Here's background story, clearly revealed at last: There's an ancient virus, dug up, then genetically modified to be the stone cold nearly instant killer which, as we know, all but wiped out the world. It all starts when the CIA sends the virus to Chechnya to kill Edward Snowden - in this story, one Adam Wexler, who even looks like our Snowden, though. Wexler's story - as we soon learn, and as he comments near the end of the episode - hinges on a real virus, in contrast to a computer virus, in a nice play on words and reality.
Now, in order for Cole to stop the plague, he has to destroy to the virus in Chechnya before it spreads any further. To do this, he has to travel a week into the past, as I said. But here's the kicker: Cassandra knows that Cole will stop the virus from spreading, all right, but by sacrificing his own life. Should she warn him, in the hope that Cole can somehow still stop the virus without losing his life?
In a lesser, more conventional narrative, she would have figured out a way to warn him, in the hope that she would be able to have her cake and eat it - that is, save the world and Cole, too. But this 12 Monkeys series pulls no punches, and provides no easy outs. So ... it looks at the end of the episode as if the virus is stopped and Cole indeed dies.
So, for the second week in a row, one of the two major characters has died. Except, with Cole on the loose last time, he was able to save Cassandra. Will she be able to bring Cole back now?
But there's an even deeper question: would Cole even exist in a world in which the virus was stopped? 12 Monkeys has already indicated the most fundamental reality about time travel, with the saving of Cassandra: no one is unalterably dead in a world animated by time travel. But will Cassandra have the memory to change Cole's death, in a world in which the virus and therefore he never arose in the first place? This, by the way, is just one iteration of the heart-breaking deepest truth of all that, even if the virus and plague are stopped without Cole dying in the process, Cole still therefore wouldn't exist as we know him in the plague-riven world in which time travel was perfected and enabled him to go back in time and meet Cassandra - because a world without the plague would not have created our Cole.
There are, fortunately for the narrative, several ways out of at least this episode's rendition of the paradox. One is that Cole didn't die when the rockets hit, because he was pulled out of that time by Jones in the future. Another is that, for reasons we don't quite understand, Cole's death did not result in the virus being eradicated - maybe there is another test-tube of it somewhere - which means that the plague will still happen, which means that Cole will meet Cassandra, which means she can figure out a way to save him.
Ain't time travel grand? I don't know, I've never done it, but it sure is something irresistible in 12 Monkeys the series.
See also 12 Monkeys series on SyFy: Paradox Prominent and Excellent ...12 Monkeys 1.2: Your Future, His Past ... 12 Monkeys 1.3: Paradoxes, Lies, and Near Intersections ... 12 Monkeys 1.4: "Uneasy Math" ... 12 Monkeys 1.5: The Heart of the Matter ... 12 Monkeys 1.6: Can I Get a Witness?
podcast review of Predestination and 12 Monkeys
three time travel novels: the Sierra Waters trilogy
What if the Soviet Union survived into the 21st century,
and Eddie and the Cruisers were a real band?
The Chronology Protection Case movie
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