12 Monkeys concluded this week with episodes ten and eleven. Eleven seems like an odd number of episodes for a season but these last two are really one long TV movie. I have to admit that I liked the finale more after thinking about it than I did while watching it.
The one thing I want and expect from the finale of a serialized show like 12 Monkeys is that it is indeed an ending where the major plot threads are tied up. That’s why I’m okay with the finales of shows like Lost and Battlestar Galactica because they were endings even if they weren’t the endings I wanted. I never doubted that 12 Monkeys would nail that part and tie everything up while throwing in a surprise or two.
The fight to stop Olivia hits the expected beats of a last-ditch assault on Titan. It was nice to see Ramse again and we get a payoff for Jennifer getting Deacon’s knife last week (though I didn’t remember at first who Max was). After Cassie battles Olivia she has the Last Temptation of Cassandra as the timer to the end of everything counts down. Put a pin in that moment because I’m going to discuss that more in a bit.
With Olivia dealt with (she becomes the corpse in the Night Room), the last part of the finale deals with restoring the timeline. Ramse goes back to face his death. Cassie and Jennifer go back to the 2010s to play their parts. Cole has a final moment with Jones before erasing himself from the timeline.
I was fine with the happy endings for the various characters until we get to Cole returning. I get that they set it up so it wasn’t coming completely out of left field but it still didn’t sit right with me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of the show. It was able to tell a complicated and compelling story on a Syfy budget and I’m glad I stuck with the show. And as I wrote above, it was an ending so I could live with it.
But let’s rewind things back to the Last Temptation of Cassandra.
I didn’t connect the little things right away but looking back there’s room for interpretation. Did Cassie actually stop the countdown? We don’t actually see her do it. The final shot of the show prominently features a red leaf. What if everything after the Last Temptation of Cassandra is actually in the Red Forest? Jennifer’s talk with Cole on the beach about endings has added significance if you consider that possibility.
The showrunner Terry Matalas says “You could ask the question: Did Cassie really shut down Titan? The right ending is the one you choose. I have mine.”
That ambiguity makes the ending work much better for me.
All images via screencap or the Syfy site.