"Meltdown" Is The Best '12 Monkeys' Episode Yet

Everybody wants to know the truth.

And so it’s time to take the fight to the Army of the 12 Monkeys. After last week’s Groundhog Day-inspired time loop and the revelation that Jones’s daughter was not only still alive, but hanging around in the woods, it’s time for the team to get back on course. Finally recovered from the Witness’ attack (launched back in episode seven), the team is finally ready for the offensive.

As always, though, there’s a division on how to proceed. One side wants to cut the snake off at its head, the other wants to stick to the pre-existing plan. The sides may split up, but the writing and performances make for possibly the best episode of 12 Monkeys so far.

This article contains spoilers.

Syfy Channel

Springing the Crazies

The episode begins with the origins of Goines’ Daughters, a random assortment of ladies broken out of mental institutions and then armed to the teeth. Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) has been playing it quiet over the last few episodes as she’s built-up her little cabal and adopted the name of “the Hyenas,” the natural predator of monkeys, but her re-emergence as a militant in this episode is an awesomely kinetic piece of TV.

Watching her stroll down a hospital hallway, a smile on her face and a shotgun in her hands provides the kind of silent spectacle at which Hampshire excels.

Back in the present (2044), Jones (Barbara Sukowa) and her crew get reports of a nearby settlement that’s been ravaged by a temporal storm, one of an increasing wave of disruptions to the time-space continuum. Looking for answers, Cole (Aaron Stanford) consults old lady Jennifer, who’s living out in the woods with her Daughters. Goines explains that they need to find the last primary, who’s hiding out somewhere between 1944 and 1975. The only man who knows the location, however, is the Tall Man (Tom Noonan). And the only way to find him is to head back to 2016, hook up with Jennifers Hyenas, and lure him out of hiding.

Meanwhile, even though both Jennifer and Cole warn them against it, Cassie (Amanda Schull) and Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) still want to head to a place called Titan to put the Witness’ head on a spike. The two are finding a common bond in vengeance that supersedes their immediate hatred for one another.

Hannah and Her Mother

In the present, Dr. Jones gets a visit from her daughter, Hannah. Jones has some trepidation about facing her daughter, who — for the first time — is allowed to explain what she thinks about this whole situation. And in short: Hannah isn’t thrilled to be Jones’s daughter. Her whole life, she’s been led to believe that “Science killed the world,” and now she’s told that her mother represents the last vestige of that evil. Hannah walks off before she can defend herself (even though Jones doesn’t exactly look up to the task).

On her way out of the facility, Hannah overhears Ramse and Cassie wondering about the need for a database, so they can figure out what and where Titan is. Hannah explains that the next best thing is a fellow up the road named the Keeper who deals in truth. The Keeper has been collecting information from the world “after the old ones died”. So, in spite of the warnings, Cassie and Ramse begrudgingly team up to see what the Keeper knows.

To Find the Truth

In 2016, Goines, Cole, and the rest of the Hyenas hunt Peters, the man who created the virus and who was previously told to get the Hell out of Dodge. Peters, though, has been working in secret to create a virus to the vaccine. Of course, the good guys don’t care about that; they just want to use Peters as bait to lure the Tall Man out of hiding and subsequently wheedle the last primary’s location out of him. Cole and Goines’ accomplish this feat by putting out a fake news report which claims that Peters is going to reveal the Monkeys’ plot to the entire world.

Once the Hyenas, Goines, and Cole are on site and waiting for the Tall Man, Goines’ militia revolts, led by an upstart named Vanessa who’s not on board with Cole’s plan to keep the virus a secret. Vanessa is opinion that the Hyenas need to tell the world what’s happening, regardless of the chaos and devastation that reveal would cause. With the exception of Jennifer, the rest of the Hyenas seem completely on board with that plan (and they’re happy to put Cole and Goines under lock and key while they make it happen).

The Domus Veritatus

In 2044, Ramse and Cassie arrive at the Keeper’s HQ, Domus Veritatus (Latin for “the House of Truth”). When Ramse and Cassie arrive, the Keeper gets the jump on them and straps them into lie detectors so he can get some answers from them. After years spent searching for the old world’s knowledge and building the new world’s history, the Keeper has gone a little bonkers and has become utterly obsessed with truth in every form. In his modded, body armored hazmat suit, the Keeper is an aging nerd who’s a very welcome addition to the 12 Monkeys Universe (please bring him back, please; I know, I said “please” twice).

Let’s also take a few moments to talk about the resulting scene between Cassie and Ramse who’ve harbored animosity for one another going all the way back to early Season 1. Their hatred for one another catches the Keeper’s attention. Why, he asks, do they really hate each another?

Cassie’s long professed answer (“I hate him because he chose his kid over the world.”) is finally proven false. Her anger at Ramse and his anger at her come from a much simpler place. Both of them are jealous about the other’s relationship with Cole. The confession of jealousy is honest and jarring in its simplicity, and the interplay between Schull and Acevedo, though largely silent, is fucking electric.

The Tall Man’s Game

The Tall Man arrives at the hospital, appearing to enter an elevator and heading to one of the hospital’s higher floors. Led by Vanessa, the bulk of the Hyenas take off after him, leaving Goines and Cole under the guard of one member of the crew. Cole and Goines easily slip their detail and figure out the Tall Man’s plans before the rest of the Hyenas. As a result, they corner him in the basement while the rest of Goines’ former team are chasing shadows around the top floor.

So, it’s back to Hyena HQ so Cole can wallop on him until the Tall Man reveals that the last primary gets paradox’ed in 1957 in upstate New York. Naturally the Tall Man is all, “You’re too late to stop it,” and whatnot, but that’s expected. What isn’t expected is that the Tall Man has a trick of his own. While the Hyenas, et al. were setting the trap, the Tall Man was planting a bomb in the basement of the hospital. As it goes off, completely destroying the building and killing Peters and all the Hyenas, the Tall Man reveals that he’s being tracked by his cronies and that they’re due to arrive presently.

Special props have to go out to Tom Noonan whos always pretty terrifying as the fanatical Tall Man, the fist of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. In “Meltdown” though, his cool-headed intimidation works wonders against the backdrop of betrayal and double-crosses.

A New Mission

So, everybody ultimately gets what they wanted. Cole learns the location of the last primary. Cassie and Ramse learn the three things they need to reach Titan (1961. East Germany. A scientist named Kirschner). Of course, the Tall Man has to take the win on this one. Not only does he undo all of Jennifer’s work in one fell swoop, he’s also go another secret up his sleeve.

In the episode’s final moments, it’s revealed that Jones’s husband — once thought to be dead — is actually alive. Not only that, he’s been commissioned to build what viewers are led to believe is another machine, a project so big that it’s been given an appropriately large name: Titan.