12 MONKEYS: SyFy Has More Time To Stop The End Of Humanity
SyFy's efforts to get back into narrative programming just got a big boost from, 12 Monkeys, the episodic adaptation of a French short film and an American cult feature film.
Like it's predecessors 12 Monkeys is about a time traveler from the future who is sent back to stop a deadly plague from bringing Humankind to the verge of extinction.
What the show is able to do is expand this 12 Monkeys universe even more. Just as Gilliam expanded Chris Marker's short film La Jetée into his feature length film, Twelve Monkeys, the show, now has 12 episodes to expand as much as they want to. This time travel story has gone from 30 minutes, to 129 and on to a whopping 529 in just this first season alone. So yeah, the show-runners have plenty of room to explore these timelines.
This includes the future in 2043, some 25 years after the World population was decimated by the plague they are trying to stop from spreading. Cole and his buddy Ramses (Kirk Ecevedo) explore the World topside looking for clues that will help them track down the plague. All the while they have to be aware of violent Scavengers. Perhaps there will be a filler episode related to these Scavengers at a later time.
Time travel theorists and arm chair paradox searchers will have their fill of time loops to keep track of. For the record, I'm not even going to attempt to find a paradox or whatever you call them. I am just here to be entertained. Back to the show, I was already into episode two and there is one trip to another year that will have to be visited in a later episode. To call the act of time travel 'splintering' does make the eyes roll. It is one of those bad habits that SyFy needs to get rid of, the need to give everything really cool contemporary names.
Amanda Schull bears a striking resemblance to Naomi Watts. And in her role as Dr. Cassandra Railly she has faced scrutiny from her peers after Cole's first visit/disappearing act, learning what her future holds and whether she involves herself in the search for this source of the plague. Aaron Stanford as Cole bears the gravitas of his circumstance well enough. And when horror icon Tom Noonan shows up on behalf of the 12 Monkey Army, well, his meetings end violently. The show-runners may have decided to set aside the younger Goines' storyline for this first season. They have cast the role as a daughter instead of a son; Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) is only listed for one episode (S01E02) in this first season.
The question remains whether this 12 Monkey Army is the same as the one in Gilliam's film. From what I watched in the pilot and episode two I am willing to guess that they are not. I also imagine that the show-runners will eventually create a back story for Cole as well, given the time they have. Like the man in La Jetée and Willis in Twelve Monkeys, Cole was a prisoner at one point in 2043 before he was brought in to help track down the source of the plague. It will be interesting to see what they come up with there. Neither of the previous versions had the time to explore this.
All in all, this version of 12 Monkeys focuses more on the dramatic tone than its predecessor. Sure, the show does not reach the same level of whimsy and absurdism as Gilliam's film did. To expect so much is unfair to what the show-runners are trying to do. It would also be a mere copy of what is already considered a great film. Anyone would be hard pressed to mimic Gilliam anyways. I will say that it does feel cooler than Gilliam's did. There are no nods and winks to Gilliam's retro-futuristic designs from his film.
And now, the predictions. With this much room to play with when will disciples of the 12 Monkey Army show up in the future and wreak havoc on those trying to correct the past? How long before the romance between Cole and Railly blossoms? Will the season cliffhanger end with the ruination of the splintering machine, leaving Cole trapped in the future and Railly in some sort of peril here in 2015? Will Cole get to her in time? Literally.
In a magnificent stroke of good fortune I received a second press kit for the show earlier this week with episodes 3 through 7! It looks like I will be splintering (rubs bad taste off his tongue) a few weeks ahead in my viewing. I may just report back from the future and let you know how the season has progressed.
(Episode 1 of 12 Monkeys airs in the U.S. on SyFy at 8/8c and in Canada on Showcase at 10pm ET/PT)