This 12 Monkeys review contains spoilers.
12 Monkeys Season 2, Episode 6
Well, the bubble finally burst as 12 Monkeys turns out its first merely excellent rather than mind-blowingly awesome episode. How funny that even a Primary-of-the-week installment can still blow conventional sci-fi shows out of the water! There was still plenty to learn, though, as the Witness lays his cards on the table with Cassie, and Cole and Ramse find that a minor change in history can help reduce the threat of the red forest in 2044. Viewers are left with hope for the relationship between the brothers and trepidation for Cassie as she fights the influence of the Witness.
But a majority of the episode is spent learning about another Primary, Kyle Slade, who has a side order of delusions of grandeur to go with his conventional craziness. There certainly were some intriguing moments of discovery, such as the revelation that Kyle left his final victim identifiable so that it would act as a red flag to bring Cole to 1975. But the path to get Cole to the Primary was much more interesting than the Primary himself.
So he killed a bunch of Primaries himself to prevent them from being paradoxed, right? Brutal, sure, but it has its own sort of logic. In fact, Cole himself employs the same method in foiling the Messengers’ plans. The most interesting but confusing thing about Kyle is his misapprehension that one of the Messengers is actually the Witness and that Cole must, for some reason, kill him with Kyle’s bone. The dismembered limbs hanging about were creepy, but in the end Kyle’s serial killer personality was sort of flat.
He lived a day longer than he was supposed to and took a convenience store clerk hostage, a weird circumstance that allowed Cole to emphasize the point that he’s “all look no leap.” This is not news to viewers of 12 Monkeys, but the reminder coming from Ramse reforged their old bond nicely, from the initial rubber band battle with Sam to the rooftop apology where they awkwardly but hilariously professed their brotherly love.
It was fun seeing Cole and Ramse act as reporters navigating a city filled with corrupt cops, but they actually were even more brazen than the police, who seemed more inept than unscrupulous. The Messengers were also not as menacing as their 1944 counterparts. The more interesting native of 1975 was Victoria, whose avoided death changed history, and the viewers are left to wonder what effect it will have. Is it significant that her son gets to keep his mother or that Ramse gave her some tough love about her drug habit?
Either way, the red storms have receded in 2044, and viewers are left with a much greater focus on the more minimal scenes with Cassie and Jennifer. It’s tough to decipher what the Witness is up to trying to persuade Cassie to accept the nobility of a world without time. The face of Aaron may have actually had the desired effect, but the black eyes certainly make it doubtful her former fiancee was ever really there. Plus Jennifer seems to have brought Cassie back to the realization that an eternal now would be horrific.
But that ending! What on earth is going on with Cassie now that she’s gone through her preparation with the red tea and the vision quest to the house of cedar and pine? Is the audience supposed to worry that she’s somehow been influenced by the enemy? If so, mission accomplished! It’s great that the paradoxing of another Primary was avoided and all, but honestly, the black-eyed Cassie is the takeaway from this otherwise great but not stellar episode.
Not that it matters. The layers of this show are so compelling that an episode like this is actually a welcome calm in which viewers can catch their breath. What clues do the time travelers even have to determine their next step? Are they finished with the 70s? What decade is next?
For more speculation on these and other questions about 12 Monkeys, subscribe to the author’s 12 Monkeys Uncaged podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. 12 Monkeys also appeared as a topic of discussion on Sci Fi Fidelity on the Den of Geek Podcast Network. Listen below.