The MCU explores time travel in more detail than most sci-fi films and series, but SyFy’s 12 Monkeys takes an even more complex approach.

Time travel is a concept that has been used in many different films and TV shows. Most sci-fi fans will be used to the way time travel is used in tales like Back to the Future, where traveling into the past changes the past and creates a new future for the main characters. However, the way time travel is used in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is slightly different – and time travel is taken to a new level 12 monkeys SyFy show.

As many Marvel fans will know, the MCU describes the multiverse as a series of branching timelines from a core story. The main story is the events of phases 1-3 of the MCU, which involve the creation of heroes such as Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, and the creation of the Avengers Initiative by Nick Fury. As the remaining Avengers traveled back in time to return the Infinity Stones to their original places and times Avengers: Endgame, they created different branches in the timeline on the side.

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The way time travel is used in SyFys 12 Monkeys is more complex. Loosely based on the 1995 film of the same name, 12 Monkeys depicts time as a loop and often uses the imagery of a snake eating its own tail to explain how the events of the show unfold. The Army of the 12 Monkeys cult exists to find the witness to create the Red Forest, a place where time and death do not exist. For the cult, this is the endgame. To stop time and get to this Red Forest. For the show, meanwhile, there’s no beginning or end of the loop, it’s just an endless cycle that keeps repeating itself.

12 Monkeys’ explanation of time travel is much more consistent than the theory used in the MCU. The MCU breaks its own rules of time travel with Captain America’s final scene in Endgame, where Bucky and Sam find out Steve stayed with Peggy when he returned the Space Stone and grew old with her. According to the time travel rules Bruce Banner explained earlier in the film, this should have resulted in Steve living in a new branch of the timeline with Peggy, making it impossible for Sam and Bucky to find him as an old man unless, Steve would have traveled back to the original timeline – which is not shown in the film.

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In a 2019 Reddit AMA, Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors of Endgame, responded to a question about Steve’s life with Peggy in the new timeline, stating, “You’re right that he should have worn the quantum suit to make it with a Pym particle of the Leap [back to the main timeline]. He doesn’t wear the suit on the bench because that’s not the exact moment he returned to.” While this clears up some inconsistencies with Endgame’s use of time travel, the decision to use this information from the final cut of the film itself makes the story more confusing for the average viewer.

12 monkeys makes time travel better than the MCU because it makes rules and sticks to them throughout the show. The MCUs not explain why Captain America was able to return to the main timeline in Endgame, making the story less coherent and neglecting to use the “Show, Don’t Tell” method in their filmmaking. Compared to the time travel in 12 Monkeys, these inconsistencies make Endgame’s scriptwriting feel unprofessional and lazy. This comparison between 12 Monkeys and the MCU shows how important it is in time travel stories to create coherent rules and then stick to them consistently, and that even the smallest inconsistency can ruin or refute the entire plot.

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About the author

Averie Watson
(27 published articles)

Averie Watson is a writer from Edinburgh, Scotland. They have edited Stryvling Press and Ta Voix anthologies, and have also published their writing in Black Hare Press, Journal of Erato and Scrap Lines anthologies. Averie grew up reading DC and Marvel comics from the ’60s and watching every new superhero movie that hit theaters, as well as other comics, movies, and TV shows like Scott Pilgrim, Star Wars, and Steven Universe. Averie loves science fiction and horror and spends way too much time reading Junji Ito manga and watching A24 movies with her cat. You can follow Averie on Twitter at @averie_watson

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