Thursday, April 28, 2016

10 things you're missing out on if you're not watching #12Monkeys

1. An amazing story that's totally Binge-able
As of this moment, there are fifteen episodes. Thirteen for the first season, and two so far in the second. That means that you can watch all of them in one day, if you're really dedicated, and get the full extent of the series without ads or breaks or waiting on anything! It's immensely re-watchable; these writers have put in all sorts of hints and clues and foreshadowing that you pick up more and more of when you rewatch, but the benefit of watching all at once is that you can track all the storylines without gaps between them. It's basically one big story pretending to be episodic, and though jumping in the middle could be confusing, there's so much story crammed into so few episodes, you can start from the beginning and be caught up in a week. (Watch on Hulu or on the Syfy site for the views to count!)

2. Complexity that works
We're two episodes into season two, and there's no signs that it'll be anything less than mindboggling. Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett took the framework of the movie--scavenger from a dying future goes back in time to stop a plague--and blew it up to epic proportions successfully.

There's story happening in our time, in the future, in various points in the past. There's characters who exist in more than one time-frame, even if they're not time travelers, and there's time travelers on both sides of the good-bad divide. There's moral ambiguity starting with "if I kill this one guy, I save billions" and upping the ante through "if I save this one person, it's worth the whole world dying" vs "can I let this one person die if it means saving the world" and onward. There's a lot of character development in just about every character shown on screen, both in real time and in flashbacks--and even, occasionally, in alternate realities. There's time loops, and imposed cycles, and conspiracies, and multi-generational plans in play--and there's Cole, smashing through it like a bull in a china shop, hoping to make things right.

And the world itself! The present day world we know is stranger than we think. The future is a near-perfect apocalypse that's still happening, which feels innovative to me. When was the last time any apocalypse wasn't a postapocalypse? All points they visit are carefully made as real as each other, so that no matter where in time they are, no matter how strange it gets, everything has the same level of clear reality.

And it works. It's like a symphony, it works so well. Or one of those puzzle boxes that's so well made it feels like a gift.

3. The best use of time travel in, like, ever
The best thing: time travel has a cost--it makes you sick and you have to weigh every time you do it against risk and reward, and the only cure so far is literally creating paradoxes inside your own body, which is dangerous, to say the least.

Sometimes time travel is more of a vehicle, getting people from one place to another, but as season one unfolded and into season two, it's more and more an intrinsic piece of the story's structure. Things happen out of order because people who aren't time traveling are stuck in a straight line, past to present to future, and people who are time traveling can hop all along that line, regardless of the usual order of things. People on both sides are working with time and against time while also working against each other, trying to bend history to their own will--and it sometimes works, but mostly it causes more trouble that they then have to work out. It's the main process for several long-games to happen and to play out.

They give us clear indications of which times we're in and there's always a reason for why we're there, and the show as a whole literally couldn't happen without time travel. It's about time travel, not just featuring it.

4. Awesome female characters as complex as the males
The main villain is a woman.

Cassie is the female lead, and as S2 happens, she has switched places in the moral grey-areas with Cole--which is amazing, letting her be as violent and single-minded as he was, something ladies on TV don't get a lot.

The biggest wild card on the show is Jennifer, who is either insane, or the sanest person on the show, depending on where her story goes, but who exists at both ends of the time-travel and is definitely up to something.

The creator of the Splinter Project is wonderful, semi-sociopathic, damaged, brilliant Jones, who is some sort of post-apocalyptic life goal, since I'd be about her age in 2044.

And the only one of the enemy agents we've seen directly so far is a woman.

It's kind of amazing, having so many women around who aren't only love interests, or arm candy, or bit players. There's love in there, but they're also damaged and striving and have goals of their own. They're not defined by the men around them. They're smart and resourceful and as able to take care of themselves as everyone else.

5. An epic love story--literally
Cole and Cassie--Casserole--is a ship that sails itself, but in between them meeting and any confessions they might have in the future, there's plenty of time for story, and it's Big Story. Cole comes back from the future specifically to meet Cassie, Kyle Reece style. Cassie believes in him so strongly that she goes off script to save him more than once. Now that Cassie is compromised, Cole is staying by her side to make sure she's alright, despite differences in opinion about how the mission should work. In season one, Cole saves Cassie's life three times, because her dying always results in history going bad. Their love is literally what is saving the world in those cases. It's a ship for the ages!

6. Anything can happen
Because of the time travel and the way they can rewrite history, they can do insane things like kill a main character three times and fix it. They can have scenes and episodes in any time period they want. They can interact with each other out of order, and characters can interfere with each others' pasts and futures. The entire world can literally be changed, and it will make perfect sense within the story.

It's brilliant!

7. Kicking a squeamish TV system in the shins with awesomeness
TV as a whole doesn't seem to like things like complexity, male-female equality, gleefully being smart and assuming your fans are too, and taking risks with characters and plot and reality. You know, the stuff that the target audience is specifically looking for, and that critics love. By watching 12 Monkeys and making it more popular all the time, you're poking holes in that dumb idea that lowest-common denominator is the best way to go! By not watching, you're proving that only cheap, stupid shows get views.

So watch the good ones and improve TV as a whole!

8. Stopping the Standard Fate Of TV Scifi in it's tracks
Ask any scifi TV fan about shows they're still mad about, and most of the list will be shows that got messed with, ruined, or cancelled before they could tell their whole stories. That's become a cliche--but also a trap. People want good shows, but they don't trust that regular TV will take care of them, so on channels like Fox, lots of the potential viewership just doesn't bother watching. And that means that the show gets cancelled anyway--a self-fulfilling prophesy. Syfy really should be the exception to that, being specifically for scifi, but it's a channel like any other, and even if ratings are an inaccurate way to judge viewership these days, they still want the ratings.

The only way they can get them is if WE watch the shows we want TV to keep making. The only way we can break the cycle is to give them such good ratings that scifi proves that it can support an audience over many seasons the way a show about doctors or lawyers can, even if the numbers aren't as high as those.

Let's not let 12 Monkeys be the next Firefly; let's make it the next Star Trek--seven years and a slew of movies and books!

9. Some of the best fandom and creator-fan interactions around
The 12 Monkeys fandom is a great one, full of smart, talkative people who understand both the show and the genre it comes from. Better yet, the actors, writers, and creators on the show do their best to be very interactive, answering questions and giving hints and reblogging links. It's (so far--knock on wood) a remarkably adult and drama-free fandom with lots of ideas and thoughts and opinions, and it's a great fandom to belong to.

10. Hope
A lot of scifi drama lately gets mean. The heroes can't actually make any headway. People die for no reason (cough - Walking Dead - cough). Things are needlessly grim and violent. The overall tone is nihilistic and soul-crushing, focusing on how pointless everything is.

12 Monkeys isn't like that. The show itself is aware of how cool all of this stuff is, and while it gets a little dark and very dramatic, it doesn't go down the grim-for-grim-sake path. And at it's core, it's not about how people can't change anything, or how Big Events ruin lives. It's about characters interacting with each other and finding better ways. It's about how mercy and love are better than slavish fate. And that's amazing after BSG showed everyone such a dark version of scifi.

12 Monkeys isn't sappy, it's genuinely emotional. It's not mean, it's about being better than meanness. It takes the story about making the world better and looks at it from all sides and strives to actually do what it says. And the existence of the show can make the genre better, too, if we keep it alive.

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