Times are changing, plus a WTF twist for the ages in the 12 Monkeys season finale

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Jul 18, 2016, 10:01 PM EDT

Spoilers ahead for “Memory of Tomorrow,” the Season 2 finale of Syfy’s 12 Monkeys.

The short version: Cole and Cassie live happily ever after in the 1950s, until the world starts to end and Cole has to erase it. Then Cole mind-trips back in time to stop the death of the final Primary, resetting time and saving the future. Not content with that win, he (along with Cassie and Jones) then splinter to Titan to save everyone from being murdered, but it turns out Titan is actually a city-sized time machine. Then all hell breaks loose.

Cassie and Cole get a happily ever after


This show always feels dangerously close to collapsing under the weight of its own mythology, but my God it’s a glorious ride down the rabbit hole. After they failed to save the Primary, Cole and Cassie have accepted their new lives in 1959 and are now living the America dream … complete with a bun in the oven. For a show about time travel that can reset anything on a whim, the writers showed amazing restraint in setting up this story. The bond between Cole and Cassie has had time to weave and strengthen, finally setting up the payoff of them getting together romantically.

But they don’t know that Ramse fails miserably to kill The Witness in the future, until Cole starts experiencing time freezes that lead him to a Primary named Lillian (played by original 12 Monkeys film star Madeline Stowe!) in the 1950s. She’s awesome (or as awesome as a woman who murders her entire family can be) and explains that time is still being destroyed, it’s just taking a little longer to crawl all the way back to the 1950s. Cole visits the soon-to-be red forest for proof, and also learns a valuable piece of intel from Lillian: You can use the time-tripping tea from the red forest leaves to literally send your consciousness back in time, a skill that leads to an amazing montage that hits on several key moments from the show’s run (it also gives Cole a chance to try and nix Jennifer’s favorite nickname for him, but to no avail). It’s a great moment for fans, as you literally pick out every one of those critical moments as they flash by.

Cole pulls it off, stops the murder, and resets time — saving Jones and sending the red forest packing (at least for now). He and Cassie are then yanked back to 2044, but only Cole (seems to) remember their happy life together. Until …

We finally (seemingly) learn the identity of The Witness: It’s Cole and Cassie’s unborn child


Let’s dig in: This WTF twist came in the final moment of the episode, after Cole, Cassie and a newly badass Jones use the time machine to splinter themselves to Titan in an effort to avert the absolutely brutal murders that closed out last week’s episode. Thankfully for everyone, they succeed, providing some much-needed sniper support when that ambush occurs. With the baddies dispatched, Cole and Ramse make the (ill-fated) decision to stick around and explore Titan in an effort to track down some answers.

Fans have been wondering why this mysterious location is so important, and this episode finally provides an answer: The entire city is a time machine, apparently built by (or at least based on the plans of) Jones’ husband. Once the gang figures it out, they’re heading for the exit, but Deacon (seemingly) sacrifices his life to save Young Jennifer, a great redemptive moment after he accidentally kills Old Jennifer. Here’s hoping that’s not the last we see of Deacon, because he’s grown into a fantastic presence on this show. As for Old Jennifer, she is accidentally transported back in time into a World War II (maybe?) era war zone. Cole and Cassie also share a moment that unlocks Cassie’s memories of the life they lost when time reset, possibly because she’s also a time traveller (we’re guessing?). She remembers everything about the life and love they shared in 1959, and is then immediately kidnapped by followers of The Witness. Le sigh.

Cole is knocked out of the time machine, and splinters back to the base with Jones. But, Jones tracks the signature of Titan to determine it didn’t go back in time, it went forward… to 2163, an era we know absolutely nothing about. We then pick up with Cassie taken before a massive court of plague mask-wearing folks (maybe that’s the cool style in the future), to find the Pallid Man helping lead the proceedings. But, he’s not The Witness. He’s just there to pat Cassie’s pregnant stomach and leave all our jaws on the floor. In case you fail to put it together, the creepy chorus then starts chanting “Mother!” at Cassie, so you get the hint.

The person who has been behind this entire conspiracy to destroy the world is the (currently) unborn child of Cole and Cassie, a child born of two time travellers and conceived in an era neither of them should’ve existed in. In a reality that ceased to exist, which is just trippy. Just take a minute and let that sink in. The mystery of The Witness has hung over this show pretty much its entire run, and the reveal was certainly worth the wait. Where they’ll take this next is anyone’s guess, though with Cole already on his way to 2163 for a rescue mission, Season 3 is looking to pivot in a very exciting new direction: The future.

Line of the night: “Death can be undone, James. Love cannot.” - Lillian

Awesome things of note

It’s great they explained how Jones spent her year alone waiting for Cole and Cassie to return, and it makes sense she’d have to embrace badassery to keep the facility from falling to scavengers. Anyone else wanting to see a spinoff based solely on shotgun-wielding Jones? Yeah. Young Jennifer’s pep talk to the daughters was absolutely hilarious, as she quoted everything from Braveheart to Independence Day. Also, she just kept climbing on that humble with each point. It’s the little stuff that really makes her brand of crazy work. We also find out what happened to Olivia after her crisis of faith a few episodes ago. Turns out she saved Ramse’s son when he vanished, and is leading her own group against The Witness in 2044 now. That alliance could certainly come in handy.

12 Monkeys will be back for 10 new episodes in 2017.