A tragic twist, as 12 Monkeys goes straight up sci-fi horror in the latest episode

Contributed by
May 30, 2016

Spoilers ahead for “Meltdown,” the latest episode of Syfy’s 12 Monkeys!

The short version: The Witness stages a direct attack on the Splinter facility, as all (temporal) hell breaks loose. The Witness takes over Cassie to sabotage the time machine, while Jones’ new boy toy makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the day. Oh, and Ramse’s son is now lost in time. 

This show can shift tone on a dime, and do it surprisingly well


From time-hopping adventure to straight up sci-fi horror homage, the framework for this show is turning out to be surprisingly versatile. The show has always flirted with horror concepts, but this week’s episode went full-on suspense thriller — with a dash of possession thrown in for good measure.

Fresh off her acid trip from the time tea last week, Cassie takes her tether shot and returns to the 2040s, likely hoping to escape the freaky hallucinations of The Witness (who is wearing that nightmare-inducing Plague Doctor mask, when he’s not rocking someone else’s face) from last episode. But, after retuning to the future, Cassie quickly realizes she can’t escape those hallucinations(?) just yet. Turns out there was a very good reason Cassie rocked those black eyes last week: She’s possessed by The Witness, who we now know has the ability to travel through time by possessing the consciousness of another person. It’s about as terrifying as it sounds, and ups the stakes considerably.

As the gang is still grappling with Cassie’s encounter with the series’ Big Bad, the Splinter machine starts malfunctioning and causing all kinds of temporal insanity around the base, bringing back previous “volunteers” from the early days of the Splinter program, who are now mangled messes of warped bodies who have spent the past several years tortured in the time stream. The temporal anomalies also cause a few U.S. Army soldiers from 1959 to become unstuck in time, who don’t quite believe Deacon when he tries to explain they’ve traveled nearly 100 years into the future.

But it’s the directing and cinematography that really steal the show this episode. The camera angles pay homage to some classic horror tropes, but filtered through this unique time travel lens, most of it manages to really feel fresh. You have things creeping in the shadows, characters disappearing, flickering lights and creepily long corridors. The goal of “Shut Down the Machine” might’ve been a simple jumping-off point, but they paid it off in spades with all the great little interactions along the way.

But with horror, also comes tragedy


One of the best twists this season was the reveal that Katarina Jones had a relationship with Dr. Eckland (a man she’s never even met) in the alt-future they arrive in after changing things at the start of the season. Jones finally makes her love (re)connection this episode, as we get to see the couple playing cards and looking genuinely happy for about five seconds, before the action ramps up. Michael Hogan’s Dr. Eckland got some great moments in this episode, including a little exchange with Deacon that certainly evoked some memories of Hogan’s tenure on Battlestar Galactica as Saul Tigh. But, when people are happy, you just know they’re setting you up for something.

With the machine on the verge of overloading, Dr. Eckland sacrifices himself to install the piece of equipment required to avert a catastrophic explosion — and is vaporized by temporal energy in the process. It’s a shame, because Hogan has made a great addition to the cast, but it’s also a reminder that no one is safe in the time-hopping post-apocalypse. Here’s hoping the next time they change the future, Dr. Eckland might get another shot at life.

Despite their time apart, Cassie and Cole are still connected


There’s no doubt that Cassie’s time in the future fundamentally changed her, and we’ve discussed at length how Cassie and Cole have almost flipped their roles since the first season. But, when the chips are down, these two always find a way. With Cassie under the control of The Witness, Cole tries to reach out to her and break the mind control, eventually pushing Ramse to literally shoot him (in the shoulder) to shock Cassie out of it. The gamble works, and it’s a tangible confirmation that despite her much rougher exterior, Cassie still really does care deeply for Cole. Seeing these two estranged makes for good drama, but you really do miss the chemistry from Season 1.

Cassie’s little possession episode also saw her kidnap Ramse’s son Sam, putting the poor kid (who seemingly only exists to get kidnapped, or serve as a motivation for Ramse) in harm’s way, where he is zapped by temporal energy and sent… somewhere in time. We get a peek at Sam as the episode ends, as a mysterious hand reaches out to help him. Yeah, this is not going to end well.

Other observations

Deacon continues to steal the show. He gets most of the great lines, and has a legit character moment this episode while Cassie is being mind controlled. He knows they have to stop her to save the base, so he sends Ramse, in case someone has to kill Cassie as a last resort. Deacon knows Cole can’t do it… and admits he couldn’t kill her, either. It says a lot about Deacon. He knows what might have to be done, and sends someone who can do it. But, the Deacon of old wouldn’t have hesitated to pull the trigger himself, if it meant self-preservation.

The Witness tells Cole he has “witnessed the end, and the beginning,” which doesn’t really tell us much. But, after the reveal that he can possess people, you have to wonder if The Witness is even a person at all — or just some type of consciousness in the time stream itself? With Sam missing, Ramse hits the road without even a goodbye. Stay strong, man. That kid will certainly turn up, eventually.

Line of the night: “Die as a pacifist or live as a man.” -- Deacon

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