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12 MONKEYS Season 3 is Brilliant, Beautiful, Bonkers Sci-Fi at Its Best (Review)

12 MONKEYS Season 3 is Brilliant, Beautiful, Bonkers Sci-Fi at Its Best (Review)

We’ve been singing the praises of Syfy’s 12 Monkeys for so long now that it feels like we’re stuck in a time loop. Audiences are understandably wary of reboots and modern adaptations, especially in the case of beloved cult movies like Terry Gilliam’s original 1995 film. But not all reboots are bad—just ask another successful Syfy series, Battlestar Galactica. And like BSG, Terry Matalas’ reimagining of 12 Monkeys, in which a raggedy survivor from the future travels back in time to try and stop a horrific plague from destroying the world, takes the universe and characters of the original and builds upon them for something that not only lives on its own, but is all the better for it. And while 12 Monkeys has always been a fantastic show, the third season, which airs in its entirety this weekend on Syfy, ups the ante in every possible way.

If the first two seasons built up a compelling sci-fi world and incredible, complex, and often very fun characters, season three dials up the madness to a whole new level. One of the best things about the show is how it deals with its world building and mysteries. Each season poses a questions that, of course, opens the door to more questions. But instead of leaving us hanging like some other genre shows we won’t mention, 12 Monkeys finds a way to answer them and create a whole new problem to solve. This season, we don’t just learn the identity of The Witness (more on that later), we dive headfirst into his birth, childhood, and life throughout the ages. And while the ragtag time traveling team makes their way through new eras and missions that reveal more about each of their pasts and futures, the show also takes time to explore its key theme in a whole new way.

Because at its core, 12 Monkeys is a story about fate. From the very first mission in 2045, when Jones (Barbara Sukowa) sent Cole (Aaron Stanford) back in time to meet Dr. Cassandra Reilly (Amanda Schull) and, accidentally, Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), we learned that changing your fate is much, much harder than it seems. No matter what they do, everything that happens circles back on itself, from assassination plots gone wrong to the creation of the virus to Cassie and Cole’s relationship. And even when they do manage to change something, it has to be done in such a way that it’s almost like the change didn’t happen at all. After all, time is a cruel mistress (or, as it turns out, master). Given this cyclical nature of time travel, can humanity ever escape its fate?

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Though the show has asked this question again and again, the new episodes takes the debate to a much more human level. Last season ended on a massive revelation: Cassandra and Cole are the parents of The Witness, the mysterious figure pulling strings throughout time to orchestrate the plague, the creation of Dr. Jones’ machine, and ultimately, the destruction of time itself. That discovery is one of the driving forces this season, exploring the deeper relationships within this damaged makeshift family. It’s easy to say that you must sacrifice one to save the many, but what if that person is a child? What if that person is YOUR child? Is the Witness truly evil, or was he made this way by the Army of the 12 Monkeys? (Spoiler alert: we find out.)

If last season was about Cole and Cassandra’s complicated relationship, season three is all about The Witness. As revealed in the trailer, the Witness is played by the immensely talented James Callus (Battlestar Galactica’s Gaius Baltar), who brings a savage pain to a character who has until now been shrouded in mystery. He joins Christopher Lloyd, Game of Thrones’ Hannah Waddingham, and Star Trek Beyond’s Faran Tahir as guest stars who each play pivotal roles as various members of the cult that worships The Witness and his crusade to destroy time. And if it’s not clear by now, 12 Monkeys is not messing around this season. Almost every question you might have had about The Witness is not only answered, those revelations flip the script on everything we know about these characters so far in a beautiful, tragic way.

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As someone who binged the first two seasons as quickly as humanly possible, the release strategy for this season (airing the entire thing over one weekend) is absolutely inspired. The story moves ahead at a breakneck pace, but each character has moments to shine. We dig into Ramse’s desperation to find his lost son, as well as Jones’ increasingly militant views on saving the world. There’s an exquisitely executed Jennifer-centric episode that’s one of the best of the series, while Cassandra and Cole’s relationship is forever changed by their experiences with The Witness. The entire ensemble cast is a joy to watch, but this season truly belongs to Amanda Schull and Emily Hampshire, who take their refreshingly nuanced, complex characters deeper down the rabbit hole.

If you enjoyed the first two seasons of 12 Monkeys, you might lose your head over season three. It takes everything we love about these characters, the world they live in, and their impossible quest and dials it up to 11. And while you may think you know where this series is going, let us just say this: you have NO idea. By the explosive season finale, everyone and everything has changed. If these 10 episodes are any indication, 12 Monkeys is hurtling full-speed ahead to a conclusion that will not only satisfy its loyal fanbase, it may just elevate it to the pantheon of great sci-fi forever.

5 out 5 time-traveling burritos

5-burritos1

12 Monkeys premieres its entire third season Friday, May 19 to Sunday, May 21 from 8-11pm ET/PT each night. Preview this season in our gallery below.

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