Review: 12 Monkeys – “Yesterday”

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Last week’s review of 12 Monkeys was skipped. Obviously not much happened, and our patience with the show is visibly wearing thing. To summarize things quickly, “The Keys” went something like this: Cole and Railly crash an event, meet with an anthropologist and learn that the ancient origins of the Army of the 12 Monkeys links back to a cult in Chechnya, which links up with an impending attack from the CIA. This attack is intended to kill an Edward Snowden-type character who’d been an analyst for the company before turning whistleblower. Cole remains and allows himself to remain in the blast zone after poisoning the analyst with the virus didn’t work. Still questions brought on remained un answered and there seems no intent on answering them.

“Yesterday,” Has Jones and Ramse desperately try to bring Cole back from 2015. See, despite Railly’s celebration in the present, the virus still exists and the future remains fixed in a way. After their means of time travel is damaged, Jones has the bright idea to reach another military installation, because the remaining government is actually strong than the viewers were allowed to be believed and we’re just now finding out that some semblance of society continues to exist.

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Leading this outpost is Colonel Jonathan Foster, a man who’d lost his family to the virus, gone on a murderous rampage, killing superior officers and colleagues, yet remains in charge of soldiers and scientists who are searching for a cure. He’s also uber religious. A fanatic even who references God in every other breath as he doubts Jones’ claims to fix the past and believes, despite innumerable failures, that they are close to a cure so people can return to being “fruitful and multiply.” They bicker for resources in hopes of Bringing Cole back and saving the human race.

In the background of all this, Ramse, who we learn is really named Jose, finds Elena, a former girlfriend who’d left him as he was on the run from West 7 with Cole. Despite Ramse’s affinity for blonds, and his habit for “eating them for breakfast,” his former girlfriend is a redhead who also just so happens to have had his child while separated from him. And while Ramse tries to find a place with this little family, he’s constantly pulled back to the table to barter for his friend.

In the present, Railly fights the government to have her sent to Cechnya to make sure that the virus had truly been destroyed with the blast. Though she sees rubble, Cole has actually survived, though Jones’ attempt to pull him back has taken him only as far as 2017.

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I won’t claim to be a master of the craft, because I’m not, but as an avid writer and reader for pretty much my entire life, I’ve developed a sense for when a plot is a labor of love and when it’s just work. When I look at where 12 Monkeys has been in nine weeks, I can’t help but feel like I have to eat my words from the pilot. This is simply bad television. Not so bad to the point where it is painful to watch, nor does it retain its entertainment value. It’s simply bad.

It was argued by fans of the 1995 film that the premise and the art-house feel of the original simply could not stretch to the length of a series, much less one that intended to continue for multiple seasons. I didn’t believe that to be true, and even now I would stand by that position. 12 Monkeys doesn’t suffer from a lack material and style to succeed, it fails because it lacks a soul and the focus to find one.

Like many other episodes, I find myself more interested and invested with what’s not being shown that what is. That’s a good feeling for the audience when the show is over, it is a sign of failure when it happens during. The snippets of the colonel going postal, or seeing more of Ramse’s good-guy sensibilities creep up in that damaged world were infinitely more interesting than anything going on in the main plot. And if this show can only offer three minutes of something worth watching, I’m not sure I can claim its worth suffering through just to see if it was all worth it.

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Written by Daniel Rodriguez
Daniel Rodriguez is a freelance writer and author from New York City.

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