12 Monkeys recap: 'Mentally Divergent'
Note: If you still need to catch up, you can watch the full 12 Monkeys pilot on EW.com.
12 Monkeys imbued its first episode with a few key elements to let viewers know this would be a different animal than the film on which it’s based. The tone has shifted, Cole has a different relationship with those in the past (our present) and the present (our future), and time isn’t just something that can be altered—that’s the whole objective of Cole’s mission.
While “Mentally Divergent” still doesn’t necessarily suggest the show has as much of an interest in the emotional notions of the film just yet, the second episode further cemented the show’s mission statement as a fun time-travel saga. There are also a few suggestions that there’s more to some of the characters central to that story, though 12 Monkeys still seems hesitant to plunge fully into its characters as the show establishes the ups and downs of time travel.
From the start, “Divergent” takes a smart step into fleshing out its world by focusing on Cole’s present in 2043. His friend Ramse (Kirk Acevedo, no stranger to sci-fi after his stint on Fringe) is willing to help Cole on his search for answers after killing Leland Goines in the premiere failed to reset the timeline.
The two do battle with a few scavengers in the abandoned hospital glimpsed at the end of the pilot—a sequence that uses some nice action timing to land a comedic beat—as the show sets up their relationship. Ramse appears again only briefly, but his interplay with Cole both in the hospital and when they return to the time-travel home base creates a believable brotherly dynamic. Ramse and Cole tease each other about girls, time travel, and their shooting prowess, but it all feels natural.
Unfortunately, the two are split up as Cole is shot back to 2015… or at least, he’s supposed to be, but the show reminds us yet again that time travel is not all that precise. Cole ends up somewhere in 2006 in North Korea of all places (presumably the episode filmed before any obvious The Interview jokes could be made). The scientists in 2043 scramble to slingshot Cole to the proper time period, and successfully throw him into 2015 moments before a North Korean officer can employ some advanced interrogation techniques on the confused American.
This time jump lands Cole in 2015 and secures him a spot in the very hospital at which Jennifer Goines is a patient when policeman take him in for his wild and erratic behavior.
Cole eventually finds Jennifer, who quickly takes a liking to him and even begins flirting with him. Well, flirting in a psychotic and incoherent sort of way. She also happens to mention how much she loves numbers (how convenient!), but only primary numbers, of which 12 is not (how inconvenient!). But Cole name checks the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and Jennifer clams up, explaining that the doctors ordered her to keep quiet about them.
She calls the guards on Cole before he can learn much, but after he is hauled off, she mentions the night room, which seems to be of interest to her doctor. He makes a phone call shortly after to an unknown third party to provide an update on Jennifer.
While Cole contends with his enforced hospitalization, Cassie (I went with Cass last week, but the show’s erratic naming system has landed on Cassie) has continued to research Goines. She’s hiding out in an abandoned bookstore previously run by her grandparents. There, she works to convince her former boyfriend Aaron that she’s not crazy while hoping to stop that pesky imminent apocalypse.
Jones, the scientist who enlisted Cole’s help in 2043, is adamantly against Cassie’s involvement, but since the 2015 doctor has no idea, she continues the hunt for information. She enlists the help of her family friend Jeremy, but when she goes to meet him at his home, she finds only his dead body. Whoever killed him covered his body in jasmine and lavender flower petals, and the
likely obvious culprit appears to still be in the house. A well-dressed man (Tom Noonan) appears and explains to Cassie that he had to kill Jeremy because of all the questions he was asking.
His death is a message, the man says in a surprisingly calm tone, despite having just murdered someone, but Cassie—and everyone she loves—will be next if she doesn’t stop. He also wants to know where Cole is. At this point, she doesn’t have a clue where, or when, he is.
NEXT: Jennifer’s past may save the future.
But Cole’s whereabouts don’t remain a mystery for long, as Aaron later brings Cassie a picture. It seems Cole’s run-in with the North Koreans didn’t go unnoticed by the American government, and they have a file on him that leads her to his current hospitalized residence.
Before she can arrive to save him, Cole and Jennifer have one more exposition-heavy encounter. With Cole strapped down to a bed, Jennifer hops on top of him, a scalpel in hand, and divulges some details about her past. Flashbacks show off her time as an employee in her father’s labs—it was an easy gig to land, knowing the boss like she did.
She explains that the voices in her head began when she was 13, but that her father needed her for work. Of her career, she most vividly remembers a day when Noonan’s flower-loving gentleman (who’s a weird speech pattern away from being an Observer from Fringe) and his lackeys appeared at her lab.
Mr. Flowers—he hasn’t yet been given a name—explains that he is part of the Army of the 12 Monkeys and that he needs to know where the night room is, presumably where the world-ending virus resides. Jennifer is the only one with that knowledge, other than another lab tech who disappeared when Mr. Flowers stormed the scene and killed her coworkers.
Her information dump is cut short when the doctors come in to move Cole, but thankfully they don’t get far before Cassie appears with faked authorization to take him into her custody.
The two bicker about working together, Cole trying to comply with Jones’ demands to leave Cassie out of the picture. But they’re forced to team up when Flowers conveniently appears on the scene to kidnap Jennifer. Cole follows them into a back stairwell at the hospital where he’s met by a few of Flowers’ ski-mask wearing brutes. And while Cole proved he could hold his own in 2043, he’s lost a step in 2015, as his opponent tosses the time traveler around like a rag doll.
Flowers speaks briefly with Cole, implying that the two have met, though Cole has no memory of him. Left to lick his wounds, Cole commiserates with Cassie about wanting to work together and search for the missing scientist before he’s whisked back to 2043. There, he debriefs with the panel that has sent him on this journey, but he’s really there to settle his frustration with Jones.
She fears Cole is endangering the world because she can remember a time before the virus whereas he can’t. Jones implores him that they need to trust each other, and Cole barks back that she needs to trust him and let him work with Cassie. She acquiesces, and it’s a good thing, because it looks like Cole will need her help. The show flips back to 2015 to show what’s become of Jennifer.
She’s still under Flowers’ watch, and after she drinks some concoction, she begins to see a man with a mask walking toward her, as the sound of a monkey screaming sounds in the background. Whatever Flowers intends to do with her, Cole might want to look into that the next time he’s in 2015.
– The show is slowly establishing its time-travel rules, though whether they’re just plot contrivances or have some narrative importance outside of convenience remains to be seen. It comes into play this week when the scientists reveal they don’t yet have enough power to send Cole back to 1987, when Leland Goines said he first met Cole. Though, how exactly do you power a time machine, anyway?
– While 12 Monkeys’ tone has been relatively straight-laced, it feels like the show’s writers and editors are imbuing it with an undercurrent of comedy. The opening fight scene ends on a comedic note, while the timing of the “North Korea, 2006” title card is completely played for laughs. A few other moments throughout the episode suggest that just because the characters have to take the end of the world seriously, the show can still have some fun with it.
– Emily Hampshire plays Jennifer with the right mix of scenery chewing and promiscuous insanity (she appears quite pleased when Cole forces her against the wall with his hand gripping her throat). But the show seems to suggest there’s more to her than just a ball of unpredictable, chaotic energy. Hints of her sanity seep through—she mentions that she’s apologizing to ghosts for more than 700 days for the murders Flowers committed. But for now, Jennifer is, if not complex, at the very least fun to watch.
– One instance of the characters actually providing the comedy eventually arrives late in the episode, when Cassie reunites with Cole. “How did you find me,” he asks her, to which she simply deadpans “The North Koreans called.”