Like a phantom fleeting at the corner of your eye, blink and you just might miss it. With the light bulbs flickering… An audible draining of the air from space that just impossibly popped in or out of existence… That is what 12 Monkeys season three was like for me. Last weekend, Syfy decided to take a page out of the Netflix playbook and drop the whole season at once. They staggered it slightly, airing blocks of shows on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday, but I had it all finished by brunch Tuesday.
Based on the 1995 Terry Gilliam sci-fi film of the same name, both stories are iterations of a 1962 French film entitled La Jetée. A central theme in all versions is time travel from a post-Apocalypse to a time before the disaster, in hopes of averting it. Also central to all three incarnations is causality in time travel, unalterable tragedy, and love that burns eternal outside of time and space.
Season three began in the far future, where the last one ended: with time-displaced scientist Cassandra Railly being held hostage in the year 2163 by the elusive cult the Army of The Twelve Monkeys. Railly, over the last two seasons, had been working with fellow traveler Cole to stop a virus that was released by the Monkeys in about 2016. In late season two, lost in time, untethered from their team in 2040, the two of them had made a simple life in which they finally explored their love for each other. Shortly thereafter, the Monkeys lured her to their base, the time-traveling city Titan, to kidnap her. Their reason was startling: she was now pregnant with a baby that was destined to become the messiah of the Monkeys, the foretold Witness, who has guided them through looping timelines the whole run of the show.
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Meanwhile, in 2040, Dr. Jones, the inventor of time travel plotted with Cole and what was left of the team to get back Cassie. By the time that Cassandra was finally rescued, a new faction of the Twelve Monkeys was revealed. A set of 4 Guardians were tasked to watch over the newborn baby Ethan, ferreting him quickly from his mother to time unbeknownst. These Guardians had a new form of time-travel tech in the form of a vest that could reset time a few minutes to avoid danger or function like Dr. Jones’s machine. When the vest was used to travel back and warn one’s self of danger, the “remnant” version must press a self-destruct button to erase themselves and prevent paradox.
I’m not going to take you episode by episode through it all, because there are a number of twists and turns you won’t want spoiled if you didn’t watch. But I do have to say that the 10-episode order was not enough in my opinion. Each of the first two seasons ran 13, and I assure you there has not been a filler episode yet. They meticulously plotted the first twenty-six episodes to cover the tracks of any time-travel fiction problems, and they did a great job of it. Season 3 felt a bit rushed. Themes were crammed into singular episodes that previously would have been strategically revealed over the course of two or three.
It’s still a great a ride I recommend for all. There are some classic 12 Monkeys moments with full-grown Jennifer Goines a time-psychic of sorts, known as a Primary interacting with her childhood self. We get to visit as far back as the 1890s, where we discover the Witness spent a great deal of his formative life. The team that Dr. Jones assembled over the last few seasons has their loyalties thrown asunder by the revelation that baby Ethan is destined to grow up to be the Witness. Back to the Future OG time-travel sci-fi legend Christopher Lloyd appears in a few episodes as one of the earliest members of the dark cult when they are finally traced to the 1950s. Things gets criss-crossed, untied, then re-knotted again a few times. By the end, we’re again at a new beginning, looking forward to a fourth season. I just hope they pace it a bit slower next time around.
“You’re walking through a red forest. The grass is tall. It’s just rained. Most of the blood has washed away. There’s a house in the distance. Cedar and pine. You’ve been there before. You’re not alone. There’s a man. You see him, you go to him. You know him. Like a memory of tomorrow…”
In case you missed it, season 3 of 12 Monkeys can be seen in its entirety on Syfy.com. Season 4, the final season, will air later in 2017 or 2018. The exact date is TBD.