This 12 Monkeys review contains spoilers.
12 Monkeys Season 4 Episode 7
With the story of Hannah and Emma bookending the third night of Syfy’s triptych of episodes, “Daughters” poetically introduces a side mission that becomes the key to a major mystery of 12 Monkeys: the identity of Cole’s mother. By juxtaposing the differing experiences of Jones’ daughter and Olivia’s daughter, the emotional journeys of each character are reinforced like overlapping wave states. Combined with the daring plan to get the team to 1491, this episode is rife with deception, disillusionment, and a visit from another “Mother” we haven’t seen in awhile.
Some may have forgotten that the machine in the Emerson Hotel is still back in 2043, overlapping with the early missions of season one at a time when elder Jennifer was still alive. Her arrival just after younger Jennifer leaves is likely no coincidence, but her presence remains somewhat of a mystery until later episodes. The urgency with which she encourages Adler to finish the splinter vest is disconcerting, but perhaps moreso are her multiple nosebleeds, which indicate that history is changing and the “the circle is not perfect anymore.” We probably haven’t seen the full scope of what she means, but her tone feels more foreboding than hopeful that the changes are good.
In fact, many of the successes in this episode don’t feel like victories. For example, Jones taunts Olivia to a point where the Witness resorts to killing a vision of Hannah over and over again to get the doctor to reveal where and when the weapon is, but even when we find out that it was all a ploy to use Titan as an anchor to allow Cole, Cassie, and Jennifer to travel to the distant past, it’s hardly a battle won. Plus even though Jones figures out that the Witness is in her mind, she accidentally reveals Deacon’s duplicity in a well hidden slip. It’s two steps forward, one step back: par for the course in 12 Monkeys.
Olivia is hardly the flawless villain either. In an increasingly commonplace display of impatience, she forces Emma to demonstrate Titan’s capabilities before the Hartle-Hawking state is complete. As a mother to a daughter that has fulfilled her mission, Olivia is woefully unequipped to show tenderness or any kind of family bond, even though she clearly makes halting attempts to do so. She creates such a hostile environment for Emma, in fact, that her daughter leaves Titan for a past she’s more familiar and more comfortable with, a circumstance that should have been avoidable for the all-seeing Witness.
But of course, Emma is part of the great unchangeable Djinn as it turns out, being instrumental in creating the identity of Marion Woods, Cole’s mother. As the narration throughout the episode compares Hannah’s “life of doubt” with Emma’s “life of certainty,” the two daughters come together with a sense of inevitability even though Jones sent Hannah back two years earlier to live a life before deciding if she wants to continue with the mission. The mirrored voiceovers conveying Hannah’s fear and Emma’s disillusionment were beautifully envisioned and expertly executed.
Even when characters’ intents were foiled, it helped them grow, even this late in the series. Hannah doesn’t open the letter her mother gave her on the appointed date because she has a date with the bartender, but when she stabs the drunk patron with a broken bottle, she realizes she’s still a child of the apocalypse and gets back on mission. Similarly, Deacon counsels Jones to focus on something she hates the way he did when he was in her cell in Titan, but she chooses to focus on what she loves. Deacon’s nosebleed upon seeing the West VII symbol carved into his prison wall is as mysterious as Jennifer’s manifestation of changed history, but the changes in store for Deacon make these small moments worth noting and appreciating.
Of course, Hannah’s choice to go to the bar in Chelsea where Marion Woods was part of a shooting is also how she loses her ticket home as her tether tag is shot; as Jones predicted in her letter, it could be her salvation or her undoing (perhaps both). The shootout was no doubt tied to the Witness telling her minions to “find Emma; end her cycle,” but Hannah’s involvement was also crucial, both in the event’s causality and Emma’s escape. Notably, the decision of what to do next is suspended until two episodes hence, but the big reveal of Emma’s fateful choice of pseudonym is enough to put the exclamation mark on the daughters’ stories for now.
As the team heads off to Hartfordshire, England, it would be easy to miss a key element of this great episode: Jones’ understanding of how Olivia became the Witness and why she’s driven to create the Red Forest. Jones understands that Olivia doesn’t care about power, control, or reliving the past, but rather she worries about being alone in the end in “the box” like she was as a child: a brilliant, coffin-like way to symbolize Olivia’s fear of death and her prime motivation. Perhaps we sensed this about Olivia even before we knew she was the Witness, but it’s good to have it stated definitively in this way.
12 Monkeys continues to unfold its magnus opus in its final season, and the story just never ceases to amaze and inspire awe. For those who have seen the full third night of the journey to find the weapon and Hannah’s continuing mission, it’s clear that the epic tale isn’t about to pull any punches, and the cycle of this series is as tightly woven and unbreakable as a Djinn. When all is said and done, this series will stand as an artistic tour de force worthy of any fan’s collection of classic science fiction television, framed on the wall like the Word of the Witness.