This 12 Monkeys review contains spoilers.
12 Monkeys Season 4 Episode 8
This is where it becomes clear that 12 Monkeys is ending for real, sad as it may be. Yes, a reset could undo all the misery, but does anyone believe that’s what we’re headed for? In an episode that appears to have foiled the team’s only chance to use the weapon that the Seers made for Cole, the story takes a decidedly darker turn, raising the stakes to a shocking height at the top of a long and winding stair while adding tons of depth to an already deep mythology far in the distant past. Sprinkled with just the right amount of Jennifer humor, this tragic episode seems to mark the beginning of the true ending of the series.
One thread that has been dangling since season one is the recurring reference to the Druze Brotherhood, which has been assisting and populating the Army of the 12 Monkeys for hundreds of years. In hindsight, it seems obvious that such a group would need to be founded by a Primary, yet the introduction of Andrus the Butcher still manages to be completely, impressively unexpected. His self-hating devotion to the Witness, who no doubt haunts his dreams like a malevolent god, fits perfectly with the strict religious atmosphere of the late middle ages.
Jennifer’s initial arrival helps ease the transition to such a foreign location as well, and we can’t really blame her for falling for Andrus’ witch trap; the monkey symbol must have been oddly encouraging that she was on the right track even as she awkwardly talked about “the dragons on the field this morn.” Her humor in adversity, especially her pop culture references to Legend of Zelda and The Lord of the Rings (and even the great poop joke), kept us in familiar territory until Cole and Cassie could spring to her rescue.
Olivia seems much more at home in this place, right down to her more knight-like Witness mask, and Andrus taking her to the circle of Seers hearkens back to the season premiere’s opening scene, this time with more specific reasons for the human torches. It’s interesting to note that the Alpha Primary dismisses Olivia as a byproduct “slithering through the bowels of causality” and asserts that James Cole is the only one that matters. Although this plays out in the final episode of the night, here it was a shock both to the audience and to the Witness as she burned the location of the weapon out of them.
Cole and Cassie, of course, had to learn about where to “climb the steps” and “ring the bell” from Nicodemus, the da Vinci-like inventor with the Primary daughter, Chorus. It was a nice touch to have Deacon waiting for them, the scav king having dispatched his would-be assassins from Titan, hanging their corpses as an early warning system. In retrospect, his earnest discussion with Jennifer as he gave her his dagger was one of those moments that portends a character’s demise, but the curiously strong bond between Deacon and Jennifer has been wonderfully understated ever since he asked old Jennifer, “See something you like, Granny?” back in season two.
Nicodemus’ open-mindedness about Chorus’ gift is a nice contrast to Andrus’ self-flagellation, and the idea that he could help build a medieval splinter machine powered by a paradox had a certain aspect of magical realism to it: somewhat mythical, somewhat incredible, undeniably awe-inspiring. The fact that Olivia and Andrus arrived just as Cole and Cassie did is not too surprising, but the appearance of Cassie’s white streak as she and Andrus both grabbed the bell was a real eye-opener. The colorless strand of hair means we’re truly nearing the end, and this scene indicates that the use of the weapon was unsuccessful!
As if that weren’t enough, the fact that Deacon gave his life to delay the Witness long enough for Adler to send Cole the splinter vest was both tragically unfair and uncharacteristically heroic. The beheading and the subsequent paradoxing of the abandoned church was the writers’ way of saying that Deacon is really and truly dead not to be undone, and his sacrifice was a noble ending for a character that won our hearts despite being a self-professed bad guy. No one said the end of 12 Monkeys was going to be easy and happy, and this death was well-placed to up the ante for the final battle.
Elder Jennifer’s continued nosebleeds as she urges Adler to fix the vest are still puzzling as to what they imply about changed history, but it’s encouraging to note that Jennifer will eventually get her groove back, especially since Chorus assured the younger “egg” that her voices were only silent because they were hiding from the Witness. It seems that “chicken” didn’t know Deacon would die until he did (history changed?), but the key bit of information moving forward has to do with the ancient symbols that we’ve seen before but have yet to attach meaning to. The soft scratching of the chalk was the perfect way to end this solemn episode.
So 12 Monkeys heads into what showrunner Terry Matalas calls the penultimate episode if the two-hour finale is viewed as a single cinematic tour-de-force that it’s sure to be. This trip to 1491 England was a hugely important interlude in the already massively crucial tale of Hannah and Emma, who we only saw briefly in this episode, and we can only guess at the awesome scale of the finale if this is any indication. As we zoom out from the cycle of the plague, the cycle of the Messengers, and the cycle of Athan to the cycle of the great Djinn, the epic nature of 12 Monkeys threatens to overwhelm us, but we gladly stand on the shore as the tidal wave approaches, arms spread wide in welcome abandon.