Time-traveling agent James Cole and virologist Dr. Cassandra Railly are destined to meet in order to stop the malicious actions of The Army of the 12 Monkeys.
Spoiler Level: None
A person can’t talk about time travel without talking about Syfy’s 12 Monkeys. Inspired by the feature film of the same name, this four-season escapade through spacetime is a masterclass in suspense, foreshadowing, and complex plotting. Simply put, it is one of the finer examples of narrative time travel that modern media has seen and a necessary watch for fans of the genre.
Initially, a viewer is likely to first notice the design and aesthetic of the show. Tinted in cool greens and cast in an ever looming shadow, this series begins with an intense atmosphere that signals everything to come. What the show’s production value lacks in the first season, it more than makes up for in the second, third, and forth, taking on a level of artistry that truly lives up to the monumental demands of the genre.
Following that, a viewer is likely to fall in love with the characters. Every last one of them.
Each character is at least as interesting as the last, if not also as endearing, as clever, and as exciting. Cole: the time-traveling rebel. Cassie: the morally driven doctor (and a lady, always sign me up for badass lady doctors). Ramse, Deacon, Jennifer, each character simultaneously familiar and unique. Just a step above the ordinary. It’s character design at its finest, aided by terrific narrative arcs that fuel their growth.
But beyond the look and the feel of the show, a single element stands above the rest. While many stories rely on time travel as a narrative device, 12 Monkeys takes this element one step further. This isn’t a show with time travel. It’s a show about time travel.
It’s true that this show couldn’t exist without time travel as a narrative element, but the series also utilizes time travel as an emotional tool. 12 Monkeys explores the dynamics and relationships of time travel in the same way other shows explore drama or coming of age. It presents time travel as a true facet of the human life, bringing a level of realism to the device in a way that most other stories in the genre can’t even come close to chasing.
And it does so with the narrative twist and satisfaction that simply lands when it really counts. This show has viewers on the edge of their seats, making up theories that are disproven only minutes later by another, equally bizarre theory. The foreshadowing is a refreshing change of pace from media’s current shock-driven culture and it tells audiences exactly where they’re going, even if they don’t pick up on it right away.
12 Monkeys is a clear example of how stellar a project can be when the creative team elects to (and is permitted to) think outside of the box and use all elements to their absolute fullest potential. It is well worth the time for science fiction fans, and even more so for fans of time traveling. If ever you’ve found yourself wishing for a Tardis or a Time Stone or a WABAC, this is the show for you.
It's pretty, it's entertaining, and it's narratively sound despite the fact that time-travel stories always seem fated to fall apart under their own weight. The twists play with the idea of destiny in a way that scratches an itch for any viewers who use media to explore the human experience. For more casual tv watches, the show provides a deeply entertaining and unexpected journey.
It’s About Time: 12 Monkeys
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 10/1010/10
Acting - 8/108/10
Music - 7/107/10
Production - 10/1010/10
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