TV Club: 12 Monkeys: “Splinter”

12 Monkeys opens with a string of rhetorical questions issued in James Cole’s tired, mournful voice over the strains of Otis Redding’s “These Arms Of Mine.” What if your life were destroyed? You’d “do things, horrible things” things to survive, wouldn’t you? “What if you could take it back, all of it? A reset switch. You’d hit it, right? You’d have to.”

It’s not clear to whom these questions are addressed: The viewer? James Cole, speaking to himself from some remove of time or circumstance? Another character as yet unidentified? The show doesn’t know, or even care. They’re just questions. They sound pointed, even profound, and they give 12 Monkeys‘ first moments a semblance of emotional heft, as if it’s pondering the moral and existential ambiguity of its protagonist’s task.

But moral ambiguity and emotional heft aren’t the …

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