12 Monkeys Complete Series: Season 4 Recap & Commentary 2

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12 Monkeys Season 4 Episode 4


Written by Christopher Monfette

Directed by Joe Menendez

In the fourth season of 12 Monkeys, Terry Matalas and crew had perfected what I call the Formula of the 12 Monkeys.

What is the “Formula of the 12 Monkeys“?
During the first three seasons of 12 Monkeys we’ve seen a variety of styles and genres represented. In this fourth and final season however the show is firing on all cylinders and something magical has happened. 12 Monkeys has mastered combining all of its best traits into each and every episode. I call this the formula of the 12 Monkeys.
This formula includes the very best ingredients that make up 12 Monkeys. Serious drama, adventure, comedy, action, pop-culture references, the requisite compex sci-fi metaphysics and the center of it all, time travel theories and mechanics are the primary ingredients.
The formula of the 12 Monkeys can be found in every episode of season 4. Each episode in this final season has nimbly combined all of these elements. The writers, actors, directors and production team have been together for many years now, shooting and producing 12 Monkeys on two continents. Over time a shorthand develops among the crew and all involved in production, as everyone involved strives to make each and every episode better than the last.

That guy is wearing an iwatch and he’s playing “Weird Science”

– Jennifer

My goal is a promise made to myself. As I shoot and edit on my Avid systems, when I am taking photographs, working in PhotoShop, designing still and motion graphics, or as I continue writing my first full length novel: Aretherra Vol 1, I strive to improve with every project. I know that my art is a reflection of myself. As my art improves, so do I.
I have to believe this is a trait found in the production team of 12 Monkeys. I’m also sure that the showrunner, Terry Matalas strives for excellence with everything he does and expects as much from those working with him. This constant unrelenting pursuit of excellence can be found in season four of 12 Monkeys. Through science fiction and time travel stories, we experience the human condition.
As the characters experience love, loss, hate, good, evil, fear, bravery, uncertainty, and more, out own lives in a small way are reflected.
But moreover, there is one single facet of 12 Monkeys that tethers the story and characters to each and every one of us and that is FAMILY.
Family is everywhere in 12 Monkeys. It influences, protects, harms, incites, challenges, motivates, and defines the characters as they move through this four season long story about using time travel to fix the world, to fix man’s mistakes. I could go on an list every character on the show and then their immediate relative. I could also mention that family groups formed between team splinter and even within the Army of the 12 Monkeys. But I will not, because you’re smart enough to figure this out yourself.
Family has become a focal point and a centerpiece of 12 Monkeys season 4. For this alone I could recommend and love this show.
In the beginning of episode 4 Kat Jones is questions life after death by way of a voiceover. This has been a recurring theme of late, Kat ruminating, questioning and making statements about life and death and what may or may not come after we die. We know that this version of Kat is not long for the world, the splinter radiation continues to take its toll. For what its worth, I enjoy her occasional philosophy, because it’s the voice of the 12 Monkeys writers. A small window into their psyche.
In the flashback scenes during the episode’s tease, we’re reintroduced to Elliot. This is a different Elliot, a man in love with Kat and excited about the genesis of his splinter research. This is also who he really is at his core. We see this part of Elliot return a little later.
We also meet a young research assistant, Emma. More on Emma later.
As Elliot speaks to a group of observers, he mentions Asimov and HG Wells, but more importantly he speaks of the theory where all of time may exist at the same time. Within the world of and show of 12 Monkeys there is something to be said about this, some facts and events to think about.
If all of time existed at the same time?
Primaries can see time in a nonlinear fashion. Future, past and present all jumbled up. If primaries are the gears in time’s granddaddy clock, then they also can see all of the time on its entire circular face. Present, future and past happening at the same time. How ironic that the Army of the 12 Monkeys believes that you have to break spacetime to achieve this. What if it already exists?
In addition… James Cole doesn’t need a time machine to travel through time. This is a huge event that happened at the end of season 2 in the episode “Memory of Tomorrow.” With the red forest coming, devouring everything from the future back to the past, Cole had one final nuclear option left. Lillian tells Cole to drink the red tea from the leaves changed by temporal energy. This will unleash his consciousness from his now and send him up through the time stream, as it were.
In one of the most shocking events ever on 12 Monkeys, Cole drinks the red tea and then is able to surf through the time stream until he picks the one day he wants to jump into himself in a moment. He does see Olivia in there and this does explain how she temporarily take over others. But Cole is some kind of chosen one. He’s the man who was reborn from a paradox. He can time travel without a machine and I have a feeling that by the end of season 4, he’s going to accomplish something even more amazing.
I have a theory that Cole may BE the WEAPON that everyone wants to find. If the Monkey face bell from the past is the “Key” it is possible Cole must use it to stop Olivia’s planned destruction. Cole must climb the steps of Titan’s center tower and then insert himself, while holding the bell, into the massive red temporal energy blast.
Related to Cole being the actual weapon, I believe there have been hints about finding “balance” on 12 Monkeys. To stop the incessant time loops and causality do overs and the like, perhaps the one final answer is to find balance between what Olivia wants and what Cole must do. I’m not as committed to this idea, but I’ve seen some hints about this in the episodes along the way.
The corrupted red splinter energy reeking havoc on the seed is exactly what Olivia wants to do with Titan. Elliot mentioning the ignoring of safeguards and “tearing a hole in the universe” were exactly what Emma needed to hear.
Before the real fun begins with the mission, team splinter meets to talk about going to Blackleaf Montana on May 11, 1852, the date that was hidden in the serpent puzzle.
There are more clues that Jennifer is presently without her primary powers. I’m sure we’ll find out why later this season. But for now Jennifer is still known as the artist formerly known as primary.
They examine the serpent story and Hannah suggests that the serpent is time and the demon is Olivia, could be, we’ll see.
Cole confides to Cassie that he wants to leave his mother Marion out of everything. Although she’s the one who either wrote or passed on the story, his tiny memory of her is more important than revealing her involvement. Cole not knowing his mother is similar to Cassie and Cole not knowing their own son. This theme can be seen throughout the series.
Everyone Splinters to Blackleaf and I’m once again reminded of how cool it is to live in this era of using drones for aerial shots. Season four has had some stellar and epic looking establishing shots. Grand vistas, mountains, citiscapes and the like bring us into the time and place to which they splinter.
Time Travel 101:
Splinter in,
Find clothes,
Find transportation.
Unlike the team from the recently cancelled NBC show, Timeless, our team splinter does not have a massive wardrobe and prop department from which they can ready themselves for each mission. Cole, Cassie, Jennifer, Hannah and Kat have to find their period clothes on the ground before they can complete the mission.
This fact can be used for some great entertainment. In one of my favorite montages in all of 12 Monkeys, Cole teaches Cassie to pick pockets and Cassie teaches him how to dance in the season three episode “Masks.”
Cole trying to dance with two left feet, seeing him try time after time, reminded me of when I had to learn to dance for a school play. I had a lead in our production of “The Sound of Music” and after learning to be a marching sax player, being graceful on my feet was very difficult.
There’s a very funny little scene where Aaron Stanford’s Cole speaks to a local in a very Yosemite Sam like voice while Jennifer steals clothes off the drying lines.
There’s a lot to enjoy in this episode, especially in the local saloon. When Team Splinter enter the establishment, at first everything appears normal. But very soon the reality of their surroundings become clear. Jennifer may not have her primary super powers right now, but she doesn’t need a third eye to see what’s really going on in Blackleaf, Montana.
As Cole, Cassie, Hannah and Jennifer sit in the saloon, Jennifer is the only one to quickly point out the all of the modern things surrounding them. She notices a modern handgun, a bottle of whiskey from the 1970s, an iWatch and most of all the song being played by the bar’s piano player.
The song is “Weird Science” and more incredible the piano player is none other than Elliot Jones, the father of time travel. Hannah stands up and takes personal notice because Elliot is also her father! This is the first time that she’s seen him.
We soon find out that Elliot has been working for the Tall Man to complete Titan. Way back in season two Kat pointed out that the time travel technology seen in Titan resembled what Elliot had pioneered.
No surprise, Hannah is not thrilled to learn that her father is working for the bad guys. When he returns he continues to play and adds the “Munsters” and “Knight Rider” theme songs to his resume.
Cole strikes again and forces Elliot outside where Hannah sticks him with an auto-tether and whoosh he’s been splintered right to Kat in his old workplace.
I’ve said before that much of comedy comes in repetition. In season 3 episode one, Cole sticks Hannah with the auto-tether and she responds by almost saying “sh!t” just as she spinters away. Likewise, when Elliot is tagged in episode 4 of season 4, he almost says the F-word just as he splinters away. 12 Monkeys has done the almost curse almost every time someone is forced to spinter away by surprise and its enjoyable and funny every time.
It’s interesting this theme in 12 Monkeys. Hannah without her father, Elliot. Cole didn’t have his mother. Cassie lost Athan just after his birth and Athan didn’t have either of his parents during his formative years.
The fact that Elliot was not aware that he’s been building a machine purposed for world destruction is great because it proves that he’s not the bad guy Kat had believed him to be. Elliot is not innocent and Kat appropriately calls him Oppenheimer in a blindfold, but he’s not evil and has a real shot at redeeming himself. Elliot simply believed that he was building a Time Travel Ark, a machine for the advancement and betterment of man. He was totally clueless about his involvement with the Army of the 12 Monkeys.
It is very powerful to find out that you have a child you were not previously aware of. Kat found out about Hannah and it changed her to the core. The same can be said about Elliot. Knowing that he DID have a child and she’s a good person changed him to the core and lead to his eventual personal redemption.
The interactions with Kat and Elliot are brilliantly written and acted by these two talented thespians. When he picks up the Time Travel vest, his expression and Kat’s retourt are very funny.
I very much hope to someday see photos of the 12 Monkeys writers room. Time Travel stories are and should be vastly complicated. Seeing their methodology would be enlightening.
I also hope that after the 12 Monkeys series ends, all of us will have access to buy a lifesize Word of the Witness poster. I would love for Matalas and James Callis to sign it of course. That’s just one of my many dreams.
Even better I’d love to have the original from the show to frame and hang in my office next to my autographed Star Wars poster.
When 12 Monkeys concludes its run, it will be the end of era. A bittersweet moment, but a monumental accomplishment of first rate television and visionary science fiction.
There are surprises and lots of action in this episode. The shootout near Titan is very fun and having Deacon show up is even better.
The best parts of this episode revolve around Elliot. The flashbacks and his redemption in the future and past as he spends time with Kat and Hannah, all of it is gold. He wanted a family and I was very sad for him when he spoke of the devastating heartbreak when he thought that Kat had ended their kid before it was even born. I felt for the guy. As a father of four myself, I can’t imagine knowing that a life could have been and then wasn’t.
While James is under immense pressure and flips out when he learns that Jennifer doesn’t have the third eye, it’s Cassie that comes to her rescue. I really like how she empathized with Jennifer and defended her in that moment. The moment just before they meet a welcoming stranger.
The artist formerly known as Primary, Jennifer and Cole and Cassie meet another Primary that brings them into his tent for some afternoon tea, of the red variety.
“You should do movie trailers.” Jennifer strikes again.
Tihkoosue of the Siksika, a Primary native American gives team splinter some advice in his Primary tent.
Their conversation with this guy was helpful up until Jennifer does a very Jennifer kind of thing. She drinks the tea from the bleeding land and slips back in time to see the same 12 Primaries from “The End” episode. He had warned her that this was a bad mistake, and it was, big time.
“I shouldn’t have come” – Luke Skywalker, Return of the Jedi
Olivia’s always jacked in and soon finds Jennifer’s consciousness in the past, jumps into her body and then is able to turn to Cole and Cassie and find the place and time of where they are. Ooops!
Meanwhile, when Kat mentions the younger assistant, Emma, who worked with them in the early days of splinter research, Elliot responds that he “already had a beautiful and brilliant lady” This is more than a great line, it goes to further support the fact that he loved, cherished and respected Kat.
The huge moment came with Emma learns from Elliot that if you go past the safeguards and supply too much power, a time machine can literally break space and time, tear a hole through the fabric of the universe. This is exactly what Emma needed to learn.
As Elliot speaks with Kat, as he helps them fight against the Tall Man and Olivia, as he commits to loving Kat, as he changes on the spot for his daughter, Hannah is watching and listening the entire time. Hannah wants her father to be a good man, a man of honor, a man that she would have loved and respected.
Blood runs deep and it’s possible that while she never had a reason to think of a father through the years, it doesn’t mean that the chance to have one now it’s exactly what she wants. I believe that she would have loved to have her father in her life, especially given that she has to watch her mother dying in the coming weeks.
Family is one of the biggest tethers between 12 Monkeys and its audience.
Deacon’s heart is in the right place, even when he’s murdering someone like Elliot. He truly believed that he was helping.
The moment between Hannah and her father was beautiful, sad and tear inducing. I totally got choked up and I know I’m not the only one. Afterward, when Hannah tells her mother, Kat, that she knows about her condition, the same applied. Hannah says that it’s an honor for a child to stay with her parent through the end. This was very powerful. It reminded me of what Hannah told Cole, that he shouldn’t walk alone.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the episode came when we learn that Emma is Olivia’s daughter. Emma was placed in time so she could be at the ground floor of the splinter research and could learn from the parents of Time Travel, Kat and Elliot.
Emma’s true service to her mother and the cause is to be ready to bring Titan to its full potential.
Two mothers on two sides of the war. Olivia and Kat, each with a daughter. This could be the spotlight of the upcoming episode, “Daughters” which is episode 7 I believe.
With much more to come and I’m sure many more surprises, twists, turns and loops, few really know what is to come.
One thing is for certain, 12 Monkeys season 4 will continue to amaze.
Make sure to check out my other episode reviews of 12 Monkeys, cast and characters and recaps of the rest of the season all available on aretherra.com

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