*** This article contains major spoilers for 12 Monkeys Season 4, Episodes 4, 5 and 6 ***
Well, it’s a pretty safe bet 12 Monkeys just delivered three of the very best installments of the entire series. Of course, we’re still a handful of episodes away from the 2-hour finale that will probably blow these out of the space-time continuum. So much went down during this second block, and each hour felt like its very own mini-movie, while simultaneously keeping that connection to the larger loop. If the previous block essentially set the stage and tied up a few loose ends from Season 3, these three hours felt like the final mission began in earnest. Our heroes went in search of (and ultimately found) the weapon which will hopefully destroy The Witness. Now, they’ve got to climb those steps and ring that monkey head bell… but when, 1491? We’ll see.
I loved everything about spending some time in the Old West. The Jones family reunion tugged at our heartstrings and though Elliot paid the ultimate price for his involvement with the Army of the 12 Monkeys, he died a hero. Jones’ speech in the first hour was just the first time Barbara Sukowa moved me to tears. Good thing I had tissues handy. The Ouroboros was in full effect during the gang’s 60s adventure, with loops within loops within loops. Surprisingly, the events were very easy to follow and although time-travel can get confusing I didn’t get a migraine this time around. Christopher Lloyd was genius, as his character’s story came full circle. Then there was Jennifer as J.H. Bond singing for Hitler? I’m going to miss this show so much.
Anyway, enough from me. I’m sure you’re dying to hear from co-creator/showrunner Terry Matalas who once again joins us for his weekly chat to talk about this latest batch of episodes. Enjoy!
The TV Junkies:As a serious Back to the Future fan, what was it like on your very own Old West set? Everything looked really amazing, at a fraction of Westworld’s budget, I’m sure. Where was this shot and built?
Terry Matalas: We actually didn’t set out to feel too Back to the Future-y with the old west. We wanted to do things our way without too many nods. I think Cole’s hat is similar to Marty’s but mostly because that’s what looked the best on him. It was shot entirely up in Toronto, believe it or not. We found someone who had built a small town, as a pet-project for their horses and that was perfect for us. It even had a saloon.
TTVJ: Things certainly started off with a bang. How is it the cast looks amazing no matter what period clothes they’re wearing? Was that whole bit with Jennifer to make sure her style still came through?
TM: They’re just a good-looking group. We wanted to have some fun with Jennifer and her costumes. There is a cut scene in which Cassie tells her she can’t believe Jennifer went with “Brothel Harlot” as her look.
TTVJ: Seeing Elliot Jones (Peter Outerbridge) again was terrific. The Jones and Hannah scenes were so powerful. Who chose the songs he played on the piano? “Weird Science” and the “Knight Rider” theme are from the 80s… but why “The Munsters”? Is there a story behind those musical cues?
TM: I’m a big Peter Outerbridge fan. He steals the episode. We always wanted to reunite the Jones family and saved it for the last season since its theme is in fact “family”. I picked the songs from a Universal library. Why The Munsters? Because it’s just so catchy! I always find myself whistling that one. It’s not all about the 80s, you know!
TTVJ:I realize Cassie provided a logical reason for building Titan in 1852. How was that specific time period decided on in the writers’ room though?
TM: We wanted to see them in the Old West and the iconic image of Titan under construction there just stuck with me. So off we went!
TTVJ:It was incredibly frustrating when Jennifer clued Olivia in regarding the weapon. Is Olivia not aware she can use Titan to create a massive paradox and bring about the Red Forest? I assume Emma (Olivia’s daughter) is the person who completed Titan after Elliot’s death. Correct?
TM: Olivia is absolutely aware of Titan’s true purpose. At the end of Episode 3 of last week she saw a vision of Titan shooting a beam into the sky, which led to the destruction of the world. But Titan doesn’t come preset with that option. Someone has to complete it. And that shall be her daughter, Emma’s purpose. Titan was able to splinter, so they just had to go somewhere else to finish Elliot’s work. But the hard part is up to Emma. You’ll see…
TTVJ:Quick comment… Jones’ speech about family in Episode 404 was phenomenal. I got teary-eyed. Barbara Sukowa is a powerhouse!
TM: She is amazing. We know it.
TTVJ:Speaking of Back to the Future, working with Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) himself must have been a unique thrill. How did you keep your inner fanboy in check?
TM: I think I was honestly too exhausted at that point to geek out too much. But I got to know him well, and work closely with him. Rarely would it set in that here I was with Doc and Reverend Jim and all these other iconic characters. He did tell me his most favorite onscreen performance was Uncle Fester. Who would have thought?
TTVJ:The Missionary’s story was heartbreaking, and really helped us make sense of his mission. It’s wild that at 80 years old Lloyd is not only delivering such a powerful performance, but memorizing all those lines. I’m blown away!
TM: He’s outstanding. He knew his lines better than anyone. As we were shooting, I pulled him aside and said “just chew it up. You cannot make a wrong choice here.” And he lit up and smiled and said absolutely. And he went for it. It was amazing to see in person.
TTVJ:I hope this doesn’t sound too pervy, but it was great to see Cole and Cassie knocking boots. They’re always so damn busy saving the world, that the romance has taken a back seat. Did writer Oliver Grigsby come up with the “butt stuff only” line for Jennifer? That was hysterical.
TM: Yeah, it’s about time they blow off some steam. Actually, I’m guilty of the “butt stuff only” line. I’m not sure that’s in Ollie’s vernacular. It made me laugh really hard when I wrote it. And Amanda’s reaction is just pure Amanda.
TTVJ:Episode 405 saw the return of Agent Gale (Jay Karnes) in 1966. I loved learning that he wore a bulletproof vest to cheat fate. The new scenes were seamless with last year’s stuff. Did you always know he survived? Was any of this new material shot last year, or is it all new?
TM: Yes. In fact, we shot that vest scene in Season 3 but once we saw it in the cut of 306 we decided to save it for Season 4. We always knew he’d be back.
TTVJ:In our previous chat, you explained why Jones did not get the typical “paradox migraine.” It was so cool to see Cassie feel those effects early on, which meant a doppelgänger was near by. This loop within a loop was incredibly intricate, with both Cole/Cassie getting poisoned. Is a happy ending in The Keys an actual possibility for them, or was Cassie’s hallucination theory correct?
TM: Or it could be something else…
TTVJ: Beautifully cryptic. The Agent Gale and Jennifer team up was a total riot. I honestly did not consider the “oops loop,” that Gale and Jennifer created the events themselves. Is there anything you can hint about the phrase “Climb the steps, ring the bell”?
TM: They will need to climb some steps and ring a bell…
TTVJ: This was a ginormous episode with three writers credited… yourself, Sean Tretta and Sarah C. Mueller. Which writer focused on what arc/character? How were writing duties split up?
TM: Nightmarishly so. Poor Sarah got the hardest one of the season. Sarah is a brilliant writer who had to suffer from a showrunner who couldn’t convey what he wanted tonally. This episode probably went through more drafts than any single episode of the series. It was a difficult needle to thread. It had to ride a fine line until it’s gonzo ending. I hope people like what we did.
TTVJ: It was brilliant that Barbara Sukowa got a chance to speak so much German here. Though I had zero clue what she was saying, I kept thinking how ballsy Jones was facing off against that Nazi. Then Cassie took the words right out of my mouth, saying Jones had quite a set of balls. Was there any improv involved, or did those scenes play out exactly as written?
TM: Well, it’s subtitled so you can see what she’s saying. No improv. Completely as written.
TTVJ:To maintain some level of surprise, I did not read the episode description. Learning that Hitler himself would be attending the gala was totally cray cray. How did that idea come about? Also, I’m curious why we only saw the back of the Führer’s head? Never a shot of his face.
TM: I certainly hope no one would reveal that in an episode description. We only saw behind his head because it’s always just going to be an actor when you see him. It’s never really believable unless you have Bruno Ganz from DOWNFALL. And I’m pretty sure we couldn’t get him. Also, we were already pushing it with how nuts it all was. It was just a choice I made. I think it helped with the weight of it all. We all know what he looks like. And your imagination is going to do a better job of casting him in your head than we will in real life.
TTVJ:Deacon’s torture was rough, man. Todd Stashwick nailed those scenes. I couldn’t believe he carved that West VII into his chest. Did Stashwick know he was a double-agent all along?
TM: He did. We had lengthy conversations beforehand.
TTVJ:Jennifer’s (J.H. Bond) performance was perfection! I loved how organically her time in France came full circle in this episode. How did you guys decide on that song? Was Emily Hampshire nervous at all, or was she confident the scene would work out in the end? It’s a big moment.
TM: I’m glad you liked it. We were all nervous, actually. It’s a big swing. Some will think it’s over the top, but to us it was a chance to have some fun before everything gets really dark. I picked that song because… well, it’s awesome. It was a great way to say ‘fuck you’ to the Nazi patriarchy and it also served as a kind of anthem for the gang down below as they killed some baddies.
What did you think of this batch of 12 Monkeys Season 4 episodes? What’s next for Jones? Ready to visit 1491 England? Share your thoughts 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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