12 Monkeys: 'Keys" (Season 1, Episode 7)


This show seemed to find its dramatic stride tonight. Alternatingly cute, colorful, technically interesting and touching--with minimal grunge and murkiness--this episode is the best of the series so far. It's enough to make me overlook SyFy's lame gimmick of an app that will change lighting to match the mood of the show. They need to fire whoever come up with that.

After last week's drab and dreary budget apocalypse, it's nice to open with a colorful art event at a museum. That occurs within a Russian nested doll of a story where the CIA is trying to assassinate a secret-spilling Edward Snowden clone named Alex Wexler, who happens to be  holed up in Chechnya for some reason. Absurdly, the CIA plans to kill him with the ultra lethal M510 virus from the Markridge Corporation, but I'll let that pass. 12 Monkeys needs people doing absurd things with viruses to fill out a season's worth of episodes.

Cole is actually amusing at the museum, helping himself to an entire tray of hors d'oeuvres and noting that its bulls**t he can't touch the art. He and Cassie even dance a bit. Of course she has to show him how; it's not the sort of skill one picks up in a post-Apocalyptic future (unless, I suppose, it's an oddly cheerful post-Apocalyptic future). This scene is all about following up the lame clue Cole found in a greenhouse last episode. That clue relates to some Druze sect. File that away for the next forty minutes.

What's really important is that the 12 Monkeys want to get their hands on the lethal virus the CIA is so capriciously releasing in Chechnya. In the next scene, Cole is already in Chechnya and has seized the silver briefcase with the virus. He's calling Cassie back in DC for help. The tale that unfolds is one twisted forwards-backwards, with Cole getting captured by Wexler and his Russian keepers while Cassie and her former fiancé Aaron simultaneously figure out the information they will tell Cole a week from now that leads him to seize the virus in Chechnya.

Got that?

It's actually kind of clever and has a genuine emotional payoff. The virus gets released in Chechnya, with everyone but the already immune Cole starting to die. So Cole winds up opening a satellite link to Cassie that the CIA uses to target his location. Cassie thinks he's dead at the end. That makes for an effective scene when past Cole shows up in the future to get the information that will send him to Chechnya. Cassie is genuinely torn that she can't tell him the truth about what will happen.

Actual honest human drama. From SyFy of all places. Will wonders never cease?

Of course, Cole isn't dead, as we see in next week's previews. That doesn't affect the quality of this week's conclusion. Well done, doomed little show.  

Oh, and the Druze reference. Wexler knew it: "Death--Time--Rebirth. Monkeys like hours on a clock." Da-dum!