Tuesday, January 20, 2015

12 Monkeys - Double Secret Probation


I have "12 Monkeys" on double secret probation.  Not the movie mind you, the new TV show from Syfy of the same name.

First of all, you all know what "double secret probation" is right?




 So why do I have SyFy's 12 Monkeys on double secret probation? When you use the name of an iconic movie, borrow it's characters and conceit and then claim to be putting your own spin on it, well, then, alarm bells go off.

Let's start with the main characters.

Dr. Cassandra Railly played by Amanda Schull


"Oh, she's pretty," remarked my wife upon seeing her.

"Barbie doll" I muttered under my breath.

(I admit my cynicism.  12 Monkeys is going to have to do a lot to convince me it is legit.)

Here is Cassie as she concludes her speech near the beginning of the episode.


As she recoils from her kidnapping by Cole and seeing him disappear.


At the John Adams Hotel.


And finally, at the party in order to see Goines.


Not much of a change.  She looks great.  Perfect.  Too perfect.

In the two years after she initially met Cole she looks that good?

She's lost her job, her prospects, her love life and her reputation and there isn't a wrinkle on her face.


At least the movie version of Railly managed to look a little rumpled.

The other thing that bothered my about the Schull/Railly character was her willingness to meet Cole at the hotel two years later.  Someone with that much going for her wouldn't just dump it all just to chase down someone that kidnapped her at knife point and then vanish in front of her eyes.   At least Madeleine Stowe's Railly was a psychiatrist and she was motivated by her professional curiosity.

I also got a distinct "Dr. Who" vibe from the Schull Railly.  It was if Schull was Amy Pond and she was waiting for her "Raggedy Man."  But instead of the star traipsing jester she got a half mad hit man.  Again, why wait for him?  Was her life that devoid of meaning?  I've heard tell we are going to get some backstory into the missing two years.  I hope its good.

Oh, I know what you're saying, "It's only TV Dave, let it go, they have to start somewhere.  Maybe she will grow on you."

Maybe.

James Cole played by Aaron Stanford.


Sorry, he strikes me as a B lister.  At least he's a little cleaner from his time travel experience.  Heres' what the Bruce Willis character looked like.


Maybe Stanford's Cole should spend a little time in an asylum.

The people behind this iteration of 12 Monkeys have told us that time travel will take its toll on Cole 2.0.  I'm interested to see if it will be physical or mental.  Or both.  I'll tell you one thing, I really do hope Cole runs into another version of himself although episode one clues seem to rule that out.

Cole 2.0 likes to remind us of the loss of "7 billion people" and how, "They are dead, they're all dead!" But the urgency behind his exclamation just doesn't seem to ring true.  Shouldn't there be a hint of despair in his voice?  Anger is fine but Cole comes from a post apocalyptic future, he should be steeped in sadness.

In the pilot episode Cole was described as, "a flesh and blood molecular computer."  Good!  Perhaps that explains his demeanor.

So what did I like?


How can you not like Zeljko Ivanek, no, how can you not love Ivanek? 
Ivanek adds the gravitas this series so sorely lacks from its cast.  ( I was so bummed when they killed him off on Banshee.)  In the movie, Christopher Plummer played the elder Goines with an air of aristocracy.  Ivanek seems to want to channel the cold arrogance of a corporate baron.

His character is also responsible for the conundrum of time time travel or better said, the fleshing out of the paradox of time travel.  Goines is the one that tells Cole of the Army of the 12 Monkeys in 2015.  Yet his information comes from a meeting with Cole back in 1987 and Cole has no knowledge of it.  Awesome.

Time travel themes are very tricky.  The series Continuum once had a handle on it even as late as the middle of last season.  Only to fumble it as the season closed.  If you want to see how stupefying the paradox of time travel can be see the movie, "Primer."  You'll come away with either never wanting to see the movie again or watching it a dozen times or more.

Naturally, Ivanek's elder Goines gets killed off.  But not to worry, we should at least get a 1987 version of him.  Makeup!


I suppose we should talk about Emily Hampshire's Jennifer Goines.  We didn't get to see her much but when she was appraised of her father's death she turned to the camera and this is who I saw.


 Hey, you could do a lot worse than channeling All Sheedy's Allison Reynolds from 1985's, "The Breakfast Club."  Allison wasn't exactly all there either and if I remember correctly her particular take on art as a form of expression was rather unusual too.

I'm hoping Hampshire's character will add an injection of much needed humor to the show.  I think the only light touch was when Aaron Marker asked Cassie how she met Cole.

"She bought me a cheeseburger."

That was kind of funny.  It was.



 Ah well, I hope we get some more quirk and humor to the show.  The death of seven billion people is nothing to laugh at but even a touch of gallows humor can help lighten the show and help us empathize with our characters.

Hopefully I didn't tick too many people off with this review of 12 Monkeys.  I'm sure there is room to grow and the characters will be fleshed out and the story better understood.  I do have hope.

Besides, I don't someone to stick a horse in my office.  We all know how that turned out for Dean Wormer.





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