Monday, July 18, 2016

REVIEW: '12 Monkeys' - Cole Struggles to Return to 2044 & Cassie Learns the Witness' Identity in 'Memory of Tomorrow'

Syfy's 12 Monkeys - Episode 2.13 "Memory of Tomorrow"

Cole and Cassie try to find peace living in the past. When a mysterious woman with apocalyptic visions of the future tells Cole it's not over, he must do the unthinkable to save the world.

Well, that has a pretty crazy finale for 12 Monkeys. It shows just how strong the narrative has been this entire year. This season was really impressive all year long. I'm so glad that Syfy renewed the drama for a third season - especially after this finale. "Memory of Tomorrow" offers up enough resolutions to satisfy everyone who watched the show this year. But it also made many big and bold proclamations for the future. The war with the Witness is not over yet. In fact, it's only going to get more complicated as the Witness was revealed to be Cole and Cassie's son. That's such a shocking and surprising moment to end on. It just amplifies the personal stakes of the show even further. It means that things will only continue to be complex next year. And honestly, this was a bold and fun episode of the show as well. Yes, it had a few problematic moments. But overall, it was a solid conclusion to a strong season.

Things weren't looking very hopeful for the team at the end of last week's episode. Cole and Cassie failed to stop the last messenger from paradoxing a primary. But more importantly, Ramse failed to kill the Witness in Titan. The Witness' army of soldiers killed them before they could ever learn his identity. Plus, Cole and Cassie were stuck in the 1950s because there was no way for them to return to 2044. It allowed them to finally live happily together. After they failed, they became truly committed to each other. They were able to live together in that house for a few years in bliss. They were finally able to live a normal life. They believed Ramse had stopped the destruction of time. That wasn't true at all. They are the only ones who can save all of time now. They just have to come to that realization that the mission is far from over. In fact, it's only getting started as the race to stop the Witness intensifies throughout the finale.

Cole comes to that realization because he runs into yet another primary in the 1950s, Lilian. This primary is special because she's played by Madeleine Stowe. She is the first person from the original film the series is based on to appear on the show. Of course, the two projects are completely separate from one another. The TV show is not a sequel or continuation of the events of the movie. It has set out to do its own thing - and succeeded with that. But it's still special that Stowe is able to come in for a finale guest spot that changes everything for Cole. Her character is solely about motivating the plot though. Lillian is important because Cole needs to know how to get back to 2044. She's the one who warns him that the Red Forest is still coming. She reminds him that by drinking the red leaves it will allow one's consciousness to escape time. She guides him though that process. It's difficult for him to accept that this war isn't over yet. He's happy with Cassie and has just found out that he's going to be a father. By returning to the mission, it means erasing everything that happened after the last primary was paradoxed. He doesn't know if he can handle that. And yet, it's what he needs to do in order to save time. Lillian gives him the tools for the mission. But that's about it. It's also cool that she provided voiceover work for the premiere and the finale. But her character really wasn't important enough to justify that device.

The tension of the finale remains high though. Yes, it's weird that Cole doesn't let Cassie know what he needs to do. But that's mostly so the finale can go straight to the action because it has a lot of ground to cover. Cole goes on a journey through all of his time with Cassie and the rest of his friends on this time travel mission. It's a perilous journey when he breaks free of time to return to any previous moment in his life. He doesn't know where he'll land. He revisits a couple of memorable moments from the early days of this mission. Cassie, Ramse and Jennifer have all grown so much since then. Cole has as well. But he does return to the 1957 paradox and is able to successfully kill the messenger. That allows both him and Cassie to return to 2044 to aid in the battle against the Witness at Titan. It's thrilling to discover how Jones survived on her own at the temporal facility for months while everyone was off on their journeys. It's crucial that she is still there too. She survived the time anomalies because of Cole changing the past. But that decision also hardened her as well. Now, she's more than comfortable wielding a gun and killing in order to survive. That's a fantastic image that really comes in handy later on during the big battle.

Cole, Cassie and Jones are even able to use the time machine to travel to Titan to stop the killings that are about to occur. Lilian warned Cole not to go to Titan. And yet, he felt compelled to do so in order to save Ramse, Jennifer and Hannah from death. He couldn't just let them be slaughtered. He has gotten this far in his mission because of them. But only death comes from traveling to Titan. It's because of that need to go to this place that puts the final pieces in motion for the Witness' grand plan. Ramse is only able to survive his confrontation with the Witness because Cole arrives to fight against the army. Sure, it's weird and unclear just how big this army of soldiers willing to fight for the Witness really is. At first, it just seems like he has a few soldiers protecting him. They are taken prisoner and then promptly taken out and thus allowing the team to investigate the city. But then, even more of them appear to add chaos to the final action set piece of the season. It's meaningful because Titan is its own time machine. A whole city is able to move through time and not just a singular person. That's incredible but also incredibly dangerous to anyone trapped within the place.

Everyone is fighting for their own personal happiness. Ramse wants revenge on the Witness for taking his son away from him. Cole wants to be happy with Cassie again. Cassie wants to feel control over her own life. Jones and Hannah want to be with each other for a long time and not just momentarily. That's what everyone is fighting for in this grand conflict. And yet, none of them are able to get to the Witness before the final splinter. Instead, Ramse is rescued by a mysterious soldier who takes him back to Olivia. That's a pretty surprising reveal. But more importantly, she was the one who rescued Ramse's son when he traveled through time. And now, Ramse has the opportunity to reunite with his son. So much of his hatred and anger could disappear so easily if Olivia is able to follow through on this promise. He ends the finale filled with hope. The same cannot be said for everyone else though. Jennifer finds herself traveling through time once again. Just like Ramse's son, she has been taken to an unknown destination where she'll be forced to survive on her own. It's a great comedic scene at the height of a very tense moment. But it should also be curious to see how she'll return to the fold next season since no one will have a clue where she is.

And lastly, Cassie is trapped in Titan when it splinters. But it doesn't travel to the past like all the previous jumps the show has done in its two seasons so far. Instead, it travels more than a hundred years to the future. That's such an inspired idea. It flips the script on the time travel mechanics of the show. It adds to the whole uncertainty of the narrative. Cassie was starting to remember the life she and Cole lived together in the 1950s. There's no reasonable explanation for that. Her consciousness didn't travel through time like his did. And yet, she remembers those feelings which gives Cole something to fight for. He had to accept that that life was gone in order to serve the greater good. But it could not be erased that easily. Cassie apparently remembers. Plus, she is still somehow pregnant. That's what the army is cheering for. They applaud the baby inside of her because he will one day become the Witness. It's a horrifying sight for Cassie. People are praising her for this baby. It's a moment that has brought her and Cole so much joy. But now, it has the potential to destroy their entire lives. That's heart-breaking and will make next season even more emotional than this one was. How exciting is that? 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Memory of Tomorrow" was written by Terry Matalas and directed by David Grossman.
  • It's so badass to see Jones time travel for the first time alongside Cole and Cassie. She invented time travel. And now, she's able to experience it for herself. That was such a rewarding moment that the show has really earned.
  • Jones and Hannah's reunion after the fight at Titan did feel a little rushed and compressed though. Hannah believed her mother died in this war because of the time anomalies. And yet, she survived that ordeal and kept the facility running.
  • Deacon is seemingly killed by several of the Witness' soldiers. When Titan is powering up to time travel, he finds himself cornered and sacrifices himself to save Jennifer. That's poetic considering he was responsible for killing her older self. Though he still wasn't that important of a character this season.
  • Cassie's Christmas gift to Cole was a razor because she wanted to see what he'd look like with the scruff. He really should have shown her before he went back in time to undo all of their happiness together.
  • The Witness' genetically modified human beings continue to be really impressive. It's shocking to see Olivia in 2044 though not completely surprising considering she's survived so much on the show. It's even more shocking to see the Pallid Man in Titan and revealing all of the secrets to Cassie.
  • That's it until next year. Like I've said a number of times already, this was a strong season for the show. Not everything worked but it's willingness to go for some extreme and big ideas really paid off overall. I can't wait to see what happens next season.