Monday, January 19, 2015

Pilot Review: 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys (Syfy)
Premiered January 16 at 10pm

I don’t remember much about “Twelve Monkeys,” the film that came out in 1995 and earned Brad Pitt an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, other than the fact that I really liked it. I’m all for time travel when it’s done right, and when it works to support a mythology that is truly compelling. That movie did it well, and, fortunately, this show seems to also. Casting Aaron Stanford from "Nikita" in the Bruce Willis role is a stroke of genius, mainly because, unlike Willis, who was still pretty great in the movie, Stanford is able to seem like a depraved maniac one moment and then reveal his inner intelligence the next, thereby legitimizing his apparent craziness. The way in which he explains what’s going on – “this is the past” or “if you believe me, find me two years from now” – is simply superb. I’m also relatively impressed with the Dr. Railly character, since she seems to be capable of grappling with difficult situations and maintaining her sanity, even if she gets looked at like Sarah Connor ranting about the impending end of the world. What made this pilot work well is that it wasn’t afraid to do something big like introduce Zeljko Ivanek’s Leland Goines and then kill him off right away, at Cole’s own hands no less, showing that it wouldn’t be so easy to fix things. That made the episode-ending introduction of Jennifer Goines, a female version of Pitt’s character from the movie, all the more fantastic, since she’s actually nuts and seemingly responsible for the outbreak of the plague that will kill seven billion people. I wasn’t sure I would be, but after this I think I’m hooked.

How will it work as a series? Now this is my only worry. The movie was adapted from a 1962 short called “La Jetée” and itself was only about two hours long, and so crafting a whole series from just that premise might be tough, especially if they have a future to change. That said, I think the characters and storyline might be strong enough to sustain something more lasting, and I’m intrigued to see how it goes.
How long will it last? Syfy cancelled what I thought was their best series, “Alphas,” after just two seasons, and I don’t have too much faith in what they decided to keep on the air instead (like “Defiance”). I’m hoping that this adaptation of a cult film will be just the ticket, and I think the network is excited enough about it to keep it around for a second season.

Pilot grade: B+

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