12 Monkeys Season One
Recap & Commentary II
Episode 5 – The Night Room
The Night Room episode takes place in at least three different years. There is a 2011 flashback showing Jennifer’s arrival and tenure at the super-secret “Night Room” Markridge laboratory.
Cole’s mission in the Year 2015 to destroy the original sample of the Kalavirus, known as M5-10, is held in a vault deep inside the Night Room facility. In the Year 2043, they are fighting a different kind of battle. Katerina defends the method (and victims) that advanced her scientific discoveries. Dr. Jones pleads her case to an indignant Ramse, who just made a gruesome discovery of his own.
The Night Room
Jennifer arrives at the top-secret lab, surrounded by armed guards and sporting a stylish cloth bag over her head. While she’s not allowed to know the location of The Night Room, Jennifer did obtain the secret codes to the formidable layers of security surrounding the vault.
Make sure to pay attention to Jennifer’s Primary knowledge when she mentions the Horsemen of the Apocalypse and “over for everyone.” As usual, these are not throwaway lines of dialog. These keywords, images, and subjects will pay off in seasons 2-4 of 12 Monkeys.
Inside the storied Night Room, Jennifer sees the “evening stars” for the first time and learns that these large overhead nozzles are a failsafe in the case of a viral outbreak of any kind. Activated by two big red buttons, housed under “break in case of…” glass housings and located in two different rooms, these enable the evening stars to rain down massive plumes of an all-consuming hellfire intended to kill anything organic within the confines of the Night Room.
The final layer of security resides within the vault door. Unless an authorized person opens the vault, a forcefield will burn all who attempt to enter, and a silent alarm is triggered, letting the Markridge home office send a response team of commandos.
We see these security measures through Jennifer’s eyes at the beginning of the episode. The pay off happens in the final act of the episode when the security measure is triggered. Because Jennifer is involved, the events are brilliantly executed and are very funny.
Once you work past the layers of crazy, Jennifer is true to her word, loyal, very intelligent, and extremely funny. Don’t forget going into this Night Room episode that the 12 Monkeys took Jennifer in the last episode, and she’s still their prisoner.
While Dr. Jones’s team prepares for Cole’s splinter to 2015, where he’ll meet up with Cassie to head to The Night Room, Cole invites Jones to their pre-splinter tradition. Soon after, Cole and Jones meet up with Ramse and Max to share in the ritual of drinking. Next, we see a lovely montage of Cole, Jones, Max, and Ramse drinking the entire bottle of whiskey Katarina brought to the festivity.
The funniest and most foretelling part came when Jones speaks of the physicist Godel and his theory of closed timelike curves. As the others continued to laugh at the name Godel, Jones went on to explain how if a timeline is reset, the versions of ourselves will cease to exist. Our reality would be changed, and the current or past versions of ourselves, of everything, would be reset and not exist as it once did.
This theory of closed timelike curves is the basis for many time travels shows and movies. Here it is a signpost, pointing towards things to come on 12 Monkeys. This very thing, along with the effect of causality, is written into the multiseason story of 12 Monkeys. Once again, another line of dialog that will mean so much more later on.
We also learn more about Jones’s backstory. Her maiden name was Werner, and she was only married for a few days. From her brief marriage, Katarina received her new surname and her daughter Hannah.
Perhaps the later is why speaking of this is still very painful for her. Not until Lullaby in season 2 do we see Cole, Cassie, and Jennifer officially save Hannah. As of this time, Jones is still lost in the darkness of her sorrow, driven by the loss of her daughter and holding out for hope that time travel can bring her back.
Soon after Jones spoke of closed timelike curves, she excused herself from the room. Of course, if you’ve seen the entire series, you know the real relationship between Katarina and Cole, of Hannah and Cole’s true relation, of the familial bonds which bind all of them together across time and space. All of this adds new shades and colors to the canvas of the show.
This can also be said for every interaction between Katarina, Cole, Elliot, Hannah, Cassie, and Athan. Because we now know “The End & The Beginning” of 12Monkeys, the gravity of each episode that precedes carries that much more significance each time we watch.
Also, in 2043, there’s an explosion, from which Laske determines that the core’s crossover is fried. The Core, which is the sole power source for the entire facility and the time machine is degrading much quicker than they previously believed. Like so many other things seen and spoken of in this episode are significant and are directly addressed in episodes later in this season.
Cole and Jones say the mission to The Night Room is still on, so despite the degrading core, “Initiate Splinter Sequence.”
In the Year 2015, Cole and Cassie are immediately set upon by the Monkey Army when they enter the Night Room building. The Tall man kills a Night Room scientist, and he tortures Cole, in a very unpleasant scene involving fingernails and bamboo shoots. The Tall man tries to get through to Jennifer as he continues his efforts to get his hands on the specimen in the vault. The Army of the 12 Monkeys wants the origin of the virus, and they’ll do anything to get it.
Cassie learns that Cole killed Henri in Haiti, which is something Cole never wanted her to know. Cassie doesn’t take well to this news; however, Jennifer lost no love for Cole, killing her daddy.
When the Tall man reveals this secret to her, it only solidified her commitment to Cole and his cause. The Tall man uses Jennifer’s love of Cole against them because he knows that she will ONLY open the vault for Cole.
The year 2043
Max tells Ramse that Dr. Jones is the notorious Dr. Grim, an old campfire tale about a German doctor in a smokestack building who feeds scavs into her machine. With his mind full of doubt, he seeks and finds evidence of her past time machine experiments gone wrong. When she discovers him, she gives a passionate speech about the lives, art, music, and culture lost from the outbreak and how in a thousand generations, we would never regain what was lost. Her resolve and her passionate words convinced Ramse, and he made her promise that nothing like the past mistakes would happen to Cole.
The year 2015
Once the vault is open, Cole takes out a guard, and then he and Cassie trigger the evening stars to incinerate everything inside of the Night Room.
Throughout these events, the 12 Monkeys writers brilliantly put up a red herring by having Cole act strangely in the presence of the human remains containing the virus. This, combined with Jennifer commenting on the eyes, made many believe that Cole BECOMES the human remains, that he will be the origin. I never thought that Cole was the origin virus in a box.
While Cole and Jennifer are in the Night Room, Cole feels weird and she says something about those eyes. They don’t know that another Cole from another time has shown up outside the building. The presence of the other Cole explains why Night Room Cole around this time had that not so fresh feeling.
Cassie is taken prisoner by the Monkeys, Cole splinters back to the future and Jennifer is left behind to meet the Markridge commandos, who came in response to the silent alarm triggered when they opened the vault.
Episode 6 – The Red Forest
The title of this episode would serve well as the title of season 2 of 12 Monkeys. Episode 6 deals with the tricky subject of alternate timelines. When the 12 Monkeys killed Cassie in the last episode, Cole splintered back to an alternative future timeline.
Because she was murdered after the events of the Night Room, Cole arrives at a different 2043. The machine works, but there is no mission, and there is no temporal facility like how Cole remembered. Instead, the West 7 run the building, lead by Ramse, and Dr. Jones has been delegated to Ms. fix and repair. Cole died in this timeline, and Ramse sports an eye patch.
I could ask about Cassie dying in 2015 and then ask about the continuity of the series as a whole. If Cassie died before their mission in season 2 and the fallout of the first attempt to stop the final Messenger in ‘57, then arguably none of those events would have happened. The main concern over Cassie dying in 2015 is the fact that she is the mother of the Witness. Everyone speaks of the Witness, and the Word of the Witness exists, which is Athan’s word, not Oliva’s. This episode may well be extremely flawed if it is to be part of the whole mythology of 12 Monkeys.
Also, can you splinter between realities. Use the time machine to splinter between one timeline to another? If so, wouldn’t that be very difficult to program before the jump? Seriously, correct me if I’m wrong, please.
No Cassie, No Athan, No Word of the Witness, No Olivia.
Now if you view this episode from another angle and say that Cole arrived in a world where Cassie never went past 2015 and there is no mission. But how can there be a global viral plague if there is no Army of the 12 Monkeys, no Athan – who leads to the rise of Olivia? The big problem with this is the fact that Cassie is literally one of two of the most crucial pieces in the entire 12 Monkeys puzzle.
No Cassie, No Athan, No Army of the 12 Monkeys, No M5-10, No plague, No rise of Olivia, who then affects her army through time and the snake keeps chasing its tail.
Cole saves Cassie from dying and then he splinters back to a correct 2043.
If anyone can correct me, I would love to be corrected. Please set me straight.
Episode 7 – The Keys
Cole chases the virus in Chechnya. The coolest part of this episode happens when we see Cole’s mission to stop the viral outbreak and in the end, Cassie believes that he dies to save everyone. After these events have happened for Cassie and the world, a couple of weeks later, Cole shows up, and from his perspective, his timeline, he is about to go on the very mission the world just experienced.
Episode 8 – Yesterday
This episode is appropriately titled Yesterday. In 2043, people from the past are confronted, and Cole, who has been trapped in a hole, has been splintered 2 years into the future. Cassie shows up in Chechnya to look for signs of Cole, but she’s living in his yesterday. Through some nice editing, 12 Monkeys make us believe that she’s about to find Cole coming out of his hole, but then we see the truth that once again, they are separated by time.
With the Core degrading into a worthless pile of junk, Jones, Ramse, and Whitley head to Spearhead, a military quarantine and research facility that uses an identical DARPA core to run their server farm. Jones hopes to convince their leader to hand over spare core components. Jones doesn’t receive the answer she wanted, but Ramse makes a happy discovery. Living in Spearhead is the love of his life, Elena, and the son he never knew, Samuel.
Episode 9 – Tomorrow
Cole, trapped in 2017, and in 2043, Jones has run out options and must make a tough decision to replace their core. Of course, to replace the time machine’s core, which is Cole’s only way home, Jones must take Spearhead’s core by force. Col. Foster, the leader of Spearhead, claims to be close to engineering a cure for the virus and must continue using his core to run their server farm of computers. The fundamental differences between how Jones and Foster see the world raises serious questions for all of us.
Do you accept the world the way it is, allocating every resource, ounce of energy, and the personnel to the pursuit of known science, to pursue a cure to the virus of today, in the hope of ending the current and future loss? Do you live and work in the present, working toward a common and readily accepted goal of a better future?
Do you reject the world as it is, reject the death, the chaos, the global loss of life, and all of the suffering of the past? Instead, would you give every resource, ounce of energy, and personnel toward a mission that breaks the laws of physics – to travel through time with the hope of changing the past to ensure a better present and future for all humanity?
Simply put, Foster has convinced all of his people at Spearhead that a cure is imminent, even Ramse is convinced and begins to question Jones’s mission. Jones denies Foster’s research and tells everyone that he’s cured a previous strain of the virus, adding that the virus has mutated twice since Foster’s so-called cure. The debate rages on, up until Jones decides there is no more debate, and her way will be the ONLY way going forward.
Jones wants to reset time entirely and stop the virus before it happens, but to do that, she must rescue Cole first. Jones also believes that she can do anything, even kill Foster in the process, to obtain Spearhead’s core for her time machine facility.
The year 2041
We’re also given a glimpse of how Cole came into Jones’s orbit through a flashback. Several scenes show how Whitley captured Cole and Ramse, held prisoner. Once Jones heard Cole’s name, everything changed, and she then proposed the time travel mission to then scav-Cole, to which he replies, “Go to Hell.”
Cole didn’t know she had already met him in her past, and this was his destiny. To a desperate scav, who only sees doubt, mistrust, and evil in the world, the thought of anything outside of his sad little snow globe was obscene and absurd on its face. Especially some German doctor claiming to have a time machine, nothing could have been more insane sounding to Cole at that moment.
Thankfully Ramse was looking out for them and saw at least an opportunity to live in a safe place with food and protection. Even though Jones might be a little crazy, Ramse asked what if she’s telling the truth? That one shot of a gun to alert the guards began the mission for Cole and by extension Jones, Ramse and Cassie – and the rest is history.
The year 2043
The place, Spearhead.
Jones and Whitley, with some help from Whitley’s dad, stormed the Spearhead castle, killed many soldiers, suffered many losses, sorry Dr. Laske (You seem to die every season), and they took the core and brought it back to the facility.
In the aftermath, Ramse is hiding out with Elena and Sam, and they each believe that Jones could have lied about Foster’s cure, that like Foster, Jones would also do anything to ensure that her mission succeeds. This moment spins into deep and murky waters for Ramse, from which everyone is affected and damaged in the end.
Cut to Dr. Jones, holding a paper with proof of Foster’s cure, of which she burns just as the core comes online behind her. She walks out of the core room toward the camera without regret. From this one action by Jones, Foster may have had a cure. To conclude that Foster may have cured the virus, and she covered it up with lies and a lighter to hide this truth and support her claim of the core for her mission. It could be that Foster’s cure was still unobtainable and unrealistic, but again, I believe it was the most real possible cure to date and MIGHT have lead to a REAL cure in the future. The truth remains, however, real or unrealistic Foster’s cure was, Jones, mislead everyone as to its validity.
The year 2017
Meanwhile, Cole makes his way back to the States and finds Cassie in her final hours at the CDC. He holds her as she passes away, just before he splinters back. This is an iconic scene, one that I hope can be reset in season 4 of 12 Monkeys. Cassie does mention all the years they fought, how a lot has happened for her since Chechnya asks if he found the red forest yet and that she can’t change the path he’s on.
The year 2043
Ramse confronts Cole in the splinter chamber. This moment is monumental and dictates the course of the rest of the season, and beyond. Sides have been chosen. Ramse is on the side of Elena and Sam, and he doesn’t want to lose his son should time be reset. Ramse doesn’t believe in the mission anymore and chooses to live in the present. Cole believes in the mission, in Dr. Jones and in making a better world for Cassie. Cole doesn’t believe there is a future, and only the past holds the key to saving everything. The “everyone is dead” line gets a reboot here, when Cole says to Ramse, “Your son is already dead.” To which Ramse slugs him. Friendship is on hold and maybe permanently damaged for the rest of the series.