We’ve all been fascinated with time in some point in our lives, and more often than not we’ve asked ourselves, “What if?” What if we put in extra 5 minutes of effort before a final? What if we didn’t guzzle down a litre of water before heading out into congested Banani 11, bladder exploding?
Life is full of what ifs, and that’s exactly how the TV series, 12 Monkeys, starts off. What if you could hit a reset button and take back every bad thing you’ve ever done? You’d hit it, right?
12 Monkeys falls under what you’d call a science fiction/mystery genre based around “time”. Released in 2015, the show distinguishes itself from other shows that dabble with time - such as Dr. Who or The Flash - mainly in the fact that the protagonists are ordinary people without special gadgets or super powers.
The story kicks off in a post-apocalyptic earth in the year 2043, ravaged by a fatal virus that wiped out 93.6% of the world’s population. Most left alive have turned into scavengers fighting, killing and stealing off each other to survive. Well, save for a group of scientists that have pinned their hopes to a machine that can send back people to the past, to potentially prevent the outbreak of the disease and erase this dismal future.
And that’s where James Cole (Aaron Stanford) comes in. After being a scavenger all his life, he stumbles upon this group of scientists, who convince him he must go back in time, especially after he hears an audio clip left by Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), a virologist from the past, specifically mentioning his name and instructing him to save the world. James Cole, convinced, splinters to the past to meet Dr. Railly and thus their journey unfolds, along with other friends who help along the way.
There are several instances of the butterfly effect in the show - small changes in past events rippling through time to completely change the future. A lot hinges on causality, and James Coles has numerous excursions to different timelines (2012, 2015, even as far back as 1943 and 1961) as well as encounters with people in these timelines who apparently remember Cole from before but who Cole fails to recognise. He finds out the past and future are intertwined, one causing the other in a cycle. What starts off as a mission to merely prevent the outbreak of disease quickly evolves into a race against time through time to save time, as James Cole eventually comes to confront the Army of the 12 Monkeys, an organisation lead by The Witness, who wants to destroy time itself and create an eternal “now” where the past, present and future coexist.
All in all, 12 Monkeys is an interesting watch, the plot not too complicated to create confusion nor too simple to make the show predictable. Add the unravelling romance between Cole and Dr. Railly to the mix, along with detailed fight scenes in the past, present, and future, betrayals and coups, and deaths make for a comprehensive watch too.
And arguably the coolest part of the show is the play on time itself, how it’s explained and how causality is portrayed in the series. And you have paradoxes too, when something from the future comes into contact with itself in the past.
What happens then? Explosions.
Mustafid Raiyan Khan is an excellent procrastinator and has mastered the art of doing nothing and regretting his nothingness even further. Help his endeavors at https://www.facebook.com/mustaaachio