I remember watching and loving the film 12 Monkeys when I was in high school. As for the plot, aside from Brad Pitt’s bare ass (it was glorious. Back in the day when he was still a fresh novelty and before he’d left Jen Aniston and had 50 kids, his butt was enough to get me off on my own to a theater to see something), I don’t remember anything. So I go into this show with little information but with much excitement ’cause I love me some contagious diseases and time travel.
It’s the year 2043 and most of the world is dead. Aaron Stanford (James Cole) travels back in time 30 years and kidnaps Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull, who’s from Center Stage, the best dance movie EVER, and I LOVE HER. Sorry, back to the show). She’s just given a presentation on how doctors are not God, we cannot predict the future, and they must prepare for disease outbreaks. Aaron is in the back of her SUV and claims he has a knife and forces her to drive. While her cell phone is still connected to a call with her boyfriend. Worst kidnapper ever. If he’d just waited until she hung up, nobody would’ve known.
She offers him money, but he doesn’t want it. He’s not there to hurt her; he’d been looking specifically for her. Apparently, she’s a “viral containment” doc. He’s looking for someone named Leland Frost, but she doesn’t know who he is, and he loses his shit. And keeps coughing. So I guess he’s sick. There’s some cop sirens (way to sneak up on the criminal Mr. Police Officer), and he makes her pull over in an alley and ditch the SUV. He tells her he’s from the future, she speaks to him very slowly (as we all would address a crazy person), and he says he’s not crazy. He shows her a watch, which is “just like hers.” You mean to tell me a doctor, with tons of money, is going to wear the same watch for thirty years? Yeah, okay. I’m broke and change watches at least once a year.
Anyway, so he takes a knife and slices across the face of past watch and the future watch gets the same marks. Okay, so now she’s worn a broken watch for 30 years? I get what they were going for here, but come on. Changing the past changes the future. She would’ve gotten rid of the broken thing, and he wouldn’t have had the watch for him to take thirty years down the line. But all right; I’ll go with it. He’s proving he’s not crazy, but the doc still ain’t buying it.
More sirens and the cops have them surrounded. He gets shot and tells her to meet him in exactly two years from today in Philadelphia. And then he disappears (what we later learn is called “splintered”). Well that oughta convince her.
Flash forward to two years later. The doc – still wearing the broken watch – is at the hotel as requested. According to the bartender, it’s been a week, and her “friend” has still not shown up. Time to skedaddle. But just as she’s checking out, she sees him. He’s still got the gunshot wound from 2013, so she takes him up to her room to patch him up. He passes out and dreams about how he was a prisoner who was chosen to help “save the world.” He doesn’t look like much, so I’m not sure how he came to be chosen, but I’m sure there’s a purpose.
Three days later, he wakes up and is almost healed. Doc says he heals remarkably fast and she believes him. He wants to get going, but she says “Hell no.” She lost her practice cuz everyone thought she was crazy, and he owes her some answers. So he starts his story. In 2017, a plague kills 7 billion people. The virus kept mutating, so they couldn’t find a cure. Some were immune, and they picked off the few survivors, so they would have supplies and food. The rest went underground. Until some scientists stumbled across a time machine. So they sent him back in time to try to stop the plague from ever happening. He finds Cassie because she’d worked for the CDC at the time of the plague and sent a message that it was started by Leland Frost. She also says Cole’s name, which confuses me because how did she even know him? Until he was chosen to go back in time, they’d never met, but he was chosen because Cassie said his name. So, is this a chicken or the egg question? My head hurts.
But Cassie still does not know who Leland Frost is. She’s been looking for the past two years but needed help, so she went to Jeremy (Robert Wisdom), an NSA employee who has a knack for finding things. Turns out Leland’s real last name is Goines, and he works for the Markridge Group – a company supposedly working on a malaria vaccine. He’s going to be at a big soiree in DC the next night, and Cole wants to go, but it’s high-security. So Jeremy drops the hint that Senator Royce will be there, and they hatch some sort of plan.
Cassie and Cole drive to DC with Cole eating what must be the best burger in existence. Or maybe he’s just that hungry. Cassie wants to devise a plan, but Cole’s got one: walk in; kill Goines. But no, Cassie points out that killing him doesn’t kill the plans for the plague. She asks how they know if it works, and Cole says he will be erased. He’s okay with that; he knew it coming in. But Cassie seems a little sad.
They’re all dressed up and ready for the “soiree.” She says he looks nice, and he says she looks “clean.” What a ladies man. They walk in and the hostess can’t find their name (obviously), but Cassie’s ex-boyfriend Aaron Marker (Noah Bean) walks by at that exact moment. The hostess says she can’t come in, but Aaron vouches for her and they’re allowed entry. Oh, it’s that easy, huh? And he doesn’t bat an eyelash that her story is obviously crap because she’s not on the list. Okay, I’ll go with it. They introduce Cole as “Greg”, but Aaron gets called away before they have to answer any real questions.
They scan the party looking for Goines (very obviously, though Cassie said not to) until they find him. Except that’s right when Aaron finds Cassie again, and Cole takes that opportunity to slip away. Aaron says she looks great, clearly not deterred by the fact that she lost her medical license due to being cray-cray cuz she is wearing the hell out of that dress. He wishes she hadn’t left. She wishes he’d believed her. And then she walks away.
Cole is in the kitchen slicing up an apple (this guy must be starving cuz I thought he was going after Goines) when he sees a security guard smoking on the balcony. He feigns bumming a cigarette and knocks the guy out and takes gun. For not having a plan, this is going marvelously well.
Cassie wanders around and finds Goines (Zelijko Ivanek, who is awesome; I love this guy), and he’s introducing a young man named Jagger (whose real name is Oliver Peters, played by Ramon de Ocampo) who is going to “change the world.” He says he does some mumbo jumbo about viruses and Goines says he “plays God.” Cole comes in and whips his gun out as Cassie is pleading with him not to. She’s ushered out and he’s tasered to the ground. There’s a flash of recognition on Goines’ face as Cole is handcuffed and removed.
Aaron demands an explanation as Cassie is also getting led to a police car and she refuses. She didn’t actually do anything wrong, so I’m not sure why she’s getting arrested, but I guess she’s guilty by association? I dunno. The cop drives ridiculously slow and through some sort of farm land, as Cassie and Cole argue about her not letting him kill Goines. The car is stopped by some black SUVs (which is cinema for “bad guys”) and Cassie and Cole are taken back to the Markridge Group.
They sedate Cole, and Oliver says there’s no explaining his physiology; calls him a “molecular computer.” I think that means he’s some sort of superhuman. So, this superhuman didn’t think it’d be better to casually walk up to Goines, laugh and joke, and then BAM! Shoot him in the head before anyone could stop him instead of whip a gun out from 15 feet away and hesitate, so he could be tackled to the ground? No? Okay. Anyway, they reunite Cassie and Cole for some reason (and she is still in her heels. Girl, if you need to make a getaway, those things will not help you. Take them off), and he says he’s about to splinter again. She says to go back to five hours prior to undo what he’d done at the party, but he can’t do that. He asks for her watch (if this watch was gonna be so important, they should’ve made it Michael Kors or Cartier for goodness sake) as Goines walks in.
He knows Cole is from the future. He met him 28 years ago, looking exactly the same as he does today. I can’t remember people I met last week, but he remembers 28 years ago? Aight. If you say so. Cole says he’s never met him, but Goines says he will. He was looking for the Army of the 12 Monkeys because they end the world, but Cole doesn’t know who they are yet. Goines asks what Cole wants with him, but Cole doesn’t answer. He whips out the watches again and lays them side by side. They light up and spin, and I don’t know what’s happening, but he grabs Cassie, throws her over his shoulder, and they run off as the room explodes behind them. Cole says when a past and present object come into contact with one another, Mother Nature doesn’t like it. But then… if Cassie no longer has her watch, how is she supposed to have it in the future? And if she doesn’t have it in the future, how does he do the thing he did in the alley? Oh man, another headache. Physics is hard. Goines, bloody and stumbling, comes into the hallway and shoots at them before collapsing to the ground. Cole picks up the gun and kills him.
So Goines is dead, but Cole is still there. So… he didn’t fix anything. He asks how that’s possible, but Cassie already said it: killing Goines doesn’t stop what was already in progress. For a superhuman, this guy is slow on the uptake. Miraculously, he finds her all-important watch. Blown up but still intact (except that scratch, of course). He tells her to run (in those damn heels, into the snow with no jacket, so I have no idea how far she expects to get), and he goes back to the future (insert Marty McFly reference here. LOL That was such a good movie).
Jones (Barbara Sukkowa) says he failed his mission. Cole says he killed Leland but there were others. She demands to know who, as he scans the wall of newspaper clippings. And that’s when he finds the symbol of the Army of the 12 Monkeys. It’s pretty blatant, so I’m not sure how they missed it all this time, what with them being genius scientists and doing all that research and stuff, but okay. I’ll play along.
Back in 2015, Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) is in a loony bin, scribbling on a wall. Her father has left her his entire company, despite her being an apparent nut case. She turns and smiles and is the sort of crazy beautiful that I absolutely love (not sure if her bare ass can compare to Brad Pitt’s, but things are looking good so far). And then she reveals what she’s been drawing. A giant monkey; the center of the 12 Monkeys symbol. Oh hell no. Or, actually, oh hell yes. By killing Leland, they didn’t stop the plague. They set it off.
There were some serious coincidences, but I suppose there always has to be for harebrained schemes to go off, but that was a damn solid opening episode. I like the cast, I like what they’ve done to stay true to the movie while being its own entity at the same time, and despite some of the dialogue being pretty trite, the premise itself is engaging enough to look past that. It dove in headfirst into the action, giving the viewer the backstory it needed along the way without slowing down the pace. Fans of the original movie may take issue with the changes they’ve made, but if they were just going to recreate it exactly, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun or imaginative. Mixing it up gives them creative license to take it any direction they want, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.