TV REVIEW: 12 Monkeys “Divine Move” Tests Character Limits
“Somebody, someday will judge us for what we’ve done.”
Marcus Whitely delivers this gut wrenching line that stitches together the various table-turning events of 12 Monkeys “Divine Move.” While stirring, it’s what Whitley doesn’t say — the sentiment lingering right underneath — that’s perhaps most effectual.
This week was largely a consideration of the choices we make, but more specifically the reasons that we make them. Our actions have consequence, but can they be justified by the context and motivation for which we’ve carried them out? In a series that has been driven by the idea that making things right means (and only means) stopping a viral apocalypse, this week flipped the switch and began to answer the question for each of the series’ characters.
“Divine Move” sees Cole return to the past for another go at stopping the virus. When he shows up, however, his two person welcome party is less than enthused. It’s clear now that the mission isn’t just physically wearing on Cole’s body, but on the spirits of those who have been tasked with helping him.
Following Cole’s brief return to the past, Cassie and Aaron put their growing romance on hold to figure out how the virus survived after the only known sample was destroyed in Chechnya. Piecing the details together they are able to locate the CIA team member tasked with creating the virus. The duo’s search first leads them to their target’s husband, who they find dead and swathed in flowers — a mark of the Pallid Man.
As they continue digging, they land in a freight yard where Cassie uncovers the virologist and Aaron comes into his new calling. For Cassie, the scientist has finished the virus and it has fallen into The Army’s hands. Aaron, however, encounters a mysterious woman who claims her goals align with his deepest desire. It is here that he commits to the idea that saving Cassie is what he most cares about.
Back in the future and propelled by his desire to save his family, Ramse steals the time traveling serum, destroys the scientists’ work and returns to the camp. Cole, meanwhile, returns from the past to discover this and an angry Jones. While she doesn’t much care whether Ramse lives, Cole does and so she agrees to not have him killed. But not before making clear to Whitley that her priority is ensuring the continuation of the jumps.
Speaking of, its appears as if Cole has maybe one or two of those left. In a last ditch effort to elongate whatever time his body will give him, Jones puts him in a rehabilitation chamber so he can recover. Meanwhile, Marcus pays a visit to Ramse’s family and in an altercation gone wrong one of his men shoots Ramse’s wife. In an unexpected turn, Whitley puts a bullet in his own soldier. An eye for an eye, they say, but doesn’t that make the whole world go blind?
While Whitley and Jones have a heart to heart about the lengths they’ve gone, Ramse has recognized the monkey emblem on a carriage belonging to a group of traveling female nomads. Leaving the camp before Whitley’s arrival, he comes face to face with an aging Goines whose position on the virus has seemingly evolved.
Though presumably not having time traveled herself, the 12 Monkeys’ leader is quite familiar with Jones and Cole’s work. She also seems to want to put a stop to the virus, explaining that, “Not everything is pre-ordained despite how it may seem. Death can be both cause and effect. That’s how it works. No straight lines.” The dialogue partially alludes to the chicken or the egg question raised in last week’s review. It also spurs Ramse into shocking action after learning about the death of his wife.
After breaching the scientists’ compound, he proceeds to carry out a wild character spiral that concludes in him time hopping to 1980s Toyko. By the end of the whole ordeal Cole announces he is now willing to kill his friend as he begins his own jump to a place we’ve heard about — but never seen — him going.
12 Monkeys is beginning to visually and developmentally resemble a game that was name dropped back in episode four. If the movie was chess, the television series is definitely Go. Over the course of the last ten episodes, next step moves and potential outcomes have exponentially increased as more characters have become aware of the virus, its effects and perhaps most importantly, the reality that with time there are “no straight lines.”
What started out as such a clear and simple(r) mission has turned into a muddied mess with some nasty foreboding. Aaron and Cassie — though both exhausted by the weight of the mission — are on opposite side’s of the fence when it comes to world saving priorities. It’s a dangerous place for them to be right now with how much knowledge they both have and their closeness to Cole’s mission. People will do anything to protect their own goals and that makes them loose canons.
That’s something Ramse has become all too familiar with. The man who wouldn’t lift a hand to the West Seven and demanded moral conscience from Cole has now shot three of Whitley’s soldiers, killed Max and jumped back in time. Ramse’s transformation has been one of this narrative’s best efforts and with how easy it is to empathize with his feelings (though not necessarily his actions), Ramse is one of the most human — and dangerous — characters on the show.
As for Cole and Goines, nothing and everything has changed. At their cores they exhibit the same characterization as earlier in the season, but while Goines’ heart seems less in it, Cole’s is even more so. Not to mention their allegiances and relationships have all been a little bent. Their problem is that as the series’ two biggest and most powerful players, they are the most easily manipulated. There may or may not be a divine plan considering all that’s happened, but in the universe of the 12 Monkeys these two characters are most poised to play the role of God. So when (or should) we see them acting like it?
What became most clear about the 12 Monkeys story this week is how good the writers are at moving parts. Not only have they nailed down how to cohesively and clearly navigate multiple (and parallel) timelines, but expertly execute implicit and explicit development for its characters. As a result, the show has become a strong example of how a story can be equally plot and character driven.
Time, which was initially the series’ driving narrative device, isn’t just an abstraction that is happening to Cole, Ramse, Cassie or Aaron anymore. It’s a tangible thing they can handle and alter in order to get what they most want — and ultimately what they believe is most right. This is in essence how the show splinters from the film and can continue on in a way that story could not.
The level of awareness that each of these characters now has has amplified their characterization and allowed them to develop not re-actively, but pro-actively, bringing the story to new levels of unpredictability and engrossment.