'12 Monkeys' Season 2: Can the Time Travelers Actually Challenge Fate?

Showrunner Terry Matalas talks with THR about Cole and Cassie's relationship, Jones' softer side and Jennifer's new pet tortoise.
Courtesy of Syfy
As 12 Monkeys returns for its second season on Monday, the Syfy drama delves deeper into its heroes' attempts to travel back in time and prevent a catastrophic global plague from ever happening. Unfortunately, the so-called Army of the 12 Monkeys are actively working against them. Plus, there's one other huge problem: Changing events in time has its limits, aka fate rears its ugly, stubborn head.
 
"We know that time can change, but it does seem like certain points are fixed," showrunner Terry Matalas tells The Hollywood Reporter. "So what would it take to sort of break this cycle that the Army of the 12 Monkeys have made? It's a big question for our heroes. The show will always deal with: What is fate? What can be changed? Is there hope?"
 
This season, time traveler James Cole (Aaron Stanford) must deal with two major decisions he made when last we saw him: Sending virologist Dr. Cassie Railly (Amanda Schull) to the year 2043 to save her life after she's shot and rescuing his bleeding friend Jose Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) to defy the 12 Monkeys who claim it is Ramse's fate to die in 2015. Meanwhile, unhinged math genius Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) has the vials of the Kalavirus with her on a plane bound to who knows where, and time machine operator Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa) has handed over her machine to the 12 Monkeys in 2043.
 
Here, Matalas talks with THR abut the craziness to come this season.
 
 
Besides challenging fate, what are the other overarching themes for season two? 
 
We like to dive into the nature of insanity a lot. What some people consider insane may not be. Also, I would say that there are two other themes. For the first four episodes, we talk a lot about evolution and emergence and how complex systems can be considered conscious. That's kind of where we got the idea of how human beings, specifically primaries [special people like Jennifer Goines] work in tandem with time itself. Maybe we're all connected in some way, the way time and space and nature works. Also, last year it was a lot about fatherhood — we dealt a lot with Ramse and Jennifer Goines and her father. This season we've kind of leaned more toward motherhood in a way that this is about Mother Nature coming undone. One of our villains has a maternal instinct, Jennifer Goines has struggles with her mother at some point and has this quasi-mother-daughter relationship with Olivia [Alisen Down] as well.
 
What can we expect for Cole?
 
He's not the same guy anymore. He spent a lot of time in the present. He's been changed by his journey with Cassie last season. He's no longer the cold-hearted executioner he was last season, he's not ready to kill. For Cassie, it's the opposite. She's going into the apocalypse that created Cole. So she is definitely heading into darker territory. 
 
Also, she hasn't been a time traveler before, so that has to be odd to wrap her mind around.
 
It's traumatic. It would be very traumatic to be flung into the apocalypse I would imagine. 
 
Now that Cassie and Cole are parted by time and their experiences, does that mean romance is dead between them? 
 
Define "romance" with Cole and Cassie. It's never been something they've had time for. There's always been end-of-the-world stakes in front of them. It's hard to take a moment and cuddle when even though you might so desperately want that comfort. It's not something that they're going to easily try, but they definitely have deep feelings for each other. There's definitely an attraction and a connection between the two of them. It will be addressed for sure.
 
Will we see more fallout from Aaron's (Noah Bean) death? That was really cold for Cole to leave him in the fire even if he did betray Cassie.
 
Yes, there is absolutely some fallout. She's still struggling with that sacrifice that she made and was very hurt by it. It changed her forever. It will be something that will be addressed in a major way. 
 
How soon will we find out where Jennifer Goines went on the plane? 
 
You'll know pretty quick the first city she was headed to. You'll learn in the first episode, and you'll kind of get an idea of what she's been up to in the meantime, whether or not she's been struggling with her new purpose. We'll learn more about how her psyche works this season. We've hinted that she seems to be aware of changes made in time that she may be connected to this in a deeper way. Everything is connected to all that.
 
You had posted on Instagram a photo of Jennifer Goines' new bestie, a tortoise. What can you say about him?
 
I thought it would be fun to see her get a pet in the present day and then as we follow her in the apocalypse, you see that pet is still around. And obviously a tortoise is one that would stick around for that lifespan, so that was probably the best option for it. The irony is the turtle that we got, its real name was Terry. So it became a running gag on set. They just kept the name in the show. The turtle was difficult to work with and would poop on Emily, and so the phrase, "Terry shit the bed," would be quite popular.
 
Last we saw, Jones was faced with "The 12," which we assume are the 12 Monkeys. How well will they deal with each other?
 
She seemingly handed over the time machine to them. The real question is: knowing our Katarina Jones, is that something she would just do without a backup plan? 
 
Battlestar Galactica's Michael Hogan joins this season as Vance Eckland, whose relationship with Jones is reportedly "closer than it initially appears." Does that mean we'll see the softer side of Jones? 
 
Jones is not sure if there is a softer side of Jones. That's something that she will see if she can explore this season. She's not sure there's anything left in that tank. As is Cassie. She and Cassie are not sure that to do what needs to be done, that that part of them can be open. We'll see them struggling with that.
 
What can you tell us about these 12 Monkeys and why does their skin look like that? 
 
They are called the Messengers, known as The 12. Their faces are covered in ash, and it is a ceremonial thing that it is a reference to the ashes of the apocalypse. We will see them wipe away the ashes of yesterday for their new mission.
 
What's next for Ramse now that he's caught up time-wise with Cole, who saved his life? 
 
Ramse is much older now and I wouldn't say he's calmer, but he did go 30 years believing he killed Cole in 1987 and then was elated to see that he didn't, that Cole was still alive. Faced with seeing Cole again, it really threw him and made him question the same things that all the other characters question about fate. Does he have to kill Cole? Maybe the plague always happens, maybe his son Sam (Peter Dacunha) is always born. So what we see at the top of season two is Cole and Ramse in a sort of complicated, tense truce in which they're trying to figure things out. It's not easy. 
 
Who is guest-star Scottie Thompson playing this year? 
 
She's a Messenger and has a mission that takes place in 1944. She has a significant role to play in the conspiracy and the Army of the Monkeys. She's important. You learn a lot about her by the end of episode four and her place. We called her Mantis in the writers' room because we kind of saw her like a praying mantis. She moved like one, fought like one, so that was her writers'-room name, in the same way that the Pallid Man, Tom Noonan's character, was something we only really referred to in scripts. But that is not her name. At the moment, it's still a mystery. 
 
Do the Messengers have names that we'll find out?
 
They haven't probably chosen [names]. They are like suicide bombers—they've been groomed and engineered for one mission only. So they don't have a lot of identity, but maybe some of them discover identity when they go to the past and can finally live a bit. 
 
Will we find out the identity of the Witness?
 
You'll have to see. The Witness becomes a major plot point this season, as to who this is and how does he work, what did Olivia do to Cassie when she caught Cassie last season and sort of read her this poem, this lullaby, "You are walking through a red forest." What did all that mean? There is an answer this season. You will know a lot more about the Red Forest, the house that Cassie keeps seeing and its connection to the Army of the 12 Monkeys.
 
You've already mentioned the 1940s, and with the casting of guest-star Madeleine Stowe, she'll appear in the 1950s. So are we taking a trip through the decades?
 
You will see some specific time periods. You'll see the '70s, you'll see the '40s, you'll see the '50s, you'll see the '60s. They're taking a romp through time.
 
Can you talk about the Emerson Hotel and why we'll see a lot of action there?
 
The Emerson Hotel was named after my alma mater, Emerson College. If you've ever walked around in one of these old cities, and you go into one of these old hotels, they may not have the highest rates anymore, they're a little dirty, there's an ATM machine where there used to be a water fountain, but at one time, maybe 50, 60 to 100 years ago, this hotel was the jewel of the city. It was a luxurious place. That was the idea, that seeing the Emerson Hotel is to see what time does to a place like this and to see it in its different incarnations throughout time.
 
In the future, we also keep coming back to Deacon (Todd Stashwick) and Whitley (Demore Barnes). What's up with them?
 
For Deacon, at the end of season one we saw he was beginning to doubt his partnership with the Messengers. Even though he's crazy, these guys are really bananas. So he was starting to get concerned that he had backed the wrong horse. And at the top of season two we'll see that he has a couple of other issues going on as well. He may have some health issues as well as some doubts. It will be interesting to see how he and Cassie interact. For Whitley, one of the things we'll discover this season is that he's really going to question whether or not this mission is going to work. 
 
It's always fun to see Cole experience the culture in his travels. Are there examples of what joy Cole will take in during his trips back in time? 
 
Well, he gets to spend some time in the '40s, and wear some new threads, have a hat, try a whiskey sour. And he's spent some time in the present, so he's become a lot more of a human being and not just the savage he was at the top of season one. You're going to see moments where he likes being in the past. We'll see a lot of that.
 
And yet, when he began his mission, it was predicated on the idea that if he succeeded, this version of himself will no longer exist. So now he'd be giving up all of the stuff he had discovered.
 
Yes, and he still is hoping that he will make a big enough change that will save the world, and it will happen and he will save Cassie. But they have a lot to do. 
 
12 Monkeys returns for season two on Monday at 9 p.m. on Syfy.
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