You could almost say I’m a sucker for time travel stories; I love the damned things. I guess I could be more accurately described as an “easy sell”, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to love your work just because it involves timey wimey-ness. And the same goes for 12 Monkeys. When the original 1995 film came out, I was excited to see it, but it just didn’t do much for me. So when Syfy announced a 12 Monkeys series very loosely based on the film, I was dubious. I have never been so happy to be so wrong. This show is amazing.
The series by Terry Matalas (@TerryMatalas) and Travis Fickett (@traviswf) takes the core elements of the film and splinters them into a new and far more exciting incarnation. While any time travel story will necessarily come with the standard tropes of paradoxes, time loops, and the like, 12 Monkeys (@12MonkeysSyfy) treats them in smart and novel ways. I find myself frequently grinning at the new wrinkles the 12 Monkeys Writers Room (@12MonkeysRoom) dreams up. If you haven’t tried it, there’s plenty of time to catch up on season one streaming on Hulu before the season two premiere on Monday, April 18 at 9/8c.
Whether you’ve watched season one or not (dammit, go watch it now & thank me later), I’m going to give you my probably incomplete list of reasons why season one was fantastic and why season two is going to easily surpass it. Having watched several hours of season two, I can tell you it gets better in just about every way possible.
WARNING: While this list is technically spoiler-free it’s filled with teasers. There’s nothing in here that hasn’t already been shown, written, or hinted at in promotional videos, press releases, and interviews. But I’m offering this cautionary paragraph for those who may be acutely allergic to just about any form of discussion concerning future events. Which is kind of ironic since 12 Monkeys is a time travel show, but I like to practice safe blogging.
1) Characters: Everyone changes
If time travel is the sizzle then characters are the steak, and there’s a thick, juicy cut of prime goodness here. We genre nerds are easily drawn by the allure of a time machine, but without a real story about characters we can relate to it’ll soon lose our interest. 12 Monkeys’ strength is in its characters, and the complicated character dynamics, one of which I’ll get to a bit later in the list. But don’t take my word for it, go catch up by watching season one on Hulu. The link’s right up there.
In season two, everyone changes. Cassie is tougher, both physically and mentally. Cole’s less glum and not necessarily resigned to being a martyr fated to be erased from time as a result of saving mankind. Deacon is more, well, what’s the word? Human? Civilized? Jennifer Goines proves to be far more coherent than she sometimes seems.
2) Bigger Threat: Forget the virus, time’s the real enemy
12 Monkeys started with the premise of sending a man back in time to stop a plague that wipes out 93.6% of the world’s population, thus saving his future, 2043, from its current state of post-apocalyptic anarchy. That’s a pretty big threat and stopping it is a pretty tall order, but it pales in comparison to what’s coming. Or as Dr. Jones says in the Season 2 First Look Video, “The very fabric of our existence is unraveling and collapsing!” I’m no spacetime expert, but I don’t think you can fix that with duct tape.
Time may be falling apart, but on the plus side, this new threat gives the writers a chance to fill us in on more mythology behind the Army of the 12 Monkeys and the mysterious Witness. It gets really interesting in season two.
3) Guest Stars: Familiar genre faces continue to pop up
There’s something fun about watching a show and spotting familiar faces from other genre favorites. Orphan Black fans have had a particularly robust feast with faces like Ari Millen (Castor Clones/Adam Wexler), Peter Outerbridge (Henrik Johanssen/Dr. Elliot Jones), and Andrew Gillies (Professor Duncan/Dr. Adler) showing up. The trend continues in season two with Paul Hogan (Battlestar Galactica), Madeleine Stowe (12 Monkeys the film), and Jeff Teravainen (Lt. Anders, Dark Matter) being a few more fan favorites to guest.
4) Love: The greatest time-travel love story of all time
I bet you thought this was going to be about Cole and Cassie, right? Their relationship, such that it is, has nothing on the near lifelong (b)romance between Cole and Ramse. These guys have been friends since they were children. They survived together through the plague-induced wasteland we once called civilization and they epitomize the true meaning of love and family.
Sure, they’ve wanted to kill each other on occasion, but even when things get that bad you can still feel the love there. About the only difference between their relationship and a real-life one is that we usually don’t actually TRY to kill our loved ones. Oh, and they time travel way more than the average person. But hey, every relationship is unique and this one is about as unique as it gets. Honestly, Ramse is waaaay too old to be hanging with someone Cole’s age, but love is, um, timeless.
5) More Time Travel!
Not only will our gang be going farther back in time than ever before, they’ll also be traveling more frequently. If you’ve watched any of the season two promos, you already know we’re going to see action in the 1940s, 1950s, 1970s, and probably more. Just writing this has made me suspiciously thirsty for a whiskey sour.
6) More Jennifer Goines!
Okay, I know I’m risking overuse of the exclamation mark, but this last point really does warrant one. Anyone who’s watched 12 Monkeys knows Emily Hampshire does an absolutely incredible job of portraying the brilliant, but broken Jennifer Goines whose relationship with her father was likely the primary reason for her mental issues. Her role steadily grew over the course of season one and I’m happy to report the trend continues in a big way in season two.
Jennifer is still the oddball character we’ve grown to love, but she’s found a bit more stability. Because of that, we begin to learn she’s a lot more important to what’s really going on than anyone could have possibly realized.
As a big fan of both 12 Monkeys and Orphan Black I’ve begun to see a few parallels between Jennifer Goines and Helena. When they were first introduced, both characters appeared mentally unhinged and dangerous, and they were. But both characters slowly morphed from scary and threatening to lovable and hilarious in very organic ways that serve their shows’ mythologies well. They’ve also both quickly become fan favorites and they earned it.
Now, go watch season one of 12 Monkeys on Hulu and that’ll be all the thanks I need. You will not be disappointed.
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12 Monkeys season 2 premieres Monday, April 18 at 9/8c on Syfy