12 Monkeys: Season 1
There is always an inherent difficulty in transforming a successful film to a television series. Unless the film was created as a distinct part of a series of movies is going to be a self-contained story. The traditional paradigm for television shows is to serialized story, presented in such a way that he can readily continue from one season to the next. One example of this transformation is one of the latest offerings from the Syfy channel, ‘12 Monkeys’. This series was based on a film by the same name one of the founding members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Terry Gilliam. Starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt the movie have proven successful beyond the scope of avid Terry Gilliam fans which made ideal candidate for making it into a TV show. Although purely coincidental this series share this season with another show that bounce back and forth in time as an integral part of the plot, ‘Helix: season two’. The details of the time shifts and how they are incorporated into the overall story are completely different to any comparisons of this plot point in the two shows is merely superficial. The films are sufficiently thematically related to two other works by Mr. Gilliam, ‘Brazil’ and ‘the Zero Theorem’, that many fans have insisted that it comprises a preplanned ‘Dystopian Trilogy ‘. In a very wise move by the producers they decided to extract some of the fundamental elements and rework them into something far more conducive for an episodic presentation. I thought that the series did not completely reach its potential but that is a result of how the central themes were altered. By necessity there is a greater emphasis on character development and personal dynamics. The main goal is still to stop a pandemic that wipes out the majority of human beings on the planet, but in this variation the mechanics of the project have been altered the heightened dramatic effect.
James Cole (Aaron Stanford) is the epitome of the reluctant hero. He was born into a post-apocalyptic world weary deadly virus at all but annihilated the human race. In the year 2043 one research facility has managed to avoid the devastation that has crushed society. It is self-contained including a means to generate intense amounts of energy. Rather than return some semblance of normalcy the immediate vicinity a group of scientists led by Dr. Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa) has continued work on that was once a covert government project that could send a human being back in time and return him to the present. Several candidates tested but the one that showed the most robust tolerance of the arduous process was James Cole (Aaron Stanford). The research of the remaining documentation the time just before the plague occurring in 2017, it was determined that a man named, Leland Frost (Zeljko Ivanek was responsible for initial dissemination of the virus. Cole was sent back in time to assassinate Frost in hopes that that will change the timeline prevent the plague from ever happening. Cole understands that if he is successful you will never have been born in the new timeline ceased to exist. The target year was 2013 where he kidnaps a virologist associated with the CDC, Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), in order to ascertain the location of his target. He came well-prepared was encounter with the beautiful scientist. In order to convince her he scratches her wristwatch ripples through time causing the same scratch to appear on a watch that he is holding. It is same watch taken from the future. She’s convinced beyond a shadow of any doubt when at one point he disappears, translating back to his native time.
Understandably at the assassination of a single individual was all that was necessary to avoid the plague the show would be rather short-lived. Instead Cole discovers the key to stopping the plague undermine a terrorist group, ‘The Army of the 12 Monkeys’. This is the plot point that generates the majority of the suspense and intrigue that is contained in the show. The virus was created in a top-secret facility known only as the Red Room. Cole becomes determined to find the location of the covert site in order to destroy the proto-virus. The only person that he can approach that would know that information is Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), the daughter of Leland who is currently committed to a mental institution. The death of her father results in her inheriting his fortune and his multinational corporation, the Markridge Group. The series is don’t like set of Russian dolls; each time Cole resolves one mystery another is ready to take its place usually significantly complicating matters. Example of this is when uncovers a group of partners working with Goines. One side effect of time travel is utilized very effectively. From Cole’s perspective his experiences are chronologically linear. However, people he encounters in the past he pops into the life at different points of their timeline. Example is when Goines recognizes Cole from an encounter in 1987. Cole was unaware of this meeting since from his perspective it hasn’t happened yet. Unlike most stories shown on television the audience is not only has to keep track of what has happened but when.
Another group of scientists feel that they’ve come up with an alternate way of dealing with the plague and the rivalry escalates to a shooting war between the two scientific groups. Cole’s best friend, José Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) is trying to foil the attempts at preventing the plague since it was the circumstances of the pandemic the creative timeline where he met a woman, fell in love with her and married. The conditions are so harsh in the future but even a normally levelheaded person like Ramse can become completely irrational. The contention over the last remaining power source and objections to using the time machine at one point strands Cole in the past until Dr. Jones can retake the facility and utilized the quickly draining power to try to save the chronological warrior.
The presence of different factions for their own agenda regarding the plague does provide a significant level of complexity that demands more attention of the audience the most dramatic series. When the disjointed chronology that is so contributing to the plot is superimposed the result is something that is best appreciated and understood with multiple viewings. It also helps that a number of Webisodes included in the Blu-ray release that greatly elucidates several key points crucial to the story. I am very pleased that the series has been given the opportunity for second season. It took the entire 13 episodes of season one just to establish the full extent of the plot and introduce the audience to the ensemble of principal characters. The effective time travel on relationships is one of the more subtle nuances in the portion of the series that is character driven. Interpersonal dynamic between Cole and Cassondra is delightfully complicated. She has a fiancé was on the rise in global politics and predictably does side with the group that will unleash the plague. There is no real romance with Cole but once her initial disbelief was dissipated she becomes obsessed with our important his mission is and risks her own career in her pursuit of helping it. Storytelling point of view there’s a lot of potential to time travel in that just because a character is killed doesn’t mean his participation is at an end. The narrative can go back to a time when you were still alive one alteration in the timeline can negate his demise altogether. I’m quite certain that the second season to build upon everything established year and come closer to its potential.