12 Monkeys: "Yesterday" (Season 1, Episode 8)


Whatever this show's flaws may be, it makes up for them with genuine stabs at originality. If tonight's episode loses focus a bit, that's because it's trying to do something ambitious--move us from two timelines to three without cluing us in on that until the end. The effect isn't exactly seamless, but I applaud the thought being put behind it. This show is genuinely trying.   

There are three storylines to follow: Cassie in 2015, Cole out of touch with everyone in a baseent, and chief time scientist Jones in 2043. Of these, Cassie's story is the least compelling, in no small part because it's pure misdirection. It's a little bit dumb, too.

We open with Jones trying to pull Cole back from the air strike we saw in 2015 Chechnya last week. The time machine's "Core" turns unstable, forcing her to abort the attempt. They need a stabilizer manifold to fix their machine. It's as good a made up name as any.

Cassie is sad that Cole is dead. Ex-fiancée Aaron comforts her. Except Cole isn't dead--he's trapped in that rubble strewn Chechen basement. His survival seems ridiculous, but they have a good explanation for it at the end, so it would be churlish of me to complain. While Cassie is being comforted by Aaron, Cole is removing debris from his wounds with only a surviving bottle of alcohol for disinfectant. I'm going with Cassie and Aaron in terms of who I'd rather be at this juncture.

So where do you find a stabilizer manifold in the post-Apocalyptic remains of 2043? In a convenient back story, that's where. Again, however, they wring some pretty decent drama out of that convenience. It seems Dr. Jones began her plague days as a resident of Spearhead, a place where the government gathered all the best and the brightest when the world went to hell. Spearhead eventually fell to a coup when the military decided to give up on seeking a cure for the still mutating virus and disperse this new elite to different locations. One Colonel Foster killed his superiors. He then dedicated Spearhead to reconstituting a super computer in order to find a cure that would save the world's survivors.

Foster could have killed Jones as well. He didn't buy all of her time travel promises, but he gave her enough credit to ship her off to the underground Project Splinter to play with her toys. Even gave her a Core. Since Foster has the other surviving Core, that's where Jones needs to go to get that stabilizer manifold thingee. At least it was until another ill-advised attempt to rescue Cole with a damaged Core finishes her power source off altogether. It seems Jones now needs to take what makes Foster's supercomputer run.

Good luck with that.

Cole's cries for help are answered by a Chechen man who doesn't speak English and his daughter, who does. Once mutual confusion is rectified, a winch is on the way to hoist Cole out. Meanwhile, Cassie convinces the Senator Aaron works for (didn't he get fired last week?) to send her to Chechnya to verify the lethal CIA virus used in this assassination hasn't started a plague. That's generally why you kill people with poisons, or a bomb, or a standard hit man with a gun. You don't have to verify that you haven't stupidly started an Apocalypse if you stick to the tried and true methods. Something the CIA might want to think about the next time it needs to kill someone on this show.

And Cassie, I'm looking at you. If the events of last episode had really happened, Cassie would be taking a dirt nap any moment now, not being sent to gather more information on the CIA's perfidy.

Back in 2043, there's some character development time filler. Ramse finds an old girlfriend who has given birth to his son at Spearhead. It's not badly written, just feels unnecessary. The most riveting part of the episode is the face-off between Foster and Jones. She insists the virus can't be cured, that its constant mutations leave preventing the original outbreak mankind's only hope. Foster disagrees. They both have valid points. Jones says mankind has no future, that Foster is clinging to a delusion if he thinks it does. Foster says the past is dead, that Jones is clinging to it at the expense of the living here and now. Each thinks the other's obsession will cost humanity the only hope it has left.

That's good stuff. Either of them could be wrong, and neither is a true villain. The standoff is thus intractable. Oddly, it's Foster, the guy working against our protagonists, who makes a genuine effort to reach out. He'll power Project Splinter to get Cole back, if in return Jones will work with him for the next year to try and prove a cure is feasible.

Jones won't have it. She's plotting to seize Foster's Core instead.

Humans. We're ****ed up. What can I say?

Cole is getting hoisted out of that basement as Cassie arrives at the debris-strewn remains in Chechnya. It seems like a stupid coincidence until we see Cole emerging into sunlight while Cassie sees nothing at that exact same location. That's a nice little kick in the pants. Seems Jones' aborted attempt to bring Cole back at the start of this episode popped him two years into the future, from 2015 to 2017. He's stuck there learning that the dreaded plague has started. Back in 2015, Cassie is relieved to find no trace of Cole. She thinks everything is okay, that Cole vanished with his timeline because they stopped the virus from being released.

Jeepers. We're all kinds of messed up no matter which timeline you're in. That's good writing.

Carry on Monkeys, at least until your unfortunate cancellation.