Monday, June 6, 2016

REVIEW: '12 Monkeys' - Cole and Cassie Get Stuck in a Time Loop While on a Dangerous Mission in 'Lullaby'

Syfy's 12 Monkeys - Episode 2.08 "Lullaby"

Cassie is sent to 2020 by Jones with one mission: Kill the younger Jones and prevent time travel from ever happening.

Katarina Jones has devoted her entire life to creating time travel. She ultimately succeeded because she had something worth fighting for. She lost her daughter, Hannah, during the outbreak that destroyed the world. She has felt that deeply personal loss and will do anything to create a happy life with her daughter again. The war with the Army of the 12 Monkeys has only intensified since that day. Things have gotten more complicated and complex for the team. They have had a number of rousing and rewarding successes. But they've had their fair share of crushing defeats lately that have made everyone question their loyalty to the mission and whether or not time is worth saving. They have each lost so much. This mission has consumed their lives and it has only taken away more from them. There's no end in sight either. They keep uncovering new facets of the Witness' plans and abilities. The team faced off with him in last week's episode and payed severely for it. And now, they attempt to pick up the pieces by working to unravel all that they have done with time travel in the first place.

Jones is so defeated following the Witness' attack at the temporal facility which killed Dr. Eckland and sent Sam to an unknown point in time. Her life's work was used against her and brought so much devastation to the team. This isn't the first time this has happened either. The Messengers are roaming throughout history right now because Jones created the time machine. The Witness' plan hinged on Jones building this thing. That gave him the opportunity to paradox primaries and create the anomalies that will eventually destroy all of time. This mission has gotten so much bigger than just fighting to stop a global plague from happening. The mission has evolved. All of the characters have as well. But are they better off than what they were when they were just surviving in this harsh and violent landscape? They each have experienced loss that burdens their souls. They've all become jaded by this mission. They wonder how much meaningful work they are actually doing. But it's still a significant move when Jones decides to send Cassie back in time to kill her before she ever invents the time machine. Undoing everything that has happened on the show so far could be a massive change to the entire series. It's not something that Jones considers lightly but it's still the resolution she is determined to make.

Cassie is willing to go along with the plan too because she feels responsible for losing Eckland and Sam. The Witness only got into the facility again because he took control of her mind. She didn't force the time machine to malfunction but she still played a significant role in it. That is weighing on her conscience. So when Jones presents this idea to her, she accepts it without any reservations. This is something that Jones wants to do and Cassie is more than willing to do it in order to reset everything and go back to her normal existence before all of this mess with time travel started. It's so easy for her to travel back to 2020 to kill Jones on the day that Hannah died. She has a reputation in the plague-stricken world. She was the doctor at the CDC who helped ensure that necessary precautions would be taken in handling the outbreak. It's because of that work that the future is a slightly better place - though is still being torn apart by time itself. It also allows the show the opportunity to bring back Xander Berkeley as Col. Foster. He was a fun episodic guest last season who met his end way too soon. But again, thanks to time travel, he can make his return here and be a nice complication for Cassie on this mission.

But the true adversary for Cassie to deal with is time not wanting her to make this massive change. Cole and Cassie have been successful in the past of rewriting the future. They had that victory at the start of the season. It only delayed the inevitable end of the world. But it was still significant. Killing Jones would undo all of that. So time decides to have a little fun with Cassie and Cole (who makes the journey back as well to stop Cassie from doing this). Whenever they decide to change things to the extent that it would change the future, time resets and they have to live the day all over again. It's a fun, Edge of Tomorrow-style twist that really adds a ton of excitement and playfulness to an episode with some really dark emotional material. This is the most harrowing day of Jones' entire live. Her daughter is slowly fading away from her because of the protocols Foster has in place against treatment for diseases. Cassie is determined to kill Jones. But that does nothing to alter the timeline. Instead she finds herself right back where she started with Cole by her side. It's fun watching them succeed and fail with this mission multiple times. They are caught in a time loop that is slowly killing both of them. They need to do something in 2020. They just aren't sure what because they can't make the drastic move that Cassie came here to do.

Jennifer provides a meaningful presence in this episode as well. She has become a prisoner of this military facility. Foster's soldiers have really locked the place down to ensure that no infection can spread through the building. The majority of the world lives this day over and over again with no knowledge of how many times Cole and Cassie have tried to change things. As a primary though, Jennifer does have that insight. It's actually pretty great to watch as she takes note of how many times the day has reset for Cole and Cassie. It's quite an amusing running joke throughout the hour. But she also holds so much significance as well. Her presence means that Cole and Cassie need to do something here. They can't just do nothing. They are a part of this moment in time somehow. They just have to figure out how. Time won't let them move on until they finish their mission. Both of them get very contemplative about whether or not time is really looking out for them. If it is, it's a cruel twist of fate that means they don't have as much control over their lives as they always thought. If it's not, then it means the time machine is still malfunctioning and could kill Cole and Cassie with enough resets. The dangers of this mission are perfectly clear and the stakes are very emotional.

And yet, the twist at the end of the hour is one of the most rewarding things the show has ever done. Jones has always believed Hannah died from the virus that killed the entire world. It made no sense that she was somehow immune and her daughter was not. But that was the cruel twist of fate she has had to accept for 20 years. Except that wasn't what happened at all. Hannah simply had a different viral infection that was left untreated because of Foster's strict policy. It presented itself in similar ways to the virus. But it was still something Cassie was able to catch through her numerous interactions with her in the past. Saving Hannah would have altered the timeline in the same way that killing Jones would have. So, Jones needed to believe Hannah was dead in order to create the time machine. But that didn't mean Hannah had to die. Jones just had to believe it. So when the young girl flatlines Jones is pulled away and Cassie is able to save her. She then spends the next 20 years growing up with Jennifer and her gang of survivors. So now, Hannah is waiting to be reunited with her mother in the woods just outside the facility. It's a fantastic reveal that the show pulls here. It's a completely unexpected but deeply rewarding twist too. Jones was lost and defeated. But now, she may have a way to find purpose and meaning again. That could make such a difference in this war with the Witness too.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Lullaby" was written by Sean Tretta and directed by Steven A. Adelson.
  • Cole and Cassie's romantic relationship has frequently felt forced in the past. But here, it works remarkably well because they are both experiencing the same thing. They give Jones momentary happiness in the present despite a lifetime of pain needed to make it happen. They struggle with whether or not that is something they can accept with their lives as well. Cole wants to commit but Cassie does not.
  • It's also interesting that Cole is continuing on with this mission because he wants to make sure that Cassie has a world to return to. He has no idea what's waiting for him as a man growing up in an unknown world. But he wants better for Cassie because she has changed so much because of the time travel mission.
  • And yet, Cassie is choosing to go down a dark path that will lead her back to the Witness. She makes a pact with Ramse to hunt the nefarious creature down and kill him for all that he has taken from them. 
  • Jennifer makes a reference to some program called Hyena which holds significance to her but not to Cole, Cassie or the audience yet. Hopefully, we don't have to wait too long for that payoff.
  • Jones reciting the line "So time is on our side?" could sound so ridiculous. And yet, the show has really put in the work to make that moment have so much significance for the narrative and the characters.