This 12 Monkeys review contains spoilers.
12 Monkeys Season 4 Episode 3
Did anyone expect this many answers this early in the final season of 12 Monkeys? “45 RPM” opens our eyes to the big picture in the same way that Olivia’s eyes now see the great Djinn of never-ending cycles, and the results are awe-inspiring. We may not want this series to end, but if it has to, at least we’re getting to see the man (or in this case, the woman) behind the curtain, and the pieces are all starting to fall into place. The tragedy of Cassie’s failed mission contrasts nicely with the success of Cole opening the Ouroboros key in this episode that introduces a new mission and adds a new question: who is Olivia’s child?
The episode opens with a great montage juxtaposing the fingerprint ink of Olivia getting processed by the police with the gunpowder residue of Cassie cleaning her gun to take out the young Witness. Having seen the mugshot from 1971 more than once in the first two episodes, it was nice to indulge in a conventional mission even though it’s becoming clear that this familiar strategy won’t work. The fact that Cassie’s assassination is thwarted is not only unsurprising; it increases the anticipation for what will go wrong. We almost crave it!
Who can blame Cassie for trying to talk young Olivia into taking a new path? It worked for Athan after all! And of course we were along for the ride, interpreting Olivia’s experience turning tricks as an act of rebellion as we watched the flashbacks of her fighting against being branded painfully with the Titan symbol which — who knew? — is an ancient twelve mirrored. Olivia even tells Cassie that her mother wants her to do something horrible, so when Cassie mentions knowing what it’s like to be pregnant in a place that isn’t safe, her encouragement for Olivia to give her child a purpose seems valid and warranted.
The fact that it’s all engineered by the Witness is, again, not surprising, but the deception is masterfully played by the newly empowered Olivia of the future, right down to the thugs she sent to make sure Cassie was arrested. Plus in a brilliant twist of irony, the Witness is provided with incentive to give the child a purpose as Cassie advised, and a hole is filled in Olivia’s understanding of the mission she gave herself all those years ago.
The Witness’ discovery of the continued existence of Team Splinter also hinges on her realization that the chronology of Cassie mentioning her child doesn’t fit if the good doctor died along with everyone else in the destruction of the Raritan facility. It’s fitting, then, that Deacon’s uncanny ability to survive reinforces Olivia’s desire to continue the pursuit to defeat her enemies. Although it might be upsetting to some viewers to see Deacon turn bad again, his feelings of betrayal at being left behind make sense for the character, and it might be fun to see what he can accomplish now that he has taken Mallick’s place at the Witness’ side.
Not to mention watching Olivia actually become the Witness is without a doubt one of the most spine-chilling spectacles we’ve seen! There are almost no words for how cool, how simple, and how awful her transformation is. At the end of season three, we wondered how she could possibly be the Witness without being Primary like Athan (the true author of the Word of the Witness), but now we see another horrible purpose for Titan: to open the time stream and allow it to flow into Olivia, connecting her to everything and necessitating the life support of the Witness mask and the piped robes we’ve come to recognize, but now as less macabre medieval costume and more Darth-Vader-like protection.
Since this is the final season of 12 Monkeys, it’s nice to see certain things come full circle, and not just through Olivia’s visions. The death of the Tall Man’s mother, for example, was explained in a way that fit with her dawning doubt that the Witness would deliver on his promise of the Red Forest or be deserving of the sacrifice of Olivia’s child. We also got to see a reprise of the spooky-eyed, possessed version of the Witness that we saw in season two as Olivia takes control of her younger self, a blackout she remembers from her own youth. These callbacks to previous details only serve to strengthen the narrative, and the resulting satisfaction permeates the episode.
Jennifer’s storyline continues to evolve in unexpected and exciting ways as well, beginning with another callback: the mysterious “future asshole” version of Cole from season three. Her last minute rescue and the fact that she was counting on it is a nice restoration of faith for this character, and when she meets up with our Cole holding a cheeseburger, it was a genuinely tender moment. But who could have predicted that Bonham, who wasn’t a bad guy after all but a descendent of Primaries, would return the codex to Jennifer once she was together with Cole? Or that Cole would solve it so quickly using his mother’s story of the serpent?
So night one of 12 Monkeys season 4 leaves us wondering what the message inside the ouroboros or the child claimed by the Witness will lead to. Clearly we’re headed to Blackleaf in 1852, but what will be there waiting there? And what will come of the Witness’ grand cycle, which appears to end with Titan sending a beam of light into the sky and destroying everything? The pacing of the season so far is just right, and the story encapsulated by the first three episodes leaves us itching to get to next week for four through six. With just the right amount of closure and a healthy amount of speculation about the conflict at hand, 12 Monkeys has us wrapped up tightly in its curled simian tail.
The author of this review is the host of the 12 Monkeys Uncaged podcast, which features a discussion with showrunner Terry Matalas about Night 1.