Don’t expect this season of Syfy’s 12 Monkeys to stick to the same-old, same-old. At the end of the first episode of this second season, it seems like nothing has improved for the entire cast of characters, with each caught in a fatalistic web that threatens to swallow them whole. Newly tasked showrunners Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett — taking over for season 1 chief Natalie Chaidez — jumped into the second season of the their breakout Syfy series with both feet.
In case you have other stuff to occupy your brain besides the twisting and turning plot of a sci-fi show, you might need a slight refresher. Dont worry, we got you covered. For more info on last season, check out our season 2 primer right here.
In the second season premiere, titled “Year of the Monkey, we pick up with our divergent timelines several months after the explosive season one finale.
The Messengers and Dr. Jones
Dr. Jones and Cassandra are the sort of prisoners of Deacon and the Twelve, caught between their distaste for the Army and their total reliance on the facility’s food, water, and scientific equipment. The Messengers seem pretty content to ignore the doctor and her charge so long as the duo don’t interfere with their plans.
Obviously, it’s only about two minutes into the show before Jones interferes. The Messengers are trying to use her machine to send travelers back to the past, which Jones doesn’t appreciate. In fact, she takes the loss of control so poorly she fries one of the Army’s time-travelers in the chair and then giggles about it afterward. Of course, that little stunt doesn’t buy the good guys a bunch of time, as the leader of the Twelve gets Jones to cooperate by playing a time-tested bad guy card that we won’t spoil, but it involves a knife and a carefully selected neck.
Cassandra, meanwhile, manages to get Deacon on the team by diagnosing him with Wilsons Disease, a rare genetic disorder that’s totally treatable … assuming you’re not living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and surviving only at the mercy of hooded lepers. Since Deacon falls into the latter of those two categories, he and his goon squad help Jones and Cassie wrest control of the time machine from the Twelve, but not before the whole contraption is blown to bits and every single Messenger at the base is killed.
Of particular note is the moment when Cassie breaks her murder cherry by stabbing someone in the neck with a knife. This is a woman who has clearly begun to commit totally to her mission.
At that point, as Dr. Jones vows to rebuild the time machine no matter how long it takes, it seems that Deacon has joined the anti-virus team for good, meaning that Time Travel HQ has a ready-made army to help Jones get her research on.
Cole and Ramse’s Adventures in the Past
Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) and Cole (Aaron Stanford) are on the run in Budapest several months later, running from hit squads sent by the clairvoyant Witness. Like Cassie (Amanda Schull), Ramse has also healed nicely, which was a really welcome reprieve from lots of other shows that use the “shot at the season finale” trope to stall the plot for a few episodes while the audience agonizes over said character’s fate. We know they’re not going to die. Show writers know that we know they’re not going to die. So a special thanks is due to the 12 Monkeys showrunners for just skipping that crap so we can get to the good stuff.
But I digress: Ramse and Cole are on the run from the Army of the Twelve Monkeys in 2016. The Monkeys are dead set on offing Ramse in order to help get the temporal stream in order. Things between Cole and Ramse are still tense, though. Remember, Cole is firmly hopeful that the virus can be stopped and the future can be saved. Ramse, meanwhile, believes the virus is unavoidable, which is okay because it means his son will eventually be born. See, for Ramse, if the world dies, his son lives, and he chooses his kid.
At any rate, the duo figure out that Ramse is being tracked with a bug buried somewhere in him, a relic of his time with the Twelve Monkeys. To help dig the thing out, they enlist the help of an old buddy, a professor whos in hiding from the Twelve.
Played by Downton Abbey’s Brendan Coyle (who is pitch perfect), the professor happily extracts the bug, disables it, and then paralyzes Ramse. Turns out he’s hoping to hand Ramse over to the Army of the Twelve Monkeys in exchange for clemency. His plan doesn’t go well, and he ends up face shot, but not before both serving his purpose and revealing the virus’ point of origin: New York’s celebration of the Chinese New Year.
So it’s off to New York, but not before the time-hopping bros have a real heart to heart. Ramse concedes that he just wants to look out for Cole, and while he doesn’t believe anything they’ll do will impact the virus’ release, he’s willing to help out because he’s just that fond of Cole. What may, on paper, have come off a little thin was saved by Acevedo’s nuanced portrayal of Ramse, a quiet guy with what seems to be a really rich inner life.
Anyway, in the Big Apple, Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) is aimlessly wandering the streets in the hopes that someone will end her misery and stop her mission. She’s dead set on letting fate run its course, but she’s super duper hopeful she’ll get murdered before it happens. Oh, and she’s definitely off her meds again. Emily Hampshire actually does a bang up job with Goines’ ambivalence, and the random situations the writers fling that ball of crazy into are just good TV.
Fortunately, Cole catches up to her on the evening of the Chinese New Year after he and Ramse split up to find her in a crowded street festival. Cole pursues Goines to a rooftop. She waves a vial of the virus around in an attempt to force his trigger finger, but Cole opts instead to simply suggest that she, you know, just not release the virus.
While Jennifer considers that option (as though for the first time), some black-suited oafs show up and try to force her hand. Then, Cassie shows up, disables Ramse, and murders all the semi-anonymous baddies trying to intimidate Jennifer. After eight months living in the future, Cassie has been sent back in time with a renewed sense of purpose and a cutthroat attitude reminiscent of Cole’s tenacity the series’ pilot.
Unfortunately, her purpose is killing Jennifer Goines, which doesn’t jive with Cole’s newfound love of life. The former flirters end the episode pointing guns at each other.
Where It Might Be Going
It’s telling that this story opens with the open acknowledgement that the story can change (notice, by the way, the re-emergence of Cassandra’s paradox watch). The “story” can change, but the fate isn’t necessarily up for grabs. With Cole and Ramse keeping each other company again, expect that conflict to come up again and again.
Right now, the momentum is all in 2016, where Jennifer Goines is on the bad side of a Mexican standoff which also includes Cassie and Cole. It seems like a safe bet to say that no one on that roof is going to die, though don’t expect Cassie to suddenly be best friends with Goines. What you’re watching form is a small group of people with similar goals but super different motives. How long the impending triad (or quartet assuming Ramse wakes up at some point).
With the Witness lurking around in the background and guiding the Army of the Twelve Monkeys in the past, it seems that the present is reasonably safe for the time being, though there’s no telling what the political situation is between Jones and the ailing Deacon.