Sunday, February 22, 2015

12 Monkeys, Season 1, Episode 6: The Red Forest

We begin exactly where we left off – with Cole and Jennifer chasing after Cassie who is kidnapped by the 12 Monkey people and a gun pointed at her head. And Cole vanishes


Cole arrives back in the future – but there’s ominous dripping stains on the time machine and no-one around. Someone has hung laundry about the time machine room. He finds people in one of the side rooms – and the symbol of West 7 painted on the wall. Looking back in the time machine room it briefly flashes to the reality he’s used to before fading out again. His old membership with West 7, and their mark on his arm, convinces the people there he’s one of them. He asks after Jones who they call “Repair Hag”.

They take her to Jones, who doesn’t recognise him. She tells him that the West 7 attacked and took over 2 years ago. She also says her time machine failed – and Cole was never sent back in it. Showing the marks on his body from her experiments and repeating her old words back he tries to convince her even as he gets confused by new memories/hallucinations/visions. She checks his blood and concludes it’s freaky and only her injections could have made it like that. They realise he changed the past

They compare notes – and find that in this reality the plague was released in 2015 in Chechnya by an intelligence agency as part of something called Operation Troy. Jones has never heard of Cassie or Leyland Goynes or the message she left that indicated Cole was the time traveller.

They do some research and find that Cassie was shot in 2015. His death caused the time split. Jones also explains that Cole’s brain scramble is being caused by two sets of memories – from his time and the new timeline and that the conflict will probably kill him.

He wants to use the time machine but to do that they have to convince the head of West 7 and Ridley takes them to him – the boss of West 7 in this reality is Ramses. He’s a bit shocked to see Cole alive. After some quick speaking where he convinces Ramses he’s real we learn about Cole’s death. Ramse and Cole found the time machine base, but this time Jones didn’t speak up to save Cole since she hadn’t received Cassie’s message through time. Cole died and Ramse returned to West 7 and killed Deacon, the old/current leader before taking over the base.

The problem is that to fire up the machine would drain the power left in the base, dooming the West 7 people that Ramse leads. Ridley is very against this idea and he pulls a gun when Ramse decides to doom them all because the ghost of his dead friend asked him to. He shoots Jones, non-lethally, and Ramses breaks Ridley’s neck. Before Cole leaves in the time machine Jones tells him to ask the other version about “sacrifice being the only way.”


Cole arrives back in 2015

And we switch to Aaron (Cassie’s sort-of ex, remember him?) who works for Senator and they’re both very concerned about a guy called Adam Wrexler who appears to be a hacker determined to go all wikileaks on America’s secrets. The senator asks pointed questions about why Aaron was interested in Leland Goynes – and they get a fax about Operation Troy (the government operation that releases the virus in Chechnya).

Cole decides to apply his usual subtle problem solving skills – and kidnaps Aaron. Aaron tries to escape. He’s very bad at it.

To Cassie’s place where Cole doesn’t stop Aaron sending a surreptitious text (but then, would Cole know about mobile phones?) and tries to explain the 12 Monkeys and Cassie being in danger as well as the fact there are currently 2 Coles running around. The 2 Coles is why he needs help – because being around himself and causing a paradox would be bad. Cole keeps rambling and eventually mentions Operation Troy – which makes Aaron pay attention since that’s super classified.

Aaron seems at least a little convinced – since he regrets calling 911 (Cole doesn’t know what that is); they both flee out the back door. Aaron doesn’t have to be forced

To the Night Room and Cole’s very amusing instruction to Aaron on how to fire a gun. This may have been a good time to re-question the tactic because when the other Cole, Cassie and Jennifer emerges Aaron manages to set off a car alarm and shoot Cole in the arm. Present Cole now has a newly sewn up bullet wound (and remembers it being doctored).

At least the wound adds more fuel to making Aaron believe. Aaron wishes he had the license plate which, after explaining the concept to Cole, Cole recites perfectly.

Meanwhile Cassie hears the Pallid Man talking to a woman with more authority discussing how the Nightroom didn’t have the virus and that they’re preparing Cassie for something.

They make her drink something and the Striking Woman (yes this is what she is referred to as in the cast notes) guides her hallucination through a red forest. Cassie collapses and the Striking Woman tells her she’s important and that “he” has plans for her. Whoever he is. The Striking Woman continues to direct the hallucination with washed away blood, a wooden house and a man. She keeps trying to make her see the man who appears as a black robed figure. Cassie runs and she manages to surprise Pallid Man and Striking Woman by doing so.

Cole and Aaron follow the van to a garden centre and capture a man there for Cole to beat up and question. Aaron’s softly softly approach works better and they get a location. Afterwards Aaron and Cole have a heart to heart – Aaron uncomfortable with Cole’s killer instinct and not believing the whole time travel thing but willing to go with the idea a cult has Cassie. Cole also brings out the very old, very tired two-wolves-inside-you line which I’ve heard repeated so many times that any wisdom from it is lost in the eye-rolling.

They begin their move on where Cassie is being held, even though Cole’s memories/visions are getting worse (Aaron also doesn’t like Cole’s lack of planning). They run in and find Cassie, shooting the Pallid Man chasing her though I don’t think he’s dead. They run, chased by goons.

Cassie wants them to stay and kill the Witness who may be behind it all but Cole wants Cassie safe to reset the future to how it should be – it’s kind of an incremental saving plan – make the future marginally less shit before working on making it good. Cole sends them on while he holds the pursuers off, still hit by visions and memories. As Cassie is safe, Cole is summoned back by the machine and disappears

Now that should convince Aaron.

In the future, Cole finds everything back to how it should be. He fills Ramse in on the whole alternate him for a little moment before talking to Jones. Since destroying the corpse in the Night Room didn’t stop the virus, the next focus is Operation Troy.

There’s also a delightful/awkward comforting moment between Jones and Cole – seeing Cole suffering she touches him so hesitantly then pulls away when he moves. It’s a nice touch. The memories are still bothering Cole and he asks her what the other self said about sacrifice. Basically that, yes, splintering, time travel, will eventually kill Cole. They’re both more concerned on him being able to stop the virus before it kills him

In the present, Cassie is still having Red Forest hallucinations and learning about The Witness. Aaron apologises for abandoning Cassie when she was right – I guess he’s now on board. He tells Cassie Operation Troy may be involved, whatever that actually is

Ok my head’s squeaking a little. The very first episode showed us that if you changed things in the past it changed the future – Cole scratched a watch and the future version of that watch was scratched (along with some awesome paradoxy effects). In this episode we saw a bullet wound on past Cole appeared on future Cole. The whole premise of this show is Cole will vanish when he finally changes the time line. So here we have Cole change the past so Cassie dies and, in doing so, leads to his death. So Cole changed the time line to one in which he is dead before he gets chance to time travel; but he’s still around. Why isn’t he dead? Why is he just getting odd memories? Is it because he’s a time traveller and in flux? And being with himself would cause a paradox, but going back in time and causing the death of the person who then saves you so you have to go save them even though you’re technically dead… isn’t a paradox?

So… either the continuity of this show is in teeny tiny pieces on the floor. Or there’s a lot more to time travel than we realise and the show needs to get on with explaining that.

One thing that is interesting is that the show has, in a way, undermined the very premise of the film: that the past can’t be changed.

Alternate worlds are always an interesting concept but I don’t think you can delve into the full implications of them after only 6 episodes. The best part of alternate worlds is seeing old characters change so considerably – but Ramse, Ridley and Jones are only somewhat developed, certainly not nearly enough for any personality shift to be notable. And Cole convinces them both so quickly that any conflict is kind of missing. The added problem with this is that it cast Ridley as unreasonable and the bad guy because he didn’t get behind the whole idea of destroying everything they had because a dead guy said so. He was reasonable, he was sensible and it cast him as ridiculous – and killed.

The focus, of course, was more on Aaron and Cole and finding Cassie. We have some more… well I won’t call them answers because it was more cryptic clues than answers, but I’m intrigued. Aaron is also, surprisingly, going to step into a larger role, I assume. This could be intriguing since it brings in a political dimension – but it also adds another main straight white guy to the cast AND raises the spectre of the ever-so-dreaded love triangle.

I do think the show has missed an opportunity in not doing more Cole-being-confused-by-the-21st-century moments.