Monday, May 30, 2016

REVIEW: '12 Monkeys' - Big Sacrifices are Made When the Time Machine Starts Malfunctioning in 'Meltdown'

Syfy's 12 Monkeys - Episode 2.07 "Meltdown"

Cole comes face to face with the Witness, the phantom behind the Army of the 12 Monkeys, as Cassie's hallucinations undergo a chilling evolution. Making matters worse, the Temporal Facility becomes increasingly dangerous after the malfunctioning time machine begins to tear apart time and space, bringing back deadly visitors from the past.

Cole, Cassie and the rest of the time travel team have had a number of key victories this season against the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Not only have they changed the future and delayed the apocalypse by a few more years, they've also been taking down all of the Messengers that traveled through time. A couple are still out there ready to paradox the primaries and bring an end to all of time. But this has been a season largely about everyone at the temporal facility working together towards a common goal. Cole, Cassie, Jones and Ramse all have their differences. But each of them is committed to this mission for their own unique reasons. They are allies as things are only continuing to escalate with the Army. And now, the team faces their biggest challenge yet when the Witness descends on the battlefield to cause so much chaos and destruction in 2044.

The temporal facility team has been disrupting the Witness' plan to end all of time for awhile now. He has used the time machine to his benefit on a couple of occasions too. It's creation allowed him to send the Messengers back in time to paradox the primaries and bring his nefarious plans to fruition. That was a key part of his plan. But now, Cole and Cassie have proven themselves more than capable of manipulating time as well. They have changed the timeline and have been a major threat to the Witness' plan. In the past, he has relied on his acolytes and messengers to deal with these time travelers. But he also has an interest in them as well. When Cole was in 1945, the messenger didn't kill him when she had a chance because the Witness told her not to. When Cassie was in 2016, he forced Olivia to finish the ceremony that would connect his mind to hers. All of this planning has been building to this episode. This hour shows just how powerful and mysterious the Witness still is. He has proven to be a very capable opponent in this war. But now, he shows the team the true depths of his power in a way that could destroy all of their lives and end all of time.

Cassie understands that she now has this connection to the Witness. Even though Jennifer interrupted Olivia's ceremony, it's purpose had already been completed. Now, the Witness is capable of making himself known to Cassie - and thus, tormenting her at any possible moment. It was lame that he came to her in the form of Aaron and then Cole. That just shows that the story is propping up the romantic elements even though that's not really necessary. But the paranoia is still present within Cassie as she ventures back to 2044 at the start of this hour. She doesn't keep it a secret from the rest of the team. She is open about what she has experienced because of the Witness. But she does withhold some crucial details as well because she doesn't fully understand them herself. She keeps seeing a man in a mask following her around everywhere. It's a startling and scary image to her. She doesn't know what it means. Plus, it seems he is there around every corner. She's afraid of what this means for her life and her sanity. She can't sleep. She's just agonizing over what has happened to her and no one else can understand what she is going through.

And yet, the Witness is capable of more than just appearing to Cassie. He is able to take over her entire body. That's creepy and very dangerous because the team rely on the time machine in order to fight in this war. The Witness is attacking the one thing they need the most. He is using their machine against them. He's essentially waging a war at the temporal facility. It's an episode filled with escalating tension and dangerous consequences. This episode raises the stakes of this war in so many wonderful ways. In the past, the show has proven to be very good at executing prolonged action sequences that threaten the facility. But now, it's the machine that's the threat. That's a very intriguing and compelling twist on the formula. Jones has invested so much hard work into this mission. And now, she's coming face-to-face with the repercussions of her actions. Yes, she may be saving all of time from destruction. But she has also ruined a number of lives to get where she is today. It's all to save her daughter from the plague. She has opened herself to Dr. Eckland more. But that's not enough to save this facility as time radiation could force the whole place to explode. The Witness was able to get inside. And now, this war could be over if the team doesn't act quickly.

The Witness isn't the only threat the team has to deal with during the time machine's meltdown. It's also bringing people from the timeline to the facility to disrupt the mission. Some of them are people who went into the time machine in the beginning to help Jones perfect the science before she sent Cole back. She figured they were lost in the time stream. And now, they emerge ravaged by the effects of time and want their revenge on her. They aren't a serious threat at all. They make for one nasty image and that's about it. They are barely still alive but they still have to be addressed. These people had to fail and be lost in time for Jones to succeed with the machine. But the machine has also picked up some people from the past and transported them to 2044. The facility used to be an army base and a couple of guys from the 1950s find themselves brought to the future. They don't understand what's going on. They believe they are just protecting the base from unknown intruders. They are largely a plot contrivance to keep the tension high throughout the episode when it's not focused directly on the Witness. It shows how powerful and erratic the time machine can be. But their presence really doesn't add a whole lot to the story.

However, there are a couple of key developments that happen in this episode that will refocus the stakes of the war with the Witness moving forward. The Witness is able to control Cassie and keep Cole and Ramse from being successful in their mission to shut down the time machine's power supply. That means Dr. Eckland takes it upon himself to replace the broken part of the time machine while radiation from the time stream is dangerously destroying the room. He does so as a grand gesture of love. He's sacrificing himself in order to preserve the mission for Jones. Even though they had gotten closer, she still hadn't fallen in love with him again. And now, she may never get that chance. He is successful in repairing the machine. But the radiation essentially destroys his body so it's lost throughout all of time. That's a loss she'll have to carry moving forward. But it could also give her something new to fight for in the future.

Dr. Eckland isn't the only casualty of this attack by the Witness either. It's not surprising that Cole and Ramse are able to get through to Cassie before she hurts Sam or allows the whole facility to implode. That moment does play into the romantic angle once again with Cole telling Ramse to shoot him because Cassie couldn't let him die. It works too. That's able to break the hold the Witness has on her. Ramse is able to shut down the power before the time machine destroys the facility. And yet, radiation still seeps into the room and takes Sam away from his father. It's a horrifying moment for Ramse. He has worked so hard to protect his son from this harsh world. He loves him with all of his being and would do anything to ensure his safety and survival. And now, he's lost in time with no one truly knowing if he is alive or dead. Jones doesn't know what happens to the people lost in the time stream. She thought her early volunteers were gone until they appeared again here. She has no way of knowing what has happened to Sam. Neither does Ramse. That could make him very dangerous and volatile moving forward. That anger will be directed towards the Witness which could make a huge difference in this war. And yet, the show doesn't want to leave things too ambiguous for the audience. The team at the temporal facility don't know what happened to Sam. But we do. He was taken to some unknown point in time. He's alive but immediately picked up by a mysterious stranger. So that teases he'll continue to be important moving forward as the next stage of this war with the Witness begins.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Meltdown" was written by Richard E. Robbins and directed by Grant Harvey.
  • It's honestly pretty laughable that when Cassie is reaching out to Cole to understand what is happening to her, he instead reacts by trying to make sense of her relationship with Deacon. Again, the romantic elements really aren't that great here.
  • Even in the big confrontation with the Witness, Deacon sends Ramse into the main room to potentially deliver a fatal shot because neither he nor Cole would be able to do it. Again, the show really hasn't earned that moment even though it makes sense.
  • When the Witness took control of Cassie, she was held prisoner in the house in the Red Forrest. She couldn't break out even though she was hearing everything Cole was saying to her in 2044. But this time was different than the previous times the Witness took control because Cassie actually remembers the experience and saw a glimpse of the Red Forrest.
  • The Witness' connection to Cassie could have major dangers moving forward. And yet, the show produces a plot device that can help explain why it will no longer important. Apparently, Jones just magically produces a serum that will keep the Witness from taking over again. That would have come in handy earlier.
  • So, the next time Ramse sees his son he's totally going to be a grown man, right? He'll be different because of having to grow up with this stranger and not his father. Though hopefully their bond will survive the cruelty of time travel.