More and more, 12 Monkeys is incorporating its secondary characters into the main plot. It doesn’t need to rely on Cole’s time-jumps anymore, because the team helping him go back and forth in time is just as important to the cause as Cole is – he’s just risking his life to do it. In “Yesterday,” the show picks up where it left off after the Predator missile bombed the outpost Cole was stuck in. He survives, miraculously, but he’s stuck under a bunch of rubble, and the virus is slowly escaping around him. With Cole out of commission, the episode has to centralize on something else, and it happens to be Katrina and Ramse.
Ramse is a fan-favorite anyway thanks to Kirk Acevedo, but 12 Monkeys has significantly improved on his character development, so much so that “Yesterday” is able to take a look at his past before his alliance with Katrina the time-traveling madwoman. Likewise, Katrina meets with a person from her past as well when they set out to find a new Core to bring Cole back from 2015.
It’s easy to assume that in 2043, everything has been wiped out or reduced to burning rubble; that’s what 12 Monkeys has so far shown us anyway. But “Yesterday” introduces a new facility, populated by guards and scientists living in as luxurious a place as possible after the collapse of civilization. It’s run by Foster (Xander Berkeley), a man Katrina used to know before they split into opposing factions. Foster wants to find a cure for the virus; Katrina realizes there is no cure, only time-travel to stop it before it happens.
“Yesterday” puts these two at odds. Katrina has to ask Foster for his Core since hers is destroyed, but she also can’t bite her tongue about her beliefs. Foster and Katrina face off against each other, a basic dispute between two opposing forces nearly like a political panel, both of them having strong foundations to back up their views. Foster thinks he’s close to a cure, but Katrina has already had success splintering into the past, and she’s even brought a picture as proof.
But it doesn’t sway Foster – he’s unwilling to accept that time travel, even successful time travel, could help stop the virus. He’s got a point, one that Katrina has overlooked despite profound evidence: her efforts so far, across multiple test subjects, have not been able to change the direction of time’s arrow. Katrina is deluded by her small successes, and “Yesterday” brings up an interesting point about placing trust in her; she’s too focused on the endgame to understand that she might be doing more harm than good.
Ramse gets to meet with his old girlfriend, taking up residence at Foster’s place as a tech researching the virus. Elena (Amy Sloan) also has a child, the byproduct of Ramse and Elena’s relationship a while ago; it’s a significantly life-changing revelation for him, and he’s eager to amend whatever problems caused them to split before. Giving Ramse a past before Cole is important, because now he doesn’t just feel like a person there to give definition to Cole when he’s not time-jumping. Here, he’s the subject of “Yesterday” just as much as Cole is, and it’s a step in the right direction for his character.
In 2015, Cassandra sets out to find Cole at the site of the Predator missile strike, taking all of the precautions necessary to ensure the virus doesn’t get out. She brings protective masks, but it’s all for nothing – Cole’s not there, nor is the virus. It seems, to her, like he’s been able to stop the epidemic. Yet we know it’s not true, because “Yesterday” switches back and forth between Cassie’s search and Cole’s attempts to excavate himself. In a surprise twist at the end of the episode (and I’ll admit, I was surprised), “Yesterday” reveals that Cole was actually transported in time to 2017 attempting to bring him back to 2043, so the virus still spreads, just at a different time.
These developments continue to solidify just how good 12 Monkeys is – it’s a complex show, and it’s handling the time travel aspects very well. That the virus keeps spreading seems to indicate there will never be a way to fully eradicate it, but as long as the show can keep coming up with inventive ways for its continuance, I’ll keep watching!