This article contains spoilers.

If you haven’t been keeping up with Syfy’s 12 Monkeys but you’ve heard positive buzz – or if you’re just intrigued by the world-building premise – the half-way point of Season 2 is a great time to start. Episode six, “Immortal”, is an adeptly written, action-packed entry in the series that fleshes out the clues we’ve been given so far, while prepping viewers for the episodes to come.

This time around, it’s all about the Witness. Trading in the typically sprawling narrative for a more focused segment, “Immortal” spends the majority of its = focus on a conversation and a hunt. That means pushing pause on Deacon’s (Todd Stashwick) crazy blood-covered behavior at the end of last week’s episode.

The Hunt

“Immortal” opens with a brief moment of respite, as Cole (Aaron Stanford) and Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) play games with Ramse’s kid. It’s comforting to see that the two friends seem to have buried the hatchet completely. Of course, the serenity is short-lived, as Cole and his pal are sent back to 1975 to protect another Primary, Kyle Slade (David Dastmalchian, in an excellent performance).

The catch is that Slade isn’t a nice guy like the Primaries we’ve encountered so far. Driven mad by both his connection with time and a brief internment in a Viet Cong prison (before he totally mutilated everyone with a machete), Kyle Slade has become a serial killer called “the Immortal” who’s already got several notches on his belt when Cole and Ramse drop in.

The time-traveling duo are there to ferret out two more Messengers who’ve gone back in time to paradox Slade. So, Cole and Ramse are effectively in ’75 to keep a serial killer alive, a moral quandary that the pals debate at length in the show’s opening scenes. What’s perhaps most surprising here is that sweet-natured Ramse is the hard-hearted soul in the mix while Cole has real trouble standing by while Slade gets his jollies.

The Conversation

Jennifer and Cassie are taking some much-deserved downtime after escaping 12 Monkeys HQ. Cassie is attempting to get back into her newly adopted tough chick persona by caring for Jennifer’s concussion and sedating her so she can rest. It’s Cassie, though, who’s vulnerable after having been dosed with Red Forest juice in the previous episode. It’s not too long before Cassie is wandering the suddenly labyrinthine halls of the Emerson Hotel.

Her feet take her back to the door of Room 607, where an old frenemy long thought dead, Aaron Marker, is waiting to chat, burns scars and all. Aaron explains to Cassie that he’s been kept alive and happy thanks to the efforts of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. After dabbling slightly with their cause in season one, Aaron now seems totally committed.

Slade’s Got a Plan

Back in 1975, Slade is about to murder a waitress named Victoria Mason. Cole waits about three seconds before he springs from his hiding spot, against Ramse’s protests, and pops Slade in the jaw. Stopping the murder triggers a shift in time, a jarring event that allows Slade the opportunity to escape. Also, this guy shows up:

He’s one-half of the Messenger team sent back to paradox Slade and he wastes no time on the stunned Cole and Ramse, instead chasing down Slade’s car — on foot, by the way, T-1000 style. So, it’s with mild desperation that Cole and Ramse tip off the cops chasing down “the Immortal”. It’s not long before Slade is spotted by a black-and-white, chased, and cornered in a grocery store. In spite of the wall of cops with guns pointed at the scene, Cole runs inside to speak with Kyle Slade, who recognizes him immediately.

Slade lets his single hostage go before happily explaining that he’s not a serial killer, he’s just hunting and murdering Primaries in order to beat the 12 Monkeys to them. What’s more, Slade tried to kill his latest victim not out of bloodlust, but in an attempt to get a face-to-face with Cole. Why? Because Kyle Slade has captured the Witness.

Two Sides of the Same Forest

Slade’s claim spurs Cole into springing “the Immortal” and taking him to the Witness’ location. Ramse opts out because for some reason he’s in favor of putting the multiple murderer in prison. Cole soundly ignores his friend (like always) and takes off with Slade. Along the way, Slade recounts the mission of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, their quest to defeat Death, to live in an eternity that’s both one single moment and all possible moments.

The episode deftly cuts Slade’s horror story with Aaron’s description of the peaceful splendor of the Red Forest, the place where time has stopped and humanity is living and dying all at once. He talks with aching fondness of the opportunity to be with the one you love for all time.

Cassie doesn’t buy Aaron’s pitch, which irritates the guy into revealing that he’s not actually Aaron, he’s the Witness, masquerading as a person meant to convince Cassie to join his team. As he reveals his true nature, the Witness’ eyes go black and he appears to splinter before Cassie is brought back to reality in the lobby of the Emerson, a worried Jennifer standing over her.

Back in the Disco Era

In a really skillfully paced scene, Cole is really regretting his decision to follow Slade. As the guy leads Cole deeper and deeper into his sanctuary, Slade’s insanity becomes more and more apparent (as in, body parts hanging from the ceiling apparent). Even worse, the guy in Slade’s trap isn’t the Witness, it’s the other half of the Messenger assassin team.

The murderer’s plan, as it turns out, is to have Cole kill the Witness before the two head on home to the future. When Cole tries to explain that he’s got the wrong guy (and that time travel doesn’t really work like that), Slade’s thinly veiled mania goes full tilt. Fortunately, having killed the first Messenger in the Emerson (with an assist from Victoria) and learned the location of Slade’s lair, Ramse shows up in time to save the day, turning the tables on Slade.

Before the duo duck out, Cole takes the time to explain to Slade that he and Ramse were only in the seventies to prevent a paradox. In other words, Slade is totally fair game so long as he’s killed in a conventional manner … like, say, with a shotgun blast to the face.

Taking the Fight to the Streets

Jennifer is incredibly unnerved by Cassie’s tale, even more so when Cassie explains that she’s somewhat sympathetic to the Witness’ idea. “He made it sound almost beautiful,” she says, before Jennifer (a lady who would know) shuts down that train of thought, instead suggesting that Cassie get some rest. When Cassie awakens, there’s a note on the bed:

Of course, the episode itself isn’t quite finished at that point, because something isn’t quite right in Room 607. Cassie’s eyes are playing tricks on her; she sees someone in a mask standing in the corner. Then, her eyes flood with inky blackness and the episode cuts to black.

By focusing so clearly on the power of the Witness, both his physical skill and the temptations of his message, 12 Monkeys inadvertently delivers a great starter episode for new fans watching for the first time. It’s remarkably self-contained story that translates the series larger themes and ongoing plot lines while still providing plenty of fodder for longtime fans.

Photos via Syfy Channel