12 Monkeys: an emotional roller coaster reboot in "Lullaby"

They promised us an emotional rollercoaster this week, and boy did they delliver! There was so much sadness, but also a huge burst of happiness, and some self-torture, and some finally admitting to emotions! It was a Jones episode, despite mostly being about Cassie and Cole! And on top of that, it was a time-loop, episode! One of my fav plots, and done right! Spoilers ahead for 12 Monkeys (S0208) "Lullaby"...

Lullaby

This one will make your hearts hurt, guys. And it's gonna be complicated to write down, so bear with me!

While Cole is still out in the infirmary, bleeding through his bandages, Jones tells Cassie that she knows how to fix this, and Cassie is in a bad place of heavy guilt and feeling used, so she agrees to do it: Go back to 2020 to kill Jones the same day Hannah died, so that she never invents time travel and time never gets broken. Since Cole isn't awake to point out what a bad idea this is--because it's literally the same plan Jones always has, "kill one person, fix everything", and that plan never works-- Cassie heads out.

She lands in 2020 and immediately takes off her breathing mask--because she doesn't care if she dies, and so is blase about the safety protocols that have literally been her job for years, or because she's actually immune? Once she's inside and they verify that she's who she says she is, even though she should be about two years dead by this point, she says she's been tested as immune but it sounds like a lie to me.

Foster, not yet white-haired and shot by Jones, tells her that her skills will be needed, and she asks after Jones. But Jones is on her daughter's deathbed. In this version of the plague, Hannah is about four, though I think she was a baby in the original timeline. Just after Hannah dies, Cassie shows up with a  gun, apologises, and then shoots her in the face.

Only to land where and when she originally started.

In the meantime, Deacon has found out what's going on, dragged Cole out of bed, and set him on the scientists. Cole gets himself sent to the same time when she landed, and so when Cassie re-lands and starts the day over again, he's there with her.

Cole doesn't believe that she's already done all this because nothing changed except there was a glitch in the tether. She sets out to prove that she did--and they realize they're in a loop, so really, they're both right. But this time, since Cole is here, and his fingerprints match an eleven year old kid in a quarantine zone, they assume he's using a stolen identity and look deeper. Foster says that she's confirmed dead by his own people, so even though she looks like Dr Cassandra Raily, she can't possibly be her. He mentions an attack on the CDC--and if it's his people who confirmed her dead, is he the one who caused her death now? No peacefully dying in a heartbreaking scene in Cole's arms, but a violent death by guns a year or two later? If that's how it went, was it intentional--was the attack to kill her specifically? Was Cole still there?

What have they (not yet) gotten themselves into?

So this time, instead of taking her into the fold, they throw them both into the cage they've set up for the local roaming Scavs who want into the safety of the increasingly dystopian Spearhead. Foster blames them for the outbreak they're dealing with now, including the illness Hannah's suffering from.

In the cage, they meet 40-something Jennifer, who is so happy to see them. She says "the voices say you blew old Jonesy away, then they say you didn't!" and that's the first confirmation they have that this is an actual time-issue and not just them going crazy or something. When they're being moved for questioning, Cole and Cassie go all action star and get free of the soldiers escorting them, but Cassie gets shot in what looks like her spine--she can't move and she can barely breathe, and so Cole, being a fast thinker and quick adapter in situations having to do with time travel weirdness, instead of lingering around and getting caught again, barrels right in to where Jones is and kills her to reset time intentionally, and saves Cassie.

Already, the feels are ramping up. A mission to shoot a grief-stricken mother on her child's bedside is already emotional enough, and then Cassie tells Cole it was easy when he wasn't there and not when he's with her. Then Cole then does the same thing to save her because Cassie is more important than time's rules...and this episode has barely gotten going.

Splinter sickness is starting to hit them hard. Every time they land, they're bleeding more. It's like the whole second half of season one's illness all at once. Cole even says "the last time I felt like this, it was killing me". Cole convinces her to take a loop off, wait out the day and see if the Machine brings them back. That night, they set up a little campfire and Cole shares a story from his past that gave them hope when he and Ramse were kids, and they finally talk about some things. Cole tells her he'd love to change all sorts of choices he's made--like 2013, and breaking into her car to kidnap her. She says she made her own choices, that he can't blame himself for what's happened to her (even though she blames herself about everything all the time, and that's one of the things they have in common), and they both admit that they don't even know why they're still doing all this. Cassie gets mad about his admission, asking why they keep trying, and Cole says the one line that killed every fangirl in the audience dead:

"The only world I ever gave a damn about is the one with you in it!" 

That's right. In that cold night by the campfire, stuck in a timeloop that points out how futile this particular version of their mission is, Cole finally admits that everything he's been doing all along "has been to make sure you have a world to go back to"--which is very heroic, but also so tragic, because if he's successful, if they stop all the bad things at once and make the world over, he will have done it all for her, but they will never meet in the new version of the world. He loves her so much that he's even willing to destroy what he has with her to make her life better. They're sitting very close. The night is quiet. The meaning of all this is sinking in.

And then they loop, because time is mean.

So Cole is sure that there's got to be another way, that killing, again, isn't the answer to the problem. Cassie is determined to do this anyway, though, because she's still all about the mission, bolstered now by blaming herself for everything that's happened recently instead of blaming the Witness whose fault it actually is, and she goes off on her own. This time, she doesn't shoot Jones; she gets there when Hannah is still alive and realizes that her symptoms don't match the actual virus. Hannah is dying from meningitis! She's actually immune and it was wrongly diagnosed, because Foster had instituted new protocols and they messed up!

Cassie is a doctor first, and even in this situation where she's been sent to kill someone, she tries to do her job. It's good to see that her original purpose is still in there. And it works...but they loop again anyway, because saving Hannah amounts to changing Jones as much as killing her does.

Meanwhile, Cole is in holding with Jennifer, who is ticked that they took a loop off and didn't keep working on the problem. She points out that if they don't fix this, she's going to be shot and everything she does in the future for them won't happen. Time likes Jones the way she is. The next time they meet, she tells Cole that he has to make sure that Jones is unchanged so that time travel will keep happening, but to still change the outcome of the story.

And Cole takes that to heart. In one of the loops, he tells Foster that they were working together to take down Spearhead and that it was Jones's plan, so that he can get a moment alone with her to ask her if a moment of happiness is worth everything else, and she says yes. But that loop ends in them getting shot by a firing squad. Cassie grabs his hand before the bullets fly, and they go out together before looping around again. 

This time, they're so weakened and coughing up blood that Cassie has a flashback to the red forest and Titan, and she calls it a memory of tomorrow...which makes me wonder why they specifically gave her that line? Did Olivia know that she'd eventually see Titan? Did the Witness have all of that as part of his plan and is it still going on? But Cassie still isn't talking much about it, and right now she's mad that Cole got them executed. Cole cuts her off from that, though; he says he did it because he needed to figure something out, and now he knows how to get out of the loop.

They make it home. And they have something to tell Jones, so they take her out into the woods to meet Jennifer, and explain that because of Cole's happiness question and Jones's answer, they developed a plan. And that it took several loops to get it right. While he's telling the story, we see that Cole's half was to get Jennifer out before the firing squad got her, and reunite her with the Daughters. Cassie's side was to save Hannah while preserving her death--Jones had to lose her daughter so she'd invent time travel, but Cassie knew how to make her look dead and then to bring her back. She smuggles her out to Jennifer, and Jennifer is so happy to have her! She's a mother! 

Back in 2044, they explain to Jones that there was no way to do what she wanted them to do. They don't use the words, but she's basically a fixed point that can't be changed, and this is proof that Time has wants and needs--which include time travel being invented. But they could change history while leaving it looking the same. Someone comes forward. It's the Ninja from the beginning of the season! She takes off her mask--and Jones knows that it's her Hannah! Their reunion is so well done. Slow enough to let the import really sink in, and when Jones starts crying, everyone starts crying.

And the episode isn't over yet! 

Jones is so happy she's got a whole other take on life, and a new reason to fix things, and she isn't even mad that Cassie and Cole did this to her. Cassie is watching her being happy, and Cole joins her, and for the first time he makes a real move--he takes her hand.

Cassie doesn't even pretend to not know what he's talking about this time: but she tells him that they're going to still lose so much before this is done. He says that he'd rather have something to lose than to die without ever knowing it, and for a second, it looks like they're going to agree, that his faith in her will convince her. He's got her hand. She looks like affection physically hurts her. Cole wants to try, to give love a chance even if it's doomed, because this might be the only chance they get, and she wants to avoid the loss because she also thinks they're doomed, but she's wavering. They're angling closer and closer and almost kiss--

And then Cassie pulls away. She's still in the quasi-suicidal guilt place that made her agree to Jones's plan, and she won't hurt Cole like that (or herself, probably), and she tells him "this can't happen". She leaves Cole, goes back to her room crying, breaking her own heart instead of taking the chance--

And Ramse is there. Drunk and with a gun, waiting in her room to kill her. He blames her for what happened to Sam and thinks he's dead and can't be found. He says that Cole thinks she's good and that she's not to blame for the Witness and everything that happened, but Ramse thinks she wanted it. Cassie, however, has a better option than killing her. She doesn't even flinch when Ramse holds the gun to her eye, and tells him that when the Witness was in her mind, she was in his; she knows where he feels safe, and they can go there and kill him.

Cassie has come so far since season one, but her near-total lack of reaction to a gun being held to her head looks less like a new bravery and more like a growing self-destructive tendency that sees something like that as sort of a good idea. If he does kill her, she doesn't have to face anything, especially Cole, who took a chance and who she just smashed. But if he goes along with it, when he's in this state of mind, they both get to get revenge, and maybe do something good with their anger and loss. Something conveniently away from where they're both so unhappy right now. Who wants to bet that they're not going to tell Cole what they're up to?

It was a crazy rollercoaster of an episode, for sure. Jennifer was wonderful, as always. Every version of her is wonderful, and this one, more sure of herself than we've seen yet and more pointed, is just as great. Cassie was frustratingly singleminded again, all that stuff with the Witness last episode making her backslide into a safe place where all she has to do is shoot people--even though that doesn't work, and they all know it. Cole was the most open that we've ever seen, and even though Cassie isn't there yet, he took that risk we've been wanting him to take for weeks since they were reunited. Is it going to be awkward next week? Since she turned him down so completely, despite obviously wanting to return the offer? Since when she's dying, she keeps reaching for him, but in the safety of the Facility, she pulls away? Will they ever stop trying to protect each other by killing themselves??

Thematically, one of the most important parts, I think, is where Jennifer points out that they need to regain hope--that hope is what allows them to actually do something they shouldn't be able to do. Cassie has no hope. No hope for herself, no hope for anyone else, and is just continuing the mission because she has nothing else left and can't just let the world die. Cole says he has hope, but his hope has narrowed: all he hopes for is to save the world so Cassie can live in it without any of all this awful stuff happening to her, even if it means never meeting him, because he blames himself for it all and that means he's part of the problem not matter how much he loves her.

They gave Jones her hope back. How will Cole and Cassie find theirs?

More notes on 12 Monkeys 2.8 "Lullaby":

  • I counted ten or eleven loops all together in this episode. Since these shows always seem to imply others that aren't shown, how many days did Cole and Cassie keep dying together? 
  • Cole being the voice of reason this season means that too many people are going around him to get things done in selfish and impossible ways. All of this is training him to be a hero leader, but he's going to have to put his foot down soon...
  • Did it never occur to Jones that her husband already invented time travel? Like, if she hadn't gone back and perfected it, nothing since she started sending volunteers back would have happened, but surely someone else would have found the research?
  • Cole and Deacon unified in their concern for Cassie and her crazy mission is so great to see. I guess that whiskey worked.
  • They show a visual when they talk about her tether that's a sort of donut-shape with streams going through the middle of it; is that what a tether looks like in their readouts?
  • Adler is not down with Jones trying to get herself killed. Will he stand up to her?
  • Cole's prints are probably on file because there's always paperwork in government and medical things, so there'd only be more during a quarantine, but during the video-chat aftershow, we were wondering if eleven-year-old-Cole isn't a street rat, with runins with the law?
  • "Zone? That's right, 2020. Deacon hasn't turned it to shit yet." Ha!
  • We still don't know where the Cole who correlated to 2017-Cassie was while first-season Cole was visiting her. Did he stay away so as not to ruin his own timeline and cause a paradox, or was he doing something else? Was he dead? It probably doesn't matter now that it's been overwritten, but I want to know.
  • The part where Jennifer has to decide what version of Cole and Cassie she's dealing with was so River Song, but with more delight and less coyness. I hope they can keep meeting her out of order and comparing notes!
  • If it wasn't for Jennifer quoting Groundhog Day, I'd think time travel narratives don't exist in this world. Cassie acts like she's never heard of a time loop, but they're all over TV. Maybe she just doesn't watch genre shows. She was very mainstream before Cole busted through time to find her.
  • Did it bother anyone else that Cole counts meeting her as one of his great mistakes he'd like to fix? She's the best thing that ever happened to him. Maybe he only met he'd do it differently if he had the chance again, but since they're all trying to undo the apocalypse it sounds like he would just not do it at all, and that's hurtful.
  • Time being conscious is such a neat idea, but look at Jones being all against it when it means she can't commit suicide-by-time-travel-proxy. She scoffs at the idea that time is on our side, but more and more, if this is really what time wants, I wonder.
  • Jones mentions that the glitch happened because the Machine is broken since they had to replace the lense last episode. So a) will Cassie try to blame herself for whatever happens next because of that, and b) was that longer-term messing up part of the Witness's plan, or a happy side effect? Also, will it burn out the core again?
  • Also also, was the whole incursion by the Witness actually just a distraction and setting up dominoes to get Sam? If so, that makes Sam super important, and supports the idea that he's the Witness; if Cassie and Ramse go and kill him and find out that he's Sam afterward, Ramse is going to go insane.
  • Will Cassie ever get a break this season? She's been running full-tilt for years now, and Cole is giving her a chance at slowing down for a minute and being happy, and she can't bring herself to do it because she's so stuck in guns-blazing-attack-mode that there's nothing else she can see.
  • I was so worried that Cassie would go find Deacon and drown her sorrows in uncomplicated trauma-sex, but thankfully that's not a thing. I'm hoping that at this point, if she tried, Deacon would know that she's not there for him and say something about it. He looked like he was realizing some things in the small amount of screentime he had when they came back.
  • But Cassie openly and easily telling Ramse all this stuff about her experience with the Witness when she won't or can't tell Cole hardly any details is almost as bad as drowning in sex, on an emotional level. 
  • When they showed Ramse looking back at the lab and the storms, that looked like the same storm that's over Titan; is it where the Facility is now? If so, it's got to be in some sort of future, right? Maybe after the Red Forest, but in a world that's still changed by it?
  • Cassie's shutting down all her soft emotions, but she's still wearing the watch that brought them together, so she's not totally giving up on them, no matter what she says.
  • So close!

    You can watch 12 Monkeys live on Monday nights at 9pm Eastern on Syfy, and join us for livetweeting with the cast and crew! You can also watch it on Syfy.com, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, and catch the first season exclusively on Hulu!

    By Samantha Holloway

    About the author

    Samantha is a freelance writer, editor and book and TV reviewer. She's currently in gradschool and working on her first novel, and one day she'll rule to world. Or marry her TV. Whichever comes first. Follow! twitter.com/pirategirljack.

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    2 Comments
    On: Tuesday, June 7, 2016
    SleeplessMarea said:
    About the Cole fingerprint thing - Based on what I know from working at Family Court, an orphaned Cole under 18 years old would be placed in care by the Department of Social service, where he would become a ward of the state and before being placed somewhere would have all sorts of reports and tests become part of his file, some of which would no doubt include fingerprints. Cole himself said he was in foster care last year, and we see start of all that at the end of Paradox. My guess he would have remained there until the world went completely to hell and government/social institutions broke down completely, I have wondered if it was his and Ramse being wards of the state may have kept them safer than they ordinarily would have if they had stayed with their birth families. If it had been the latter, and they had ended up as refugees, they may have been more likely to have been turned away from an evacuation zone or other refuge.
    On: Wednesday, June 8, 2016
    Samantha Holloway said:
    Maria! In my email, it said this comment was Anon. Anyway, yes, that's a great point that I didn't even think of because I was so in love with the idea of a thieving little streetpunk 11-year-old Cole. Though the two aren't mutually exclusive, I think you're right. I would so love more stories like he told Cassie in this ep--his and Ramse's childhoods are mostly guesses and fan-theories, and I'd like to know what it was actually like, being so young as the world fell apart. Because, you know, this show really needs more tragedy...~;)
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