time, his cycle had also ended. But there is something more powerful than fate, it’s love. Cole’s love of Cassie sent her through time to Jones, Cole’s love of Ramse made him go back to save his brother.
All of this raises a very important question, if the future Witness exists in a time after the events of season two, where Olivia chases Cole and Ramse all over the world, then how can the Witness believe both of these men will be inconsequential?
The only answer that makes sense is that the future Witness, who communicates with Olivia of the past, lies to her over and over in order to maintain her present course. The future Witness most likely lies to Olivia for the same reason why Ramse could not intercede with events involving Cole, a period of time that must remain untouched and intact. If the Witness told Olivia otherwise, the course of history would have been changed and she would never have done certain things that lead to her eventually making her way back to Titan to confront Athan.
Time travel is complicated. Time travel stories and theories are difficult to understand and comprehend. This is why the smart people get a show, love a show like 12 Monkeys. Many people do not like Sci-fi in general. They especially do not like time travel because it’s all too complicated or the words are too long, the concepts too difficult to understand. Why are some people afraid of using their minds, of challenging themselves? Ironically, these very same reasons explain why we love science fiction, why we love time travel stories and complex theories and complicated concepts. We love to be challenged. We love to use our minds to think and understand so much more beyond the commonplace and explore life beyond the minutiae of our everyday existence.
This is why we love 12 Monkeys.