12 Monkeys: Terry Matalas Talks Season 4, Part 4

12 MONKEYS -- "The Beginning Part II" Episode 411

*** This article contains major spoilers for 12 Monkeys Season 4, Episodes 10 and 11 ***

Whoa! There you have it, folks. The 12 Monkeys cycle has officially come to an end… or rather, a brand new glorious beginning. To say that I have a special connection to this series would be an understatement. I mean, how many fans can actually say a showrunner named a character after them? Terry Matalas made me part of 12 Monkeys history forever when he dropped those “Otero” Easter eggs in both Seasons 2 and 3. Aside from that unique gift, Matalas and his team also managed to craft the ultimate final season tying the tiniest detail right back to Season 1. I’m beyond impressed, honestly. What the creative team accomplished with this television series is overwhelming. A good story is supposed to make you fall in love with its characters, hook you on their crazy adventures, and ultimately give the heroes a win that’s satisfying for everyone that was on that journey with them. This finale made me cry (countless times), laugh, cheer and had me at the edge of my seat the entire time. It’s safe to say that 12 Monkeys delivered on its storytelling promise… and then some.

Cole, Cassie, Jennifer, Jones, Ramse, Max (yay!) and even Deacon returned for one last stand against Olivia/The Witness. Taking Titan was no small feat, but in typical 12 Monkeys fashion there just had to be a few last twists and turns before the trip was done. We’ve heard Jennifer say over and over that, “The right ending is the one you choose.” I love that time deposited Cole in the Florida Keys, with a little help from Jones of course. His dream vacation spot was just the type of insight into Cole that Cassie had been longing for. That conversation helped solidify their relationship back in Season 1, and proved to the audience this was a character-driven drama versus the typical timey wimey action adventure.

Here is my final 12 Monkeys chat with Matalas, but something tells me it’s not the last time he and I will talk “genre” TV. Check out what the man behind Season 4’s 2-hour cinematic masterpiece has to say about bringing the series full circle. I hope you’ve enjoyed these weekly breakdowns, they’ve been a blast for me.


The TV Junkies: For me, the 12 Monkeys finale is now the one I will measure all future genre TV series against. You guys delivered absolute perfection! Watching the brilliant series recap at the top reminded me what an incredibly intricate journey you guys took the audience on. How much of your original vision for the series were you able to realize on screen?

Terry Matalas: I’m so glad you liked it. All I wanted was to deliver a fully satisfying end to a sweeping epic narrative. I’d say we were able to do most everything we wanted. Could we have gone seven seasons? Yes, without question. We had enough other stories and arcs that had to fall away to fit into the limited episode count and screen time. However, I can say that without knowing the ending was coming 20 episodes ahead of time, we might not have been able to plan it as well. So if you could say – impossibly say, mind you – that you had seven seasons, and you knew this plan already? Sure. There are dozens of stories, arcs and characters we would’ve loved to explore more. Hopefully a graphic novel or comic book series some day. Or a kickstarter sequel!

TTVJ: You mentioned that Episode 406 was a fairly daunting task, but writing and directing the 2-hour series finale/movie must have been insane. What was the most challenging part of making sure the big ending worked?

TM: The most challenging aspect was that it was a giant movie without nearly enough time or resources to do it without killing yourself. So I had hit a pretty rough exhaustion point right after. But we then had to get on a plane and do another insane month of shooting in Prague. There are entire portions of the Prague shoot I simply do not remember because I was so spent.

TTVJ: Like with Agent Gale (Jay Karnes), the brief scene between Athan (James Callis) and Jones felt seamless. Was that shot last season as well?

TM: Yes, most of it.

TTVJ: I’m curious, how is it that Cole and “future asshole” Cole touched without causing a paradox?

TM: Future Cole explains this in 301. Cole asks him, and Future Cole explains that the suit helps with that. Remember, those suits had a feature where you could come in contact with another version of yourself – as well as an auto-destruct.

TTVJ: I was thrilled Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) was brought back for one last adventure, though we hadn’t seen too much of him this season. Was it important not to leave Cole with the awful regret of killing his brother?

TM: I don’t think a finale would’ve felt as satisfying without a return to that relationship. You wanted to see Butch and Sundance one last time for the Battle of Titan. And to wrap up that story “the right way.”

12 MONKEYS -- "The Beginning Part I" Episode 410

TTVJ: Ramse eventually went back to the timeline of his death, as did the other major players. Was that so that their memories would be reset? How is it others retained certain memories?

TM: They went back to complete their cycles so Cole could end up at the end with the answer. Once Cole was erased with the Primary Code, they reset. And then, yes, slowly, their memories returned of the adventure they had in that alternate timeline.

TTVJ: Cole discovering his father’s wedding ring in the car’s glove compartment and presenting it to Cassie saying, “I don’t have forever to promise you, the most I can give you is this moment” was just one of several scenes that made me tear up. You mentioned that fans dubbed Sean Tretta the “King of Feelz,” well you’ve taken the title, my friend! Did you ever feel like the Cole/Cassie romance was forced to take a back seat to saving the world, or did it just make this moment that much sweeter? Aaron and Amanda are brilliant in the scene, by the way. I cry every time.

TM: Sean can always have that title. I’m totally fine with him keeping that! As far as the romance between Cole and Cassie, it always felt like there is a fine line that if you cross, you simply just become a soap. We had enough of it to keep you going, but the stakes were high. There are other shows – wildly more successful shows – where onscreen couples do that every week. It’s just not my taste. I love a good love story. But I also love wanting a good love story. Not just “I hope they make out this week.”

TTVJ: Didn’t The Witness/Olivia fall for Jennifer’s “little penis man” distraction a little too easily? She fell to pieces there at the end (literally).

TM: It wasn’t a distraction. It was bait. And Olivia was terrified that they had the weapon. And they did. So I think Olivia made the right move in going after them. She almost won. Or depending on how you look at things… maybe she did?

TTVJ: The Cassie/Olivia final showdown was intense. Just when you’re thinking, “for frak’s sake finish her off Cassie” the temporal beam slashes The Witness in half. Was Olivia always the Annapurna Remains/origin of the virus from 894? If so, why did Cole get that paradox “migraine” when he approached it in Season 1?

TM: He didn’t. He was about to splinter and his timeline was altering. Yes, we dropped many hints about it being Olivia along the way.

TTVJ: Which reminds me, Cassie had her perfect moment… The House of Cedar and Pine. However, what was Olivia’s motivation to bring about the Red Forest? No perfect moment, right?

TM: Olivia in some ways is a victim of the great cycle. She’s obsessed with the red forest because she was raised to be obsessed with it by essentially herself. She was also just a scared lonely girl raised in a box and then later by a cult.

12 MONKEYS -- "The Beginning Part II" Episode 411

TTVJ: In my opinion, Cassie shut off Titan though it was down to the wire. However, there’s always the possibility this happy ending is taking place in the Red Forest. Why was it important to leave the ending slightly ambiguous?

TM: Because I think deep down there are some viewers who are looking for that kind of ending. And it would make sense and be its own – although seriously messed up – satisfying ending. If that’s your cup of red tea, there you go. If not? Then they saved the world. Clearly. And they all deserve a rest.

TTVJ: I loved that we finally got to hear Cassie’s complete CDC message from Season 1. If the timeline was reset and there was no plague, how does the voiceover fit in?

TM: It wasn’t reset when you heard that. Cole hadn’t gone into the machine yet.

TTVJ: Early on in the series’ run I remember fans complaining about where Jones got her ciggys in the apocalypse. With so many crazy time-travel scenarios going on, that’s what they worried about. Did you always have a simple answer for this baffling mystery, or did ya just throw it in there?

TM: Yes, the cigarettes were always hand rolled. We always knew she grew the tobacco since day one. It wasn’t something that just slipped by us. But saying it out loud in the show always seemed so unimportant. There were a few chances, but we saved it for the end.

TTVJ: Watching Cassie turn around in her car, and there was no Cole was devastating. Are her flashes of the other timelines because love can not be undone? Cassie buys the house FTW!

TM: There aren’t other timeline(s) plural. Just this new one.  And she’s flashing to it as she eventually found out what happened to everyone.

TTVJ: It’s been an honor not only covering 12 Monkeys for the past four seasons, but getting to pick your brain about this amazing series over the years. I’ve told you I’m officially a Terry Matalas fan for life. Is there anything you’re working on that you can talk about? Will you stick with genre for your next project?

Well, thank you for supporting the show since Day One. You are too kind. I love genre and hope to stick with it. I’m working on something that feels close to the Monkeys puzzle for Universal at the moment. Not sure what will happen with it. That’s up to the TV Gods.


…And that’s a wrap! Did you love the finale as much as I did? Were your expectations met, or is there something you wish the writers had done instead? What are your favorite moments from “The Beginning” Parts 1 & 2? Go ahead and leave your thoughts on the finale or series overall in the comments below. See you soon!