[Warning: Spoilers for “Paradox.”]
I could just take the easy way out and say I LOVE THIS EPISODE AND YOU SHOULD, TOO. But that would be a cheat. So let me get really wordy and tell you why “Paradox” is my favorite episode of the first season.
We begin with 2043 Jones and Adler unable to locate Cole’s tracker, and Jones is sort of Zen about the whole thing. It is what it is. Then we cut to 2015 and a bombshell knockout Jones, 28 years younger, sits across from her dad in a Manhattan restaurant and talks about her work. Her dad doesn’t understand why she doesn’t practice her medicine and she tells him plainly that people are programmed to die and she can do much better things with her skills and talents in the areas of research.
He talks to her about love being important in having a life, and mentions her husband, but she’s not having it.Â She goes home and at her front door, Cassie emerges from the shadows with a gun drawn. She pleads for her help to save Cole, who’s back at her place with a watchful Aaron, who nearly lets him die before calling her for help and shooting him up with Epinephrine.
Cassie makes her case to Jones, but none of it registers until Cassie produces notes from Cole in Jones’s handwriting and curiosity gets the best of her so she goes with her. Cole and Aaron sit in Cassie’s kitchen talking about the life Cole had in the future, and Aaron brings love into the conversation, thinking again that he and Cassie can get out in front of the plague, and Cole tells him it might buy them a year or two at best. Cassie comes in, happy to see Cole sitting at her table, and he asks her where she went and she explains that the address future Cassie gave to him was in his pocket, so she went there. He asks her what she found and in walks Jones, and the look on his face is amazing.
He realizes she knew him all along and says as much. “Maybe your always and my always are not the same,” she says as she smiles at him. He asks her why she didn’t tell him. “I’m sure I had my reasons,” is her reply. Then she’s all business. She runs samples on his blood and confirms the degradation from the splintering will be fatal. Cassie is heartbroken, and Jones recognizes that.
She asks Cassie how she was convinced of what Cole told her in the beginning and she explains about the paradox with her watch. That gets them to thinking, and they decide to go look for Cole the younger, who would be five. While they take a road trip, Aaron goes to see Olivia and barters his and Cassie’s freedom while Olivia waxes poetic–in a super creepy predatory way–on Darwin and survival at any cost.
Cassie and Jones make it out to a suburban gas station and meet a man, Matthew (Bitten‘s Patrick Garrow), who they think is Cole’s dad, but he denies it, telling them he’s Bill Anderson. Then they meet young James on the swing set out back and Cassie practically crumples when she says his name and he pops down and says hello. They go back in to talk to Matthew and once he hears Cassie’s truth, he pulls a shotgun on them. Cassie mentions the 12 Monkeys and that twigs a memory for him of Cole’s mom talking about the group. Cassie asks him to come meet Cole and tells him that if he doesn’t see his son in those eyes, he can go.
They all arrive back at Cassie’s and Cassie wakes Cole up and tells him he has a visitor. His dad steps forward, calling him James, and Cole looks up and calls him Dad. Jones starts to draw blood on the boy and then hands him off to Cassie since people aren’t her thing. Cole gets up to come watch and he and the boy react to being so close to each other, so Matthew walks him back to lie down and then sits with him. Matthew talks to him about how the boy saved his life and made him a better man. He says he’s a good boy. Cole says he won’t always be, but he’s trying to make up for it now.
He asks about his mother, and Matthew tells him it was a brief relationship but he loved her, and she left him and then returned a year later with his son. She said she couldn’t protect him. Cole tries to stay awake and can’t. His dad sweetly reminds him they don’t use can’t. Then he steps outside, overwhelmed that he doesn’t live to see Cole grow up. Cassie follows and consoles him that she understands how hard this must be. He asks if he definitely doesn’t survive the plague, and before she can answer, her phone rings and it’s Aaron, asking her to come around the corner.
She does, and Aaron tries to get her in the car. She hits him and turns back to see Pallid Man in an SUV heading toward her place. She starts running and goes in the back, getting young Cole and Matthew and Jones out and leaving Cole with the syringe of young Cole’s blood. They get outside around the corner and Matthew sends them ahead to get in the car. Then he turns back to Pallid Man and his goons and gets off a couple of shots with the gun Cole gave him before they drop him. He lies bleeding in the alley and PM leans over him and asks where Cole is. “A step ahead of you, asshole,” is all he gets out before PM shoots him while young Cole watches from the car, covering his ears.
PM goes in the back door at Cassie’s and finds Cole standing there. He says it’s time and Cole agrees, stabbing himself in the heart with the syringe. Light pours out of him and he begins to levitate as PM and his remaining goon can only watch. Then the sonic boom blasts the windows and the room apart and Cole falls to the floor. When Cassie finds him, he’s lying naked on the floor, alone. She rushes over and covers him and he asks about his dad. She nods her head no and says Jones took young Cole so he wouldn’t see.
We pick up with them dropping young Cole at Children’s Protective Services. Jones says they’ll take good care of him. Cassie and Cole watch from afar. Jones decides that she’ll keep her baby–she earlier tells Cassie she was married all of six days and then abandoned and she wanted no part of her husband. Now she says maybe her father is right. Cole offers to tell her about the future, and she says no. She hopes they’ll meet again. She tells him because of the paradox, he cannot return to 2043, and he seems to already know that. He hugs her goodbye. Cassie wonders if she should do something about young Cole and Cole says he’ll be fine, he’ll make friends. And as they watch, young Cole meets Ramse for the first time. Cassie takes his hand.
Throughout the episode, we also go back to 2043 as Jones tries to rebuild her research wall. They talk about a CEO changeover at Markridge, and we have a hilarious one-and-done scene of Jennifer, wearing a gun dress, stomping onto the table during a board meeting to announce herself as the new head of the company. We also see Jones going through Hannah’s hope chest again, and this time she pulls put a card from Matthew’s garage, which she picked up with Cassie in 2015, so she did know that she’d met Cole before–that had always happened. And it seems to register that that must be happening now for Cole, wherever he is.
There’s also the strange red ivy randomly coming through the machine and Jones and Adler discuss that it’s from a different time. Before they can delve too far into that. Whitley returns holding a human head–not sure whose–and outside we see a pale-skinned squad that looks like something out of The Strain hooking up with Deacon from West 7 to gain access to the machine. This won’t end well.
There was so much going on in this episode, but I loved that for the most part it was quiet and thoughtful and more human (and humane) than some of the episodes that we had to have to deliver the exposition. I want us to get Jones and Cassie together again in season two because they were a fantastic pairing.
I adored the casting on the 2015 Coles (Hemlock Grove‘s Jack Fulton was young Cole). The whole construct of memory amidst the time travel takes a little but to sort through but we find out here that the recurrent flashes of the dropped milk that Cole has had this season were the suppressed flashbacks of witnessing his father’s death–but he hadn’t remembered meeting Jones. Although maybe somewhere he did, because Jones repeats his words to Cassie from the pilot about Mother Nature not liking it when you rearrange her furniture.
There’s talk of fate throughout–of who believes and who doesn’t. I don’t believe that Cole can truly be stuck in 2015 but if he is, that would certainly explain Cassie’s comment to Cole in 2017 that so much had happened between them. Especially if they really did/do spend two uninterrupted years together, before at some point he splintered again. I’ve said all season that I missed Cassie and Cole when they were separated in episodes, and I was so thrilled that they were together here, and that their connection to each other was all over both their faces, plus we had the bonus of Jones and Cole’s dad. So good!
Poor bastard Aaron can’t catch a break with is desperation, and when Cassie tells Cole that it was Aaron who got his dad killed, you can see his 2043 do-or-die persona kick in. Aaron needs to run far and fast, but he’s just not that smart.
No Ramse this week, but he’s back next week for the packed season finale.
If you missed tonight’s episode, it repeats again tonight at 11/10c and throughout the week and will be on Syfy’s site tomorrow. Syfy will marathon episodes 3 through 12 next Friday beginning at 8 am/7c before the finale at 9 pm/8c. For some reason, they’re skipping “Splinter” and “Mentally Divergent,” but you can catch them here, and our first season coverage is here.
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“Paradox” is probably my favorite episode too (although “Atari” probably comes close). So much is explained, and yet so much more can still be read between the lines.