12 Monkeys (TV series)

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12 Monkeys
12 Monkeys Intertitle.png
Based on 12 Monkeys
by David Peoples
Janet Peoples
Developed by Terry Matalas
Travis Fickett
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 39 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Jake Kurily (seasons 1–2)
  • Rebecca Kirsch (season 1)
  • Richard E. Robbins (season 2)
  • Tony Elliott (season 3)
  • Sean Tretta (season 3)
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 40–47 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original network Syfy
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Audio format Surround
Original release January 16, 2015 (2015-01-16) – present (present)
External links
Official website

12 Monkeys is an American television series on Syfy created by Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett. It is a science fiction mystery drama with a time traveling plot loosely based on the 1995 film of the same name, which was written by David and Janet Peoples and directed by Terry Gilliam, itself being inspired by Chris Marker's 1962 short film La Jetée; the series credits both Peoples and Marker for their original works.

In the series, Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull star as James Cole and Dr. Cassandra "Cassie" Railly, who use time travel in an effort to stop the destructive plans of the enigmatic organization "Army of the 12 Monkeys". Kirk Acevedo and Noah Bean also star in the first season. In the second season, Bean makes a guest appearance, and Todd Stashwick, Emily Hampshire and Barbara Sukowa are promoted from recurring guests to regulars. Stanford, Schull and Hampshire play reimagined versions of characters respectively portrayed by Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt in the 1995 film.

Natalie Chaidez was the showrunner of 12 Monkeys during its first season, assisting Matalas and Fickett, after the season completed she stepped down to the role of consultant for the second season, and Matalas and Fickett became showrunners. In the third season Fickett became a consultant, and Matalas was the sole showrunner, the series is produced by Atlas Entertainment, which produced the original film, and Universal Cable Productions. Charles Roven, producer of the original, is one of the executive producers.

12 Monkeys premiered on January 16, 2015 with a 13-episode first season. In June 2016, it was renewed for a 10-episode third season, which premiered on May 19, 2017, and aired over three consecutive nights; in March 2017, the series was renewed for a fourth and final season consisting of 11 episodes, which premiered on June 15, 2018, and is set to conclude on July 6, 2018.


In the year 2043, scavenger James Cole (Aaron Stanford) has been recruited by a team of "Project Splinter" scientists led by physicist Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa), to travel back in time to the year 2015, and stop the release of a deadly virus by the enigmatic organization known as the "Army of the 12 Monkeys". In Cole's original timeline, the virus caused a plague that resulted in the death of seven billion humans in the year 2017, and its on-going mutations will mean the eventual end of the human race; in the 2015 timeline, Cole will meet and enlist the help of brilliant virologist Dr. Cassandra "Cassie" Railly (Amanda Schull); the two are brought together because a recording mentioning Cole, that Cassie made after the viral outbreak, is uncovered by Jones in the future timeline, prompting her to select Cole for the mission. Cole will also encounter a seemingly unstable math genius named Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), whose father Cole has been tasked to kill, Cassie's ex-boyfriend Aaron Marker (Noah Bean), and the dangerous high-ranking members of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, "Pallid Man" (Tom Noonan) and Olivia (Alisen Down). In the future timeline, Cole will also have to deal with his best friend José Ramse (Kirk Acevedo), and a man named Theodore Deacon (Todd Stashwick), who leads a brutal pack of scavengers from which Cole and Ramse fled. Meanwhile, Cole and Cassie will try to unveil the identity and whereabouts of the mysterious leader of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, who is only known as "The Witness", and is always one step ahead of them.

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 13 January 16, 2015 (2015-01-16) April 10, 2015 (2015-04-10)
2 13 April 18, 2016 (2016-04-18) July 18, 2016 (2016-07-18)
3 10 May 19, 2017 (2017-05-19) May 21, 2017 (2017-05-21)
4 11[1] June 15, 2018 (2018-06-15) July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06)[1]

Cast and characters[edit]


  • Aaron Stanford as James Cole, a scavenger who travels back in time to stop the plague and redeem himself from his troubled past[2]
  • Amanda Schull as Dr. Cassandra "Cassie" Railly, a virologist who leaves a message about the origins of the plague that scientists recover in the future[2]
  • Kirk Acevedo as José Ramse (seasons 1–3; guest season 4), Cole's best friend[2]
  • Noah Bean as Aaron Marker (season 1; guest season 2), Cassie's ex-boyfriend and political insider[2]
  • Todd Stashwick as Theodore Deacon (season 2–present; recurring season 1), leader of a brutal group of survivors called the West VII[2][3]
  • Emily Hampshire as Jennifer Goines (season 2–present; recurring season 1), daughter of Leland Goines and a math genius, who meets Cole in a psych ward[2][4]
  • Barbara Sukowa as Dr. Katarina Jones (née Werner) (season 2–present; recurring season 1), the inventor and operator of the time machine[2][3]


  • Tom Noonan as the unnamed man commonly referred as "Pallid Man" by the writers,[5] also known as "Tall Man",[6] who is the villainous face of the Army of the 12 Monkeys[2]
  • Romina D'Ugo as Max (season 1), a scavenger from the West VII group, and former lover of Cole[7][8]
  • Demore Barnes as Marcus Whitley, one of the few remaining soldiers of the U.S. military.[8]
  • Ramon de Ocampo as Oliver Peters (seasons 1–2), Markridge Group's medical researcher
  • Alisen Down as Olivia Kirschner, also known as "Striking Woman" outside the show, a high-ranking member of the Army of the 12 Monkeys and sister of the Pallid Man[5]
  • Amy Sloan as Elena (season 1), mother of Ramse's son
  • Andrew Gillies as Adler (season 2–present; co-star season 1), a Project Splinter scientist
  • Michael Hogan as Dr. Vance Eckland (season 2), a charismatic and intelligent scientist from the future[3]
  • Scottie Thompson as the unnamed woman referred by the writers as "Mantis" (season 2–present)[9] a calculating and menacing time traveler, and mother of the Pallid Man and Olivia[10]
  • Jay Karnes as Robert Gale (season 2–present), a savvy 1940s FBI agent who believes a series of grisly murders may have something to do with Cole, whom he suspects might not be from this time[11]
  • Brooke Williams as Hannah Jones (season 2–present), Katarina's biological daughter
  • Murray Furrow as Dr. Lasky (season 3–present; co-star seasons 1–2), a Project Splinter scientist
  • Hannah Waddingham as Magdalena (season 3), a member of the Army of the 12 Monkeys charged with protecting The Witness and who has been dubbed "both ruthless and expedient" in her methods[12]
  • Faran Tahir as Mallick (season 3–present), an imposing and devout enforcer of the Army of the 12 Monkeys who resides in Titan[12]
  • James Callis as Athan Cole (season 3), Cole and Railly's son, who has been raised by the Army of the 12 Monkeys to become their leader known as The Witness[13][14]



Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, who had written together for the series Nikita and Terra Nova, wrote an original spec script television pilot with a time travelling plot, named Splinter.[15] Eventually, the script found its way in Atlas Entertainment's offices, who had produced the 12 Monkeys movie and had been wanting to create a TV series based on it for some time,[16] after some deliberation, Matalas and Fickett came to an agreement with Atlas Entertainment to transform Splinter into a 12 Monkeys adaptation.[17][18] According to Matalas, aside of the overall structure of the plot being an attempt to stop a man from doing something in the past, the concept of the same watch from different points in time, the terminology used for traveling through time ("splintering"), and the female lead character named "Cassie", most of the Splinter pilot was changed.[19]


"Ultimately, our version of predestination – and where it diverges from La Jetée or the original film – is that it's a basically a bullfight, a ballet, against Time. That Time is something to be wrestled with and fought against – and after you've bled and been beaten and gotten your ass thoroughly kicked, maybe you've moved it an inch, the idea of a closed loop works beautifully in a film, but for the story and the emotion of a TV series to really resonate, the characters and the audience have to believe that change is possible. It's hard-fought and not without causalities along the way, but we've already seen that time can be affected. Whether it can be changed enough – or how Time might account for those changes – are some of the central questions of the show. It's also possible that all of this is a closed loop with several loops inside that loop."

—Terry Matalas, co-creator, on how the time travel model of the series differs from that of its source material.[20]

On July 22, 2013, The Hollywood Reporter first revealed that Syfy was developing a 12 Monkeys television adaptation, in the form of a 90-minute backdoor pilot that would lead to a straight-to-series order, similarly to what the Battlestar Galactica miniseries did. The pitch for the pilot, which would be written by Matalas and Picket, was submitted to Syfy by Atlas Entertainment's Charles Roven and Richard Suckle; Roven was one of the producers of the original film. Jon Cassar was reported as being on board to direct.[21] The following month, it was reported that Syfy decided to green-light an hour-long pilot, which would be executive produced by Roven and Suckle, with production set to begin in November.[22] Due to the series being labeled as "cast contingent", production could not move forward until the roles of Cole and Goines were cast,[23] on April 4, 2014, Syfy green-lit the first season, consisting of 13 episodes, including the pilot filmed in 2013. The pilot was directed and executive produced by Jeffrey Reiner; Matalas and Ficket, who wrote it, were announced to co-executive produce the season, while Natalie Chaidez would serve as showrunner.[24] Chaidez credited her experience writing for the first season of Heroes and the two seasons of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, two science fiction series with time traveling plots, as valuable to understanding how to make 12 Monkeys work.[17] Matalas presented the series as a "complete reimagining" of the film and not just a remake, citing Looper as an inspiration for the time travel visual effects.[25] In fact, as Matalas explained, the story of the film was adapted into the first act of the pilot, and from there on, the series follows an original storyline, although it continues to homage both the film and La Jetée.[26] Madeleine Stowe, who played the equivalent of Amanda Schull's character in the film, narrated the opening of the season 2 premiere and made an appearance in its finale.[27] Two major differences compared to the movie are that this version of time travel allows for changes in the past to affect the future, and that the "Army of the 12 Monkeys" is a real organization rather than a red herring.[28]

The series creators plotted three seasons in advance, although they noted that the show could go on for longer than that,[29] during the second season they said they need four seasons to tell the complete story.[30] The ending of the series has been known to them since the beginning. Matalas said about it: "We have a definitive target in place. It's very emotional and it's going to make everyone cry."[31] Chaidez said the ending is designed to "circle back".[32]

The series premiered on January 16, 2015,[33] and was renewed for a second season on March 12, 2015,[34] which premiered on April 18, 2016.[35] Matalas and Fickett, who had opted for Chaidez to showrun the first season because of her bigger experience working on TV, replaced her during the second season, after her departure to showrun her own TV series, Hunters.[15] Chaidez instead was credited as a consultant for the season,[17] the third season was announced on June 29, 2016,[36] and premiered on May 19, 2017,[37] with the first episode being the directorial debut for Matalas.[38] Fickett left his position as executive producer and was credited as consultant, leaving Matalas the sole showrunner for the season. Nevertheless, Fickett provided the story and helped write the screenplay for the season's fourth episode, "Brothers";[39] in a change over how the previous seasons were released, Syfy aired the entire third season over three consecutive nights. A fourth and final season was announced on March 16, 2017, it will consist of 11 episodes, which premiered on June 15, 2018, and is set to conclude on July 6, 2018.[37][40][41]

Filming locations[edit]

While the writing staff is located in Los Angeles,[citation needed] principal photography takes place in Toronto.[42] Standing sets are changed constantly to reflect plot changes through time-travel and through the characters' journeys, parts of which might not have happened to them yet.[43] Additional filming took place in Detroit for the pilot,[44] in Budapest for roughly 10 days during season 2,[45][43] and in Prague for about three weeks during season 3.[46] The reason for moving to Europe was to benefit from the different flair and to use the older architecture for 1950s stand-ins.[43]


Trevor Rabin and his longtime assistant Paul Linford composed the series' music for its first two seasons.[47] Varèse Sarabande released the composers' score for the first season, consisting of 23 tracks, digitally and on CD, on July 31, 2015.[48] Rabin called it "a hybrid score of ethnic sounds, orchestra, and electronic, with a strong theme base".[49]

The music for the first couple of episodes of the third season was composed by Bryce Jacobs.[50] Stephen Barton composed additional music for them, and took over as composer for the remaining episodes.[51]

The original film's theme music — an arrangement of Astor Piazzolla's Suite Punta del Este made by Paul Buckmaster — can be heard during the ninth episode of the second season, "Hyena".[52]


Critical response[edit]

Critical reception of the first season of 12 Monkeys has been mixed to positive. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator website, reported a 62% critical approval rating with an average rating of 5.98/10 based on 34 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "The nonsensical time travel in 12 Monkeys makes it less watchable than its original source material, but the high quality execution and cool characters are top-notch."[53] On Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, the season is assigned a score of 57 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[54] Christine Seghers rated the first season 8.8/10 and wrote in her review for IGN: "What started as a simple 'let's go back and fix this' story soon blossomed into a deep philosophical mediation on the concept of predestination versus free will. If you wanted it, the show is also an awful lot of fun."[55] The critical reception of the later episodes of the first season was more positive than the initial reception, the final episode of the season Arms of Mine received rave reviews, including a 9.4/10 rating from IGN and a 4.5/5 rating from Den of Geek.[56][57] The twelfth of the season, called Paradox, also received rave reviews, including a 9.3/10 rating from IGN and a A- rating from The AV Club.[58][59]

Critical reception of the second season has been highly positive, for the second season of 12 Monkeys, Rotten Tomatoes indexed 8 reviews and reported an 88% critical approval rating with an average rating of 8.0/10.[60] Seghers, rating the season 9.0/10, wrote for IGN: "In its outstanding sophomore season, 12 Monkeys became bigger, bolder and more beautifully baffling, reaffirming its status as one of the best sci-fi shows on television today."[61] Metacritic indexed one positive review,[62] the episodes Lullaby and Memory of Tomorrow are generally considered to be the best episodes of the second season. Lullaby has a 9.4/10 rating from IGN and a perfect 5/5 rating from Den of Geek.[63][64] Memory of Tomorrow has a 9.6/10 rating from IGN and a 4.5/5 rating from Den of Geek.[65][66]

For the third season of 12 Monkeys, Rotten Tomatoes indexed four positive reviews,[67] and Metacritic one positive.[68] Seghers rated the third season 9.5/10 in her review for IGN and wrote: "Season 3 of 12 Monkeys is indeed binge-worthy, delivering sci-fi thrills, surprising plot twists, and hours of epic storytelling that cement the show as the jewel in Syfy's crown."[69]

Creative response[edit]

Before the 12 Monkeys series premiere, Terry Gilliam, director of the original film, expressed his reservations about the concept:

I know nothing about that. That's just ridiculous, it doesn't have anything to do with me and no-one has contacted me. It's a very dumb idea. That's what I think. If it was going to be any good it would have to be written by David and Janet Peoples, who wrote the film, otherwise it would just be another version of Time Bandits.[70]

According to Matalas, both the Peoples and Chris Marker, writers of the original film and La Jetée, respectively, read the pilot and gave the series creators their blessing and support to move forward with it,[71] the Peoples and Marker are credited in the opening and closing credits of each episode for their respective original works.[72] Madeleine Stowe, lead actress of the original film, became supportive of the filmmakers after watching the pilot, appreciating the differences between her character and Amanda Schull's interpretation.[73] She was later cast in a pivotal role in the second season.[74]



Syfy UK and Ireland acquired regional broadcasting rights and 12 Monkeys premiered in the UK and Ireland on February 27, 2015.[75]

Home media[edit]

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released the first season of the series on DVD and Blu-ray on January 19, 2016.[76] On February 11, 2016, Syfy and Hulu announced that the latter will have the exclusive streaming rights for the first season's episodes, after they are made available on February 24.[77]

Season 2 was made available on DVD and Blu-ray on January 17, 2017.[78]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref
2015 Golden Maple Awards Newcomer of the Year in a TV Series Broadcast in the U.S. Emily Hampshire Won [79]
Saturn Awards Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series 12 Monkeys Nominated [80]
American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Episode of a Regular Series David Greene
(for "Mentally Divergent")
Nominated [81]
2016 Golden Maple Awards Best Actress in a TV Series Broadcast in the U.S. Emily Hampshire Nominated [82]
Canadian Society of Cinematographers Awards TV Series Cinematography David Greene
(for "Divine Move")
Won [83]
2017 TV Series Cinematography Boris Mojsovski
(for "Fatherland")
Nominated [84]
2018 American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Regular Series for Commercial Television Boris Mojsovski
(for "Thief")
Won [81]
David Greene
(for "Mother")


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