12 Monkeys Writer Sean Tretta Debriefs Season 2

After the season 2 finale of 12 Monkeys, plenty of mysteries remain, and writer Sean Tretta helps clarify a few things.

12 Monkeys season 2 came to a mind-blowing conclusion this week, and fans are accustomed to speculating on everything from the true identity of certain mysterious characters to the fate of heroes left stranded here and there in the timestream. 12 Monkeys writer Sean Tretta, who scripted some of the best episodes of the season, stepped out of the season 3 writers room to answer some pending questions about how season 2 came together and what viewers can expect in the season to come.

Den of Geek: Madeleine Stowe of the original Twelve Monkeys movie did a cameo in the finale. How’d you pull that off?

Sean Tretta: Madeleine is both a fantastic actor and a person. Everyone here is a huge fan of the movie itself, so obviously we relished the opportunity to have her on the show, especially to play such a pivotal character. We were very, very lucky that she bestowed us with her time.

Her character, Lillian, was another Primary. How plentiful are Primaries and why are they all in New York?

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A great way to look at Primaries is to think of them as if they were parts of a web. So perhaps something — a central event — is tied to how that web spreads out, and that’s all I’ll say.

Was Cassie guided to Titan by the Witness allowing her to see it?

It’s very possible. And when you get to the end of the season and you realize that the “You’re walking through a red forest and the grass is tall” — the mantra that she’s somewhat brainwashed with — was placed there to make sure that a sequence of events took place… I think it’s pretty clear why the Witness would want things to unfold the way they did.

Are the seemingly ageless Olivia and Pallid Man wholly unique?

Well, when you look back at what we did in season 2, you realize that Olivia was a product of Kirschner’s work which was the origin of the Messenger breeding program. Although one could argue (and should) that those events are a jinn themselves.  And then of course, Pallid Man is Mantis’ son, so there’s a cycle there where Olivia and Pallid Man help to create the Messengers who in turn went back and became their own origin.

So we knew that the Messengers were very strong and had certain healing abilities, similar to Cole with the injections, which leads you to believe that the Messengers were probably engineered to travel through time. One thing we saw with Ramse in season 1 was that after the injections, he aged much slower than he would have normally. Ramse at this point in the series is about 70 years old, but the injections have helped keep him younger. We’ll see similar kinds of aging across the board with Olivia, Pallid Man, and people who’ve had to play the long game in time travel.

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So ageless people that look old could be even older than we think?

Oh, yes! The long streak of hair on our show is a good indication that there’s much more story to be told than what meets the eye. And you can imagine with certain characters that have the injections, that do go back in time, when they appear older they might be even much older.

Is Deacon done for?

I won’t say what Deacon’s fate is, but we will address Deacon’s fate very soon. I will say about Deacon however that we love both the character and Todd — we would love to have both back.

Do Whitley and Adler have to hoof it back from Colorado?

Yeah, there’s a big dilemma since we left a good portion of our team in Colorado… They may have to caravan back to get back to the facility, and who knows what dangers may lurk along the way and what they might pick up…

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Do you know yet how Jennifer will survive 1917?

We generally have a plan for where all the characters are going and their individual journeys, where they separate from others and re-link with others, and that’s part of our map. Having said that, there’s something really fantastic about writing yourself into a corner on this show, and you have to think of a really awesome way to get out of it. And let’s just say Jennifer being stuck in the past is going to be something that the fans will love.

What’s up with the USB drive Olivia found in a season 1 webisode?

Actually, I wrote that webisode! I have an exact reason for why the USB thing exists. Will we get to it season 3? Maybe, maybe not. But the placement of it and how it exists the way it does will be something that we will absolutely explain at some point.

What about the Origin? Is that still in play?

Yeah, the Origin is something that we have not forgotten, and we will definitely pay it off when the time is right. In general we really care about the loose ends of the story! In fact, those details are something that we track and actively make sure that we pay off. We don’t want to be the show that sets something up and then doesn’t pay it off, so we meticulously comb through our previous work and re-watch episodes and re-listen to dialogue and do all the things that we need to do to make sure that when the story reaches a conclusion — at some point — you will have had all your questions answered and more hopefully.

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How integral was fan involvement in getting 12 Monkeys a season 3?

Fan involvement was huge. We have a very dedicated audience, and them being vocal and saying, “We love this show, and we love the work and the effort that everyone’s putting into it,” that really helps us… the amount of dedication that our fans give to the show, doing everything from their own reviews, to their own podcasts, to art — it’s just amazing! Our office is full of things that the fans have made and we’ve printed them out in enormous sizes and placed them on our walls. It’s a blast to have that connection with people.


Sean Tretta spoke to Den of Geek from the writers room, where he and the rest of the 12 Monkeys staff are hard at work on season 3. The series was renewed for a shortened 10-episode season and will return in 2017. For the full audio, visit the 12 Monkeys Uncaged podcast next week.