The Syfy series 12 Monkeys is one of the most thought-provoking, well-written, expertly acted science fiction shows that’s currently on television, on any network. Its excellent second season was a roller coaster ride of emotions with enough twists and turns that you almost need a chart to keep track, but that also came to a satisfying conclusion that provided hints for where things could head next, in the already picked up third season.
Collider recently spoke to show co-creator/showrunner Terry Matalas for an exclusive interview, and in the second (very spoilery) part of that conversation, he talked about having two more seasons planned out, the big themes of Season 2, the biggest technical and production challenges this season, the questions fans should be asking, going into Season 3, that Cole and Cassie’s relationship will be at the forefront, and what he’s most proud of accomplishing with this series. Be aware that there are MAJOR spoilers discussed.
Collider: What a fantastic season and what a great season finale!
TERRY MATALAS: Thank you! We have a great two more seasons planned and, believe it or not, it’s even better. You can see how it really changes now, and how much more emotional it all is. By the end of this season, it all kicked up into overdrive.
Stopping a plague from ending the world was already a serious mission, but that’s only a small piece, compared to so many other things that came up this season. What themes were you looking to explore, by adding all of those other elements?
MATALAS: Last season was about fathers and fatherhood, with Leland Goines, Ramse and Cole. And right from the get-go, we knew this season would be about mothers and motherhood. Even the first episode talked about Mother Nature and how you don’t want to screw around with Mother Nature. There’s Jennifer Goines becoming a leader for her daughters. And of course, there’s Cassie. Those were the big themes that permeated through the episodes. The time travel is just a great storytelling device that we get to tell that story with, but it’s really all about those things.
What were the biggest technical and production challenges that were specific to this season?
MATALAS: We have an incredible visual effects company, called Folks, from Montreal, who truly got my vision for what I wanted this show to be. Some really talented people who are true artists were able to help me get this on the screen. And for Titan, we had to go to this oil refinery in Sarnia, up in Ontario, and that was difficult. There were many, many aspects of this that were challenging, but rewarding once you get the final product.
At the end of Season 1, you gave a pretty clear indication of where things could go with Season 2, and it seems like you’ve done that again for Season 3. Is it important for you to give that glimpse?
MATALAS: Yes. You want to show that you have a lot more story to tell, and that does happen organically. You want to answer the questions. You can’t just keep spinning the mystery. The good news is that we still have plenty of mystery left. Even in the last moments, you get a huge answer with a whole bunch of other questions that they’re faced with. If you start to speculate, you can see what Season 3 and 4 look like for these characters. And not just for Cassie and Cole, who are the obvious ones, but for the villains, for Jones, for Jennifer, and for Deacon. Everybody is going to have a point of view about the end of the season, and that’s just fun to play.
For fans that are dying to know where it could go from here, what would you say to tease them about where the future of the show could go?
MATALAS: Well, Cassie is going to have to deal with this bombshell, and so eventually will Cole. It’s going to be about what you do when you find out that your offspring has brought about the apocalypse, and it’s someone you don’t even know and weren’t a parent to. What does that do for you? And they may not have the same opinion, as to what to do about it? Ramse is out for blood. He wants the Witness dead. How does Ramse feel about Cassie being the mother of the Witness? He’s not going to feel good. He’s not in a good place with her. What would Jones do? Jones, who is the scientist that looks at causality, can now pinpoint the moment that might be the answer to all of this. They’re great questions, and there’s a whole lot more. There’s a whole lot more to the Witness that I can’t say. The back half of the season is pretty epic. It’s a dark Wizard of Oz journey. And Season 3 and 4 continue that story of how they are going to have to solve these problems. There’s a plague still out there that brings down mankind. Now, there’s Olivia. What does Olivia want? Has she truly turned away from the Army of the 12 Monkeys? Does she have motivations of her own? There are some really interesting questions here.
Will we learn more about why the bond between Cassie and Cole is so strong that she can start to remember what happened between them, even though he hit the reset button on that?
MATALAS: Yes. Cole and Cassie’s relationship is at the forefront of Season 3.
Sci-fi shows get away with exploring so many things that you wouldn’t be able to get away with in another kind of story. What have you been most surprised that you’ve been able to get away with, with this show?
MATALAS: That’s interesting. I’m not entirely sure that we’ve gotten away with anything. It’s not a show that you can do your laundry while watching. For some people, that’s not what they watch TV for. They don’t want to think that much. Production wise, I think we were able to make the show look much bigger than I would say some shows with twice the budget do. We have a very talented production crew who were willing to think outside the box and shoot things in different ways that were harder on them, but more rewarding for the picture, like going to Budapest and shooting for two weeks and block shooting four episodes at a time, so that we could really, truly do the period stuff while. That’s incredibly hard on the writing staff, production, post-production and wardrobe, but everybody rallied. That is one of the things that I’m surprised we were able to get away with. As far as story wise, I’m surprised about things that we pulled off. The fact that we can dip into horror and do it well, that we can do the comedy well, and that we can do a love story. All of them were very, very scary things to jump into. To do an episode where one of your main characters is essentially possessed could really have gone either way. But ultimately, I feel like what we did felt like the show. We were a little audacious, at times, and perhaps too much for our own good, but I think we pulled it off.
12 Monkeys will return for Season 3 on Syfy.