Don’t You Forget About Me: Thoughts on Those 12 Monkeys Final Season Reveals
[Warning: If you’re saving up to binge the season after it airs, avert your gaze now.]
12 Monkeys has been a series about journeys and time, love and family, death and hate. It’s a dichotomy for extraordinary storytelling and this season, in particular, extreme violence. After the whirlwind of season 3 unspooling in three days, I was a bit fearful going into season 4 that it would be a hot mess of lost threads. Thankfully it’s been anything but.
We began the season just two weeks ago with some fairly intense violence. If you look back at the history of the show, a lot of that was dialed down or kept off camera. I don’t know if it’s the world we’re living in, or a change in my own perspective or some subversive rage about being done, but the gloves came very clearly off this season. And yet, in the middle of that, the show got its heart back.
Season 1 is extremely near and dear, ride or die to me. Now as we wrap up, some of these Season 4 episodes are coming close to how I felt about the series at its inception, and what’s been remarkable, as the extended tribe of Twitter folks who began the run when I did are remembering, there are so many terrific Easter Eggs for the longtimers.
It would take a series rewatch for me to ID all of them, and someday I’ll do that but I’m watching this season cold and am happily surprised at what I do remember. People are now talking about the show as one of the greats and conjecturing that viewers will discover it down the line and then wonder WTF they were doing from 2015-2018 instead of watching this show. I hope those newbies take their time and savor the journey, because now more than ever I feel like we are being rewarded for digging in early on and staying onboard this bananaland ride about a cobbled together family.
Friday night’s set of episodes gave us some very hard truths, and two really difficult, heroic deaths. And both, again, make me want to roll back through the first two seasons (if not last season) if I had the luxury of time. The things that stand out for me, on the basis of memories that still linger in my mind from two and three years ago are that the payoffs for the who and when of Deacon’s and Hannah’s death were just heartbreaking and exquisite.
The first big death on Friday was that of a soldier and warrior who died by his own choice. Deacon was always a complex, complicated foil for Cole, back to Season 1 when he was just a nasty, brutal piece of work. His loyalties shifted over the years–he’s alternately hooked up with Cassie and shot Jennifer–until they finally crystallized into an emphatic allegiance to Jones and Cole and Jennifer and Cassie, and he put himself right in Olivia’s cross hairs to save them.
But he also still saw the bigger picture–killing Elliott to hold off Titan’s completion, playing both ends against the middle to keep Cole & crew a step ahead of Olivia. In “Die Glocke,” he and Jones acknowledge and accept that they are on borrowed time.
In “Demons,” Deacon leans all the way into his fate, and Todd Stashwick beautifully plays him just a shade softer. He gives Jennifer his knife, and tells her he’s going to want that back. We know, even as she doesn’t, that that is unlikely. Later, he tells Cole that he better get the bigger mission right, and that his love for Cassie and hers for him has pretty much been the glue for the whole thing, and it outweighs all of the combined. Cole is puzzled by his sudden moment of insight but doesn’t push it beyond, “What’s gotten into you?”
When Olivia finally catches up to them and calls him out on his betrayal–after he taunts her–she tells him they came for her head but she’ll leave with his. And she does. But as he volunteers to die for his friends, he locks eyes on each of them and says it out loud, “[I’m doing this] for them. And I’d do it again. This I know.” He’s protecting them. He’s goes first because maybe it’ll buy them some time. And he’s right.
Adler’s tinkering pays off and he drops the vest at Cole’s feet just before he’s killed, and then Cole gets Jones, Cassie, and Jennifer out, too. He tries to go back for Deacon but Olivia destroys the castle before the loop can reset, and they all realize that Deacon is dead for real. Jennifer takes it the hardest, and it’s her older self, returned again to help, who puts her back on track, telling her that what’s been trapped in her head is still there, it just needs a way out, and she hands her chalk. Symbols pours out of Jennifer to the point that her fingers bleed, and then we get the big, big reveal about Hannah.
Hannah was the reason the whole thing started, as part of Jones’s quest to bend time to revive a daughter taken from her much, much too soon. The Season 2 episode, “Lullaby,” put that storyline front and center when Cassie was sent back with one mission, and along with Cole and Jennifer, orchestrated quite another one that was revealed in the episode’s closing moments.
Rather than kill Jones, which was her suicide-by-proxy request, they instead saved Hannah and put her into the care of Jennifer and the Daughters, who turned her into a fierce warrior until they could reunite them. When they are finally revealed to each other, Jones has to grapple with what was done without her knowing and Hannah is vaulted into an identity for which she has no frame of reference.
Borderline feral, Hannah only knows Jennifer as a maternal figure, but over time, she eventually grows to love Jones equally fiercely, and it’s out of duty to her mother that she goes back to 2009. Friday’s episodes, “Daughters” and “One More Minute” peeled back more of Hannah’s history with a devastating hour that revealed that she was Marion Wood, Cole’s absent mother, and that she’d become that entirely by her own choosing when Emma died.
The conceit of the show–that what characters know and when they know it–has been a moving target means that the Hannah who tagged along with and was protective of James on his quest to find Cassie and Titan last season was bonded to him for reasons that hadn’t yet manifested but were still somehow there all the same.
And then there’s the fact hat Jones sent her back to have a life, the life that had escaped her, and to find Marion, and then the two things became one. Hannah tells Cole, in a letter he reads (gorgeously voiceovered by Brooke Williams) after her death, that she lived a love story. which plays out in a brief series of vignettes with almost no dialogue.
She loved his dad, Matthew (a superb Patrick Garrow) and she loved him, her son, but she had to leave them to hold the timeline. She tells him she always there in the shadows–when his dad died and when he first met Ramse. She close with, “This letter, James, is the last story I have to tell you. The first, I think you know. I was in my life proud to be a daughter and proudest to be a mother.”
In 2017, Cole and Jones pre-emptively visit her and tell her what they know and give her a choice, and she still chooses to die protecting him. Once a soldier, always a soldier, but now, a mother, too. She dies in his arms after jumping in front of a bullet mean for him, telling him, “It’s okay. It’s okay. This was my choice. This was all I could do. Be here. Protect you one last time. I never wanted any of this for you.” And now we understand, too, that the bond between Jones and Cole that’s always been there is because they had a blood bond–the family they chose was family all along.
Showrunner Terry Matalas said on Twitter Friday night that Williams knew on day one of her role that Hannah would be Cole’s mom. That alone is worth rewatching all the seasons together some day. As we head into the series finale this Friday, the weight of the world truly rests on Cole’s shoulders, and it’s on him to determine whether his mother and his friend and all before them died in vain.
12 Monkeys concludes this Friday from 9 pm/8c to 11 pm/10c on Syfy. If you’ve missed an episode, they’re all up now on Syfy’s website.
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