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REVIEW: 12 Monkeys 1×04 “Atari”

Written by Scott Swartz

See this is what the series should have been showing us all along, and it wasn’t that hard to do in retrospect. “Atari” made us care about the characters in the future while developing a fun time travel plot and staging a bunch of fun set pieces  It is actually surprising just how much the future narrative has actually managed to improve in just one week and how much the writers seemingly don’t care about the past at all. I mean we probably spent a grand total of five minutes with Cassie and the episode actually was a large improvement overall. We also got some great flashbacks to Ramse and Cole’s time before the machine and how both of them have drastically evolved since they were in the West Seven. All of these details managed to work so well because the writers are seemingly committing to some concrete rules and reactions. So let’s dive in.

I just want to say that the show managed to pull of the idea of the short jump especially well this week as often this is the most difficult story to tell. The lining up of events in order to make Cole be exactly where he needed to be at the exact right moment could of come off as confusing or simply half hearted, but the way in which Cole maneuvers Deacon and Max in to the exact places he needed them to be was superb. This was also one of the first times we got to see the real consequences of Cole’s adventures he was the one who brought the West Seven to the front door and seemingly gave up his friends. What helped to aid this plot is that we are seemingly seeing the ramifications of what the machine is doing to Cole much like we did last week when Cole was out of phase. The hallucination was one of the first real consequences demonstrated to the audience and the series would be better served if we knew the downside much earlier on. No matter what this was definitely the tightest time travel plot we have seen to date, and it worked out greatly.

What really helped to elevate all of the time travel antics were the use of flashbacks to show Cole and Ramse’s time with the West Seven. Watching Cole go from a kind hearted guy to a full on cult believing psychopath was some strong stuff especially because we had Ramse as the audience surrogate. Ramse has been surprisingly under used and for him to get some real screen time, let alone be the moral compass of the episode was a better choice then letting Cole be the good guy all the time. I was glad from the word go that Ramse was not buying what Deacon was selling, but I could not tell if Deacon simply hated Ramse or was afraid of his resistance. I feel that could have possibly been a better angle as the Deacon as a rampant killing machine angle kind of fell flat towards the end. The other thing I wanted to see is how Cole and Ramse ended up at the safe haven, that clearly should’ve been the button for the flashbacks as the simple decision to not kill Deacon lacked the satisfying conclusion I was hoping for.

With all the time spent in the future I was left wondering one thing, why do we even care about the past anymore? I mean we have spent such a small fraction of time in the past in the past couple of weeks that it feels like there is a bigger threat in the future than the looming extinction of the human race. I mean Cassie was able to find the Night Room apparently all by herself, so what purpose if any does Cole serve as the “savior” of the human race. Cassie is making actual progress on finding the Night Room so shouldn’t it be reflected in the future and Cole can just go and destroy it in the past. What is stopping all of this information from reaching our hero, is it simply necessitated by the plot or is there something more to it like the Pallid Man destroyed everything? Everything about the past raises more questions then answers.

Overall it was probably the strongest episode of the series.

Final Grade B+

+Actual time travel consequences

+Great flashbacks

+Solid action

-Why should we even care about the past?

-Cole even needed to find Night Room?

Extra Thoughts

-Two whole weeks without Jennifer, so why should we care about her?

-Why does everyone never take the shot at the bad guy? You know he’s a murderous psycho so do it.

About the author

Scott Swartz