12 MONKEYS (2015) – S01E07: ‘The Keys’ Review
’12 Monkeys’ continues to prove itself as one of the best new shows on TV this season by not becoming content with its own weekly formula. Episode 7 of the series entitled ‘The Keys’, is set all in the past in 2015, no scenes whatsoever in the future. It’s another self-fulfilling time travel plot point, which is again done very simply by the writing team. This episode also ends with anti-cliffhanger. I’ll explain.
Continuing the progress made last episode, Noah Bean’s Aaron is now a willing accomplice to Cole and Cassandra investigations into the plague that destroys humanity in the future. With his help, they discover the virus and its intended purpose in the past. Apparently, in a mad dash to save their own asses and murder a former CIA whistleblower hiding out in Chechnya, the CIA decides to use a deadly plague engineered in The Night Room, the same one the Pallid Man was looking for, on one of their own. Using Intel he gained from Aaron, Cole is able to go back into the past and intercept the virus, but circumstances get him captured by the CIA whistleblower, who unknowingly releases the virus.
While Aaron and Cassandra go to the CIA to reveal everything, the people in Chechnya start dying, but not before they call for outside help. Exposure means the plague from Cole’s future takes its course. In a last ditch effort, the entire place is blown to bits, with Cole still inside, but not before he leaves some specific instructions for Cassandra. But the story doesn’t end there, which is unbelievable and another credit to the writing team of ’12 Monkeys’. To drag on an episode that could’ve easily ended on a cliffhanger, would have been the most natural reaction of most shows and writers, whereas the real ending that they actually go with, is almost like a counter cliffhanger, as we can all surmise how things will go from here, but it still effective.
The story still plays out even after Cole’s apparent death, as a Cole from the past still has to come back after all this happened, to get the information Aaron to be sent back to Chechnya in the first place. So basically Cassandra knows that Cole will die, but still helps him get to that point in Cole’s future because that will destroy the virus and change the past. So big picture stuff. Conceivably, this is the end of the premise of this show. Virus destroyed, Cole’s future is erased. Done. But not.
While waiting to be blown up in Chechnya, Cole speaks to the Former CIA who has knowledge of the Army Of The 12 Monkeys and refers to a man in 1987 that he met. This reminds Cole that Leland Goines in the pilot episode mentions seeing Cole in 1987. Not only that, but from the last alternate reality episode, we know that the virus being in Chechnya was one possible outcome that occurred when Cassandra was killed. However, since that timeline has now changed, Chechnya and Operation Troy would no longer be relevant. The easy answer obviously is that Cole splintered back to the future at the last minute before the explosion, and our story continues. But there are some other confusing bits of this episode as well.
In the beginning of the episode, we see a Cole at a museum party who seemed to be, relaxed and very aloof. He was in no rush to carry on with the plan but rather wanted to enjoy the scenery, wanted to dance and just, ‘be’. Something that Cassandra tells him at the end of the episode, to the Cole who will eventually be killed in Chechnya. What’s weird is there is no explanation for Cole behaving so casually in the beginning, almost echoing the sentiments of Cassandra’s in the end, unless he knew he was going to die. So I’m sure there is more of a twist to how Cole survived the explosion than I can figure out. This show ability to change narrative format, storytelling style and continuous twists and turns without shying away form the full use of the time travel premise continues to impress and awe me.