We’re halfway there. The epic, four-night finale of SYFY’s 12 Monkeys has hit the midway point, and has dropped some of the acclaimed series’ best episodes to date. From time periods we’ve never seen deeply explored to surprise returns for a fan favorite, Night 2 had it all.
Spoilers ahead for “Legacy,” “After” and “Die Glocke,” the latest episodes of SYFY’s 12 Monkeys, which aired June 22, 2018.
Cole scored a piece of intel that looked to be setting up the endgame at the end of Night 1, with the date and location of “Blackleaf May 11, 1852.” So the team headed way back in time to the 1850s, where they discovered Titan was actually built in the past in an effort to keep the city-sized time machine hidden. Then the team heads to the 1960s for one hell of a mind-bending time loop episode, which ultimately ends with the team still lacking the mysterious weapon. So they head back a bit further to World War II to infiltrate a Nazi event to try and steal it, again (or before?).
Yeah, it’s all a mind-bender. But would you expect anything less at this point?
“What have you left behind?” -Jones
This show has always operated with a ticking clock. From the virus, to the missions, to the time travel concept itself. In “Legacy,” it's framed around the literal ticking clock of the remaining days Jones has left to live after being doused in splinter radiation. The end is clearly getting closer, and all Jones has left is the mission — and the hope that by saving the world, just maybe she’ll save herself in the end.
Cassie and Cole head to Blackleaf, Montana, in 1852 and discover things are not as they seem. Guys at the local saloon have smart watches and modern handguns, while none other than Jones’ long-lost husband Elliot Jones is playing modern TV show themes on the piano. We’re reminded through flashback that Elliot helped develop the Splinter technology alongside Jones (complete with a creepy test that results in a few red plants), and it was his plans used to create Titan in the first place.
Jones gets her long-awaited reunion with Elliott, where it's revealed he’s not all that happy about being used by the Army of the 12 Monkeys in the first place. So, after meeting his long-lost daughter, he decides to help Cole and Cassie try to take out the facility while it's still in construction. Deacon shows up and derails that plan, killing Elliot in the process, though he at least dies a hero trying to right the wrongs of how his technology has been corrupted.
As for the cowboy era setting? It’s an absolute romp. We get to see Cole and Cassie go full-on six-shooter shootout; Cole hilariously trying to have a cowboy conversation; and some great costume and site work. Cassie also pieces together that Jennifer is no longer Primary connected, and we get some throwback baddies (since we’re earlier in the timeline) to help tie this whole journey back together.
Science fiction fans are inherently smart, so the pressure is already high to make sure your show makes sense. With a time-travel show, you can crank that pressure level up a few notches. But it's in those moments that 12 Monkeys typically thrives. That’s the case in “After,” which finds Cole and Cassie sent on a mission to try and obtain the mysterious Primary weapon in a trip that turns out to be a full-on time loop of their own creation. And as each trip goes down, and each layered is peeled back, you can see the care with which the creative team has crafted this show. Every detail has a reason, every nuance makes sense in the end.
What starts as a simple mission ends with two Cassies, plus Jennifer and a somehow-alive Gale teaming up to swoop in as backup (he followed Cole’s warning and wore a bulletproof vest when he was shot and killed, so again, proof the timeline can change). But it turns out they’re the reason the mission happened in the first place, scrawling the message on the wall that attracted the team’s attention in the first place, in an effort to keep the timeline intact. The whole thing was basically one contained loop, but it was so darn well executed that it works as a fascinating bit of a bottle episode (while still moving the plot forward).
It’s been a blast to watch Gale grow season to season, and when he just rolls his eyes at Jennifer and explains how this is old hat is a very fun, well-earned moment. Gale has spent his life on the periphery of this story, traveling through time the old fashioned way.
As for what comes “after”? When near death, Cole dreamed of a serene beach, and hopes that might be the life they lead once all this insanity is over. Cassie’s perception takes a darker turn, where she seemingly starts to consider the possibility of a life in the forest of red, where she’d never have to choose between the mission or the life she wants with Cole. Or the fact that, in the current timeline, she’s destined to return to 2018 and die of the plague itself.
“You want to save Hitler? That’s the opposite of what you do with a time machine.” -Jennifer
After failing to obtain the Primary weapon in “After,” the team heads back to 1940s France to the only known report of the weapon surfacing in the hands of a Nazi scientist. Season 4 is pulling out all the stops, and yeah, the team actually kills Hitler along the way. Dropping Cole, Cassie, and Jennifer into the middle of World War II is just as hilarious and twisty as one could imagine, featuring everything from Jones bluffing her way past a Nazi general and Jennifer singing P!nk to a room full of Nazis, to dominatrix Cassie mowing down Nazis, to a literal toss off to kill Hitler himself.
Where other time-travel shows typically revel in the big moments of history (NBC’s excellent Timeless spends most episodes in critical moments of history, as does The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow), 12 Monkeys has typically drilled down into the murky quiet moments where it all goes wrong. In the show’s final season, the mission has taken the team in contact with one of the most infamous figures in all of time — and Deacon and Jennifer can’t resist in blowing him sky-high. Most shows would make a literal plot to kill Hitler a major plot point, but this isn’t most shows. It’s played for a laugh as Jennifer punches the plunger, and we learn a scene later that killing Hitler in France didn’t really change history all that much, anyway. Yet another (another) reminder that time can be rewritten.
This episode also revealed that, after spending the brunt of the season working with Olivia (after being left behind by Team Splinter), Deacon has actually been using his position as a double agent. That wink to Jennifer wasn’t for nothing, and after realizing working for Olivia was his only shot at survival, he did what he had to do. But Deacon has been doing what he can behind the scenes, and eventually saves Jones’ life and is rescued by Cole. He also hilariously turns a swastika carved into his chest into a West VII logo, because Deacon is bad, sure — but dude ain’t no Nazi.
The episode ends with Team Splinter lining up yet another mission designed to take them deeper than ever into history: 1491, Hertfordshire, England. But, the tether won’t reach that far, so it’s not going to be easy. Jones also makes a decision to allow Deacon to deliver her to Olivia — since it will buy time and Jones is dying soon, anyway.
Onward and upward, or down and back? Dang, time travel is complicated.