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Sci-fi fans were intrigued last winter by “12 Monkeys,” the Syfy mystery inspired by the cult-favorite 1995 Terry Gilliam film of the same name.
The trippy television series centers on James Cole, a time traveler determined to trace the roots of a devastating plague in hopes of stopping it from being unleashed. Season 1 not only expanded the world and tweaked the mythos of the original movie, but also urged viewers to ponder the impact of time travel on its characters and their world’s past, present and future.
SPINOFF participated in a roundtable interview at New York Comic Con with “12 Monkeys” co-creator Terry Matalas, who teased some of the times, twists and turns coming in Season 2, as well as what to anticipate for fan favorite Jennifer Goines.
Sorry to say, there will be no dodos.
Where are we going this season?
Terry Matalas: Everywhere. We’re going to the 1940s, the 1950s, 1960s, the ’70s. We go to places in the future you never thought you’d see; we go to the future’s future. The conspiracy is much larger and we really get to learn about what the Army of the 12 Monkeys really is and what they want.
There’s a lot going on in the first season. When you were writing, did you write episode by episode, or did you write the story all at once?
We knew where we were going from minute one, and the same thing with this season — the last minute of this season we knew. Before we wrote a single word … we had to pitch it to the studio and network. And everybody gasped, like, “Oh, my God.” We were like, “We did it!” We know we got a good season.
The same thing with Season 1. That’s how you have to do it, because it’s such an intricate story that it’s hard to make up as you go along. However, you do find things on the way. Some characters you shoot and you’re like, “God, I just want to see this character again.”
That happened this year with Jay Karnes. We had always intended for him to be a recurring character, but the second we saw him, we just wanted more right away. He’s so great.
How closely did you stick to the two-year timeline that you laid out for the story last year?
Pretty closely. You always make some adjustments just because a better idea comes along. But the direction is absolutely the same. We knew where we were going at the end of the season. And in order to actually tell the season finale of Season 2, we had to go break out what Season 3 was. It’s just something you have to do. Or else you get caught with your pants down like, “We made it up, we don’t know!” We just don’t want to do that.
At the panel, you said that the plague is just the beginning. What’s worse than the end of humanity?
That’s the question. Clearly, the Army of the 12 Monkeys has some apocalyptic vision of a red forest. What we do know is that the distortion of time makes this foliage real red and really fucked up. So what is the larger plan and why do they keeping talking about this red forest? Is the plague only part of the plan? I think one of the trailers shows Jones saying that “the very fabric of our existence is unraveling”; that’s a hint towards what they want.
When it comes to what’s revealed through Jennifer Goines, is there a lot here that are regressed memories or just her not wanting to share certain things at a certain time?
It’s not really regressed memories. She’s a tortured, tortured person who has had a lot of really bad things happened to her. But we learn a lot more about Jennifer. Last season, we kind of hinted. If you were watching closely, she kind of knew things she shouldn’t have known. She kind of knew who people were. She would say things like, “Green to red,” which we knew was happening. It seems like she’s connected to the changes in time in some way. And maybe that’s part of where her craziness comes from. Jennifer’s a really important character this season. She’s fun to write.
How did that come about, turning Jeffrey Goines into Jennifer?
We just knew that no one could play Brad Pitt again, and what’s better to re-invent it and to give it to a really strong woman? We’re lucky we found Emily [Hampshire].
There’s a lot of fun nods to that with Jennifer’s introduction, like the way she laughs and her sweater in her introduction. So there’s hat tips to Pitt’s version.
We did a hat tip, but now this season, she’s fully [her own]. Emily Hampshire owns this role and has done things … you’ll see. She’s going to make you cry this season.
How do you define time on the show?
You’re going to find out this season. It’s not in the way that we’ve seen before. We’ve implied that time is cruel. We’ve implied that it seems to have its own sort of ways. We saw the scratch disappear from her watch. So time definitely wants certain things to happen. So the question is, is time on our side. And if that’s the case, how does mankind and time work together?
We are the only species that is aware of time. And maybe it’s aware of us. Maybe one depends on the other in the same way. So we’re kind of going into some new places with time, which will throw Jones for a loop. This is not Einstein, this is not Hawking … This is something else that [Jennifer] needs to get ahead of and I think it’s going to challenge her character in a really neat way.
Season 2 dodo bird: confirmed or not?
No dodo bird. You’ll see what happens. [Emily] has great stuff.
“12 Monkeys” returns in April to Syfy.