By Alicia Glass
Based loosely on the Terry Gilliam movie of the same name, 12 Monkeys centers around a hapless hero of sorts, sent back in time to try and prevent the outbreak of a virus that wipes out most of the worlds population in his alternate future!
The plotline of the original film was convoluted to say the least, and comparing the Syfy show to the film would be unkind given the starpower of the actors involved and what I assume was a much larger budget, so we’ll try not to. Rather, we’ll try and concentrate on the show for its own merits, though it can become difficult because the first episode and half the second are almost verbatim from the first and second acts of the movie. Nevertheless, we trudge on after Cole and Cassie in their ongoing struggle to save the world and the future!
So as far as our man James Cole (Aaron Stanford) is concerned, anything would be better than his current existing situation here in his time of 2043. Most of the worlds population is utterly gone, those that are left are scavengers who generally savagely prey on anyone else they find, and it’s every man for himself with literal survival at stake. Somehow Cole got roped into being the guinea pig for the brain child of the few scientists left hiding in a fortified bunker: a time-travel machine. Cole is going to be sent back to 2017 when the deadly virus was released by the baddies calling themselves the “Army of the 12 Monkeys” and locate and execute a man named Leland Goines, who is in theory one of the men responsible for creating the people-killing plague in the first place. Of course time travel isn’t an exact science (the hell you say) and Cole gets sent to the wrong time, only to get himself involved with Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), a brilliant virologist doctor he seems to be fated to be with. It takes some convincing, but eventually the disgraced Doctor Cassie takes up Cole’s cause and begins helping him hunt down whoever was involved with the world-killing plague!
When Cole was first sent back in time, to the wrong time remember, his ramblings and insistences got him plunked in the nutnut factory, where he roundaboutly meets another key character, Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire). Daughter of at least one of the guys involved in the making of the plague, Jennifer appears to be a math genius and quite insane with it at the same time. (It doesn’t help that both the bad guys and the good guys keep drugging her to get her to do stuff.) Jennifer Goines is the female version of the Brad Pitt crazy character from the movie, Emily Hampshire gives a truly compelling and enjoyable to watch spin on this significant role. Every hero, even our hapless one, needs a villain to harry, and after killing Goines (and several others) on his hunt for virus-cookers, Cole comes up against he who is simply known as the Pallid Man, the face of the Army of 12 Monkeys. Enigmatic, determined and downright cheerful about being so evil, Tom Noonan as the Pallid Man gives off that creepy “this is all for your own good and inevitable anyway” vibe he’s known for in horror films he’s been in.
Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa) is the secretive creator and operator of the time machine that sends our chrononaut Cole to the past, sad and full of her memories of how the earth used to be. Never one to shy from hard truths, Jones readily admits that the constant travel through time will indeed eventually kill Cole, but then if he finally succeeds in his mission to change the course of history, most likely everyone here in the 2043 virus-laden future will be erased from existence anyway. Ramse (Kirk Acevedo), Cole’s best friend in his own timeline, serves as general helper in the time travel secret hall, sharing memories of when he and Cole lived among other ruthless scavengers known as “West 7” and never wanting to return to that. Unfortunately for them, the remnants of West 7 have come to the general area of the secret bunker looking for Cole and Ramse, and hey, anything else to scavenge they can take. So now Cole faces antagonists in the present and the past – what will our chrono commander do now?
Syfy worked very hard to take an existing plot and expand it into an entire universe story line all their own, and I would say they succeeded quite admirably. James Cole is an understandably tormented soul, with all the things he’s had to do to try and stop the present from becoming his horrid future; all the more reason to root for him as he slogs his tenacious way through time to unmake history!
12 Monkeys can be watched on the Syfy channel on Fridays, at 9/8c!
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