[Warning: spoilers for the series finale.]
12 Monkeys wrapped up its epic story this evening, and yesterday I had the chance to speak one last time with Amanda Schull about the finale.
The Witness was finally defeated, and after Cassie couldn’t quite pull the trigger on Olivia back in “45 RPM,” she had no trouble at all when the second opportunity presented itself. On the heels of a monster, no holds barred throwdown, Cassie shoved Olivia into the time stream, condemning what was left of her to become that mysterious skeleton discovered by Leland Goines.
Schull says Cassie getting to be the one to kill Olivia was the satisfying culmination of a season-long quest. “Every season, each of us has had a purpose. Cassie’s purpose with Season 3 was finding her son and saving her son, what turns out to be an attempt to save his soul because she isn’t able to save him. This season kind of turned into hunting down Olivia,” she explains.
Like so many of us, myself included, Schull never expected Olivia to be that skeleton, and says the mechanics of bisecting Olivia were both comical and unnerving. “I thought the skeleton was James. I don’t know whether Terry [Matalas] intended it to be him at some point, because he did have a reaction when he was near it [back in Season 1],” she says.
“The bisection was hilarious. Obviously, Alisen [Down] wasn’t there. It was this dummy that did it perfectly one time and then [not]. It was creepy. There were blood spurts and body parts all over. It was held together with fishing wire because nobody could get in there.”
Olivia’s death even topped the onscreen death of Deacon, which Schull says was scripted to be shown. “It was very specific in the script that we weren’t going to cut away from that. We were in Prague. I have photos of Deacon’s head on the makeup counter,” she laughs. “I didn’t know if it was just going to be a random head rolling into frame. They did a great job with the effects.”
Despite the emotional impact within the story, losing Deacon didn’t hit the cast as hard given that they were shooting episodes in blocks, concurrent with one another, but the moments later in that episode, where Cole is nearly beheaded, were the last scenes filmed for the series.
“It’s interesting. Maybe on another show, if we shot linearly, it would have affected us more. But some days we were shooting three or four episodes at a time. Conceptually, we understand that he’d be gone, but we were shooting so many episodes simultaneously that he never left. Much like time itself, we were never really going in one direction. We were all over the place,” she points out.
When Cole is seemingly about to die, Cassie rises to meet his gaze but he can’t hold hers. Schull explains that part of that was scripted and part was choice. “His reaction was scripted, I think. Mine was not, I think. When we did it, that was the last day we were working together at all. That was my final scene with Aaron [Stanford],” she says.
“It was the last day of work for Todd [Stashwick], Alisen, and myself. Aaron and Emily [Hampshire] still had a couple of days of work. I remember crying and thinking that’s not how he should see her. That should not be the final thing he sees.”
“She should be brave and connected to him and he should be looking into her eyes. She should give him the honor of holding that for the last moments. They should be connected. Se shouldn’t be into herself or feelings sorry for herself. We were eye to eye. We were connected.”
“He wasn’t going alone. He could be looking at love in the last moment. I sat up on my knees and I think it was scripted that he can’t bear to look at her in that moment, and he also needed to be looking down to see the vest.”
Schull adds that before they left Toronto for Prague, the cast were able to properly close out their journey on that set. “They did try to honor our goodbyes to the time machine when we were all splintering out. That was supposed to be the last day we were shooting in Toronto,” she says.
“They had to tack on one or two days and I went to one of the Assistant Directors who was scheduling and said, ‘You’ll get a much better performance if you [try] to keep that as our last day. You won’t have as much work. We’re all going to be ready for that.'”
“It was the first half of the last day. The final scenes being shot on the last day on the stage we’d been on for four years were me on the balcony [of Titan] with Cole and just me looking out. I had the the last shot at like 5 or 6 in the morning looking out deciding whether to paradox or not.”
One of the wink nudges about the finale is that we don’t see the clock stop when Cassie shuts down Titan, so we can go either way on whether she actually did. Schull says she and Matalas had many discussions about it.
“On the day we shot it, he intended for her to stop it. I don’t know what was decided afterward, whether the ambiguity was intentional. Terry and I discussed that because it was supposed to be down to the very end. It’s supposed to be that Cole is pleading with her,” she recalls.
“I argued with Terry about this quite a bit because when he was deciding how to finish the show, he was still not totally certain of how exactly he was going to make everything come full circle with the last few details. I was saying it was almost more romantic for them to be in the red forest and he was telling me I was really dark for saying that.”
Schull says that once she’s returned to her timeline, Cassie remembers pieces of her love story with Cole as if through a veil, and when Cole finally finds her, she believes all of the memories fill in, but since there’s a wink to the audiences with the fringes of red leaves around the frame, we don’t get a super close-up to see that happen on their faces as they embrace.
“It was always subject to interpretation. Are they living in their perfect moment? What does that mean? Everybody is living in their happily ever after, but is that their perfect moment that has been established by the red forest? You see the red leaves creeping in at the very end so it’s a little bit subject to viewer interpretation,” she shares.
“The red forest collapses time and everything is in its perfect moment, but when the storms start, it’s fingering out, so that [ending] is a moment that they haven’t had before, but is the red forest going to snatch them up?”
There’s no formal clock on how long Cassie waits for Cole to arrive, but Schull guesses it’s close to a year and says the memories are just beyond her grasp. “There is something that she can’t quite put her finger on. Like a memory of a dream, a deja vu,” she says.
“Its been months and months and months. She spent some time as a doctor. We never determined exactly how long. She’d had a little bit of a life but [in looking for Cole], she’s kind of just searching for herself. [When he returns], I think it begins to click and click and click.”
“This is somebody I’m supposed to be with and this is him. I think things are starting to accumulate the closer they get. The puzzle all begins to click into place until they’re reunited again. There’s always been something about their love that existed out of time so I don’t think it’s anything we can put into layman’s words.”
“Their union, their child…was conceived and born out of time. Everything about their love exists on a different plane and I think that goes for their reunion and their existence and companionship, as well. If you see our faces close up, there would be a definite answer to all of the questions, and I don’t think that’s what [Terry] wants.”
Schull was pleasantly surprised by the finale and its happy endings. “I didn’t know how any of the stories were going to finish. I think Terry kept some of that pretty close to the vest. I knew it was always going to be a love story, but I didn’t know how it was going to be a love story,” she says.
“I was gunning for them to finish and be together forever in kind of an ordinary way and he of course had a much more elevated way of looking at it and then I had to argue with him endlessly about how that was possible.”
“Seeing everyone’s happy ending in their own way was such a nice turn for our show, which was so dark and tense, and at times, morbid. It was a nice surprise The lighter, brighter sides of people living without this ominous foreboding sense of gloom creeping in over them.”
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