• The cast of ‘12 Monkeys’. (SBS)Source: SBS
‘12 Monkeys’ is a series with a lot going on. Here are the main players in the time-travelling battle for humanity’s future (and past).
Anthony Morris

10 Sep 2020 - 2:27 PM  UPDATED 10 Sep 2020 - 2:27 PM

With a big cast and a whole lot of time travel going on, 12 Monkeys might seem a complicated show to follow. Fortunately, all you really need to know is that there are two main time periods: 2043, and everywhen else. Whatever everyone gets up to outside 2043 (or thereabouts; time moves forward over the show’s four seasons), it’s how it impacts on 2043 that counts.

So while the series pretty rapidly starts to take full advantage of all the possibilities time travel has to offer – if you’ve ever wanted a version of ‘99 Luftballons’ set in a World War I trench, this is the show for you – it’s still fairly easy to keep track of how the times fit together. The characters? That’s a different story.

James Cole 

Originally from: 2043

In the grim future of 2043, Cole, like pretty much all that remains of humanity, is scavenging to survive. But he’s a nice guy at heart, and there’s some things he just won’t do – like murder his best friend Ramse back when they were both members of the deadly scavenging gang West VII. So when he’s given the chance to go back in time and save the world, he jumps at it.

That scheme soon turns out to be a lot more complicated than anyone could have predicted. His future involves numerous encounters with his past and future selves, killing (and bringing back) a whole lot of people (including himself), hiding out across time and space, and battling the sinister Army of the 12 Monkeys for the fate of… well, that’d be telling. No wonder the man likes a drink.

Katarina Jones

Originally from: 2043

She’s the scientist in charge of Project Splinter, AKA the attempt to go back in time and save humanity from the lethal virus that wiped out seven billion people in 2017. It’s safe to say she’s the brains of the outfit. She might not be as hands-on as Cole but that doesn’t mean she’s not made of stern stuff – you have to be, running a time travel lab in the ruins of civilisation. She’s also one of the few characters who (mostly) stays fixed in time; no running off to the past to blow up Hitler for her.

Dr. Cassandra ‘Cassie’ Railly 

Originally from: 2015

Cole was chosen to go back in time because Project Splinter had a recording from 2017 that mentioned him by name. The author of that message? Virologist Cassie Railly. Having a dishevelled man kidnap her after a medical conference and tell her he’s from the future and everyone’s going to die is just the start of her adventures; while at first she’s the one helping Cole with the legwork tracking down the virus in the past, eventually she ends up joining him travelling across the ages (and dying in more than one timeline, like everyone else).

Jennifer Goines

Originally from: 2015

A biological weapons expert, Jennifer’s father was the first target of Project Splinter; after Cole killed him, they turned their attention to his maths genius daughter. Unfortunately, as this is a story involving time travel, she was already mixed up in things from childhood, with the Army of the 12 Monkeys already partly responsible for her unbalanced mental state. As her father’s heir, she knows a lot that both Cole and the Army of the 12 Monkeys would kill to find out; as played by Emily Hampshire, she’s one of the most consistently entertaining characters on the show. And not just for all her big show-stopping musical numbers.

José Ramse 

Originally from: 2043

Cole’s best friend since childhood, Ramse’s at a bit of a disadvantage when the pair are captured by Project Splinter, what with not being mentioned in a recording from pre-virus days. So while Cole is jaunting through time, Ramse’s back at base thinking it’s all a waste of time (sorry), which turns out to have its own dangers when their past with West VII comes back to haunt them. Next stop, a Japanese prison in the 1980s. Not bad for a guy who doesn’t believe in time travel.

Theodore Deacon

Originally from: 2043

As the leader of the West VII, Deacon’s done a lot of bad things, and he’s going to do a lot more. After Cole and Ramse left his gang, he never stopped wanting revenge. He’s the kind of character every show like this needs – a charming bad guy who’s happy to (repeatedly) swap sides if there’s something in it for him.

He later becomes a big part of another core character’s arc throughout the series; one of the things that makes 12 Monkeys such fun to watch is the way it’s constantly mixing up the characters’ relationships while keeping them true to themselves.

The ‘Pallid Man’

Originally from: who knows when

The Army of the 12 Monkeys’ schemes start with ensuring the virus is unleashed, and end… well, let’s just say they have a much bigger goal in mind. How they’re organised and what’s behind them is a bit of a mystery; all that’s clear is that a sinister time-travelling figure known as the ‘Pallid Man’ keeps turning up to do bad things.

There’s also a mysterious female member of the Army that’s worth keeping an eye on; sinister organisations aren’t exactly known for their stable structure, and once you add time travel into the mix, soon everybody is everybody else’s parents and nobody can safely kill anybody. Or they can kill everybody, just so long as they later go back in time to one second before they died and bring them into the future. At least nobody turns out to be their own parent… or do they? (They don’t.)

Seasons 1–4 of 12 Monkeys are now streaming at SBS On Demand:


Follow the author here: @morrbeat

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