I took about a week to gather my thoughts, and I’m still not sure I have the right words. But then again, I haven’t been sure at any point during my binge-watch that I can actually find a way to express everything this show does well, or even why that matters. I’ve never really been in this position before, so in love with a show, so unable to find stuff to criticize, or even nitpick. All I have is praise, and well-deserved praise, if you ask me.
12 Monkeys season 4 is better than 12 Monkeys season 3, which is better than 12 Monkeys season 2, which improved on 12 Monkeys season 1. And 12 Monkeysseason 1 was great, don’t think it wasn’t. This show just managed to top itself, over and over and over again.
That’s not just rare, it’s unheard of.
But I don’t want to focus on what the show does well as a whole, not in this article. I can write an entire separate one on that subject. I want to focus on what 12 Monkeys season 4 does well, because the thing the show succeeds at is the kind of thing most shows – even the good ones, fail miserably at.
It gives us an ending that brings everything full circle.
And it does so by understanding that to write a proper ending, you need …well, a season of setup.
The entirety of 12 Monkeys season 4 is leading towards that ending, the happy one we wanted, the one we were never sure we were going to get, but we always trusted the show to be able to deliver. Every twist, every decision, every moment – from the beginning of season 4, and way before that – was leading towards the same place: the right ending, which is, of course, the one we choose.
But the show isn’t remarkable because it left enough things open to interpretation that everyone could be happy, no. The show is remarkable because, in truth, it closed every loop, untangled every plot point, answered every question …and still managed to make fans of both nihilism and happy endings feel like they won.
Make no mistake about it, fans will claim a victory if you give them an inch. And everyone, absolutely everyone wants to claim that. It’s the whole point of endless internet arguments that will never be won by anyone, because we all like different things.
Except we should all like 12 Monkeys. There should be no compromise there.
How can you not like a show that managed to take a character like Deacon, one I thought I had figured out not once, not twice, but three times, and get me to a point where I was sobbing at the thought of losing him. There were so many tears I had to pause the episode to gain my bearings.
Over Deacon. Who I absolutely hated when he first showed up, and still in season 3, both loved and despised at times.
How can you not like a show that brought back its most divisive character, Jose Ramse, in a way that probably made even those people who didn’t enjoy him, cheer for him? At the end, it’s even harder to judge Ramse for the choices he made, because the choices led to where these characters ended up …and that’s pretty damn good, isn’t it?
How can you not like a show that made Katarina Jones anything but the stereotypical mad German scientist? Instead the show made her a mother, a grandmother, a leader, and above all things, a woman who, even after making a lot of bad choices, never gave up trying, on the off chance she could, someday, make the right one.
How can you not like a show where a character like Jennifer Goines was never the butt of any joke, but the glue that held the team together? Whatever you thought Jennifer was going to be when we first met her in Season 1, she ended up being so much more than that, and the team – nay – the show, would have never worked as well as it did without her.
How can you not like a show where Hannah, the same Hannah we’ve known for three seasons, can be made into a whole different person in one episode, just by the strength of a backstory very few of us could have even imagined? And the best thing about this twist is that it makes everything click together, in a way you never thought it could. There are no shocks for the sake of shock on 12 Monkeys, only things you could not see coming …yet.
And I haven’t even gotten into Cole and Cassie, the north stars of this show. Their relationship, their love, the family they created together, was always at the center of the show, and yet it never had to carry the show. We believed in their love for each other, even if they weren’t making out every second, because the writing made us believe …because the actors made us believe. And we followed them …in good times, and bad times.
Because we cared. Not just about the fate of a world that was always, consistently, more messed up than ours, but about the fate of these individual characters whose journeys we had a front row to. We cared about everyone. We cared about everything. And …we got what we wanted, in every respect.
I cannot stress this enough. We got our happy ending, no matter who we were rooting for. That’s what makes this ending so groundbreaking, and what makes the journey we took towards those final few moments so fulfilling.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the happy ending. I will defend it till my dying breath. But even more important than a happy ending is a coherent ending. I don’t always need to love what happens, but I do need it to make sense. And 12 Monkeys always, always delivered in that respect.
The rest is just icing on the cake of an amazing show, one you absolutely should watch. Or re-watch. Over, and over again. It’s not like you can find anything to top it, after all.