12 Monkeys: The Keys Review
As 12 Monkeys passes the halfway point of season 1, heartstrings are pulled as the fate of Cole and Cassie is completely unknowable.
For the first time this season, there is no obvious set-up for where the story will be going next week. 12 Monkeys has operated with one goal per episode, and Operation Troy was obviously center stage in “The Keys.” But even with all of the assurances that time travel and last minute splintering can provide, this week’s story expertly left the audience with nary a clue about what happened to the main characters or where the investigation will take them in the future.
It needed to be this way. With Cole feeling his days are numbered, he wants to “just be us for awhile,” and the result is several tender moments with Cassie, including a dance and a touching farewell speech ending with, “I’m glad I got to know you.” Everything seems so final! Using this atmosphere to carry through the theme of sacrifice that has pervaded this series makes the explosion at the end that much more tragic. I could almost believe for a moment that Cole didn’t escape via splinter! Did he? DID HE??
Operation Troy itself, needless to say, was a complete mess. Am I to believe that desperate, shady government spooks would resort to a fast-acting virus to eliminate a target? I understand that a missile strike would be too pointed and politically charged, but since they had to blow the place up anyway, doesn’t that negate the whole secretive nature of the mission? The men were clearly not dying fast enough to prevent the spread of the disease! What a fiasco!
Government incompetence aside, I did enjoy the trap Cole laid for the 12 Monkeys assassin who sought to steal the virus. Sharp boulder impalement – what a way to go! However, I have to wonder if this means Cole did actually prevent the outbreak. He kept it from spreading here in Chechnya as it had in last week’s skewed timeline, but it also seems that, because he kept the Army of the 12 Monkeys from intercepting the case, he prevented the future outbreak as well, correct? Again, not a clue for us to guess what’s coming next week – and I love it!
Only the detail of the ancient Chechen plate gives us a new mystery to work with, but it’s so new and undeveloped that it’s difficult to glean much from it. The fact that the plate was used in ceremonies to crush herbs into tea is reminiscent of the drugged beverage used on Dr. Railly last week, though, and references to a Druze Brotherhood and “time’s custodian” smacks of a mystical order dedicated to preserving history. Physics, meet metaphysics!
It’s always fun to see time experienced out of order, and Cole’s reappearance after his own supposed death added to the tragedy of Cassie’s feelings of loss and guilt. I also enjoyed having Aaron join the fight, although his willingness to trash his career so quickly seems odd given his earlier reluctance to enable Cassie’s supposed delusions. But again, his guilt is expertly woven into his motivations, and his assistance is both necessary and believable.
Although solutions to conflicts can be a bit swift and easy in this series (Cassie’s simple escape last week; the terrorists basically painting a target on themselves this week), the narrative, dialogue, and characterization are superb. If the first half of the season is any indication, audiences are in for a wild ride as 12 Monkeys moves forward.
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