Streaming the Apocalypse

Thoughts While Watching Twelve Monkeys, the TV Series, in 2020, Part I of IX

As I write this, five weeks have passed since the official requisite for social distancing in my home state. This translates into more than 800 hours with my partner and our two teenage children. This is not the post-apocalyptic event I’ve been waiting for—you know, the one where we get really fit and wear ammunition belts around the torso. While I have given up brushing my hair in favor of bandanas, the rest of my life is quite serene.

I laze around in loungewear. I enjoy two french pressed pots of coffee in the morning with my partner, rather than the usual one. The sun shines most days, the birds chirp softly letting us know our surroundings are safe, and we are patiently preparing the garden for seed and starters. Meanwhile, streaming entertainment is at peak use. My latest indulgence? Twelve Monkeys, a syfy series, and namesake of 1995 film (yes, the one with Brad Pitt). All four seasons of the series are currently streaming on Hulu. If you are at all interested in time travel, science fiction, post-apocalyptic pandemics, or just plain, good story-telling, 12 Monkeys should be your next binge.

Before I go on, I will warn you that this blog contains spoilers for episodes of the 12 Monkeys, and also for some related time-travel science fiction plot lines. I don’t believe that any spoilers would greatly affect the wonderful experience of the journey. Proceed at your own risk. All that being said, the 12 Monkeys series does a great job at withholding the right information to keep you in suspense, so you may want to watch the series fresh before returning to my blog for digestion. 

I am going to begin with a confession. I cannot remember seeing the original 12 Monkeys movie. I recognize clips, which probably means that I technically sat down to watch it. It also means that I may have slept through a good portion of the film. This is not to say that the 1995 version is not worth watching, but to emphasize that it is unnecessary to the enjoyment its namesake series.

Since that ambiguous past, I have learned that the movie, and subsequently, the series, was actually based on a french science fiction featurette called La Jetée (1962), in which the main character is haunted by the memory of a death. The haunting memory motivates his participation in a time travel experiment. In the end, it is discovered that the death he witnessed as a child was his own as an adult. Thus the tagline for the 12 Monkeys movie—The future is history, and the series—End at the Beginning. The featurette, La Jetée, evokes a similar meaning from a French synonym—là j’étais—’there I was’. You get the picture, a snake eating its own tail, an Ouroboros, which is literally the graphic image of the series as it is presented on Hulu.

In the posts that follow, I intend to reflect on characters and themes in the Twelve Monkeys series. Some of the themes that interest me most include religion, science, ethics, morality, and humanity’s response to pandemic.

SPOILER ALERT: This blog assumes you have either watched the Twelve Monkeys series, or that you are not concerned with learning certain plot points. I won’t be shy about divulging information central to the plot for critical reflection.

Twelve Monkeys is currently streaming on Hulu.

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