Spoilers ahead for “Primary,” the latest episode of Syfy’s 12 Monkeys!
The short version: Cassie and Cole stop Jennifer from unleashing the virus, changing the future (slightly) for the better, by pushing the spread of the virus to 2018. They saved hundreds of thousands of lives, but the future is still (basically) screwed. So, the mission continues. Cole also figures out where they need to head next in the most time-twisting way possible. Next up, Cassie and Cole head for 1944.
The mission succeeds (kinda)
Just to make it clear this season is heading in a new direction, this episode sees the mission from Season 1 essentially completed: They stopped the spread of the virus, thanks to Cole convincing Jennifer to hand it over and buck her “fate” to basically destroy humanity and release the virus. The good guys win! Except, you know, that little twist where the 12 in the future took over the base and sent some of their guys back into the past … which was apparently done to ensure the release of the virus, regardless.
Yes. It can get a little confusing if you think about it, but the writers do a good job of not getting too bogged down in the time travel mechanics. Regardless of all the time travel insanity, this is still a story about characters first and foremost. Which brings us back to an interesting theme that manages to both hold the episode together, and also provide conflicting sides of the same coin: Fate.
Screw fate, except when it’s doing you favors
We literally get to see time itself change (that scene where the world shifts around Jones was positively awesome), confirming that the team is certainly capable of changing fate (something also confirmed last year). The show has always made the point that fate is decided by people, and the massive change in this episode came down to Cole’s faith and mercy toward Jennifer, and Jennifer’s decision not to drop that vial. Fate itself is just a series of moments, and nothing is settled until it’s settled.
This sets up a fascinating angle for the new season, as the team not only has to grapple with the mission itself, but also figuring out how the details of the world have changed. Sure, a lot of the key points from last season remain in place, but the soft reset provides ample opportunity for some nice twists and turns.
Which brings us all around to the 1944 conundrum. When he stumbles into his apartment from circa 1944, Cole gets a peek at the next step in the mission, thanks to some old photos laying around. He and Cassie apparently end up going to the past to chase some of the 12 who went back from the future. So… do they go to 1944 solely because Cole has seen himself there? How did he know to go there in the first place? It creates one of those mind-bending questions of causality, which really just makes your head hurt if you think too hard about it.
Cassie’s tether is broken, and she’s more interesting than ever
For most of the first season, Cole was arguably the most interesting character. Coming to terms with living in two different worlds is a ripe story to tell, and they did a great job with it throughout the course of last year. Now? That story is Cassie’s, and it’s more interesting than ever. The Cassie we meet in Season 2 has seemingly lost her tether to 2016, and seems arguably more invested in the world of the 2040s than her own present. It’s played subtly, but the change is fascinating.
This Cassie has gotten in touch with her inner apocalypse, and makes no qualms about using Ramse’s son as a bargaining chip, and literally abandoning Cole in the past. Just think about it — had Jennifer not sent that message to push Jones into going back for him, Cassie was fully prepared to abandon Cole in 2016 to (almost certainly) be killed off by the forces there. That’s friggin’ cold, dude.
How does Jennifer fit into this?
She is easily one of the most mysterious characters on this show, mildly-crazy, but apparently able to tap into very helpful knowledge about the timestream. It’s a handy McGuffin, no doubt. But we’re still waiting on the big reveal. Why can she sense timey-wimey-ness? What is so special about Jennifer? Yes, we know she’s in charge of that mysterious group in the future — but how does that all connect to her abilities? We can’t wait for the answers.
Notes and observations:
Cole’s no fool: Once he’s abandoned in the past, Cole’s first call is to the present-era Jones, to tell her to make a note to her future-self to come and get him. Just another reminder of the fun twistiness that is the world of 12 Monkeys.
Cole starts the fire: Once they get all the virus bottles together to burn them, Cassie starts to light it up. Then stops, and hands the lighter to Cole. Despite all that’s changed, it’s a nice nod to the fact that this is still his mission.
Ramse has ice in his veins: Ramse spent decades taking the slow route through the past, and during that time he decided to check in on his old nemesis Deacon while he was still a child. When he recounts that story to Deacon, it absolutely sends chills down your spine. It’s an intense scene for both parties, and their dynamic is crackling. It’s also a nice reminder of how Ramse has changed from all that time.
Line of the night: “Then I saved someone, someone who should’ve died. And that, that is what changed things. It’s the only thing that’s ever made any difference.” -Cole.