Cole’s in a bad place, metaphorically and literally, on 12 Monkeys. After finding the Night Room but failing to stop the viral outbreak, Cole was thrown back into 2043 at the end of the last episode, only to find that the future had in fact changed—but not for the better.
Instead, he returns to a 2043 in “The Red Forest” where the West 7 rules the time travel facility, Jones is a lowly repairwoman, and a Nick Fury-looking Ramse, complete with eyepatch and badass coat, now runs the West 7.
It all makes for an exciting launching point, with Cole finally feeling the effects of splintering through time and space. And though “Forest” serve more as setup for the rest of the season now that the Night Room is merely an exposed red herring, it is also a strong hour for the show that may, surprisingly, also be its funniest yet without undermining the gravity of the situation.
“Forest’s” divergent timeline allows the show to have fun with the established norms utilized since the pilot. In this new timeline, the plague started in a different year in Chechnya, and something called Operation Troy is paramount to understanding why. There’s no CDC, no Leland Goies, and no Cassie—and that’s because she died in this timeline. After the 12 Monkeys kidnapped her at the Night Room, she was eventually murdered and unable to play her integral role in both the viral outbreak and the attempts to stop it.
Cole needs to go back in time to save Cassie and hopefully set the universe back on the right path to humanity’s extinction, instead of this new one, where information is even more scarce. Whitley is still around as a guard, though he was much more of a Deacon fan than of Ramse. Using the time machine in this new reality may drain their base of all its power. Whitley refuses to take that risk, so he unloads a spray of bullets on Jones as she prepares the machine. One-eyed Ramse swiftly snaps Whitley’s neck, preventing anymore senseless violence (with violence, no less), and Jones, with her last dying breaths, powers up the machine for Cole.
Cole successfully winds up in 2015, shortly before Cassie and the other version of him infiltrate the Night Room.
But Cole can’t approach Cassie, so he turns to the next best thing—her jilted lover, Aaron, who, conveniently, works for a senator involved in something called Operation Troy. Now where have we heard that before?
Cole approaches Aaron outside of work… well, he doesn’t so much “approach” as he holds a knife to Aaron’s throat, but the result is still the same. Cole warns Aaron of Cassie’s impending doom, and that Cole needs his help because he can’t risk being too close to himself and causing a paradox. As much as Aaron doesn’t trust Cole, he doesn’t want to risk Cassie’s safety, and that Cole can name drop something as secret as Troy convinces him to go along with the plan.
Of course, Cole doesn’t really have a plan, his thought process about the whole assault boiling down to a simple few steps. Aaron should shoot the Pallid Man, then “haul ass and try not to get shot.”
Aaron is not much of a marksman, unfortunately, and instead of hitting the Pallid Man, clips other-Cole in the shoulder—which leads to a nice scene of the actual Cole immediately feeling the pain and receiving new memories of Jones stitching up his wound. The show would do well to play with time travel in these small-scale but intriguing ways in the future.
With this snafu, the 12 Monkeys still make off with Cassie, but Cole’s quick memory (which is surprising given how much head trauma he’s displayed so far in the episode) allows them to trace the van Cassie was thrown in by its license plate. They’re led to a greenhouse, where they ambush two thugs-for-hire. Improvising a good-cop-crazy-psycho-from-the-future-cop routine, the two find out where Cassie is being kept, and thankfully she’s still alive.
But they may want to hurry, as it sounds like the Pallid Man and his boss, the Witness, have no intention of letting her go.
Next: Visions of the future?