The Army of the 12 Monkeys is the mysterious organization behind the plague that wipes out humanity. The organization is led by an enigmatic figure called The Witness. The ultimate goal of the 12 Monkeys is actually much larger than simply unleashing a plague and destroying the world. Their true purpose is to destroy the very fabric of time and bring about the Red Forest, using a machine called Titan.
The Army of the 12 Monkeys seeks to unleash a plague on humanity. The ultimate role of the virus was more strategic in nature than an ultimate endgame. The outbreak of the virus encourages Katarina Jones to complete Project Splinter and develop a working time machine. The completion of the time machine, and José Ramse traveling back in time to ensure its funding, mark the end of the so-called first cycle in the 12 Monkeys true objectives. The Messengers harness the power of the time machine to set The Witness's true desires into action
Rise of The Witness
Due to the nature of causality, a critical goal of the Army of the 12 Monkeys is ensuring that their prophet, The Witness, comes into existence. Initially, the Army of the 12 Monkeys erroneously believes that Athan Cole is The Witness. As a result, they manipulate events leading up to his conception. After his birth, the Army sends him back in time to witness history and truly become The Witness. Finally, the Army awaits for the return of The Witness at Titan. After this moment, the Army believes The Witness will be ready to complete his final cycle and bring about the Red Forest. However, the revelation was made by Athan that Olivia was the true Witness, and Olivia killed him, immediately prior to fully becoming the Witness.
The true objective of the Army of the 12 Monkeys is to destroy time using a giant, time-traveling paradox machine city known as Titan to destroy time. They believe that once time is destroyed, a Red Forest will spring in its place. The Red Forest is a place free of time, and thus death. It is the goal of The Witness and her followers to live eternally in the Red Forest.
There are several groups within the Army of the 12 Monkeys that have been seen.
The leader of the Army of the 12 Monkeys is The Witness, also known as Olivia Kirschner, a hooded figure that wears a plague doctor mask. The Witness communicates most orders through visions, primarily to Olivia and later to the Pallid Man.
Until 2016, The Witness's second-in-command is Olivia. She is responsible for organizing much of the first cycle of The Witness's grander plan, including preparing The Messengers, investing in Markridge, funding Project Splinter, and preparing Cassandra's mind for possession by The Witness. Following Olivia's attack by Jennifer Goines, the Pallid Man steps up to fill her mantle, something The Witness claims is his birthright as a result of his mother being Mantis.
Another individual with a leadership position is Mallick. Mallick's charge appears to be the city of Titan, where he falls second-in-command only to the Pallid Man. He helps Olivia stage a coup in 1959, which culminates in the murders of both the Pallid Man and Athan.
For more information, see the article Messengers.
The Messengers are a group of twelve individuals engineered from Olivia's DNA. Much like Olivia, they can sustain significant injury and are immune to the plague. The Messengers are born in 2015. In 2043, they hijack Project Splinter. Six of the twelve are killed in 2043. The remaining six are sent back in pairs of two to paradox Primaries in an effort to destroy Time and bring about the Red Forest. These Primaries are located in 1944, 1957, and 1975. The only Messenger to survive long-term is Mantis, who gives birth to the Pallid Man and dies in 1971.
Acolytes are the followers of The Witness who reside in Titan. Their appearance honors The Witness, with them dressing in long, dark robes and plague doctor masks. They are fiercely loyal to The Witness, choosing to die rather than give up his location. They reside at Titan. In 2163, they are seen in a large room watching as the Pallid Man reveals to Cassie that she is pregnant with The Witness. They are seen again in 1959 awaiting the return of The Witness.
For more information, see the article Guardians
The Guardians are a group of four time travelers. Their sole purpose is to protect and educate The Witness. The Guardians wear splinter suits, which allow for instantaneous time travel. If harm befalls The Witness, or any of the other Guardians, an individual is to splinter back an appropriate amount of time to head off the danger. After delivering the warning, the time-traveling Guardian activates a self-destruct feature on the suit, killing his or herself to prevent a paradox.
At an undisclosed point in time, Mantis, a former Messenger, meets Zalmon Shaw. The two end up becoming the parents of the Pallid Man. The three of them begin targeting vulnerable people who lose family members under tragic circumstances, like mining accidents or fires. Promising the chance to reunite with their lost loved ones, Zalmon Shaw preaches of the Red Forest and a place where time does not exist. This becomes the crux of his recruiting efforts.
Olivia contacted José Ramse when he was in prison, sending him books and letters and promising his son would be protected if he joined them. In 1995, Ramse was released and initiated into the Army at a ceremony where the Pallid Man and Olivia were both present.
Ramse began using his knowledge of Cole's actions, remembered from 2043, to ensure that events in the past happened as he remembered. The Army invested in the Markridge Group, revealing themselves to Leland Goines as silent partners in the company.
The Army caused an epidemic in Haiti in a successful attempt to draw out Henri. The Pallid Man and a group of Army agents tracked down Henri and attacked him and Cole. Cole and Henri fought them off, and Cole cut the Pallid Man's face, forcing him to retreat. Later, Olivia reported to Ramse that Henri had been killed by Cole, and announced that the "period of interference" had begun. Ramse told the Army that they could not move on Leland and Jennifer Goines until after Cole had met Jennifer.
During this period, Ramse continued to use his knowledge of Cole's actions from 2043 to help the Army foil all of Cole's attempts to stop the plague.
The Pallid Man killed Jeremy. Later he and a group of Army agents visited J. D. Peoples Mental Hospital and kidnapped Jennifer Goines. They drugged her with a hallucinogen, causing her to glimpse the Witness.
Cole and Railly broke into the Night Room, only to encounter the Pallid Man with a group of Army soldiers and Jennifer Goines. The Pallid Man tortured Cole in a futile attempt to learn how to break into the Night Room vault and told Railly that Cole had killed Henri. The Pallid Man ordered his subordinates to cut the vault open. Unable to bypass the final failsafe, he tortured Jennifer for the information but failed to get anything. He tricked Jennifer into deactivating the failsafe by pretending to leave the laboratory. However, Cole and Railly destroyed the Remains inside the vault. The Pallid Man then kidnapped Railly.
The Pallid Man and Olivia drugged Railly with a hallucinogen, and Olivia talked to Railly through the hallucinations, guiding her through a "red forest" and bringing her to meet the Witness. After Railly was freed by Cole and Aaron Marker, the Pallid Man argued with Olivia, asking why she would allow them to be set up for failure when Ramse had foreknowledge of what Cole would do. Olivia replied that the "period of interference" had to be allowed to occur exactly as Ramse remembered it, otherwise Ramse would never travel back in time to 1987.
After the M5-10 virus was destroyed in Chechnya, the Army kidnapped Oliver Peters and threatened his husband to force him to recreate the virus for them. Olivia met Aaron and asked him what he would do to save Railly.
Afterwards, Ramse told Olivia that since he killed Cole in 1987, there could be no further interference from him. He declared that the Army could not kill Railly, otherwise she would never leave her message in 2017 and Cole and Ramse would never travel back in time to 1987. The Army invested in the "selective survivor project" that would eventually become Spearhead. Olivia took Jennifer under her wing, bonding over the difficult relationships they had with their fathers.
Aaron met with Olivia to strike a deal; he gave her the location of Cassandra's bookstore in exchange for the Army's promise to protect Cassandra and him from the plague. The Pallid Man led an assault on the bookstore, killing Cole's father. However, Cole caused a temporal paradox which destroyed the store and defeated the Pallid Man and his troops.
At Olivia's urging, Ramse attempted to use the prototype time machine at Raritan National Laboratory to return to 2043, but was stopped by Cole and Railly, who shot Ramse. Ramse then helped Cole send an injured Railly to 2043. Olivia inspected 12 mysterious infants whom the Army was preparing for 28 years in the future, and then declared that Ramse's circle had closed and he would be found dead next to the time machine, as had been ordained by fate; however, Cole saved Ramse, defying Olivia's prediction. The Army turned the plague virus over to Jennifer, who set out on a plane trip with the virus on board.
Rise of the Witness
The Guardians accompany a newly born Athan Cole from 2047 to 1921. They protect him throughout multiple eras of time, allowing him to witness history.
Athan Cole is conceived in the House of Cedar and Pine. His parents are Cassandra Railly and James Cole. Even though the timeline is reset, because both of his parents exist outside of time, Athan continues to exist.
Once Athan returns home to the House of Cedar and Pine, Titan splinters in behind the home. The Pallid Man and the entirety of the Army of the 12 Monkeys await for the return of The Witness. At this moment, Olivia stages a coup, killing the Pallid Man and effectively taking over the Army of the 12 Monkeys, feeling scorned by The Witness, who she believes abandoned her. Athan returns, shooting multiple Acolytes and helping his parents escape Titan. Athan and Olivia meet in The Witness's chamber. Athan reveals that he has no desire to become the man he was groomed his entire life to become. It is with this admission that the shocking truth is revealed: Athan was never to become The Witness. The true Witness, all along, has been Olivia. Olivia expresses outrage, claiming that she spent her entire life worshipping and praying to Athan. In her rage, she murders Athan, effectively allowing her to become the person she was always destined to be, and ironically, the person she has grown to resent for the past several decades.
A group of Acolytes awaits Ramse, Hannah, Deacon, and Whitley in Colorado at Titan. They murder the team (although this later undone by Cole, Cassie, and Jones). The Acolytes abduct Cassie and splinter to 2163.
Athan is born to Cassandra Railly in Titan. He is immediately remanded into the custody of the Guardians, who splinter to 1921. The Guardians are tasked with protecting and educating the child, as well as grooming him to become The Witness.
Following the coup in 1959, Titan splinters back to 2047 right outside of the Raritan facility. Olivia intends to destroy her enemies before fulfilling her destiny as The Witness.
With Cassie in custody, Titan splinters from 2045 to 2163. The Pallid Man reveals to Cassie that she is pregnant with The Witness. She and Deacon are kept in custody for several months. Following the facility's discovery by Cole, Titan splinters to 2047.
The Army of the 12 Monkeys deploys a team to protect The Mother and her unborn son. The Guardians protect both of them and a team of handmaidens is assigned to Cassie's side. After Athan is born, he is sent back to 1921 with his Guardians so he can witness history.