A quality reboot? It’s about time
W hen it was announced that Terry Gilliam’s classic 12 Monkeys was getting made into a television series, eyebrows were certainly raised in SFX Towers, but with the sheer volume of remakes happening lately, it was hard to get too excited. Then we saw Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett’s update, and it wasn’t what we expected. In fact, it turned out to be the time- travel thriller we didn’t know we wanted…
Shedding the surreal landscapes of Gilliam’s movie, Matalas and Fickett really only mine the original film for its premise and core characters. From there the series immediately establishes a far more stark, realistic sensibility with future convict/ chrononaut assassin James Cole ( Aaron Stanford) – played by Bruce Willis in the film – as a proactive warrior bent on accomplishing his mission.
Cole the accidental mental patient is no more, his film persona switched out for one with a goal which better suits a series. While he’s still a biologically manipulated survivor of a global pandemic that wiped out seven billion people, in this iteration he’s got a very clear and unambiguous goal: find virologist Dr Cassandra Railly ( Amanda Schull) so she can lead him to find, and kill, the alleged creator of the plague, Leland Frost ( Zeljko Ivanek).
Through the clever use of a watch that illustrates paradoxes eloquently, and several well- constructed time jumps throughout the narrative ( visiting 2043, 2013 and 2015), Cole is able to convince Railly that he’s not a rambling psycho – and that he could actually be humanity’s saviour if he can sacrifice one life for billions. She buys the tall time tale he’s spinning, and together they infiltrate an event that puts them face- to- face with their target. Of course, the endeavour turns out to be not quite as easy as planned, as Cole discovers that something called the Army Of The 12 Monkeys is actually responsible for the coming bio- apocalypse.
The pilot is brilliantly written, and respects both time- travel noobs and the paradox sticklers. By episode’s end you can already imagine how complicated the arc plot could become, but the urgency of the action and the fine chemistry of the cast leaves you wanting more. Indeed, a twist at the end of the pilot ensures you’ll be back for part two. Tara Bennett
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