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SERIES PREMIERE REVIEW: 12 Monkeys 1×01 “Pilot”

You know, I have heard a lot about 12 Monkeys the movie and how great it and impactful the entire thing is, but I have never sat down to actually watch the damn thing for some reason despite the pedigree of the people involved. Now however, they have made a TV series which is airing on SyFy and I feel compelled to give it a chance the same way I was compelled to give the adaptation of Being Human a chance. The premise is seemingly the same as the movie as a world wide viral apocalypse has wiped out nearly all of humanity and our hero, if you want to call James Cole a hero, is sent back in time to find the cause and stop the apocalypse from happening. There he meets a virologist, Cassandra Railly, and the two team up in order to stop the outbreak and save the human race. It is easy to see why the plot got a lot of acclaim as it is taking an interesting look at time travel and how destiny and fate alter our perception of reality, so I am looking forward to seeing how this story plays out. So, let’s dive in.

In terms of this being a pilot episode 12 Monkeys manages to benefit greatly from pulling it’s material from a well known source. I mean time travel stories are a dime a dozen I mean just look at The Flash comic books and you will find dozens of time travel stories, but they are all able to put a unique twist on how the story is told. In the case of 12 Monkeys the story is so bleak and depressing that when Cole travels to the past it makes our present day situation look like a god damn fairy tale. I am sure the creators are inspired by the original source greatly but I could not help but think that the way in which the future is depicted was greatly inspired The Last of Us as Cole, at least on a surface level, reminds me a lot of Joel. He has grown up in this depressing hells cape of a world so the simple pleasures like heating and cheeseburgers are completely foreign to him. That depiction helps to very quickly allow us to sympathize with our protagonist and hope he completes his mission.

As for our main character he is kind of the darkest version of someone in an apocalyptic time travel situation I can imagine. From the get go he has been told that everyone he meets is basically already dead so he has no reason to get attached or seek out any type of real companionship. It is a little bizarre how in this specific time travel scenario our hero would be perfectly fine just poofing out of existence once his mission is complete. I mean certain people will remember who he was and what he did ironed to save all of humanity, but Cole’s overall mission will basically become something of a fairy tale to everyone and his sacrifice will be all but forgotten. I have no problem with the general conceit of the entire situation, but I prefer the Marty McFly scenario of time travel where you are able to at least understand some of the repercussions of your actions.

As far as an overall story goes the army seems like a very vague, general, video game-esque type villain four our heroes to be tracking down and stopping. I am sure we will find out their reasoning for creating and releasing the plague but as of this moment in time I am finding my self more interested in the events of the future and hopefully seeing a more clear picture of the repercussions of Cole’s actions in the past. I mean he killed Frost and yet none knew that the supposed target of their mission had been killed before being told by Cole. I believe it would have been far more effective, even if the dialogue would have been clunkier for it, for all of the future people to know that Cole had indeed killed Frost. We could have begun to see the paradox/ripple effect of Cole’s actions which I feel are currently lost on us at this moment in time.

Overall it was an ok pilot, but really nothing revolutionary.

Final Grade C

+Interesting time travel plot

+Strong grim imagery

-Both sides of the plot feel underdeveloped

-No real side characterization

-No real repercussions for killing Frost

-Villain is really ambiguous

Extra Thoughts

-So having never seen the movie is the Army of The 12 Monkeys some sort of cult or an ultra powerful group?

-Not many quotable lines but the cheeseburger stuff gave me a chuckle.

-So the time line is subject to objects coming into contact and exploding. Are those only special items or anything from the future will do that?

About the author

Scott Swartz