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Blu-ray Review: 12 MONKEYS: THE COMPLETE SERIES

Jul 29 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

Syfy’s apocalyptic time-travelling sci-fi drama 12 Monkeys, created by Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, ran for four seasons, from 2015-2018. It is an adaption of the 1995 film of the same name (which itself was inspired by the 1962 featurette La Jetée).

The series opens in the year 2043, nearly 25 years after a major pandemic struck the Earth. Scavenger James Cole (Aaron Stanford) is recruited by the mysterious Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa) to be a part of her Project Splinter mission. She has invented a time machine and plans to send him back in time to prevent the deadly plague. A weaponized virus had been released in 2017, killing over 7 billion people and devastating the planet as we know it. The only clue as to the source of the virus is an audio recording from 2017, of CDC virologist Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) claiming that a man named Leland Frost was responsible for causing the pandemic. However time travel—or as they call it, “splintering”—isn’t an exact science, and Cole is sent back a little too early.

In the year 2013, Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) is a renowned doctor, giving a lecture to a full room about the importance of preparing for a possible pandemic. (Why didn’t we listen to her?!) As she heads home, Cassie finds stranger Cole in her car holding a gun. He tells her that he’s running out of time. He appears to know everything about her—including that in the future she works in viral containment for the CDC. He tells her that 4 years from now most of the human race is going to be wiped out by a plague, but Cassandra thinks he’s some crazy guy who watched her lecture. However, he gives her an inexplicable demonstration that he has in fact time-traveled. Just before he disappears into thin air, Cole asks Cassie to meet him at a specific location exactly two years later.

Over the next 2 years, things have changed a lot for Cassie. She has let these ideas of time travel and pandemics get to her, and as a result, she has become disgraced in her field and is no longer a doctor. She is both eager and nervous as she waits at the hotel bar for Cole’s return, which happens right as scheduled. Cassie helps Cole with his mission of tracking down Leland Goines, the CEO of the Markridge Corporation—a biochemical company publicly developing a malaria vaccine, though in reality secretly working on some sort of bio-weapon. However, they soon discover that this virus doesn’t boil down to stopping just one man—there is a much larger conspiracy surrounding this virus, and a mysterious terrorist organization known as The Army of the 12 Monkeys is involved. Somehow connected to this group is Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), the daughter of the Markridge CEO, who has gone from being a patient in a metal hospital to taking over her father’s work.

Meanwhile, in the future, as Cole and best friend José Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) look for evidence on the Army of the 12 Monkeys, Project Splinter faces another threat from a militant group of survivors known as the West VII, who want to stop Jones and her team. This organization, of which Cole and Ramse were formerly members, is led by the brutal Deacon (Todd Stashwick).

Throughout the show’s four exciting seasons, this mystery of who is behind the virus and why takes many twists and turns. The only way to save the future is by changing the past. However, each time the past is altered, there are new, unforeseen effects that ripple into the future. As Cassie and Cole try to prevent this horrible future, they discover that their lives are more deeply intertwined in the events than they even realized.

Over the course of the show’s four seasons, the writers take the viewer on an expertly-crafted, mind-bending adventure through time, with lots of twists and turns and memorable characters. As I re-visited the series on this Blu-ray set, I was impressed by the way the writers set little things up early on that have major pay-offs in the later seasons.

Some notes about the seasons, avoiding major spoilers:

  • Season 1 (2015):
    James Cole is sent back in time to stop the virus. He joins forces with Cassandra Railly, and the two look for a secret lab known as the Night Room, where the virus was created. They also try to track down the Army of the 12 Monkeys and its mysterious leader, known only as “The Witness”. Meanwhile, the Pallid Man (Tom Noonan) “encourages” Jennifer Goines to assist with her father’s work. In the future, a group known as the West VII plot an attack on the Splinter facility to gain access to the time machine. In addition to 2043 and 2015, the season also follows events in 1987.
  • Season 2 (2016):
    In the second season there are a lot of changes and some new characters. Cole and Cassie head to the Emerson Hotel in 1944 where they team up with savvy FBI agent Robert Gale (Jay Karnes) to look into a series of brutal murders he had originally attributed to Cole. In 2044, the Project Splinter facility comes under the threat of temporal storms as the team continues to search for the Witness, and a place called Titan. Meanwhile, Jones is forced to confront her past—a past she had largely forgotten. In addition to 2044 and 2016, the season also follows events in 1944, 1957, 1961, 1975, 2020 and 2163. Some of the guest stars/recurring characters this season include David Eckland (Michael Hogan), a scientist Jones had a relationship with but has no memory of, a mysterious unnamed menacing time traveler known as Mantis (Scottie Thompson), and Hannah Jones (Brooke Williams), Katarina’s daughter and the reason for whom she invented time travel. The season opener also includes an appearance by Brendan Coyle (best known as “Mr. Bates” from Downton Abbey).
  • Season 3 (2017):
    As the season opens, Cole is torn between two missions—rescuing Cassie and Deacon at Titan in 2163, and saving Jennifer who is stuck in 1922 Paris. Later, Cole and Ramse are on a mission to kill the Witness, but a revelation will make this a difficult task for Cole. And Cole and Cassie decide to keep a major secret from the rest of the team. In addition to 2017 and 2046, the season also follows events in 1879, 1891, 1899, 1917, 1922, 1953, 1961, 1989, 1990, 2007, 2047 and 2163. Some of the new characters this season include Magdalena (Hannah Waddingham) and Mallick (Faran Tahir), members of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, charged with protecting The Witness, Athan (James Callis), a child who had been raised by the Army to become their leader, and The Missionary (Christopher Lloyd), a deadly cult leader.
  • Season 4 (2018):
    The fourth season brings this story to a satisfying conclusion. As the season opens, the Project Splinter team must take on the Witness, who has brought the fight to their doorstep. We learn more about the Primaries and their important role. There’s also a fun museum heist with Jennifer, and a look at a teenage Olivia’s (Holly Deveaux) backstory. The series culminates in a massive battle bringing together Jones’s Project Splinter team, the Army of the 12 Monkeys, the Daughters, and the West VII. In addition to 2018 and 2046, the season also follows events in 1491, 1852, 1971, 2007, 2043 and 2163. Some of the new characters this season include the Adviser to the Witness (Julian Richings), and Emma (Abigail Hardingham).

I was never really a fan of the 12 Monkeys movie, but I absolutely loved this TV series adaptation. With each season the series would grow and expand its universe, and find the characters having to jump to new time periods to gain new information or stop some new threat. I thoroughly enjoyed the show the first time I watched it on Syfy, but re-visiting the series now on Blu-ray, I was able to catch a lot more of the smaller details that have repercussions later on. The writers have done an excellent job of planting these Easter eggs, keeping track of all of the timey-wimey stuff to ensure that everything works logically and makes sense, and tying it all together by the end of the series to come to a satisfying conclusion. The show is filled with lots of action and exciting story twists and mysteries. And watching the series today, the pandemic theme feels just as fresh and relevant as ever.

The main cast is fantastic, but my favorite is easily Emily Hampshire, who brings a lot of levity to the series in her role as Jennifer Goines. This show allows her to showcase her talents, playing many versions of this character, from the seemingly sane to the over the top crazy, as well as both older and younger versions, and everything in-between. It is amazing how different and well fleshed-out this character is in comparison to her Brad Pitt counterpart in the original film.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment had previously released all four individual seasons of 12 Monkeys on Blu-ray, but the last two seasons were only available online as very expensive MOD Blu-ray releases. Mill Creek Entertainment has now re-released all four seasons of 12 Monkeys in a single, convenient, and nicely-priced Complete Series box set. The 8 discs of the series are packed in a standard, thick multi-disk Blu-ray keepcase, placed inside a cardboard slipcase.

The contents of the discs are pretty much the same as the original UPHE releases. The only bonus material that appears to be missing from those releases are the Season 3 Trailer (1:06) and Season 3 Teaser (:51), but these are hardly deal-breakers, especially given the far more more affordable price of this release, which is less than just the two MOD seasons combined. The bonus material includes hours of deleted scenes for all four seasons, 11 webisode shorts set in the 12 Monkeys universe, commentaries on 4 season 2 episodes, gag reels for the first two seasons, cast auditions, inside looks at all season 2 episodes, and more.

For those who are hearing impaired, the great news is that Mill Creek’s release provides English subtitles for all four seasons, whereas the UPHE MOD season 3 & 4 releases were lacking in this respect. The other main difference between the releases is that for the first 2 seasons, the original UPHE releases utilized three discs for each season, while this Mill Creek set splits each season across just 2 discs. However, as I watched the discs, I found the picture on the first two seasons to still look quite excellent, and not overly-compressed to make up for the fewer discs. The audio presentation, which is likely the same as the UPHE releases, also sounds great, providing clear dialogue and an exciting, immersive aural experience, and really showcases the show’s exhilarating score.



What’s Included:

Episodes: (33:57:50)

  • All 47 episodes of the series:
    • Season 1 (2015, 13 eps) (9:23:42):
      Disc 1: “Splinter”, “Mentally Divergent”, “Cassandra Complex”, “Atari”, “The Night Room”, “The Red Forest”, “The Keys”
      Disc 2: “Yesterday”, “Tomorrow”, “Divine Move”, “Shonin”, “Paradox”, “Arms of Mine”
    • Season 2 (2016, 13 eps) (9:18:45):
      Disc 1: “Year of the Monkey”, “Primary”, “One Hundred Years”, “Emergence”, “Bodies of Water”, “Immortal”, “Meltdown”
      Disc 2: “Lullaby”, “Hyena”, “Fatherland”, “Resurrection”, “Blood Washed Away”, “Memory of Tomorrow”
    • Season 3 (2017, 10 eps) (7:17:05):
      Discs 1: “Mother”, “Guardians”, “Enemy”, “Brothers”, “Causality”
      Disc 2: “Nature”, “Nurture”, “Masks”, “Thief”, “Witness”
    • Season 4 (2018, 11 eps) (7:58:18):
      Disc 1: “The End”, “Ouroboros”, “45 RPM”, “Legacy”, “After”, “Die Glocke”
      Disc 2: “Daughters”, “Demons”, “One Minute More”, “The Beginning Part 1 & 2”
  • 1080p / Widescreen 1.78:1
  • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Subtitles: English SDH

Extras:

  • Season 1:
    • Deleted Scenes (24:05)
      • “101 – Splinter” (16:35)
      • “102 – Mentally Divergent” (3:37)
      • “105 – The Night Room” (:25)
      • “108 – Yesterday” (3:28)
    • Gag Reel (3:10)
      The cast flub their lines, laugh during takes, and have fun on set.
    • Cast Auditions (11:53)
      The cast’s original audition tapes.

      • Amanda Schull (4:28)
      • Barbara Sukowa (5:49)
      • Todd Stashwick (1:36)
    • Emily Hampshire – Markridge Improv Speech (1:04)
      “This year the dodo, next year the dinosaur, and in year five, I project, the unicorn…” Emily Hampshire gives her improvised and impassioned motivational speech.
    • Webisodes (14:28)
      Six shorts set in the 12 Monkeys universe.

      • Self Portrait (1:59)
        A psychologist questions Jennifer Goines about her red drawings.
      • Forty Three Minutes (1:45)
        A seemingly sane Jennifer Goines expresses her concern to Bill over the Night Room security at Markridge.
      • Message (3:59)
        In the year 2014, Leland visits Brian to ensure he can’t become a whistleblower about his work at Markridge.
      • The Next Cycle (1:46)
        Olivia makes an ominous speech while preparing some tea.
      • The Interview (2:44)
        Jennifer crazily talks to herself and scratches on a piece of paper while interviewing a potential assistant.
      • Names to Learn (2:15)
        Jennifer makes an impassioned speech to the other Markridge “employees”.
  • Season 2:
    • Deleted Scenes (16:33)
      • “201 – Year of the Monkey” (2:15)
      • “202 – Primary” (1:42)
      • “203 – One Hundred Years” (:33)
      • “205 – Bodies of Water” (1:50)
      • “210 – Fatherland” (2:56)
      • “211 – Resurrection” (:40)
      • “213 – Memory of Tomorrow” (6:37)
    • Podcast Commentaries
      The cast and filmmakers provide entertaining and informative commentaries on four of the season’s episodes. The participants share some fun stories, point out Easter eggs, give the viewer a look behind-the-scenes at the making of the episodes, and provide more in-depth discussions of the characters and stories.

      • “202 – Primary” (43:08)
        Executive producer/showrunner Terry Matalas, writer Sean Tretta, and stars Aaron Stanford & Emily Hampshire.
      • “205 – Bodies of Water” (43:06)
        Executive producer/showrunner Terry Matalas, and stars Amanda Schull, Todd Stashwick, & Emily Hampshire.
      • “212 – Blood Washed Away” (43:07)
        Executive producer/showrunner Terry Matalas, writer Sean Tretta, and stars Amanda Schull, Aaron Stanford, & Emily Hampshire.
      • “213 – Memory of Tomorrow” (43:06)
        Executive producer/showrunner Terry Matalas, and stars Amanda Schull & Aaron Stanford.
    • Inside 12 Monkeys (48:48)
      The cast and creator give a behind-the-scenes look at each episode. Participants include Executive producer/showrunner Terry Matalas, and stars Aaron Stanford (“Cole”), Kirk Acevedo (“Ramse”), Emily Hampshire (“Jennifer Goines”), Amanda Schull (“Cassandra”), Todd Stashwick (“Deacon”), and Barbara Sukowa (“Jones”).

      • Year of the Monkey (4:35)
      • Primary (4:21)
      • One Hundred Years (2:43)
      • Emergence (3:31)
      • Bodies of Water (3:52)
      • Immortal (3:11)
      • Meltdown (4:12)
      • Lullaby (3:37)
      • Hyena (3:30)
      • Fatherland (2:41)
      • Resurrection (4:05)
      • Blood Washed Away (3:59)
      • Memory of Tomorrow (4:31)
    • Gag Reel (4:29)
      More fun times with the cast on set, set to Joan Jett’s “Love is All Around” and a remix of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”.
    • Webisodes (10:05)
      Five more shorts set in the 12 Monkeys universe.

      • Pre-apocalyptic (3:03)
        Jenifer interrupts some conspiracy theorists having a discussion in a restaurant, telling them about the virus and time travel.
      • The Traveler (1:51)
        Ramse talks to his son before he leaves, explaining the bad thing he needed to do for the greater good.
      • The Witness (1:09)
        Alternating inner monologues from Jones and Olivia and their opposing views on the plague and The Witness.
      • The Witness Promo (1:18)
        Creepy American Horror Story style promo for The Witness.
      • Alone (2:44)
        Jones writes in her journal about being the last guardian of Project Splinter, being alone in her time, wondering what to do next.
  • Season 3:
    • Deleted Scenes (14:34)
      • “302 – The Trouble with Guardians” (1:35)
      • “302 – Deacon is Alive” (:45)
      • “303 – Better Times” (:49)
      • “304 – Brother” (1:57)
      • “304 – Panic Attack” (1:49)
      • “305 – Jones Travels To The Future” (1:30)
      • “305 – Brother’s Remorse” (1:23)
      • “307 – Dark Christmas” (1:24)
      • “309 – Dinner For Two” (1:33)
      • “310 – Much To Do About Athan” (1:49)
    • Alternate Opening
      • “306 – Zalmon Shaw” (1:56)
  • Season 4:
    • Deleted Scenes (39:55)
      Scenes available for all episodes:

      • “The End” (2:44)
      • “Ouroboros” (1:47)
      • “45 RPM” (3:40)
      • “Legacy” (5:27)
      • “After” (6:20)
      • “Die Glocke” (2:01)
      • “Daughters” (5:19)
      • “Demons” (6:22)
      • “One Minute More” (1:40)
      • “The Beginning” (4:35)
    • Season Four Trailer (1:54)

 


Final Thoughts:

My Rating
Episodes:
Video:
Audio:
Extras:
Highly Recommended

This 12 Monkeys TV series is a fantastic adaptation, that I found to be superior to the original source material. The series is action-packed and exciting, and the writers have done an excellent job of making sure the time travel all works out, and that the series tells a complete story across the four seasons. Mill Creek has put together a very nice Complete Series Blu-ray that looks and sounds great and includes nearly all of the bonus material from the previous releases (it’s just missing two trailers), but at a much more affordable price than the original releases. For those who already own all of the seasons on the original UPHE Blu-ray releases, there is no new material or reason to purchase this (unless you need the subtitles on the third and fourth seasons), but for everyone else, this set comes highly recommended, and is a must own for sci-fi fans.