12 Monkeys Runs Wild In Its Second Season

season 2 12 monkeys

12 Monkeys on Syfy is one of those TV shows that sneaks up on you and before long you get hooked on it. By no means is it a perfect sci-fi program, but it hits all the right buttons to make it worth binging on. It’s inventive, rarely dull and has many captivating characters. In fact, it is safe to say that the characters and the stories are what make the show.

In its second season, 12 Monkeys continues the saga of James Cole (Aaron Stanford) who is a time traveler from a dsystopian 2044. In his time, mankind is nearly extinct because of a virus released by a cult called the Army of the 12 Monkeys in our present. During his travels he meets and falls for Dr. Cassie Railly (Amanda Schull) from our time. She, herself becomes a time traveler during the second season which is part of the inventive nature of 12 Monkeys. It is kind of ironic that for a show about time travel, it is always changing. That is a large reason why 12 Monkeys show feels fresh at least for now.

Cole and Railly at odds

Railly joining Cole in his temporal journeys wasn’t the only change. The entire killer virus plot early in the second season was de-emphasized. By the second episode, “Primary”, The Red ForestCole’s actions delay the virus’ release until 2019. This alters future history. The virus still decimates mankind but not as badly. It is also revealed that the cult was more interested with destroying time. They see time as an enemy that must be eradicated and cult members in the future send several people back in history to kill certain people they call Primaries and create paradoxes to destroy the linear nature of time and prevent death. Now the images of time unraveling are wildly trippy with time apparently having a quasi-sentient nature, at least to the cult members. Many scenes seem like 1980s music videos running amok, but in a good way, with scratched film, time-lapsed imagery and fields of red foliage.

12 Monkeys Cole time travels

That is quite a head spinner and a welcome surprise. Apparently the people behind the show must have realized that the virus angle could only go so far before it became tiresome. So this soft reboot worked to the show’s advantage. Of course, care must be taken not to go too far with this new layer or else it can get confusing and convoluted.

Now the icing on the cake that makes the viewing of 12 Monkeys so enjoyable are the character dynamics.  Last season Cole and Railly were on the verge of becoming a couple but that got curtailed this season when she was stranded in the future. When she returned to the present she became a hardened person and their relationship changed. Then there is a budding triangle between them and Ted Deacon (Todd Stashwick), a warlord in the future that became an anti-hero this season. Fortunately, it is very subtle but the tension is noticeable.

Cole and Ramse time travelers

Another relationship worth mentioning is the bromance between Cole and his buddy and José Ramse (Kirk Acevedo). They were at odds last season because Ramse found out he had a son and didn’t want to change time out of fear that his son would be erased and tried to stop Cole. But he couldn’t go through with completely thwarting Cole. It worked out in the end, his son didn’t disappear when history changed. It is a good thing because the two actors have some great chemistry together and Ramse is a very compelling and troubled character.

Speaking of troubled characters, let’s briefly mention Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), who is mentally insane. Last season she was annoying but now is a comic highlight whenever she appears.

Emergence image 12 MonkeysThe only complaint is that 12 Monkeys doesn’t spend much time on certain subplots. In the episode “Emergence” Cole, Railly and Ramse meet an FBI agent (Jay Karnes) in the 1940s who realizes they are time travelers. He too quickly came to this conclusion but it was almost forgiven at the end of the episode when we saw his wonder and befuddlement when the trio blinked out of existence. Then there is Dr. Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa), who invented time travel. When time was altered, she kept her original timeline memories, but was unaware that in the new timeline she was romantically involved with Dr. Eckland (Michael Hogan), a fellow scientist. In the most recent episode “Meltdown” he made the ultimate sacrifice because he loved her even though she didn’t feel the same way. What could have been a bittersweet moment felt hollow because so little time was spent on this subplot.

Aside from those quibbles, 12 Monkeys is running wild with its premise, so let’s hope they can keep it up as it concludes its second season.

Waldermann Rivera



12 Monkeys Is A Worthwhile TV Adaptation

12 monkeys

12 Monkeys is the latest sci-fi TV show from Syfy and an adaptation of the classic Terry Gilliam time travel classic film from 1995 (which itself was a remake of an obscure French short film called La jetée).

The TV show follows the same premise as the original film. Mankind has been driven nearly to extinction by a deadly virus that begins in the near future and a few decades from now, scientists send back in time a lone man to learn how the calamity started so that it can be undone. But there are many differences, many of which were done to fit a serialized TV format.

pallid man torturesThe time traveler, James Cole (Aaron Stanford), isn’t a prisoner forced to volunteer, but a drifter willingly recruited by a scientific group to undergo the temporal jumps. In the original film, when he voyaged to contemporary times the film had us guessing if he was insane. Not so here. In fact, he is quickly able to convince his present-day comrade, virologist Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) that he is a time traveler. In the course of the series, Cole and Cassandra track a doomsday cult called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, who are responsible for unleashing the virus. That differs significantly from the film and as with these TV shows finding the cause of the virus and stopping it isn’t accomplished within two hours like in a film.

time traveler

In each episode, Cole uncovers an important facet of the virus or the army and goes back to 2043 to report his findings. Of course, this hampers the TV show because if he is successful then the virus is stopped, humanity is saved, his timeline is erased and the show ends. However, to its credit 12 Monkeys has explored the headaches of time travel and it impacts on future timeline for better or for worse. For this reason, scenes that take place in the present aren’t nearly as interesting as those set in the future. It’s a well realized post-apocalyptic future with barren and broken buildings and roving armies of scavengers. One of the best episodes to date called “Atari” largely took place in the future and explored Cole’s tortured past.


The piecemeal revelation that Cole wasn’t exactly a good person in the past is a good twist and makes him a more interesting character. It’s fascinating to see some of his morally questionable acts and why he decided to help change the future in the episodes. A lot of that has to do with his close friend in 2043, Ramse (Kirk Acevedo), who acts as Cole’s conscious. Ramse is so well played by Acevedo that we have to wonder why he wasn’t chosen to play Cole. After all, with his bald head he looks more like Cole as portrayed by Bruce Willis in the original film and is a better actor to boot.

going backThe other characters are hit or miss. Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), an insane math whiz whose father is believed responsible for the virus, is overdone with her Hollywood crazy method acting. Meanwhile, Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa), the enigmatic creator of the time machine, is a mysterious, though sympathetic character that is quietly desperate to change time.

On the whole, 12 Monkeys seems at times to be your standard time travel show, but it is still generally entertaining despite its faults. It’s not in any way up to the level of the original film, but it’s a worthwhile adaptation.

Lewis T. Grove