This 12 Monkeys review contains spoilers.
12 Monkeys Season 2, Episode 1
The return of 12 Monkeys comes over a year after the show’s season 1 finale, and anticipation was high for an amped up, knock-your-socks-off season 2 premiere. The cinematic opening with the race through the streets of Budapest certainly helped with this idea, bringing immediate attention to the most impactful moment of the season ender: the fact that Cole had changed the past by rescuing Ramse, who was fated to die. Combined with Cassie’s enjoyable displacement and new character dynamic in the post-apocalyptic future, the first episode back had plenty to love. Despite some muted emotional moments that could have been stronger, the return of the twisted time travel drama is eminently welcome.
The pursuit of Ramse by the Army of the 12 Monkeys seemed the natural result of his having evaded the death that was foretold by the Witness, and the fact that Cole was fighting at his side gave viewers a thrill of excitement and helped explain Ramse’s odd choice of a bridge as his escape route. What was almost immediately noticeable, however, was that, perhaps because of being on the run for months, the argument between the two over saving the past at the expense of Ramse’s son or preserving the future at the expense of Cassie seems to have played itself out.
Maybe that’s why, despite his initial deception in withholding from Cole what he learned about the release of the virus, Ramse does eventually relent, saying, “Are we gonna go to New York or what?” He’s been with the Army of 12 Monkeys since 1987, and he falls back into the brother routine perhaps a bit too easily with only the “old man” nickname to remind viewers that he was actively working against the mission for decades. Still, it’s a relief to have the two back together, however reluctantly, and now viewers are left to wonder who knocked Ramse out at the end of the episode.
A more successful reinvention at the start of the new season comes with Cassie’s awakening in the future, not long after the events of the finale. Her acclimation to her surroundings is the most interesting part of the premiere since, as Jones puts it, “Grieving over who we were only gets in the way of who need to become.” And Cassie’s deal with Deacon to help him cure his Wilson’s disease encourages the leader of the West 7 to show the doctor exactly what she needs to become out of necessity rather than malice: a stone-cold killer.
Obviously, Cassie made good use of the eight months it took to repair the time machine. Her willingness to take out Jennifer as the distributor of the virus shows she has taken on some of the ruthlessness of 2043 (now 2044) culture. Cole may have previously felt the same cold calculation, but perhaps he has been conversely softened by the past. Or perhaps his sympathy for Jennifer, who clearly wants to be stopped, has caused him to seek a different solution. An interesting role reversal, to be sure!
But what caused Jennifer to start having doubts? At the end of season 1 she was ready to fly off to the different cities to begin the outbreak. Now she’s wandering through New York, accidentally attending speed dates with men she’s hoping will save the world by putting a bullet in her. The scene was funny, to be sure, especially since her date’s 911 call gives Cassie the clue she needs to arrive in 2016 New York, but the disconnect from last season’s finale is slightly jarring.
The smoothest transition from season 1 comes from the twelve Messengers in 2043, who have given no indication as to their purpose in commandeering the time machine, but that’s actually consistent with the established enigma of their existence. Although Jones’ sabotage was a satisfying moment (“So — who’s next?”), the ashen-faced acolytes were able to send six of their number, including a female member of their company, to who knows when? No doubt this will be one of the central mysteries of the coming season.
The season premiere of 12 Monkeys offered plenty of spectacle and a mix of the familiar of what fans love with the new flavor of the transformed situation, and overall it was a successful offering. The promise of new and varied time periods, a changed quest beyond the coming plague, the ability for both Cassie and Cole to travel, and plenty of other ingredients assure the audience that richer content is to come. The trick, as always, is to try and keep up with all the potential paradoxes. Viewers, like Jones, must not let our philosophy be “marred by your simplistic notion of causality,” as the Head Messenger says. Just go with the flow!
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