TV Review: 12 MONKEYS (Season 2) – An Adaptation That Surpasses The Original
’12 Monkeys’ happens to be one of the most innovative shows on Television right now. The time travel premise, combined with gutsy choices by the writers’ room makes the show one of the most unpredictable and anti-formula science fiction shows.
Read on for my Season 2 Review of ’12 Monkeys’ from SyFy.
Adapted from the cult hit movie of the same name, ’12 Monkeys’ sees a group of scientists in a post-apocalyptic future, attempting to course correct history by sending one man back in time, to prevent the plague that caused the world to end. During one of his missions, the time traveller James Cole (Aaron Stanford) encounters Dr. Cassandra Railly, (Amanda Schull) as she gets caught up in their mission and the two together try to save the world. Most of Season 1 saw Cole coming back from the future to the past and try to foil the plans of the organization responsible for the apocalypse, the Army of the 12 Monkeys.
Season 1 introduced us to all the characters, their relationships, and then sought to disturb those relationships in the most drastic ways. The end of Season 1 saw Cole stuck in the past with friend Ramse, (Kirk Acevedo) as Cassandra was sent to the future in order to save her life. Season 2 begins months after those events as Cole & Ramse continue to track down the Army, but Cassandra goes through a lot more life changing events back in the future.
“The debut Season of ’12 Monkeys’ ends on an ominious & exciting note as the premise is spun around and we are left in quiet awe.”
— Reviews of Season 1 Episodes
Season 2 of ’12 Monkeys’ is all about the further growth of these two lead characters, Cole & Cassie. The writers are careful not to make their inevitable romance seem forced or a foregone conclusion, which is how it always comes across in any show with a male / female character duo. As Cole shifts from his murderous ways and becomes a better man due to Cassie’s influence, in contrast, her time in the future in the same desperate lifestyle Cole was used to, causes her to become hard as she’s gotten used doing whatever is necessary to survive.
It’s an interesting flip as now Cole has to attempt to bring Cassie back from the brink, and their relationship throughout the season is severely strained, adding much more conflict to the story. While the actual plot of the show is extremely convoluted, it’s always changing. At it’s core, ’12 Monkeys’ is more about these characters that their navigation of this apocalypse, than the actual sci-fi elements themselves. Creator Terry Matalas ensures that the characters are well developed enough that their growth and changes in the story are earned, and very well deserving within this world. The writing and performances achieve the turns in story instead of just being gratuitously handed them to keep the momentum going.
The performances have a dramatic uptick from the previous season as well. It’s almost like all the actors are a lot more comfortable in the skin of these characters, and therefore are better able to play their parts. The standout of this season is Deacon, (Todd Stashwick) as the rough and tough badass is humanized, and as much comic relief he provides, his emotional investment in the story is just as interesting and necessary.
I like ’12 Monkeys’ as a show because of the fearlessness of its writers. They aren’t afraid to push the boundaries and take the story to areas that others TV series would be way too scared to. Plot points aren’t dragged out, but rather are introduced and then flipped on their trope. A key example is Cole’s actions in the finale. Even though he rewrote time and erased the events of his and Cassie’s relationship, she was still able to retain her memories of those events (somehow) and remember their love. A lesser show would’ve dragged this out for a few episodes and used it for Cole to be pitied upon for having sacrificed his love for the greater good and so on and so on.
Given the concept of the show, there definitely some more convenient plot points at work. For example, almost every character from the leads to the supporting ones, seem to have a bigger hand in the proceedings. Significance that is often relegated to fate or destiny. While it’s a cool concept when it comes to characters like Ramse and Jennifer, (Emily Hampshire) it starts getting a little too much when even the antagonists end up being connected to the main leads in some twisted way. Mysteries are often attributed to existing events and plot points, (like Olivia (Alisen Down) and the Pallid Man (Tom Noonan) being children of Messengers from the future) which can make very interesting revelations. But sometimes it all seems too interconnected simply for interconnectivity’s sake, making this world a much smaller place, when the same characters we’ve already seen, be the ones that are always the ones behind in everything. Except for a few recurring characters in a few episodes, Season 2 hasn’t introduced any regular additions to the cast. At all.
But the way that ‘12 Monkeys’ carries itself, the tone of the show and the over all general leaps in breaking through any sort of formulaic storytelling, really makes you overlook small flaws such as the overt pseudo science at work to explain the time travel elements, and ‘everything is connected’ sort of departures from the otherwise grounded fiction.
’12 Monkeys‘ is one of those shows that dares to disrupt its own established status quo in almost every episode. Characters are drastically changed or given a lot of trauma to experience through the time travel plot device; or turned from hero to villain, tropes are flipped and relationships are completely destroyed in almost every episode, which is a massive risk by the writers, but one that is appreciated by the audiences, even if they’re not always successful.