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With 12 Monkeys set to return next month for a third season, quasi-binge-watchable over three nights, I thought it might be good to cast a little refracted light on the end of the last season of that SyFy series, based on one of the best time-travel movies ever made.
The last episode of Season 2 aired in the hot summer of July 2016, when the man on center stage at the GOP National Convention in Cleveland was a little reminiscent of The Witness in 12 Monkeys, or at least the Pallid Man.
That episode had everything, including psychedelic time travel via red forest leaf tea (I'm a devoted leaf-tea drinker myself), time travel of the whole city of Titan or whatever exactly that is, Cole and Cassie living a few months of happily ever after (gratifying to see, though we knew it couldn't last), and even a cameo by Madeline Stowe, who played the original Dr. Railly in the 1995 movie, except her first name then was Kathryn not Cassandra.
The Stowe character in Monday's season finale is a Jennifer-like character, who may be a little more clear, if still speaking in riddles, than the Jennifer we've come to know and love. I hope we see more of Stowe on the new season in May.
We're also treated to a transformation of another Doctor on the show, Dr. Jones, who in the new reality that Cole's psychedelic time traveling creates becomes a kick-ass woman, handy with a gun. It was fun to see her actually go on the expedition to save Ramse and company from their previously deadly fate at Titan.
The ending was predicted by lots of people on the Web, but was still satisfying: the Witness is the child of Cole and Cassie, the one who presumably wasn't born, because Cole's changing of time in 1957 erased the time he had with Cassie in the house of their dreams in 1959. At least, that's what Stowe's character said would happen -- that the time in the home-sweet-home would be gone -- and she certainly seemed pretty knowledgeable. On the other hand, she did also say that love survives all changes in time, so ...
Here, I should mention that writers of time travel stories are often confronted with this problem of how can the time traveler know about events in history which the time traveler erased? There are lots of ways of dealing with this, but the easiest is just to stipulate that the time-traveler, because she or he is doing the traveling, and therefore is what I call "meta-temporal" or not connected to any one time, retains memories of all time lines. (I take that approach in my Loose Ends saga, and in most of my stories.)
In 12 Monkeys, this issue also emerges when we consider how Cassie remembered that she and Cole had been in that cottage, since that time presumably never happened. Cole is surprised, and we never get an answer to this. Is it also an example of love conquers all and the power of butterflies? (Apropos The Butterfly Effect, another fine time travel movie, butterflies are a blend of icon and mascot in 12 Monkeys.) Likely the details will also explain how Cassie became pregnant -- though I suppose Cole and Cassie could have made love at some other instant in this new reality, or maybe Cole isn't the father.
No, that last possibility wouldn't be as interesting as Cole being the father, and we'll just have to wait until next month to see how that plays out, and what's up in the 22nd century, as 2017 in our own time-line gets crazier by the day. Hey, I'm all about butterflies.