12 MONKEYS: Previewing ‘Atari’ When Time-Travel Creates a Corrupted Timeline

In the upcoming forth episode of Syfy’s 12 MONKEYS, James Cole (Aaron Stanford) faces an even more pressing problem: the future collapsing before he has had the chance to save humanity.

It was originally supposed to be a “one and done” mission — Cole was transported back in history to the time where he could kill Leland Goines (Zelijko Ivanek) and save the planet from the virus that would kill off 99% of the human race.  But, as Cole quickly found out, it was not going to be that simple.  Killing Leland Goines did not stop the spread of the virus. 

So Cole’s new mission become to find out who were the 12 Monkeys — the terrorists who got their hands on Leland’s virus and used it to reshape the world as they wanted it.  Thus, Cole’s one trip back was not quite the suicide mission he anticipated and it became essential that he continue going back and finding out the data necessary to track down the 12 Monkeys and where they would unleash the virus; and, apparently, Leland Goines, being the paranoid genius that he was, had a portable lab known as the Night Room, where he kept the virus and where his daughter Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) worked.

In episodes two and three, Cole found Jennifer Goines and continued his search for the Night Room and eliminating anyone who could direct the 12 Monkeys to it.  It meant killing Dr. Henri Toussaint (Lyriq Bent), a colleague and lover of Cassie (Amanda Schull), something that Cassie would surely be appalled to find out.  But as there is little time to share information, let alone debrief, Cole has, for now, kept that deadly secret to himself.

In this week’s episode “Atari,” Cassie takes a more personal interest in Cole and wants to know more about him.  But Cole not only has secrets in the present to hide, he has more in future to keep hidden as well. 

At this point, it is important to recall that prior to all these trips back into the past, Cole could not really see a future for himself and has always thought of his life as expendable.  He is a survivor and one that would willingly sacrifice his life it if guaranteed a better future.

But what if Cole found himself in a position where there was no future?  In this week’s episode, Dr. Jones (Barbara Sukowa) and Ramsey (Kirk Acevedo) are caught in the crossfire of an fatal intrusion at the facility.  It means that Cole’s last chance may be to escape using the machine back into the past and stay there, as there will be nothing to come back to. Yet, like every other trip using Jones’ machine, Cole does not get to his hoped-for destination.

Just where does Cole go and what hell on Earth does he find there?  That is the question. 

This week’s episode also explores the backstory of Cole and Ramsey and their first encounter with Deacon (Todd Stanwick) and Max (Romina D’Ugo).  It is a dark chapter of Cole’s history and one he would not like to revisit if given the chance.  Alas, even Cole’s past can catch up to him and bite him in the ass as time-travel apparently cannot solve every problem.  It will lead to all sorts of misadventures as Cole stumbles in and out of time.

And this corruption of the timeline will have ripple-effects and unintended consequences.  Of all the episodes so far, 12 MONKEYS has been pretty easy to track Cole’s jumps in and out of the past and future.  But what if the timeline became entangled or disrupted, then what?

As we follow Cole and perhaps on his last possible time-jump, it will be increasingly important for Cole to understand that each jump may be his last and he needs to make it count.

So as Cole only looks back and envisions a future where is not in it, this will be his wake-up call.  He not only needs to save the past, he may need to preserve the future he lives in to ensure he can continue traveling back and save the future.  As convoluted as that all sounds, it will make a lot more sense after you watch this episode.  Just like in the Atari video games, there are only so many chances to get the game right.

According, be sure to tune in this Friday, February 6th at 9:00 p.m. to find out if Cole can save the past, the future and the present as he knows it or humanity will be doomed forever.  Tip:  keep a pen and paper nearby during this episode.  You will need it to track Cole and the various timelines. (Personal observation: this is one my favorite episodes.  It was a lot of fun to watch and I recommend watching it live to appreciate it fully with all the other fans.)