Warning: Spoilers through season 2 episode 13 of 12 Monkeys.
In the ultimate cliffhanger episode of 12 Monkeys, the identity of the mysterious Witness is finally revealed and it’s a twist worthy of the intense build up throughout the show’s first two seasons.
With Cole and Cassie unable to stop the final paradox, Team Revenge failing and dying at Titan, and Jones and the splinter machine destroyed by the time storm, it seems that the Army of the 12 Monkeys have won the day and all is lost. Or is it?
C and C appear to be stranded in 1959, but are now living as a couple within the house of cedar and pine and we discover that Christmas, Dr. Railly has become pregnant. Cole is shocked as he never expected to become a father given everything they’ve gone through. It’s a bit of a doozy to wonder what kind of future his child will have. Except of course, we find out one possibility by the end of this episode.
Strange things start happening. Time stops while Cole is at a local store and he sees a strange woman telling him that it’s not over. She then vanishes as everything begins to move again. When it happens a second time, the time traveler comes upon St. Mary’s Mercy, an asylum for the insane. Well that is a big clue if I ever saw one because Cole is about to meet another primary. Let’s bring her on shall we?
He enters the facility and gives the description of the woman he saw, adding the detail that she had slashed her wrist. The sister at the reception desk realizes that he’s looking for a woman named Lillian who has been there for at least 34 years (the nun has been there 17 and the patient twice that long) and Cole is her very first visitor ever. FYI, she also killed her entire family and was diagnosed as having schizophrenic hallucinations.
The amazingly talented Madeleine Stowe, who played Dr. Kathryn Railly in the 1995 film version of 12 Monkeys, plays Lillian. Having her this season is a wonderful homage to the original work. (If they can get Bruce Willis to do a cameo next season I will be jumping up and down with happiness). Also how did the character get that amazing red dress while stuck inside an insane asylum? Don’t they all have to wear medical gowns as patients?
Lillian confirms that Ramse, Team Revenge, and the Daughters failed their mission to stop the Witness at Titan. Interestingly enough she also says that the only person who can see what is really happening to time is the Witness, Cole is blind to it at the moment. She tells him that 2044, 2016, 1975 are all gone and their year is up next. Lillian bids him to go to Pine Barren and see what he finds there then come back to her.
Sure enough, he drives out there and sees trees with red leaves, anomalies popping up left and right, and a massive storm behind it. He takes some of the red leaves and brings it back to Lillian. Sprouting imagery from Alice and Wonderland, the primary implores him to go down the rabbit hole, puts the foliage in his hand, and instructs him to drink me. See, he doesn’t need a time machine to go back in time, he just needs red tea. When he drinks it, his mind will be un-tethered and he must find the him in 1957 to stop the paradox from happening. But the catch is that if he undoes the paradox, everything that’s happened will be erased. Cole doesn’t want to lose the relationship he has now with Cassie and their unborn child, but Lillian throws out that some happiness is better than a lifetime of anything else.
Lillian: Death can be undone James, love cannot.
She warns him that if he’s able to stop the paradox and return to his time, he should under no circumstances go to Titan to save his brother because only an army awaits him there. It would be a continuation of a cycle that never ends and everything lost would be in vain. So it sounds like going to Titan is never a good idea. Right.
When he gets back to the house, Cassie is waiting for him asking what’s going on because he didn’t show up at work and he’s been in a funk since he found out that he was going to be dad. She thinks that this is all too much too soon but Cole assures her that he wants what they have more than he’s ever wanted anything before. I wonder if he now has more empathy for Ramse and the lengths a man would do to protect his family. Still he decides to time travel via the red tea. Beforehand though, he takes a piece of charcoal from the fireplace and writes down the all too familiar words on the wall, 1957-1959 THIS WAS HOME. Cue the ominous music because big crap is about to go down y’all.
Cole makes the hard choice and drinks the red tea. He first goes to a place out of time, where the house of cedar and pine is constantly being built and torn down. Then he sees the 2044 facility and heads inside and after that he goes all the way back to season 1 episode 1 where he’s waiting for Cassie in the back seat of her car. When he jumps out of his past body, he returns to the facility floating in out of time and the Witness appears to be there lurking in the shadows.
We get more scenes from season 1: when he first met Jennifer, when Ramse first asks him about Cassie, the Night Room, and the fancy party where he meets Leland Goines. Then we get to this season: 2022’s groundhog day and finally to the scene where he pulls a gun on Reggie.
Cole runs to the factory floor and is able to apprehend Melinda with Cassie before Charlie arrives. The other man tries to appeal to the time traveler, that he loves the primary and if he performs the paradox they can be together where time doesn’t exist. The Messenger says that he doesn’t understand but he really does. He looks at Cassie and says goodbye before shooting Charlie multiple times immediately causing time to shift and in 2044, the machine is shown to be operating again. Jones had to wait an entire year for their real time tethers to catch up and during that period she learned how to brutally fight and defend her territory but also met a companion, going to show that dogs are man’s best friends truly.
Cassie tells Jones their story and how it took them a long time trying to find the primary and they almost failed, but Cole was able to stop the paradox from happening at the last moment. During this conversation, James is standing apart from them, contemplating all that’s happened and Lillian’s words. Against her warnings he tells the two women about Ramse and Hannah dying at Titan because the Witness somehow knows that they are coming.
Jones determines that they can use the machine to travel to Titan to stop Team Revenge from going through the mission and being ambushed (thanks to Adler’s nearly finished calculations). This round though, the scientist is coming with them because she’s not losing her daughter again. Besides, the machine is pre-programmed to pull them back after 12 hours. But who is going to guard the place eh?? The moment Jones whispers to herself, “initiate splinter sequence” before being sent through the fabric of time and space gave me intense feels. This is her first time to actually use the machine she’s spent so much of her life working on.
The trio arrives at the woods near Titan and are met by the Daughters who lead them back to where Adler and the others are waiting. Cole tells them that their comrades are walking into a trap and to have a shot at saving their comrades they need the Daughters to come with them. Ms. Goines is put in another uncomfortable spot as she somehow must inspire the ladies to follow her once again. She borrows from Mel Gibson’s famous Braveheart speech and at first it seems to be working until she tosses in some Independence Day and loses the crowd.
She says screw it and decides to just fight by herself when one of her Daughters asks if she’s really willing to risk her life for Ramse and company and Jennifer answers yes. She didn’t know what old her taught them but obviously she forgot the most important lesson, be excellent to each other. Hah! This weirdly enough brings a change of heart in the Daughters.
At Titan, a familiar scene begins to play out as Ramse comes upon the hooded figure on the stage carved with symbols and yells for him to take the mask. On cue, other members of the 12 Monkeys rush out and surround them. As Whitley, Deacon, and Hannah are about to be killed, shots are fired and Cole comes to the rescue with the cavalry. As the fight ensues Hannah is in full on beast mode, taking down multiple opponents. Soon enough though she is reunited with Jones and they share a tender mother-daughter hug.
As Ramse is questioning the 12 Monkeys survivors on the location of the Witness, they all repeat the same thing that they’ll never find him and that he is safe. So in anger and frustration, the traveler stabs each one of them. Ramse is unwilling to leave Titan until they locate the mysterious leader because killing him was the only thing driving him forward after the loss of his son. Jennifer and Deacon in the meantime are urging the group of get the hell out but Cole decides they need to stay and find the Witness.
Hannah, Jones, Cole and Cassie group themselves together as they explore the compound and when he comments that it’s weird to see the scientist packing, Dr. Railly responds that not every caterpillar becomes a butterfly. She then stops in her tracks because somehow the memories of their former life come flooding back to her. Cole had given her a butterfly clip, they lived in the house of cedar and pine, and they were in love. He’s amazed that she remembers this because it shouldn’t be possible when a loud noise reverberates all around Titan.
Jones now tells them that they need to get out of here right now. She noticed earlier that the technology in this place was from her husband (Dr. Eliot Jones) and now she realizes that the whole city is a time machine. That is freaking brilliant for the Witness to have up his sleeve. Everyone is trying to find a way out but Ramse has lost everything so he doesn’t care and continues his search. He runs into a 12 Monkeys minion and is about to get into hand-to-hand combat when another masked figure stabs the goon from behind. This person takes his mask off and tells the traveler that there’s no time to explain and to come with him if he wants the Witness.
Whitley’s group makes it all out except Ramse and so Cole goes back inside to get his friend with Cassie following. Uh oh, this is NOT good. Meanwhile Jennifer, Deacon, and 2 Daughters meet a whole gaggle of masked minions and the ScavKing sacrifices himself for Ms. Goines, apologizing for killing her before being killed himself. I was really hoping for a romance between these two but who would have guessed that Deacon was capable of dying for a greater cause. His character’s development was wonderful this season and he will be sorely missed. But then again he might not be dead dead because it’s 12 Monkeys after all.
Jennifer is by herself and ends up shooting another goon before being splintered after getting caught in a beam. Cassie urges Cole that they need to get out there and he finally listens when she asks him to do this for her. But just as the exit is within eyesight, they are ambushed and the doctor is kept in Titan while Cole is kicked out. Oh crap! The whole compound then vanishes.
Ramse is still with this new person dressed as a minion and he is led to some unknown forest location. It seems that they did not splinter with Titan because the time traveler asks what happened to it. To his surprise, he meets Olivia (who the other man is working for). He tells Ramse that none of them are with the Army of the 12 Monkeys anymore. Olivia looks considerably older with grey streaks in her hair but is still very much alive. She says that they are taking him to his son. We finally see that after Sam was splintered to an unknown time, Olivia was somehow right where he was waiting for him. She also looked younger and so the kid must have gone back in time and is now all grown up and probably brainwashed. Now how did Olivia know that Ramse’s son would get sent back? Did the Witness forsee this too?
Meanwhile poor Jennifer has landed in 1917 France during WWI amidst intense fighting in the trenches. She is mistaken for being German and tries to use some rudimentary French, though all she knows to say is, “Can I use your telephone and toilet?”
Jones and Cole are splintered back to the facility but Cassie does not follow. The scientist confirms that they do not have her tether and that Titan has gone even further into the future to 2163. Cole is going after her though because damn the unknown! He’s gotta get his woman back.
In 2163, the truth of the Witness is finally revealed as Cassie is greeted by Pallid Man (who is still alive as well) inside an auditorium full of hooded and masked individuals. At first Dr. Railly thinks that he is the Witness but he says that he’s not. Their leader is far more special than him, James or her, but it was imperative that she be here in Titan. When Cassie asks where he is, PM answers that he’s safe, born to travelers outside of time.
Pallid Man: You brought him here Cassandra. The Witness is here. (Puts her hand on her belly) Mother. The Mother.
Now that we know that the Witness is Cassie and Cole’s unborn child, it is understandable that he is fighting for his very existence because only through certain specific events occurring could he be conceived. It had to be part of his plan for the 1957 paradox to happen, his parents to fall in love and consummate their relationship, and then for Cole to stop the paradox again so that all three of them could go back to the future and for mother and him to go to Titan to be then sent forward in time to 2163. It’s fascinating though that Cassie continued to be pregnant even though the post-paradox version of 1959 technically no longer happened. After an extensive conversation with The Workprint’s Editor-In-Chief (and fellow 12 Monkeys obsessed fan) Bilal Mian, we figured that since time goes around Cassie as a chrononaut, the events from 1959 in the house of cedar and pine always happened to her character and somehow 2nd round 1957 Cassie is the most up to date version of her in the timeline and thus she would be the one pregnant. It seems no matter what, once the Witness is conceived you can’t undo him.
As a progeny of two chrononauts it would make sense that he would have abilities to relating to time since he would have Jones’ injection in his blood inherited from both his parents. Could he time travel without using any red tea or a time machine himself? Is that how he brought Vivian to Dr. Kirschner? Could the Witness access the time stream in the same way as primaries do without the schizophrenic side effects? We already know that he can take over minds via red tea intake but he must be able to do more.
Although the better question really is what is his end game? It’s possible that he only wanted to create the time anomalies up to a point in order to ensure his creation. Phase 1 is the plague, phase 2 kill primaries to create time anomalies, and who knows what phase 3 could be.
It was a brilliant twist though because how can anyone expect a parent to kill his or her own child? That’s insane! And yet when your kid ends up destroying the whole world and time itself just so that he can live what are you gonna do?
Now that Cassie is further into the future at the hands of the Army of the 12 Monkeys and incubating the Witness, are they simply keeping her alive until she gives birth or are there further plans for her? Olivia in the meantime has gone rogue and reunites Ramse with Sam (likely grown up) in 2044 but what is her purpose now? What does she want since she isn’t on Team 12 Monkeys anymore? What is Jennifer going to do stuck in 1917? How will Cole find Cassie and more importantly wtf is he going to do once he finds out his kid is responsible for the apocalypse?
12 Monkeys undoubtedly takes sci-fi to a whole new level in a twisty, mind-bending, emotional roller coaster, and mental Olympics kind of way. There are never any wasted scenes and the narrative this entire season 2 has exceeded my wildest expectations. The story unfolded into a much larger picture and still connected to the arcs in season 1. We saw so many relationships change and grow as well as characters deepening and developing from when we first met them. The show though isn’t just a great science fiction series, it’s fantastic television period. Now the long collective wait for season 3 begins.
We love to hear your theories so let us know what you thought of the season 2 finale below!
12 Monkeys airs Mondays 9/8 central on Syfy.
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