12 Monkeys: Season 2, Episode 1: Year Of The Monkey
Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull
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…we’re set up well for a full season of signs and revelations…
Translating Terry Gilliam’s 1995 philosophical time travel drama to the small screen was always going to require sacrifices and hard choices, some of which might horrify purists. Gone is Gilliam’s intricate visual style, which would have been a non-starter in the fast-paced world of episodic TV production. Gone too is the meticulous and incredibly coherent script by David and Janet Peoples, which welded together narrative and thematic complexity with a kind of warm, broken humanity. In their place we get a more polished and narratively complex offering, which trades in the earlier film’s fatalism for time-spanning conspiracies, portentous doomsaying, and globetrotting thrills. That it manages to be quite enjoyable in its own right is impressive.
After a quick recap of the previous season we jump straight to an action beat, where time traveller James Cole (played by Aaron Stanford as a much more stable protagonist – in this iteration time travel doesn’t scramble your eggs) and his best bud/frequent enemy, Jose Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) confronting the forces of the 12 Monkeys in a blast of pyrotechnics and gunplay before bouncing off to find a backroom surgeon to pull a tracking device out of Ramse’s neck because this is time-travel-as-technothriller, not time time-travel-as-meditation-on-predetermination.
Meanwhile, in the post-apocalyptic future that Cole is struggling to prevent, Doctor Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) – spirited up the time stream at the end of last season after being shot – finds herself making a deal with the devil in the form of head thug Deacon (Todd Stashwick) against the ruling cabal of the 12 Monkeys, here reconfigured as a kind of religious cult rather than the original’s driven eco-terrorists.
Finally, in New York City we check in on crazy person Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire riffing on Brad Pitt’s twitchy anti-messiah), who has been appointed by the 12 Monkeys to unleash the virus that will bring about the end of the Anthropocene era, but may or may not be having second thoughts about being the midwife of the apocalypse. Out of all the cast, Goynes alone brings the off-kilter attitude of Gilliam’s film, with everyone else having their idiosyncrasies shorn off so that they can shoulder a more intricate plot. It’s really only when Hampshire’s on screen that we’re reminded that this is indeed 12 Monkeys and not some lost Sarah Connor Chronicles spinoff.
Still, everything ticks along nicely and we’re set up well for a full season of signs and revelations, which is pretty much the object of the exercise. You may want to marathon the first season rather than jumping on here, though.