12 Monkeys: Review: Series 1 Episode 4: Atari

12 Monkeys 4Pulled back to 2043, Cole must help fend off an attack from his old crew…

Oh dear – the first episode of this show that really squanders the potential with a “prevent the attack we’ve seen kill our protagonists by going back in time and redoing it” theme. Okay, Cole isn’t deliberately sent back in order to do that – the scientists think that they’re returning him to 2015 so at least there’s a chance of stopping the 12 Monkeys – but that’s the effect… and from the moment where his old leader does a double take on seeing Cole inside the base, you can guess exactly how the rest of the episode is going to play out. Even the “old girlfriend who hates me so much but will help anyway” trope is used.

The 2015 storyline doesn’t so much progress as simply make an arbitrary move forward in this episode: we’re only in contemporary times for the opening and closing scenes, and the rest is devoted to 2043, or flashbacks to earlier in Cole’s life (2032/2035). We see how the bond between Cole and Ramse is formed, Cole’s nicer side (he doesn’t shoot a dog), and – perhaps the most important part of the episode – how he will go along with something for a certain length of time before his conscience troubles him and he backs away.

It’s an episode pretty much of backstory (at least obeying the “show don’t tell” precept), and while I’m sure there are portions of it that will become more relevant down the line, there’s too much about it, such as the machine depositing Cole at exactly the right place, that’s convenient… or, perhaps, is that actually the point?

Verdict: Lots and lots of battle, murder and sudden death for those who want a dystopic fight scenario, but little forward momentum. 6/10

Paul Simpson

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