So there we go. Thirteen episodes of 12 Monkeys been and gone. A whole new SF series, passing its infancy by in — what feels like — the blink of an eye.
When this started, readers will recall that I was rather sceptical of whether adapting one of the best time-travel themed films…well, ever, a) could be done, and b) was a good idea. I freely admit that I was wrong.
What we’ve ended up with is a darkly innovative series, confident in its bizarre but entertaining twists. I have been gripped since the start, and am a definite aconvert. And thankfully, it has already been renewed for a second series.
We’re up the penultimate episode of 12 Monkeys now, and I have to say I’m impressed. As I stated at the beginning, I had some serious doubts about whether adapting the Terry Gilliam film into a TV show was even a good idea.
The end result has not only been a worthy adaptation, but an excellent TV show. It’s not perfect, no, but has the will to actually push the boundaries.
In my opinion, it thoroughly deserves the second season that it’s already been renewed for. But it doesn’t get an easy ride. I’ve said for a few episodes now that it hasn’t felt like it has the space for more than the first series, as it barrels down the road towards an ultimate conclusion.
In the two episodes left, it needs to check that, and demonstrate that there is more story left to explore, more room still for Cole et al to grow.
Time travel is a headache. Really, it ties the brain in knots. And if you like your stories complex, overwrought, with layer after layer, it really is a must.
We’re approaching the conclusion of the series, so bit by bit we’re uncovering the answers to what’s going on in 12 Monkeys. Or some of them at least.
The joy of this sort of show is like a hike up a mountain. It’s the looking back, and seeing where you’ve come, laid out clear and complete. With the series’ renewal, we’re a full season away from that point at the very least, but we’re all sneaking glimpses back, aren’t we?
It’s a nice thing when a TV series isn’t predictable. A good twist can redefine the story and keep the audience guessing.
12 Monkeys, though, takes it to another level. This isn’t just the occasional twist, or even the end-of-epiosde cliffhanger. I genuinely have very little clue where this is going, and each new episode seems to invalidate my predictions born out of its predecessors.
It’s a good thing. But as I’ve said before, it’s a bit concerning. I don’t mind not knowing where it’s going, but the thing that does and which would worry me is if the writers don’t.
That, after all, was what turned me off Lost; the sense that the title was a description of the writers.
I’m not feeling that way yet with 12 Monkeys. It has the film to guide it, and it’s fast-paced, take no prisoners attitude to the story is a big plus in my book. With the end of the season on the horizon, though, and with a second confirmed, I will be wondering a little if a grander idea for a longer series is going to emerge soon.
12 Monkeys has secured it’s renewal for a second series then. I’m glad, of course, but I do have some issues around how this story has been pacing itself. It seems in an unseemly hurry for a time travel show.
Not that the pacing is a bad thing, but for a series with a second season on the horizon (and hopefully more to follow) I do wonder quite what knots it will end up tying itself in. Things are already getting pretty convoluted.
It could, I suppose, go full Fringe and completely reset the timeline.
I’m sure that they can find something to do with the extra room, but I do hope they have an endgame in mind. They are adapting a single film, and the dangers of cramming too much ancillary “stuff” in with it is surely plain to see.
12 Monkeys first season being thirteen episodes long (A good length for a series -Ed), with the eighth episode we are approaching the closing act. It has, on the whole, been a remarkably well-paced piece of work.
My concerns around the conversion of a feature film into a TV series have evaporated as far as the story to showtime ratio is concerned. They have stretched the story without treading on the core of the original story.
The choice to primarily do this through the future setting was a good one, I feel. It’s left untapped in Gilliam’s film, and the series has created a world as real, vibrant and tense as the story in the past. It has also made very good use of supporting characters, fleshing them out into a real and believable chorus.
The thing I like about 12 Monkeys is how it embraces its weird. In true Terry Gilliam style, it doesn’t mind getting a little odd, both in terms of plot, character andsetting.
The last few episodes have really opened that up, each answer to a question heralding a whole plethora more still to be answered. And not in an annoying way, or even an obtuse way. It’s actual storytelling, which despite the twists and turns feels like it knows where it’s going, even if it doesn’t necessarily know how it’s getting there.
Which is alright by me, as long as it doesn’t come unspooled on the way there. I still don’t know what the show creators’ vision for this is. Is it just going to run until everyone gets bored of it? (Hopefully not… -Ed) I’ve long thought around about the fourth or fifth season is where most shows should call it a day. Battlestar Galactica pitched it just right. Farscape probably deserved one more. Breaking Bad should have called it a day at the end of season five (Controversial… -Ed).
I’m not sure whether 12 Monkeys can quite manage an indefinite run, but what it can do is make its time as exciting and entertaining as the first six episodes have been.
Making time travel make sense in a narative, dramatic story is a real headache.
For one thing, to the best of my knowledge it doesn’t exist at the moment. So making it actually realistic involves some jumps of imagination. Then you have to make it serve the actual story you’re trying to tell, the narative developments you’re trying to push forward.
This is almost certainly why time travel stories inevitibly end up with internal contradictions. I’ve previously mentioned Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” as my ideal time travel story, but it is a short story. As the story gets longer, more and more little niggles are going to work their way in.
It’s not necessarily a problem. A TV series, for instance, centred around time travel can be fun, exciting, entertaining, interesting, even if not being 100% internally consistent.
The a-grade, for me, is still the Gordian knot of Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies”, which demonstrates just how confusingly complex a closed temporal loop can be. Being able to twist backwards and forwards in time gives the story extra room to manoeuvre, and adds different layers and dimensions.
The original film 12 Monkeys was a closed loop idea too, and remains one of my favourite SF films. The fear that this TV adaptation wouldn’t live up to its source material didn’t really outlive the first two episodes — what SyFy have produced is a dark, witty, exciting and smart SF series. They’ve toned down the Terry Gilliam wackiness, but added a layer of grit and harsh realism which befits the company which gave us RDM’s Battlestar Galactica.
As I’ve said a number of times, being a good, solid adaptation is no guarantee of success. Constantine has arguably done that better, and at time of press it’s still in renewal limbo (No pun intended, I hope -Ed). What 12 Monkeys needs is to prove longevity in its story, and that it has the staying power to last however many seasons.
If you asked me to summarise 12 Monkeys in two words, I’d probably ask you why, and who you are anyway?
If you held a gun to my head, I’d probably go with “unexpectedly good”. Which, I think is fair. Could you put the gun down now? Cheers.
So 12 Monkeys has taken a rather dark view of the source material in terms of the mood and atmosphere of the whole production. One thing which they have started to do, which the film left alone, is explore the future world. I suppose it’s an inevitability for a TV show.
Whether it will prove too many plates to spin remains to be seen, but there’s no problem with an action packed start.