Monday, May 23, 2016

REVIEW: '12 Monkeys' - The Latest Primary Cole Finds is Different Than Jennifer or Tommy in 'Immortal'

Syfy's 12 Monkeys - Episode 2.06 "Immortal"

Cole's partnership with Ramse is put to the test when they travel to New York City in the 1970s to prevent the Twelve from murdering a disturbed Vietnam veteran with a connection to the Witness.

The hunt for primaries throughout time has been the main narrative drive of this season. Cole, Cassie and Ramse need to stop the Messengers from killing the primaries via paradox before they destroy all of time itself. It's a tall order because they don't always know when and where their targets are at. Jennifer pointed the team in the direction of Kyle Slade in 1975 last week. And now, Cole and Ramse travel back in time to save him from the Messengers trying to kill him. Again, it's a formula that the show has established this season. It's not surprising at all that it tries to mix things up a little bit with this new primary. Things would grow stale if they were all same. That helped establish importance and a connection between Jennifer and Tommy from the 1940s. But now, the show can afford to experiment a little bit and showcase the differences between the primaries. They all serve the same plot function but they can go about things in vastly different ways as well.

And yet, Kyle Slade is such a cliche character who offers nothing insightful or exciting to the narrative. It's not surprising at all that the show wants to limit the venture to 1975 to just one episode. Even Tommy got two to highlight the severity of the new situation the team finds themselves in. But with Kyle, he is such a one-note character for Cole and Ramse to deal with this week. He is a Vietnam war vet who became a serial killer after he returned home. That's a dark twist for this show to take. Cole and Ramse are charged with protecting this monstrous human being. But the show doesn't really do anything with the serial killer twist. It shows off a man who has willingly embraced his powers as a primary. He hasn't been confined to a psychiatric facility like Tommy and Jennifer were. But he has also gone crazy and mad with power as well. But so much of it feels manipulative. Kyle teases Cole along with information about the Witness only for it to be revealed just how twisted an individual Kyle really is. It felt like an inevitable twist. That unfortunately sucked so much of the energy out of this story. The world of the 1970s is a fun one for the show to explore. But it just doesn't do anything with it.

The shortcomings with Kyle are really annoying as the hour goes along. The show tries to overcome that by telling a story about the friendship between Cole and Ramse. They have united in this latest mission to save all of time. They have no understanding of what the ramifications will be for their lives. This mission could essentially wipe Ramse's son out of history altogether just like he thought from before. And yet, things have changed now because Ramse's son wants him to help Cole save all of humanity. It shows that the kid has been listening to these situations and appreciates what Jones is trying to do with the time machine - even though she doesn't have the time to care about a silly child. The time anomalies are only getting worse in 2044. Cole and Ramse need to protect Kyle in the past. They are essentially thrown on a wild goose chase - first in trying to find Kyle and then by following Kyle to a man he claims is the Witness. It's honestly not that great.

"Immortal" basically reconfirms the idea that Cole rushes into a situation without knowing all of the information or a solid game plan. With some years on him, Ramse approaches things with a more level head. And yet, both choose to save a young woman from being Kyle's latest victim before the Messengers kill him. They change the timeline once again. They give this woman a second chance at life. They make sure she knows that so she doesn't continue to throw her life away. But the big lesson here is that Cole can't trust everything that the primaries have to say. Jennifer and Tommy have been very intuitive in their many interactions with the time travelers. Cole wants to believe that Kyle is telling the truth about the Witness. But again, it only showcases just how demented and warped his mind really is. He believes his victims were all primaries even though that makes no sense whatsoever. Plus, he thinks the Messenger is the Witness. He's right in saying that the Witness has more powers than the time travelers can understand right now. But he's not the one physically doing anything right now. He's still relying on his Messengers to handle all of the paradoxing. Something that they can't do because they die and then Cole kills Kyle.

All of this showcases that not everyone is worth saving from the past. Cole and Ramse made a choice to save the young woman's life. It's not abundantly clear if her survival changes the timeline in any meaningful way. It probably won't. But it is still significant that it happened. Cole and Ramse can make such a difference in the past. They are successful in killing two more Messengers. That means there are only two left to kill and save the timeline from the Witness' grand plan. And now, Cole and Ramse seem more united than before. It's an odd moment to end on. The episode seems to suggest this plot in 1975 changes their friendship. But at the start of the hour, they seem pretty close by playing with Ramse's son. At the end after everything they've gone through, Cole wants to tell Ramse that he loves him and everything he has done for him. It is a sappy moment that takes a playful turn. These two really are like brothers. That's a great dynamic. But it's such an unearned moment when it happens as well.

Plus, there is only more danger and mystery lurking around the corner. Cassie chose to stay in 2016 in order to help Jennifer recover from her concussion. It's not an injury that needs constant monitoring by a doctor. She really stayed because she was shaken by the revelation that Aaron was the Witness. That was a strange reveal that happened in the previous episode. It suggested much bigger and grander importance for a character who was such a meaningless afterthought last season. It also felt like the show could be giving the audience another red herring to the Witness' identity. And unsurprisingly, that's exactly what occurs here. Now, the Witness is in Cassie's head. Olivia was able to finish the ceremony that formed a bond between Cassie and the Witness. That's going to be such an important detail moving forward. Here, it's purpose is largely to reveal that Aaron is not the Witness at all. He was simply the form the Witness chose to take in order to reach out to Cassie. Again, not a surprising reveal at all. But this storyline is significant because it provides further insight into why the Witness is trying to destroy all of time. He has proven himself to be a very powerful being. He understands time in a way that no one else does. He can communicate with the Army in many different time periods. He has skills the time travelers can't understand right now. He's trying to destroy time in order to be immortal. In the Red Forrest, living and death are constant states of existence. There is no past, present or future. It allows for people to live forever with their loved ones. That's what he is ultimately trying to do. That context will greatly help with the stakes of this war as it escalates during the second half of the season. Hopefully, it makes for a more exciting journey than this hour was.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Immortal" was written by Ian Sobel & Matt Morgan and directed by David Greene.
  • The Witness makes his power known to Cassie by not only coming to her as a vision of both Aaron and Cole but also by transporting her body without her knowing it. Plus, her eyes turn black at the end of the hour as well. This is not going to be a good thing for the mission moving forward.
  • Jennifer leaves Cassie so that they can both focus on the mission at hand. Jennifer escapes to the streets with the confidence that she won't die until 2044. However, Cassie is afraid to return to the mission because of just how powerful the Witness' influence may be.
  • Jones and Dr. Eckland seem to be getting closer. They are largely just friendly to each other now. But that's progress from how they started. And yet, it's not something the show is really earning either because they're only important together for 2 minutes in every episode.
  • The show's use of 70s music cues was a bit too on-the-nose. It recognized that it wasn't really focused on too much of the period details in the main story. So it decided to amp up the music to make its presence known.
  • If primaries hold up time and make sure it keeps functioning normally, shouldn't there be some consequences to them dying no matter what? Paradoxes help the Witness' plan. But what happens to time when Kyle is killed by Cole? Nothing. Does that mean a new primary is created to take his place? It's just so uncertain at the moment.
  • Does Ramse's son have a name? Or is he just better off being known simply as Ramse's son?