Continuum, “A Test Of Time”

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This guy!

“A Test Of Time” is the best episode of Continuum so far. It crafts a story that only a show like this could do, but grounds it with emotional beats that resonated better than they have all season. There’s not many shows that could build an episode around the grandfather paradox, and Continuum makes the most out of it. This episode climaxes with a hostage exchange involving not one, but three different characters’ ancestors.

It gets a little ridiculous when Kellog reveals Kagame’s mother—after all, he is “very resourceful”—but it’s still sad when poor Maddie gets shot. Seeing Kellog kneeling over the dying body of his grandmother was moving in a strange way. It’s a scene that seems like it shouldn’t resonante emotionally, because there’s no real emotional precedent for it—as far as I know, most people don’t take on a father/daughter relationship with their grandparents—and yet, it works. After all, Maddie is an innocent caught in the crossfire, but to Kellog, she was more family. Time paradoxes aside, everyone knows how it feels to lose someone you love, and seeing one of the show’s most likeable characters in that state was wrenching.

I haven’t been feeling that kind of emotional connection with Kierra, but her separation from her loved ones actually clicked for me this week. I’m willing to chock it up to personal feelings about fictional proposals—I’m sorry, I think people devoting themselves to each other is just so beautiful AND NO I AM NOT CRYING—but it didn’t hurt that we actually saw Kierra and her husband loving each other, instead of arguing or talking about the baby. Seeing Kierra fret over her husband’s safety in the flashback was nice—as was her son not having to deliver horrible dialogue—and made her love for her family seem much more real. So, when Kierra gives that speech to her grandmother about being surrounded by love, it has actual weight to it. Having children seems like an absolute nightmare to me, but the way Kierra described it was really lovely.

This episode was so good that it redeems last week’s underwhelming effort. “A Test of Time” reveals that last week’s episode was actually Continuum’s first pieces-setting episode. Heavily serialized shows are usually allowed a couple of episodes to set up payoffs further down the road, but this early in a show’s run, it’s hard to tell if it’s going to be good enough to deserve that sort of slack… and in Continuum’s case, it was unclear if the show was even serialized enough to deserve that sort of slack. But with “A Test of Time,” Continuum proved its dedication to telling a long form story with episodes so good that they don’t even need a shootout to be satisfying.

Last week’s time with Kellog set up the devastating turn of events in his storyline, but the most important piece that got moved around was Kagame, the leader of Liber8 who had been absent from 2012 (and the show itself) for unclear reasons since the pilot. Well, he’s back, and he’s already a fantastic addition to the show.

His presence gives Liber8 coherence and a level of motivation they didn’t have when they were flailing about just trying not to die. Now that their leader is back, Liber8 has transformed into a legitimate antagonistic force. Not only are they actively working against Kierra, but it looks like they’re going to devote all of their energy to starting the revolution that they lost the first time around.

It helps that Kagame himself is the sort of interesting, nuanced villain that’s been missing from the show thus far. We find out early on in this episode that Kagame doesn’t want to take a life when it isn’t needed, and that gets reinforced when he chews out Travis for shooting Kellog’s grandmother. Kagame’s philosophical clarity and moral code gives the massive terrorist act at the beginning of the series even more weight. If Kagame thought that all those people needed to die, he must have been serious about it. He may be dedicated to his cause, but you can see in his eyes that he feels the weight of every death.

Kagame is the only Liber8 member that’s almost likeable—except Kellog, but he doesn’t count—but the show never tries to make him anything less than a villain. Even when he gets a sympathetic flashback like last episode, it’s tempered a cold act of calculated evil. Kagame’s ordering the murder of an innocent Lily Cole, just because she might be Kierra’s grandmother, is a perfect example. Liber8 has not been more viscerally frightening than when Travis executed that screaming girl in the alleyway.

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You can tell she’s bad news because she has two piercings. TWO!

This episode works so well that I can overlook the tiny bits that don’t make sense, because they get the wheel rolling on everything else. When Kellog shows up at the Liber8 base, I can understand why Kagame would want to speak with him, but why would the others let him in? The last time he showed up, he was carrying a tracking device. And then there was Sonya’s method of extracting a tissue sample from Kierra. If you can get close enough to stab her with a medical instrument, why not just stab her with a knife and deal with the problem directly?

I still don’t want to slide into the trap of over-praising Continuum just because it’s better than it should be, but I think it’s earned a little faith. You really have to give some leeway on plot-holes to any long-form fiction, especially a genre show like this one that’s so plot-heavy. And at least Continuum doesn’t let the really stupid stuff just lay there for too long, like when the second episode immediately addressed Kierra’s super-flimsy alias, or in this episode, when Kellog’s treachery was exposed almost immediately. This is a show with at least some amount of brains, and this episode proves that it may have a heart, too.

  • The fact that the REAL Lily Cole was a sterotypical “bad girl” seems kind of hokey in retrospect, but when she first showed up it was a nice little twist.
  • Proof that Kellog actually cared about Maddie: he doesn’t even care that her death didn’t wipe him from existence. Awww.
  • Alec’s speech to his stepbrother is probably going to have negative consequences. Wouldn’t it be crazy if he accidentally inspired his family to join Liber8? Maybe “crazy” is a bit much—“natural plot development” might be a better term.
  • The “FETUS DETECTED” thing that popped up in Kierra’s H.U.D. was so funny I almost missed the car crash that happened five seconds later. 

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