[Review] - Continuum, Season 1

Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
I'm a sucker for time travel fiction. It's my narrative kryptonite. It doesn't matter who, or what, is being pushed through time, or in which direction, I will sit my ass down and watch the hell out of that show. It's the reason I wasted three years watching Seven Days. It's the reason I give movies like Source Code or Looper any sort of attention. Because even though it's over used, and rarely down well, eventually there will be an Quantum Leap or Seven Monkeys that vindicates my attention, and fuels the fire more.

Continuum is not Quantum Leap. That is not to say it is terrible. Indeed, this summer, it was the new show I found myself most anticipating from week to week. A simple concept, well written and acted, without falling into melodrama or over acting, and was able to sustain itself over the course of ten episodes. I wasn't chomping at the bit after the finale ended, like I was over so many years of LOST, but I still find myself looking forward to a possible second season.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have come back in time to change the way we feel about the show.

I'll admit to concern in the first few weeks of the show. The premier was strong, but I was immediately worried that the writers would try to go too far too fast. The opening episode features the gang of fourth dimensional terrorists consolidating power within the gang structure of the city, and laying a curb stomp on the Vancouver Police HQ. How, I thought to myself, will they make this last with this sort of acceleration? Then the second episode very quickly featured an attempt by all involved to get home, meaning the baddies and our lone hero had to team up. Two members of the group die within the first three episodes. Again, I thought, too much too soon.

Well, it seemed that the writers realised that too, and one the terrorist leader, Kagame, arrived, the pace settled nicely, and the show was even able to give a valid explanation for the change. Without their leader, the group was a wild dog, biting and charging at everything in sight. Once he showed up, his influence calmed them, and they were able to fly under the radar.

The plot is certainly a product of the time. In 2077, the corporations have bailed out the government to the extent that the corporations are the government. Kagame and his group, Liber8, go Fight Club on the businesses asses, and are sentenced to death. During the execution, a device is triggered that sends Liber8 back in time, along with a single future cop, Kiera Cameron. What was meant to be a 12 year leap into the past turned out to be a 65 year leap, and they all end up in the present day.

The dogma of Liber8 is essentially the opposite of the Tea Party rhetoric coming out of the States during the last election. The group believes that the corporations have removed personal freedom, and that only a fair, democratic government can truly protect the people. It is repeated over and over, and can get a little grating, but SG-1 alumni Tony Amendola sells the conviction of his words as Kagame. You never get the sense that the rest of the group believes as hard as him. It's like watching Ian McKellen in the X-Men films. You believe that he believes what he's saying, it just seems that everyone else is there because they like punching people in the throat.

This is possibly down to, despite multiple jumps back to the future, usually as the cold opens and epilogues for each episode, we never learn what motivated any of these people to join Liber8. We learn why Cameron join the police force, and they spend an awful lot of time convincing us that she loves her family, something that doesn't need to be hammered home quite so hard. But, save for a single member of their group, it seems like they are all there because they like to punch people. It's probably the reason that nearly all the Liber8 members fade into the background once Kagame shows up, which is startling considering how predominatly Roger Cross was featured in the promotional material, and how little he appears in the second half of the season.

The cast really is a stand up group of actors, headed by Rachel Nichols as Cameron. Best known from her minor role in Star Trek, her thankless role in G.I.Joe, and as a one season member of the Criminal Minds team. It took most of the first episode for me to warm to her role, but a scene in a hotel room, where she completely breaks down as the reality of her situation overwhelms her, sold me completely. From time to time, when the dialogue gets a little too serious, she lapses into a kind of breathless voice that isn't endearing, but the rest of the time, especially the few moments where she's called on to be funny, she is a solid lead.

The breakout star, and the most enjoyable character, has to be Erik Knudsen, as Alec, genius whiz kid and future inventor of practically all the technology that the future runs on, including the specialised suit Cameron wears. Essentially Q to Cameron's Bond, the majority of the role requires him to sit alone, surrounded by computers, taking into an ear pieces, but he pulls it off with levity and tenacity. Wisely, they keep the face to face interactions between him and Cameron to a minimum, and even toss off their first encounter as a throw away gag at the very end of the episode. Though considering the events of the ninth episode, in which Alec's family is held hostage, I can't help but wonder if their first meeting might have been saved for then, to have more of an emotional impact between two characters that have come to rely on each other.

The weakest episodes of the season are undoubtedly 3 and 7, featuring either week or ridiculous plots that lend nothing to the larger picture of the series. Episode 3, Wasting Time, is an accurate title, and is by far the most skipable, featuring your standard sci-fi nonsense medical junk, which reveals that the Liber8 soldiers run on some kind of super steroid that they extract from victims. The whole gets hand waved away by the episode's conclusion, and is never mentioned again, which I think is the best for everyone.

Where the show excels is in character interactions. Cameron's relationship with Alec, and with her police partner Carlos (Victor Webster). The relationships between Kogame and the Liber8 members, many of whom it is obvious he puts up with because of their worth to the cause, not because of themselves. And late in the season, Cameron's relationship with Kellogg (Stephen Lobo), by far the most interesting member of the Liber8 team, who bails almost immediately, and uses his knowledge of the past to make himself rich, and help Cameron out when it suits him. He's the only team member with any complex back story revealed so far, and is the most interesting character on the show.

For a smaller production, the CG is pretty decent, though the explosions are a weak point, only made the more obvious by their frequency. The show is much more enjoyable when it plays the police procedural angle, rather then the hard sci-fi elements, though it does a fair enough job blending the two, as seen in episode 8, Playtime. The show, at first, had a pretty hard lined theory of time travel, that the past cannot change the future. Essentially, what happened, happened. This gets a little murky as the show continues, as big changes are made in the past which don't seem to effect the characters any. The show has not ventured back to the future except in flashback, so the full extent of changes hasn't been glimpsed, though if the finale is any indication, it looks like they might be going for a rubber band theory. Little things can change, but time always works itself back to a recognisable pattern.

If this is gearing up for a big reveal, like Cameron returning to the future to everything being the same, but her family has been wiped form existence, we might never know. Since it is a smaller production, the existence of a second season is up in the air. I'd like to see one, but wouldn't be heart broken if it never happened. I think, considering the groove the show found in it's second half, that a second season could be an improvement over the first.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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