12 MONKEYS (2015) – S01E04: ‘Atari’ Review
So four episodes into the new SyFy series ’12 Monkeys’, and I’m ready to declare it my dark horse hit of the season. Coming with no fanfare and not a lot of buzz, the show is surprisingly good! Episode 4, entitled ‘Atari’ does something that I said during my last review, that I hope they don’t do, simply because of the complexity of a storyline like that. However, the writers very successfully give us an episode that is a self contained time paradox and show us exactly how tricky time travel can be, before they go any deeper into the plot of the series.
This is the first episode where the story stays within the desolate future of Cole. The marauding group known as West 7, introduced last episode, is front and center here as they attempt to overrun the compound in which the time machine is kept where Jones & Cole operate from. Most of the series of ’12 Monkeys’ has featured a back and forth format going from past to future. However, this episode, flashbacks are introduced. It’s not too jarring given there is very little time jumping this time around, but if flashbacks become a regular thing, things may get way too complicated to follow.
In the beginning we are shown how Ramse & Cole came to be linked up with this ruthless group through the flashbacks, mostly out of desperation. Given Cole’s actions from last episode, we’re shown more how the leader Deacon potential in Cole to be a ruthless killer. However, it’s Ramse whose morality keeps Cole from going over the edge. After being tasked with killing Ramse due to his butting heads with Deacon, Cole considers it only for a moment before leaving the group with Ramse. It’s more insight into Cole who is… pretty fucked up. For a main lead, Cole seems to have very little scruples or ethics and always needs someone to keep them in check; Ramse in the future and Cassandra in the past. This is a little scary because it makes me wonder what he’s done in his life to want to be erased so badly, and also how his lack of self control and murderous attitude will factor into things going forward in the show.
The episode starts off with Deacon overrunning the compound by knowing about access points he shouldn’t have. During a last ditch effort to send Cole back to Cassandra’s past, Deacon fires at the machine causing it to malfunction and send Cole back only a few days before the attack on their compound. This allowed Cole to catch up to the time he came from, being present during it with knowledge of the future, in order to prevent the compound from falling into Deacon’s hands with the help of Max, who is revealed to be his former potential lover, not to mention saving Ramse’s life as well.
‘Atari’ is an amazing episode as it shows just how time travel works. Cole doesn’t go into the past to change what happens in the episode as most shows have showed when they do episodes like this. Rather, there were always two Coles present during the attack, one who gets sent back in time, and the other who was already there from the past to save everyone. It’s confusing but definitely unique for fans of the time travel concept. This episode also fully showcases the unchanging quality about the past, which puts into doubt the premise of the show, something even discussed by Cole & Ramse in the end.
’12 Monkeys’ is officially a great show in my opinion and is definitely worth a watch for sci-fans as it creates story lines and plots using the plot device of time travel while making it somewhat accessible for a new audience and not being intentionally confusing or complex.