We are all fascinated with doomsday scenarios. How the world will finally come to an end none of us knows. Will it be the result of nuclear Armageddon or something simpler like global warming causing cataclysmic climate failure? Perhaps we’ll be wiped out by a Zombie plague of flesh eating monsters – we just don’t know. More than likely our planet will survive until it’s swallowed by a dying sun billions of years from now. The ground-breaking new series 12 monkeys taps into our innate fear of our impending doom and presents us with a much more plausible explanation for the end of days – a biological weapon released from a secure lab into the general population.
The show splits it’s time between two periods of human history – the first is set in 2043 with the human race barely clinging to survival after the infection has run its course, and the second is set in 2015. Facing the pending extinction of the human race, a small group of scientists and soldiers has discovered a way to travel back in time to 2015, the year the infection was released, to try and stop it from ever happening.
The show is based on a great film from the 1990’s of the same name. That one starred Bruce Willis in his heyday playing James Cole a time travelling survivor, and there was no one better to play a post-apocalyptic character bordering on the insane. Let’s face it, watching the world crumble around you can do that to a person. Playing the role of James Cole in the TV series reboot is Aaron Stanford, and he does a pretty good job of playing the less than stable time travelling hero.
When Cole is sent back in time to try and stop the collapse of global civilization his first mission is to find a doctor with the key to finding those responsible – Dr. Cassandra Railly a virologist driven by the need to prevent the ever increasing risk of pandemic. At first, his mission is simply to use Dr. Railly as a stepping stone to finding the deranged bunch of lunatics known as The Army of the 12 Monkeys that originally put the wheels of Armageddon in motion, but she soon becomes his partner in trying to save the world. Every hero needs a sidekick right
This isn’t the first show to delve into the idea of time travel, but it does throw in some great twists to emphasize the dangers of time travel. Turns out there are some time travel rules you just can’t break, and if you do there are some explosive consequences – quite literally! In one episode as Cole and Railly are closing in on the head of the company that created the deadly infection, a man named Goines, they’re captured by his henchman and it looks like the end of their road. True to form of a hero in any story, Cole comes up with a unique plan to escape. Railly wears a watch that’s a family heirloom, and Cole possesses the exact same watch that he’s brought back from his time. It turns out the same matter from two different time periods can’t occupy the same space, when Cole touches the two watches together it cause a time paradox and a massive explosion. Queue the escape.
12 Monkeys is full of these types of plot twists and the writers always do their best to marry science fiction with science fact. We’re not just supposed to accept that time travel is easy – like anything else in nature you have to follow certain rules. Think about gravity – we can’t escape it. If I step off a cliff I’m going to fall and it’s highly doubtful that I’ll survive. What goes up must come down and all that. 12 Monkeys always tries to stay true to the laws of nature, even if they are theoretical. It’s this sense of realism that gives 12 Monkey’s an edge to it. All our actions have consequences and nothing is meant to come easy in life.
In the aftermath of the explosion from the time paradox, Cole has the opportunity to kill Goines and prevent the infection that wipes out most of the human race from ever happening. Believing Goines is the catalyst he takes the opportunity, even though he knows he will never have existed – at least not as the person he is. If the infection hadn’t been released then he would never have become the soldier/survivor he is now. Like the classic hero he’s willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Believe me, these constant references to time paradoxes and the consequences of changing the timeline will keep your head spinning.
After killing Goines Cole runs into a serious setback – he’s still alive in 2015 and he still remembers everything, which can only mean that Goines was not the catalyst after all. This sets him back a bit, but he’s never really discouraged. After returning to his own time to consult his team he soon returns to 2015 to try and finally solve the mystery and destroy The Army of the 12 Monkeys once and for all.
It turn out Goines has a daughter who’s been locked away in an insane asylum for years. Cole finds her and the first thing you notice is that she’s constantly drawing freakish pictures of killer monkeys on the walls of her cell. It seems obvious that she must be the center of it all, and perhaps that’s true but probably not in the way you would think. Goines it turns out had employed his daughter in a top secret lab that contained just the type of viruses that would have the ability to wipe out a large portion of the planets human population. The Army of the 12 Monkeys is desperate to find her as she’s the key to finding this lab and unleashing the end of the world.
So what’s it really all about? Why is The Army of the 12 Monkeys so hell bent on wiping out the world? That is the million dollar question which the show has yet to unveil. There are little hints as to what their true purpose is, and it seems likely they view the world as so irreversibly corrupt that a return to a state of nature may be just the cleansing the world needs. It’s also possible they’re just a deranged bunch of lunatics with no real purpose at all, but that seems less likely. What makes the show so special is that just when you think you’re starting to figure it all out, it goes off in a completely different tangent. It’s that constant guessing game that keeps you coming back for more.