This 12 Monkeys review contains spoilers.
12 Monkeys Season 4 Episode 4
Like the previous episode of 12 Monkeys, “Legacy” brings forward a loose end from a previous season and wraps it up in the intrigue of the new storyline surrounding the Witness and the true purpose of Titan. Although most viewers were probably willing to write off Elliot Jones as an egotistical genius whose loss of focus on the science made him easily corruptible by the Army of the 12 Monkeys, the different ending for his character offered here is a nice little bit of redemption. With a good dose of humor and adventure, this episode lightens up just enough to allow us to breathe before the next mind-blowing chapter.
Although the Seers of old surely didn’t direct Team Splinter to Blackleaf, Montana simply to reunite the Jones family, what a reunion it was! Narratively, it was wonderful to see Hannah initially reject her father as a tool of the enemy, but as time went on, the reconciliation was both sensitively paced and poignant in the end. In fact, it was Hannah’s appearance that likely shook Elliot out of his complacency. She mentions that she never had a reason to wonder about her father, and he simply but powerfully responds, “I’ll see if I can make a lasting impression.” He may have played his hand too strong with the Tall Man by telling him a father will always fight for his children, but it had the required impact on us and Shaw (nice to finally have a name to go with the pallid one).
Elliot also gives us a reason to learn more about Jones as well, especially since his rationale for using time travel was supposedly altruistic at first. Her assessment that, “You’re no savior; you’re Oppenheimer in a blindfold,” may be accurate, but her opposition to his desire for a family early in their marriage rings true when he answers, “And you’re a mother, so I guess we both became something we never wanted to be.” However, when they talk about the old days, which we see in flashbacks, there’s a tenderness there, even when Jones accuses Elliot of a dalliance with Emma, his lab assistant.
Speaking of Emma, we may have seen the big reveal coming long before the penny dropped, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to watch unfold. While it may have been surprising to see young Olivia’s daughter fully grown so quickly, remember, this is time travel! It’s weird enough that Elliot and Katarina remember her as part of Project Splinter, but to have the Witness embedding her spy to learn how to use Titan to “punch a hole” in time simply by listening to Elliot pontificate is a master stroke that leaves us wondering how Jones and company will stop the traveling city from fulfilling its true purpose.
It really is mind-bending how Titan could be in the process of being built in 1852, but the explanation works: they needed easy, disposable labor. Everything about the wild west setting was fun and energetic, a nice shift in tone for this second chapter. The humor of “Calamity Jane” and “Mad Maxine” taking all the good wardrobe and Cole’s wonderfully exaggerated Western drawl gave the whole caper an adventurous feel, and the scene in the bar with the anachronistic clothes and Oingo Boingo on the piano was evocative of HBO’s Westworld.
The introduction of Tihkoosue may have been a bit on the nose for the untamed frontier setting, but Jennifer is right about his voice being perfect for movie trailers. The Native American character mostly serves as a connection to knowledge about the weapon referred to in the Ouroboros tale, but when he tells Jennifer she can’t drink the tea without the Witness knowing, the loss of her guiding voices pushes her to seek a connection with the Seers despite the risk. Olivia’s abilities on display in Jennifer’s vision are as frightening as the Seers’ force-like powers are intriguing, and as disconcerting as Jennifer’s lost connectedness.
Cassie is quite perceptive to notice Jennifer’s lack of primary abilities, but this knowledge creates a cascading effect of secrets being outed. Cole admits that the serpent story came to him from his mother, and as he and Jennifer squabble over why Deacon would betray the mission and even kill Elliot, Jones defuses the argument by admitting that she is dying. Eliminating any potentially fractious secrets is important not only for Jones’ unified approach to the mission; it’s also key for audience buy-in for this final mission, and it works wonderfully. This late in the game, mysteries should be confined to things like the USB drive that Elliot gave his life to secure.
For those watching the full second night of 12 Monkeys, it’s clear to see that this first episode of the night leads right into the adventurous nature of the next two, and the lighter tone for “Legacy” feels like the Team Splinter missions of seasons past with all of the nostalgia that entails. Just because we’re headed into the final stretch doesn’t mean it all has to be heavy gloom and doom or epic final confrontation. Those elements are no doubt yet to come, but in the meantime, fans can enjoy a good, old-fashioned wild west romp.
The author of this review is the host of the 12 Monkeys Uncaged podcast, which features a discussion with showrunner Terry Matalas about Night 2.