12 Monkeys: Review: Series 1 Episode 1: Splinter

12 monkeys2013: a virologist is approached by a knife-wielding madman who claims he’s from 30 years in the future and begs her to meet him in two years’ time – and when she does, the fate of the world hangs in the balance…

A second tale of alternate timelines in two days – with The Man in the High Castle debuting on Amazon the day before – and a second pilot episode with high production values, an engaging cast, deft world-building, and key differences from its source material.

In the case of 12 Monkeys, the new Syfy series expands on the themes and events of the Terry Gillliam movie, which itself played with the ideas from the original short film La Jetee, and it will be fascinating to see whether elements from the latter that didn’t make it into the Gilliam film are delved into further, given the extra time that the series has. There are plenty of time paradoxes, splintered timelines and seeming impossibilities just in this first hour, and one has to hope that the producers are not winging it by the seat of their pants, or things are going to get very messy very quickly!

The characterisation has been changed quite considerably: for a start, Aaron Stanford’s Cole is far more in control than Bruce Willis’s criminal, and changing Railly from a psychiatrist to a virologist puts her more directly into the story. Goines – Cole’s target – is nicely played by Zeljko Ivanek and I wonder quite how much he’s going to be involved in the story, given that his daughter is clearly going to be a key player.

There’s enough unanswered questions to sustain the next few episodes – whether the concept can stand up to more than one season, though, remains to be proved.

Verdict: An interesting enough twist on time travel tropes to make this worth following for the moment. 8/10

Paul Simpson

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