Time travel as a story telling device allows us to engage in a myriad of logical thought experiments. The beauty is that the improbable is not logically impossible for a smart science fiction, where cause and effect don’t have to occur in a linear fashion.
However, there comes a time when some theories are so far out, they become ridiculous and inelegant, especially if you have to make them fit around new information gained in Season 2.
I knew I wanted to review all the theories that felt convincing to me before, to see which ones need to be culled. As 2016 draws to a close, I have finally found the time to do it.
Cole the Witness
We now know that Cole is NOT the Witness. Yes, some people still insist that it’s possible that Cole is his own son, born in Titan and shot back in time to Matthew Cole. But to make Cole a literal ‘mother***ker’ and Cassie an ‘incestor’ may be a bit gauche. Plus, isn’t it enough that Olivia and Mantis are each other’s mothers? To over-populate the 12 Monkeys universe with too many loopy family trees might be overkill. So I’m going to say case closed. The answer is no.
Good Guy or Bad Guy?
The question still stands – is Cole enabler or saviour? At this point in the story, Cole is a proto-destroyer, by fathering the Witness. We’ve also seen how the Witness cannot be ‘unmade’, because stopping the 1957 paradox didn’t undo the effects of Cassie’s immersion on her unborn child.
However, Cole is only a proto-destroyer if the Witness is bad for the future. The Witness could turn out to be a ‘good guy’. The whole ‘Rebirth’ section of the word of the Witness is yet to come to pass. Maybe everything we have seen so far is just a cosmic omelette in the making. We’ve had a few chicken and egg references now, and in a show chock full of Easter eggs, why not play with the idea that you can’t make an omelette without cracking some eggs?
Top reason why the Witness shouldn’t be a good guy: It would involve vindicating the whole Nazi experiments subplot. Not saying the writers can’t do it, but would they really want to? I’m still out of ideas as to why the glowing red podium at Titan is surrounded by letters in the Hebrew alphabet. What is the Army of the 12 Monkeys’ relationship with Jewish culture? If they revere Jewish culture, it would be even more improbable that they would have egged the Nazis on as a means to an end.
Primaries and Paradoxes
In spite of it possibly being very tricky to vindicate Team Witness’s mission, it is very interesting that in their omniscience, ALL THE PRIMARIES seem to be helping the Witness. Even Jennifer. She knows that Cole and Cassie getting together is giving the monkeys what they want, yet she ushers Cole to room 607 and makes sure that Cassie comes back for Cole. Don’t forget she also gave Ramse the medallion to help him get in league with the monkeys, and she made sure that Cole got daughter powdered. Much as we love Jennifer, she has done quite a few things that has helped the Witness.
All the other paradoxed Primaries also went in willingly (except for the serial killer Kyle Slade, who was totally weird, and whom Jennifer referred to as ‘bad thoughts’). Remember Tommy? And Melinda? They were smiling when they were paradoxed!
By the way, remember Kyle Slade’s obsession with The Immortals? At Olivia’s house where Jennifer discovers the Word of the Witness, there are loads of golden Immortal masks. Is Kyle connected to Olivia’s coming anti-Witness mission somehow? I mean, do we really know what happens to a Primary who dies a “normal” death? Kyle thinks he was in the wrong time. So perhaps, after having the 70s version of himself killed, his Primary consciousness reincarnates into a new body at another point in time? Maybe.
The Night Room Corpse
Another favourite theory is that Cole is the corpse in the Night Room, because he had a reaction when he got near the corpse. That theory was floated about when we only had enough information to explain that sort of thing happening, as being due to an object coming across itself. Fun fact: The code which Jennifer enters to get to the night room is a prime number – 7931779.
Everyone went ‘aha!’ when later we saw young Cole and adult Cole come across each other in S1E12 ‘Paradox’. However, in S2E2 ‘Primary’ we learn that a painful reaction like that can happen to serumed individuals, when time changes around them. Perhaps what we saw was just that. The corpse could be a nobody, just a means to an end, the way in which the virus was just a bait for Jones to create time travel to send the Witness’s daddy back in time to meet mummy.
The Nightroom corpse could be the Witness, vanquished in the future and sent back to close the loop on this doomed timeline. Maybe old timelines need to be closed off cleanly, before a new, independent one can be born – seed, rebirth and all. Maybe.
The Tall Man
Upon a rewatch of the Night Room, I saw the Tall Man clutch at the steel door to the vault whilst saying reverently, “You will give birth. Here it is born.” At the time, we think that the ‘it’ which the Tall Man spoke of could only be the virus, because we thought he was just a pedestrian villain living a linear time line.
But what if the ‘it’ he was referring to was his birthright to helm the cycle of chaos? Afterall, the whole Night Room palava was required to lead to the events of Cassie’s first encounter with the red tea – the first step in creating the Witness.
How could we have conceived back then, that an old man like him in 2015 could have any knowledge or experience of the Witness’s bigger plans? Yet, now we know that he was part of the welcoming committee in Titan, and probably had to live much longer than we think to get to look as old as he does in 2015. To me, that’s a hint that the Tall Man we see in the Night Room has already travelled quite some bit via the Titan express, and knows quite a lot more about the bigger picture in which the corpse would play.
Cole’s Fate is Unwritten
Not true. Cole’s fate is written all over the word of the Witness. “James Cole – 1959”, right at the centre of the map. That’s a massive hint. It just took Olivia some time to realise that the Witness has lied to her about Cole ‘fading into obscurity’. But how she could have missed the message right at the centre of the Word of the Witness, is totes unclear. Or perhaps she understood them perfectly, because we don’t know WHEN she came into possession of the chart. Perhaps that is precisely when she realises she’s been lied to.
The Witness obviously knows who father is, having gone to such great lengths to make his mum and dad get together like an evil Marty McFly. The whole ‘You’re Walking Through a Red Forest, The Grass is Tall, It’s Just Rained, Most of The Blood Has Washed Away. There’s a House in the Distance. Cedar and Pine. You’ve Been There Before. You’re Not Alone’ meditation was a literal revelation of the scene of Cassie meeting Cole. The poem was so cryptic, I guess it makes it understandable that Olivia could not have guessed its true meaning.
The whole ‘Cycle of Chaos’ has also been recorded on the Word of the Witness. Cole’s fading into obscurity could just mean he’s exactly where he needs to be; as a key player within this new cycle of which Olivia was not given access to details of. Did Cole change fate by saving Ramse? I don’t think so. The word of the Witness has some things to say about Ramse that hasn’t happened yet, so he was always meant to be saved.
This brings us to the uncomfortable realisation that we shouldn’t be so sure that saving people, rather than killing people, is the only way to change fate. Boy, did we want to believe this one at the start of season 2. Looks like this whole time that Cole thought he was out-playing the monkeys, he was just mistaken. Remember how the temporal anomalies multiplied by 80% after the virus was destroyed? So stopping the virus and shifting into a new timeline helps to break time? Sadly, a slow clap is in order for all of us who wanted to believe Cole changed things for the better. We saw how well that turned out.
The Rules of Time travelling
We thought that only those who took the serum could time travel. But is that true? Unless Sam was a very naughty boy and stole some serum to see if he could get high from it, he didn’t get the injection. That didn’t stop the time stream from nabbing him back to probably 1991 to be welcomed by Olivia (or someone else, from whom Olivia was able to steal Sam back from).
Suppose the Titan travellers also have some kind of serum, given that the first serum was created by Elliot Jones. He was, after all, commissioned by the Tall Man to build Titan, shortly after Oliver Peters (the guy who made the virus) disappeared. But that still doesn’t fully explain how the soldiers in 1950s Raritan splintered forward in time. I suppose in the army, soldiers don’t really have a choice what they get injected with. So maybe they had the serum.
As for the red tea, it seems to allow the drinker to drift outside of time, or even to exist outside of time. Olivia was able to get to limbo land where she gets to converse with the witness at the up and down house. Let’s not forget that Jones also drank old Jennifer’s red tea, and we haven’t fully seen how this affects her. Could Jones also mental time travel like Cole? Would that explain how she came to possess the chart of all the alternate timelines before they even happened? We saw this chart in her office when Ramse broke into her office to find the nasty pictures of her volunteers.
Ramse, Ramse, Quite Contrary, Whose Side is He Really On?
The word of the Witness clearly states, “Jose Ramse, 1933 – The Mask is Presented at the Sanctuary”. The Sanctuary is a safe place, and the Witness is safe. The sanctuary may be the place where the Witness is born and raised. It’s more than likely that when Cole reaches the future, that Cassie would have long been spirited away to another time.
But why would Ramse be back in 1933 presenting masks? Perhaps he has been playing a double agent the whole time? I found his whole teaming up with Cassie to get the Witness thing pretty fishy. Or perhaps he’s just a massive tool (also very plausible).
The biggest hint that Ramse plays an integral role to the army, whether he means to or not, came out when Mantis encountered him for the first time at the mental hospital in S2E4 ‘Emergence’. She spoke reverently about how is love for his son is long and storied. It seems that Ramse’s obsession with saving his son at any cost plays right into the hands of the Witness.
When Timelines shift and change, do things in old timelines have to happen?
The thing that keeps coming back is the part about how future Cassie has to travel back in time to die at the CDC. But that happened in a timeline that got eliminated. Remember, Cole came out of the hole in Chechnya and went straight to the CDC? Well, since they destroyed the virus in 2016, the outbreak was delayed to 2018. So the 2017 CDC scene in which we saw Cassie die in, doesn’t even exist anymore. Just like the scene where Tall Man offs her after the night room.
Then again, we saw the rules change for normal serumed time travel from Season 1 to Season 2. So far, we’ve only just gotten a taste of how mental time travel with the red tea works. Cole was told that he could travel to any former versions of himself and start again from there, with the caveat that he would undo the future he came from.
But what if the rules of mental time travel is different if it’s a man or a woman doing it? Rules changing depending on gender was the sort of thing played with in Frank Herbert’s Dune, for example. Or perhaps there will be innovations or evolutions to mental time travel, to allow future Cassie to project herself temporarily into a previous, dying version of herself, just long enough to give Cole that address that he would need to save his life? Is that scene really how Cassie’s life ends for real? I’m not convinced.
Perhaps, the dying Cassie that Cole meets isn’t even Cassie at all. Remember ‘Aaron’ the Witness appearing to Cassie at the Emerson? What if that was just the Witness wearing Cassie’s face appearing to Cole? That is, after all, the face that he would find most pleasing. Maybe that was the whole point of the daughter powder, to allow the Witness to mentally time travel to Cole to keep him on mission.
What’s more, Season 2 strongly suggested to us in several instances, that TIME EVOLVES. We saw that in Jennifer and Jones’ red tea trip. We saw that again in the up-and-down Witness House. We haven’t even yet had many chances to see how an evolved time will play out in the story (except for in S2E8 Lullaby), and how this is going to affect how things happen in a time travel story like 12 Monkeys.
Let’s face it. We’ve now met two supposed Primaries that seem out of character. As time evolves, do the properties of ‘next generation’ Primaries evolve too? Lillian doesn’t draw monkeys, and she was able to freeze time, for example. Unless she was no Primary at all, but another ‘Witness Apparition’.
What does Cole do with the plague antidote that he confiscated from Oliver Peters in ‘Hyena’? Who the eff is the ‘Keeper’ and who does he work for really? Why are there so many men in Titan? Are we going to get more Agent Robert Gale?
So upon reviewing everything I have written about Season 2, these are the main thoughts and questions I have come up with. What are yours?