12 Monkeys: Terry Matalas Talks Season 4, Part 1

12 MONKEYS -- "The End" Episode 401
Syfy

*** This article contains major spoilers for 12 Monkeys Season 4, Episodes 1, 2 and 3 ***

It seems like ages ago that 12 Monkeys Season 3 splintered in and out of our lives in the span of a single weekend. Last year’s finale aired on May 21, 2017 to be exact, so its been a frakkin’ long hiatus. That said, I promise you Season 4 will prove itself worth the wait. 12 Monkeys is back, baby!

In typical 12 Monkeys fashion, we’re going to start at the end and end at the beginning. I confess the revelation that Olivia is The Witness completely threw me for a loop. I mean, Cole and Cassie spent the majority of Season 3 chasing their son, Athan, through time convinced he was the mysterious figure intent on destroying time and bringing about the Red Forest. Not so much, as we learned in the finale.

If the first season primarily focused on Cole, the second on Cassie and the third Athan… it’s finally Olivia’s turn. Luckily for us, over the next few weeks, 12 Monkeys co-creator/showrunner Terry Matalas will be sharing his unique insight exclusively with The TV Junkies. We will be breaking down each night’s block of episodes with Matalas. As a reminder, those three installments will air each Friday in June leading up to the 2-hour series finale on July 6. The cycle is nearly complete, folks. For now, fasten those splinter suits… it’s going to be an intensely wild timey-wimey ride!

 

The TV Junkies: What was it like breaking Season 4? Did the writers room pick favorite time periods to visit?

Terry Matalas: We always try to come to our time periods organically. Two of our time periods were already pinned for us as we had stories to tell – the 60s and early 70s. The middle ages were a big swing for us. We knew if we shot it abroad we might pull it off. That’s the only way Game of Thrones can do it. So we went overseas to Prague and just you wait until you see what we were able to do. The scope of the show has never been bigger.

TTVJ: I’m curious regarding your thoughts on Season 3 airing over a weekend versus Season 4 airing over one month? Did that experiment work and which option do you prefer?

TM: I think it was a noble effort. A grand experiment. Ultimately, I think everyone agreed it was a bit too much. It’s great to have them all at once, but hard for rabid fans to commit to ten hours all at once. I really like what we’re doing for Season 4. A few at a time. Like four giant 12 Monkeys feature films every Friday night for a month. All building towards our epic 2-hour movie finale — which feels like a summer blockbuster. I’m very proud of what we did.

TTVJ: Splintering the facility was amazing, so why didn’t Jones suggest it sooner? Titan Death Star FTW!

TM: Well, she was unconscious — and it wasn’t ready. They barely got it working. If you remember, she started working on it in 306. Deacon spotted her and Adler in the hallways working on Project: Charon. All we knew then was she needed to make a hole. And so they did.

 TTVJ: How badass is Jones, dying from radiation poisoning and still soldiering through it. Is there any hope for her or is this simply the “true” end of her cycle?

TM: There is no cure. Jones is on a time clock.

TTVJ: Redhead Jennifer threw me for a sec, which of course was the point. Why did she have a psychotic break now? The museum heist and reveal there’s only one Jennifer was amazing by the way.

TM: I’m not sure it classifies as a break or just what it’s like to be Jennifer. And thanks! I think Emily Hampshire was unsure if it was going to work the entire time. I kept insisting, “trust me.” It wasn’t until we tested with a few close friends that we knew for sure.

 12 MONKEYS -- "The End" Episode 401
Syfy

TTVJ: You wrote and directed Episode 402 “Ouroboros.” Do you like to tackle the more mythology heavy installments? Why did you pick this one and what was your favorite part of directing 402?

TM: I picked this one because it was an emotional punch. For years, it always timed out that Sean Tretta would get the big emotionally charged episodes, which he would write brilliantly. A fan even gave him the name “King of Feelz” on Twitter, which we teased him cruelly and mercilessly for in the writers room.

For the final season, I really wanted to do a tearjerker. My vision for this one was for it to be a “love letter” to the show. Going back in time to Season 1 and these characters seeing who they used to be — friends and family who are no longer with us — it was just an amazing opportunity to do something really heartfelt. I really wanted to direct it too. So that was the plan. And that climatic scene with Cole and Jones watching the first splinter, coupled with Stephen Barton’s brilliant score — doesn’t get any better than that.

And I had some great writers helping me with that one — Chris Monfette and Kristen Riedel.

TTVJ: I still get goosebumps seeing Cassie’s corpse at the CDC with the watch. Was the plan always to visit that very first splinter and for characters to bump into earlier doppelgängers?

TM: Yes. Since the top of Season 3. We even teased it in 307 when Jones remembers her “hallucinating” that very day. It’s another causality loop. Plus, the reason the core didn’t work so well in Season 1 is finally revealed. It was them stealing from themselves!

TTVJ: Does that alarm Cassie triggered always go off in the original timeline? Do we just happen to catch up with the events afterwards in the Pilot? It’s all loops within a larger loop, isn’t it?

TM: Yes. Loops. Cycles. An ouroboros.

TTVJ: OK, so why didn’t Jones get “the migraine” upon meeting with her other self? No paradox effect at all?

TM: Well, if they had touched, a paradox would’ve happened for sure. Plus her infection with temporal radiation is already giving her a migraine. And Younger Jones is just too pissed to care. Basically the answer is: Jones is a badass.

TTVJ: What was it like working with Conleth Hill (Varys, Game of Thrones)? He’s just phenomenal as Agent Bonham and looks so different with a full head of hair. How long have you been trying to get him on 12 Monkeys and why was Bonham the right fit?

TM: I actually tried to get him in Season 2 but he’s been a bit busy, hasn’t he? He’s brilliant. And no one can speak of Primaries better. His voice — he talks, you listen. Perfect to unpack some serious mythology.

12 MONKEYS -- "45 RPM" Episode 403
Syfy

TTVJ: Jennifer stepping in front of that train… what?!? How exactly did “future asshole” save her? She clearly stepped off the platform, so Cole couldn’t have splintered her from there. Right?

TM: Cole would’ve had to lock on to that moment, grab her, and slingshot-sequence to the other side. Not impossible when you have a splinter suit. The problem is, the suit current Cole has is shot to Hell. They better fix it or Jennifer is in trouble!

TTVJ: The meeting between Cassie/Olivia in 1971 certainly didn’t go as planned. Did the fact she and Cole saved Athan lead Cassie to believe she could help The Witness? Will Cassie beat herself up for not having taken her out?

TM: She wanted to kill her. But seeing her young, pregnant and seemingly victimized set Cassie back to wanting to save someone. She is a doctor after all. I don’t know if Cassie can beat herself up for it. As Olivia proved, you can’t just go back and kill someone when they’re young. They’ve been down that road too many times before. It doesn’t work. The heroes and the villains are tied together now. How do you break the cycle?

TTVJ: Cole solved the Ouroboros puzzle with the poem written by his mom. I’m assuming there’s more to her story and we’ll meet the mysterious woman at some point, yes?

TM: We’ll see…

TTVJ: I loved this Olivia-centric installment. Did you know from day one that Olivia was The Witness? Or is that character someone who evolved? Alisen Down is just so brilliant on this show.

TM: Alisen is absolutely brilliant — and dedicated. In fact, in Season 4, she wouldn’t let ANYONE else wear the Witness mask. No stunt actors, no stand ins. It had to be her in the mask or she’d go all Witnessy and have people killed. I loved that about her.

We knew since the end of Season 2 that it would be Olivia. Or at least I did. I think Sean and I talked about it too on set when we were shooting 212. But I remember telling the writers room at the top of Season 3 that it was Olivia to a room of wide-eyed and certainly confused storytellers. Everyone was asking how. I said we are going to have to earn this twist so that when it happens, the audience won’t feel let down. The audience needs to say “of course!”

I toyed with the idea in Season 1 of it being her — thinking: how cool would it be to see the origin of the main villain and not realize you were watching that? Even Olivia wouldn’t know!

One thing I was certain on early was it couldn’t just be Cole and Cassie’s child. There had to be more to that twist. No one would want to watch a show in which the series goal was about the main characters trying to kill their kid.

 

What did you think of the first three episodes of 12 Monkeys Season 4? Have any questions about what to expect next? Hit us up in the comments below!

12 Monkeys airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on SYFY in the U.S. and at 10 p.m. ET on Showcase in Canada.

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