Friday, April 17, 2015

So it's been a week since 12 Monkeys concluded its first season



And this is the only photo I still have on my phone.

It was an amazing first season. When I heard about it, I'll admit I was a little "why, tho?" about the whole idea. But Syfy doing actual science fiction? Made by the guys who made Nikita and partially made Terra Nova? Starring that guy who was Pyro a million years ago?

Yeah, I was gonna watch it, even if it was horrible. And it so wasn't. I was basically hooked by the end of the opening monologue, but it really got me when things got weird--scratched-watch paradoxes, dudes disappearing shot and showing up two years later still shot, a Mission (capital-M, always) that immediately turns out to Not Be What It Seems. I love an ambitious show, and this one had some of that breakneck, holding-nothing-back energy that Sleepy Hollow had its first season*, and it just dove into piles of story. These thirteen episodes had as much story as, like, three seasons of an old show might have, and it was glorious.

And also, it was smart. It's not just that there was a lot of story--it's that the story was incredibly well crafted, with further episodes changing the meaning and context of everything that came before. Especially in the third act, every episode could have been a finale, and when the actual finale happened, it changed everything again. 

And it was real scifi. Time travel and viruses weren't just plot points, they were structural pieces necessary for the story to happen at all--which is how Big Scifi Pieces should be. And because time travel is awesome, it was used awesomely, to give us these phenomenal non-linear stories that uncover a little more each time we pass by them. This is how you handle a revelation-of-mystery plot. Take notes.

But the core of the series was the relationships--which were so human and flawed and tragic that they added both weight and normality to the increasing and delightful weirdness of the series. Cole and Cassie and their immediate connection (and how he can't seem to keep her alive), Cassie and Aaron and their failed normal life (and how he can't seem to let her go--or stop trying to control her choices), Cole and Ramse and the bromance to end all bromances that goes horribly awry (but still changes the world), Ramse and his family, everyone and the Monkeys, Jennifer and her dad, Jennifer and Cole, Jennifer and Cassie, Jones and Cole, Jones and Cassie, Jones and Whitley, Whitley and his dad, everyone and Spearhead, everyone and West Seven... There's a tight and thick weave of interpersonal relationships that all come down to love. Romantic love, platonic love, desperate love, familial love, lost love, love that is strong enough to change fate and alter all of history. It's amazing. It's epic. It's wildly personal and also universal in the way that Big Important Literature is. It's the relationships that ground te show and also make it universal.

Now, when I look back at the early episodes, it's with a mix of that feeling you get looking at baby pictures, knowing how everything goes wrong for those babies--and this pervasive wonder at how very much information was crammed into 45 minute chunks without damaging how understandable or accessible the immediate plot was. Those early episodes mean something else now that we know more than we did when we watched them the first time, but it adds to the re-watch-ability of the season. Now, there's new layers. Now, there's stuff that was always there that we missed tw first time.

And that's amazing to me, as a fan and as a writer. I feel like we've been given this really awesome gift, and I hope with every fiber of my being that they can keep it going at this high, complicated (but clear) level of story, plot, character, innovation, and joyfulness.**

Is it time for season two yet?



Notes:
* Please, holy mother of Fandoms, don't let season two of 12M go off the rails the way season two of SH did!
**Its weird that a show that gets so dark is joyful, but that's my main feeling--it's creating and experiencing joy in its own existence, and it's created this wonderful fandom that's been an amazing and unexpected addition to my life.

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