Jun 7, 2013

Continuum: “Second Chances”

By Josh Oakley


The first season of Continuum played out as a series of well-made procedurals. In the season finale, when the show directly dealt with the time travel arc of Kiera and the Liber8 movement, it largely faltered but at least remained enticing for the answers it might provide. Unfortunately, the second season premiere only serves to further obfuscate the show’s central mysteries. It’s not that I needed answers, but I want some sort of coherent promise that answers would be forthcoming. Instead we received a meager plot that never resolved and a number of troublingly strained relationships.

Let’s hit those in order: first the case-of-the-week, which never leads anywhere interesting and ends with the police catching the wrong guy. If the show were to make a larger point of the mis-arrest, it could have been interesting. But Continuum’s largest fault, which I’ll get into more below, is stepping right up to the line of complex moral ground and then quickly scurrying away. I suppose I should get back to the week’s central mystery, but it serves no real purpose except to establish where the show's relationships are at this point (Now, I may be proven wrong on this if rival Vancouver gangs become a central issue this season, so just in case: Mayor is assassinated, Kiera assumes a gang is trying to pin it on Liber8, it turns out Liber8 is trying to pin it on a gang, but the police never discover this last, vital fact).

Those relationships are the most muddled aspect of tonight’s premiere. I’m all for shifting the premise, especially in a procedural format. It serves to give fresh character dynamics and allow the show to avoid fatigue. The direction that Continuum is headed in does hold interest, in a quietly sad way. Alec, the show's best character, has moved out of his house and in with a number of stoner bros who like video games and not much else. Kiera and Alec don’t talk much, as the latter is concerned about what his older self sent him in the coded message he found in Kiera’s suit (if you don’t watch the show, trust me, this is the part that does make sense). The mayor’s assassination draws the two back together, but it’s clear that they won’t be as tight as they were last season. Again, I’m pro-change in television shows, but these characters had a great chemistry that sustained a lot of season one’s weaker episodes. Luckily, this strain feels realistic, as does Alec’s general demeanor; he’s now lost his father and step-father, with his brother turning to the dark side. His mother is (completely understandably) depressed, and Alec knows that one day he will help to destroy the world. It’s a lot to put on a teenager’s shoulders, and his distress is nicely played, especially in the episode’s best scene, featuring him dismissing his mother, then quietly calling himself an asshole (It’s nice to see that older Alec’s blaming himself is a character trait rather than just a plot point).

My issue is that the show doesn’t seem to be willing to go full-serialization. This is a problem because it seems to have stripped itself of the major qualities it had last season in procedural format. Those elements are the aforementioned team of Alec and Kiera, and the team of Kiera and Carlos. The latter two, especially, didn’t change the cop-drama game in any way, but the actors has fit nicely together. They’re still working together, but Kiera in a more vigilante-fashion, as to protect the police department from suspicion, so their joint crime-fighting will likely be lessened.

That fear of suspicion is just one of the many balls Continuum has thrown into the air for the coming 12 episodes (a third season has been picked up as well). The cliff-hanger of last season, Alec knowing why he sent Kiera back in time, is completely erased here (last line of season one: “You’re not going to believe why”; lines in this episode: “Do you know why?” “No”). It’s incredibly weird back-tracking, as if the show suddenly realized on hiatus that it needed to sustain itself for more than another episode or two. The other significant plot is the one that involves a close eye being kept on the Vancouver PD, concerning Agent Gardiner of the CSIS. He wants to know what’s up with Kiera, and she tells him here, but of course he believes her to be mocking him. It’s difficult to see where this plot can go now that she’s revealed herself and he doubts her. I understand the hesitation to believe in time-travel, but you did see her become invisible. Not that farfetched in that context.

There are a number of other questions raised (what exactly is the relationship between union leader Jim Martin and Liber8? What are Julian and Travis planning in prison? What does old Alec want young Alec to change, and why be so damn obtuse? Or was he clear on the specifics, and young Alec is just hiding them from Kiera?), but the most pertinent is one that show has yet to begin to deliver on: what are Continuum’s morals? The major concern with Kiera, as a character, is that she was a fascist police officer in 2077. Sure, she looks good compared to the terrorists in Liber8, but she did bad things, and the show has yet to address that. Continuum has set up Kiera as our protagonist and Liber8 as the villains. It’s humanized some of that group’s members as individuals, but by turning them into insane murderers, the show loses a potential to look at the actual problems with a corporation-owned government. The people of 2077 are mistreated; we’ve seen that. But the show doesn’t seem to care to address this problem, as if it will turn us off of Kiera, seemingly unaware that complex characters are, you know, great and kind of the point of television. My main wish for season two, besides it answering at least a few questions before asking even more, is that it works out its own moral compass. Obviously the creators of Continuum aren’t in favor of a Corporate Congress that strips citizens of their rights. But the way the show makes every enemy of the system a villain, and a supporter of the system our unabashed hero, it seems as if the writers are counting down the days until we can relax in the glow of a complete corporate buyout. I hope the future of the show is brighter than the future captured within it.

Grade: C

Miscellaneous:
  • This is probably my least favorite episode of the show so far, excepting the one that dealt with “gamer geeks” in incredibly stupid ways, but I still have hope for the coming season. Even if the larger story has kinks, I hope we’ll get a few good self-contained tales (such as last season’s outing that dealt with the Grandfather Paradox, still the show’s best episode).
  • Yet another question hanging in the air: Mr. Escher and the Freelancers. Both brought up in the “previously on” and, as far as I noticed, never mentioned in the episode itself.
  • The bookending of this episode was very well done, I’ll admit. Or, at least, the end revealing the beginning’s purpose was deftly handled. Still would be nice to know anything else going on with that story, mythology-wise (Did Kiera’s husband look suspicious to you in that first scene? Any chance he’s involved? Wouldn’t put it past this show)
  • New viewers will notice that Inspector Dillon is played by Brian Markinson, who has been on Mad Men this season as Dr. Arnold Rosen (Don’s neighbor). He isn't given a lot to do on this show, but he does it all very well.
  • Something I’ve noticed since the first episode: I think Continuum calls its lead character a “bitch” more than any other show I’ve ever seen, especially considering that there isn't all that much swearing besides. Even Alec gets one in this time! Maybe it means something different in Canada? “Cool person” perhaps? That would make much more sense.
  • And one final, tragic note: BATMAN DOESN’T EXIST IN THE FUTURE!?!?!?

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