Monday, May 16, 2016

REVIEW: '12 Monkeys' - Jennifer Provides More Answers While Cole & Ramse Handle Deacon in 'Bodies of Water'

Syfy's 12 Monkeys - Episode 2.05 "Bodies of Water"

In 2016, Cassie and Jennifer are on the run from the 12 Monkeys in a desperate attempt to unravel the next part of the conspiracy. In 2044, Cole and Ramse's conflict with Deacon comes to a head.

This has been a much more structurally consistent season of 12 Monkeys. Each episode so far has kept things simplified while also focusing on two separate stories connected by various themes. That has allowed the narrative to be much easier to track even though the stakes are only increasing in this war to save all of time. "Bodies of Water" centers on the main trio being forced to interact with people they don't like very well. Cassie travels back to 2016 in order to enlist Jennifer's help in finding the next primary. Meanwhile, Cole and Ramse are stuck in 2044 and decide to finally do something about Deacon's brutality in this cruel and unforgiving world. The themes connect these two stories together. And yet, one is so clearly better than the other. So that makes this episode overall feel very off from the previous four of the season.

The difficulties that this episode encounters largely center around Deacon still being a very one-dimensional character. He's a brutal man who knows how to survive in the harsh landscape of 2044. He's a man who has done very well for himself in this world. He has helped trained Cole, Cassie and Ramse so that they all have the skills to do what's necessary in the main time traveling mission. And yet, the story here that focuses on Cole and Ramse trying to eliminate Deacon from the picture largely feels like something for those characters to do. This episode is all about Cassie and Jennifer forming a real connection after Cassie tried to kill Jennifer at the start of the season. It's a mission that has no purpose for either Cole or Ramse. So they need something to preoccupy themselves in 2044 that doesn't make things too precarious for the future. So, Deacon does something that they view as horrifying and they try to do something to correct his bad behavior. And yet, it's a story deeply rooted in one-sighted thinking. It's hard to understand what anyone does while the debate about the subject really isn't that engaging.

Deacon kills one of his soldiers because he sold him out to a man he scorned in the past. Deacon has formed a lot of enemies during his time in this environment. Cole and Ramse look at Deacon's actions as this villainous thing - even though they both have blood on their hands as well. So they take him outside the facility to trade him to this man who's looking for him. It's an action that earns them Deacon's respect and accomplishes very little else. And why is earning his respect so important anyway? Deacon is a character who the show is still trying to fit into the narrative even though he doesn't work as naturally as everyone else. He personifies the brutal realities of the 2044 world. And yet, that doesn't need to be a regular presence on the show. In fact the time anomalies ravaging the land take care of that much more effectively. So Deacon is left with no purpose whatsoever. He does not die from this trip outside the facility. In fact, it only showcases just how strong and lethal he really is. But again, how is that important to the overall narrative?

The problems within the Deacon story don't really take away a whole lot from the great stuff happening between Cassie and Jennifer. It just brings the overall episode down a little bit. It's still fun and amusing to see these two ladies facing off with the Army of the 12 Monkeys in unexpected ways. They are both so important to the timeline that the Witness is creating in this world. He is still shrouded in so much secrecy. And yet, the show is doing such a great thing in exploring more of the personal backstories of the faces of the Army. Olivia has been there to help guide several people on their various cycles. However, she has also failed to stop Cole, Cassie and Ramse from changing the future and breaking the cycle that the Witness saw. She's out for vengeance and it's much more personal now. She understands the value these people have for the Witness' grand plan. But that doesn't mean she can't take a little satisfaction for himself too. It's great seeing her hunt down Cassie and Jennifer in order to complete the ceremony that the Witness wants done.

It's also important that Cassie is able to help Jennifer reconnect with her primary powers and accept that they are a blessing and not a curse. It's chilling and creepy to see Jennifer on her medication and acting like a normal person at the top of the episode. It's not something destined to last. The voices will always break through and tell her about the timeline. Cassie is no longer there to kill Jennifer but she still wants to bring her so much pain and trauma. Cassie needs answers on when and where to look for the next primary. She understands what the messengers are doing. She has been successful in killing eight of them. They did succeed in the 1940s. But now, she knows exactly what they are up to. The creation of paradoxes by killing primaries is a vastly important mission in order to destroy time. She needs to know who to protect and when. She's not above killing Jennifer to keep the Army from getting their way either. And yet, she doesn't have the strength to deliver on that threat. So that only leads to Cassie falling into the wrong hands yet again.

More importantly though, "Bodies of Water" provides the most meaningful tease of the Witness yet. The show has always been very mysterious and cryptic about his identity. For awhile last season, it seemed like Ramse was the Witness only for that to be a red herring. That could easily be what the show is doing right now as well. When Cassie goes on her latest excursion to the Red Forrest, she sees Aaron as the Witness. That's a reveal that has many personal complications for her. She loved Aaron until all of this time traveling with Cole ruined that. Aaron wasn't a good or necessary character at all last season. He was simply the man Cassie was dating when all of this craziness started happening. He was never a vital or important part of the main story. So, him becoming the Witness could be a new way to incorporate him into the narrative with vastly more crucial stakes. But the show also doesn't really earn the personal anguish Cassie feels about this reveal. She doesn't tell Cole when he meets up with her in 2016. Again, it could all be another red herring. But if Cassie is keeping it a secret, it means it's going to be important for the next stretch of the season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Bodies of Water" was written by Kristen Reidel and directed by Mairzee Almas.
  • Aaron being the Witness could also be the reason why he has such an interest in Cassie. Sure, that would be deeply rooted in a love story that never made a whole lot of sense last season. But it's still a viable option.
  • Death has become very complicated on this show. The Pallid Man survived the paradox that Cole set off last season. And now, everyone knows that. But here, Jennifer stabs Olivia and pushes her down an empty pool. But when the Pallid Man surveys the scene, it looks like she is either dying slowly or simply paralyzed.
  • Cassie helps Jennifer confront her past by taking her to her childhood home where her mentally ill mother tried to drown her in the bathtub. It works too. Plus, they only have to talk about it. They don't have to react it.
  • Jennifer points Cassie in the direction of Kyle, an angry young man in 1975, as the next primary being targeted by the messengers. And yet, it's a mission Cole and Ramse will have to take on as Cassie decides to stay in 2016 with Jennifer.
  • Jennifer also discovers the Witness' plans written out. In it, she learns that she is destined to die in September 2044. So I guess that means she will be in danger shortly. The question is: Will she embrace that destiny or fight it with her Daughters protecting her?