It’s easy to forget while watching 12 Monkeys that present day Cole – in 2015 – would still just be a little boy. But the showrunners didn’t forget. That’s often the case with this show, a series that never fails to impress with its grasp of continuity despite multiple time jumps and events changing throughout eras. In “Paradox,” Cassie and a young Dr. Jones attempt to find a young Cole in 2015 because the older 2043-Cole is dying from splintering too much (and also being stabbed by Ramse) – and the resulting paradox is both scientifically perplexing and frighteningly fun.
Cole in 2015 is still living with his father Matthew, a mechanic taking care of his son because his wife Marion is a little on the crazy side after worrying about the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Interestingly enough, 12 Monkeys is able to disclose a lot of information about Cole’s past without resorting to a flashback sequence, because everything about the show is a flashback sequence. In this case, Cassie manhandles the young Dr. Katarina Jones post-time machine so that they can potentially restore Cole to his healthy self.
“Paradox” recognizes that what it’s doing is sort of ridiculous; there’s no telling if injecting blood from young Cole into old Cole will work at all, and 12 Monkeys doesn’t pretend to understand the science of its physics. Instead, it rolls with it, opting to dive into the backstory behind Cole and Matthew instead. Their relationship is strong, and when old Cole and Matthew come face to face, it presents a compelling idea about parenthood: you know it’s your kid whether they look the same or not.
Cassie goes to crazy lengths to help Cole, ostracizing Aaron in the process. It is ultimately Aaron who makes the call to the 12 Monkeys to try to capture Cassie; in his mind, he’s actually helping her so that she doesn’t get killed in the future, but it’s a hindrance all the same. 12 Monkeys has been exploring the paradox territory very well in these late episodes, and here again we see the future writing itself because of Cole’s interference. Cassie is nearly killed anyway, and young Cole is still orphaned because he loses his dad in a gunfight with the 12 Monkeys. He’ll still meet Ramse, just like he always did all those years ago, because that’s what was fated to happen.
“Paradox” handles this well, not harping on the moment by returning to what Ramse said last episode about killing him when they first met years ago. The episode lets this moment play out, Cole simply remarking that he’ll find a friend. This is skillful writing that doesn’t rely on exposition or narration to get the point across, and that scene alone is the kind of impressive stuff that keeps viewers coming back to this underdog show.
At the same time, there’s Jennifer Goines, who goes nearly insane taking over the Markridge company from the dirtbag who took her father’s spot at the top. It’s an awesome moment to see Jennifer actually get some power instead of being forced into various asylums because of her lunacy; here, she commands the office, effectively taking her place as leader and setting up a new subplot the show can cover.
“Paradox” also overcomes its splintering problem. Since Cole has now melded with his past self, he can no longer time-travel, getting rid of that problem altogether. Now he’s stuck in 2015, and in 2043, Dr. Jones remarks that she knows he’s not coming back. It’s craziness, but it’s not hard to follow – everything is going as it should be, and the future continues to remain the same even with Cole’s work.
The tide is changing now that Cole’s stuck in 2015, and that means 12 Monkeys is also going to have to switch up the way it uses its time jumps. Now Cole can’t go to 2043, so whatever happens there is the future that he can’t know about. The end of the episode shows another rival faction of people (ash-faced guys with hoods) preparing to attack the compound, and while that seems like a bad thing for Dr. Jones, it’s unclear what it means for Cole in 2015. Whatever the case, 12 Monkeys is never hesitant to throw in a game-changing twist, and “Paradox” does so in a number of ways. I can’t wait to see how the season finale handles all of this.