Previously on 12 Monkeys . . . Dr. Katarina Jones became obsessed with time travel so she could stop the global pandemic that a secret society (the eponymous 12 Monkeys) orchestrated as part of their nefarious plot for world domination. However, Dr. Jones did not become obsessed on stopping the global pandemic for altruistic reasons; she invented time travel as an attempt to save the life of her 10-year-old daughter, Hannah Jones, who died during the pandemic. I began writing this review a week ago after only watching the first half of “Lullaby” (episode 2.08). At that point, I was certain my reaction to was going to be nearly identical to my reactions to episode 2.06 (“Immortal”) and episode 2.07 (“Meltdown”), so I was trying to get a jump on writing my comments because I had fallen behind by one week. However, after nearly finishing my review, I finished watching the episode—mostly to see if there were any interesting visuals in the last half of the show. While I have been complaining a lot lately about how ridiculous the overall plot has been during the current season, I must admit the cinematography has been consistently excellent. Each episode seems to deliver numerous shots that could be displayed in a photography exhibition at an art gallery, and “Lullaby” was not an exception to this rule of amazing cinematography. Of course, I never would submit a review of a television show or movie without watching the work all the way to its conclusion, but I was confident I was not going to need to drastically alter what I had already written about “Lullaby” before I finished watching it. I could not have been more wrong regarding something I was so confident about. Aside from the cinematography, very little has impressed me about 12 Monkeys this season, and the first half of “Lullaby” was not an exception. However, the second half was something that caused my eyes to water a bit. I read a lot of fiction and poetry, and I watch a lot of movies and TV shows, and I would guess the material that bring tears to my eyes is less than five percent of everything I read and watch. However, when a work reaches me on an emotional or sublime level, my eyes get a bit wet in the corners—and that’s what happened to me near the end of “Lullaby.” My emotional reaction was not anywhere as strong as it is when I read James Joyce’s “The Dead” (or watch John Huston’s final film—his faithful screen depiction of Joyce’s story), but I felt a bit of sublime joy during this episode as I watched a 34-year-old woman remove the scarf that mostly covered her face. A sense of the sublime in art is subjective. I know people who look at me with incomprehension as I sob away during Gabriel Conway’s final speech in Joyce’s “The Dead.” They don’t feel what I feel during that scene because they haven’t lived the life I have lived—or if they have lived a life with similar experiences, they don’t reflect on those life experiences in the same way I meditate on mine. The sublime is not in the work; it is in the mind of the person who is engaged in the work. It is in the “rich stock of ideas” the person possesses due to his or her own life experiences —as Immanuel Kant stated in Critique of Judgment (translation by James Creed Meredith): one must have stored one’s mind in advance with a rich stock of ideas if such an intuition is to raise it to the pitch of a feeling which is itself sublime—sublime because the mind has been incited to abandon sensibility and employ itself upon ideas involving higher finality. The episode’s premise has Cassie and Cole experiencing their very own Groundhog Day as they become stuck in a time loop in which they continuously relive the same day numerous times—with them splintering (time travelling) back to the beginning of the day at the end of each day. Each time the day re-sets itself (or Time re-sets itself), Cassie and Cole bleed from their nostrils—which in 12 Monkeys is a sign that the time traveler could die soon unless he or she fixes whatever the problem is that’s causing the temporal strain-induced bloody noses. I’m not exactly sure what causes the bloody noses, but Cole had them in an episode during the first season that he superficially referenced in this episode. Whatever the problem is, a constant bloody nose after splintering is an ominous omen. (Is ominous omen a redundant phrase? Yes, of course it is. “Lullaby is an episode about redundancy—about repeating the same day numerous times until you “get it right.” Thus, I like the phrase ominous omen.) Anyway, the episode began with Katarina reading The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark to Cole as he lay in bed recovering from the gunshot wound to the shoulder he suffered near the end of the previous episode when Ramse shot him as a way of snapping Cassie out of being possessed by the Witness. Initially, I found it curious that Katarina seemed to become stuck on Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy. In particular, she repeated the idea of “The undiscover’d country from whose bourn / No traveler returns” while the time machine (splinter machine) was the only visual on the screen. At first I wondered whether the writers were ignoring the specific meaning of that soliloquy in favor of playing up the idea of time travelers who never return to their own time. However, the focus on the soliloquy became obvious as the plot unfolded. Katarina had sent Cassie back to the day in 2020 when Hannah Jones died at the age of 10. Cassie’s mission was to assassinate Katarina immediately after Hannah dies, and thus end the possibility of time travel being invented. Essentially, Katarina meant to use Cassie as a means of committing suicide—which explains her focus on Hamlet’s suicide meditation soliloquy. However, after Cassie assassinated Katarina, Time was re-set to the moment Cassie arrived in 2020—but with Cole now splintering into the scene, too, as he sent himself back to prevent Cassie from killing Katarina. However, regardless of whether Cassie succeeds in killing Dr. Jones or Cole succeeds in stopping her from killing Dr. Jones, or Cassie saves young Hannah’s life (Cassie discovered that Hannah actually died of a bacterial infection, not from the viral pandemic) Time continues to re-set itself and Cassie and Cole keep re-experiencing the same day with slightly altered details. Eventually, Jennifer Goines, who is aware the same day is constantly repeating, explains that Time (which is sentient and speaks through its Primaries–such as Jennifer) does not want time travel to be destroyed. Time wants Katarina to invent time travel because Time wants people to engage in bi-directional temporal travel at a rate that is faster than one-second-per-second. Thus, Time Itself is re-setting the day to prevent Katarina from being killed, and the only way Cole can end the time loop in which he and Cassie are caught is to “do something by doing nothing.” Fortunately, Cole worked out Jennifer’s riddle; he figured out how to achieve something by doing nothing. Time wants Katarina to invent time travel, but she only invents time travel as a means of trying to prevent her daughter’s death. Thus, Cole worked out that Katarina only needs to believe her daughter died that day in 2020, but Hannah did not actually need to die. Cassie can save Hannah from the bacterial infection, but they must let Katarina believe Hannah died due to the viral pandemic. The sense of the sublime I felt as I watched the 34-year-old woman take off her scarf in 2044 redeemed this episode for me. as is evident if you consider this brief summary of what I originally wrote about this episode: We have been told the dimension of time can be destroyed, which is akin to saying the dimension of height can be destroyed. We have been told the dimension of time can undergo a “meltdown,” and that it emits “temporal radiation” when time melts down (however, it isn’t clear what time melts down to; does it melt down to a pool of liquid hours, minutes, or seconds?) We have now been told Time is sentient, it speaks through Primaries like Jennifer Goines, and it wants people to invent a way of traveling inside itself. All these nonsensical ideas are the writers’ way to advance a ridiculous plot in which the mysterious Witness wants to destroy time so the universe will become a static Utopia in which everyone who has ever lived and ever will live can exist together in an eternal stasis and be eternally happy in the eternal “now.” In contrast to the Witness’s nefarious plot of creating eternal bliss in a “static now,” it’s interesting that this episode is about people living together in an “active now” that is made more poignant because of what was, what is, and what may never be. It was a very sublime episode indeed—at least based on my own “rich stock of ideas” that have caused my mind to be “incited to abandon sensibility and employ itself upon ideas involving higher finality.” In fact, a second moment of sublimity occurred for me when Cole confessed his love to Cassie. Amanda Schull’s subtle-but-powerful performance in creating internal tension in her character filled with conflicting emotions caused me to flashback on similar moments of emotional tension as Cassie rubbed her thumb across the back of Cole’s hand while flashing facial expressions of relief, love, anguish, and sorrow in the span of only a few seconds. Amanda Schull needs to be nominated for an Emmy for her performance as Cassie this season (though Tatiana Maslany needs to win an Emmy for her performance as . . . all of her numerous characters . . . on Orphan Black). I won’t let up in my criticism of 12 Monkeys regarding the nonsensical concepts the writers have thrown at us like monkeys hurling feces at zoo patrons, but I hope the nonsense is at least balanced with more stories of emotional depth and sublimity like the one we were given in “Lullaby.” Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.