Below are a selection of FAQs ranging from the obvious to the more obscure.
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You can also find lots of useful information in the 12 Monkeys fandom wikia – a community encyclopedia dedicated to12 Monkeys.
Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, who had worked as writers together on the CW show Nikita, originally developed a script for a time travel show called Splinter as a sample of the work they could do, and started shopping it around producers.
Eventually the script landed with the producers of the original 12 Monkeys film who held the TV rights to the concept and were looking to adapt it for TV, They asked Matalas and Fickett if they could redevelop Splinter into 12 Monkeys.
In interviews Fickett has commented that initially they were unsure as the film had such a major following and that they were fans of the film themselves, but they eventually agreed.
Notably, though the series has many plot points and characters in common in the first season, it quickly moves away for the film, and primarily follows the concepts from the the original Splinter.
The TV series is nominally based on the 1995 Terry Gilliam film Twelves Monkeys, which was inspired by Chris Marker’s 1962 short film La Jetée.
The series is produced in partnership with Atlas Entertainment, who produced the original feature film, and Charles Roven producer of the original, is one of the executive producers. The TV series script has been reported to have received the tick of approval from the feature film writers David and Janet Peoples.
The TV show uses many of the ideas, concepts and situations that were established in the movie, most prominently the main plot around trying to prevent a plague that would wipe out most of humankind by traveling back in time.
That said, the TV show isn’t a copy or sequel of the movie. Some of the characters are the same or very similar, but only as a starting point. If you’ve seen the film, you will soon realize that the TV show is very much its own take on the movie’s basic storyline.
While the series quickly moves into new territory, it includes numerous subtle nods to the source, including:
- J.D. People’s Mental Hospital is named after screenwriters Janet and David Peoples.
- Jennifer Goines wears the same sweater as Brad Pitt’s film character, Jeffrey Goines, when Cole first meets her in the hospital.
- The Splinter Scientists wear the same iconic glasses as the scientists in the film.
- In Cassandra Complex, Cole wears the same Hawaiian shirt as Bruce Willis’s James Cole at the end of the film.
- The Keys is a destination mentioned both in the film and the series.
- In Memory of Tomorrow, Jennifer is splintered to a WWI battlefield in 1917. This references a scene in the film when Willis’s Cole accidentally travels back to a WWI battlefield.
- The original music theme from the 1995 film also appears is season 2 episode ‘Hyena’ (“Introduccion” From Suite Punta Del Este Arranged By – Paul Buckmaster Written-By – Astor Piazzolla)
Rick Mele from HuffPost TV has a few more insights, which you can read up on in the article he posted, titled ’12 Monkeys’: 10 Things To Know About The Sci-Fi Movie-Turned-TV Show, while Den of Geeks talks in more depth about the 12 Monkeys cross over easter eggs.
In total there are 4 seasons, with the final season due to go to air mid-2018.
Originally envisaged to run for 5 seasons the producers were given enough notice to allow them to wrap up all the plot threads within 4.
Fortunately the producers were able to plan the show out fully so have promised fans a satisfying wrap up in Season 4.
Check the Episodes page for more information.
For information on where you can watch or by the DVD/Blurays check out the Ways to Watch page.
The options are different for every country, so rather than trying to list them here, we suggest you check on justwatch.com, which is a search engine for streaming services and digital download stores including Apple, Amazon, Netflix etc worldwide). We’re not affiliated in any way with this site, but just find it really useful!
Also read out ‘Ways to Watch‘ section for more information.
Seasons 1 and 2 have been released on DVD and Blu-ray in the US, UK, France and Australia.
Season 3 has been release in Australia only.
Season 3 and 4 are due to be released by Universal in the US on the 14th August 2018.
For both season 1 and season 2 the releases in all countries have been identical.
Blu-rays are confirmed to have the following content:
- All 13 episodes
- Gag reel
- Cast auditions (A. Schull, B. Sukowa, T. Stashwick)
- Emily Hampshire improv speech
6 webisodes (those that are considered canon)
The UK season 2 Blu-rays are confirmed to have the following content:
- All 13 episodes
- Gag reel
- 13 Inside 12 Monkeys Season 2 clips (episodes 2×01 to 2×13)
- 5 webisodes (‘Pre-Apocalyptic’, ‘The Traveler’, ‘The Witness’, ‘The Witness Promo’, ‘Alone’)
- 4 podcasts (= episode commentaries) for episodes:
- 2×02 (T. Matalas, S. Tretta, A. Stanford, E. Hampshire)
- 2×05 (T. Matalas, A. Schull, E. Hampshire, T. Stashwick)
- 2×12 (T. Matalas, S. Tretta, A. Stanford, A. Schull, E. Hampshire)
- 2×13 (T. Matalas, A. Standford, A. Schull)
- Deleted scenes from episodes 2×01, 2×02, 2×03, 2×05, 2×10, 2×11 and 2×13
Check here for more details.
Terry Matalas has explained this in a Facebook comment. Not all of the webisodes are considered canon (i.e. in line with the official storyline/universe of the show). Only those six that are canonical were and will be included in the home entertainment release of season 1.
The Big Questions
The show’s co-creator Terry Matalas explained this in an interview as follows:
“This was a government project that started probably in the 1960s called Project Splinter that was never really fully completed until one of our main characters, Jones, played by Barbara Sukowa, came and finished it in a last-ditch effort to save mankind,” said Matalas. “Our scientists have only recently completed it and jury-rigged it with what’s remaining in 2043 technology.”
Jury-rigged or not, the resulting machine is an impressive bit of set design — a massive behemoth of wiring, exposed circuit boards, blue lights, and something they call the “splinter chair.”
“‘Splintering’” is how we travel through time, and when it’s activated, we have some pretty incredible lighting effects that come through,” explained Matalas. “It’s sort of like the Hadron Collider meets a wormhole emitter.” (And if you can picture that, chances are you’re in the show’s target market.)
The Project Splinter team and the time traveling machine reside in what is referred to as the Temporal Facility, formerly known as the Raritan National Laboratory.
In 2015 after the plague has decimated the population, the remaining US political leaders founded Project Spearhead with the intention of gathering survivors, and finding a cure to the plague.
In the 2030’s, after a further virus mutation the leadership decide to abandon the site and move to a more remote area, however Jonathan Foster stages a bloody coup as he is determined to continue his work on finding a cure, After murdering the Spearhead leadership Foster takes over the group, and Katerina Jones with a party of other scientists and spearhead residents including Marcus Whitby leaves for the abandoned Raritan site, taking with them one of the two DARPA power cores.
We have been kept guessing on the true identify of the Witness, and each season it has seemed as though it might be someone new.
So far the potential candidates for plague masked time-cult deity have been:
In Season 1 it seems that Jose Ramse was the witness, as he is taken into the cult, and as Ethan Seki aids them in funding the virus development. Or possibly Aaron Marker could be the Witness, after he is appears to Cassie after death in Season 2 with horrible burns on his face.
Or was it Cole… who purchases the House of Cedar and Pine in 1957, which was destined to become the home of the Witness.
Finally the truth is revealed. Cassie and Cole’s union in 1959, which is erased out of time, results in a child Athan who the Monkey Army have been patiently waiting for. It seems that it has all been leading to this.
But finally, at the conclusion to season 3 the revelation that the true Witness was Olivia, a fact that she herself was unaware of. The leader she had rebelled against was in fact her future self. Athan ‘witnessed’, but was never the Witness.
Until the last moment of Season 4 though – do we really know?
The final word from Showrunner Terry Matalas (**Spoilers season 4 finale**)
Was Olivia truly The Witness?
If you are referring to the true Witness being that which causes the Red Forest, then that depends on how you view the end of the series. The Alpha Primary in medieval times said to Olivia that they’ve “always known the true Witness would bring about the Red Forest because she fears loneliness. Nothingness.” If you believe that Cassie did not turn off Titan’s central spire, then you could argue Cassie is the true Witness by that definition. If you believe Cassie and Cole saved the world and lived to see that result, then your answer is it was Olivia. (TVLine interview 6 July, 2018)
Thoughts from The Workprint (2016)
The identity of Cole’s mother remained a mystery until the very end of season 4. All Matthew Cole could tell James is her name was Marion and he only knew her for a short while. He did know that she was frightened of a group called the 12 Monkeys, and that Matthew needed to protect baby James from them.
Terry Matalas has gave out a few hints leading up to season 4, including a copy of James’ birth certificate, revealing him mother’s full name to be Marion Woods. He also commented that she is not necessarily primary.
WARNING – spoilers for season 4 follow
We learn in episode 9 of the final season that Cole’s mother is Katarina Jones’ daughter Hannah. She is sent back to 2009 to investigate Marion Woods and there she meets Olivia’s daughter Emma, who is using the alias Marion Woods. The two seek refuge with Matthew Cole when Emma is shot, and Matthew assumes that the name Emma repeats before she dies ‘Marion’ is Hannah’s name.
It seems Foster may have developed a vaccine for the 2040 and the 2033 mutations, but not the original strain.
With 98% of the worlds population dead from the original strain, if you could go back and vaccinate against the mutated strains in the past, you would only be saving ~120 million people. 7 billion would still have died in the first outbreak.
Then there are logistics. The people of 2043 have neither the supplies nor distribution abilities to create a vaccine for over 100 million people, and no infrastructure to distribute it. But given they have a time machine, they could go back and invest in Apple or something, become billionaires and buy a vaccine manufacturer.
How then do they get people to take a vaccine for an unknown virus? Getting almost 200 countries around the world to vaccinate their populations would be difficult, to say the least. And without a treatment for the original strain, people would still start dying.
It seems that with the virus regularly mutating, any treatment was going to be short-lived, and Jones wanted to save the 7 billion.
12 Monkeys calls on a variety of different mythologies and ancient historical references, many of which will not be fully understood until Season 4 is complete. We know that the Army have links to an ancient Syrian religious sect, and in season 4, we will be travelling back much further in time than we ever have before, possibly to reveal the earliest origination of the cult.
There are a few symbols we have some hints about though, that reinforce the close connection between the Army of the 12 Monkeys and time.
The cult amulet / medallion
Senior members of the Army of the 12 wear medallions, that some have theorised represents two people back to back walking up stairs, echoing ‘Climb the steps, ring the bell’. However the production team have dropped a few hints, so we can confirm the symbol is in fact the number ’12’ plus mirror image in Syriac Serṭā, a dialect of Aramaic (a language of ancient Syria).
A guide to numerals in Syriac by Gareth Hughes shows how a 12 is formed from the Syriac symbols Yōḏ (10) and Bēṯ (2)
The symbols on the dais
This also gives us a clue to the symbols seen on the various circular dais seen in Titan, and Monkey Mansion.
On closer inspection the symbols appear to be 12 characters. In fact they appear to be a clock face of sorts.
The symbols closely resemble those used on clock faces using the Hebrew block text alphabet (which is derived from Aramaic).
Interestingly we see 4 different circular platforms in Titan and Monkey Mansion in Season 2 and 3, and two of them are clockwise, while the other two are counterclockwise.
There is a historical precedent for a counterclockwise Hebrew clock on the Jewish Town Hall in Prague.
With thanks to Reddit user taltos19 for discovering the meaning of the amulet symbol.
Die Glocke (meaning The Bell) is the title of Episode 3 of Season 4 and comes from the name of a secret device rumoured to have been developed by the Nazi in WII Germany.
Die Glocke was said to be a super-weapon, but no real evidence of it exists.
Discussion of Die Glocke originated in the works of Igor Witkowski. His 2000 Polish language book Prawda o Wunderwaffe (The Truth About The Wonder Weapon, reprinted in German as Die Wahrheit über die Wunderwaffe), refers to it as
“The Nazi-Bell”. Witkowski wrote that he first discovered the existence of Die Glocke by reading transcripts from an interrogation of former Nazi SS Officer Jakob Sporrenberg. According to Witkowski, he was shown the allegedly classified transcripts in August 1997 by an unnamed Polish intelligencecontact who said he had access to Polish government documents regarding Nazi secret weapons. Witkowski maintains that he was only allowed to transcribe the documents and was not allowed to make any copies. Although no evidence of the veracity of Witkowski’s statements has been produced, they reached a wider audience when they were retold by British author Nick Cook, who added his own views to Witkowski’s statements in The Hunt for Zero Point. Author Jason Colavito wrote that Witkowski’s claims were “recycled” from 1960s rumors of Nazi occult science first published in Morning of the Magicians, and describes Die Glocke as “a device few outside of fringe culture think actually existed. In short, it looks to be a hoax, or at least a wild exaggeration.”
Some conspiracy theorists even believe it was intended to be used as a time machine.
Atari is a term from the game Go – an ancient Chinese board game played with Marbles. Atari is a term that describes something similar to check in Chess.
Ramse uses it as a metaphor for being out of moves, with no alternative options remaining.
We see Ramse teaching his son Sam the game at the end of the episode.
They’re all the same thing! A Jinn is another term for a bootstrap paradox or causal loop. And 12 Monkeys is full of them.
Quoting from wikipedia:
A causal loop in the context of time travel or the causal structure of spacetime, is a sequence of events (actions, information, objects, people) in which an event is among the causes of another event, which in turn is among the causes of the first-mentioned event.
A 1992 paper by physicists Andrei Lossev and Igor Novikov* labeled such items without origin as Jinn, with the singular term Jinnee. This terminology was inspired by the Jinn of the Quran, which are described as leaving no trace when they disappear. Lossev and Novikov allowed the term “Jinn” to cover both objects and information with reflexive origin; they called the former “Jinn of the first kind”, and the latter “Jinn of the second kind”
* The full paper by Lossev and Novikov – The Jinn of the Time Machine: Nontrivial Self-Consistent Solutions (1992) can be read in full here
You can read more here: wikipedia.org/Causal_loop
and here : the-bootstrap-paradox-explained/
But that’s just the technical meaning.
Why did the show choose to use the term ‘Jinn’, rather than something that would be more familiar to sci-fi fans? We’ll have to wait and see, but it seems like it might have something to do with the almost entity-like presence time has in the show.
We’ve heard the Jinn referred to three times by name leading into season 4. The first by Jones, the second by Cole (future asshole), and the last by the Tall Man in his sermon to the congregation of Titan, as he intones:
Like the Witness, we are all products of the Great Jinn!
So it seems The Jinn is not just something scientists talk about, but has become part of the 12 Monkeys’ cult mythology.
If two of the same objects or people from different timelines are brought in close proximity or contact with each other, this creates a paradox because they cannot exist in the same space at the same time. This usually makes things go haywire in one way or the other. Cole demonstrates this with the two watches at the end of the pilot episode.
Terry Matalas has stated that where two versions of the same thing connect, the older of the two items is destroyed.
The result of a paradox includes the destruction or death of one of the objects, and leads to temporal anomalies, including the red leaves and temporal storms.
Examples of paradoxes that have occurred in the show:
- S1E01 Splinter – Cassie’s Watch – in the pilot James causes an explosion at the Markridge facility.
- S1E11 Shonin – The Witness Medallion – the Pallid Man’s medallion and the version Ramse had been given by old Jennifer are paradoxed at the Monkey Mansion, and cause an explosion resulting in the trees all turning red.
- Primary Tommy Crawford – The first victim of the Messengers stabbed by Mantis with the exhumed collar bone of his future skeleton.
- James Cole & his younger blood – James is cured of the damage caused by splintering but the explosion destroys the bookstore, and leaves the Pallid man with permanent scars on his face.
- Primary Melinda – paradoxed by her husband Charlie, a Messenger, with her exhumed collarbone.
- Eliza’s pocketwatch – James generates a paradox explosion at Titan to escape the army.
- Terry the Tortoise – Jennifer causes a distraction in season 3 bringing young and old Terry together.
We see at various points throughout the show that when Cole or Cassie come in close proximity to another version of themselves they get splintering (haha) headaches. So why don’t they go ‘boom’ like the watch and the turtle when they touch?
There are actually only a few points in the show when they actually touch. “Future asshole’ Cole explains to present Cole that the Splinter vests protect (up to a point) from the effects of paradoxes.
The headaches we see do seem to vary in intensity, but that can be put down to the sensitivity of the character, and their situation.
*Season 4 spoilers follow*
For instance when the two Jones’ are in a room together, one has been drinking, ad the other is suffering radiation sickness, so presumably both are already feeling somewhat the worse for wear…
The third episode of 12 Monkeys Season 1 is titled ‘Cassandra Complex’.
A Cassandra Complex is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual’s accurate prediction of a crisis is ignored or dismissed. source: wikipedia
The term is derived from Greek mythology and the Greek Princess Cassandra, daughter of Priam, who was the King of Troy. Enchanted by Cassandra’s beauty, the god Apollo gifted her with the ability to foresee the future. However, when she rebuffed his romantic advances he took revenge by cursing her, so no one would ever believe her visions. Thus, Cassandra was fated to know the future including the fall of Troy and her own death, but because no one believed that she did, was unable to change fate.
After learning of the impending plague from Cole in 2013, 12 Monkeys Cassandra is left alone for 2 years, and we learn that this knowledge will gradually destroy her reputation and career. In episode three, Cassie is in Haiti trying to stop the outbreak of an unknown virus. Haunted by the prophecy which Cole has given her, she assumes that she is at ground zero of the plague outbreak. Other doctors working with Cassie don’t believe her prediction and when she is proven wrong, Cassie’s self confidence is again shaken.
The Druze are first mentioned in Season One “The Keys” when Cassie and Cole trace the photo of a plate with strange markings to a PhD academic Edward Garret. He explains that the symbols relate to an off-shoot of the Druze religion which exists in Chechnya.
Olivia also refers to the Druze in webisode 7 ‘Message’ where she is given the same plate seen in the photo in season 1:
“For a very long time we’ve admired and enlisted the help of the Druze Brotherhood.”
The Druze is a monotheistic religious group found primarily in Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
From Encyclopedia Britannica:
The Druze permit no conversion, either away from or to their religion. Marriage outside the Druze faith is rare and is strongly discouraged. Many Druze religious practices are kept secret, even from the community as a whole. Only an elite of initiates, known as uqqāl (“knowers”), participate fully in their religious services and have access to the secret teachings of the scriptures, Al-Ḥikmah al-Sharīfah.
One aspect of Druze religion relates specifically to time.
Pact of Time Custodian
The Pact of Time Custodian (Mithaq Walley El-Zaman) is considered the entrance to the Druze religion, and they believe that all Druze in their past lives have signed this Charter, and Druze believe that this Charter embodies with human souls after death. source: wikipedia.org
WARNING – Season 4 spoilers follow
In the later half of season 4 we are introduced to Andrus, a self-loathing Primary who is in league with the Witness. Andrus has established the seeds of a group known as the Brotherhood of Andrus across Europe and the Middle East. The name ‘Andrus’ seems to be the origins or possibly derived from the name ‘Druze’ within the show’s mythology.
It makes my head hurt too. So rather than explain, here are some articles that might help:
30 Jun 2016 – Signal to Noise Magazine
The Power of a Paradox: A Lesson About Time Travel from SyFy’s 12 Monkeys (Part I)
Interview with Terry Matalas about how time and time travel work in the 12 Monkeys universe
5 Jul 2016 – Signal to Noise Magazine
The Power of a Paradox: A Lesson About Time Travel from SyFy’s 12 Monkeys (Part II)
Here, we explore whether any of this is actually possible in our universe.
The Life of Psi – Philosophical Musings on the Foundations of Physics and Chemistry
A Time Travel Trilogy – The Jinni from Somewhere in Time
A Time Travel Trilogy – The Grandfather Paradox
A Time Travel Trilogy – Einstein’s Portal to the Future
The Little Random Questions
Yes, you’re right!
Sometime during the run all 4 of the stars from Impractical Jokers have appeared in guest roles.
In the premiere of season 2, Brian Quinn appears as Jennifer’s increasingly worried speed dating match.
While back at the Emerson Hotel James Murray is working reception, and seems to have a bit of a ‘thing’ for Jennifer.
Someone call the bellboy. Watch James Murray from Impractical Jokers on 12 Monkeys.
Posted by 12 Monkeys Syfy on Friday, May 20, 2016
Joe Gatto and Sal Vulcano
Finally, in Season 3 episode Causality, Joe Gatto and Sal Vulcano are the two hapless security guards in the Auction warehouse.
Don’t know what Impractical Jokers is? Check it out:
There is also a deleted sequence from this scene featuring Sean Mauricette a.k.a. SUBLIMINAL as patient “Bob”, which can be watched on his YouTube channel:
Despite some arguing that in a show requiring the acceptance of time travel and changing realities, that this should be the least of our concerns, Showrunner Terry Matalas has an answer to the question – she grows her own! In fact in a tweet he shared a deleted scene where this is revealed.