Ho-lee smokes, was that a wild ride. There was a lot of worry about what would happen to last episode as we went into this one, but as it turns out, it was handled really well. As far as finales go, it's a big one, and thank GOD we know we've got a season three approved and already being written, because that cliffhanger would be too much to be left for all time on! Spoilers ahead for 12 Monkeys (S0213) "Memory of Tomorrow"! Batten down the hatches for the feels!
It's Christmas in 1959, and in another scene straight out of fanfic, Cassie gives Cole a razor because she wants to see what his face looks like under all the scruff, and Cole gives her a goergeous butterfly hairclip because he remembered that she said "not every catterpillar becomes a butterfly". He was so nervous and so sweet! Cole's first Christmas, and it's with the woman he loves more than time itself! He's wearing flanel and she's wearing a cozy cardigan, and the tree is decorated, and everything looks so happy!
And then Cassie has another gift (which is good, because the razor was kind of a joke gift and the clip was the realest thing Cole has ever done and probably took him days to pick out): She hands him an envelope. He eagerly takes it. He reads it. He's floored.
Cole is going to be a dad.
While he's still processing that, which must be scary to someone who has seen nothing but orphans and friends doing terrible things for their kids, he goes for groceries and time stops. Just stops. But he can still move around. There's a woman out on the street, and she tells him he's not done--and then time snaps on again.
Cole is freaked out in two directions now. He asks Cassie "what if it's not over?" but he doesn't tell her what happened, so she reassures him with the "it must be over because we're here" stuff he told her last ep. It's nice to know those two are consistent even when they're lovingly together, but dang, kids, learn to tell each other these important details! Maybe that'll be a focus of season three: learning how to clearly communicate.
Later, time stops again outside an asylum, and Cole takes it as a sign; he goes in, looking for the lady he saw last time, and the nun tells him it's Lillian--she killed her whole family 34 years ago (when she must've been pretty young) and he is the only person who has ever come to visit her. She implies that she doesn't like Lillian that much and that she's dangerous, so of course she locks him into the room with her. Good thing Lillian actually does want to talk with him.
At first, she doesn't believe he's real, because she's been seeing things her whole life and being told she's insane. But he talks about how she's a Primary and such and she changes her mind. She's weird and a little word-salad-y, but she's much more pointed and together than the other primaries they've met have usually been. She says she didn't expect him to show up so close to the end of time, and that the future is already gone--and 1959 is next. She tells him to go to the Pine Barrens and see for himself and bring back what he finds there.
Cole skips work to do it, and of course it's the trees turning red and the air exploding in anomalies. He takes the leaves back to Lillian, and she tells him to take the tea from them and go back and fix his mistake--stop the Paradox and fix everything. But that will undo everything that happened since then--including Cassie and the baby. He doesn't think he can do that. Lillian says if he chooses them over time, they'll die anyway, when everyone else does. She was saving her family by killing them before it could happen, and that's the choice he has now, too. Time or the family.
I was hoping he'd refuse that choice, but maybe we're not there yet.
At home, Cassie is worried about him and knows he's not telling her what's going on. He says he had to clear his head and get his mind around the whole baby thing--since he never told her about Lillian, she takes it personally. She's worried that it's too much, too soon, and that he isn't as happy as she is. He assures her that this is all he's ever wanted, and the cracks and wobbles in his voice as he says it are insanely heartbreaking--it's probably the truest thing he's ever said. Of course a traumatized orphan has only ever wanted peace and a family!
But he still doesn't tell her what's going on.
When she's sleeping that night, he unilaterally decides to Do The Thing. He marks the wall with the statement "1957-1959 THIS WAS HOME" from the Witness's message to Olivia--so it turns out that that was sort of bleed-through, part of the house's "memory" and not part of the Witness's communication with Olivia! It was Cole! And the fact that he actually had a home, that he rebuilt it with his own hands, that Cassie moved into it with him and they were having a baby...
It's a lot of feels, guys.
He makes the tea. He drinks it. He trips out. Or, more specifically, he finds himself in a weird place where the house is behind him and the Facility is rebuilding itself before him, and if that's not symbolic, I don't know what is. He goes to the Facility, which turns out to be basically his mind palace--his memories of the mission live there, and he can hear himself saying things from different episodes, different important points along the way. And the Witness is there, too, but not super interested in being more than creepy at this point. Later, if he needs to, can the Witness get at Cole when he's in the Red Tea Facility (tea-cility)? If he needs to, could Cole get at the Witness from there?
Llillian said to look for himself in 1957 and take over and do the job. He can travel to any place-time he's been to before. He lands in the back of Cassie's car in 2013 from the pilot and is adorable for a second--he thinks it's cool, and he marvels at a Cassie that doesn't know him yet. But it's too early in their story. He skips to when Ramse told him to take a chance with Cassie. He skips through that night at the museum where Cassie taught him to dance and smiled so big (though he didn't stay there very long, sadly). He skips into Lullaby, where they're dying from splinter sickness.
And then he finds 1957, just a few minutes earlier than he figured it out the first time. He and Cassie get to Melinda before Charlie arives. Charlie does his whole "you should understand about how I have to do this because I love her" thing. Cole hesitates. Cassie says he's not their friend, he's a Messenger, and it's heartbreaking because she's back to being Mean And Angry Cassie because all the healing and time passing never happened. Cole said it's not that--the problem is that he does know what it's like, he does understand this choice. He tells Cassie goodbye, and kills Charlie, and stops the final paradox, changing time and erasing the happiest moments of his life.
2044 is fine. The machine turns on and drags them home at the right time, right after the paradox didn't happen so they won't get arrested for shooting a dying woman's husband in their place of work. Jones has been alone for a year and it's hardened her into someone who can shoot people in the face without a problem, because scavs kept attacking every single day and all she had was a shotgun and a cute dog to keep her safe.
But she's also spent the time catching up with her work.
They explain that it was hard, but they finally got it done, and Cassie sounds softer about it--doing the job raised her opinion of Cole.
Cole, however, doesn't feel like they won anything. He lost everything he'd gained by taking care of himself and Cassie, and he's quiet and sad and brooding while they're catching up. But he also knows that Ramse & co are about to die at Titan, and he tells them that--and doesn't tell them that Lillian said he needs to NOT go to Titan, that that's a loop that needs to be broken. Because everything that happens after, happens because he goes and they go with him, and who wants to bet at some point he'll have to go back and fix that, too? Except that the Red Leaves will be harder to get ahold of now, won't they?
Jones remembers that Adler has started programming the machine for the time-travel-without-the-time-part jumps before, and she finishes the calculations and sets the machine on autopilot so she can go with them. Jone's first jump is so cute. She says "initiate splinter sequence" like she always does, and when she lands she's like "holy SH**, is THAT what that feels like??" and it's a great moment.
They're found by the Daughters, and tell them what's up. Jennifer tries to give a rousing speech that's mostly the one from Braveheart with a little of the one from Independence Day, and it does literally nothing; what convinces the Daughters to follow is that she is willing to do it herself: she's ready to lay her life on the line to help her friends when they need it.
So they make it just in time. Before everyone can get stabinated, snipers take out the ones who killed our people last loop around, and then they basically mow down the rest, except for a few to interrogate. The Witness was not among them. The survivors aren't speaking and Ramse kills all of them, despite how happy he was to see Cole a minute ago. He redirects his anger to Cassie, demanding that she tell him where the Witness is, but she doesn't know the layout, she only knows that he's somewhere inside this thing the size of a factory.
Before they can find him, the towers light up. Jones recognizes Elliot's work--the towers are all splinter-machines, several to each tower, and they are sending out those pre-time-travel beams and connecting to each other. They need to get out before the whole thing splinters with them in it! She, Hannah, Whitley, and some of the Daughters get out without a hitch, and get far enough away to watch the thing go.
Ramse goes off on his own, because he's not going to miss this chance to get the Witness, and almost gets himself killed instead because his gun is out of bullets. But at the last second, his attacker is killed by someone dressed like a follower who says he's not with the Monkeys and leads him to safety--and to Olivia! She's still tall and gorgeous all these years into the apocalypse, though she's got streaks of grey in her hair now.
Ramse's best line in the episode is in that scene. He sees Olivia, looks all crestfallen, and just goes "why don't you just kill me already??" more annoyed sounding than anything else. But she says she's going to lead him to his son--it was HER who took his hand wherever he landed after the feedback got him! What??
Deacon and Jennifer and a few more of the Daughters go a different way and run into a whole crowd of followers. He tells her to run, and apologises for killing her before, and even though she tells him not to do it, he sacrifices himself to make sure she can get away. TWO WEEKS IN A ROW, it looks like Deacon dies! But we've seen him kill the Foreman and his men in a few minutes and come out drenched in blood, so why not again?
Jennifer gets a little away, but then gets found again--she opens fire on the attacker, but sort of just sprays bullets everywhere, hitting the machines around her, and gets time-snatched like Sam did! She lands in 1917, in a trench in France, during WWI! What's she going to do about that??
And Cassie and Cole! They're making their way out after Jones, and Cassie says something that reminds her of their last day in the now-snipped-off 1959. She remembers the butterfly he gave her. She remembers the house and that they lived there together and that they were in love! The serum let her remember what happened to her, even though it no longer technically happened! Yay for getting to keep all that healing and togetherness and character development! Cole is confused, but so happy--he's looking at her like she's magical, like he did all through season one and hasn't had much chance to in season two. But of course that can't last.
They realize Ramse isn't with them and Cole goes back for him. Cassie follows. They don't get even near to finding Ramse, because they're waylaid by dudes in robes, who grab Cassie and kick Cole back across the boundary wall. Titan splinters out, taking a huge chunk of the field with it so that Cole is now right on the edge of a huge blue-purple sparking crater, and when the machine pulls him and Jones home, it doesn't bring Cassie. Her thether's been broken. Cole is on the verge of tears--he only just got her back!--and demands to know where they went.
Thankfully, Jones's time alone has been spent partially in making awesome new computer displays! She knows the temporal signiture of Titan, and her machines have traced it not back through time like all of them have been doing exclusively, but FORWARD! To the FUTURE! 2163--an actual future after all this time-mess! Finally! In one fell swoop, this show got about a hundred times more scifi! Cole wants to go there. He doesn't care what happens, he doesn't care how hard it is, he's going to get Cassie back and bring her home! Has he realized that even though that house in the past was great, it was her and him together that made it a home?
And in that distand future, Cassie is taken to a hall full of creepy people dressed like the Witness. The Pallid Man is there with his giant creepy hands, and she thinks for a second that he's the Witness--but he tells her that it was important that she came to Titan so that she could be here, now. Because she came with the Witness. Inside her belly. Because she's still pregnant since she and Cole both had the serum and so the baby has too, and got edited back into the regular world with them when time changed!
The Witness is their kid!
The creepy council gets all extra creepy calling her Mother, and Cassie looks rightfully devistated, and I'm a little let down. The whole magical-baby-becomes-a-bad-god thing has been done before and I'd hoped for something more original, and on top of that, being forced to bear evil children is a terrible storyline. Like, it puts Cassie in the position of having to be complicit in creating their worst enemy, or to choose to kill it, or to kill herself. If she does either of the first two, it could break her--if she does the third, it'll break Cole. And it's going to get real ugly in ways I'd rather not watch in the meantime, unless these writers are really really clever.
That being said, I still trust that these people can do it right. They've been consistently cool and clever and original, and haven't let us down yet, not really. They're going to have to be really careful about how they handle it now, but they're generally careful anyway. They like to take overused tropes and make them good again, and the reveal of their kid was handled well, despite how much I wanted it to be Ramse's fault because his kid he'd fought so hard to save turned out to be the Witness. There's the barest hint now that maybe Sam is grown into something that could fight the Witness, but that'll really only make every terrible thing Ramse did okay--and he needs to be punished and to atone for it all, not be excused because he saved the anti-Witness or something.
Anyway, bonkers season finale! Everyone is all broken up and separated! The red storms are defeated, but the Witness is not, and they're saying now that what made the Witness will be a big part of next season, which should be interesting--Cole doesn't know who it is, or what it means to him! He wants to get Cassie back, but she is going to be well guarded...at least until the baby is born? What happens to them after? Do they become disposable? Will they want to stay with their child, or will they want to try to alter fate and, like, stop it from ever being born? Could they do that, aborting their child made in love because of how it'll grow up to be a villain? It feels like their only option is to get rid of it, or to get it out of the hands of the Army, and if they go the second route, doesn't that put them in the same situation Mulder and Scully were in? Won't they have to hide him somewhere? And if Cassie and Cole wind up on opposite sides again, I might kick a hole in the wall--this whole season had them at odds; lets let them work through it like adults and learn to communicate and work TOGETHER to fix this problem!
Because I'm still convinced that working together is what will save the world.
But dang, Cassie wasn't kidding when she said a lot of stuff had happened between them when Cole met her in 2017. Even if not all of this season was what she was talking about, even if a lot of the old timeline went differently, just half of it would qualify as a lot has happened between us!
How will everyone get back together? Will Cole be able to save Cassie and when he gets there, will she want to be saved? Did they give her all that programming so that when this happened, she'd be easier to sway into helping them--and if that's what it is, will I be pissed off about them taking away her agency AGAIN? Who's going to save Jennifer and Deacon this time if Cole is off being a hero to Cassie's captured maiden? (and hopefully, Cassie won't actually be a maiden in a tower; that's not in her personality) Will we see Lillian again? What's Olivia up to? Will Ramse ever find his chill and get over himself? Will Whitley get to do stuff next season? Will Adler make up with Jones--and will it be right before her actually-still-married husband shows up in her life again? How do you fight your greatest enemy when he's a baby--and is trying to fight him as a baby what makes him into a terrible adult?
We've got so much to think about in the year or so we have until season three airs! What're your most important lingering questions? What do you hope to see next season? Let's share!
More notes on 12 Monkeys 2.13 "Memory of Tomorrow":
12 Monkeys did air live on Monday nights at 9pm Eastern on Syfy, and will hopefully have periodic re-airs over the next year to remind people it exists while we wait for season three! In the meantime, there's always the tag on twitter, so come talk to us!
You can also watch it on Syfy.com, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, and catch the first season exclusively on Hulu! Our aftershow is here, too! If you're confused, the timeline on Syfy.com should make it all clear now that the season is done!