Do the characters of 12 Monkeys have control of their fate? Or are they all just bound to the will of Mother Nature, playing out a path that’s been predetermined as Cole jumps in and out of time to try and actually alter history?
For some, that question has an obvious some. Jones is willing to break the space-time continuum to alter history, and as Cassie proves in this episode, she’s not resigned to let Nature have her way without a say in the matter. But for someone like Cole, at the time “Paradox” takes place, all of his efforts seem futile. Fate will play out as it’s meant to, and there’s not really much he or anyone else can do about it.
To outright answer to that central question would be an audacious one on 12 Monkeys’ part, but whether it intends to, “Paradox” is not the episode for it.
“Paradox,” instead, as the name implies, evokes one of the pilot’s climactic moments, where the same watch, from two different time periods, comes into contact with itself and causes an explosive time-space disruption. The episode’s title doesn’t lie, and another paradox results in a burst of light at the end of the season’s penultimate episode. Only this time it isn’t a watch—it’s Cole.
Let’s rewind a bit before addressing that moment. At the end of “Shonin,” Jones sent Cole to 2015 to save his life, but he’s now delirious and on the brink of death at Cassie’s place. So Cassie seeks out the one person who could help him: Katerina Jones.
12 Monkeys has consistently hinted at Jones’ past, but in “Paradox” the vague teases turn into concrete details. Jones is pregnant, but considering an abortion at the episode’s start—by the end she decides to keep her baby. She’s having dinner with her father (Mark Margolis in a much less sinister role) discussing her husband, who left her. And, while her future becomes all about Cole’s mission, it seems this earlier stage in her life was just as involved.
Cassie appears at her door brandishing a gun and demanding her help. She shows the younger doctor that her research, just hypothetical now, will become very real in the decades to come. Hesitantly, she goes to visit the adult, sickly Cole and take some blood samples. But her gears really start turning when he describes the watch paradox to her. She suspects that if Cole’s blood were to come into contact with young Cole’s blood, it could negate the deteriorating effects of time travel on his body. Luckily for them, Cole was born in 2009.
So Jones and Cassie go on a roadtrip to find the Cole of 2015. They come across an auto body shop belonging to his father, who at first remains cagey but eventually reveals he is James’ father. Why so secretive? Because Cole’s mother, who abandoned the father and son, told Daddy Cole to protect him from the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Cassie mentioning them shifts him into overprotective parenting mode, threatening to shoot these two random women after Cassie lays everything out for him about time travel, Cole, and the plague. (This is understandable, of course since NONE of those things would make sense to a normal human being.)
He decides to go with them, Cassie promising that he’ll be convinced that his son has traveled through time once he sees him. Otherwise he’s free to go. So he goes along with these two back to Cassie’s and finds Cole laid up in bed. And it’s actually a touching moment as Daddy Cole looks at his son, recognizes him, and can see the man who his son will one day become. Immediately, he’s willing to go along with this crazy scheme.
Jones takes some blood from young Cole while his father takes the time to know his son as an adult.It’s a touching and relatively quiet moment for a series that moves along at a breakneck pace. I love the twists and turns 12 Monkeys takes, but my favorite moments, much like those between Cole and his father, are the quieter moments, the ones that pass between characters in only a few seconds. It would be great to see season two tackle a bit more of this to balance the character and plot developments.
Unfortunately, Cole and Cole Sr.’s relationship is not one that is long for the world, let alone long enough to last until season 2. The Pallid Man and Olivia have found Cassie and Cole’s hideout thanks to Aaron, who believes he’s protecting Cassie and himself from the plague. Instead, he’s doomed others to death, and finally, a tease from throughout the entire season comes to fruition in “Paradox.”
NEXT: Cole saves the day, but it comes at a price.[pagebreak]
All along, Cole’s time travel-related headaches have brought the vision of a glass shattering and other brief images devoid of context or meaning. I had long assumed they came from Cole’s childhood, and I wasn’t wrong—I just didn’t expect adult Cole to be present for them as well.
As Pallid, Olivia, and their henchmen invade the shop, Cole tells Cassie, Jones, and little James Cole to run while he fends them off. He’s resigned to his death, so he might as well go out doing something good. Papa Cole goes along with the others to protect them, but is gunned down.
Once inside, Pallid confronts Cole, but the time traveler one trick left up his sleeve. It’s paradox time, as Cole injects himself with blood from his younger self. The meeting of young and old causes Cole to glow with a bright white light. it seeps through his body, first from the injection spot and then in pockets around his body until he’s enveloped in a light that explodes outward. An explosion ruptures through the window, blasting windows out, sending furniture and papers flying, and knocking out Pallid and his men.
Cole survives, albeit naked (presumably in a Terminator nod), and is pulled away from the blast zone as cops head toward the scene. The straggling survivors bring little Cole to child protective services, where Cole promises he’ll be all right—he lived through it, after all—and little James even meets his best friend, Jose Ramse.
Jones makes two important decisions after they bring Cole to a safe place. She will keep her baby after they save the young Cole, but she doesn’t want to hear anything about what’s to come from the old Cole. While he thinks that may help her with a head start, she’s afraid it would alter the timeline too drastically.
And so 2043 Jones continues to work away with Dr. Adler, as the two investigate the red-colored plants growing on the time machine. It comes from a time with far more greenhouse gases, Adler argues, but before they can dissect it further, Whitley arrives at the base’s door with a dead body. “They’re coming,” he promises.
Who’s “they”? Why, a strange group of extremely pale people in black robes watching the facility. And they’ve got Deacon with them to help infiltrate the base.
Whatever is in store for 2043 or 2015, the season finale is set up to be quite the game changer. But really, it wouldn’t be an episode of 12 Monkeys if that weren’t the case.
- “Your always and my always are not the same,” Jones says to Cole when he realizes Jones in 2043 must have known they met all along.
- Seriously, how did no one stop James as a kid from watching his father die out the back of their car? It seems like such an easy thing to shield a child’s eyes so he doesn’t have to watch the murder of his own parent.
- Speaking of Cole’s lineage, this does leave the door open for Cole’s mother to play a role in season 2, especially if she’s aware of the 12 Monkeys.
- She wasn’t in the episode much, but Jennifer Goines’ takeover of Markridge was absolutely delightful. From her The Who-inspired speech to the blackmail she employs on the current CEO, Emily Hampshire never fails to make me excited for more Jennifer in season 2.
- Jones says that the paradox destroyed his ability to go back to his time, so the action will certainly not be confined to 2043 next week.
- Fear not, Cassie and Cole shippers, the two hold hands at the end of the episode, and with Aaron’s betrayal, it doesn’t look like there’s much stopping them from being together. Except for the end of the world, of course.