TV REVIEW: 12 Monkeys “Cassandra Complex” Is A Change of Pace

In the latest episode of 12 Monkeys, titled “Cassandra Complex,” Cole goes back to 2014 in an attempt to find someone who can help uncover the whereabouts of the “night room.”

We are also introduced to a smidgen of Cole’s past with a group known as “The West 7.”

The episode begins as Cole acquaints Railly with guns, a skill she may very well need going forward. We next see her called in for questioning regarding the Goins’ incident at the psych ward. It is there that she (and Cole) get a lucky break. Upon seeing photos of those Jennifer allegedly killed at her father’s lab, Railly identifies “the one that got away” as Henri Toussant, a man she worked with on a Haiti disease outbreak back in 2014.

Cole makes the decision to go back to the future with his new clue and from there jump to Haiti. Before we get to his mission, however, we spend some time with Cassandra. Unlike the previous two weeks, the majority of the episode follows Railly’s story, offering viewers a glimpse of the woman outside of Cole’s chaotic splinters. Her personal philosophies, loyalty and dedication prove to make her the ultimate partner for him.

Her biggest weakness, however, remains out of her control and so she is once again cut off at the knees. We see this in her frustration as she flees the make-shift hospital set up by her CDC friends in Haiti. She believes that what they are fighting is the earth-altering pandemic Cole has told her about. There’s nothing she can do to stop it though because no one but her knows the future.

We later learn that the outbreak isn’t the 12 Monkeys pandemic, but rather a strain of River Fever the CDC was unfamiliar with. This revelation simply furthers the illusion that Cassie is crazy, not just to everyone else, but also herself. It was great watching Schull work her character in a timeline uninterrupted and without Cole, in addition to seeing her portrayal of Cassie dealing with the mind-warping knowledge Cole gave her. There were quite a few shocking, frustrating and humanizing moments for the character – all of which helped make her development arc clearer.

Cole, meanwhile, catches up to 2014 Haiti and successfully corners “the one that got away.” There Toussant spills that no one actually knows the location of the night room as it is constantly changing. However, if you can locate where the specialized equipment that holds the virus has been moved to, you’ll find the virus.

Cole manages to nab all this info and make it back to the scientists, but not before sees headpieces of the infamous 12 Monkeys army emblem and meets the tall, pallid man that came after Cassie last week. In a small fight, Cole manages to give the guy his distinguishing scar. After the man flees. It is in this alleyway encounter, much later in the episode, that find out what actually happened to Henrie. In the series best and most surprising twist so far, we uncover that no gang killed Henrie. What happened to Toussant was a result of the universe’s weird time loop as we watch Cole shoot the doctor.

Pictured: Aaron Stanford as James Cole -- Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy
Pictured: Aaron Stanford as James Cole — Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy

In the episode’s final moments, we see Cole’s past with a mysterious group known as “The West 7” has come back and could potentially threaten his life and the scientists’ work. The group looks dangerous, but their role in Cole’s story is still yet to be seen.

Toussant was the most interesting sub-plot the series has offered so far, providing insight into the Goins’ lab work, the changing location of the night room and the show’s sometimes exciting, but always baffling fate loop. He also offered viewers the episode’s best continuation of this fate loop theme. In a scene between him and Railly, Toussant talks about why he became a doctor and how his choice led to an understanding that nature cannot be changed, only bent – shaped.

The moment watched like a not so subtle nod to the future that awaits both Cole and Railly. Will their journeys be many roads that lead to the same place, or can they actually cut the thread of fate and stop the end of humanity? This is honestly one of the best and most infuriating parts of this series. Everything the scientists want from Cole is acknowledged, by the narrative, as having set into motion the future we know to be true. If this is the case, when are those guys going to notice this? Jones swears up and down that nothing can be drastically altered, but if nothing is drastically altered, how does anything change?

And if you notice that things aren’t changing, but happening “exactly as they did before,” what are you working towards? Better yet, as the Army of the 12 Monkeys has appeared to know this at various points in the last three episodes, do the scientists as well?

It’s truly fun watching all the groundwork the series sets up in each episode come to fruition. It is also exciting playing with the questions that groundwork raises. Viewers are given small payoffs as they watch, and the story is allowed to spend proper time not just on the main save the world plot, but on character and universe building as well. It also leads to viewers being actually surprised, and there’s no better way to deliver on that then when you’ve made viewers believe they’ve got it all figured out.

On top of playing with the bigger concepts of episodes past, “Cassandra Complex” illustrated well the series lighter sense of humor, slipping in a few jokes here or there during much appreciated downtime scenes. This is another added bonus of our two leads now being more familiar with one another. The initially awkward getting to know you phase between them has passed, so we can actually bear witness to them making generational jokes and harmlessly poking fun at one another. In no time viewers will be getting stomach butterflies as Cole and Railly start finishing each other’s sentences.

In the end, “Cassandra Complex” provided a welcomed change in tone from the last two weeks. While there’s nothing wrong with the episode arc patterns of the first episodes, a little pace alteration never hurt anyone. In fact, it only seemed to make 12 Monkeys stronger.