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The Misunderstood Genius of 12 MONKEYS’ Jennifer Goines

The Misunderstood Genius of 12 MONKEYS’ Jennifer Goines

The problem with Jennifer Goines was always doubt. The inability of others to trust her in spite of conventional expectations. The idea that because her brain worked differently, there was something inherently wrong or broken in how she saw the world, something that couldn’t be trusted. But those skeptics were wrong—they’re always wrong when it comes to the ones they discount—as she’s proved herself to be so much more than just an addled mind made for comic relief. No, this season of 12 Monkeys proved that Jennifer may be the most important part of it all.

And we are so thankful for that.


Jennifer Goines, the oft-beleaguered member of the team hellbent on destroying the Army of the 12 Monkeys, is one of our favorite characters on TV right now. A case made all the more apparent by the third season of the series (which debuted in a fairly inspired binge-weekend on Syfy in May), where actress Emily Hampshire cranked shit up to 11 and showed just how vital Jennifer’s point of view is to the effort to save time.

It’s a sentiment Hampshire echoes in our interview: “I’m kind of obsessed with Jennifer Goines. I honestly … I really love Jennifer more than I love myself; I love her more than a human being that isn’t actually a human being. She’s just amazing.”


And we’d, naturally, agree. A misunderstood heroine with a unique connection to time itself (as a Primary, Jennifer is more evolved, her mere existence helps time to think. Without it, time would cease to function), Jennifer embodies so much of humanity’s blind spot when it comes to trying to understand that which it cannot. While the human mind and understanding of itself in relation to its world is constantly evolving, we still have a blind spot when it comes to translating that way of thinking to other people. We’re all human, so we should have a baseline understanding of what that experience is, right?


But that’s the lesson we as humans are constantly having to relearn: what we think we know and how other people know it are two very different things. The instinctual, animalistic impulse is to otherize (to a negative extent) the point of view of people with whom we cannot relate—something that allows us to contextualize other people and their actions in relation to our own fight or flight impulses. But Jennifer Goines, like so many other misunderstood geniuses, flies in the face of those inclinations in season three, trying to fit in however she can, demanding to be seen and respected simply by living and thriving in her own way of being.

“I don’t think Jennifer believes in herself much unless there’s somebody else telling her what her purpose is,” explained Hampshire. “It’s like all of us, I think, a lot of the time we need some kind of outside thing to make us feel like we’re good enough … that’s why she role plays so much! She’s like, okay, you need me to run the company? I’ll be the CEO! You need me to help out? I’ll start a girl gang! And she goes full-thrust ahead in these things.”

Jennifer’s chameleon-esque demeanor is a direct response to years of being misunderstood and maligned by society, which has no doubt made things harder for her than she anticipated. But in all that shapeshifting, Jennifer discovered a real knack for problem-solving and solution-making that may fly in the face of Cole, Cassie, and Jones’ more traditional way of doing things, but that is exactly why her plans work. And even the craziest-seeming plan comes from a place of well-thought-out execution. Something that may be hard to understand from the outside if your brain does not work the way someone like Jennifer’s does.


“We forget a lot of the time how intelligent Jennifer is, and you’re gonna find out about that more in season four, but I think that season three is Jennifer’s time to fix herself,” explained Hampshire. “She keeps being thought of as the lackey a lot of the time because she comes up with these crazy ideas, but those crazy ideas fucking work.”

We see as much in her time in France, stuck in a time and forced to figure out a way to lead people to her. So what does she do? She creates a scene: producing plays, musical routines, and other attention-grabbing antics related directly to what she knows the team will be looking for (the Army of the 12 Monkeys) in order to be saved. It is Jennifer’s direct connection to time, and being able to see it in a way that’s wholly her own, that shows her how to lead the team to her. Who else could think across time like that BUT Jennifer? In that way, Jennifer is not only the team’s hero, but her own as well. (And don’t even get us started on her season two run as Old Jennifer, her Daughters, and those cryptic off-handed comments along the way.)


“What I found the most fascinating is to figure out how, in Jennifer’s head and in her brain, she has always seen all the possibilities, all the timelines of things right now,” chirped Hampshire excitedly. “It is just an amazing thing to think about that, of being in a brain where you’re seeing all the timelines, of a moment, at once.”

But even in all that wisdom, it can be hard to believe in one’s own capabilities when so much of the world has deemed you mentally unwell. To that end, your own contextualization for your actions is limited to the imagination of others. But what happens when you can see beyond that? How do you bring that back down to their level? It’s a tremendous hurdle to not only overcome that, but find the strength in your ability to accomplish that, and build upon it for the sake of others. It’s what makes Jennifer’s vulnerability and purity of heart so thrilling to watch: this isn’t a character with a linear trajectory in any sense and yet it works for her. She has cobbled together the tools she needs to not only exist, but thrive, out of order and out of time. Linear anything is as foreign to her as she is to you.

12 MONKEYS -- "Guardians" Episode 302 -- Pictured: Emily Hampshire as Jennifer Goines -- (Photo by: Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy)

Though tight-lipped on what remains ahead for Jennifer in season four, Hampshire did leave us with this: “I think when she goes to the future, she realizes that she’s gotta be Jennifer Goines and help in that way. And I think what Athan [says] and finding out that she is this all-powerful thing empowers her. It’s like when Dorothy finds out it was always had that power to go home—Jennifer always had the power, but she didn’t know how to use it right and didn’t believe in herself until now.” The time of Jennifer Goines may soon be upon us. After all, it was Cole who said at the beginning of season three that she was the most important part of the puzzle. So maybe next time you go up against the impossible, think “What Would Jennifer Goines Do?” and do that—especially if it involves costumes.

What did you think of this season of 12 Monkeys? Let us know in the comments below.

Images: Syfy

Alicia Lutes is the managing editor of Nerdist, creator/host of Fangirling!, Twitter over-user, and “Jennifer is totally Cole’s mom” truther.


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