The Night Room has been the main topic of conversation in 12 Monkeys so far, so when Cassie revealed that she knew the location in the last episode, it came as a surprise. Could the fifth episode of the series really hold all of the answers? “The Night Room” comes back with a heavy backhand – of course this isn’t the end, but just the beginning. The Night Room itself might have been the goal, but it’s certainly not the answer, and 12 Monkeys plays it off as another red herring in a series of them.
It’s not a total bust, though. 12 Monkeys knows how to write thrilling episodes, and “The Night Room” trades off characterization – something the show has been attempting to do more of lately – for heavy exposition. As Cassie and Cole close in on the Night Room, they realize that the Pallid Man is doing the exact same thing, with the help of Jennifer Goines. She’s led him right to the Night Room’s vault, a place that houses the deadly virus that Goines’ father had been working on, but she’s also got some tricks up her sleeve. The vault is sealed by a code, and it’s also got a failsafe around it that burns anyone who tries to enter and calls Markridge security simultaneously.
Cole and Cassie are quickly taken hostage, and the Pallid Man sets to work attempting to break into the vault. It gives Jennifer – or rather the actor who plays her, Emily Hampshire – a chance to have some fun with the craziness of the character; her obsession with Cole the otter-eyed boy, and her willingness to do nearly anything if given the right nudge, makes her a malleable person easily swayed to either side, and liable to explode at any given moment. Likewise, Tom Noonan acts like he’s having a blast within the confines of the Pallid Man’s insanity, murdering a man in cold blood even after he asks to see his wife one last time.
“The Night Room” doesn’t pull any punches, though, and it’s a return to the frenetic pacing of 12 Monkeys’ premiere. It offers up a lot of character-driven problems, chief among them Cassie’s realization that it was Cole who killed Henri back in Haiti. That predicament doesn’t get the time that it needs – it’s broken up by the Pallid Man finally breaking into the vault, only to reveal a grotesque skeletal figure housed in a glass tank – but it surely won’t be the last time we hear Cassie denounce Cole’s “all-or-nothing” attitude towards stopping the apocalypse.
The virus doesn’t get a chance to be unleashed, however, thanks to a Chekhovian couple of failsafe button presses hinted at in the beginning. An 1800 degree fire engulfs the skeleton and its viral contaminant, but Cole is unable to stop the Pallid Man from kidnapping Cassie. However much she wants to get out of this kill-or-be-killed situation, she’s literally unable to.
“The Night Room” also heads forward in time to follow Ramse as he investigates Dr. Jones. Max says that the West 7 have a story about a German doctor that turns people inside out, and Ramse, already lacking basic trust in Jones, follows up on that lead by searching her room. He finds a nice neat folder of all of Jones’ failed experiments – people she sent back in time before Cole, all of them disfigured or killed for whatever reason. Jones explains it was all for the common goal of stopping the apocalypse, and her reasoning explains why Cole and Jones get along so well. At the same time, her explanation that it was for advancement of the system doesn’t make much sense – how does she know? Nothing’s changed, Ramse points out, and even after Cole manages to stop the outbreak of the virus, the world he returns to in 2043 is still the same.
It appears that 12 Monkeys is working to show that much of what happens in the future is a futile waste of time, but on that same token, it means that watching from week to week might not yield many rewards either. Still, “The Night Room” is an entertaining episode all the same; at some point, though, something Cole does in the present will need to change the future or else it won’t make sense to keep trying. If it’s all to fix the future, then Jones will need to recognize that what she’s doing isn’t working. Until then, Cole’s continual splintering to 2015 is more for Cassie than anything else, and that’s another thing that keeps me watching.