Strap in, 12 Monkeys fans, this is going to be a long one! After completely rejiggering the timeline at the end of last weeks episode, this week the SyFy series has to deal with the ramifications of that, set things right and continue to drive the story forward. It was an episode packed to the brim with mythology, story and time travel so let’s get to it!
“The Red Forest” opens by reliving the final moments of last weeks episode “The Night Room.” Now we’re back in 2043, as Cole unwantedly splinters in. The room is empty and silent. The buzz of scientists we’ve come to expect is gone. Cole calls for Jones and Ramsey and hears nothing but instead sees the West 7 symbol scrawled onto the wall.
Jones is confined in a room, trying to rewire a device. Jones doesn’t recognize Cole and doesn’t know him as one of the people she sent back. Cole’s realities are starting to merge with flashes of both versions of 2043, he’s not feeling good. Jones also has no idea of the transmission pointing them to Cassie or giving Leland Frost’s name. When Jones and Cole do a little digging they find that in this reality, Cassie was shot and murdered in 2015. The plague was released a year earlier and, according to Jones, she was someone very important. Cole now needs Jones to help him go back but she informs him that she’s no longer in charge of the facility. He’ll need to take it up with the leader of the West 7. As Whitley is taking Cole to meet who he thinks will be Deacon, he is shocked to find that Ramse is now the leader of the ruthless tribe.
Ramse is almost a different person. While he and Cole were still best friends up until a point, he claims that Cole was killed in a fight and that he buried him himself. According to Ramse he also took down Deacon himself. Cole pleads with Ramse to let him use the machine to splinter but Ramse is hesitant to drain the core. Whitley is adamantly opposed and pulls his gun. Jones tries to talk Whitley down and instead he shoots her. WHAT?! Cole immediately runs to Jones while Ramse pounces on Whitley and twists his neck. As she bleeds out she fires up the machine and Cole tells her to send him back to July 26, 2015 in Baltimore — the location of The Night Room where Cassie was captured. As the machine powers, Jones tells Cole that sacrifice is the only way; that the other her knows this and that he should ask her about it. As he leaves, he tells Ramse that he’s a good man in any reality. A very interesting concept, I think, that I hope the show comes back to.
In any case, Cole splinters back to 2015 and ends up in a party supply store but on the right day. We’re back on Aaron, working in the senator’s office where Aaron is getting some flack for asking the FBI to look into the death of Leland Goines. As Aaron walks to his car he’s accosted by Cole who tells him to drive them to Cassie’s place. He refuses and instead drives the car into another one parked in front of them. It doesn’t quite have the effect he wanted and Cole tells him to take them to Cassie’s. In this time he also reveals that his memory is weakening but that Cassie is the thing that has suck. Have we seen Cole struggle with this up until this point on the series? I’m thinking this is the first time…
Aaron and Cole talk and Cole explains that the other version of himself and Cassie are tied up in The Night Room. He needs Aaron to help him get Cassie out before they shoot her and they can’t call the police because if The Army of the 12 Monkeys sees them coming, it will be all over for Cassie. Cole continues to say that the future was different the last time he went into the future. He starts rattling off the few facts that he knows which include Chechnya and “Operation: Troy,” which immediately rings a bell for Aaron who recognizes that code name from a file in his bosses office earlier in the day. They hear sirens approach; Aaron has called 911 to which Cole asks, “What’s 911?” I’m going to interject right here that I understand this is a show that has a lot of plot and mythology to move through, but man out of time gags are always fun and much like the “Atari” episode, I really enjoy when 12 Monkeys takes those beats, those moments and those scenes to let their characters have a little fun and start to get to know each other.
Anyway, Aaron and Cole arrive outside of The Night Room and Cole arms Aaron (could this prove to be a big mistake? Aaron does think Cole ruined his life, after all) with a revolver. He instructs him to shoot at Tom Noonan’s Pallid Man. When the time comes, Aaron hesitates and when he finally pulls the trigger, misses and shoots Cole in the chest which both versions of himself feel. The Army of the 12 Monkeys drive away and the police arrive to find Jennifer Goines outside and alone, just like the episode ended last week. Aaron mentions something about the license plate number which Cole remembered exactly. Wait, I thought he was having trouble with his memory?
Aaron calls it in and we’re back with Cassie after The Pallid Man locks her in a room. Cassie overhears him speaking with a female voice who reveals that they can’t kill her now because The Witness has decided that she’s too important. Cassie is retrieved and a handful of people force her to drink something she doesn’t want to drink. Probably the same thing they gave to Jennifer Goines at the start of last weeks episode. Cassie begins to hallucinate and the other woman there reveals that The Witness wants to meet her. This woman continues to repeat, “You’re walking through a red forest…” As she talks, Cassie’s hallucinations get stronger. In some incredibly visual sequences, Cassie sees a forest covered in blood, rains, a house…
Meanwhile, Cole and Aaron go to a greenhouse, a hunch to try and find The Pallid Man. Two men enter and they accost them, trying to get information about Cassie’s whereabouts. Cole and Aaron play “Good Cop, Bad Cop” and discover Cassie’s location. As they arrive, ready to storm in, Cole’s headaches begin to get worse and Aaron doesn’t think that he can do this right now but they realize they have no choice. As they enter, Cassie manages to run away and Cole and Aaron find her. Cassie tries to get Cole to go back and kill The Witness but he can’t risk it. He hands her the card that he pulled from the greenhouse to help her track the 12 Monkeys. He warns her that the future without her is a disaster and she must stay safe. He splinters thereby convincing Aaron, once and for all, that everything they’ve been saying is real. Cole returns to 2043 where Jones greets him like normal.
Cassie is still shaken by her vision of the red forest. Aaron apologizes to Cassie for not believing her. He tells her that he thinks “Operation: Troy” is what they’re looking for. Back in 2043, Cole and Jones debrief. Jones points out that “Operation: Troy” isn’t the downfall of civilization anymore because he was able to safe Cassie therefore correcting the alternate happenings of 2043. However, whatever Troy is contains the same virus and that will be their focus for the time being. Cole and Jones discuss privately what the alternate Jones told him about sacrifice. Cole tells her that he can feel the jumps taking their toll on him and she confirms that eventually the jumps will kill him. Cole agrees that it’s worth it to continue but wonders how many jumps he has left and if they will be enough. Unfortunately for them, no matter what, it will have to be.
Hoo boy! That was a doozy. I’ll tell you one thing, 12 Monkeys is a show that doesn’t waste a minute! It seems like with each week the series could be planting major character seeds that could sprout at any moment. We’re learning a lot about Jones and Ramse in 2043 and now Aaron is on Cassie and Cole’s team and he has the inside track at the government. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more from or about Jennifer Goines but I suppose that will all come in time. And now we’ve got the idea of The Witness looming over us. What was the point of the red forest? Who is The Witness? Why is Cassie so special?
12 Monkeys, starring Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, Emily Hampshire and Tom Noonan, airs Friday nights at 9PM on SyFy.