12 MONKEYS gets 8/10 This monkey’s gone to heaven

Season 4

Created by Travis Fickett, Terry Matalas
Starring Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, Alisen Down, Barbara Sukowa


What’s easily the best time travelling science fiction show that no one was watching (I’m sorry Travelers) finally completed its twisted arc last year. With the release of the fourth season of 12 Monkeys on DVD earlier this year we take a look back at the season that was.

Based on director Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (and by extension it’s inspiration La Jetee) the TV series has certainly picked its own path, forging a strong mythology and independent storyline. 12 Monkeys has built upon that initial concept of a man travelling back in time in a desperate attempt to stop a future plague from devastating the Earth, into a full on temporal war with its own richly distinct iconography and terminology. The Red Forest, The Witness, Primaries and Titan have all expanded the scope of the battle against the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, giving us something that is uniquely different to the inspiration that it drew upon. The extended storytelling format of the series has allowed 12 Monkeys to play around with causality, and has created an intriguing story that moves in a less than linear fashion.

Those spiraling arcs of causality have been the focus of 12 Monkeys for a couple of seasons now, and with the origins of the mysterious leader of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, The Witness, being revealed, the series moves with purpose towards its end game. For the Army of the Twelve Monkeys this is the establishment of their Utopian dream of The Red Forrest, an event that ends linear time. For James Cole (Aaron Stanford) and “Team Splinter” it is one last attempt to discover a way to stop The Witness by chasing the clues left to them by those gifted with unique future sight, the Primaries.

Hence Season 4 allows the 12 Monkeys to expand its scope in a way that it never has previously, bringing us locations not dreamed of in the first few seasons. Yet it has still maintained that which is great about itself. The stakes have always been apocalyptic, but the show has equally met that challenge by finding ways to ratchet up the tension, and they certainly do so from episode one, making for a tense climatic season. However it has been the character interaction that has really buoyed this show, both in terms of drama as personal agendas collide, but also in terms of camaraderie. The key to this has certainly been Emily Hampshire’s Jennifer Goines, as her over the top performances as “the secret to the universe… chopped full of nuts” has helped alleviate the overly serious (and somewhat dry) initial tone of the show. Through that interaction we’ve seen the human sides of the characters come to the forefront, especially hard noses such as Deacon (Todd Stashwick) and Jones (Barbara Sukowa). Plus, it’s hard not to love a character whose shining moments of awesome include singing U+Ur Hand to Hitler (Ep 6: Die Glocke) before flipping him off.

Despite a rather bare bones DVD, only sporting extra Deleted Scenes, the result is a fitting send off for a chronically underrated show. 12 Monkeys may not be a series that you can dip in and out of, as its increasingly complex story and mythology demands attention, but following it through its course certainly produces many rich and rewarding moments.