12 Monkeys has a reputation of being the best Sci-Fi show that nobody is watching. Just like Person of Interest, the show will become a cult favorite once it shuts down the machine come Season 4. The sophomore season of 12 Monkeys dived deep in mind-boggling concepts and mythology answering one question but giving rise to twelve others. And if it isn’t clear already, despite the ratings, 12 Monkeys is critically a hit series. With new time travel shows like Timeless, Frequency, Travellers, cancelled show Time After Time, other channels and producers are trying hard to replicate the success of 12 Monkeys. But fans and critics know that none of these shows even come close to the brilliance of 12 Monkeys.
What sets 12 Monkeys apart from other shows is that the writers of the show have this whole big picture clearly drawn inside their head. There are never any filler episodes and you cannot afford to miss even five minutes of any episode. The season 3, which was served as three-night marathon event of four, three, three episodes each, is no different. Each night, 90 minutes to two hours long, felt like a chapter with a separate arc that beautifully tied in the end. You can easily merge these episodes into three, hour and a half long movies and none would be wiser.
Story-telling has always been the strongest point of 12 Monkeys, and needless to say, it again takes the cake. In almost every episode, there is at least one twist lurking in some corner that leaves your mouth wide open. And boy, the less I talk about the finale, the better. In the finale episode “Witness”, 12 Monkeys take everything and everyone you thought you knew and turns it upside down. While the betrayal of Olivia was obvious, the freaking twist involving her at the end left me stunned. In terms of plot device, 12 Monkeys Season 3 didn’t introduce new concepts or expanded its already confusing mythology. Instead, it efficiently utilized them to dwell deeper into the characters and tell an intricate story of two travelers in pursuit of their lost child.
While the central theme of 12 Monkeys has always been fate vs free will, the main motivation behind every character’s arc has been saving their family – Ramse for his son Sam, Katarina for her daughter Hannah, and now in Season 3, its James and Cassie for their son Athan. In Season 3, fate vs free will has been pushed aside, and Nature vs Nurture has been given the central theme. In fact, there are two episodes named exactly “Nature” and “Nurture” respectively. Is it a man’s nature that defines his action or the nurture he receives that makes him responsible for the sins he shall commit one day.
In any movie or series, a story is as good as the actors who execute them. 12 Monkeys is lucky to have an ensemble of stellar cast in Amanda Schull, Aaron Stanford, Emily Hampshire, Barbara Sukowa, Todd Stashwick and Alisen Down, who play their parts to near perfection. In Season 3, there is new dynamics in play between Cassie and James as they grow from being lovers to caring parents. Amanda Schull is brilliant with her portrayal of a loving mother, who is initially afraid of her unborn child, but gradually starts caring once she realizes his son needn’t be the monster he is meant to be. Aaron Stanford’s James Cole also sees a logical growth from a person who thinks his son is irredeemable monster to a protective father. And as always, Emily Hampshire’s crazy Jennifer Goines spewed enough pop culture references and foreshadowing to keep us hooked to our screens. Once I am done with this review, I am going to re-watch all the episodes and note down whatever she says to give at least some idea of what’s in the store for us in the final season next year.
But the real MVPs of 12 Monkeys Season 3 are, hands down, Alisen Down’s (you see what I did there?) Olivia and James Callis’s Athan, the supposed Witness. Of all the characters in 12 Monkeys, I liked Alisen Down’s Olivia the most. In Season 3, she takes her scheming and manipulating to a whole new level. Frankly, she stole each and every scene she was in. Jennifer called her chameleon, and like its nature, Down’s acting changed shades between a sympathetic and manipulative enemy.
James Callis of Battlestar Galactica fame starred as the supposed Witness in just two episodes. But they were more than enough to establish the abundant talent of Callis. In mere two episodes, with his superior acting skills, Callis added layers upon layers of complexity to a character that had until now only worked from shadows. Taken away from his mother right after birth and set on a dark, predestined path with an evil cult, Athan’s fight for free will was a treat to watch.
The guest stars in 12 Monkeys Season 3 also matched the emphatic performance of main cast. I absolutely adore Jay Karnes’s Robert Gale and his return, albeit for one episode, was a joy to behold and tied up a loose end from Season 2 which foreshadowed more adventures of the trio. The new members – Hannah Waddingham, Faran Tahir and Christopher Lloyd – all shined in their respective roles in the brief amount of screen time they received.
To sum up, Terry Matalas and his uber talented team have done a marvelous job. They have done the impossible. 12 Monkeys Season 3 not only lived up to the hype of fans, it also improved upon its own record of delivering carefully crafted and polished episodes. Kudos to them. From acting to writing to period setting, everything was of top notch quality. Season 4 is already confirmed to be the last season of the series. But if 12 Monkeys Season 3 is any indication, we are in for an epic conclusion of unarguably the best sci-fi show of all time. And if anybody of you have a time machine at your disposal, give me a lift to April 2018, will ya?
- Suspenseful Plot
- Stellar Cast
- Heartfelt Dialogue