’12 Monkeys’ Season 2 Jumps All Over Time

12 Monkeys - Aaron Stanford and Amanda Schull
Steve Wilkie/Syfy
Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull

Syfy’s 12 Monkeys will drive you bananas. In the best way possible, of course. This time-trippy series—returning for its second season April 18—features a viral apocalypse that kills 93 percent of the world’s population, a scenario packed with terror, chaos and nonstop stress. Plus a lot of laughs. (Really!)

VIDEO: 12 Monkeys Season 2 First Look

When the show kicked off last year, renegade hero James Cole (Aaron Stanford) had traveled from the future to present-day Baltimore, where, with the aid of top virologist Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), he tried to stop the plague from being unleashed. The villains in this doomsday saga are a shadowy group of terrorists known as the Army of the 12 Monkeys, but we’re about to learn that these genetically engineered baddies—who also can time travel—plan something far more earth-shattering than the deaths of seven billion people.

12 Monkeys

Amanda Schull, Aaron Stanford

“We’re moving on to a much bigger playing field,” cocreator and executive producer Terry Matalas says. “Something so epic it will make a global plague feel rather pedestrian.” And it’ll involve a head-banging number of time shifts. “This season, much of the series takes place in 2016 and 2044,” says Matalas, “but we also travel to the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.” There’s even a visit to the trenches of WWI, a shout-out to the hit 1995 feature film 12 Monkeys, which starred Bruce Willis as Cole and Madeleine Stowe (who makes a guest appearance in the Season 2 finale) as Railly.

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As the action resumes, Cole and Railly are estranged—not surprising, considering he was responsible for the death of her ex-fiancé last season—but they must remain a team. “In a way, they’ve changed places,” Stanford says. “Cole used to be ruthless, a guy willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, and if it cost a life here and there, he didn’t care. Now he’s found his humanity. He has a conscience.” It’s Railly who’s gone rogue. “She was once a care-giving, nurturing doctor who valued life above everything,” Matalas notes. But after spending a few months in the Armageddon-esque world of 2044, she’s junked that Hippocratic oath and is ready to kill, kill, kill.

12 Monkeys

Emily Hampshire

Her top target is Jennifer Goines, the former mental-asylum patient played by showstopper Emily Hampshire, who was last seen hopping a jet in 2015 with several vials of the plague. (This is the role in the film that earned Brad Pitt an Oscar nomination.) Jennifer intends to drop one of the vials on a Chinese New Year parade in lower Manhattan. But is she truly crazy? Yes, she hears voices in her head, but it’ll be revealed that they are not a figment of a mad mind. The voices are real.

“It turns out Jennifer is connected to time and to the mythology of the show in a very profound way,” Hampshire hints. “You’ll also see what she’s like when she’s medicated.” The hilarious character will experiment with yoga, speed dating and fab new hairdos and will even acquire a gaggle of female friends, with Matalas scoring the zany transformation to “Love Is All Around,” the theme song of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Future Jennifer is also seen, with Hampshire undergoing four hours of middle-age makeup. “Jennifer is pretty f—ed up, but by 2044 she has it together,” says the actress. “She takes a gang of kick-ass women and turns them into an army.”

Despite all this end-of-days mayhem, a sizable chunk of the 12M fanbase wants to see Cole and Railly fall in love. “That takes me completely by surprise,” Schull says. “I have never, ever played any scenes with Aaron with the intent of conveying hidden feelings or torn emotions. There were no cheeseball stolen glances.”

But there will be jealousy. Cole travels to 1944 in an attempt to alter the very early stages of the plague and—while waiting for events to unfold—he has a grand old time lapping up whiskey sours and buying cool suits. Railly joins him there two months later. “Cole the Neanderthal who eats with his hands has suddenly become a dapper, multifaceted guy,” says Schull. “It really throws Cassie off her guard.” Especially when she meets his dishy new girlfriend.

“The audience is feeling quite a divine dissatisfaction with us,” Stanford says with a laugh. “But let’s get real. Cassie and Cole are constantly bombarded with threat after threat, and there’s barely a moment for them to breathe. I’m not surprised they haven’t had time for a candlelit dinner.” That said, Stanford promises that romance freaks will “get a little taste of what they’ve been pining for. But it’s going to happen in the most unexpected way.”

 12 Monkeys, Season Premiere,  Monday, April 18, 9/8c, Syfy