“Divine Move” perfectly presents what frustrates me most about 12 Monkeys as an expanded story and universe thus far: the presentation of compelling elements and their deliberate refusal to follow through on any of them.
As Cole’s condition worsens, and his molecules shake his body out of proper composition, he returns to Railly, ruining a romantic reunion with Aaron in 2015, kicking the hunt for the Army of the 12 Monkeys back into motion. Though Railly’s ability to care about the end of the world and her own death is dwindling, signs of the Witness having survived evident with flowers on the body of a dead doctor, and Cole’s obvious complicated health, she turns to booze to cope with the coldness of reality and continues to track down leads to the virus and and its creators outside of Goines’ immediate circle of influence.
In 2043, Ramse, in an effort to keep his newfound family together, burns all of Jones’ information on the virus’ spread, takes the mutagenic concoction Cole’s been administered in order to travel through time, and flees to a compound of survivors not far from the facility. When Cole comes back with news of Leland Goines’ movements in Japan in the ’80’s, signaling the start of the virus’ development, he can barely move due to the damage done to his body and is put on bed rest as the doctors work to fix him without his injections.
Meanwhile, Ramse has taken a protective role in his new community, despite having just arrived, and learns of a band of female survivors who travel the world, The Daughters, and notices the instantly-recognizable graffiti tag of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Perhaps pulled by curiosity, or guilt over what he’d just done, he goes to meet with them and finds an ancient Jennifer Goines in a Chinese conical hat, and she imparts upon him the wisdom we’ve heard many times before in similar settings, that death is inevitable and cannot be curtailed. In his absence, the military goes to this survivor outpost intent on finding Ramse and the injections he took in order to send Cole back to the past. A scuffle ensues which results in Elena’s death, forcing Ramse back into the compound to fight for revenge, which ultimately boils down to firefight with Max. Don’t remember her? Don’t feel bad; no one did. And eventually, in a rash decision, Ramse injects himself and climbs into the chair, forcing one of the technicians to pull him back into the past to fix what he had done.
In 2015, Railly finds a lead to the primary strain of the virus and the doctor developing it, and manages to draw Aaron’s attention in the process, leading him to follow her there to protect her only to be cornered by the Witness’ female accomplice who offers him the chance to save Railly’s life in an ambiguous Faustian bargain.
Let’s be honest for a moment, 12 Monkeys is no theatrical character study. It’s a plot-driven thriller with ambitions leaning towards the dark. Why is it, since this is so obviously the case for the story’s infrastructure, are important elements not given the urgency they demand? Discovering Leland Goines’ whereabouts are linked to the virus in the same year he claimed he originally met Cole should’ve been enough to force Jones to fling him back into the past regardless of the circumstance. Cole had always been willing to die for the opportunity to change the past, even after learning of the body horror that could befall him, he was willing to follow through, yet the writers took a detour. Two reasons come to mind: introducing unnecessary conflict to heighten levels of drama, or lengthening the show’s run. Either way, it was counterproductive to the plot’s organization and against Ramse’s character. So far, Ramse has been seen as the peacemaker and displayed elements of avoidance when it came to unnecessary conflict. So why would he, if Elena and his son were already free, jeopardize it by returning to the compound? At this point everyone but Cole and Jones seem convinced traveling to the past is having no real effect, so can the writers or the viewers really claim that Ramse feared their relationship disappearing? I think not.
Another failing in this episode comes from Jennifer. She continues to be the most interesting person on screen whenever she’s there, and seeing her in the future as an insane mother to these shotgun-toting brides of the apocalypse gave me something to look forward to, even if her makeup made her look like a virus-withered mummy despite the fact that she’d be in her late fifties at most since her introduction and 2043 are separated by only twenty-eight years. But rather than her do something important or impart some actual wisdom to Ramse that will demystify the plot some, explore characters she clearly has some insight to, all we got was affirmation–for about the hundredth time–that the Witness knows more than all, and hands Ramse a trinket with no explanation as to its use. Where is it now? Did Ramse take it with him to the past? He sure as hell didn’t pass off any of the information she’d given to Jones or Cole, and he didn’t seem intent on acting upon it, so what was the point of mentioning it at all? It’s another plot element that goes nowhere.
And remeber that alternate timeline, the one where Cole and Ramse discover Jones and the compound all over again? Nothing. Again, 12 Monkeys introduced an avenue of exploration then snatched it away like buffet tongs by a fat man, never to be seen again. Yet, despite all these flaws, imagine my surprise when it was made known that SyFy has greenlit a second season of this show. How? Why? They barely have enough ground to keep from drowning under the wave of inconsistincies crashing against them in the first season. I don’t know if SyFy can even commit to this production given the low numbers they’ve been getting so far, but, if only for car-crash stares of amusement at destruction, I’ll have to see where it goes.