12 Monkeys showrunner Terry Matalas talks The Witness reveal, that epic Season 2 cliffhanger

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Jul 18, 2016, 10:02 PM EDT

Hey, 12 Monkeys fans: Can you breathe yet? Have you successfully picked your jaws up off the floor?

Spoilers ahead for the Season 2 finale of Syfy’s (Corporate owner of Blastr -Ed) 12 Monkeys!

The Season 2 finale of Syfy’s 12 Monkeys is in the books, and it brought more than a few major reveals (read our review-cap of the episode right here). We now know who The Witness is (aka the Big Bad who’s been pulling the strings for the entire series), and the episode ended with a few monster cliffhangers dangling. Thankfully, Season 3 is already on the way.

If you're still reeling, we caught up with showrunner Terry Matalas to answer all of our burning questions:

Let's start with the elephant in the room: We now know the identity of The Witness, and it's the child of Cole and Cassie. What can you tell us about the big reveal? 
Matalas: I knew from the outset that this is where our characters were heading – that the reveal of The Witness shouldn't be just a surprising narrative revelation, but a hugely emotional one. We easily could have put a familiar face behind that mask and the moment might’ve been shocking – maybe even satisfying – but it ultimately would’ve felt like plot. Mind-blowing is fantastic, but it also needed to be heart-breaking; it needed to really challenge Cassie and Cole and pose these massive, emotional questions for Season 3.  
How long have you been setting up this Witness reveal, and what hints might we have missed along the way? Was this the plan all along from the start of Season 1?
Matalas: Yes.  In many ways, the biggest hint from the start is that Cassie and Cole are continually left alive. The Army of the 12 Monkeys – Pallid Man, Olivia, The Messengers –they’ve made no secret that these two characters are important in the grander cycle. Time and again, they’ve opted not to kill them – even when the opportunity was painfully clear. 
Speaking a bit more thematically, if you look closely at Season One, it’s very much about fatherhood. Season Two is equally about motherhood. Season Three, it stands to reason, will focus on the children. 
You obviously can't give us the play-by-play for Season 3, but what can you tell us about how this reveal will inform the next chapter of the series for Cole and Cassie?
Matalas: If you knew that your child was destined to become the Destroyer of Worlds – that the gentle, loving child in your arms would one day murder billions – what would you really do? Or not do? The “Kill Hitler” scenario becomes much more complicated when you’re Hitler’s mom or dad. So a major part of Season Three for Cassie and Cole is that central question, the weight and responsibility of it all. 
But Season 3 will also be a “Sympathy for the Devil” tale. What if you met The Witness, heard his story and actually understood why he’s done what he’s done? Maybe even agreed with it? 


After flirting with the idea of getting Cole and Cassie together, they finally get their (temporary) happy "ending" while being stuck in the 1950s. Can you tell us about the decision to make this a true romantic relationship, and how that changes the series moving forward?
Matalas: It was always moving in that direction, but it needed to be earned. That love, that bond, was forged in the fire of time travel – their limits and their loyalties were tested and re-tested – but neither Cole nor Cassie really had the time to fall in love. There was always some new mission, another destination. But when they suddenly find themselves stranded in 1957 – with the option of leading an actual, normal life together, safe in the untouched past – those walls break down. It’s a wonderfully rewarding moment. How they can reconcile those feelings knowing what we now know is the huge, moral thrust of Season Three. 
What can you tell us about Titan? You've been planting bread crumbs most of the season, and now we finally know it's essentially a city-sized time machine. Will that location continue to play a key role in the series?
Matalas: Absolutely. The mysteries of Titan are only just beginning to unfold. Its function, its history – will play a massive role moving forward.   
The scenes showing how Jones spent her year alone was fascinating, as she learned how to defend herself and keep the facility safe while on her own. What can you tell us about that character growth, and what it means for her moving forward?
Matalas: Jones comes very far, very fast this season. From her complicated romance with Eckland, to her reunion with Hannah, to her one-woman, Die Hard survival movie waiting for Cole’s return. She simultaneously softens and hardens in ways that are going to be vital for her throughout Season Three. She’s no longer simply some determined, amoral scientist hiding behind the protections of the facility. She’s both a mother and a warrior, two sides that are bound to compete violently when she discovers the truth about The Witness. 
It's amazing to see how far the character of Jennifer has come since the pilot, and Emily Hampshire has done an amazing job in the role this season. Did you always plan for this character to play such a key role in the story?
Matalas: We always knew that Jennifer would be a cornerstone of the story, but it wasn't until we were on-set, working with Emily, watching her truly become and evolve this incredible character that we understood where we could go with her. Emily is every bit as extraordinary as her character – all our actors are – and when you understand how limitless she is, suddenly that character opens up in an enormous way. We never could’ve pulled off the Jennifer / Old Jennifer sequence with a lesser actress; the notion of Primaries and Emergence is hugely underscored and enriched by Jennifer’s delivery. 


For the first time, this episode finally introduced the idea of an even farther-flung future, as Titan jumps ahead to the year 2163 with Cassie trapped onboard. What can you tell us about the decision to jump that far ahead, and what might Cole find once he gets there?
Matalas: The battle of Season One was the hardship of going back even as far as 1987. Season Two opened up the past even further – as far back as 40’s. By that point, we’d trained the audience to look behind themselves. Every answer lied seemingly in the past. So we felt that small bit of misdirection was a natural way to open up the show for future seasons. Suddenly the far future comes into play. Exactly what 2163 will look like – who lives there, what the world’s like, why Titan calls it home – well, you'll see. 

Fresh off the news that 12 Monkeys will be back for 10 new episodes in 2017, what can you tell us about Season 3?

Matalas: I can only say that all the pieces on the chess board – The Witness, Olivia, Titan, Cassie and Cole, Jennifer in WWI, Jones and Hannah, Ramse and Sam, even Deacon – they’ll all pay off in deeply emotional and typically unexpected ways. The series is pressing forward into deeper waters – with a bigger threat lurking behind The Witness. Much, much more to come.  And we know how it all ends.  Or begins, if you will.
Lastly: "The Witness is safe." What does it mean?!
Matalas: Where does a child ever feel safest? With his mother.