[Warning: Do not read until you’ve watched “Lullaby.”]
Tonight’s 12 Monkeys was one of those episodes of TV that I’ve discussed before where there’s a phenomenon that happens and time (no pun intended) slows down as you realize what’s unfolding in front of you.
It was an artfully crafted hour, and in no way, shape or form did I expect that the resolution of the recurrent time loop in “Lullaby” would be to save Hannah’s life, and postpone her reunion with Jones until after she had the motivation to build the machine they still very much need to exist and go “home.”
I was watching the day play and replay and I was sort of rolling with it until I started to catch on about the how and why of the reset and Jennifer’s cryptic guidance toward a workable compromise. When the penny dropped, I genuinely got goosebumps. I will gladly let Barbara Sukowa break me any day.
Jennifer, as usual, is the only other one aware of the resets, and although she’s initially giddy for the repeat visitors, when she’s finally exasperated enough that they can’t get it right, she tells Cole to do “something but nothing.” When he understands, he gets permission from Jones for the subterfuge when he asks her if a little bit of happiness is better than a lifetime of anything else and she says, “Yes.”
The reveal as they rolled it back for all of us to see how they had done it, juxtaposed against Cole quietly telling Jones what they did before they showed her, there in the firelight glow in the middle of Jennifer’s camp like a bedtime story, was so, so good.
I also loved that Cassie and Cole finally actually talked about their estrangement. She tells him that returning to the hotel in 2014 was her choice, that he has to stop blaming himself for where her life has gone. And he admits that the only world he cared about was the one she lived in, and that he only wanted to save the world so she had something to live in, happy, for a little while.
After the reveal, when they’re back home. Cole and Cassie clasp hands and talk quietly. He rounds back to the idea that he’d want a moment of happiness with her vs. never having had it. “It’s the losing that haunts us,” she says. “This can’t happen.” And then she lets go of his hand and walks away from him, to find Ramse waiting to kill her and then himself. Instead, she talks him into teaming up with her to kill the Witness.
So, we’re not there yet with Casserole, but it’s a step in the right direction. Kudos to writer Sean Tretta for crafting such a wonderfully winding tale.
I’ve had the chance to chat with both Aaron Stanford and showrunner Terry Matalas about season 2, and we discussed “Lullaby,” as well as other points in the season that I’ve covered already, and I’ll have other tidbits for the remainder of the season. Here’s what they had to say about the twist, shooting a Groundhog Day-style episode, bringing Xander Berkeley back to play, and where Jones and Hannah go from here.
Stanford says the block shooting for a repeater episode compounds the already tedious nature of setting and resetting takes. “Shooting an episode of anything is essentially like Groundhog Day for us anyway. When people come to visit a set they think it’s going to be exciting and they realize it’s actually incredibly repetitious and monotonous and a grind,” he says. “With an episode like this, that’s intensified.”
“We had to shoot the scene every time the day resets, waking up on the bank of the river. That’s the scene they keep returning to. We spent an entire day shooting that scene. Every time, they’re supposed to be in slightly worse shape because it has a cumulative effect on the body,” he explains. “Very early on, we realized we were going to have a tough time topping each reset.”
“The first time, your heads hurts, and you’re disoriented, and the next one, your nose is bleeding, and the next one your nose is bleeding and you can’t stand, and the next one you’re vomiting. We didn’t know where we were going to end up. It wasn’t an easy task.”
Stanford was happy to have Berkeley back on set again. “Xander is an old friend. He’s part of the Nikita mafia that makes up a large part of 12 Monkeys,” he points out. “I was very happy when I found out he would be making a return.”
One of the new friendships this season is the one between Cassie and Jennifer, and that dovetailed into Cassie and Cole’s decision to give Hannah to Jennifer. “[It] absolutely [played into it]. It was at that moment, in 2020, who else are you going to trust in that time period with a child?” Matalas says.
He adds that the reveal that Hannah was alive has been brewing for a while. “That’s been a discussion since the beginning, since last season.” As for how Jones and Hannah handle their newfound familial bond, Matalas says there are still larger, global life-and-death matters at stake.
“[Jones] is still quite busy because time is coming undone. No matter what happens, all of time itself is collapsing,” he point out. “We will see that it won’t be as easy for them to connect as you would exect. They are from different worlds. I think Jones is warm where it concerns her daughter, but Hannah might not be so warm.”
Last week’s episode had the Witness tagging along on Cassie’s consciousness, but Matalas says the Witness is actually corporeal. “The Witness is definitely a character,” he teases. “You’ll have to wait and see more of that. The back half of the season becomes the hunt for The Witness.”
Ramse is a big part of that hunt. “I think right now he believes his son is dead and gone and irretrievable, and he’s out for blood,” says Matalas. “He just wants The Witness. That’s all he cares about right now.”
12 Monkeys airs at 9/8c Mondays on Syfy. “Lullaby” repeats at 12:01 am/11:01 c and will be online Tuesday.
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