Sophomore seasons are always tricky. It is here where we see whether the writers will be able to continue to sustain their audiences interests by creating good story arcs for our favorite characters while introducing new concepts and characters into the show. Fortunately, with SyFy’s “12 Monkeys”, its second season is just as compelling and intriguing as its first season, as it continues the story for our old favorites while providing new twists and turns, and more mythology than the first season.
Before I continue, yes, I know that the second season of the show has been out for a long time now, but as I decided to rewatch it in order to finally watch the third season which aired earlier this year, I decided to review it as well. Better late than never right?
I first wrote about “12 Monkeys” here. However, just to refresh your memories, “12 Monkeys” is a SyFy original based on the Brad Pitt film of the same name. In this version, James Cole (Aaron Stanford) was sent back in time from the future in order to stop a disastrous plague from happening in the future. Along the way, he ends up teaming up with Dr. Cassandra “Cassie” Railly (Amanda Schull), a doctor from the present; his best friend and adoptive older brother Jose Ramse (Kirk Avecedo); and Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), a young woman who was thought to be crazy but is apparently just truly connected to Time itself.
The second season builds upon all of this by adding twist after twist that makes sense, and concentrates more on the mythology of the show.
The first season showed us a part of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and how they all adhere to the grand plan of someone called the “Witness”, who ends up becoming the main antagonist of the entire series. It also focused more heavily on introducing the audience to the mechanics of this universe, and got us used to piecing all the bits and pieces of the story together even if we were jumping all over time.
The second season ups the ante with our protagonists trying to stop his plans from coming true, while bringing them to new places both literally and figuratively. Also, the entire season is full of shifting alliances, some of which fans of the show will expect, and some that they won’t.
This time around, as we are already familiar with the mechanics of time travel, the second season focuses a lot on its mythology regarding time itself, the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and most especially, the Witness.
The plotting and how it was paced was great, and it never dragged at all. In fact, I get surprised at the fact that so many things can happen within the number of episodes that were allotted to them.
Narratively speaking, they were also able to shake things up by having one episode be very Groundhog Day-ish, which, actually, was kind of a welcome breather.
Aside from the phenomenal effects, everyone’s acting was off the charts, from Stanford, all the way to Todd Stashwick, who portrays a rouge named Deacon whom we end up being fond of in the end.
Each actor, from Stanford, all the way to Todd Stashwick, who plays Deacon, a rogue who does have a heart of gold at times, really gave their all, and knocked each scene out of the park every single time.
I have to commend Hampshire, as she got to portray two different versions of herself at the same time.
The second season of “12 Monkeys” doesn’t disappoint, and will have you racking your brains with all the guesswork that you end up doing, in the hopes that your predictions and speculations are right.
Before we talk about the acting, the plotting and the character development, let’s try to make sense of what exactly has been happening.
So, they do manage to destroy the virus, but it turns out that now, they have to stop a group from the Army of the 12 Monkeys called the Messengers, who are being sent into the past in order to kill “Primaries” so that Time itself would collapse. When this happens, red storms appear, and everything affected by those red storms gets caught up into an eternal loop of being made and unmade all at the same time–all of time happening at once. “Primaries” are people like Jennifer, those who are in tune with Time itself and keep the balance of Time in the world. If they are destroyed by them getting “paradoxed”, by being killed with a piece of their own bones, it causes a huge rip in the fabric of time and space which causes the storms. It turns out that the Witness wants to destroy time so that he can be in a place with no time and no pain and death, and so that he/she can be with his/her loved ones there forever.
Along the way, alliances are made and broken, and a bunch of revelations are made. It was discovered in this season that Cassie and Cole actually saved Jones’ daughter, Hannah, whom they hid in old Jennifer’s camp; that Olivia (Alisen Down) was made to be perfect and immune to any virus thanks to the eggs a female Messenger named Vivian who was also made from Olivia herself; that there is a document or map that the Witness had written entitled “The Word of the Witness”; and that the Witness is apparently Cassie and Cole’s unborn son, who was conceived in a house of cedar and pine that Cole built for himself and Cassie after getting stuck in the 1950s for two years.
In the end, Ramse’s heart is broken once again because Sam gets lost in time; old Jennifer dies and gives her group, the “Daughters”, a new version of herself in the form of present day Jennifer, who is also allowed to choose a new and different path from what her old self chose; and Cassie ends up getting stuck in Titan so that her baby, the Witness, can be protected by the Army of the 12 Monkeys.
Now, let’s go to the characters and actors themselves.
Cassie, who ended up staying for eight months in the future before being able to return to the present, ended up becoming hardened, as she had to learn how to survive, under the tutelage of Deacon, the leader of the West 7, a bandit group that Cole and Ramse used to belong to.
This time around, it was Cole who had to teach Cassie to soften up again and open up a bit. However, Cassie’s blind rage was only matched by Ramse’s rage on losing his son, and they, at a certain point, allied themselves against Cole, because as much as they hate each other, they hate the Witness even more.
Cole, in this season, learns how to balance his heart with what needs to be done, and got some interesting leadership lessons from old Jennifer. Interestingly enough, in the past, Cole is the one giving leadership lessons to a younger Jennifer.
Hampshire gives a great performance with her playing two versions of herself, while Stanford’s and Schull’s chemistry with each other is just off the charts. Schull is particularly amazing in the final scenes at Titan, where she tries to choke back tears after discovering that her unborn child, who actually was supposed to not exist anymore, still existed, and in fact, is the very man that they are going up against.
Ramse is probably the most consistently written character here, and Avecedo knocks it out of the park every single time with his acting.
Stashwick was amazing as Deacon, and was perfect as the hardened rogue with a heart of gold.
I loved seeing Jones’ barriers come down a little, especially after time changed and she had to navigate her relationship with Dr. Eckland (Michael Hogan) and her newfound daughter, Hannah.
The writing and plotting were amazing, once again. Sometimes, with this show, it is hard to imagine that all of this can happen all in one season.
The writing was tight, and the only gripes I would have here is the fact that Cassie’s and Deacon’s relationship wasn’t fully explored; as well as Cassie’s and Jennifer’s budding relationship.
I also love the fact that they kept us guessing with regards to the identity of the Witness, and it was fun trying to piece all the clues together from the Word of the Witness to the things that were in the map that were already happening.
In the end, the second season did a great job in giving us the answers we wanted, while setting up things for the third season, and based on that ending, we do know that nothing is going to be remotely happy until the show does truly end.
What did you think of the second season of “12 Monkeys”? Let me know what you think in the comments below!