What's Worth Watching: 12 Monkeys' Alternate Reality Check

Matt Roush
Ken Woroner/Syfy

12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys, "The Red Forest" (Friday, Feb. 20, 9/8c, Syfy)

In the dizzying, what-year-is-this-again series based on cult-movie classic 12 Monkeys, the past is our present and the future is tense. As timelines collide and collapse on each other, time-tripping hero Cole (Nikita's Aaron Stanford) is increasingly frazzled by being too-frequently "splintered" between his time (2043), ours (2015), and points in between. In this week's mind-blowing episode, which introduces an alarming alternate reality that Cole must set right, he declares to an astonished observer, "Believe me, you don't want to be around for a paradox."

Believe me, we do. Not every show can deliver a line like, "You shot me … Not me me, the other me!" and have it make sense. Well, sorta make sense. There's hardly a moment to ponder the improbabilities in this fast-paced thriller, as Cole falls in love with a world that no longer exists and teams up with beautiful Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull, Suits). In our time, the two must stop the mysterious Army of the 12 Monkeys from taking possession of a killer virus that, if unleashed, will wipe out roughly 7 billion people. Matters are just as dicey in Cole's bleak future-world, with marauding gangs and primitive scavengers threatening the safety of the lab that's sending him back and forth in time.

"The human brain is not made for such things," a scientist warns Cole as he tries to remember what's what and when's when. Perhaps not, but mine enjoys the exercise as it absorbs Syfy's best new show in ages.