[Review] - Continuum, Season 3 Episode 1, "Minute to Minute"

Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
It speaks to the complexity of the universe that Simon Barry has created in Continuum, that the show can dedicate an entire hour towards explaining the mechanism behind the show's largest mysteries to this point, and it still leaves us with more questions than answers. It speaks to the quality of that complexity that, having provided a massive info dump, it didn't immediately start tripping over itself.

Season three returned off the back of a continuum shattering cliffhanger, which saw Kiera and most of Liber8 held captive by the Freelancers, Carlos and Betty turning to Julian in their moment of greatest need, and Alec disappear into time with motives and alliances unknown. And while this hour was dedicated mostly to explaining the who's and the where's, it also set up what will be the driving force behind this season.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are settling old debts.

The Freelancers: not what I was expecting. Rather than some nefarious temporal agency manipulating time for their own benefits, they are guardians of destiny; a cult dedicated to the strict and correct unfolding of time. Originating from about 200 years in the future, they've spent the last millennium acting as an ever present force to combat those few travellers that have actually come back, with a mindset like Kellog, to reap the benefits of foreknowledge. There remains a lot that is unexplained about them, gaps that I assume will be filled in slowly as the series continues. Considering the level of technology they continue to operate with, I assume that they remain in contact with the future and the organisation which established the Freelancers to begin with. Catherine was purposely vague about their abilities to affect change in the collapsing time line, suggesting that the removal of Alec cut off their contact with their futuristic overlords. Which, if the timeline was collapsing from the future back to the point of Alec's arrival, makes sense.

Alec's time jump took him back one week, just long enough to undo the events of the season two finale, and just long enough to effect massive changes. Which answered a lot of questions viewers have had about how time travel works in the Continuum universe. Time can be changed, it just depends on what changes. Thousands, Catherine pronounces, can be killed with no effect, while one person can change everything. This explains why Kellog's grandmother could be killed without incident, because he is unimportant to the grand scheme. Alec is fundamental to the sequence of events. Without him, time travel isn't invented and nothing of Kiera's world remains. Alec removing himself from the timeline caused it to disintegrate, but it can be rebuilt from the point of his incursion.

It also confirmed that time travellers are immune to changes in the timeline. The retroactive unmaking of time only affects what inhabits the timeline at the time of dissolution. Killing Kellog's grandmother erased any future Kellog from existing, but the original doesn't get McFlyed out of existence because he is part of the new sequence of events. Which means that Continuum's time travel isn't conventional time travel at all. Every time a traveller moves into a different time frame, they are moving into an entirely new timeline. Which means, effectively, that Kiera will never be able to return to her home. The best she can hope for is something reasonably similar (think Simpson's Treehouse of Horrors V, or Michael Crichton's Timeline).

Alec's grand plan is to undo the events of the finale (or rather, the last two episodes) of season two. And he succeeds by making things kind of worse. His primary objective is to stop Emily from being killed. Secondary to that is manipulating his knowledge so that he achieves the result he wants with none of the harm. He gives Carlos and Kiera the information they need to arrest Lucas and acquire the time travel sphere, while also protecting Kiera from being framed for Gardener's murder. He tells Kellog enough information about Escher's plans to give Kellog the fortitude to have Escher killed (by a more than willing Emily). Travis never gets his hands on the second suit, inhibiting his ability to rampage, which also has the side effect of keeping Travis alive. Things proceeded as well as Alec could have hoped, right up until something got Kiera killed.

Unforeseen consequences are a well established quagmire of time travel, and Alec I fell will learn that more and more. Luckily for him (and us), the original Kiera - who, it should be mentioned, is now inhabiting her third separate timeline - had joined the ranks of the Freelancers in order to come back and make a choice. The timeline now has two Alec's: one, the original, who doesn't know the truth about Emily, who still sides with Kiera and is conflicted about his future. And the second, the interloper, who is determined to manipulate time to give him the happy ending her feels he deserves. Only one can survive, according to the Freelancers. One will create Kiera's future, the other will destroy it. And because this is Continuum, there is no chance in hell that it's going to be obvious which is which.

Where does this leave us moving forward? Well, thanks to Kiera's deal with the Freelancers, Carlos shouldn't have needed to quit the police force and side with Julian, though we saw very little of Carlos this episode and nothing of him in the disintegrating timeline. Kiera herself has to choose between the "innocent" Alec and the frantic one. Jason is aware of the interloper Alec's intentions, and he has always been a wild card, but the original Alec's intentions are still uncertain. He's saved Emily for now, but for how long. I expect more unintended consequences to develop as things move forward. And, as always, Liber8 is still out there somewhere.

I'm so very glad that this show is back.
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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.


  1. Fantastic analysis! The truth is out there......

  2. Well done MR. Clark.........you are now a CSFA (Certified Science Fiction Analyst)....and that rating is VERY DIFFICULT to get......

    1. *Gasp* Just like the old Gypsy woman said...

      Thanks for the support. I promise to abuse this certification at every possible opportunity.

  3. If you're still around Mr Clark - and thanks for the above -all very helpful! We're currently "binge-watching" Continuum on Netflix.

    Loved seasons 1 and 2, but are royally confused with season 3 - we are 4 or 5 episodes in at present. If you still recall how the theme went, please could you tell us : has the original timeline been completely destroyed by Alec's travelling 1 week to the past, so that events depicted in the show, going forward, are all taking place on the "new" timeline - or does the new (or additional) timeline exist in tandem with the original timeline? I wish there'd been a little clearer explanation - offered within the dialogue. Carlos threw in his badge and went with Betty to join Theseus/Julian one minute - the next minute he was back policing as though nothing had happened. You've mentioned this possibility in your last para. but I don't see why Kiera's deal with the Freelancers brought this about .
    Dang, but it's mindbending stuff! Would be grateful for anything you can add to enlighten us.

    1. Great to hear from you , and yep, I'm still here. And more than happy to help you out. You're quite correct, season three really did ramp up the complexity level.

      Every time a traveler goes back into time, the timeline they come from is erased and replaced by one which houses the effects of the changes. Think of it like recording over an old VHS. Every time you rewind and start recording, you record over the old footage.

      Sometimes, these changes are negligible, and sometimes they are drastic. If you're about half way through season 3, then you'll have witnessed at least three timelines: the original timeline that Kiera came from, the modern world that Kiera travelled to, and the new modern world of a week ago that both Alec and Kiera travelled to in the premiere. Every time they go back, history from that point forward is rewritten according to their actions, and there is no going back to when they came from, because it doesn't exist anymore.

      If you are half way through season 3, it only gets better from here. And I'm very excited to see where they take things in season 4. Have fun!

  4. Hi again - many thanks - the VHS recording explanation clarifies things for me nicely!

    I guess I still had a scene from "Interstellar" lodged in my head - where time/dimensions were depicted differently (if you've seen the film it's the scene with Matthew McConaughey in a space/room filled with thousands of "windows" opening onto different timelines.)

    I have a post about Continuum on my blog today (Sat 17 Jan) - I shall now go and add a link to yours to my post.. :-)

  5. Just gave up on the first episode of season 1.
    A cop from 2077 travels back to 2012. And it just so happens that the inventor of the communication system embedded in her is online testing his prototype, and able to communicate with her. Becauise it's so totally plausible that across the span of 60 years, that communication system would have remained compatible with the prototype. Furthermore, her system embodies elements which the inventor had not thought of, e.g. video storage. Despite his surprise at the existence of these elements, the inventor is able to tap into and retrieve said stored video. Like, that's totally plausible too. The cop is short of money so she walks up to an ATM machine and hacks it in seconds using the computer built into her suit. Because if i were sent back in time several decades, I would have no difficulty hacking the computer systems of the day. At around this point, I gave up on this series for good.