Season two of The Sci-Fi Channel’s series 12 Monkeys debuted on Monday, April 18. (I know the network is now called Syfy rather than The Sci-Fi Channel, but “Syfy” is just a stupid name! I know, let’s call the network “Sci-Fi.”) Anyway, season two of Sci-Fi’s 12 Monkeys debuted on Monday, April 18, but I have a feeling the producers of the series were under the impression the network was going to start the season 10 weeks earlier on Monday, February 8—or at least that should have been the plan, as it is the date on which this episode ends. Based on the 1995 Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt film of the same title (which was partly based on the 1962 French film La Jetée), the premise of this series is that a man, James Cole, is sent back in time from the year 2043 to prevent a world pandemic that is supposed to begin in 2017. Based on the fragments of information that are still available in 2043, Cole is sent back to specific points in the past–initially ranging from the 1960s to 2015. It’s a premise that would obviously make a great movie or television miniseries, but it could eventually become stale for an ongoing television series—particularly if the two primary years in which the story is set are 2015 and 2043, and we keep bouncing back and forth without any progress being made in preventing the apocalypse. Thus, to keep this ongoing series fresh, some constant changes need to be introduced while simultaneously not resolving the problem of the post-apocalyptic future that is the foundation of the story. I began to see the potential problem of having 12 Monkeys as an ongoing series after the first four or five episodes of season one—all of which I immediately loved. However, I thought I suddenly realized how the producers were going to handle the story when Cole appeared to have successfully stopped the global pandemic from starting in Chechnya in 2017 (1.07 “The Keys”), an episode that ended with Cole’s apparent death in 2017 while also ending with his sudden re-appearance as he travelled back from 2043 (if I am remembering the details correctly). With the conclusion of that episode I thought: Ah-ha! Cole is going to stop the cause of the apocalypse and save the future, but each time he does there is going to simply be a new apocalypse on the revised timeline that some alternative version of Cole will have to be sent back in time to stop—always involving Dr. Cassandra Railly in some way, but perhaps not always involving a global pandemic. Perhaps other possible apocalyptic scenarios will be used—such as nuclear war, global warming, et cetera. I foresaw a series in which each 13-episode season could be divided into two halves of six- and seven-episode arcs with Cole constantly stopping the apocalypse each time, but then constantly being sent back to Cassie due to the new apocalyptic future that came about. It would be a series in which Cole would be constantly meeting Cassie for “the first time” from his perspective while Cassie would always remember all of the previous versions of Cole that she had helped. I was disappointed when my vision of the show wasn’t the direction the series took at all. Instead, after Cole stopped the pandemic in 2017, the beginning date for the pandemic just shifted to some new time that Cole needed to discover and focus on stopping—with the same Cole with the same memories constantly trying to stop the same pandemic with the same Cassie who previously helped him. Honestly, I don’t know which version of the series I would prefer—the one we are now getting or the one I thought we were going to get. Both have their interesting aspects that could be explored, but both also face the same potential problem of becoming stale as a prolonged ongoing series. Regardless, we have the version we have, and in this episode Cole learns the new origin date for the global pandemic is Chinese New Year 2016—a.k.a. February 8, 2016, the beginning of the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese zodiac. Thus, if this episode was not originally scheduled to air 10 weeks earlier than it did, it should have been—and it should have. One of the things that impressed me about this episode is that some of it was actually filmed on location in Budapest, Hungary. Principal photography is shot in the Toronto, Canada area—though the pilot was shot in Detroit, Michigan (which is almost close enough to be Toronto’s twin city, as it is about 200 miles to the southwest by traveling along Ontario highway 401/403). It must have been somewhat expensive for the series to film on location in Budapest, which I know they did because Cole and Ramse were clearly on the Széchenyi Chain Bridge where they encountered “Striking Woman” (that’s the only name she’s ever had on the show) and several of her henchmen. In the above picture, we see Ramse running toward the bridge with the Budavári Palota (Buda Castle, former royal palace and now an art museum) in the background on the other side of the river. Later scenes set in “Budapest” were undoubtedly filmed in Toronto, with the only scene that was actually filmed on location being the scenes shot on and under Széchenyi Bridge. Yes, I said “under.” Before Ramse ran across the bridge, he first ran through the tunnel that goes under the east side of the bridge—which can be seen in this screen image I took from Google Earth: Anyway, Cole and Ramse escaped from Striking Woman and her crew by jumping into the Danube—the color of which was not visible since the scene was shot at night. However, if the Danube ever was blue as it flowed through Budapest, those days are in the past (at least for the present). Overall, this first episode of the new season was a partial re-set of the series, as several plot complications from the first season (which were probably put in place as ways to bring the series to an end if it hadn’t been renewed for a second season) were quickly cleared away. For instance, Cole and Ramse were best friends and “brothers” for most of season one, but they became enemies near the end when we learned Ramse was the mysterious “Traveler” who was the supposed master villain operating behind the scenes (or whatever the situation was). It turned out the Traveler (Ramse) wasn’t the master manipulator after all. He was simply a pawn of the person who is now the supposed villain running the show—the mysterious “Witness.” We have no idea who “The Witness” is. He (or she) has only been glimpsed in a couple of grainy hallucinatory images near the end of the first season (in which he looked a bit like Neil Gaiman’s Morpheus from the Sandman comic book series). Wouldn’t it be cool if 12 Monkeys somehow tied into Neil Gaiman’s Sandman? No, it probably wouldn’t be very cool at all, as it would make no sense. So why does The Witness in his helmet look like Morpheus in his helmet? Is The Witness a Sandman cosplayer who wandered in from the San Diego Comic-Con (or the Toronto ComiCon)? Only time will tell (pun intended). Of course, that one image of The Witness also bears some similarity to the cover art of Black Sabbath’s first album, so maybe that would be a cool connection for the show to make (or not): In the meantime, I was worried Cassie was going to be stranded in 2043 for a while—2043 is where Cole sent her at the end of season one so Dr. Katarina Jones could treat Cassie’s bullet wounds and heal her (because, you know, a physicist in the post-apocalyptic future is better at treating bullet wounds than a contemporary surgeon would have been). Anyway, I was worried we wouldn’t see Cole and Cassie together for a while since Cole doesn’t “splinter” anymore (i.e. get pulled back to 2043 after a certain duration), and Cassie was a prisoner of “The 12” in 2043. However, after Cassie became a badass and stabbed her guard in the throat, I began to think that she could, perhaps, be sent back to 2016 as early as next episode. Then, another “however” happened, as the time machine in 2043 blew up as part of the plan to get rid of The 12, which then made it clear that Cassie was going to be stuck in the future for several months—perhaps a full year—while Dr. Jones rebuilt the machine. At that point I began to wonder if the actors playing Cole and Cassie (Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull, respectively) didn’t get along in real life. I know of other television series that ended up separating characters in the story because the actors couldn’t stand working with each other in real life. My worries actually just revealed how linear my thinking has become as I’ve gotten older. My younger self would have immediately realized something I would have tactlessly pointed out to my older and less mentally pliable contemporary self, “This is about time travel, Dummy!” Yes, Cassie was in 2043 for eight months, but she then showed up in 2016 after being sent back from 2044 because, you know, this is about time travel, Dummy! By the end of the episode, everything that seemed “wrong” at the end of the first season had been re-set. Cole and Ramse were once again friends, and Cole and Cassie had been re-united. The band was back together and all was right with the world! Well, except for the part about Cole and Cassie pointing their respective firearms at each other. If one ends up shooting (and killing) the other, I hope it’s Cole who ends up dying. One of the reasons I love this series is to see just how amazingly gorgeous Amanda Schull is. If she were to exit the series, I would have one less reason to watch. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response 12 Monkeys 2.04 “Emergence” - Psycho Drive-In May 16, 2016 […] this second season began, I noted in my review of “Year of the Monkey” (episode 2.01) that the underlying concept for the series of a global pandemic leading to a post-apocalyptic […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.