12 Monkeys “Memory of Tomorrow” With Commentary From Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull
[Warning: Spoilers for the Season 2 finale.]
So this is going to be a little bit of an amalgam–part recap and part interview.
I love 12 Monkeys. It’s one of the most consistently well-written and acted and beautifully shot shows on ANY network. That said, Season 2 was a strange animal for me. I had the good fortune to screen the episodes early, in two batches–1-8, and then a few months later, 9-13. Bingeing the season, with a significant break in the middle, made me parse them a bit differently and somewhat compartmentalize how I responded to it.
On top of that, when the show kicked off this spring, half the audience didn’t come back, and we had the uncertainty of whether what we were watching was the last of the story for these characters. Thankfully, it wasn’t. I haven’t had the luxury of rewatching the episodes since the renewal was announced, so where I land is a mix of remorse for what I wanted the season to be but didn’t get, and gratitude that we’re going to see these characters again.
What worked for me:
Multiple-timeline Jennifer Goines was a fantastic device to give us a new perspective on the seasons and the characters since she was the only one to carry a holistic view of where things were and are and would be. We’ll have to get her back from war-torn France in a hurry.
The Ramse/Cole bromance was alive and well and that rectified a lapse that I wasn’t nuts about last year. These two have the longest and deepest bond and so it made sense that they would find their way back to each other, even if they ended up sworn-ish enemies again when their paths diverged.
A fleshed out Jones got her daughter back, got to have a brief, fiery, wonderful romance, and somehow ended up with a dog. Love that. She also had to really look at what she’d unleashed on the world, and now as the season closes, she finds out her ex-husband had launched a “me, too” project for the Army of the 12 that upended everything and helped collapse time.
Deacon getting to play with the team, and be fleshed out beyond the snarky mercenary was awesome. His heart grew two sizes because of a childhood fixation on Cassie that he was able to realize, even for a fleeting moment, as an adult, and he felt genuine remorse for getting Jennifer the Elder killed.
Olivia was an Eve in the Army’s genome experiment, so she’s superhuman and she and the Pallid Man are the biological children of a woman born way off in the future. That was a neat reveal. I am intrigued to see if we learn who Pallid Man and Olivia’s bio dad is/dads are. And I’m very intrigued that she saved Sam!
What didn’t work for me:
The separation of Cassie and Cole, regardless of the payoff in episode 12, went on too long for me. I had no issue with the flop-flop of personalities, because that was par for the course given what each had been through, but I also felt like we could have come to some sort of equal footing earlier. They seemed to lose the thread of that final exchange last season when he sent her to Jones to save her life and she thought she’d never see him again, and he responded, “I’ll see you soon,” because he had faith he would.
The fact that separation took on an animosity that extended to Cassie taking a swing at him, was over the line. When we finally had them hook up, I didn’t buy that she loved him. I’m a sucker for an audible, “I love you,” and was disappointed we didn’t get one from either of them.
The Witness is Cassie and Cole’s son. I’m sure we’ll find out there’s much more to this, and again, I’ve had some time to sit with it, but I feel like the fact that the whole thing comes down to a pissed off son wreaking unholy havoc on his parents and the world, is a little too Kylo Ren for me. I totally realize that’s oversimplifying things but that was my first reaction, and then I thought, “Well, Cassie will terminate him, but can she, since he’s always one step ahead?”
And how it was even possible that Cole tripped backward through time (sans that pesky machine) and managed to scoop up a pregnant Cassie when they’d never had any of that happen in her own timeline is something I need explained to me.
Cassie and Cole are separated again at the end. I’m not going to lie. I shouted at my laptop and then I laughed, because, there was no Season 3 announcement yet. I can only hope that we get them back in the same timeline fairly damn quickly. I don’t want to burn a bunch of episodes next year trying to re-establish their connection.
So it was a mixed bag–I loved a lot of it, just not all of it, and that’s not a terrible record. No show makes us happy all the time. And everybody, even though they’re scattered across the globe and time, seemingly (I think Deacon will totally be back) lived to tell the tale again. These days on TV, that’s a significant something.
When I talked to Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull last month, they were waiting on the renewal as they reflected on the finale and conjectured on where they thought Season 3 might take them.
Both knew the identity of the Witness pretty early into shooting Season 2, which means Schull knew when she shot the confrontation scene between Cassie and a face-morphing Witness that Cassie was talking to her son, but she says Cassie didn’t know, so while that whole idea of that is funny to us (or maybe just me), for her, it was all part of the job.
“Being an actor and shooting things [out of order means] you have to give yourself temporary amnesia,” she says. “Unless it’s [supposed to] dictate your performance going forward. There’s a lot of willing amnesia.”
“I remember [Terry Matalas] coming up to me on set one day and pulling me aside and laying it on me….this amazing idea that he had. I think he’d been toying with the idea a while and they had been working on different ways to approach it in the writers room,” says Stanford.
“They [threw out ideas for] some pretty outrageous stuff, too. There were different possibilities [that were] pretty far out there. Nobody has guessed it yet. I don’t if as the episodes go on if people will trip to it. I though it was a great, a complete sucker punch coming out of your blind side. I don’t think people are going to see that coming. But then once you do find out, it makes perfect sense. ‘Of course that’s what’s going on.'”
“That’s what you want out of a show like this. A lot of shows ask a lot of questions and pose a lot of riddles and fans frantically try to piece it together and you find out that the writers have no solution, and there’s no satisfying payoff. I think this is a satisfying payoff. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised and very happy with the way things click into place.”
Schull laughs that when she was told, her first response wasn’t exactly hearts and flowers. “Terry and I have talked about it, and a lot of [what I first thought] is probably fairly politically incorrect. From my standpoint and how I view this character, she stops at nothing,” she says. “She gave up all happiness for the mission. Even with the greater good of her profession, she puts herself in peril on a daily basis and she’s perfectly willing to do what she needs to do.”
“How do you know that what she has growing inside her is going to turn into this evil? What if there were some way to change causality? What if fate doesn’t exist, which [Cassie] has said before. What if there were a way to for her to change that, and she has that quite literally inside her at that point? That was absolutely not how I first reacted. I [initially] said she would stop at nothing to make sure that [the Witness] never came into existence.”
Schull coming around to a more hopeful perspective mirrors Stanford’s take, too. “I don’t know where things are going to go, but I would say that Cole has established at this point that he no longer believes that [everything] can be easily solved with murder. It’s failed so many times…” he says.
“With Cole being through what he’s been through and becoming who he’s becoming, I don’t think his first thought will be to kill him, when he finds out who it is. I think he would try to figure out some way around it, to shape this child so that he doesn’t become this warped, evil thing.”
Once that piece is resolved, Schull says she has high hopes for Cassie. “I want to see Cassie happy and who knows if that’ll mean she’s in love and they’re together,” she says. “Aaron always says he wants to see [flashbacks of] his life with the West 7. That’s such a guy response to go back to being a guy and being tough.”
“I just want butterflies and rainbows but then I started to think about his response. I think it would be neat, and I think the audience appreciate, seeing what happened to Cassie when she first got [to 2043].”
Thank goodness we have a Season 3 full of possibilities. Thank you for reading! See you next season.
12 Monkeys repeats at 1:01 am/12:01 c tonight and then is available online and on the app.
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