Every week, Jennifer Goines has the unenviable task of being the only person on Syfy’s 12 Monkeys who actually knows what the hell is really going on. Her only problem is that she lacks the communication skills necessary to get her message out coherently. Let’s be honest, even if she could there’s little chance anyone would listen to her, right? After all, the girl is certifiable.

Portrayed by the extremely capable Emily Hampshire, Jennifer is also one of the most enjoyable parts of Syfy’s time-traveling tale. Tormented by her temporal knowledge, made to be a victim her whole life, plagued by the knowledge that a family is simply beyond her grasp, Jennifer Goines’ emotions are a runaway rollercoaster that makes her incredibly fun to watch.

She Had the Hardest Job Going In

For a show that’s based on a cult classic of the sci-fi genre, there are pretty big expectations going in. None more so than on Emily Hampshire, the actress hired to step into the shoes vacated by Brad Pitt, who got his first Oscar nomination behind his screwy performance as psychotic animal lover Jeffrey Goines in the original 12 Monkeys.

Of course, Pitt’s performance was so iconic that the producers felt it was necessary to change the role to a female, and while Hampshire says she initially felt pressure going into shooting, she’s always worked to make Jennifer Goines her own without shying away from comparisons to the previous performance.

Just check out her first real scene in 12 Monkeys in which she subtly sets the course for the entire show while also managing the difficult task of sounding crazy as a loon:

Fans of the show will find Goines’ manic monologue chock full of deftly delivered clues into the show’s future, though at a glance you’d be hard-pressed to see much beyond the gleeful insanity rolling around Goines’ head. Her first impression is sheer stream of consciousness, a maneuver that wouldn’t work without a captivating actress keeping the Goines together.

Emily Hampshire Makes Prophetic Craziness Believable

When a character has to spend most of her screen time babbling incoherently, it’s entirely possible to simply write them off, no matter where the story takes them. Fortunately, Emily Hampshire’s delightfully measured performance is enthusiastic without being overdone. She might be going nuts on screen, but there’s no scenery chewing in Hampshire’s performance.

She’s got more advanced knowledge than any other character, yet the sheer volume of information makes her mind a disorganized mess that hardly even makes sense to her, let alone the audience. By virtue of the fact that Jennifer is privy to the very clockwork that makes up the Universe, Hampshire has to make sure every word out of her mouth is carefully weighted and properly emphasized. It’s a chore that the actress is more than capable of handling.

Hampshire’s Goines is an unchecked id barreling through the world around her. Though she’s certainly in the know about the larger events swirling around her, she’s also fundamentally incapable of controlling herself, a character trait that makes Goines’ totally unpredictable and extremely watchable as a result.

The Core of the Mental Patient

At the end of the day, though, outside of Jennifer’s prophecies and her inability to control her moment-to-moment actions, Emily Hampshire weaves into the character a longing that makes her instantly sympathetic. She’s a creature who’s been thrust into making a choice she never wanted, caught between the need to belong, to be special, and the desire to do the right thing.

It’s the former of those two compulsions that drives most of her behavior in season one, in which she happily sets off to spread the virus and destroy the world at the behest of the Army of the 12 Monkeys simply because she wants to belong somewhere again. Goines is haunted by a tragedy she couldn’t control — her mother tried to drown her as an infant — and is forever struggling to be the daughter she never got to be. Why else would she call her own post-apocalyptic cult the Daughters?

Of late, though, Goines has been channeling her desire to, you know, not kill billions of people, by focusing on time-traveler James Cole. Her actual love for Cole himself is still a matter for debate; it’s very clear that her fixation on Cole is a result of his belief that fate can be changed, that our actions are our own. Lost in a world where the unchanging march of time is sewn into her very existence, a shot at this kind of redemption is obviously attractive to Jennifer.

It’s that conflict between hope and knowledge that keeps Goines a really fun character to watch.

The Oddball Moving Forward

Jennifer Goines is distinct from the rest of the team on 12 Monkeys. She’s the one character who desperately wants a connection that she’s totally unequipped to get. The writers behind the show do a phenomenal job shaping that torment and evolving Goines from episode to episode.

It’s Hampshire’s take on unbridled crazy, though, her flitting insanity that’s cut by moments of sheer natural force that make Jennifer Goines one of TV’s best characters.