“Mentally Divergent” does something that I think can be really cool about 12 Monkeys if they keep coming back to it. In the second episode of the series, Cole is supposed to be splintered back to 2015 to try and find Leland Goines’ daughter in a mental asylum, but because of the confusing technology, he’s accidentally transported to North Korea in 2006. While the show draws some unnecessary attention to the slipup – right before, Cole asks, “Are you sure you’ve got it set right this time?” – the idea that mistakes could happen that alter the future irreversibly is an interesting concept for a show about time travel, one that could use these paradoxes to create entire offshoots of subplots for the show.
While 2006 North Korea doesn’t factor in much to “Mentally Divergent”, it at least shows that the writers are thinking of alternate time periods besides 2043 and 2015. It’s refreshing to see that 12 Monkeys won’t always have these two eras to jump from, and even if it has stuck to that model so far, next episode clearly states that Cole is going back to 2014. The show is not just stuck to these two years.
As I said before, “Mentally Divergent” is mostly about Cole splintering back to 2015 so that he can find Jennifer Goines, a woman in a mental hospital who is one of the few people who know about the army of the 12 monkeys. He finds her after punching a cop, and despite her obvious mental hangups, he identifies that she does know what she’s talking about. It has something to do with bad people, and she mentions the “night room,” an area that her father used to study things.
Other than that, not much else is revealed because Cole is too busy dealing with his own institutionalization. But thankfully, his splinter to North Korea in 2006 leaves a clue for Cassandra; her attempts to track down more info about the 12 monkeys, notably from her friend Jeremy, leaves the trail cold after she finds Jeremy dead and sprinkled with lavender and jasmine. It’s all because of the Pallid Man (Tom Noonan, and he sure is pallid), a stone-cold killer who also manages to get Jennifer out of the mental hospital with his goons.
“Mentally Divergent” is somewhat slower paced than its pilot episode, but it keeps adding secrets to the show’s plot that leave me feeling pretty intrigued. It’s not annoying to be kept in the dark, either, because it mimics the show’s characters. Cassandra doesn’t have a clue what’s going on, and Cole is just slightly more knowledgeable. But the Pallid Man is a great introduction to what 12 Monkeys has up its sleeve; it even offers a weird, hard-to-understand paradox that the Pallid Man knows Cole from his past, but it would be Cole’s future.
I hope the show gets into more of these weird ideas, because that’s where the draw really lies. Government conspiracies are cool, but time travel paradoxes are even more fun. The way “Mentally Divergent” interconnects Cassandra’s story with Cole’s is smart even if it is coincidental; more of that will help make 12 Monkeys a show to watch. With that said, two episodes in, 12 Monkeys is a surprisingly clever show about time travel that continues to spit out fun plots.