12 Monkeys: "The Night Room" (Season 1, Episode 5)

Flabbergasted

Yep, this is it. We actually see The Night Room (TNR). It is a low budget place, but that's not the show runner's fault. They're on SyFy for heaven's sake. Overall, they're trying to do something sufficiently complex that I say thumbs up.

We start in 2011 with Jennifer Goines first trip to TNR. That was back when she was sane. Visually, it is a tad embarrassing, as I noted, because TNR is located in the same poorly lit abandoned building where this show has shot too many scenes already. They dress up one room as nicely as they can, with even some cool blue lights, but it remains pretty sparsely outfitted for a cutting edge lab handling super deadly stuff.

In 2015, The Pallid Man (TPM) is getting the location of TNR from now crazy Jennifer. TPM has TNR. Got that?

In 2043, Cole, Ramsey, Max, and head scientist lady Jones are drinking together. It's a welcome stab at psychologically fleshing out this Apocalyptic future that looks too much like every other low budget Apocalypse you've seen. Oh, and the other three take a drink every time Jones says "mission." She's quite task oriented.

Back in 2015, Cole and Cassie are staking out TNR. Cole has the episode's best line when Cassie asks him if anything looks weird: "I'm from the Apocalypse. Everything here looks weird." Not to mention low budget. If I worked in a top secret lab housing the world's deadliest virus that looked this shabby, I think I'd turn whistleblower. Anyway, when Cole and Cassie break in to TNR, they find the Army of the 12 Monkeys has already beaten them to the punch. And where the monkeys are, can TPM be far behind.

Nope. He can't. That was a rhetorical question.       

It helps the budget situation that all the security forces assigned to defend TNR are dead off screen. It's just a little disturbing that the Army of the 12 Monkeys seems to be about four guys, five tops, so how much security could this place have had? Again, someone should have gone whistleblower long before now. I promise, however, that I won't bring this point up again.

 Here's the basic setup. TPM has Jennifer, who refuses to give him the codes to The Vault, which has The Virus. So TPM is going to cut his way in. While he does, he throws Cole, Cassandra and Jennifer into one room so they can interact. That seems dumb, but TPM ultimately has a credible ulterior motive. What can't be logically salvaged is "The Big Burn." That's the self destruct mechanism that will incinerate TNR if the virus gets loose. The first problem is that it has no automatic initiation. Second, it can't be initiated from one location. You have to simultaneously push two buttons in different locations, one of which is in... the exposed room.

I don't think the Markridge Corporation understands the concept of a "failsafe device."

In terms of making the episode work, the load this week falls on TPM and Jennifer Goines. Fortunately, they're up to it. TPM is his usual unfailingly polite psychotic self, with a plus up performance from veteran character actor Terry Noonan this time around. He tells one worker in the facility to close his eyes and picture his wife, then shoots him when he does. There's a whiff of actual compassion in the deed, or at least as much compassion as you can imagine a psycho having. He's also very much on his game when shoving bamboo shoots under Cole's fingernails. Cassie insists they don't know the answer to TPM's questions. TPM's response? "Oh, I believe you. You weren't mistaking this for some kind of interrogation, were you?" That's cold man. Polite, but cold.

Jennifer pretty much just chews up every ounce of scenery within ten feet of her. She's a woman who has totally broken on through to the other side of her nervous breakdown. There's a cat and mouse game going on between TPM and Jennifer. Or is that a psycho and nut job game? Either way, it works.

The virus source revelation when TPM cuts open the vault is an effective shocker. It's a partial skeleton with an eyeball in it. WTF? I don't know what that means, but I believe these writers do. Perhaps time travel is a more traitorous ally than we've been led to believe.

TPM can't get at the skeleton, though. It's protected by something that melts anyone who tries, as Jennifer gleefully notes with the following announcement: "Attention, Night Room shoppers..." TPM pretends to be under attack from newly arrived Markridge security forces and flees. Cole convinces Jennifer to let him into the vault to destroy the virus source. She says she'll do it for Cole only, which is why TPM left them together earlier. He's figured out they have a connection.

No sooner does Jennifer deactivate the melting thing than boom, TPM returns. So it's up to Cole and Cassie working in tandem to trigger The Big Burn, but only after Cole and Jennifer have a chance to hide in the vault, which protects them from incineration. Which is total BS. The frustrated TPM flees with Cassie now a prisoner, Cole vanishes back into the future before he wants to, and Jennifer wanders away with TPM's medallion. The tease for next week is that Cole arrives in a different future, with the time machine looking quite uncared for and the West Seven tribe from last week running the place. Yikes.

The show's central mystery also deepened a little around the edges. TPM referred to person called The Witness. Ramse found out that Cole isn't the first time traveler, that Dr. Jones had a number of unsuccessful prototypes. We seem to be edging toward a revelation that time travel may have been responsible for the lethal plague in the first place.

All in all, it's a resource starved show trying to be clever and succeeding more than you'd expect. Too bad it's ratings are awful

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