12 Monkeys is a SyFy series based on the Terry Gilliam movie of the same name. James Cole (initially largely characterized as a violent killer with few morals, though this changes before long) is a time traveller from 2043 who travels back to 2013 to try to stop a plague that wiped out over 90% of the world's population in 2017. He makes contact with Cassandra Railly (initially characterized as an intelligent scientist who does not have time for this shit but now that she knows it's there, she'll chase every clue to the ends of the earth, this doesn't change), a virologist who left a message with his name on it that implied she knew what caused the plague. Unfortunately, nothing Cassie mentioned on the recording has happened yet, and he gets her to agree to meet him again in 2 years, at which point they learn that the information on the recording was both limited and somewhat misleading, and start investigating the causes of the plague and discover conspiracies within conspiracies within conspiracies. There might be an endless spiral of conspiracies involved. The plot is split between that, and Cole's team in 2043 trying to figure things out based on the various clues he brings from the past and what information has survived while they try to survive against other groups of survivors, with every episode taking place in at least two time periods, usually more.
Cassie/Cole is something I really didn't want to ship but ended up liking anyway (though only after he calmed down some). The show seems to be going for a bit of the Sarah Connor/Kyle Reese thing with them, but with less ccreepy obsession, actually getting to know each other, and no son from the future making sure his dad falls in love with her picture then sending his father back in time to have a one night stand with his mother and then die. AS FAR AS WE KNOW. It does, though, do that thing where the guy falls a lot harder and faster but actually expect reciprocation or show any bitterness that it might not be reciprocated because he isn't actually owed anything there. And while it isn't subtle at all, they did a good job with their inverted character arcs, with Cole becoming softer and more willing to look for other options beyond killing and violence because of his time in the past, while Cassie becomes harder and more willing to take extreme measures because of the things she learns throughout the season.
Cassie actually holds things together amazingly well, all things considered. Cole has a whole team in 2043 who believes in him and what he's doing (believes in it more than him, in a number of cases) and is actively working with him to figure things out. The main timeline in 2043 also probably only takes place over the course of a month, two at the most. Cassie is all alone, and initially spends 2 years alone, knowing that there's a plague coming and trying to decipher her future self's clues before she meets Cole again, with everyone else thinking she's suffering from a mental breakdown because of her first meeting with Cole. (Also not subtle: naming the female lead Cassandra.) Then he does come back and comes and goes and is sometimes gone for weeks (possibly several months, at one point) and she usually has no idea when or if he'll be back or what's happening with him in the future and is STILL trying to figure things out on her own with everyone still thinking it's all in her head. When she finally does get a whole one person from her own time to believe her, his reaction tends to be to assume that everything is over and they should go on vacation now every chance he gets.
It's one of those Serious Shows that SyFy sometimes breaks out to try to escape it's reputation of quirky, small town, found family shows. It's generally good with gender, not so great with race and a bit iffy in regards to mental illness. It is, however, excellent at characterization and keeping the absurd numbers of twists and reveals and conspiracies and secret organizations and multiple timelines straight, and it makes interesting choices with time travel and finding the balance between changing the future and making sure certain things still happen so that the events leading to the time travel will stay on course until they're no longer needed. There isn't a whole lot of focus on the plague and disease (too busy with everything else to fit a lot in) as something present, but they are frequently discussed. I haven't seen the 1995 movie, but I have read summaries and (can you spoil a 20 year old movie?) hope that she show doesn't do what the movie did with making the time travellers trying to stop the plague end up being the ones who cause it. It's one thing to hit your viewers with that with a 2 hour movie they watched in one sitting, it's another to do that after multiple seasons over a period of moths or years.
I really wasn't sure about the show going in, because while I had heard good things about it, it was mostly from Nikita fans, which brings me to my next point: Whoever does casting for this show appears to be a huge Nikita fan. For the central cast Aaron Stanford plays Cole and Noah Bean plays Aaron, Cassie's ex who is an information junkie who works for a senator. Cassie is played by Amanda Schull, who I SHOULD associate with her recurring role in Pretty Little Liars, but actually mostly associate her with her one episode of Nikita, where she was one of my favorite Division Agents of the Week. Xander Berkeley shows up for a few episodes in the middle of the season as the shady guy who runs a shady secret compound, and Peter Outerbridge shows up in the last episode as a scientist who seems to be set up to play a larger role in season 2. Now if only the show would cast more ACTRESSES from Nikita. I'm pretty sure Lyndsy Fonseca and Tiffany Hines are available.
But there's a reason every tumblr post I've made and reblog I've done for the show is tagged "the Nikita refugees show".
Meanwhile, Kirk Acevedo (who plays Cole's best friend, Ramse) is standing there, twiddling his thumbs because no one else from Fringe has shown up yet and you'd think that some significant guest appearances there would be the obvious way to go. (It's also actually strangely light on SyFy's normal staple of guest stars.)