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12 Monkeys is a television series adaption of the 1995 film of the same name. It was produced by Syfy and premiered in January 2015. The story, which loosely follows the plot of the film, has been updated to the present day.
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Time traveler James Cole (Aaron Stanford) travels from the year 2043 to the present day in order to stop the release of a deadly virus by the enigmatic Army of the Twelve Monkeys. That virus, in Cole's original timeline, caused the death of 93.6% of the world population. Cole seeks help from the virologist Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull).

In March 2015, the show was renewed for a second season, and in June 2016 it was renewed for a third. A fourth and final season was announced in March 2017; the series finale aired on July 6, 2018.


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This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Max in Season 1 and Cassandra from Season 2 onward. Hannah and the rest of the Daughters also qualify.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Mandatory, given the transition from a 2-hour feature film to a 13-episode television season. The significant expansions include a conspiracy surrounding the Army of the Twelve Monkeys and the assassin known as Pallid Man, greater exploration of the post-apocalyptic future, and many more time-travel missions for Cole.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Dr. Kathryn Railly from the film becomes Dr. Cassandra Railly on the show.
    • Word of God is that the show began as an original project called Splinter which had absolutely no relation to 12 Monkeys other than that it involved time travel and a civilization-ending disaster, and "Cassandra/Cassie" is the only character name that survived after Executive Meddling demanded it be turned into an adaptation.
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  • Adaptational Villainy: In the movie, the Army of the 12 Monkeys was a Red Herring which had nothing to do with the virus. Here they are the ones behind the virus and are the main antagonists.
  • The Ageless: In "Shonin", Ramse becomes this after he's Trapped in the Past. He shares this trait with the Pallid Man and Striking Woman. It is implied to be a side-effect of either time travel, or of the serum that facilitates the process. This was later confirmed.
    • Season 2 elaborates on this a bit more. It seems like the serum doesn't prevent ageing as much as slow it down considerably, and even so, it isn't fool-proof. For instance, Ramse, despite outwardly looking youthful, has osteoporosis of the sort which a man in his sixties or seventies would have, which is of course his actual age now. As far as the Pallid Man and Striking Woman go, their slow ageing is not due to them being time-travelers, but rather owing to them being the children (natural-born and cloned respectively) of one of the genetically-engineered Messengers.
  • Alternate Timeline:
    • At the end of "The Night Room", when Cole jumps back while the Pallid Man kidnaps Cassandra, he returns to an alternate 2043 where her death caused the virus to be released a year ahead of schedule. Without her message, Cole was never recruited for the Splinter project team (he was killed when the soldiers beat him a little too hard). Ramse ended up taking over the West 7 gang and seized the time-travel facility. Cole convinces Ramse to send him back and set things right.
    • In "Primary" Cole and Cassie stop Jennifer from releasing the virus in 2016, as she was originally supposed to. This leads to an altered timeline where the plague breaks out in 2018 and due to forewarning by Cassie there is better preparation and as a result, a greater number of survivors and persistence of certain aspects of human culture (such as live broadcasts of music) in 2044. Moreover, Jones' history is slightly altered as her colleague Dr. Lang was not killed in the attack on Spearhead, and she now has a lover and fellow researcher, Dr. Eckland, whom she didn't know before.
    • After the events of "Die Glocke" a new Alternate Timeline is created due to Jennifer Goines killing Hitler in 1940, in which Himmler takes over and history is seemingly unaffected beyond that. The whole thing is however Played for Laughs and has no real impact on the series' plot.
    • In the series finale, "The Beginning" after Cole erases himself from the timeline and all the loops are unraveled, a new timeline is created where there is no plague, no Army of the 12 Monkeys, and no time-travel. Cassie leads a normal life as a doctor, Jennifer becomes Markridge's CEO, Deacon opens a bar, Katarina and Elliot live happily with Hannah, and Sam is still born to Ramse (and presumably Elena as well).
  • Always Save the Girl: This is discussed when Cassie finds out that the man who made the plague did it because the Army was threatening to kill his husband. Aaron thinks love is the only thing that matters in the end; Cassie bluntly tells him no, that's not true, the world-ending plague is a little bit more important. He made a deal with the Army to keep Cassie alive, and at the end of the episode Ramse goes back in time to stop Cole from changing the past, which would erase his son.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us:
    • In "Atari", the West 7 assault the Project Splinter facility to take its resources for themselves and take revenge on Cole and Ramse for quitting the group.
    • In "Arms of Mine", the West 7 return, now allied with the Messengers, and attack the facility again.
    • In "The End", the 12 Monkeys launch a full-scale invasion of the facility, parking Titan right outside and unleashing an army of minions.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Daughters, a group of nomad women in the future led by an older version of Jennifer Goines.
  • Amnesiac Lover: In Season 2 Jones becomes one as a result of Ripple Effect-Proof Memory. She doesn't remember Dr. Eckland, her lover in the altered timeline, which understandably upsets him.
  • Anachronic Order: Understandable, given the Time Travel premise of the series. Cole, as a time-traveler, experiences a number of crucial events leading up to the outbreak of the plague in a very different order from other significant characters, and indeed, the rest of the world. As a result, he ends up either encountering people he hasn't met who remember meeting him or being the hitherto unknown cause of events he'd previously learned about in the future.
    • "The Keys" contains a noteworthy example of this trope in play, as rather than Cole experiencing events out of sequence, it is the audience that watches Cole's story in the episode out of sequence. We follow a later version of Cole on a mission in Chechnya through most of the episode, and at the very end, there is a coda with the earlier version of Cole receiving the information that leads to that mission.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: Despite the death of 7 billion people, there are hordes of perfectly healthy "Scavs", examples of The Immune crawling the land, looting and murdering all too weak to stop them. A lot of them are roaming around near the time machine facility for some reason...
  • Apocalypse Cult: The Army of the 12 Monkeys, who unleash the plague that devastates the world, and who are planning to collapse time entirely, because the Witness tells them it will lead them to paradise.
  • Arc Words:
    • Season 1 brings several into the fold. "Twelve Monkeys", "Night Room", "Red Forest", "The Witness", "The Precursor", "Where are you right now?"...
    • Season 2 adds "Primary", "Titan" and "Paradox"...
    • The name "Morrison" seems to have taken on special significance as well, as "Morris Morrison" becomes Cole's go-to alias during Season 2 (even though he's used other aliases before, and he is first identified as Morris Morrison by Jennifer), and Cassie calls herself "Amelia Morrison" in Season 3 when she goes back to 1990 to consult with her mother on the Word of the Witness.
    • Season 3 adds "Athan" and "the Djinn".
  • Arc Number: The number "607" has popped up in a few different contexts over the course of the series so far. It's part of present-day Jones' phone number, it's the room number for Cole's permanent residence at the Emerson Hotel, and it's the number of times Athan tried to save Eliza.
  • Ascended Extra: Jones, just another one of the future scientists in the original film who's name is only mentioned once the mastermind of the time travel project with a backstory and character arc which significantly influences the overall story. Also, José Ramse, who in the original film, was just Cole's cellmate and a fellow time-traveler who pops up at certain moments in the story, is here Cole's best friend and partner, and later one of the principal antagonists, with his own story that is connected to the release of the virus.
  • Asleep for Days: Cole for three days recovering from a gunshot wound in "Splinter". He also hops right up ready to go - and also invokes Nobody Poops unless Cassandra cleaned him and just happened to forget a bedpan today.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: Played for laughs in the series finale. As Cole and Ramse are preparing to storm Titan by car for the Final Battle, they decide they need some music playing to set the mood, and end up settling on, of all things, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life". Which leads to a hilarious scene of Olivia psyching up some Mooks, only to trail off in confusion as the music reaches them, right before the car comes roaring out of a tunnel, triggering a gunfight.
  • Barrier Maiden: The Primaries, humans to whom time is inexorably linked. Jennifer is one. They are important because the Messengers are trying to paradox these people out of existence to collapse time, and when they kill one it creates a time storm.
  • Betty and Veronica: For Cassie, with Cole being the Veronica and Aaron being the Betty.
  • Big Bad:
    • The Witness appears to be this for the overall Twelve Monkeys conspiracy in 2015 and onwards. Considering that he isn't actually seen throughout Season 1, Olivia (AKA The Striking Woman) more directly fulfills this role until she's crippled by Jennifer, at which point the Pallid Man takes over.
    • In the post-apocalyptic world of 2043 and onwards, it's Deacon, the leader of the West 7 gang until he teams up with the heroes against the Messengers.
    • Season 3 confirms that Olivia is the Witness and likely the person responsible for orchestrating events from the very beginning. Season 4 confirms this.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Appears to be the norm in the future.
    • Invoked specifically by Ramse in "Atari". He is prepared to resort to violence and murder to the extent he needs to in order to survive; in contrast, Deacon and the rest of the West 7 gang kill for the sake of power and pleasure.
    • In "The Night Room", we learn that Jones, who is the closest thing the series has to a Big Good, subjected a number of men to horrifying experiments in an attempt to perfect the time-travel process — and some of these were lost in time. She justifies her actions as being necessary to restore human civilization. Later, in "Tomorrow", she murders Foster in cold blood and has her troops carry out a massacre of Spearhead's scientists and defense forces simply to steal their energy core. Moreover, she destroys evidence that Spearhead was on the verge of developing a cure to the virus in order to manipulate her followers into believing that her time-travel plan was the only possible hope for humanity's survival. The only redeeming factor left for her character appears to be that she's motivated primarily be a desire to undo the death of her infant daughter.
  • Brick Joke: In the Season 2 finale, Cole's Mental Time Travel briefly lands him back at his first meeting with Jennifer. He asks her not to call him "otter eyes" anymore. Later, Jennifer calls him "otter eyes" again and adds off his annoyed reaction, "Yes, I will always call you that."
  • The Cameo: All four of the Impractical Jokers have made appearances on the show.
  • Cassandra Truth: Referenced in Dr. Railly, whose first name is Cassandra here - no one believed her story that Cole vanished right before her eyes.
  • Close-Enough Timeline: The Alternate Timeline created during "Primary". The virus was released in 2018 rather than 2016, there were a greater number of survivors, one of Jones' colleagues wasn't killed in the attack on Spearhead in 2043 and she has a lover named Dr. Eckland. Other than that, events seemed to have played out more or less as they did in the original timeline. Jones even comments on how similar the new timeline is despite the potential for exponential change via the Butterfly Effect.
  • The Constant: The Emerson Hotel. Cole purchases Room 607 in the hotel in perpetuity on a trip to 1944 (having discovered that he'd already done so in 2016. Since then, its been used by Cole and the other time-travelers from Project Splinter as their base during missions in the past. In Season 4 we learn that the structure is still standing in the post-apocalyptic world of the 2040's - and the entire Splinter facility is splintered to the basement of the hotel after the Army of the 12 Monkeys attacks and destroys Raritarn Labs.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Cassandra was trying the "my name must be on there" gambit and her ex-boyfriend happens to notice her just then.
    • She's doing that in order to get him to notice her, as she knows he's on the guest list and has already spotted him.
  • Convulsive Seizures: Cole has one in "Paradox," complete with foaming at the mouth.
  • Crapsack World: Both the Present Day and the Bad Future. The future is a hellish wasteland being slowly stripped bare by Disaster Scavengers, and the present day not only created the plague that led to it with as little care as the rest of the WMDs it stockpiles, but released it not by accident or as an act of terror, but simply to kill a whistleblower.
    Adam Wexler: What about this world is worth saving, if they would risk extinction to swat a fly?
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Cole. He grew up in a post-apocalyptic world following the release of the plague in 2017, and spent some time as part of a particularly destructive group of Disaster Scavengers known as the West 7, stated to strip entire communities bare like a swarm of locusts — and they're still looking for him. It's strongly suggested that he committed several violent and horrifying acts in order to survive, and became emotionally and mentally scarred as a result.
    • Probably applies to pretty much every character in 2043, most notably Jones.
    • Jennifer Goines. She witnessed the massacre of her entire laboratory team by the Pallid Man, and was framed for the killings and committed to a mental institution. Between these traumatic experiences, as well as the medications she is given, she has truly become mentally unhinged.
  • Deadly Nosebleed: Cole's nosebleeds indicate that the time travel is killing him.
    • Downplayed in some episodes where a minor nosebleed seems to indicate nothing more than that a minor change has been made to the past (Cassandra gaining new memories of going to the museum as a child after her adult self basically browbeats her mother into making her go; Olivia after time-travel shenanigans change her past from "bought something from an auction house" to "bought something at an auction").
  • Death by Adaptation: Dr. Leland Goines who is killed in the first episode, which Cole believes should complete his mission.
  • The Dragon: The Pallid Man serves as this to Olivia (The Striking Woman), Ramse, and ultimately, the Witness, in the present-day.
    • The Season 3 finale reveals that Mallick has been carrying out orders for the true Big Bad (Olivia), essentially taking the actions necessary to create the Witness. Then in Season 4 he outlives his usefulness and is then replaced with the nameless Advisor.
  • Expy: Adam Wexler is an obvious expy of Edward Snowden, though the government is rather more reckless in taking him out than America’s is in dealing with Snowden.
  • Enemy Mine: In Season 2, Deacon effectively becomes a member of the Splinter group - offering West 7's protection to the facility, in return for safe haven and Cassandra treating him for his illness. Cole and Ramse understandably aren't happy about this arrangement at first.
  • Face–Heel Turn: After a fashion. Ramse leaves the facility and Cole, choosing the Spearhead team (and his girlfriend and son) over Cole going back and time to stop the virus - which would prevent Ramse and Elena from ever meeting. This eventually leads to him traveling back in time and become the Traveler-mistaken as the Witness but proven not to be in the Season 1 finale - one of the masterminds behind the Army of the Twelve Monkeys.
  • Fake Defector: In Season 4, Deacon seemingly sells out to the Army of the 12 Monkeys after being left behind when Project Splinter relocates. But it turns out he's still loyal to the team and is trying to sabotage the Monkeys from within.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Cole and Jones, as well as Cole and Cassandra as revealed in "Paradox". Cole, as a 6 year old boy, met Jones and Cassie in 2015, when they approached him and his father to get a sample of his cells which was used to cure his future self. The adult Cole however doesn't remember this meeting. Presumably, the shock and trauma of seeing his father shot dead led him to repress his memories of these meetings.
  • For Want of a Nail: In "The Red Forest", the premature death of Cassandra in 2015 results in an alternate reality where the virus is released a year earlier under different circumstances, Cole is never recruited into the 'Splinter' project and is instead killed during the unsuccessful attempt to break into the facility, Ramse ends up killing Deacon and taking over West 7 and rallying its members to eventually take over the facility and imprison Jones.
  • Get Back to the Future: Ramse's objective, as revealed in the Season 1 finale "Arms of Mine". In fact, his attempts to return to the future, by investing in Project Splinter, results in the very invention of time travel, completing a Stable Time Loop.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: "Lullaby" has Cole and Cassandra stuck in a time loop in 2020 after Jones sends Cassandra to kill a younger version of Jones in a misguided attempt to correct for her mistakes, which Cole intervenes in. They cannot do anything which interferes with the timeline Jones remembers, but at the same time must do something to save Jennifer, who will be shot at the end of the day without their intervention. They manage to save Jennifer and fake the death of Jones's daughter, preserving the timeline while allowing Jones to reconnect with her daughter in the present.
  • Have We Met Yet?:
    • Dr. Leland Goines, as well as the Pallid Man, have already encountered future versions of Cole at the time Cole first meets them. Cole is understandably confused by their familiarity with him. Jones has to remind him that he is "experiencing time out of order".
    • In "Divine Move" Jennifer Goines cryptically suggests to Ramse that they have met before, in his future and her past.
    • In "Lullaby" 2020 Jennifer is unsure about which version of Cole she is encountering and asks him if the term "hyena" means anything to him. She was obviously referring to the events of the later episode "Hyena", which from Cole's perspective happens a bit later.
    • Lampshaded by Cole in "45 RPM" when he meets Interpol officer Bonham who seems to know him. Of course, in this case, neither Cole nor Bonham have met before from either of their perspectives, with Bonham only knowing of Cole through legends. Cole does go onto meet Bonham's medieval-era ancestors in a later episode though.
    Cole: I should be used to this by now but, how do you know me?
  • Heel–Face Turn: Max, who goes from working for the Scavs to working with Jones. It gets her killed, when Ramse has his Despair Event Horizon and shoots her while making his escape from the Facility.
  • Help Yourself in the Future: Young James Cole from 2015 unwittingly does this in "Paradox". His cell samples are harvested so that they may be used to cure his future self of his Temporal Sickness. As far as James knows though, he's only helping "a friend".
    • An interesting example in Season 2. Old Jennifer is dying in 2044, which she knows will result in her Daughters going berserk and killing everyone at the Splinter base. So she asks for Jennifer from 2016 to be brought to 2044 to replace her as the 'Mother' and lead the Daughters after her death.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Ramse is disgusted with Jones when he finds out she ruined any chance of the virus being cured & all the deaths she was responsible for because she just wants her daughter back. Yet one episode later he goes back in time to make sure the plague happens so that his son exists
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Played straight, for the most part. Due to You Already Changed the Past being in effect, attempts to assassinate people in the past to prevent the future apocalypse are doomed to fail. The very first episode of the series has Cole killing Leland Goines, only to discover that Goines death does not change anything. Later in the series, repeated efforts are made to assassinate the Witness (the leader and messiah of the Army of the 12 Monkeys) before he/she rose to power, but all those efforts simply contribute to convoluted Stable Time Loop that ensures the Witness' rise.
    • And then, hilariously averted in Season 4 with the real Hitler. In "Die Glocke", during a mission in 1940 France, Jennifer detonates a bomb that kills Hitler with Deacon casually stating that they simply "had to". It turns out that killing Hitler seemingly had no real impact on the timeline, with Himmler simply taking over. Needless to say, the whole thing is simply Played for Laughs.
  • I Am Not Him: In the Season 1 finale. Cole accuses Ramse of being the Witness. Ramse responds in surprise that Cole thought it was him.
    • In Season 3 Cole and Cassie's son Athan comes to the realization that he's not the Witness, despite having been raised to believe that was his destiny all his life.
  • In Spite of a Nail:
    • At the end of "Splinter", Cole successfully kills Leland Goines in 2015, but this has no effect on the future, as his work is continued by others — most likely, the titular '12 Monkeys'. Of course it's also possible that Leland Goines was never the one directly involved in the creation and release of the virus, which would void this trope.
    • In "Primary" Cole, Ramse and Cassie stop Jennifer Goines' from releasing the virus in 2016 and destroy all her supplies of the virus. However, this merely creates an Alternate Timeline where the virus was released in some other manner in 2018 instead, the number of human survivors was slightly greater, and one of Jones' colleagues survived the raid on Spearhead at which he'd originally died last season. Apart from these changes, everything is more or less identical to the original timeline.
    • In "Die Glocke" Jennifer detonates a bomb that kills Hitler in France, in 1940. Hitler's premature death seemingly has no impact on the timeline, as Himmler simply takes over for him. The whole thing is simply Played for Laughs. According to Word of God however, had there been more time, there might have been a subplot exploring how Hitler's death affected history.
    • In "The Beginning" despite the timeline being completely reset and the plague and the post-apocalyptic world that followed being wiped from history, Ramse's son Sam is still born - implying that despite their wildly different circumstances, Ramse and Elena still got together.
  • It's a Small World After All: The series is set in Baltimore, which was not only looted clean of food and supplies decades earlier, but far enough North to have regular three-inch snows. Despite this, it's crawling with vicious bandits. In "Cassandra Complex", Cole's friend Ramse finds a hunting knife with the numeral VII on it, which he identifies as belonging to a "scout" for the West 7. They're the reason Baltimore is all but swarming with "Scavs" — they're looking for Cole, as they never let anyone leave.
  • Last-Name Basis: (James) Cole and (Jose) Ramse are called almost exclusively by their last names by most other characters (and each other), although Jones begins to call Cole "James" a lot in the latter half of season one.
  • Lost Technology: The Time Machine involved runs on Applied Phlebotinum which human scientists were working on when everything went bad. It's not from a long time ago, but it is pre-plague tech they got running.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Season 2 finale "Memory of Tomorrow ends with The Reveal that the Witness is Cole and Cassie's son - who is later named Athan Cole. However, by the end of Season 3, it is revealed that Athan wasn't really the Witness, but only believed to be so by the Army of the 12 Monkeys.
    • A much more straight example occurs in the Season 4 episode "One Minute More". It is revealed that Cole's mother, Marion Woods, is in fact Hannah, Katarina Jones' daughter! Hannah traveled back in time to the late 2000's on a mission to find Marion Woods, encountered Cole's future father Matthew Cole, fell in love with him, and thus ended up becoming 'Marion Woods' and conceiving Cole via a Stable Time Loop. She reveals the whole story to Cole in a letter she writes to him that he picks up in the future.
  • Mama Bear: Jones is gradually revealed to be one, starting with "The Night Room". It is an interesting case in that her child actually already died decades ago, but Jones is prepared to do whatever it takes, be it subjecting people to horrifying time-travel experiments, or murdering a rival leader and a number of his followers to steal their energy core, to ensure that history is rewritten and her child is retroactively saved.
  • Mass Teleportation: Titan is eventually revealed to be an example of this: a huge industrial facility that can instantaneously travel through time and space.
  • Meanwhile, in the Future...: The 2043 scenes, while Cole is in the past.
  • Mental Time Travel: In Season 2, it is revealed that inhaling the fumes of the red plants enables members of the Twelve Monkeys to communicate with the Witness across time. In "Meltdown", the Witness uses a form of Mental Time Travel to possess Cassie and use her to attempt to sabotage the Splinter facility.
    • And then, in "Memory of Tomorrow" Cole uses the fumes from the red plants to himself mentally travel back from 1959 to the body of his younger self in 1957 in order to try to prevent the paradox again.
  • My Skull Runneth Over: Happens to Cole in "The Red Forest" because of his new memories of the alternate timeline forcefully entering his mind. Jones says that the strain could have eventually killed him.
  • My Own Grampa: Olivia is revealed to be this in the Season 2 episode "Fatherland". She was genetically engineered using the DNA of Mantis, one of the Messengers who was sent back in time by the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Years later, Olivia would use her DNA to genetically engineer the Messengers, one of whom was her future mother, Mantis. Needless to say, this trope logically applies to Mantis as well.
    • A non-human example with the virus. The virus was genetically engineered by Markridge scientists from centuries old skeletal-remains discovered in the Himalayas, referred to as the 'Precursor'. The series finale "The Beginning" reveals that the remains were of Olivia, after the upper half of her body was splintered to the past, killing her. Olivia's blood contained a dormant strain of the virus to give her immunity. Thus, the virus was its own origin point.
  • Mythology Gag: Multiple references to the original film.
    • Familiar lines of dialogue from the movie are repeated in the show, such as time travel not being "an exact science", Jones saying "right on the money" when commenting on the accuracy of the time machine, and Cole's assertion that everyone in the past is "already dead".
    • In both the film and the show, there is a recording made by Railly which provides important information to the scientists in the future and thus drives the plot.
    • In both the film, as well as the pilot episode "Splinter", Cole infiltrates a dinner party/event thrown by Leland Goines, though for very different reasons.
    • In the film, Cole is accidentally sent back to WW1 before being sent to 1996. In 1996, Railly finds a photograph of him from WW1, which convinces her that he's a time-traveler. In "Mentally Divergent", Cole is accidentally sent to North Korea in 2006, before being sent to 2015. In 2015, Railly finds photographs of Cole from the 2006 incident, including a picture of a note Cole was carrying which allows her to track him in 2015.
    • In the early part of the film, Cole ends up in a mental institution after being considered insane by local authorities, where he meets fellow inmate, Jeffrey Goines. In "Mentally Divergent" too, Cole ends up in a mental institution, albeit this time, he deliberately infiltrates it to find fellow inmate Jennifer Goines.
    • "Mentally Divergent" itself references a mental patient explaining he's this, and then asking if Cole is as well.
    • In "The Keys", Cole tells Cassandra before he seemingly dies that the Florida Keys was a place he used to fantasize about going to when he was a child and where he hopes to be in his new life if the future is successfully altered. In the original film, Cole and Railly were planning to flee to the Keys to live out their last days before the outbreak of the virus, and it is during this attempted journey that Cole is shot dead.
    • For much of Season 1, Cole is haunted by fragmented memories of his past. In "Paradox", we learn that these are his repressed memories, from when he was a child, of seeing his father murdered by the Pallid Man, an event for which the time-traveling adult Cole was also present. This is similar to the movie, where Cole being haunted by memories from his childhood is a major plot point, albeit, in the movie, it was his own death as an adult that he witnessed.
    • In "Hyena", the theme music of the original film plays during a sequence where Cole breaks into the hideout of Jennifer Goines' gang of female misfits, the titular "hyenas", which in itself reminiscent of the sequence in the film in which Cole breaks into the hideout of Geoffrey Goines' misfit Army of the Twelve Monkeys.
    • Towards the end of "Memory of Tomorrow" Jennifer is accidentally splintered to 1917 and finds herself in the middle of a battlefield during WWI in a sequence reminiscent of what happens with Cole in the film.
      • "Memory of Tomorrow" also stars Madeline Stowe, who played Railly in the original film. In a Actor Allusion, Stowe plays a character called Lillian who's an inmate in an asylum, as opposed to playing a psychiatrist treating patients in an asylum as was her role in the film.
    • In "Nurture," we meet Cassie's mother. Cassie only calls her by her first name once, but she is the psychiatrist Dr. Kathryn Railly - both the name and occupation of Madeleine Stowe's character in the original film.
    • Jennifer Goines wears a yellow shirt with a black stripe running down the sleeves, the same as the shirt Brad Pitt wore as Jeffrey Goines in the movie.
    • In "One Minute More" Cole and Cassie travel to JFK airport in 2018 to prevent the release of the virus where they hear someone getting shot - in a sequence very reminiscent of the ending of the film. However, unlike the film, Cole isn't shot dead but is saved at the last moment by Hannah, and Cassie is the one to release the virus, rather than Oliver Peters.
    • Cassie's ex-boyfriend Aaron Marker is named after Chris Marker, the creator of the short film La Jetee, that inspired the original '12 Monkeys' film.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet:
    • Invoked by Cole in the pilot, and played with when he brings both the 2015 and 2043 versions of Cassandra's wristwatch together. The result is a 'paradox', depicted here as a slowing down of time in the immediate vicinity that affects everyone present except Cole.
    • In "Atari", Cole seems to experience physical discomfort when he is in close proximity to a two-day-younger iteration of himself.
    • In "Shonin", the Pallid Man's 1995 medallion and its 2043 counterpart are intentionally brought together, causing a 'paradox' explosion that turns the surrounding shrubbery red, and leads to the seeming disintegration of the 2043 medallion.
    • In "Paradox", this is actually used to Cole's advantage. Cole is dying in 2015 as a side-effect of repeated time-travel. The 2015 Jones theorizes that if cell samples were harvested from Cole's younger self and brought into contact with his cell, the resultant paradox might be able to cure him of the cellular breakdown he is suffering. It works, and the 'paradox' energy generated causes Cole to levitate, and to blast away the Pallid Man and another attacker.
    • In "Emergence", the Messengers murder a man with a future iteration of his collar bone. This creates a paradox of such scale that the future is beset by a time storm which threatens to engulf the Earth if allowed to spread.
  • Not His Sled: Played with. Oliver Peters may have developed the virus, but unlike the movie, he is not the one who released it and caused the plague. Peters did provide the Army of the Twelve Monkeys with the virus, but only because his husband's life was threatened by them.
    • In the Season 4 episode "One Minute More" Cole and Cassie end up at an airport, much like at the end of the film, where someone is shot and the virus is released. However, unlike the film, Cole isn't shot dead but is saved at the last moment by Hannah (who dies instead), and the virus is not released by Oliver Peters, but by Cassie herself in order to maintain the Stable Time Loop.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: The Army of Twelve Monkeys. At this point, they appear to be a terrorist organization that has influences in the government as well as corporations. People who get too close to finding out who they are often dead.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: A significant part of "Shonin" involves replaying scenes from earlier episodes involving Cole and his actions in 2014-15, except that this time, we learn that Ramse was monitoring Cole the whole time and ensuring that all his missions played out as they always did to preserve the Stable Time Loop.
  • Paradox Person: James Cole himself is ultimately revealed to be one in "One Minute More". This is largely due to the fact that Cole's very existence is dependent on time-travel, as his mother was a time-traveler from the future. As a result, Cole is considered to be the 'Djinn' - the central point from which all the causality loops originated.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Evidently the future scientists thought this operation would be so simple they didn't bother explaining early 21th century social manners to Cole. Cole needs to get information from Cassandra, so he decides to hide in the back of her car and interrogate her. He then drags her around a bit and does some confusing things without even trying to speak to her normally. Because of this, he gets shot. He also doesn't try simply coming clean to his captor in hopes that this plague thing was just a misunderstanding or an avoidable lab accident.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Cole seems to believe this, which is his motivation for agreeing to participate in the time-travel missions. If he succeeds, he (or at least, this particular version of him) will be erased from existence, along with all the violent actions he committed as a 'Scavenger' in order to survive in the harsh post-apocalyptic world. Many future characters share his Death Seeker attitude, despising the people they've become after the apocalypse.
  • Reset Button Ending: The series finale has Cole using the Primary's code in the machine to erase himself completely from the timeline - thus unraveling all the causality loops and creating a new Alternate Timeline with no time-travel, no plague, and no Army of the 12 Monkeys.
  • Reset Button Suicide Mission: This is essentially what Cole and everyone else from Project Splinter have been on throughout the series. If their time-travel missions succeed in preventing the plague and erasing the Army of the 12 Monkeys from history, then the current versions of them will all simply cease to exist.
    • Ultimately in Cole's case, this becomes a literal suicide mission, given that resetting the timeline means erasing him from existence completely and permanently.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In "One Minute More" it is revealed that Hannah is Cole's mother, making Jones his grandmother. In the movie, there was absolutely no familial relationship between Jones and Cole.
  • Ripple Effect Indicator:
    • Cassandra's wristwatch. Cole finds the 2043 version of it and brings it back to the past with him. When he scratches the present-day version of the watch, a scratch simultaneously appears on the future version.
    • Cole actually plans himself to be one. By his reasoning, if he wipes himself from existence, that means the virus never got released. In one instance, his past self is shot when that didn't happen in the original timeline, and the timeline automatically adapts by having him patched up in the future before he's sent back again, which appears on his shoulder. "The Red Forest" indicates this isn't reliable, as Cole does in fact technically erase himself (beaten to death before ever going back), but still exists.
    • Whenever a time-traveler does something which alters his/her personal timeline, they suffer from nose bleeds and they get flashes of new memories.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: In "The Red Forest", Cole creates a significant change in the timeline, and is able to remember the original events. However, he also has memories of the new timeline that conflict, which will eventually kill him if he doesn't fix things.
    • In Season 2, its revealed that the drug Jones developed which enables people to travel through time (and heal faster and age slower) also gives them Ripple Effect-Proof Memory, enabling them to be immune to changes in the timeline (irrespective of whether they have time traveled or not). Consequently, after the events of "Primary" following the creation of an Alternate Timeline in which the virus was only released in 2018, among other changes, Cole, Cassie, Ramse and Jones are the only ones who remember the original timeline in which the plague was released in 2016.
    • "Lullaby" implies that Jennifer, being a Primary, also has this, as she's able to remember the previous iterations of a "Groundhog Day" Loop, just like the time-travelling Cole and Cassie.
    • In "Memory of Tommorow" Cole, after using Mental Time Travel to travel back from 1959 to 1957 to stop the paradox, remembers the now-erased timeline where they failed to stop the paradox and he and Cassie eventually ended up consummating their relationship and conceiving a child. More surprisingly, Cassie somehow remembers at least partially the events of that timeline as well, despite not actually physically living through it.
    • In "The Beginning" after the timeline is completely reset with no plague, Army of the 12 Monkeys and time-travel, its revealed that Cassie, Jennifer and Jones still retain their memories of the previous timeline and all the series' events. Word of God says that all the other major characters remember the previous timeline as well.
  • San Dimas Time: Time moves in the 2043-44 scenes at roughly the same pace as it moves for the time-travelers in the corresponding scenes in the past. Justified by the fact that the travelers in the past are linked to the machine by "tethers" which maintain a synchronization between the travelers in the past and the machine in the present.
  • Screw Destiny: Cole unwittingly screws destiny in the Season 1 finale by going back to save a dying Ramse despite Olivia's claims that it was destined for him to die that day.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong:
    • Cole's mission throughout the series is to somehow prevent the release of the plague in 2017 that decimates most of humanity and brings the species to the brink of extinction by 2043.
    • In "The Red Forest", Cole has to fix the worse Bad Future he created when Cassandra was kidnapped, setting it back to his slightly better Bad Future.
    • In Season 2, the mission is significantly changed, but the trope basically in play. Instead of preventing the plague, Cole, Cassie and Ramse's missions are to prevent the Messengers from killing Primaries in the past with their own bones, causing massive paradoxes that eventually lead to a Time Crash originating in 2044 that will destroy reality in its current form.
  • Ship Tease: With Cassandra and Cole.
  • Shot to the Heart: Averted, as Cassie tells Aaron to shoot the adrenaline into Cole's thigh when he goes into cardiac arrest in "Paradox," although the miraculous reviving without chest compressions is still present.
  • The Slow Path:
    • Cassandra Railly lives the two years between her initial encounter with Cole in 2013 and his re-appearance in 2015 naturally, while for Cole the transition is instantaneous owing to time travel. Cassandra is understandably bothered by this, since things haven't gone well for her in the past two years.
    • In "Divine Move", Ramse meets Jennifer Goines in 2043, after she has naturally lived out the decades between the 2010's (where we normally see her) and 2043.
    • In "Shonin" Ramse, after being stranded in the past, lives out the decades between 1987 and 2015.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: James Cole. The movie famously ends with Cole being shot dead at an airport, an event witnessed by his younger self. In the show however, Cole not only avoids getting shot and killed at the airport (in the episode "One Minute More"), but ultimately, he survives to the end of the story altogether and gets a Happy Ending.
  • Stable Time Loop: Seemingly averted by the premise of the series that history is mutable (as demonstrated when Cole scratches Railly's watch, causing a scratch to instantaneously appear on the future version of the watch). Nonetheless, there are multiple examples of the trope.
    • Cole only travels back in time to meet Cassandra Railly because she leaves a message, recovered in the future, in which she mentions him.
    • In "Mentally Divergent", Cole is searching for the records of a certain patient in the remains of a mental institution in 2043. Since the records are missing, he is sent back to 2015 to infiltrate the institution and find out about the patient himself. Cassandra visits the institution when she finds out Cole is there and in the process, steals the records of the patient in question, thus causing them to go missing in the future in the first place.
    • Cole first learns about the Army of the Twelve Monkeys from Leland Goines in 2015, who in turn only heard about them because a future version of Cole asked him about it in 1987. In "Shonin" we learn that, in addition to causing the aforementioned causality loop, Cole's trip to 1987 is what leads Leland Goines to acquire the 'Precursor', the skeletal remains that are the source of the virus. He was unwilling to purchase it, until Cole told him it was the source of a virus, after which he resolved to buy it.
    • In "Cassandra Complex", Cassandra learns in 2015 that a fellow doctor she worked with in Haiti in 2014 was murdered during that time. Cole gets sent back to 2014 Haiti in order to track down said doctor and get him to tell him the location of the 'Night Room' lab that developed the plague virus. In order to prevent the Army of the 12 Monkeys tracking down the doctor again and extracting the information from him, Cole shoots him, with the doctor giving implied consent.
    • In "Atari", Deacon's West 7 gang attacks the time-travel facility, having somehow gained knowledge of a secret tunnel entrance. Jones hurriedly tries to send Cole back to 2015, so that he can continue the mission on his own, with Cassandra's help. However, Cole accidentally ends up two days in the past, where he is captured by Deacon's men and, under the influence of drugs, is forced to reveal the secret tunnel entrance to the facility, thus enabling West 7 to attack and causing him to be sent back in the first place.
    • In "The Night Room", it's heavily implied that Jones created the very virus she's trying to erase during her attempts to perfect the time machine, as the source of the plague is a mangled human corpse preserved in fluid. It's also heavily implied that the corpse is actually Cole. Jennifer mentions the how its eyes are familiar and that's the one part of Cole she's fixated on. Cole also gets a headache like the one he got when he saw his past self in "Atari".
      • The truth about the 'Precursor' corpse is finally revealed in the series finale "The Beginning". During the final battle at Titan, Olivia is killed when a splinter ray accidentally splinters the upper half of her body to the year 894 in the Himalayas. The upper half of her corpse becomes the Precursor that Leland Goines acquires and Markridge's scientists use to develop the virus. It had been previously revealed that Olivia's body contained a dormant strain of the virus - thus making the virus its own origin.
    • In "The Keys", Cole calls Cassandra while he's in Chechnya, attempting to intercept the virus during a CIA operation there. He tells her that a week from now, she and Aaron will meet an earlier version of him and will provide him with information about the CIA operation. This call leads to Cassandra and Aaron approaching the CIA, thus getting first-hand information about the operation in Chechnya which they are, a week later, able to pass on to the earlier Cole, causing him to travel back to the time of the operation and leading him to make that initial phone call.
    • In "Shonin", we learn that the entire sequence of events leading up to the release of the plague, and beyond, is one big causality loop. The Witness, the seeming architect of the conspiracy, appears to be Ramse, who has traveled from the future to ensure that the plague is released and the history he remembers unfolds. Though the Season 1 finale ends with the reveal that Ramse is not The Witness, but a key player instead. The other members of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys are also strongly implied to be time-travelers from the post-apocalyptic future, creating the history responsible for their existence. The Army orchestrated all the events of the previous episodes, to ensure that Cole's actions in the 2014-15 'period of interference' occur exactly the way Ramse knows they did, as they are essential towards ensuring the realization of the post-apocalyptic future.
    • In "Tomorrow", Cole meets Cassandra in 2017 shortly before she succumbs to the plague. Cassandra gives him a note with an address, which she tells him cryptically will "save his life". A few episodes later, in "Paradox", Cole ends up in 2015 again dying due to the side-effects of repeated time travel. Cassandra uses the address on the note and is thus able to track down the Katarina Jones of this time period, who helps save Cole's life. Cassandra thus only knows of the address, and the fact that it will "save Cole's life" because of the note...that she wrote in the future.
    • In "Arms of Mine", Ramse and Olivia claim that all the events of the series were the result of a predestination paradox. Ramse reveals that his funding of Project Splinter in the 2010's is the only reason why the time machine existed in 2043 to send him and Cole back in time in the first place. In his own words "It took time travel...to make time travel".
    • Cole and Cassie's trip to 1944 in Season 2 are also the result of one. In 2016, Cole finds the Emerson Hotel and learns there that in 1944 a special suite had been purchased by him in perpetuity. This, combined with a photograph he finds in the suite of himself and Cassie in 1944, is what leads them to make the jump back to 1944, purchase the hotel suite, get the photograph taken etc.
    • In "Bodies of Water" 2044 Jennifer asks for Cassie to be sent back to 2016 to ask her younger self for help in finding the Primaries, because "that's the way it happened". Later, after bonding with Jennifer in the past, Cassie theorizes that 2044 Jennifer asked for her to be sent back knowing the friendship that would be forged between them.
    • In "Hyena", Cassie and Ramse discover in 2044, a classified CIA report, partially redacted, which mentions the words 'Titan' and 'Witness' in connection with a Nazi scientist, Kirschner in East Berlin, 1961. Acting on this, in the following episode "Fatherland" they, and Cole, travel back in time to 1961 intent on interrogating Kirschner about Titan (which they believe is the location of the Witness). However, they end up being captured by Mossad agents, who relay their claims about 'Titan' and the 'Witness' to the CIA. As Cole later explains, this is why the words 'Titan' and 'Witness' appeared in the CIA report they found in 2044 in the first place...they inadvertently created their own (false) information.
    • The Season 2 finale "Memory of Tomorrow" the existence of the Witness, and by extension the entire series, is revealed to be the result of one gigantic Stable Time Loop. The Witness is revealed to be the child that Cole and Cassie conceived in 1959 (in a timeline that Cole subsequently erased). Said child was only conceived because the Witness engineered a number of events (the plague, the invention of time-travel, the sending back of the Messengers etc.) that brought Cole and Cassie to a moment where they were stranded in 1959 and conceived him. The full implications of these complex loops (which involves detours to more than one Alternate Timeline) will likely be explored in Season 3.
    • The Season 3 premiere "Mother" introduces another Stable Time Loop that sets into motion the events of the season, and beyond. Cole, while in 2163, is visited by a future version of him wearing a Splinter suit, and in possession of Cassie's wristwatch. Future!Cole tells Cole to rescue Jennifer from 1922 Paris (where she is Trapped in the Past) as she has the answers. This sets into motion a sequence of events that, among other things, results in Cole acquiring the Splinter suit and Cassie's wristwatch. Barring any significant disruption to the timeline, it is likely that Season 4 will show Cole having become Future!Cole, thus closing the loop.
      • Cassie giving Cole her watch is itself rather ironic since she does it, at least in part, to say Screw Destiny (immediately after insuring a different Stable Time Loop, no less; she also seems to be using it as an indicator of the time they have left). Cole apparently didn't tell her about meeting his future self.
    • In "Enemy", Deacon and Cassie, having both escaped from Titan in 2047, discover that the Splinter facility has been destroyed. Cassie finds a butterfly spray-painted on a wall though, and buried in the earth beneath a box with two tether-injections that allow them to return to 2046. In the next episode, Cole and Cassie bury the box with the two injections and spray-paint the butterfly in order to complete the loop.
    • The Season 4 episode "Ouroboros" reveals a Stable Time Loop that ties back to the events of Season 1. In order to escape an attack from Titan in 2046, Jones splinters the entire facility out of the Raritarn Labs site to the Emerson Hotel. While the plan succeeds, they end up back in time to 2043, right before Cole's very first splinter. Season 4!Cole, Cassie and Jones venture into the facility, seeking to use the earlier version of the machine. In the process, Season 4!Jones ends up meeting Season 1!Jones and revealing to her how to make the tether injections work. Also, Season 4!Jones decides to steal one of the energy cores from the Season 1 version of the machine to power the Season 4 version of the machine - realizing that it was her theft of the core which caused the power problems and range issues the machine suffered from way back in Season 1!
    • In "45 RPM" Cassie's plan to travel back to 1971 and assassinate a young Olivia to erase the Witness from existence fails because of another causality loop. Turns out, in 1971, Olivia was pregnant with a child (on the Witness' orders), but wasn't completely sure of her loyalty to the Witness. Cassie ends up telling young Olivia that her child should have purpose, in a bid to convince her to free herself of the 12 Monkeys' control. Instead, Cassie's advice convinces Olivia to dedicate herself and her child fully to the Witness - setting her down the path that eventually leads to her becoming the Witness! The Witness/Future Olivia's recollection of these events is also what enables her to intervene in them and ensure that her younger self fulfills her destiny.
      • The same episode highlights the fact that the Witness' entire existence, and all his orders are ultimately a Stable Time Loop. Olivia, having served the Witness and received orders from him for decades, knows exactly what orders to give to herself and other followers in the past in order to maintain causality. This includes the orders to her 'father' Dr. Kirshner to genetically engineer the child that ends up becoming her.
    • "After" is one big Stable Time Loop. Jennifer finds a photograph of a motel room with dead KGB agents in 1966 who were trying to buy 'a weapon' and the words "Climb the steps, ring the bell" written on the wall in their blood. Believing that the KGB men were buying the weapon built by the Primaries, Cole and Cassie jump back to 1966. But Zalmon Shaw and his men show up and Cole is poisoned by the Pallid Man's younger self. Cassie and Jennifer then travel back a little earlier in a bid to save Cole, and enlist the aide of their old ally FBI agent Gale. In the end, it turns out that Gale is the one who killed the KGB agents and Jennifer scrawled the words on the wall in their blood, so that it would catch her younger self's attention. Also, Cassie manages to get her hands on a cure for Cole's poisoning but must wait for her younger self to see him dying and splinter out before giving it to him.
      • To make things more complicated the loop in "After" is part of a larger loop involving the events of the following episode, "Die Glocke". Based on information received from the German seller of the 'weapon' (a bell recovered by the Nazis) in 1966, the team heads to France, 1940 to steal it at an earlier point of time. They manage to steal the bell, but it is only due to their intervention that the younger version of the German seller was able to steal another artifact and claim that it was the 'weapon' while attempting to sell it in 1966...which in turn led him to give the team the information that started off the 1940 mission in the first place.
    • "One Minute More" reveals that James Cole's entire existence is dependent on a Stable Time Loop. Jones' daughter, Hannah, is revealed to be Cole's mother. Hannah, who was sent back to 2009, met and fell in love with Matthew Cole, and conceived James. Cole, in turn, saved Hannah's life as a child during a mission to the year 2020 in the episode "Lullaby". Thus both mother and son ensured each other's (and their own) existence.
      • The reason why Hannah was sent back to 2009 in the first place is another loop in itself. Cole had told the others about his mother 'Marion Woods', who'd abandoned him as a child and who'd left him the story of the "serpent and the demon", which proved to be crucial to their current mission. As a result, Jones sent Hannah back to learn more about Marion Woods and her secrets. This set off a chain of events that culminated in Hannah assuming the identity of 'Marion Woods', who only knew to leave the story behind for James, because James would go on to relate it to her younger self.
    • Another major loop revealed in "One Minute More" - Cole and Cassie travel back to April 2018 to prevent the release of the virus. They steal the sole surviving sample of the virus from the Markridge lab, only to be told by Hannah that preventing the plague won't erase the Witness and the Army of the 12 Monkeys from existence, as they are now immune to causality on Titan. Realizing that they need the plague to happen to prevent their own timelines from unraveling, Cole and Cassie release the virus at the JFK airport, realizing that they were the ones who did it all along. However it is likely that this only applies to the current cycle - as in the original timeline, it was Jennifer who released the plague in 2016, as per the Season 2 episode "Primary".
    • In "Daughters" Deacon sensed a shift in the timeline while on Titan. In "Demons" this leads him to give Jennifer his knife during their mission in 1491, shortly before his Heroic Sacrifice. Finally, in the series finale "The Beginning" it is revealed that the older 2043!Jennifer used the knife to get Deacon's younger self to trust her, and was thus able to enlist the help of West 7 to take control of Titan. Deacon was retroactively aware of these events all along, and played along to maintain the timeline - culminating in his giving the younger Jennifer his knife to complete the cycle.
    • The ultimate Stable Time Loop of the series is the simple fact that time-travel created the problem that it was created to solve. Jones sums it up aptly in the series finale, describing the situation as "a disease caused by the cure".
  • Straw Nihilist: Adam Wexler has moments of this when he realizes that the CIA has used a plague capable of depopulating the planet to assassinate him. It's actually just him having a Heroic BSoD — discovering that his Unfettered employers are capable of such a thing is kind of like discovering the neighborhood bully is actually the neighborhood ax murderer. He ultimately makes a Heroic Sacrifice trying to save Cole and the human race.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: In the mental hospital, Cole and Jennifer can enter each other's rooms without being detected.
  • Super Soldier:
    • Implied to be the case with Cole, who appears to have greater strength and endurance than normal men (from 2015 anyway). Goines' scientists, upon running tests on him, describe him as a 'molecular computer'. This would seem to be a side effect of the injections and treatments Cole receives in the future before he is sent back in time, which are primarily meant to make sure he survives the trip. In "The Red Forest", we're told that Jones' injections have caused Cole's molecules to be in a constant state of flux, "shifting at a quantum level". The effect of this apparently is that time moves 'around' Cole, in addition to the fringe benefits.
    • The Pallid Man probably counts as well, since he is even stronger than Cole, and pretty fast for an old guy. It's revealed to be because he's the son of one of the Messengers, who were genetically engineered to be biologically perfect.
    • In "Shonin", we learn that Jones' serum apparently renders time-travelers ageless (or at least, causes them to age extremely slowly). After traveling to 1987, Ramse spends decades in the past and doesn't seem to age, and neither do the Striking Woman or the Pallid Man, who are also implied to be time-travelers. Presumably, the same effect also applies to Cole.
  • Temporal Paradox: Discussed frequently by the characters. Most notably, Cole must avoid 'corrupting' Cassandra's timeline too much because that would prevent her from recording the message that led to his time-travel mission. Then again the paradox that would be caused by preventing the plague seems to concern no one, precisely because that's the change they're trying to effect, knowing that it would wipe them out of existence.
  • Terminator Twosome: After the events of "Divine Move", Cole and Ramse have become this. Cole travels back to 1987 to prevent the events leading to the creation of the virus, while Ramse seeks to stop him to preserve the post-apocalyptic world.
    • In Season 2, the Messengers use the time machine to travel back in time to kill the 'Primaries' in a bid to cause paradoxes that will unravel the fabric of time and space; with Cole, Cassie and Ramse tracking them in time and attempting to stop them.
    • In Season 3 the Splinter team travels through time in a bid to kill Athan Cole, whom they believe to be the Witness, while Cole and Cassie travel through time to protect their son from their former allies.
  • Time Crash: In "Emergence", the Messengers sent back in time kill a Primary with his own collar bone exhumed in the future, creating a massive time storm in 2043. If they succeed in killing all of the Primaries in such a fashion, all of time would collapse into itself, creating a single moment encompassing all of time.
  • The Time Traveller's Dilemma: Starts to become a factor after "Tomorrow", albeit, not so much for Cole himself (who is hell-bent on rewriting history), but rather for others such as Ramse, who knows that if Cole succeeds, it will erase an entire generation born after plague, including Ramse's newly-discovered son Sam.
    • Briefly touched upon in the Season 2 finale "Memory of Tomorrow" as well. Cole, living in 1959 with Cassie having failed to stop a time-destroying paradox in 1957, is given the chance to use Mental Time Travel to go back to 1957 and correct his mistake - at the cost of erasing the timeline where he and Cassie consummate their relationship and conceive a child. Cole however doesn't take long to make his decision - choosing to sacrifice his unborn child and relationship with Cassie in order to save time.
    • This becomes a very real concern for Cole and Cassie in Season 4. They are painfully aware that, if they succeed in breaking the various loops and cycles and resetting the timeline, the current versions of themselves will likely be erased from existence, along with their relationship. As Cassie puts it - "We can either save the world, or we can save ourselves."
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Cole is only chosen for the time-travel mission because there is a recording of Cassandra recovered in 2043 where she mentions him by name, implying some kind of Stable Time Loop is involved (Jones herself says that Cole's destiny is "preordained"). Yet, the entire premise of the series ( unlike the original film) is that history is mutable and that the past can be re-written (which is clearly demonstrated when Cole scratches Cassandra's watch, causing a scratch to simultaneously appear on its future counterpart). This is compounded in "Cassandra Complex" and "Atari", in which Cole's actions merely fulfill predestination paradoxes (see the Stable Time Loop entry above). However, in "The Night Room", Cole's actions in 2015 do somehow create an alternate reality in 2043, though he fixes it by the next episode.
    • Things only get more complicated in Season 2. Cole saving Ramse in the Season 1 finale in turn led to him stopping Jennifer from releasing the virus in 2016. This creates an Alternate Timeline where the virus was instead released in 2018, among a host of other minor changes, but ultimately history played out the way it 'originally' did, including presumably all the time-jumps of the previous season. However, despite operating in what is supposedly a new timeline, the actions of the time-travelers still form part of a number of StableTimeLoops, including some that were the cause of events from the 'original timeline' of Season 1.
      • And then, the Season 2 finale "Memory of Tomorrow" reveals that the Witness, the architect behind all the events of the series that resulted in all the time-travelling to begin with (not to mention the invention of time travel itself) is the child of Cole and Cassie conceived in 1959 in a timeline that was subsequently erased even before the child was born. This means that the Witness is the product of a Stable Time Loop, but bizarrely, was also conceived in an erased Alternate Timeline...his very physical existence is a paradox in every sense.
      • It's implied by several statements and events (various assertions that Time is conscious, time travelers who supposedly exist "outside of time" still appearing in primary visions, Athan himself being primary, and Olivia seeing the "1957-1959. This was home" message while communicating with the Witness in a vision of the house of cedar and pine, even though Cole wrote the message right before erasing that timeline, for starters) that even if something is undone, Time is still aware of it and stores the information in the timestream, which is what the Machine accesses to do its thing; taking that to the logical conclusion, it might be better to think of alternate versions of time travelers not as being "erased" but as merging. In short, after your body has been prepped and splintered, if it happens to one version of you, regardless of the time travel method or whether or not the Alternate Timeline it happens in is erased, it happens to every version of you. An exception to this seems to be death, but that's more Plot Armor (or lack thereof) than anything else.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: In Season 4, the team recieves a message in the form of the story of a Demon that drove a Serpent (Time) mad, causing it to eat its own tail (Stable Time Loops). In the episode "One Minute More" Cole discovers that he is 'the Demon' - the source of all the causality loops that have twisted time into knots, causing The Witness, the plague, and the entire events of the series.
  • Trapped in the Past: According to Jones a number of Cole's predecessors in the Splinter project were 'lost in time' during the early time-travel experiments.
    • After the events of "Divine Move" Ramse is trapped in the past, as he was never synchronized with the time machine before he splintered back and therefore cannot be retrieved.
    • In "Paradox" the 2015 Jones tells Cole that her cure for the cellular breakdown he was suffering has destroyed his ability to time-travel, leaving him stranded in the present.
    • This is what happens to the Messengers in Season 2 if they survive their missions to cause 'paradoxes' by killing Primaries in the past. Most notably, one Messenger, Mantis, ends up stuck in 1944, and lives a life in the past, fathering a child who ends up becoming the Pallid Man and providing biological material for a genetically-engineered child who grows up to be Olivia.
    • In "Blood Washed Away" Cole and Cassie are both stuck in the late 1950's, since the Splinter facility was destroyed in 2044 by the paradox, which they failed to prevent in their mission to 1957. Both of them separately establish new lives, but while Cole is seemingly content for them to live out their lives in the past, in a pre-plague era; Cassie is convinced that they will someday find their way back to the future to continue the mission.
    • "Memory of Tomorrow" has Jennifer Goines trapped in 1917, during WW1. In Season 3, we learn that she spent five years living in France as a singer and actress, until Cole and Jones rescue her in 1922.
    • In "Daughters" Hannah ends up trapped in 2009 after the tether injection she was carrying is damaged. She spends the next nine years in the past, until she meets Cole and Cassie in 2018 in "One Minute More"
    • In "The Beginning" Cole ends the series trapped in the 2010's of the Alternate Timeline. However, given that Cole literally isn't supposed to exist in this timeline and as such has no 'native' time period, its certainly not a normal example of this trope.
  • Tricked Out Time: Cole and Cassie do this in "Lullaby". After realizing that it is impossible to either kill Jones in 2020, or alter her timeline in any way by saving her daughter Hannah's life, they save Hannah's life but fake her death, handing her over to Jennifer and the Daughters. As a result, Hannah lives, but since Jones believes her daughter is dead for the next 24 years, her timeline is preserved. However, the Season 4 episode "One Minute More" reveals that Hannah is Cole's mother, which means that her survival in "Lullaby" was always part of a Stable Time Loop.
    • In the Season 3 finale "Witness" Olivia tries to do this - by orchestrating the death of Athan Cole before he returns to Titan to assume leadership of the Twelve Monkeys as the Witness, and taking the identity for herself. But it appears that she was always meant to become the Witness - her actions merely fulfilled yet another Stable Time Loop.
    • In the Season 4 episode "After" it is revealed that this is how FBI Agent Gale survived his 'death' in 1961 while crossing the Berlin Wall, as shown in the Season 2 episode "Fatherland". Having been warned off his fate, he made sure to wear a bulletproof vest while at the Berlin Wall so that he would survive.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Colonel Jonathan Foster, the leader of 'Spearhead' in 2043. He's a tyrant who came to power in a bloody coup, but has provided his subjects with an oasis of peace and hope in the chaotic Crapsack World, and genuinely believes that his actions will lead to the development of a cure for the virus. Jones ends up raiding Spearhead to get their core so she can bring back Cole, and in the process it's revealed he had in fact cured the virus.
    • Jones herself might count as one. She has conducted horrifying experiments on several 'Scavengers' in an attempt to perfect her time travel process, and she slaughters Spearhead to get their core when they won't relinquish it willingly. They also had a working cure, which she burned. However, she has done so out of a genuine conviction that her actions will successfully restore pre-virus human civilization. See Black and Grey Morality above.
    • Following the events of "Divine Move' Ramse becomes one, in a bid to sabotage the Splinter project and preserve the current timeline, and his son. He hijacks the time machine and takes a one-way trip back to 1987, and becomes a key part of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. Ramse orchestrates events to ensure that the virus is released and human civilization is destroyed in 2017. His actions cause/will cause the deaths of billions of people, but he justifies this by arguing that he is preserving the existence of the entire generation born after the plague.
    • The Witness, and by extension, all his followers in the Army of the Twelve Monkeys and the Messengers, see themselves as this. Their goal, revealed in Season 2, is to destroy time itself through massive paradoxes, creating a reality where there is no birth or death, only a state of eternal existence within a single repeating moment. Several of the Witness' followers are said to be motivated by the prospect of being able to live forever with their loved ones in this state.
  • Where It All Began: Overlaps with When It All Began thanks to time-travel. In the fourth and final season, the Project Splinter facility is transported from 2046 to 2043, the year in which they were based in Season 1. In fact, in the episode "Ouroboros", the Season 4 versions of Cole, Cassie and Jones visit the earlier version of the Splinter facility just before the very first splinter, that led into the events of the pilot.
    • In the series finale after the timeline is reset, there is a return to one of the earliest scenes of the pilot, with Cassie getting into her car after giving a speech in 2013 - except that in this Alternate Timeline, there is no Cole to abduct her.
  • Write Back to the Future:
    • Unintended, but has the same effect. In "Mentally Divergent", Cole was carrying a note with the address of a mental institution he intends to infiltrate in 2015, when he accidentally ends up in North Korea in 2006. In 2015, Cassandra sees a nine year old photograph of the note (which was left behind at the North Korean military base when Cole was transported to 2015) and concludes that Cole will be at the mental institution right now.
    • At some point in 2017, prior to her death, Cassandra made a recording for the scientists in the future, telling them about Leland Goines, the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, and mentioning Cole by name.
    • In "Emergence", due to time shenanigans breaking the tether that would normally allow travel back, Jones has Ramse drop a coded classified ad in 1944 detailing a specific place and time so she can grab him, Cole, and Cassandra.
    • In "Guardians", we learn that Jennifer hilariously attempted this during the five years she was Trapped in the Past in post-WW1 France. She became a singer and actress, and wrote plays and songs about the adventures of Team Splinter, hoping to attract the team's attention in the future so that they'd pick her up!
    • An interesting example occurs in "Ouroborous". Cassie is wandering the Splinter facility in 2043, the night before Cole's very first splinter. She watches the earlier Cole watching an interview of her from 2018 (which from her perspective, occurs in the future). During the interview, 2018!Cassie looks straight the direction of 2043!Cassie, as though addressing her younger self, and gives her a message about a loop being a 'second chance'. This gets Bonus Points for being an example of Write To The Future where a future version of a character is actually communicating with her past self!
    • In "One Minute More" Hannah writes a letter to Cole in 2018 which she leaves behind in her room at the Emerson Hotel, and which Cole finds in 2043 - in which she reveals that she is his mother.
  • Wrong Time-Travel Savvy: Cole's time-travel mission is based on the premise that the past can be altered. The scientists, and by extension Cole, believe that if he succeeds in preventing the plague, the future will be re-written and he will be Ret Gone. However, thus far, all Cole's time-travelling has done is to fulfill Stable Time Loops, which would seem to suggest that the scientists are wrong about how time-travel works. Cole himself is clearly starting to question the initial premise, at least sub-consciously, since in "Atari", he hallucinates about Cassandra telling him that the future cannot be changed.
    • Discussed in Season 2, on two occasions, both with regards to the issue of Cassie having to survive to return to the 2010's, rejoin CDC, attempt (unsuccessfully) to control the spread of the virus, fulfill the Stable Time Loop by recording the message that leads to Cole beginning his mission, and ultimately die (as seen in the Season 1 episode "Tommorow"). However, in "Year of the Monkey", when the Messengers threaten Cassie's life in order to force Jones into letting them use her machine, Jones argues that killing Cassie would cause a Temporal Paradox since it was her message that led to the completion of the machine. The Messengers however suggest that this would not necessarily be the case and claim that "causality is [Jones'] religion". Later, in "Blood Washed Away", when Cole and Cassie are both Trapped in the Past, Cassie argues with Cole that they eventually will return to the future and complete the mission, because she's destined to die at the CDC in 2018..
    • By Season 4 the characters have come to realize that they are doomed to failure because all their actions simply lead to a Stable Time Loop, and are now aiming to find a weapon that will help them break free of the cycles. However, it seems that their attempts to find that weapon are causing quiet a few causality loops as well...
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Cassie tells Cole a variation of this after he declares that anything "wrong" (morally speaking) with their son is inherited from him.
    Cassie: You're a good man. I wouldn't have fallen in love with you if you weren't.
  • You Can't Fight Fate:
    • Or at least, you shouldn't unless you're prepared for Fate to fight back. It's repeatedly stated that Cole should take every effort to avoid interfering with known events; otherwise, he could Ret Gone the intelligence they've gathered up to that point. A big no-no is Cole meeting Cassandra prior to 2015, as interfering with that meeting would almost certainly result in him dying of the gunshot wound he received at their first meeting in 2013.
    • Discussed by Cole and Ramse in "Atari", where Cole argues that perhaps some things happen for a reason and are simply meant to be. Earlier in the same episode, Cole hallucinated about Cassandra telling him that the future cannot be changed. It is worth noting that this episode features a Stable Time Loop and thus strongly suggests that this trope is in play, despite the series' premise of Cole attempting to alter the past.
    • As of "Paradox", Cole is starting to believe this trope is in play. When he meets Jones in 2015 and realizes therefore that she'd known him all along, he tells Cassandra that meeting Jones was fate and that she'd "always come".
    • Ultimately, as of the end of the Season 1, there is no clear answer to this question. While several characters, including Ramse, Olivia and everyone involved in the Twelve Monkeys conspiracy, believe that this trope is very much in play and every action is governed by fate, Cole choosing to save Ramse, rather than leaving him to die in the Splinter facility in 2015 as future history recorded, seems to suggest that fate can be defied and the future can be changed.
    • Season 2 shows that while it may be possible to fight fate, doing so takes some effort. Thanks to Cole, Ramse, and Cassandra, the virus is destroyed in 2016, but this merely bumps the plague up to 2018 and makes the apocalypse slightly less bad. While they may eventually get rid of it entirely, it's clear that they're not going to do it merely by changing one event.
    • Discussed and played with in Season 3. Cassie, and eventually Cole, believe that their son Athan, who is destined to become the Witness, can be freed from the influence of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys - thus averting his dark destiny (and potentially resetting the timeline). In the end, they succeed, and Athan rejects the destiny laid out for him and turns against the Twelve Monkeys. But then, it is revealed that Athan was apparently never really destined to become the Witness - Olivia was. And Athan's actions (as well as Cole's and Cassie's) only resulted in her destiny being fulfilled.
    • In a spotlight episode, it's shown that Athan fell in love with a nurse in 19th century England and saved her from being killed in a robbery...only to have her die later of turbelicious. His diaries show that he tried to save her over 600 times but no matter what she does, on June 26th, 1891, she always dies.
    • Moving into Season 4, this actually becomes a central focus of the plot. The protagonists are painfully aware of the fact that You Can't Fight Fate, and that all their actions are merely part of Stable Time Loop. Which is why they are focused on 'ending the cycle' by finding a weapon that will help them break out of the loops and defeat the Army of the Twelve Monkeys once and for all.
    • The Army is also trying to break the loop, but instead of saving the world, they want to engineer a Time Crash.
    • The Season 4 episode "After" is an interesting case of the protagonists trying to make this trope work for them. Cole, having encountered a future version of himself back in Season 3, knows that he will survive at least long enough to become that future self - which makes him believe that he can take risks during missions without worrying about getting killed. Ironically, he ends up almost dying due to the episodes events, but ultimately survives - thus arguably being proven right in his approach.
    • Ultimately, the series finale reveals that you can fight fate - it just takes a Cosmic Retcon. Specifically, in this case, Cole's entire existence had to be wiped from the timeline using the Primary's weapon in order to unravel all the loops and eliminate time-travel (and its consequences - including the entire 12 Monkeys conspiracy and the plague).
  • You Will Be Beethoven: In the Season 3 finale "Witness" Olivia, after decades off warring against the Witness, believing him to be Athan Cole, discovers that she in fact is the one destined to become the Witness - a mantle she assumes by the end of the episode.
    • In "One Minute More" Hannah is sent back to 2009 to learn more about Cole's mother Marion Woods, and her knowledge of the weapon built by Primaries in medieval times. She encounters Marion, who turns out to be Olivia's daughter Emma living under an alias. However, when Emma is killed after an attack by the Army of the 12 Monkeys, Hannah assumes the identity of Marion Woods and ends up becoming Cole's mother.

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