12 Monkeys: the ultimate guide to prep for Season 2

12 Monkeys returns for Season 2 on Monday, April 18th at 9:00/8:00c, one of the most crowded hours on television right now, so you know how much faith Syfy has put into the show. 12 Monkeys is a complex, twisty, emotional show full of strangeness and charm, and in case you missed the first season, here's everything that you need to know heading into Season 2. It's spoilery -- be warned!

Cole and Cassie

This is Cole and Cassie. Cole is from 2043, after a virus has knocled out something like 97% of the population of the earth, and what's left has maybe a generation left, they think. He's recruited by Project Splinter, a time-travel experiment started before the apocalypse and finished after, to go back in time and kill the man who is responsible for creating the virus. 

His first trip back is to 2013, but that's too soon. He kidnaps Cassandra Railly, a virologist for the CDC, because she left the recording that named him as the one that had to go back. But because he's too early, she doesn't know the man he's looking for--Leland Frost--and he runs out of time before they can figure out what to do. The cops catch up with them and Cole gets shot, but before he disappears before her eyes, convincing her that he's telling the truth and not insane, he tells her where to meet him in two years' time.

In 2015, Cassie goes, and waits for a week for his return. She's been looking for two years, terrified at every turn that every outbreak she encounters is the virus he told her about, and has had a nervous breakdown and lost her job. But she's there when he reappears, moments later for him, still bleeding from the gunshot wound she saw him get two years ago, to her. 

Yeah, there's a lot of time not passing the same length between events for them.

Anyway, she saves his life and they go looking together for Leland Frost. Except he's not named Frost, he's named Goines, the recording was garbled and they got it wrong. They go to a party, they get captured trying to kill Goines, and we learn that Goines knows Cole from something that happened in his past, in Japan in 1987, but that Cole hasn't done yet. Cole manages to kill Goines, and he waits to disappear like he's supposed to--because if the apocalypse is diverted, he won't exist anymore--and it doesn't work. It wasn't only Goines to blame.

It's good that Cole continues to exist, because the connection between Cole and Cassie is the heart of the first season. She is a healer, and teaches him that compassion and love aren't a weakness, and killing isn't the only way to solve problems. Along the way, though, Cassie learns from him that sometimes compassion isn't going to stop someone from trying to kill the world, and she starts making Hard Decisions and hardens up because of them.

Jennifer

While Cole and Cassie are looking for what to do next, they meet Jennifer Goines, Leland's daughter. Jennifer is institutionalized at the beginning, and is pretty nuts--but probably not actually insane. She used to be a scientist with her father's biotech company, and was one of only two survivors of a mass murder of the lab. She was blamed for it and locked up, but we learn later that Leland knew it wasn't her even if she thought it might be, and kept her there on purpose--though we're not sure yet why.

Jennifer inherits the company and all it's power, and toward the end of the first season, she takes over for real. She places herself as the CEO, and makes announcements about cloning dodos and creating unicorns, and giving the world back to the animals. She's also in the future Cole comes from, older and just as crazy-sounding, but at both ends of the story, she's got roles to play and knows more than anyone else. She seems to have a sense of time--she knows when things are changing, even when there's no way she really could, and that seems to indicate that her crazy is actually interference from other timelines or something similar. 

She is fascinated with Cole and hates Cassie. She was actually happy that it was Cole who killed her father, and that cemented her love for him--whatever form that love will take, going forward.

At the very end of the season, she takes the virus and heads out to spread it around.

Cole and Ramse

In his own time, Cole has Ramse, basically his brother. He and Ramse met when Cole was five or six, right before the apocalypse when they both wound up in the same orphanage, and they only survived into adulthood because they had each other. They joined the West 7, a group of scavengers who ruled the area, together years before Project Splinter, and escaped it together when it got too dangerous. Ramse is the one who convinced Cole to agree to the time travel experiments. Ramse kept him human all these years in a rough, killer-vs-killer world. Ramse encouraged Cole to get to know Cassie better, to take the chance on something good.

And then, half way through the season, Ramse found out that his long lost love had survived, and had a kid by him. His whole view on the time-travel-to-change-history plan flipped: if they succeeded, he'd never have had his son, maybe never even have ever met Elena. By then, though, the program is never going to stop, and Cole has saved Cassie from dying at least three times and is devoted to saving the world for her. Ramse destroys their research and winds up going through the Machine into the afore-mentioned 1987, where Cole accidentally convinces Goines to buy the Origin of the virus (he hadn't been going to until Cole starts talking about it), and Ramse stabs Cole and thinks he killed him.

So Cole is bleeding out and Ramse is trapped without a tether to the future, since he didn't properly prepare for the jump, and winds up in jail. The worst jail in Japan.

While he's there, he's contacted by the mysterious woman that has been showing up periodically to offer devils' bargains. She recruits him into the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and Ramse becomes Ethan Seki, the Traveler, and it becomes clear that the reason the Army was always a step ahead of Cole and Cassie at every turn, is that they had Ramse telling them how it went--as it happens. They couldn't change time because Ramse was making sure the Army was warned about all the attempts to change it, and prepared for them!

By the end of the season, though, his foreknowledge has run out and he's no longer of use to them. He thinks he's free and he's going to go home--after living 28 un-aging years in the past (our present). He uses his wealth and power to make sure Project Splinter gets funded and exists, and when he goes to use the machine--which is barely tested and not ready for people--that's when Cole and Cassie show up, having discovered that he's been against them. They think he's the Witness, the one who gives the orders to the Army, and he says that's not him, but before he can say whether he knows who it actually is, there's a shootout that results in him AND Cassie getting shot. It's the first time Cole isn't the one catching a bullet, and he has to choose between them.

Cole's in love with Cassie, and Ramse sees that it's a lost cause for both of them and tells him to use the only dose of the serum that allows time travel and send her to the future, where she might live. So Cole does. While Olivia is cooing over mysterious babies and narrating what she thinks she knows--that Cole will disappear and Ramse will die--Cole goes back and saves Ramse, defying fate, and finally, FINALLY, creating change! He goes off script, and from the look of the previews, it makes everything even more bonkers in season two!

Other things to know:

Jones

This is Katarina Jones. Her husband invented the Machine before the apocalypse and she finished it after. She's the one who finds Cole, prepares him, and gives him his mission. She also does all the research in the future, somehow maintains a smoking habit when factories are all dead, and takes a personal and ruthless responsibility for changing history. She wants to get her daugher back, who she lost in the plague, but it seems almost like she's trying to fix things for something more than just that. She has grudges and feuds with other people who survived the plague. When one of them, Foster, who was in charge of a project to find a cure seems to do so, she calls him a liar, kills all his people, steals his power core to replace her own depleted one, and burns his research. She's fed who knows how many people to the machine to figure out how it works, and she's willing to kill in cold blood over and over to keep the project going. She also refuses to let anyone but herself handle it, so if she dies, everyone does.

She knows Cassie in 2015, too, so she's paralelling Jennifer in working on both ends of the timeline.

And she's remarkably sympathetic. She's almost sort of a mother figure--in a really weird mad-scientist way--to Cole by the end, and she's aware that she's not good with people. She's got a lot going on that we've hardly started to see yet.

Olivia

This is Olivia, the Striking Woman, the highest-up member of the Army that we know. She seems to only answer to the Witness, who she knows how to contact using a mysterious tea and a sort of guided meditation. She's the one who offers Aaron Marker, Cassie's ex, a place in her bunker to ride out the plague, if he can convince Cassie to give up the mission. Cassie, of course, refuses, and Marker gets desperate, and winds up burned up in an abandoned warehouse, but the golden rule of TV is "no body, not dead" and he was still alive the last time we saw him (though on fire).

Olivia is head of a lot of the Army's projects. She's an investor in Goines's biotech. She's the one who picked twelve babies to raise as the Messangers that invade the Project Splinter lab in the future at the end of the season. She's the one who found, inducted, and handled Ramse as the Traveler. She's the one who seems to be manipulating Jennifer into releasing the virus. She thinks she knows everything that's going to happen, and it'll be so interesting to see what happens when she doesn't know.

Deacon

This is Deacon. He's head of the West 7, and was the one who recruited Cole and Ramse, offering them a chance to not starve to death. They left when he wanted Cole to kill Ramse, and he'd been trying to find them since, so when he hears that they're in the facility, that there's food and water and power there, he wants in. Their first attack is foiled by time travel, because this is a time travel show, but the second attack gets the Messangers in--and then he starts to see that he's on the wrong side, just a little.

He's brutal and ruthless and devoted to staying alive--so far, mostly also keeping his people alive so long as they're loyal--but he's also charismatic and charming and will have a bigger role in season two.

2017

During one of the attempts to stop the virus, Cassie is captured by Olivia, drugged, and killed, and Cole goes back to save her--but her being dead led to an alternate timeline where the project was never revived and Ramse was leader of the 7. During another attempt, Cole barely escapes being blown up with an infected compound and gets stuck in 2017--the year the virus kills the world. He sees first hand what it looks like across the world as he's found and brought to Cassie in the CDC. 

At the very very beginning of the show, the very first scene, he goes to that same room in the CDC and finds her bones; in this scene, she dies in his arms and he finds out how those bones got there. Before she dies, though, she gives him an address that turns out to be Jones's, and that saves him after he's stabbed. She tells him to keep looking, and asks if he's found the Red Forest yet, though at our point in the story, she's the only one who has seen it--that time when she was taken by the Army and Cole had to save her from death.

Everything comes back to the Red Forest. That's where the Witness seems to live and where people have to go to talk to him. Whenever there's time travel near a green plant, all the leaves turn red. It's entirely unclear so far what or where it is, but it's important!

After this point in the show, Cole's health takes a steep downward turn, and time gets short. Splintering is bad for the body, and the serum only makes up for that for a while; after he's stabbed in 1987, Cole is almost out of time. Cassie and Jones save him by finding his younger self--that five or six year old kid, right before the orphanage--and injecting him with his own younger-self blood. That causes a paradox that helps them escape the Army, saves Cole's life, and makes him a denizen of 2015--by the end of the season, he's lost his tether to the future, and he can't time travel anymore. It's unclear so far whether the serum's health-holding and age-denything side effects are gone, too, but they probably are, if he's been entirely reset. 

And that's us caught up for season two! 

The show is complex, and there's a map on the website to keep all the time-jumps staight in you head, but they go out of their way to tell you where you are in each scene. There's a lot of heavy moral and personal battles everyone has to fight, but there's also very sweet moments, usually whenever Cole doesn't understand something about the present and discovers it with childlike awe. There's a depth of emotion that's sometimes missing from scifi shows, and there's a savviness to it as a whole: 12 Monkeys knows what it's doing. Time travel isn'st just a vehicle, it's the point of the show. Several of the plots wouldn't work at all if the widget of timetravel were removed, and the complexity is handled in such a clean and clever way that it's like being handed a gift. Every few episodes of season one, something shifts the context and whole new ideas and options open up. It's smart. it's charming, it's brilliantly handled, and it's one of the best first seasons around. It somehow manages to balance a breakneck speed with enough time to process all the information and all the character growth. It's got an amazing cast full of depth and conflict. There's so many surprises--and it's hard to call ahead of time, something that's rare when you watch as much TV as I do, and a gift because of it.

The fandom is very active on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, the people who make the show are very friendly to the fans, and I'll be reviewing each episode here on TVGA as they air! Come join us! 

The first season whole, and the first episode of season 2 is available on the Syfy website, on Hulu, and on certain On Demand channels. Dive right in!

By Samantha Holloway

About the author

Samantha is a freelance writer, editor and book and TV reviewer. She's currently in gradschool and working on her first novel, and one day she'll rule to world. Or marry her TV. Whichever comes first. Follow! twitter.com/pirategirljack.

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2 Comments
On: Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:
I've long wanted to check out 12 Monkeys (movie is amazing of course), now will definitely need to check it out !
On: Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Samantha Holloway said:
Do it, Eric! Join us!
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