In the episode "The Red Forest," we deal extensively with a timeline where Cassie dies in 2015. In fact, this timeline's existence is crucial in providing Cole with important information about Operation Troy.

Now, in the season 4 episode "One Minute More" we've learned that

Hannah Jones is Cole's mother.

However, in the timeline we see in the "The Red Forest"

  • Jones was still committed to working on time travel at Raritan in 2043. We know her motivation for this was to save Hannah, so Hannah must've died in this timeline.

  • Ramse still knew Cole, but he had already died in this timeline.

So with both Cassie and Cole dead, and Jones knowing neither of them, it's clear that the events of the season 2 episode "Lullaby" could never transpire in this timeline, so...

How did Cole still exist in that particular timeline?

  • 3
    @Buzz Please can you give it a rest with the edits? You've done over half a dozen in the space of a few minutes, and we have a community guideline against edit floods. The rule of thumb is that not more than 5 of the top 15 posts on the front page of the site should have been last edited by you. This is especially true with very minor edits like the ones you've been making which hardly add anything to the post.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 2, 2018 at 5:48
  • @Randal'Thor - "hardly add anything to the post" is an overstatement with this edit.
    – Valorum
    Jul 2, 2018 at 6:10
  • @Randal'Thor I only edit things that are already near the top of the front page, so there is literally nothing to complain about.
    – Buzz
    Jul 2, 2018 at 7:08
  • 2
    @Buzz I believe the main qualm of Rand's is the following point: "This is especially true with very minor edits like the ones you've been making which hardly add anything to the post."
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jul 2, 2018 at 9:11

2 Answers 2


Terry has answered this officially on Twitter.

Tara O'Shea asked him:

Ever have that thing where you're going crazy trying to understand how the dead Cole in the alternative future shown in #12Monkeys s1 "The Red Forest" could exist if in that timeline, Cole and Cassie never went back in time to save Cole's own mother as a child, or is it just me?
@tara_oshea, 3 Jul 2018

The supposed official answer being:

Because there was a Cole existing to undo the death. As long as there is a Cole, the Djinn, the serpent eats its tail. It’s a loop within a loop.
@TerryMatalas, 3 Jul 2018

As unsatisfying as that is, it's as official as it gets...

  • And the finale, of course, says "to hell with that rule." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    – Will
    Jul 7, 2018 at 3:23
  • See also. (This seems to be an answer to a slightly different question than what was actually asked.)
    – Will
    Jul 31, 2018 at 0:41

You’re right, it doesn’t make sense. That “Red Forest” episode is in my view the show’s biggest plot hole. Just think through all the consequences of Cassie dying in 2015:

  1. No Athan Cole
  2. No Olivia embracing her destiny in the 1970’s
  3. No Army of the 12 Monkeys
  4. No funding of Project Splinter

And many other things. (I think the virus probably wouldn’t have been released, but that requires more thought.) Clearly if you wanted to actually depict what a future without Cassie would really look like, it would look very different than that episode.

I think the only “explanation” of that episode is that it demonstrates how little the creators had planned out the timeline of the show in advance. They didn’t all foresee all the consequential impacts the protagonists would have on the timeline of the show. Quite literally all they foresaw was the very next episode, where Cassie plays a role in preventing the release of the virus in Operation Troy. So they reasoned that without Cassie, the virus would have been released in Operation Troy.

  • I've come to hate that episode (it's probably now my least favorite of the show) for exactly points 1-3, but I allowed it as a "wellll maybe" because as Olivia says there are moving parts and Athan never seemed to be 100% necessary. His role could probably fall onto another primary, after all. That, and we don't actually know what the Aot12M is like in the alternate timeline; just that they exist and seem to have had a hand in the plague. But this stuff with Hannah just breaks too much causality for me. :(
    – Will
    Jul 2, 2018 at 6:02
  • It's also funny because Terry tweeted he's had the Hannah twist planned "since day one." Day one of what, Terry? Writing episode 12? :thinking:
    – Will
    Jul 2, 2018 at 6:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.