The reality of Syfy’s 12 Monkeys is pretty damn bleak. The world has been wiped out by an indomitable virus and humanity has been scattered to the winds, reduced to the barbarism of centuries past. What’s worse, in spite of the fact that one small force continues to jump around time in an attempt to stop the virus before it can start, there’s a pervasive sense of inevitable doom — as though the characters in 12 Monkeys are battling a foe they can’t possibly defeat. It’s in this dark context that we meet José Ramse, a scavenger who’s been wandering this desolate world with his buddy James Cole.
Though Ramse could have been simply a sidekick or a background player, the series’ character development and Kirk Acevedo’s nuanced performance elevate Ramse into perhaps the show’s most compelling and likable character. In fact, after one season (plus an episode), Ramse has become one of the most engaging and soulful characters on television.
Why Ramse Freaking Rules
12 Monkeys is filled with tough people doing tough stuff. James Cole (Aaron Stanford) is so hard he’s borderline sociopathic. Dr. Jones (Barbara Sukowa) is inflexible in her logic. Even Cassandra is resolute when it comes to following her mission — even though most people think she’s a nut. Ramse, however, is a different animal. He’s certainly stalwart enough to hold his own in a fight, but he’s the one character who seems to suffer emotional difficulty confronting the (harsh) realities of the world around him.
Take, for instance, the history we’re given in “Atari,” the fourth episode of the first season. A few years before Cole first jumped to the past, he and Ramsey are just a couple of hungry scavengers wandering the wastes when they run across Deacon and his West 7 gang. Deacon offers the two a home among his band of killers and thieves. Cole jumps in almost gleefully, taking to the lifestyle with nary a hint of hesitance. Its Ramse who remains the show’s moral core. He’s the one who pulls Cole back from the brink, pointing out Deacon’s obvious malice and leading his friend on the road towards redemption. Ramse is more than just a sidekick; Cole relies on him as much as he relies on Cole.
And yet, Ramse is a man of unwavering conviction, who’s loyal to his own — even to a fault. It’s in the series’ eighth episode, Yesterday,” that Ramse meets the son he’s never known. In this single instant, Ramse’s mission changes completely. Suddenly, he’s on the path to working with the bad guys, yet his motives remain as pure as the driven snow. He becomes adamant on preserving the future (read: releasing the virus) to preserve his son’s existence. This change jives completely with Ramse’s character: he’s the sensitive one, the one who’s always worried about those around him.
Even when Ramse switches teams (again) in the second series premiere, it’s a move that’s true to both the man he is, and the knowledge he believes he’s acquired. In Ramse’s mind, the future is inevitable, his son’s life is safe, and now his only requirement is to keep his one friend (Cole) alive.
The man is the freaking giving tree of the viral apocalypse.
Let’s Take a Moment To Talk About Kirk Acevedo
None of this dramatic goodness would be possible without Kirk Acevedo’s haunted performance. Acevedo comes into 12 Monkeys already beloved by the sci-fi community for his turn as Charlie Francis on Fox’s Fringe.
In 12 Monkeys, Acevedo brings a subtlety to his performance that works perfectly against the show’s fast-paced storyline. In a single moment or gesture, Acevedo can express an immense array of emotions. It’s in Acevedo’s reactions to the people around him, in his emotion-laced line deliveries that Ramse’s character has been forged, a feat that would not have been possible in the hands of a lesser actor.
What’s In Store
One episode into the second season, it’s a joy to see Cole and Ramsey reunited in bro-hood. The two actors have a natural chemistry that makes any screen time they share real treat for the audience. The fact that the two friends have a fundamental difference of opinion only heightens the enjoyment.