One of the more prominent themes coursing through the veins of Syfy’s 12 Monkeys is the conflict between hope and acceptance. It’s a choice that every living person has to confront at some point in their lives: Do we accept our circumstances as they’re dealt to us or do we fight for some measure of self-determination? Of course, in a show like 12 Monkeys, the larger question being asked is whether or not Fate itself has some input on the matter. In Terry Gilliam’s original masterwork, that answer was concrete; fate exists and there’s not shit you can do to change it.
In Terry Matalas’ Syfy offering, however, the matter of fate’s solidity has always remained tantalizingly vague. Yet, as the series steams towards its second season finale (on its way to the newly announced third season) it seems that the hope of change shared by the core cast is now, and perhaps always was, totally useless.
The Inevitable Ending
More than once before she succumbed to her accidental bullet wound, the elder Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) told the group what would await them if they trekked across the United States towards the Witness’s Colorado stronghold, Titan. It was Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) and Dr. Adler’s (Andrew Gillies) hope of change (and more than a little rage) that helped both men and their followers persevere long enough to find their way towards Titan.
Of course, in retrospect — with the majority of the Titan team bleeding out as the credits rolled — it seems that the men’s dutiful march towards a confrontation was now nothing more than their inadvertent fulfillment of the cruel destiny fate had in store for them. It’s interesting that as the team walked into the trap at Titan, it was Deacon (Todd Stashwick), the member of the group most prone to accept his fate, that asked everyone to stop and think about what they’re doing.
A Measure of Peace
And what of Cassie (Amanda Schull) and Cole (Aaron Stanford), the time-traveling duo who are prowling around 1957 in the hopes of preventing the final and most powerful paradox? They’re fucking miserable. With little to go on but a date and a location, the pair are living in room 607, bickering more and more as their search for the final Primary goes unrewarded. Oh, sure, they get to be at ground zero for the horrible event — a moment of shocking tenderness between the final Primary and the Messenger sent to kill her — but their involvement doesn’t do anything more than spur the paradox itself.
It’s only when Cassie and Cole get clear of the tumult of their day jobs and settle in to a semi-normal life in the 1950s that they begin to achieve something close to happiness. As they face the fact that their efforts have ultimately been for nothing, the couple is left facing a question: ponder the reasons they’re still hovering in the past, or simply accept their situation and try to make the most of things. Only when Cassie and Cole are able to stop fighting fate can they finally “smush” their faces together with the wholehearted commitment both characters deserve.
It’d almost be a sweet scene if it wasn’t juxtaposed with the death of almost every other major character in the series and leadened with the knowledge that Cassie and Cole are very likely conceiving the Witness.
When You Fight Fate, All You Get is Exhausted
In 12 Monkeys, we’re asked to accept the fact that Time itself is essentially a character in the series, an animal of raw force that struggles for its existence, so why shouldn’t Fate be the same kind of omnipotent dick? When Terry Matalas talks about fate on the show, it’s a fickle creature, where some moments are flexible and others are fixed.
And while you can count on the fact that the murder of the core cast will likely not be a fixed event, it remains to be seen if there’s any real hope of foiling the Witness’s overarching plan. Who knows? Perhaps the hooded figure was right all along and the end of time will be the endless nirvana his followers claim it to be. Even if it isn’t, it seems that Season two has simply been prepping us for the fact that the Witness’s vision is inevitable.
Maybe it’s just time to get on board and let fate take the wheel.