While 12 Monkeys spends each week answering some questions only to ask just as many new ones, “The Keys” instead focuses on the characters at the heart of all this time-traveling insanity.
Cassie and Cole’s relationship has been paramount to the series, but the show only recently began to dive into their connection. And “The Keys” pushes them to the extreme, as the two are faced with Cole’s impending death and the possibility that the world will (FINALLY) be saved.
It all starts with the title, which is not a mythical laboratory or a hallucinogen-induced vision but the Florida Keys. Before explaining their importance, it’s best to start at the beginning, where the trail of news on Operation Troy has dried up for the moment.
Thankfully, Cole and Cassie find a lead in the picture Cole swiped from the greenhouse in “The Red Forest,” which connects them to an archaeologist who is conveniently giving a speech at a nearby art exhibition not long after their discovery. The two infiltrate the event—Cassie fits in with natural ease, while Cole looks so uncomfortable his suit appears to be holding him hostage. The two take a good cop/bad cop approach to interrogating the archaeologist.
Cassie approaches him first, not outright flirting but buttering him up with questions about his work (he mentions a fanatical religion in Chechnya), but when she brings up the 12 Monkeys, he shuts down and runs away. Cole goes for a different tack, cornering the archaeologist in a back hallway, pinning him to a wall, and forcing him to talk. At least he gets results, but unfortunately the guy knows about as much as they do.
More importantly, the writers use the gala as a smart opportunity to pepper in Cole’s deteriorating health and his fears about the mission. Cole grabs every skewer off a food tray, wants to pause and observe the artwork, and even dance with Cassie for a few minutes. She’s incredulous, thinking this behavior can’t be coming from the Cole she’s worked alongside all this time, but she doesn’t know about his talk with Jones last week or the ever-dwindling number of time jumps he has left. Cole wants to enjoy his life, because if the mission doesn’t succeed, it’ll kill him, and there’s few people he wants to enjoy life with more than with Cassie.
Aaron is still in the picture, however, and he and Cassie seem, at the moment, to be on again in their relationship. He appears back at Cassie’s hideout to comfort her, and the three commiserate on the lack of information until Cole is pulled back into 2043. The team appears to have hit a dead end… until Cassie receives a call the next day from Cole. He’s in Chechnya, and Operation Troy has already happened. More than that, he has the virus in hand, but is under fire by an unseen gunman.
Cole reveals on the phone that he comes to Cassie a week from that point, only to find Operation Troy has already happened, jumpstarting the apocalyptic virus. So Cole splintered back to 2043, and then back to a week earlier to stop the operation before it happens. Unfortunately, Wexler, the Edward Snowden-approximate who has been leaking government secrets, has a hired group of Russian mercenaries kidnap Cole shortly after he evades the gunman.
Things aren’t going much better for Cassie or Aaron, the latter of whom has been snooping around his boss’ office for intel on Troy. He finds enough information to report to the CIA about the viral outbreak, which lands him and Cassie in a room full of government officials who are behind the virus and its planned use—to kill Wexler. The CIA officials on hand attempt to bully Cassie and Aaron into helping without much hope for their future, but Aaron copied enough documents while searching through his superior’s files to blackmail everyone involved. He secures them their lives, but Aaron and Cassie still have to help stop the virus from being released.
Next: A tearful farewell, but is it for good?