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12 Monkeys was back last night for its 4th and concluding season on the SyFy Channel with three episodes (there will be three more Friday evenings of episodes). If these first three are any indication, we're in a for real treat in the weeks ahead. These three were not only intellectually daunting, like everything in the previous seasons, but about as tight and logically explicable as any I've seen in a series which delights in and seriously pokes every paradox it can, rather than shies away from or paper's over them. Since paradox is the ever-present, silent middle name of time travel, probing them, in a way that makes sense, is the best you can do in a story like this. And since time travel is my favorite genre, this means that what 12 Monkeys did last night is top-notch television of any kind.
Among my favorite developments tonight -
- 12 Monkeys dropped its logical but overplayed insistence that the time-travelers have to avoid bumping into themselves in their travels. They have more important things to worry about—the end of time and the end of existence—so, hey, what's there to risk by running into yourself, more than a little sanity? Jones' interaction with herself was probably the best, and indeed her part in the first two episodes was outstanding.
- A lot of heroes died early on last night. But by making the spatial splintering an unplanned temporal splinting —i.e., time travel—the episodes afforded these characters a chance to live on in their pasts, with present-future Cole, Cassie, and Jones interacting with them. And, best of all, Cole gets to spend some quality time with Ramse, and expiate at least a little of his guilt. (Also, in terms of re-seeing the past, there were a lot of satisfying call backs to past episodes of the television series, and even a few to the plague-obsessed brilliant 1995 movie.)
- Jennifer cures herself—i.e., her errant "id" gets hit by a psychic bullet when real shots are being fired at her, and this allows Jennifer to put her second voice to rest. Good—this will make for an even more interesting character.
- There's an excellent twist, which I didn't see until a few minutes before it was revealed (meaning, it was excellent indeed): Olivia, whom Cassie is trying to kill (in revenge for Olivia's killing Athan) turns out to be Cassie's mother! (At least, I think so—you can never be 100% sure in these things). So, to be clear, Cassie can still kill the older Olivia, but not the younger Olivia, who was pregnant (with Cassie) when Cassie was stalking her. Nice time-travel footwork.
- I'm always a sucker for a good song in a time-travel story. There was a little of "Happy Together" by the Turtles in the first episode last night, but the real gem was the Poppy Family's "Which Way You Goin' Billy?" which was huge hit in the U. S. in 1970 (it was released in late 1969 in Canada). Great song, haven't heard it in years, and it worked perfectly in 12 Monkeys.
The third episode concludes with Cole and Cassie realizing they're stuck in some pretty intractable loops, but vowing to break them. This means some good storytelling in the weeks ahead, and I'll be here with reviews. (Now I'm off to YouTube to hear this.)