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Can SyFy's 12 Monkeys Reboot Work? Surprisingly, Yes

Elizabeth Harper | 20 Jan 2015 12:00
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Sure, 12 Monkeys might wind up being 13 episodes of time travel paradoxes without a satisfying resolution -- but so far it's worth watching.

Though it always feels like it's too soon to remake a classic, Terry Gilliam's iconic take on 12 Monkeys will be 20 years old this year. (Let that sink in. 20 years old.) And so, faded from the public mind, perhaps now is a good time to revisit this crazy time-travel apocalypse once again... but now with the slow-burn development that you can only get in a television series. It's a good enough pitch that someone at SyFy said yes to it, and the 13-episode season has just started airing.

Still, the original film is so marked by Gilliam's influence it's hard to imagine the world of 12 Monkeys without Gilliam's involvement -- the television show has no relationship to the film, dubbed by its producers as a "complete reimagining" of the world. Will 12 Monkeys the TV show catch our imaginations like 12 Monkeys the movie did? It's difficult to imagine that it would, and yet the finished product is compelling despite my own misgivings on the remake machine.

Miss the first episode, "Splinter"? You can watch it now on SyFy's website or buy it on Amazon -- and fans of science fiction, whether familiar with the original or not, are likely to enjoy it. The review below will contain spoilers, though not much you wouldn't know if you've already seen the original. Now, let's dig in to the new/old world of 12 Monkeys.

The setup of the show is simple. Our protagonist Cole (Aaron Stanford) has been sent back in time from the year 2043 to try to stop a virus outbreak before it overtakes the world and creates the apocalyptic future he lives in. To do this, he seeks out Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), a virologist who left a message that future scientists received which mentioned Cole's name. (You may remember that this was a key plot point of the movie, as well.)

Cole's mission is simple: he's to go back in time, find Railly, and use her to find Leland Goines (Zeljko Ivanek), who's believed to be responsible for the outbreak. From there, things go a bit Terminator 2. Remember when Sarah Conner decided she'd solve the whole Judgement Day thing by executing the man who invented Skynet? But then decided that wouldn't fix things because his work would live on without him? This is the same idea, but with fewer killer robots (at least so far).

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