What '12 Monkeys' Season 3 Needs to Get Right

The time travel TV series just got picked up for a third season. Here's what should happen after the Season 2 finale.

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Syfy’s 12 Monkeys is the best genre show you probably aren’t watching right now. It’s a shame, because you should totally be watching it! Thankfully, enough support came from its diehard set of fans that the network announced that the time travel series would get a 10-episode third season, which is great news. Season 2 has been a multi-generational roller coaster of time traveling goodness as James Cole (Aaron Stanford) is once again leading the fight to save humanity from a deadly plague unleashed on the world by a shady organization known as the Army of the 12 Monkeys.

The show is in the final stretch of the second season, with the remaining two episodes wrapping up a late-season arc that is like one big insane finale. Fans who have waited to see how Cassie deals with being haunted by the Witness, how Jennifer will lead the Daughters out of the Red Forest, if Ramse will double-cross the survivors at the facility again, and whether Cole will save the future have a lot to look forward to. With the subsequent season’s announcement, fans can now speculate about what to look forward to as well. Here’s what 12 Monkeys needs to do in Season 3.

5 Keep the Splintering to a Minimum

One of the strengths of not only Season 2 but of the show in its entirety so far is how it hasn’t trivialized the characters constantly traveling through time. When each character splinters (the show’s parlance for time travel) it actually means something to the fabric of time itself regardless of how many times Cole hops into the machine and is sent streaming back to another year. Time travel stories usually deal with the narrative weight of the actual act of time traveling by keeping it at an absolute minimum. Marty McFly only has one shot to get back to the future, therefore it increase the stakes of the ripple effect that character actions have in the past. From the start, 12 Monkeys did away with that, favoring the ever-looping consequences of constant time travel for the greatest amount of action.

For the most part it’s worked out, offering a way that any expectations for what might happen in the show can be inverted because of character taking advantage of certain time loops. That said, it’d be fascinating to see what would happen when the pseudo-convenience of being able to time travel to right past wrongs would be like when there was a serious shortage of time traveling abilities. Yes, this is a show about traveling back from the future to stop a plague. But what would that be like when Cole or Cassie’s options are severely limited?

4. Show Us More 2044

The real treat of Season 2 has been the multi-decade spanning storyline thats show off some gorgeous period production design and flexed some narrative muscles on behalf of the show’s writer’s room. Why have a show about time travel if the characters could only travel to the current present?

The audience got their first taste of Cole and his crew hopping way back in time in “One Hundred Years,” when the rugged survivors from 2044 were suddenly thrust into the glamorous World War II era of 1944 to try and protect a Primary named Tommy Crawford. A bone dagger in his heart from Mantis, the female member of the Messengers, eventually sent them all back to the shows future-present, but that wasn’t all. Cole and Ramse boogied to 1975 to reluctantly try and protect the murderous Primary Kyle Slade in “Immortal,” and also visited post-war 1961 Berlin in “Fatherland” to uncover the causality loop that birthed the Messengers and the Pallid Man.

It all looks great, makes narrative sense, and is probably extremely expensive to shoot. Since most of the 2044 scenes simply serve to complement the multi-decade splintering, it’d be great for Season 3 to explore the other factions and facilities operating in the barren wasteland of 2044 in more detail, especially since the search for Titan and the Red Forest taking over will force Cole, Ramse (Kirk Acevedo), Deacon (Todd Stashwick), Cassie, and the other survivors to leave.

Make Deacon and Jennifer the new Cole and Cassie

Amanda Schull’s commando-fied version of future Cassie has been a standout this season, and her aversion to Cole’s bullshit has been cause for controversy among fans who wrongly thought she was just being stubborn. Likewise, Aaron Stanford remains the steady conscience of the show as Cole. And while that’s all well and good, and a show needs lead characters, Season 2’s eleventh episode, “Resurrection,” offered a perfect alternative.

Through some handy splintering, young Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) was sent to 2044 to witness her own death (“Hello egg. I’m chicken.”), and that episode featured the first interaction between her and former villain Deacon. The moment they shared, with Deacon’s “See something you like?” followed by Jennifer’s “Not yet,” was packed with enough charisma and wishful thinking to make any fan want to see that dynamic duo grow in Season 3.

2 Keep Building the Mythology

The initial backlash on 12 Monkeys the TV series is always the same: Why is there a 12 Monkeys TV show if the movie is a beloved cult classic? The answer, plain and simple, is that they’re two distinct things despite the common name. Much in the same way shows like Fargo and Hannibal have staked their unique claims by expounding upon recognizable properties, 12 Monkeys doubles-down by being so far removed from Terry Gilliam’s movie that the only thing the two share seems to be time travels and character names.

This is to say that the TV show quickly built its own time travel mythos using recognizable identifiers. The Witness, the Messengers, the Pallid Man, the Red Forest, the Striking Woman, Primaries, the Daughters, Spearhead, the West VII, the Hyenas, Titan, the Army of the 12 Monkeys — all have been groups associated with the mythology of the show that have made the story stronger because of the built-up meaning behind such labels. This is one of the strong suits of 12 Monkeys as a TV show, and considering the first time the audience even specifically heard of Titan (the puzzling home of the Witness) was in the seventh episode of Season 2 means the show is not and should not be done introducing new iconic mysteries.

1. Make The Witness Into a Sympathetic Character

You can’t hope to predict all the twists and turns that 12 Monkeys throws at its audience. Good guys like Ramse suddenly turn into bad guys, like during the bombshell in Season 1’s “Shonin” when he was initiated into the Army of the 12 Monkeys and had a hand in developing the virus that wiped out humanity. Also there’s Deacon, the straight up villain of Season 1’s vigilante group the West VII, who suddenly ingratiates himself with the survivors in the facility starting in Season 2 and is transformed into the de facto Han Solo-esque roguish charmer.

12 Monkeys is great at pulling off the complicated multi-faceted characters who are the worst people in the world one episode and the saviors in the next. The best and most controversial way to do this in Season 3 would be to make the Witness into a sympathetic character.

Series co-creator and showrunner Terry Matalas said as much when Inverse spoke to him. “You may look at the Witness’ point of view after season three and be like, ‘You know this guy’s got a good point.’ It’s all in this kind of moral gray zone, he told us. And if that’s the case, then up is down, black is white, left is right, good is bad, and heading into Season 3 12 Monkeys will remain one of the best genre shows on TV.

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