12 Monkeys Review: “Primary”

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Sorry, wrong suspense-filled Primary. This one sets 12 Monkeys into high gear for season two, as the timeline shifts—but not in ways we expect or understand.

Title: “Primary”

Directed by Magnus Martens
Written by Sean Tretta

Aaron Stanford as James Cole
Amanda Schull as Dr. Cassandra Railly
Kirk Acevedo as José Ramse
Emily Hampshire as Jennifer Goines
Barbara Sukowa as Dr. Katarina Jones
Michael Hogan as Dr. Vance Eckland
Todd Stashwick as Deacon
Brendan Coyle as Dr. Benjamin Kalman
Alisen Down as Striking Olivia
Demore Barnes as Whitley
Andrew Gillies as Dr. Adler
Murray Furrow as Dr. Lasky
Peter DaCunha as Samuel Ramse
Michael Rhoades as Arlen Wills
Egidio Tari as Dryly Amusing Desk Clerk
Ayisha Issa as Emissary
Christine Ebadi as The Watcher


Cole and Railly destroy the virus in 2016, and Katarina Jones becomes aware of a changed timeline, one her associates do not remember. Jennifer leads Cole to a room he apparently rented in perpetuity back in the 1940s.

Dr. Jones has a significant other she doesn’t recall.

High Points

The show features a number of short but effective moments. The brief flashback sequence economically communicates the process by which Railly changed. An episode on the subject might have been more effective, but may have detracted from the story they intend to tell.

“Primary” also presents several clues about the show’s future directions, including Cole’s 1944 room,* glimpses of Jennifer’s future, and Jones’s new reality. 12 Monkeys has left much unexplained, and trusts that its viewers will be capable of thinking.

Low Point

I had no real issues with this episode, though the notion that time changes around the injected, while of obvious narrative use, seems suspect, even in a show about time-travel. Of course, I can’t speak with any authority about how time-travel technology would actually work, assuming it could actually work.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 We’ve travelled far beyond the source material, to a very different story. The show plays with changed timelines and has people dealing with the consequences of things that haven’t happened yet. The 1944 room recalls a plot device from many other time-travel stories, however.**

Effects: 4/6

Acting: 5/6 “You better double-bag it with that one.”

Emily Hampshire’s ability to be a scenery-chewing lunatic and still affecting and believable as a human being represents a highlight of a generally well-acted series.

Story: 5/6 The ongoing problem with story-arc heavy shows: things happen and they amount to a plot, but very little (obviously) is going to get resolved in the second episode of Season Two.

Also, the effect of time travel on the plot defies description at this point.

Emotional Response: 5/6 Will some events just inevitably happen, though not in precisely the same ways? Is the plague one of those events? That thought might prove more frightening than any of the show’s conventional suspenseful occurrences.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 5/6 After Orphan Black, this is the SF show to watch.

In total, “Primary” receives 33/42

*With a can of Tab Cola, of course. It’s clear Cole, Railly, or others are going to have been there during different eras. **I’m reminded more than a little of Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls.