I love SYFY’s 12 Monkeys and I want you to love it, too. Because I fully believe 12 Monkeys is one of the best TV shows out there and it hurts me that more people don’t know about how truly unique and amazing it is. I take it personally, people.

Those of you who haven’t watched 12 Monkeys, aren’t caught up, or stopped along the way and haven’t returned, I’m telling you – you need to watch. It’s a moral imperative.

I hear you over there saying it. “There’s so much TV out there already.”

I get it. In the age of Peak TV, finding room for new shows is hard. Especially when you’re juggling work, friends, kids, bowling teams, etc. And I know people are always throwing out statements like, “You need to watch this show!” and “It’s one of the best shows out there” about, well, everything these days. But this time it’s true.

The rules of time travel apply

Time travel shows are tricky because it’s hard to create an ongoing show that manages to adhere to the rules of time travel without bending or breaking them if you want to allow your characters to interact with other people or affect events in any way. We know the tripwires: paradoxes, butterfly effects, causality.

In one scene, Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) creates a paradox by placing an object from her past next to that same object in her present and the resulting explosion is no joke.

Like the Terry Gilliam movie that inspired the show, James Cole (Aaron Stanford) has been sent back in time to save the world from a virus. A virus that has killed a majority of Earth’s population in Cole’s timeline. What happens if he stops the virus from being released? How would things have progressed? Would he have ever been born? Could he blink out of existence?

They also deal with with the real dangers of time travel and the idea of causality. If the past informs the future, changing the past gets tricky because of the effect it has on the future.

12 Monkeys knows the rules. It doesn’t break them. Which makes what it manages to do all the more amazing.

It packs an emotional punch

How would it feel to know you could blink out of existence at any time? It’s something James Cole directly deals with. He’s no hero. He’s fallible and complicated and full of contradictions, like most of us. 12 Monkeys is full of emotion, life and death circumstances, and real-world implications even when dealing with subjects as fantastical as time travel. Would you go back in time to save the world if you knew it would mean you’d never been born? Is there room for love and family when you’re fighting for the future of the human race? How do you derail fate?

Cassandra Railly is pulled from her time into the future into a life filled with purpose and danger. But also faces loss, joy, the birth and death of a child, and the weight of the future of the world on her shoulders.

While I can’t tell you what happens, I’ll tell you that episodes 408 and 409 left me not just in tears but in need of hugs. You have to care about characters to cry over and for them. You have to be invested in the story. If a show can make you cry, laugh, shout “OH, MY FUCKING GOD”, and want to tell everyone who works on the show how much you both love and hate them…that’s a good show.

It’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery

12 Monkeys is filled with clues and twists and definitely works for those people who love to dive deep and search for clues to solve a show’s mysteries. 12 Monkeys creator and writer Terry Matalas is big on planning and he’s made sure he has answers for fans when they have questions (and, boy, do they have questions).

It also has a knack for revisiting certain events from multiple perspectives over the course of the show, which means you don’t really miss anything important. If the writers want you to know something, they’ll make sure you see it and still manage to make it new.

Matalas has had the major events planned from the beginning and each season is mapped out with the overall goals in mind. The twists aren’t just there to be twists and the mysteries have actual answers. We may have to wait for everything to be answered until the season finale, but the answers will be there. There’s a payoff coming.

Multiple payoffs. Mind blowing, gut wrenching, ultimately satisfying payoffs.

The show is incredibly well written and acted

The 12 Monkeys synopsis, if you broke it down to its base parts, would read something like this:

After a viral apocalypse, mercenary James Cole is sent back in time to find Dr. Cassandra Railly in an effort to stop the Army of the 12 Monkeys before they can release the virus that wiped out most of humanity. Aided by a scientist, a mental patient, a killer, a soldier, and a wildcard, James and Cassie race against time to stop a fanatical group hell-bent on breaking time in order to live forever.

It sounds like a b-movie, right? It’s so not a b-movie.

12 Monkeys features some of the best writing on television in recent years and actors who don’t just play their roles, but embody and enrich them. Aaron Stanford’s James Cole is fiercely strong and heartbreakingly vulnerable. Amanda Schull’s Cassie Railly moves between healer and killing machine and hits all the places in between. The writing supports all of these changes organically because this team knows we as people have a multiplicity of feelings and all it takes is the right circumstances to see a side of someone you never expected.

The same can be said for the rest of the cast. Todd Stashwick’s Deacon could have easily become one-note in less skilled hands. Alisen Down gives her character Olivia a depth of character that’s genuinely terrifying at times. It would have been easy for Barbara Sukowa to play Jones as a stone-cold bitch, but she clearly eschews “easy”.

Everyone has definitely come to play and play all out. And the really amazing thing is that Season 4 has decidedly turned everything up to 11. Going into the season, everyone knew this would be the last season and it’s obvious they’ve all set out to leave one hell of a lasting impression.

Jennifer Goines is amazing

Brad Pitt may have been really great as Jeffrey Goines in the 12 Monkeys film, but Emily Hampshire brings a level of acting ability to Jennifer Goines that surpasses Pitt handily. You get the feeling that Hampshire licks her chops at each new script and challenge and you’re never disappointed.

Goines is worth the price of admission alone. One could easily write her off as insane, but her insanity is part of her brilliance. She’s clever, she’s unpredictable, she’s volatile, she’s emotional, and you never know what you’re going to get.

Whether she’s living in her own version of a music video for “99 Luftballons,” starring in plays Paris in the 1920’s or running her own local terrorist group, Jennifer Goines is amazing on this show. I want to be her when I grow up.

“I watched, but I lost interest”

If you’ve stopped somewhere along the way, I fully believe it’s worth jumping back in. If you’re caught up…great, but I guarantee you you’re not prepared for what happens in the back half of this season.

For the first time, we know the true face of the enemy. We know what they have planned. We know they have to be stopped. But how do you stop an enemy that’s better equipped, has a better roadmap and has a better time machine? That will stop at nothing to win?

Jennifer Goines doing her best Jennifer Garner in Alias is worth the price of admission alone. But everything is on the line this season. Everyone makes sacrifices. Not everyone will come out alive.

Season 4 is, hands down, the best season of the show and every episode tops the last. There’s no way I could have predicted 95% of what’s happened this season and yet everything feels organic. Once it’s revealed, you want to clap yourself on the forehead and say, “How did I miss THAT?”

We have 5 more episodes left. Terry Matalas himself told me that the last two hours are the equivalent of a summer blockbuster and I’m inclined to believe him.

The end is coming. Are you prepared?

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