“Arms of Mine,” the season finale of 12 Monkeys, opens with the same narration from Cole that the series premiere had; in it, he questions what the audience would do given the option to go back and change things, potentially for the better. It’s a loaded question, especially the way Cole asks it, and at the beginning of the series, there was nothing for the viewer to work off of. Nothing had happened yet, so it was virtually a blank slate. Now that we’ve seen an entire season of time-jumping that has done little more than make things more convoluted while progressing the virus’ outbreak, the question becomes more of a rhetorical statement. Does Cole continue to splinter, or does he give it up like Ramse urges, allowing nature to have its course?
Since he’s already come this far, there’s no sense in stopping right now. Cassie and Cole, betrayed by Aaron, are forced to continue their search for Ramse and the virus, because most of it has already been set in motion. Cole can’t jump back to 2043 because of the injection of past Cole’s cells, but they can stop Ramse from altering the future by destroying the time machine in 2015. If you’re confused, don’t worry – it all comes together in the end, “Arms of Mine” taking a bit of time during a stand-off between Ramse and Cole to decipher exactly what’s going on.
There’s a time machine in 2015 that Dr. Jones (husband of Katarina) has just completed, but that machine can only send things to the future. It’s Ramse’s path back to his son, and despite all of the work he’s done with the Army of the 12 Monkeys, his sole motivation is simply to get back to the status quo. At the same time, Cole and Cassie work to stop him from doing that, or at least attempt to bring him back to the right side. Throughout “Arms of Mine,” the episode switches back and forth between Cassie and Cole in 2015 attempting to stop Ramse from hijacking the time machine, and Katarina in the past attempting to stop Deacon and the group of ash-faced, hooded figures from hijacking the time machine.
It leads to a number of great scenes that highlight the similarities between past and present, and the importance and possible problem with the time machine’s creation. Everything is linked, from 2015 on through 2043, and 12 Monkeys has crafted an amazingly connected storyline throughout the season. The Army of the 12 Monkeys, casting their net in 2043, have managed to move all of the chess pieces (or Go pieces, if we’re sticking with the show’s metaphor) into place. “Arms of Mine” reveals that the Striking Woman’s manipulation of Ramse has been planned all along, as well as her talks with Jennifer Goines. Jennifer has done a complete reversal, working for the 12 Monkeys as a major player in developing the virus at Markridge, and she’s also the reason Cole and Cassie are led to their fated paths in the violent conclusion.
Frankly, it’s impressive that 12 Monkeys‘ freshman season has had such scope, especially working with time paradoxes, and “Arms of Mine” comes together quite well. The standoff between Cole and Ramse at the end of the episode puts things into perspective: Ramse isn’t evil, and he hasn’t been changed as much as the show first made him out to be, but he’s just interested in getting back to his kid. They have a difference of opinion, but they’re still friends at heart. On the other hand, Cassie has changed considerably from where 12 Monkeys began, shown by “Arms of Mine” as she shoots Ramse. She quotes Cole when he left Aaron to die: “He made his choice.”
That’s where her and Cole differ, and it’s fitting that Cassie is now forced to splinter through time to 2043 so Katarina can treat her gunshot wound. Cole is no longer the same as when he first began his mission, less faithful in time travel as a way to cure the virus. As is Katarina, or so she says to Deacon and the intruders in 2043. Cassie is the one, now, who has been pulled into the mission, and she is now the one to potentially continue the splintering.
There’s a lot left hanging in “Arms of Mine,” but it’s all satisfying. For a while, I was left wondering where 12 Monkeys could expand in later seasons, but at least season 2 feels like it has a great setup for another arc of content. The Army of the 12 Monkeys seems to have been revealed, or at least, a new faction of them: the babies in 2015 grow up to be the hooded figures overtaking Katarina’s compound in 2043, and there’s all of that to deal with next season. And Cassie, now able to splinter in the time machine, has her own problems to contend with if she’s stuck in the future. Cole’s and Ramse’s fates are now intertwined, and Jennifer Goines’ new evil persona finds her getting ready to spread the virus throughout the world on a plane.
This is all revealed in the final minutes of the episode, and it’s something that has me itching for the next season already. Surprisingly, 12 Monkeys has become a show that not only works because of its interior logic of time travel but also because its characters have become intricate in their alliances. “Arms of Mine,” as a season finale, is about the best one could ask for: full of tension, coming full circle to the beginning of this season, and also setting in motion a future arc. For a show about time travel, it’s certainly working in past, present, and future.
We’ll be back in 2016 with more coverage.