12 Monkeys: Meltdown Review

An episode in the best horror tradition delivers on long-held mysteries while raising more questions for the future of the mission.

This 12 Monkeys review contains spoilers.

12 Monkeys Season 2, Episode 7

Apparently, 12 Monkeys is not content to dominate the sci-fi sphere as Meltdown ventures into horror territory and does it quite well with enough gore, shadowy figures, and creepy possession drama to satisfy the most scrutinizing fan of hauntings and stalkers. And considering how long the series has held onto the secret of the Witness’ identity, the switch in focus to this persisting mystery is a welcome one, even if the answer remains unfulfilled.

Another constant question regarding the Witness lies in deciphering his motives. Does he merely wish to destroy the splinter facility to prevent the time travelers from foiling his plans to undo time or is he playing a deeper game in which the “accidental” loss of Ramse’s son is part of a larger, unknown goal? This constant suspicion causes the mind control of Cassie and the hostage-taking of Sam to feel less like the actions of an angry saboteur and more like the manipulations of a master chess player.

Why else insist on having Dr. Railly undergo the red tea treatment all the way back in season 1 unless the Witness knew she’d someday make it to the future and help him infiltrate Raritan? Also adding to the depth of the story is the long history of the facility itself, which not only allows soldiers to be pulled forward from 1959 into a situation in which they feel threatened enough to pose a danger to the team, it also ties in nicely with Sam’s self-taught knowledge of the building layout via his scale model. It’s this attention to detail that marks the great writing always present in 12 Monkeys.

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This episode in particular benefited from these polishing touches because most of it relied heavily on mood, from skulking, hooded figures in the shadows to deformed former subjects of the splinter treatment (another nice touch which tied back to story details from season 1). Perhaps some viewers predicted what was really going on with Cassie and her visions of the Witness before the actual reveal, but the intrigue served to make the enemy much more real to those in the future and to give Cassie a major emotional struggle to overcome.

It’s clear she blames herself for the loss of Eckland and Sam, even though she was neither in control of her actions nor did she submit to the red tea immersion, which presumably gave him access to her mind, willingly. The loss of Eckland was sharply felt, especially on the heels of the post-coital levity at the start of the episode, and the loss of Sam was a doozy, given his fate last season, but perhaps more impactful was Ramse’s resulting departure from the facility. What will this mean for the team?

And speaking of teams, the Deacon-Eckland pairing was enjoyable while it lasted. There seems to have been no fallout from the betrayal of Cole and Ramse as promised, and Deacon’s harsh but fair morality served as a nice contrast to Eckland’s neo-hippie pacifism. There was also a nice moment in which Deacon tried to play protective boyfriend to Cassie only to be met with a disdainful, “I’ll be fine.” 12 Monkeys doesn’t play damsel in distress!

That’s not to say Cassie wasn’t in distress! In fact, a strength of the episode was its portrayal of Cassie stuck in her own mind by way of the house of cedar and pine. These sequences also gave viewers their biggest question mark of the episode when Cassie looks out the window and sees a futuristic city-scape with a tower inscribed with the Army’s sigil and the word “Titan,” a name which has been heard mentioned by two different Primaries so far. What it is referring to is anyone’s guess, but the seed has been skillfully planted.

So is it back to the Messenger chase now? Or is the larger pursuit of the Witness now a priority? Depending on how the mission proceeds, the set-up has been quite substantial and the payoff should match the building suspense. Now officially in its second half, season 2 has not let off the gas pedal for a minute, and whether it uses action, horror, or mind-bending paradoxes, 12 Monkeys can keep its audience on the edge of its seat like no other Syfy show. Each episode knocks it out of the park.

For more speculation on these and other questions about 12 Monkeys, subscribe to the author’s 12 Monkeys Uncaged podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

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4.5 out of 5