Friday, July 6, 2018

REVIEW: '12 Monkeys' - Team Splinter Takes the Fight to Titan to Defeat Olivia in 'The Beginning, Parts 1 & 2'

Syfy's 12 Monkeys - Episodes 4.10 "The Beginning, Part 1" and 4.11 "The Beginning, Part 2"

The final battle against the Witness as the fate of time and mankind hangs in the balance. All the pieces finally come together to mark the end of the beginning. When all hope is lost, Cole must complete his cycle so that his younger self will one day arrive at the end with the answer.

In one of Cassie's final monologues of the series, she says that death can be undone but love cannot. It's a profound statement made after experiencing everything that Team Splinter has witnessed throughout their adventures in time. It's also an appropriate mindset for this finale which sees the returns of several characters who have previously been killed off. Some of them are very rewarding. It's surprising to see Ethan turn up in the Team Splinter headquarters just as Jones is beginning her work with the machine. He wants to make sure that she is willing and determined to make that sacrifice knowing that she will be killing many innocent people in the process. He wants her to understand that sacrificing one life to save seven billion may be too much to pay. That's his only appearance in this final season. And yet, it's an important moment that highlights the grand mission statement that the show is truly to delivering in its final episode. The show has always been so playful with time. It has caught the audience off guard with the amount of times it has gone back-and-forth with several characters living longer in the series even though their deaths have already been told to us. Deacon makes his grand return to the narrative too even though he has only been gone for a week. It's the gruff version of the character who doesn't know if he can trust the team. But it also highlights how he probably knew all along that this technology was real and the effects on the timeline were extreme. That's a extra tidbit here that is interesting to observe. The audience knew that it was coming because of him handing the knife over to Jennifer right before he died. He knew it was coming but also had the clarity to understand that his cycle was not complete just yet. That's a vital aspect of these final episodes as well. Everything is coming to an end. The team is literally racing against the clock in order to stop Olivia from ending the world. It's fascinating how she is trying to put an end to time but her efforts are thwarted because she simply doesn't have enough time to put her plan into motion. Team Splinter is able to launch an assault on Titan that seems impossible to win. And yet, that's what makes this such a great final story. The show continues to surprise the audience by proving that the team may not be as outnumbered as Olivia and everyone else thinks right now.

Sure, the first stretch of the finale is devoted to Cole completing his cycle. That means going back in time for all of the previous interactions he had with the characters as Future Asshole. It's just a handful of occasions. He needs to go back to pull himself away from saving Cassie from Titan the first time around. That proves that his big speech to motivate himself into action by believing that hope and forgiveness are possible in this world was the plan all along. In the moment, it felt like Future Asshole going back in time to change causality in the hopes of making the future better. Instead, it's confirmed to only be the message Cole needed to hear in that moment in order to set him on this path that led to his present. And then, he also needs to save Jennifer as she falls off the train platform earlier this season. She made that moment so difficult for him. And yet, there was just the complete trust there that he would save her. That's still such a moving moment. But those were the only two previous dealings with Future Asshole. That was a part of this loop that the show kept dangling until these episodes. He still needed to commit those actions before his story could come to a close. And now, it seems like there is nothing left for him to do but be removed from the timeline thanks to the calculations given by the primaries. Jones and company have been able to decipher the code given to them by Jennifer. The only downside is that it would take them over three years to process the data and turn it into action. The team simply doesn't have three years to wait. They only have a couple of hours. Once the day is over, Olivia will have succeeded in her plan of creating the Red Forest. As such, the team needs to take the fight to Titan to ensure that Olivia is stopped and the primaries' weapon can be used in order to reset time completely. It's a sacrifice all of them are willing to make for the greater good.

And then, it's surprising when Cassie comes up with the plan of stealing Ramse from the final moments of his life in order to fight this battle with them. In that moment, things were so adversarial and dark between Cole and Ramse. Cole believed there was nothing else he could do but kill his best friend. He needed to believe that there was another way of preventing all of this. Cassie didn't have to die before she got pregnant with Ethan. Him returning now is surprising because the final season had already given Cole and the audience closure with Ramse. That was the point of the team sneaking into the facility in the days leading up to the first mission in order to get the parts they needed to repair their machine. Cole was able to talk with Ramse about the importance of this mission and the friendships that will change along the way. And now, Ramse is pulled into a world where all of these familiar people are incredibly different. He still sees Cole as his immediate enemy who is going to kill him. Instead, Cole provides the insight that they were all manipulated by Olivia and that this latest plan is the only thing that has the potential of working. As such, he is once again a loyal member of the team. He and Cole can storm into Titan with the certainty that they can defeat the enemies who await them. It's a moment that is very fun and amusing as well. Right before Titan emerges, the two are simply arguing over the song that will play on the radio before they go out in this blaze of glory. Both of them understand that it's still their destiny to die. Ramse must be returned to his timeline to keep the present the same while Cole has to use the machine to remove himself completely and save all of time. Those are some high stakes. And so, it's just fantastic to watch the radio land on "The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing. It's so fitting while also being so absurd - especially as Cole and Ramse launch this assault on Olivia who has surprisingly fallen into their trap.

That is such a rousing moment. It produces an early victory right away. Of course, there are immediate consequences too. After that initial jump to avoid the detonation of the car, the personal time machine jacket Cole is wearing breaks. He can no longer rely on it to continue in this fight. He will keep having to move ahead linearly with his mission. It's still an underdog story with the team trying to save the world. At one point, it seems like all hope is lost. The Daughters cannot protect the machine forever. The Army of the 12 Monkeys is able to storm their way into the facility with it seeming like Jones is about to die. And yet, she doesn't die. Instead, there is the rousing return of even more soldiers led by the older Jennifer. She understood the importance of this fight and has come to help as well. And so, the team is successfully able to protect the machine. Jones is saved. Moreover, it comes with another terrific musical cue. It's just so absolutely playful when Jennifer takes over the controls of Titan in order to dedicate Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" to Olivia. Sure, it's a message delivered to Olivia that she is failing in this endeavor to create the Red Forest. Her army is being defeated by her enemies. But the song also signals the return of Deacon and the West 7 gang in order to help Cole and Ramse when they are pinned down by enemy forces. It's a fantastic entrance. One that ensures that the tides really are turning in this war. Of course, it still leaves Olivia as the last remaining physical threat. It's so fascinating that Cassie and Jennifer are the ones to ultimately take her on in the end. Jennifer does her best but is knocked out pretty quickly in this battle. But Cassie finds the strength to take out all her rage and anger on Olivia. Olivia took so much away from her. And now, vengeance has finally come back to put an end to all of this. Sure, there still remains a constant back-and-forth between the two for control of Titan. But it's so absolutely rousing to see Olivia killed by the temporal stream that gave her so much power earlier this season.

All of this makes it ironic that Olivia could see everything but did not see any of this coming. She didn't foresee herself being the skeleton that would one day be discovered and cultivate the virus that would wipe out all of humanity. She was certain that she was going to complete her paradise in the Red Forest. But she was always destined to complete her loop by becoming those bones preserved in the ice. The ultimate decision over if the Red Forest would be created rests with Cassie. Throughout this finale, she was arguing that Cole didn't have to die. She believed that killing Olivia and eliminating all of the additional threats from the Army of the 12 Monkeys would be enough. They could have a happy and full life together. Sure, it would still be living in this apocalypse knowing that the virus will one day mutant again and kill the remainder of humanity. But it would still be a life worth living for the two of them. Before this entire final mission began, Cole took Cassie to a beautiful location in order to propose to her. He couldn't promise her forever. He could only give her right now. And yet, the power of their love in this moment would be enough to propel both of them forward in their final actions. They knew that they had to embark on this final attack. And now, they won. They defeated Olivia. But Cassie is still standing in front of the control panel with the decision of whether or not she can possibly go back to 2013 being a doctor without Cole in her life at all. She wants to live in the perfect moment with him forever. It's a meaningful and significant moment because this season has teased that all of this is going to end in tragedy for the team. Some of them can return to their former lives while others will be wiped away completely because their lives were defined by the end of the world. But Cole is able to convince Cassie that the perfect moment would not be as special as their lives through time. It may not last as long as they want it to. But it will be meaningful because their passion is so extreme and powerful.

And so, all of this concludes with the team saying their final goodbyes to each other as they are restored to their proper places in the timeline. Ramse is sent back to his death having fully redeemed himself. Jennifer goes back so that she can form the Daughters and raise Hannah. Cassie goes back to being a doctor who records that fateful message that Jones will one day uncover to send them all on this mission to change the past. That just leaves Jones and Cole at the end of this journey together. It's so fitting. The two of them became family long before their biological connection was revealed. And now, they are seeing this mission through to its end. They are both dying. Jones succumbs to her disease while Cole steps into the machine to be erased from all of time. The show highlights the effect this has on the world. Cole never shows up in Cassie's car in 2013 to coerce her into helping him. The world never ends due to the virus. Everyone is able to live happy and full lives. They may not all meet again as a team. But some connections are just bound to happen - like Jennifer and Deacon. And yet, it's so absolutely lonely for Cassie because she gets hit with this wave of memories of this other life she could have lived. She understands that something has changed. All she has is a feeling. She is once again chasing the feeling of this love. It's bittersweet to watch her return to the house that she lived in with Cole in the 1950s. She returns there knowing it's where she belongs. It's where her future is. But she's there all alone. And then, the show gives Cole and Cassie a happy ending. Jones rigged the machine to spit Cole out so that he had the opportunity to live in this new world. All of his past interactions with the timeline are gone. He now just has one life to live. He will always just be moving forward and never back. But it affords him the opportunity to be with Cassie and live the life they always wanted together. That's so emotional and beautiful. It really is the perfect moment for the series to end on especially after so much of this final season was warning the audience that tragedy was going to happen to the main characters. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Beginning" was written by Terry Matalas and directed by Terry Matalas.
  • How was Cole able to run all the way up the tower and get to Cassie in time to deliver that final speech that gets her to change her mind about the timeline? The show basically says he only has three minutes to do so. And yet, he also arrives with about 90 seconds still left on the clock. Yes, it provides many menacing shots of the world being completely destroyed. But it also seems to defy logic especially without the time machine jacket.
  • Of the characters who get their grand reunions in the new timeline, it's definitely the most moving to see the Jones family all together being able to live a happy life. This is what Jones wanted all along. This was the peace and love she wanted for her life. And yet, it's also just so unexpected and great that the show reveals that Drs. Adler and Lasky find their way to one another in the future as well. They become good chess friends.
  • Who would have expected to see Max again in the final season? That character was so self-contained to the first season. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if most in the audience had actually forgotten her. It was clear that the people who saved Jones in that moment would be familiar faces. But that's a far reach for the show to pull out. And yet, the show did put in the ground work to make it believable too.
  • Were there any characters from past seasons who you were disappointed didn't make an appearance in the final season? I was probably expecting more Ethan due to his importance at the end of the third season. But it's also easy to understand why he wasn't featured more. Moreover, a surprising return from Aaron, Dr. Eckland or Magdalena would probably have been too forced and unnecessary.
  • This was a really satisfying final season. The show pulled out some big surprises while also making sure that they all had a lasting and emotional impression on the characters. The narrative had many loops that it needed to close. But it did so with extreme precision. The writers knew exactly what they needed to do to craft a satisfying ending. And then, they pulled it off in spectacular fashion.