EP Terry Matalas previews what's in store
Credit: Steve Wilkie/Syfy

Can Cole prevent a plague that kills billions when 12 Monkeys returns for its second season?

Syfy’s trippy time-travel saga unveils an even bigger mind-bending danger in its sophomore outing, which picks up with a role reversal: Cole (Aaron Stanford) is on the run from the Army of the 12 Monkeys in the present, while Railly (Amanda Schull) faces off against the mysterious Messengers in the future. (Read all about how season 1 ended here.)

“The plague was just the beginning of the threat,” executive producer Terry Matalas says. “The Army of the 12 Monkeys has a larger agenda.”

On the “To Do” list: Nefarious plans involving the machine and the Messengers, who play a large role in what could be humanity’s final downfall — and also cause the normally levelheaded Cassie to turn down a darker path. She is, after all, heading toward her inevitable death that kicked off the series… or is she? EW caught up with Matalas for an in-depth conversation about the second season and, well, the future:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where does season 2 pick up?

TERRY MATALAS: In the present day, it’s been about three months since Cole rescued Ramse from Project Splinter in the season finale of season 1, and for in the future, it’s only been a few days for Jones (Barbara Sukowa) and Cassie.

What are some of the themes you’re exploring in season 2?

We definitely explore the nature of sanity in some people who the world looks at as insane. People who hear voices in certain ways, and we really dig into how crazy are they? Last year was really about fatherhood and fathers and their children with Jennifer and Ramse (Kirk Acevedo), and this season is more about motherhood and mothers. That permeates from the first episode to the season finale and just how connected we are to our makers. Evolution is another one; the nature of man and time and how it’s symbiotic is another thing that we explore.

And you treat time as a character this season.

Yeah. We’ve always hinted at it, that Jones believed that time itself is cruel, or seems to have a will of its own, and we hinted, certainly, in the mysterious scene in the ninth episode of the first season, where we’re with Cassie and she dies and she has the scratched watch and the scratch disappears. It’s almost as if time wants that cycle — wants Cole to find it unscratched so he can go back and be on this journey. We’ve been hinting at it, and certainly, this year, we go further with that as we learn that man and time have a unique relationship at this point in human evolution.

Will we learn why Cole and Railly are so important to this timeline?

Yes. That’s more of a series question as to how are all of these characters important to time, but yes, you will definitely learn why Cole and Railly are important, you will learn why Jones is important, you will learn why the Witness is important, why Ramse is important, for sure.

How much is Railly changed as a result of being in the future?

Now she’s starting to see the things that Cole saw growing up. We’ll spend some time there and experience the world of the apocalypse and how that changes a person, makes them harder, not to mention many of the sacrifices she’s had to make throughout season 1 for this mission. The life of her fiancée, her normal existence as a doctor, she’s given up so much, so she’s really going through a pretty big metamorphosis this year.

Would you say she’s much more proactive this year?

She’s proactive in a more aggressive way.

What can you tease of the dynamic between Railly and Deacon (Todd Stashwick), because we know the two of them are now in the future together?

It would be easy to believe that the Railly we first met would find him to be an unbelievable monster in this time, but now that she’s gone through what she’s gone through, it’s possible that she’ll see some of Cole in Deacon, and maybe even find him to be a bit of a kindred spirit and somebody who’s willing to do what needs to be done for their perception of the greater good.

How different is that relationship between Cole and Railly in season 2?

Even by the end of the season 1 finale, you can see the changes in Cassie. Not to mention, she was abducted by the Army of the 12 Monkeys and went through some kind of trippy ritual with them, which we still don’t know what that means. So she’s not looking at this mission or her relationship with Cole in the same way by the end, and now, she’s even more driven to put an end to this apocalypse. And she feels betrayed by Cole. Cole was not willing to put Ramse down, someone who had at least helped the Army of the 12 Monkeys for decades. So she’s hurt, and she’s angry. She’s a lot darker. Well, I wouldn’t say she’s darker; she’s tougher and a bit hurt. Like most of our characters.

How is Cole’s mission different this year?

Well, Cole came at it from the opposite way in the respect that he learned to be human while spending time in the present day, and learned humanity from Cassie, and the more time he spends there, the more he’s going to question how he went about this mission. Is it just about killing the right person and that will reset things? Or is it about saving the right person and that will make the changes they need? He’s at a crossroads and is growing a bit at the top of the season.

Cole and Ramse are working together, but can they actually trust each other?

That’s an excellent question that we’ll certainly not shy away from this season. Deep down they care about each other, and Ramse has his own point of view that maybe this is just always going to be this way, that the future can’t be changed. But he can no longer put his brother in harm’s way, at least for now. Things will get more complicated as the season goes on for Ramse.

Credit: Steve Wilkie/Syfy

What role is Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire) playing this year?

We knew we wanted Jennifer Goines to be a regular in season 2 when we were casting it. We knew we wanted to slowly introduce that character and then really go full out in season 2. We dropped a lot of hints in season 1 that, sure, Jennifer is crazy, but the nature of her crazy is in question in that she seems to have a knowledge of the way time works and can see certain changes. We dropped those Easter eggs in season 1, and in this season, we fully explore what that relationship she has with time itself is, and how that makes her important not only to Cole, but also to the mythology of the show.

Will we see more of Jennifer interacting with Railly this season?

You will see more scenes and entire episodes of them together, yes. They will have to come to terms with their relationship, for sure.

How do you think Jones is a different leader this year?

She’s starting to unravel a bit, and the fact that the longer this mission goes on, the more layers of the onion she has to peel back, and it’s seemingly endless. Her scientific view of how time and causality work will come into question, and she’ll have to start to look at the world and the universe through different eyes. So that changes the way she’s going to go about taking charge of this mission.

What role are the Messengers, a.k.a the Blue Man Group, playing in season 2?

They’re not blue, they’re gray, but in the time-machine room, they’re very blue. You’ll learn why they wanted to take the facility, why they wanted a time machine, and certainly, you don’t want a time machine unless you want to use it, so Jones and Cassie have a lot to deal with at the top of the season.

Who would you say is the bigger antagonist of the season, the Army of the 12 Monkeys or the Messengers?

Well, they’re part and parcel. They’re one and the same. The Messengers are the assassins, they’re the henchmen, the hit men, taken on by the Witness to do their bidding. So they’re formidable because they’re genetically engineered to survive the apocalypse, and for these singular missions that they seem to be going on. It’s a real problem for them.

What time periods will you be exploring this season?

We’re going to the early 20th century, the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, and possibly some places in the future; some unseen futuristic destinations.

2016 is actually the year of the monkey. Will you get to incorporate that into the story?

Yes. Actually, we were hoping we were going to air at the same time as the year of the monkey, so we did tie it into our season opener. It’s just too good not to include.

There’s a new home base for Cole this year. What can you tease of the Emerson Hotel?

The Emerson Hotel is a meeting place throughout time that our heroes create as their home base. So Cole goes back into the 1940s and buys this suite, this time-traveler suite that they own, but that’s not the first time Cole sees it. He actually sees it in the present day with evidence of all their adventures decorating and laying around the room. There are artifacts — there’s a Tab cola can from the 1970s, there’s a Walkman from the 80s, there’s a patch from the 50s, there’s all these little bits of clues and Easter eggs and adventures they haven’t had yet, so that’s really fun.

Can you talk a little bit about how season two differs from season one? What was your goal going into this season?

We had always intended that the plague was just the beginning of the threat, and that the Army of the 12 Monkeys had a larger agenda. We knew in season 2 we wanted to answer a lot of questions of season 1 — not all of them. Some of them are still going to be around for season 3 and beyond. We want to fully explore the threat of the Red Forest. We wanted to explore what exactly happened to Cassie last year when she drank the red tea. We knew we wanted to explore the red tea. We knew we wanted to fully embrace the dynamic Cole and Railly, and how they get along and don’t get along with each other, and have more fun, in general. It’s almost as if season 1 is the prequel, or the setup, for what this year is. So I think season 2 is where the adventure really gets going.

The whole series kicked off with the death of Railly. Is she always destined to die?

That is a question that they will ask in later episodes. It’s an important question for them. The other thing is time seems to be in flux. There are things the Witness has foreseen, and there are things he hasn’t. So it is possible that time is shifting as Cole goes about his journey, so we have to wait and see.

Will we actually see Railly leave that message this season?

No, but you will see Railly do things you never thought you’d see her do, beyond just being a badass, let’s put it that way.

Will we see Railly’s ex, Aaron (Noah Bean), again this season?

Stay tuned, stay tuned. There’s a lot of people who are wondering if his burn condition is related to the Witness who we’ve seen in this strange mask. So we’ll definitely answer that question.

Can you talk about some of the new characters we’re going to be seeing this season?

We meet another scientist named Dr. David Eckland, played by Michael Hogan from Battlestar Galactica, who is someone who has a connection to Jones we haven’t learned of yet. Then there’s another character named Zeit, played by Brooke Williams. We see her in action in episode 2, where we’ll learn more about her, and she is a member of the Daughters. Jay Karnes plays an FBI agent in the 1940s whose name is Robert Gale, named after Bob Gale who wrote the Back to the Future trilogy, and who’s a friend of mine. He’s a fun character who appears in multiple time periods; somebody who very much realizes that Cole is not who he’s pretending to be in the past. We’ll see Xander Berkeley again as the tragic Colonel Foster. Scottie Thompson plays one of the Messengers, who is sent throughout time on a very specific mission, who is a central component to the mythology of our show. She has a super-interesting story. Christopher Heyerdahl plays a mysterious character in the apocalypse called the Keeper, who is a hoarder of information and data on history and places. He will be an important character for Cassie and Ramse, who are going to go on a bit of a quest.

Lastly, any chance this season will answer who those bones belong to in the Night Room that basically kick off the whole plague?

No. That is not an answer you’re going to get this season, but you will be OK with not getting that answer this season when you get it next season.

Season 2 of 12 Monkeys debuts Monday at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy.

Episode Recaps

12 Monkeys

Syfy takes on the original time-traveling film in a weekly series format.

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