24 Apr 2013

[Review] - Continuum, Season 2 Episode 1, "Second Chance"

Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
Last year, I felt the biggest surprise we were treated to on television was the Canadian time travel series Continuum. Surprising because it resisted all the temptations it put before itself. Despite a procedural framework, it never really conformed to the trope. Despite threatening to burn itself and its possible story directions out, it managed to find new and unexpected avenues to explore. Despite the tendency, it never tried to give a simple answer to the philosophical questions that always arise when time travel is involved, and never bogged itself down with technobabble and pseudoscience to explain complex ideas away. By the end of the first season, the show had settled into itself quite nicely, and crafted a balanced cast of complex characters for the viewer to enjoy.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that once brought themselves back to life after being shot six times.


Where were we? Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) was sent back to the modern day from 2077 (a far nicer and realistically advanced 2077 then the one Tom Cruise is currently spending time in) along with a cadre of terrorists belonging to Liber8, an anti-corporate militant group seeking to prevent the corporations from buying out the government and installing dystopian oversight on the world before they get the chance (actually, Continuum's 2077 looks quite nice, and a lot less dystopic then most "bleak futures," so obviously I wouldn't be invited for Liber8 membership).

In the finale last year, Liber8 leader Kagame (Tony Amendola, just one of the many actors of great sci-fi legacy that populate the show, little wonder considering it is filmed and based in Vancouver, the shooting location for many science fiction series over the last 25 years) blew himself up, thus closing the time loop and committing the terrorist attack that started the chain reaction that caused the corporate takeover to begin with. Kiera and her methods became the interest of CSIS agent Gardner (X-Files' Nicholas Lea), while the hopelessness of her situation settled into a nice depression, and Alec (Erik Knudsen) received a message from his future self (William B. Davis), apparently cementing the notion that Continuum follows a stable time loop theory.

Season two picks up barely a week later, with Kiera's depression apparently passed into a form of acceptance, causing her to isolate herself from the resources she gathered throughout season one. This doesn't work, or maybe she just sucks at personal management, because as the season begins she is forced to turn to Kellog, the former Liber8 member and now generally smarmy time traveller for financial assistance, and to the equally isolating Alec for information. At the same time, she is drawn back into the world of organised law enforcement when the Mayor of Vancouver is assassinated, and the police, in the wake of the terrorist attack, believe Liber8 to be involved.

One aspect of the show I've always appreciated is the continued focus on Liber8, giving them equal time and characterisation as Kiera and the cops. Equally impressive is the fact that the show, after the initial few episodes, has never painted Liber8 as the straight up villains. Terrorists, yes, but they have also gone to lengths to show that their position is a valid one, just that Liber8 goes about achieving their goals the wrong ways. Season two promises to continue this, by following the core group, increasing fragmented and lacking internal control after the death of Kagame and the ascension of Valentine (Lexa Doig) to the role of leader, and also Verta (Roger Cross), Kagame's right hand man, now in prison with Julian, a boy destined to become the founder of the Liber8 movement.

The show, which began as essentially Timecop, has really grown beyond a humble, or perhaps just a measured origin, and put down an intricate web of co-existing stories. Simultaneous, but separate, story lines are easy to write, if not balance (look at Game of Thrones). Continuum is playing at the tougher kind, the sort where plot lines merge and separate, where one has an effect on the others, and that sort of complexity creates a greater opportunity for things to get tied into knots and become unmanageable. So far, the show appears to be doing well, and I hope it stays that way. I hope the show is able to maintain and grow further, without collapsing under the weight of itself.

I am looking forward to less self contained, episodic stories, and more arcing plots. The assassination storyline has a semblance of being wrapped up, but because we the viewer have access to all side, we're aware of the machination behind the scenes. The role Liber8 has to play, and the political aspirations of Tahmoh Penikett's character, will clearly have an ongoing influence on how they move forward. However, too many new plot points, like the mysterious visions of Kiera being captured and locked up fed into her dreams, make me nervous. I'm interested to see what they mean, and where they will take her, but with all the political intrigue, the criminal investigations, and the over arcing time travel mystery, how many sub plots and story arcs can one show maintain?

Alec has taken his isolation to an even further extent then Kiera, moving out of the farm that acted as Kiera's watchtower, into dingy student housing. He cuts out his mom, in a scene that is just straight up rude, and Kiera, acquires himself a crappy job, and tries to live a mediocre life. Further more, he is resistant to using the advanced technology he's developed based on a message his elder self sent him, suggesting that he is responsible not only for sending Kiera back, but for the entire corporate culture of the future. At the end, we learn it is his desire to undo these things, but having already done them suggests that, as Adams once wrote, what happened happened.

Kiera and Alec's relationship is the backbone of the series in many ways, considering he's the voice in her ear, and the closest thing to home, but the adaptation of the uncle-niece relationship she had experienced in her time, to the almost brother-sister relationship they built up over season one was both natural and provided Kiera the emotional support she needs. The build up to, and strange but effective undercutting of the tension in their first face to face last season was one of the season's highlights, and I can only hope that the final scene of this episode, of the two of them together does not become a rarity.

I like Kiera, as a character. I appreciate that most of the characters, and Kiera especially, feel like real people. They don't, for the most part, talk in speeches, or melodramatically. The characters act and talk like real people. They tell little jokes, are sarcastic, curse freely and appropriately. The show isn't a comedy, and cannot be called funny, but Kiera has a tendency to laugh at little things she finds personally amusing, something TV characters rarely do. There are pauses in interactions, like the characters are thinking of what to say, rather then just knowing what their line is. There was a bit in this episode where Carlos is explaining which bits of security footage he needs, and this tech (SGU's Jennifer Spence) just looks at him and admits she has no idea what he wants from her. There aren't superheros in Continuum, even Kiera with her tech and suit is just reasonably good at her job, or Alec isn't instantly successful because he's a genius. The characters on Continuum are fallible and human, and that makes them feel real, and that makes the show better.

Reviews will appear every Wednesday for the duration of the second season. Enjoy.

3 comments:

  1. I just got done watching the first season, and man, it blew me away!

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    1. For me, its the first quality Time Travel show to take itself seriously (or at least not have it's tongue planeted in it's cheek the entire time) since Quantum Leap. And it delivers on that.

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  2. Just caught up with season 2 and it's really starting to build into a well rounded show. Season One understandably focused on the time travel aspect and the chase for Liber8 while season 2 is looking closer at the relationships between all the characters including Liber8, their beliefs in how to achieve their goals and were also seeing some of what Kiera has experienced in her previous (future) life. This could be a show to make 4 or 5 seasons and stay strong all the way through.

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