The opening montage shows us that life has been hard for Cassie in 2044. As a doctor, her entire profession has been healing and helping others, or at the very least doing no harm. In 2044, Cassie's mission is to assemble the parts that are needed to repair the splitter machine and that means going on missions with Deacon where she kills people. This explains why when Cassie showed up on top of the roof in 2015, she had no problem killing those men and wanting to kill Jennifer and Ramse. Cassie isn't the same woman that Cole sent to the future.
12 Monkeys underscores just how Cassie has changed by having her do the opening monologue instead of Cole.
"Where are you right now? Somewhere you don't belong? Wondering who have I become? Living a life you never thought you'd have to? Doing things horrible things you never thought you'd be capable of? No matter how hard you fought, you'd have to live with it, you'd adapt, transform, evolve. Metamorphosis. And sometimes you have to accept not every caterpillar becomes a butterfly."Jennifer has been searching for her purpose which Olivia has led her to believe is to release the virus. Jennifer had been actively searching for someone to kill her to stop her actions but Cole manages to talk her into handing over the virus. From her research, Cassie learns that the rest of the virus is on Jennifer's private plane waiting to be released.
The moment that Cassie and Cole burn all of the virus, it quickly becomes apparent in 2044 that things have changed. Jones watches as things speed up around her and she is amazed. Unfortunately for Jones, her daughter is still dead but she did gain a husband. Jones learns that the release of the virus has been delayed by four years and that more people survived because Cassie was able to warn people about what to prepare for. This is something to celebrate and the first victory they've had since they embarked on the mission to stop the release of the virus.
Cassie is convinced that Ramse is still going to be a problem and so she injects Ramse with Cole's shot and heads back to 2044 with him, stranding Cole in the past with Jennifer. Ramse is placed into prison and Deacon is sent in to torture information out of him. This is yet another reminder of how much Cassie has changed. Ramse takes the upper hand by talking about how he went to Deacon's childhood home and called the cops to stop his father from beating his mother to death. This is clearly something Deacon didn't want anyone to know. Yes, this gives us some characterisation on Deacon beyond the fact that he is a cruel scavenging warlord; however, it still amounts to the idea that if someone has a dysfunctional childhood, they are not destined to lead a moral or good life. I'm not surprised that they went with the easy trope for characterisation, just disappointed. Cassie decides to try a new tactic and brings out Ramse's son. Yeah, Cassie has gone hard like that.
Jennifer leads Cole to a hotel in 2015, and she is insistent that he needs to be in room 607, instead of room 210. The voice Jennifer hears is Olivia's and Olivia keeps talking to Jennifer about her purpose. Jennifer even sees Olivia when she looks in the mirror. This makes me wonder if Jennifer is really mentally ill? We know that she was working without a problem as a scientist until the monkeys broke into her lab and killed everyone. Are Olivia or the 12 Monkeys somehow effecting Jennifer's sanity? This is a valid question to ask since the hospital where Jennifer was placed was absolutely shifty.
When Cole is switched to room 607 he learns that he purchased this flat in perpetuity back in the 40's. He finds a picture of him and Cassie dressed like they are at an event. Cole reaches out to Jones in 2015 to let her know where he is and ask to be brought back but this incarnation of Jones isn't interested in talking to him, afraid that they will mess up the timeline. An upset Jennifer cuts her wrists asking why she always has to go to extremes to get Cole's attention. Cole once again talks Jennifer down and assures her that she can create her own purpose before sending her on her way. What Cole didn't realise at the time that this act of kindness is enough to get future Jennifer to have Jones send him back to 2044
Cassandra may be sure that Cole doesn't have what it takes anymore, but Jones seems to be happy to have him back on the team. Cole explains that he went to the past to kill a man to stop the virus and when that didn't work, he killed a few more people. Cole points out that the only time he made a difference is when he helped someone live who was destined to die. Cole now believes the way forward is to display some kindness and empathy. Cassie however still very much wants to undertake the ride or die.
12 Monkeys has really hit hard on the idea that Cassie and Cole have traded places. Cole blames himself for the way that Cassie is now while she says that everyone changes as the result of the life they lead. Perhaps each small change that they make delays the virus but can it stop the virus altogether? Last week, the messenger told Jones that if something is meant to happen it cannot be stopped. Despite all of the time travel and the action scenes, brought down to the most basic level, 12 Monkeys is essentially about free will versus destiny. Do the choices we make influence the world we live in, or is everything preordained? If it is the later, then no matter what Cassie or Cole do, they cannot significantly change anything.
Perhaps more interesting than free will versus destiny, the fractured timeline interests me the most. Just by moving ahead the virus a few years, more people survived and thus, Jones now has a husband, though not her daughter. It's some compensation for everything that she has lost. What role will these people who should have died come to play in this story? How will they shape the characters we have come to know? 12 Monkeys is at its best when it's focused on its characters, rather than the time travel and the virus.