Last year I completely enjoyed the first season of 12 Monkeys, but I saw the potential problems of trying to stretch out the plot of the 1995 film Twelve Monkeys into an open-ended, ongoing television series. I thought a possible approach would be to constantly have James Cole “save the world” from one apocalyptic future only to find that a new apocalyptic future had taken its place. He stops the global pandemic, but then he suddenly shows up again in 2015 (or now 2016) to stop a nuclear holocaust . . . or global warming . . . or . . . whatever. Cole would have no memory of the previous apocalyptic futures he prevented from occurring, but Dr. Cassandra Railly would remember Cole with each new crisis. Of course, finding a reason to fit Cassie into the plot would be difficult since she is a virologist, and there isn’t any reason to seek out a virologist if you are trying to stop terrorists from detonating a neutron bomb in downtown Manhattan. In any event, that isn’t the direction the series has gone to try to avoid the stagnant plot of forever attempting to prevent a global pandemic. Instead, we have gone from the villains wanting to destroy 90% of the world’s population to them wanting to destroy Time (as in the fourth dimension). That’s quite a leap in villainous intent, and it might have shown up in the eighth (or thirteenth) season of my idea of various apocalyptic scenarios. The series has gone in a direction that has continued to pile nonsense on top of previous nonsense in an effort to create dramatic tension that is too farfetched for me to sit back and enjoy. Other TV series have scenarios that are equally as farfetched at times (such as Doctor Who), but there is a sense of whimsy in those shows that allow the viewers to more easily accept ridiculous concepts when they come up—but 12 Monkeys is presented as an earnest and serious melodrama, which is why its flaws become so unacceptable. Still, for all the problems I have had with this current season of the series, there are individual episodes that are actually quite good if taken on their own—separate from the nonsense of the overarching plot of the season—and “Fatherland” (2.10) is one of those “quite good” episodes. It’s just too bad that the set up that gets into “Fatherland” involves so much nonsense. So, yes, I’m giving a positive review of this episode . . . eventually . . . but let’s dispense with the layer upon layer of nonsense before we get to the good stuff. Previously on 12 Monkeys . . . James Cole traveled back to 2016 (from 2044) to find the Pallid Man so he could ask him a question. The Pallid Man is the Second-in-Command of the nefarious secret society known as the 12 Monkeys who initially sought to wipe out most of the population of the planet in a global pandemic but who now want to destroy the temporal dimension so everyone can “live” in stasis within a static universe. To bring about the destruction of Time, the 12 Monkeys send their Messengers to various time periods to ritualistically kill Temporal Primaries by . . . (are you ready for this?) . . . paradoxing them to death. “Death by Paradox” is when a person is murdered with a piece of his or her future corpse—such as using the skull from my future corpse 40 years from now to bash in my skull right now while I type this sentence. I’m still here. I know there are people who wouldn’t mind bashing in my skull, but I guess they are having trouble locating the skull of my future corpse. Anyway, this type of contact between identical body parts from different time periods creates what the writers of 12 Monkeys call “a paradox” (it’s not actually a paradox, but we’ll play along and pretend they are using the word paradox correctly). These ritualistic murders of Temporal Primaries due to “Death by Paradox” cause “temporal explosions” that seem like regular explosions in the area immediately surrounding the place where the Primary was killed (an explosion more powerful than that of an M-80 but less powerful than that of a stick of dynamite). However, these temporal explosions send shockwaves through the fourth dimension that then manifest in the year 2044 as red thunderstorms. Why do they show up in 2044? Because that’s when the time machine is located, of course! These red thunderstorms then cause all flora to turn red while simultaneously causing all fauna to rapidly increase and/or decrease in age. Thus, a 30-year-old man might be instantly transformed into either a 150-year-old skeleton or a newborn infant lying in the dirt and attempting to nurse on an amanita muscaria cap. (The cool part, though, is that if you steep any of the red leaves that are left in the wake of the red thunderstorms and then drink your red temporal brew, you will have wild hallucinations about an abandoned and decrepit house that talks to its visitors by writing graffiti on its own walls!) Anyway, Cole traveled back to 2016 to ask the Pallid Man about the Paradoxical Death of a Primary that caused (or will cause) the largest temporal detonation of all . . . Time(?) that is currently destroying, or will currently destroy, or had currently destroyed the fourth dimension (albeit, just in the year 2044 CE because . . . that’s when the time machine is located, of course). Once Cole knows which Primary’s death is/was the one that will destroy / has destroyed Time 28 years from “now” (2016), Cole will seek to prevent that Primary from being “Paradoxed” so that Time can have more time added to the borrowed time Time is currently living on. Of course, since the Pallid Man wants that particular Primary to be Paradoxed, he did not want to answer Cole’s questions about the Who and the When of the Primary whose death destroyed/will destroy/ is destroying Time. Fortunately, after Cole delivers a few solid punches to his face, the Pallid Man starts talking—telling Cole all about the Who and the When of it because . . . well, you know . . . that’s how interrogation-by-torture almost always works in Hollywood movies and TV shows. (HBO’s Game of Thrones being one of the rare exceptions of a movie or TV program that shows viewers the reality of how torture actually works as a means of psychological manipulation; think about Theon Greyjoy and his gradual transformation into Reek). Anyway, with his face all bloodied and bruised, the Pallid Man gave Cole the information he needed in order to stop the diabolical plot and save the fourth dimension! Which brings us up to “Fatherland.” At the beginning of this episode, Cole informs Dr. Katarina Jones that they can stop the destruction of Time by traveling to 1957 to prevent the Paradoxing of the Primary. However, Dr. Cassandra Railly and José Ramse are just returning from their sojourn to the post-apocalyptic library where they found a redacted FBI document from 1961 that refers to a former Nazi geneticist who is somehow associated with “Titan” (the place The Witness has been using as a hideout in 2044). What to do? Should we go to 1957 to prevent the Primary from being Paradoxed? Should we go to 1961 to see if the former Nazi geneticist knows the location of Titan? Cole and Jones opt for the 1957 mission to New York City (all the Primaries seem to live in New York City regardless of the era). However, Cassie and Ramse insist on going to East Berlin in 1961 because finding a former Nazi scientist behind the Berlin Wall in the Communist-controlled city will be more of an adventure then yet another trip to New York to deal with a schizophrenic nutcase (all Primaries are schizophrenic nutcases). No, opting for a change-of-pace adventure is not really why Cassie and Ramse want to go Nazi hunting. They want to learn the location of Titan so they can then find The Witness in 2044 and insert a bullet in his brain. However, tracking a former Nazi in Communist East Berlin in 1961 during the construction of the Berlin Wall is good television! Unfortunately, it’s Katarina’s time machine and she makes the rules! She insists the team go to New York in 1957—which Cassie and Ramse grudgingly (and somewhat surprisingly) accept. After our three time-tripping friends splinter back to their temporal destination, they stop at the bar at the Emerson Hotel and have a few drinks—and it soon becomes obvious that Cassie and Ramse are trying to get Cole drunk. Oh, wait! They’re not trying to get him drunk! They just slipped him a Mickey Finn! He’s down and out for the count! The now drugged and unconscious Cole is put to bed and then Cassie and Ramse make their way to East Berlin because they were sent to 1961 rather than 1957. Even though Dr. Jones gave the order to send the trio to 1957, it’s Dr. Adler who plots the temporal coordinates into the time machine—and Cassie and Ramse convinced him that a mission to 1961 will bring an end to The Witness and his nefarious plan to create a static universe in which everyone who ever lived and ever shall live will live together in eternal stasis. Dr. Adler agreed to help Cassie and Ramse because Dr. Jones and her time-travelling missions have not brought about the end of the global pandemic that killed his son—which is why he began working on Project Splinter. He’s upset because time hasn’t been altered in a way that would reunite him with his son, but I believe he knows that The Witness wants to destroy Time so everyone can be reunited with their loved one (albeit it in stasis). The motif of so many characters in the story being motivated to take action because of their children is becoming tiresome. Originally (as in last season), it was the contrasting schemes of Leland Goines working with the 12 Monkeys to save his daughter, Jennifer (though that aspect got lost after a while) and Katarina Jones working on Project Splinter (the time machine) to end the global pandemic and prevent the death of her daughter, Hannah, in 2020. Then Ramse discovered the son he didn’t know he had, which led him to becoming The Traveller—a temporary cohort of the 12 Monkeys—who was trying to make sure the global pandemic would occur so that his son would be born. Now we have yet another “do it for the offspring” motivation. Oh, and lest I forget, Cole’s father, Matthew, died by sacrificing himself by taking a bullet that was meant for his young son after the Pallid Man tried to kill Cole when he was a boy. On the one hand, I am glad the creators of the series are aware of including motifs in their overall story, as it gives 12 Monkeys a literary element that is missing from most contemporary television series. However, there is a point where the use of a motif becomes a shtick rather an element of serious artistic intent—and “shtick” is where the writers and producers have now taken this motif. (particularly if we add the variation of it with Cole only trying to prevent the apocalypse so he can be with the woman he loves: Cassie). Okay, so that’s all the nonsense—and there is a lot of it—but overall this was a good episode, as it brought to mind such 1960s Cold War spy films as The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin. We learn the origin of Olivia (aka, “The Striking Woman” and the sister, or perhaps half-sister, of the Pallid Man), and it is an interesting origin story for the character—though, if I understood it correctly, her origin story seems to be an actual paradox. Olivia was genetically engineered in the 1950s and is a little girl living in an observation booth in the laboratory of Dr. Albert Kirschner—the former Nazi geneticist whom Cassie and Ramse are hunting in 1961. Olivia seems to have been engineered from genetic material taken from Vivian Rutledge, the Pallid Man’s mother, but Vivian was engineered in the future based on Dr. Kirschner’s breakthrough work in genetically engineering Olivia, who was a success only because he had Vivian’s DNA to work with. Now that is an actual paradox, but it doesn’t seem to have caused a temporal explosion that sends red lightning storms into the year 2044. “Fatherland” was a suspenseful espionage episode set at the height of the Cold War era as the Berlin Wall is being built, and it is one of my favorite episodes of the series. It’s just too bad its story is constructed on so much nonsense. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.