There’s a lot going on for 12 Monkeys in “Mentally Divergent,” the somewhat awkwardly named second episode of the series. The pilot, which left me somewhat cold, felt too standoffish when anything with the vaguest hint at mythology and backstory came into play. Episode 2, however, manages to balance subtle hints to some big answers coming down the pipeline and maintain a brisk pace while doing so.
Cole and his best friend Ramse are assigned to search for a patient’s ID sheet at a mental hospital in Philadelphia in 2043, which only leads them empty handed after a scuffle with a few scavengers who they find picking the place clean. Someone reminds them that they have a time machine in the basement and they promptly “splinter” Cole back to 2015 to meet the patient in question and discover what they know about the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Except, there’s a little snafu and Cole is plopped in 2006 North Korea for a few intense minutes before Jones (the time machine’s inventor) and her crew can slingshot him forward to where he needs to be.
The hasty grittiness of the science in the show is on full display in “Mentally Divergent,” and its repercussions, while initially meagre, snowball interestingly. Cole’s sojourn to North Korea eventually allows Cassie to catch up with him thanks to Cole’s leaving behind of the address of the hospital, which is captured by U.S. intelligence, which her on-again-off-again cop-of-some-kind boyfriend snags for her unknowingly. It’s the kind of stream-of-consciousness knowledge that seems utterly wacky but still makes complete sense.
The episode also puts more of a focus on 2043 and the team leading Project Splinter, an initial problem I had with the pilot. Learning the dynamics of the team (Ramse is a useless appendage, only there at Cole’s behest) and seeing them attempt to disentangle the increasingly confusing timeline is pretty fun to watch. Especially when a mysterious stranger, tied to the Army of the 12 Monkeys, pops up and begins murdering people, appearing to have a history with Cole that Cole himself knows nothing about. The show keeps up a more energetic this-is-all-going-somewhere-we-promise energy in the second hour, jumping around 2015 and 2043 and most impressively, making all of its fringe science seem plausible.