12 Monkeys: "Paradox" and "Arms of Mine" (Season 1, Episodes 12 and 13)


I'm honestly glad I watched this show. That's the best compliment I can give something, and 12 Monkeys deserves it. For all its low-budget flaws, it is solidly written while aiming for real drama. Well done, chimps.

The season finale opens with the same line the season premiere opened with:  “Where are you now? Someplace warm? Safe? Next to someone you love? Now what if that was gone and the only thing you could do was survive? You would, right? You’d try. You’d do things, horrible things, until you lose that last thing you have left: yourself. But what if you could take it back, all of it? A reset switch. You’d hit it, right? You’d have to.” This season has mirrored that question in so many layers that they're impossible to unravel, but Cole tries his best to reset at the end. Caught between choice and fate, he honestly tries. He's a guy I didn't care for much in the first few episodes, and I'm now happy to admit I was wrong. 


The circle of time is tightening into a death grip. The 12 Monkeys have been ahead every step of the way with Ramse in the past canceling out each move Jones attempted in the future. That hits home hard this episode: Cole lays dying from the ravages of time travel in 2015; Jones is helpless in 2043, her connection to Cole's tracer lost. Little do we realize that Jones of the future knows so much more than she ever let on. That will be clear by the end of this episode.

So how to save Cole in 2015? If you're Cassie, you track down the young Jones, a recently divorced woman working on the physics of time travel. And of course young Jones has an idea. Cole is dying because his DNA has been corrupted. He's a biological computer program breaking down, but what if you could reintegrate him with a pristine sample of his DNA.

That's right. Take blood from a child called Cole in 2015 to inject into the dying adult Cole. Turn a living man into a living paradox.

It already happened, don't you know? Cole's dad died in 2015 protecting him, Jones and Cassie from the Army of the 12 Monkeys. That end is already written when Jones and Cassie go looking for young Cole. It's written when Cole's father looks into his adult son's eyes and knows the truth. It's written when the adult Cole hands his father the gun he needs. The one he'll die shooting.

Life sucks sometimes.

That all happens because Cassie's ex-fiancee Aaron decides he has to save her, just like Jones wants to save her dead daughter and Ramse wants to save his future son. Aaron goes to the mysterious Olivia to tell her about Cole. The time traveler is still alive. Aaron will tell the Army of the 12 Monkeys where to find Cole and finish him for good if they promise to keep Cassie safe.

Choice and fate. Life really sucks sometimes.         

It's an absolute heartbreaker when The Pallid Man shows up to start wrecking his usual havoc. Cole's dad buys time with his life, but it's Cole who ultimately defeats them by injecting his younger self's blood. Welcome to Ground Zero at a paradox. That doesn't end well for anyone who isn't the paradox. Cole wakes up alive and healthy amid the charred remains of a shock zone. He's back to normal now. He's also lost the ability to travel in time, but then future Jones already knew that would happen.

Speaking of future Jones, she's got red English Ivy forming on her time machine. That would be the red forest of Olivia's hypnotic vision, and WTF? As Jones ponders the significance of this, an alarm goes off. Her security chief Whitley has returned sans his companions, although he does have the head of one. "They're coming," he says.

Who's coming? Twelve guys with blue, chalky faces who believe that what's inside Jones' lab is very important to them. They've been led to it by the nasty Deacon whose previous attack the lab repulsed.

There's three other interesting tidbits in this episode. First, Jennifer Goines has taken over as the CEO of the Markridge Corporation. She's as trippy as ever: "Meet the new boss, same as nothing at all." And Cole's Dad let slip that the boy's mother had made him swear to protect their son from some kind of army of monkeys.

WTF? How deep does this rabbit hole go?

I'd actually like to know. That's not bad for television.

The third tidbit is genuinely sad. After young Cole is delivered to an orphanage, he's befriended and protected by another boy. It's Ramse, his future nemesis.      

"Arms of Mine"

The season finale opens with more red vines sprouting on Jones' time machine in 2043. She's removing them while everyone wonders what it means. Everyone is also awaiting the arrival of the 12 guys with blue, chalky faces from last episode. Whitley says they don't have enough force left to stop them.   

In 2015, Cole is beating the crap out of Aaron to learn what he can about the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Cassie is upset, but she lets it go on. Aaron finally spills the beans about Olivia, that she's waiting for the coming of the twelve while pushing events as a key investor in the Markridge Corporation. Then Aaron breaks free. In a fight with Cole, Aaron is pinned beneath a fallen cabinet as a solvent fire starts. Cassie wants to help him. There's really no way to do so, however, and Cole pours salt in that wound by saying "He made his choice." It's a grisly moment.

We don't see the body, either, so I wouldn't be stunned if a disfigured Aaron shows up next season.

Cole and Cassie find their way to Jennifer Goines. She tells them that venture capital investor Ethan Seckie (aka Ramse) will be at the Rareton National Laboratory. Cole thanks her and leaves. He doesn't know Jennifer is still under Olivia's spell; after he goes, Jennifer picks up a phone to say "He knows."

It's a setup. The Rareton National Laboratory is where Jones' time machine is being built, although it can only go forward right now. Her ex-husband is sending plants forward in time, English Ivy to be specific. It changes color from green to red when he does. Sound familiar? Anyway, Cole is being sent to the lab to kill Ramse, who paid good money to be sent forward in time to his son. The Army of the 12 Monkeys believes Ramse's death will close the wheel of fate while also preventing him from interfering with those chalky blue guys who are primed to seize the time machine and shut it down.

End game.

Ramse paid enough money that everyone leaves the experimental facility in Rareton after setting the coordinates. Olivia has funded one dose of the time travel drug for Ramse. As he prepares to leave, this locus in space and time is bracketed by two action sequences in the same building. In 2043, the chalky blue guys are seizing Rareton. Deacon uses a flock of birds drawn to the machine's vibrations to shut down the facility's power by clogging an exhaust vent. In 2015, Cole and Cassie are using those same exhaust vents to break in.

In 2043, Jones holds off her attackers by threatening to blow up the facility. In 2015, Cole gets the drop on Ramse and his security guard. Twenty-eight years living among ghosts has hollowed Ramse out. Mellowed him, too. He just wants to talk about the big picture, how time travel was necessary to create time travel, how they all did for it love. No one's blameless. He also says he isn't The Witness.


Is there a way out? Cole should kill Ramse, yet hesitates. It's a moment that beautifully presages the end and was also beautifully set up last week in that coda when the freshly minted orphan Cole met Ramsey for the first time. Something's happening here, something not in line with Olivia's certainty that the circle will close with Ramse's death. It's happening even as Jones gives up in 2043. She surrenders her machine for a promise to spare her remaining people.

Cue Cassie. She's having none of this after Aaron's death. When Cole tells her to stop, she spits his own words back in his face. "He (Ramse) made his choice."

Cassie shoots Ramse.

Cassie gets shot by Ramse's guard.

Cole shoots the guard.

Somewhere wealthy, Olivia croons on about the closing of the cycle. She goes to greet a dozen newly born, engineered babies--the Twelve. In an airplane hanger, the duped and drugged Jennifer Goines prepares for a round the world trip. The lethal M510 virus is being loaded into her cargo hold.

Cassie is dying. Ramse will die here in the bowels of Rareton, too. Is there any way out?

Ramse blinks first. He gives Cole the time travel drug, tells him to inject Cassie and send her forward. Jones can save her in the future. Cole does it. Then he runs. Choice and fate echo in a hideous backbeat right up until the moment Cole, too, blinks. He goes back for Ramse.

"No one has to die. We'll find another way." As those words echo, a stunned Jones watches Cassie blink into view in 2043. The chalky, blue guys are equally stunned--this was supposed to be over.  

"No one has to die. We'll find another way." Maybe. Maybe not. But it's as pure an expression of hope as you'll find, and a lovely little gem out of a network from which I'd given up finding such things.