This 12 Monkeys review contains spoilers.
12 Monkeys Season 4 Episode 9
Apparently, like the 12 Monkeys audience, the splinter team is looking for things to come full circle, and as a result, the return to the mission to stop the plague seems both logical and foolhardy. “One More Minute” piles more tragedy upon our already weakened hearts in this final episode of the night, but there’s never a point where death becomes a gratuitous manipulation of audience emotion. Everything makes sense, even during a necessarily rushed montage of the months between Matthew Cole and Hannah and the heretofore exceedingly unlikely circumstance of Dr. Cassie Railly releasing the M-510 virus. Wrapping up this many loose ends is no mean feat for an established series nearing its end!
Neither is making the complex code of Jennifer’s Primary spiral understandable to an audience already beleaguered by time travel complexity and the aforementioned emotional trauma, but somehow the pattern of two symbols repeating in groups of four (the 1900s and 2000s) and the logarithmic spiral with macro symbols makes a certain amount of sense. Why wouldn’t the one date not yet visited, two days before the first reported cases of the Kalavirus, be the obvious target? The excitement of following such a glaring clue and the possibility of destroying the weapon that created Olivia is too enticing to pass up.
Equally obvious, however, is Jennifer’s protestation that the Primaries wouldn’t “gift wrap a needle with a haystack.” Why would they make one coordinate part of such a huge spiral of data? The knowledge that superimposing the code overtop of the existing timestream would eliminate all the loops of the great Djinn combined with the fact that the data only includes Cole’s jumps rather than all of the machine’s jumps (easy to miss since Cole went on so many of the missions) becomes a chilling realization. In fact, some viewers might not have realized the implications until Cole uttered the words, “I’m the demon.” A puzzle piece that has been floating around for the whole series finally clicks into place, but the removal of James Cole from history is unfathomable! Unthinkable! Yet perfect.
And it’s not as if this episode didn’t already have several mind-blowing, paradigm-shifting revelations! The first startling image comes from the show’s use of JFK airport in an almost identical setting to the climactic scene in the Gilliam film, Twelve Monkeys. Cassie sees evidence that Pallid Man already released the virus on April 3, the date listed in the Primary code, but when they go back further to steal the last remaining virus sample from Markridge’s derelict labs, the ease with which they succeed leads to the first shock of the episode: they’re meant to release the plague themselves!
The second mic drop takes a little more time to unfold, but what a doozy it is! Having assumed (already with no small amount of shock) that Emma was Cole’s mother, the audience accepts the story of the pair stumbling upon Matthew Cole as fulfilling but not surprising. But spines start to tingle when Matthew takes Emma to the hospital and comes back empty handed. A collective cry of, “Does this mean what I think it means?” rose from the 12 Monkeys fandom, a group that has speculated about the identity of Marion Woods since she was first mentioned in season one.
But the genius of the reveal is that it happens only after Cole and Cassie have taken the virus to the Emerson Hotel to drown it in bleach. We’re as puzzled as they are to discover an older Hannah, nine years past her mission to find Marion. It’s not so much that she wanted to be secretive about her identity in telling him, “Mothers die to protect their children; yours died protecting you;” it’s that she needed him to go to the airport so that her statement could be true, and telling him who she was would have prevented that. Remarkable storytelling!
And it happens again and again throughout the episode! Just as they did with Whitley and Ramse in “Ouroboros,” Jones and Cole get to say goodbye to Hannah a year before her death. The family reunion is about as poignant as it gets, especially when they don’t want to part ways, and Cole says simply, “So maybe one minute more. There’s still time.” The heartbreak continues all the way through Cole reading Hannah’s letter, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when she spoke about her pride in being his mother. 12 Monkeys is killing us softly with its song once again!
Each of the storylines mentioned above have moments that enrich the encounter even more. Cassie releases the virus, but only after being persuaded by Pallid Man that she “may yet win, if you choose to.” Hannah’s brief time with Matthew includes plenty of chemistry, but it’s the passing of Elliot’s “The common core of all great achievement is failure,” into Matthew’s fatherly advice to Cole, “The only failure is giving up,” that holds the most power. Even Hannah mentioning that she spotted her mother in the park and watched Cole meeting Ramse carried quite a bit of impact.
“One Minute More” left no emotional stone unturned, and the audience is likely spent from such a punishing journey of discovery. It’s a damn good thing the U.S. audience gets a week before the two-hour finale, and even that may not be enough time to absorb the many blows this episode — and the third night in general — delivers. But as sad as the episode and those before it might have been, there’s no denying that 12 Monkeys is headed to the most elusive prize for any series nearing its close: a satisfying ending.