I finally got around to seeing the premiere of the 12 Monkeys TV series and not a moment too soon since everyone has informed me that I have to watch. I may or may not continue writing recaps (probably not), not because I did not enjoy the premiere, I am totally on the 12 Monkeys ship, I really really liked the premiere, but because I am currently not exactly able to do a lot with computers at the moment and I really should be packing… But that’s a problem for another time. Let’s begin.
The shows starts in 2014 with Jame Cole (Aaron Stanford) on a hunt through a desolate city as “These Arms of Mine” is playing. I think the first song played in a show is important and I am very pleased with this choice. He finds a watch and we flash to 2013 where we see the same watch on the wrist of Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull).
Cassie is in the middle of giving a lecture on major outbreaks and preparing for the future. She has this one tongue in cheek line where she says that they cannot see the future and I smirked. After her lecture she encounters Cole for the first time though it is not exactly an amicable introduction, he pulls a knife on her in her car. Their interaction doesn’t exactly improve that much as Cole gets more agitated as he realizes that Cassie does not know who Leland Frost, meaning that they have sent him back too far. He tries to convince Cassie that he is a time traveler with this really cool moment.
He carves a scratch in her watch which magically appears on the watch he found in 2043 which he brought with him. It is a pretty cool demonstration of how the time travel works in this show. She’s not completely convinced that he is indeed a time traveler though until he disappears right in front of her with a gunshot wound to boot. Before he goes he tells her to meet him at the John Adams Hotel in Philadelphia in 2 years time.
Title sequence time. It is okay, little plain but maybe that will change.
Now we’re in 2015 where Cassie has almost all but given up on Cole – she’s been waiting a week – when he shows up, still bleeding from his gunshot wound. And then the exposition fairy comes to visit in two forms. First we got a glimpse of Cole getting his mission from Jones (Barbara Sukowa) and the many alterations made to him while he floats in and out of consciousness due to his wound. The next visit comes after Cassie patches him up. She asks for to be caught up on things, the last 2 years have not been good to her, she lost her practice, her lover, and has been deemed crazy so she would like some answers. Cole narrates as we learn that a plague killed 7 billion people and the few survivors were starving and resorting to violence to survive. A group of scientists, Jones included, found a time travel operation that is their last resort. They came for Cassie because they found a corroded message mentioning Leland Frost and asking for Cole by name to help.
With all that exposition handled we move on to search for Leland Frost, who is actually Leland Goines (Zeljko Ivanek), code name Frost, information gotten through Cassie’s NSA friend. They plan on finding Frost at a party in D.C. though Cassie and Cole have two very different ideas on how to handle the Frost problem. Cole wants to kill Frost but Cassie, being the saner of the two, argues that killing Frost may not actually stop the plague. Cole does not agree and seems very set on his plan. He explains he’ll know his mission has been completed by disappearing, which is sad but cool because it further explains how the time travel works in this movie. He will essentially be blinked out of existence because time would get rewritten.
They get to the party and encounter Cassie’s former love Aaron (the always cute Noah Bean) who gets them in. The two of them have a bit of awkwardness but its understandable considering he thought she was crazy. After Cassie and Cole get in Cole, not taking Cassie’s advice, immediately tries to take out Frost. Before this happens Cass meets Jaguar who works in viral microbiology – Frost even refers to him as a person playing God – so chances are we’ll see him again.
Rather than allow them to get taken by the police Frost whisks them away to his secret underground facility where he performs tests on Cole. The tests show that Cole is not what he seems, big surprise. Cole and Cassie are reunited after his tests and we finally get to chat with Frost. Frost confronts them with the fact that he met Cole in 1987. Cole does not remember them meeting though so it must be in his future. Apparently Cole was asking about the Army of the 12 Monkeys something present Cole has not encountered before.
Frost wants more answers and since Cole tried to kill him he figures he’ll have to get them the hard way, by cutting Cole up. Cole is not really up for being cut up so he does a bit of a time travel trick, he creates a paradox. He places Cassie’s watch from 2043 with the watch she has now which leads to a time distortion that allows for him to make his escape with Cassie. It also causes an explosion that takes out Frost’s men.
Frost is wounded by the explosion and Cole walks over and finishes him off. But, unsurprisingly, Cole is still there. I get that he thought it would work but Frost seeing him in 1987 was a big clue that it wouldn’t so I’m surprised at how surprised he seemed that it didn’t work. He gets upset for a bit but then gets his head back in the game. He tells Cass to run and hide, not sure if he’ll see her again. He’s going back to 2043.
In 2043 he’s helped by his friend (Kirk Acevedo) and explains to his friend and Jones that he killed Frost but nothing changed. He mentions that there are others as he sees the signature tag spray-painted sign for the Army of the Twelve Monkeys in a picture from around the time the virus was starting.
We end the episode back in 2015 where Frost’s daughter, who is in a mental institution, gets the news of her father’s death and the fact she inherits the company. She clearly a bit unbalanced and we see that she has painted the signature monkey on the wall of her room. Dun dun dun.
Overall I really liked the premiere. I think they made a great choice by distancing themselves from the source material early. Gilliam is a hard person to emulate so probably for the best that they didn’t. I did not look up much about the cast outside of the two stars so I was pleased with the rest of cast. I like that there was a mini-Nikita reunion going on. I miss Nikita.
Stone and Schull have good chemistry. Despite the rush to friendship between the two, it felt less unbelievable because the two of them bounce off each other well. For instance the scene where they are complimenting each other is cute, clean is clearly a compliment of the highest order. It does make me wonder what magazines would survive should the world went topsy-turvy.
As with many pilots the episode was very heavy on exposition but now that they have that out of the way I think the pacing will get better.
My favorite part of the pilot by far is how they handled time travel. Time travel is probably my favorite science fiction trope though very few do it fluidly. The show has adopted a fairly simple structure for their time travel that works for me, time gets rewritten with each action but you need a big event to change the course of time. We even get new time travel terminology, splintered, which refers to each time Cole returns to the past. The paradox scene was cool as well, I hoped that gets explained more than just saying that mother nature does not like when you move her furniture in the future.
I also hope we get some more scenes in 2043, I was pleased to see Kirk Acevedo on the cast though he gets one line in the pilot. That should change. It was a great premiere and I am excited to see the next episode.