Continuum

Continuum, “Wasting Time”

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That green chick from Star Trek sure cleans up nice.

Look, I know I said that I admire the creators of Continuum for their commitment to putting a gunfight into every episode, but this week’s shootout was kind of dull. Maybe it was because Kierra’s partner Carlos was the one taking aim at Liber8 member Curtis, and boy, Carlos is just eight different flavors of vanilla. More likely, it was just that the action itself wasn’t exciting. They’re both firing at each other behind cover, nothing really seems to be at stake, and the whole thing is just static… that is, until Curtis pops out from behind his cover, jumps off of a wall and punches Carlos in the face.

At that point, what was a dull gunfight turns into an exciting fistfight. Even more exciting was that Kierra got involved after a few minutes. I was worried that the show was having Carlos trade blows with Curtis because the creators were uncomfortable having a man and woman wail on each other, but I let go of that when Curtis threw Kierra through a window. Kierra is supposed to be a tough-as-nails future-cop action hero, and I’m glad the show lets her get down and dirty. I’ll even forgive the fact that the fight ends with a trick used to better (and gorier) effect in Dredd 3D. Up until then, it’s a good fight, surprisingly good for a television show. There’s a real dearth of good fight scenes on TV.

I’m willing to forgive Continuum for a lot of flaws because the show itself is something we don’t have a lot of: a serialized sci-fi action/drama. Yeah, I know, we all miss Firefly, but it ain’t coming back, and what do you expect me to watch, Revolution? Please. Besides, Continuum has one major advantage over both of those shows: time travel. I’m struggling to come up with another show that has used time travel as the basis of its plot the way Continuum does… the closest I can think of is Samurai Jack.

Too old, too cancelled, too British.

Too old, too cancelled, too British.

“Wasting Time” is the least time-travel-centric episode of Continuum yet. Sure, that trip into the past is still hanging on the edge of the plot, influencing the actions of almost every character, but this episode was more about the immediate needs of Liber8 and how that puts them into conflict with Kierra. Those needs have something to do with an mysterious illness contracted by the leader of Liber8, and the lengths that one member (Sonya, aka The Queen of Hearts”) will go through to save him. The flashback at the episode’s beginning gives the impression that “Wasting Time” will be all about Kierra’s attempt to stop Sonya’s killing spree, which includes removing the pituitary gland of her victims so she can use their genetic code to synthesize a super-steroid… or something. Turns out, not so much.

(Sidebar here: I have no idea what’s going on with Liber8. Their situation and their goals seem to change episode-to-episode. In the pilot, I got the impression that they were stranded in 2012, but that they intended to carry out their pre-revolution anyway. When the second episode opened, they were talking about a plan to get back to their original destination. In this episode, Travis is suddenly dying of an unexplained illness. I don’t know if SyFy is airing these episodes with scenes missing, but it sure felt like it this week. They’re certainly placing the commercial breaks at the wrong point, which is especially awkward when we come back from commercial just in time for the dramatic act break. But I digress.)

The whole pituitary-gland thing just fizzles out—or, rather, Liber8’s plans to synthesize a cure for their leader work out exactly as planned. But the possibility of Travis’s death drives a wedge between members Curtis and Kellog, which leads to the aforementioned shootout/fistfight and to Kellog’s banishment from the group. Kellog claims to be a non-violent member of Liber8 and wants to start a new life in 2012, so he strikes up a bargain with Kierra.

Kellog’s alliance with Kierra is a welcome development because it gives Kierra an ally that isn’t Alec—though Alec is awesome—or Carlos (aka GuyCop McBlanderson) and because it provides some much-needed character development for the supporting cast. So far, the members of Liber8 have been characterized just enough to serve as cannon fodder. Don’t get me wrong, I think Curtis’s actions in this episode made sense for his character, it would just be nice if his character was more than “kill innocents and also everyone else”. But, he’s dead now, so maybe that would have just been wasted time. Oh, hey, that’s the name of the episode. How fun!

No show is without flaws, but Continuum is surprisingly well made for a Canadian import doing a second-run on SyFy. I realize that a show’s genre or its channel/country of origin is no excuse for sloppy storytelling, but the fact that this show is so unique makes me more forgiving when episodes come out lumpy and weird. I only hope the creators can tighten things up so that this show can live up to the highest standard it can hope to achieve: solid B-level television. You know what? Make that B+. Reach for the stars, Continuum, reach for the stars.

  • Kierra’s longing stare at the happy family in the restaurant was a nice way to remind us of how much she misses her home without beating us over the head with it.
  • Dredd 3D is pretty okay, if you were wondering. It’s better than you would expect but the story is still kind of dull. I wish I’d seen it in 3D.
  • “You’re a terrorist and a revolutionary.”“No, that guy won’t be born until 2041.” Dang, that’s cool. Time travel is cool. 

Continuum, “Fast Times”

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Time travel is cool. If you don’t get too hung up on the confusing bits—or pull a Looper and just have fun with them—it’s a fantastic storytelling engine, offering up plenty of ways to explore predetermination, destiny, chaos theory, and other things like that. The first episode of Continuum provided the bare bones of a time-travel story that would be light on philosophy but heavy on action. The premise just screams “pulpy fun:” a police officer from the future has to track down a group of terrorists that have escaped into the past? It’s like a reverse-Alcatraz! In another reversal of Alcatraz, it was actually good.

It wasn’t perfect, though. The main character, Kiera Cameron, was a bit of blank slate, not helped out by the underwhelming performance of Rachel Nichols. The emotional core of the show is that Kiera is trapped in the past, separated by sixty years from her husband and son. However, we only spent about ten minutes in Kiera’s time before she and the prisoners vanished, so we don’t get to spend any time with her family. I applaud the show for wanting to get things moving, but it’s hard to sympathize with Kiera when her husband and child only exist in an abstract sense… and it doesn’t help that her son is the kind of annoying child character that no one likes.

Once Kiera arrived in the past, she hooked up with a local police force in order to track down the escaped terrorists, which is fine, except Kiera passed herself off as Portland police officer and no one ever asked for her badge. It was the kind of plot hole I was willing to overlook as long as the show offered more cool stuff with Liber8 (the terrorists) and Alex (Kiera’s new paradox-inducing sidekick) but it did make the show a little stupider than it needed to be.

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To my delight, the second episode of Continuum, “Fast Times,” addresses the show’s biggest problems in the first ten minutes. We open with a flashback to Kiera’s first day as a Protector (read: future-cop), and I’m not sure if it’s because Rachel Nichols stepped her game up or if the writers realized that the main character needed to be a little more human, but she is immediately more interesting to watch. We see a bit of social-awkwardness peeking out through the cracks in her tough-as-nails future-cop exterior, making her more relatable. To me, at least. Maybe you don’t have that sort of problem, I don’t know.

Anyway, Kiera’s discomfort in social situations continues into the next present-day scene, where the false identity she used in the first episode is immediately revealed. By the end of the episode she’s got the whole thing settled, setting up a more thorough false identity with the help of her super-hacker sidekick. I was a little disappointed that the show was sticking with the police precinct setting, but I was just glad that they addressed it.

Even if the law-enforcement setting/supporting characters are a played-out television cliché, it makes sense that Kiera would hook up with a new team to take down Liber8. The only worry I really have about the setting is that it would transform the show into another boring procedural. Alcatraz—boy, that show is really taking a beating—had a lot of promise but immediately squandered it and became a run-of-the-mill cop show, with the science-fiction aspect reduced to window dressing.

All you ever did was disappoint us, you stupid, stupid show

All you ever did was disappoint us, you stupid, stupid show

Continuum put any fears I had to rest in this episode. Whether it was furthering several interesting plotlines—what’s the deal with Alec’s family? Is that one member of Liber8 starting a new life in the past?—or building the climax around a failed attempt to utilize nuclear fission to activate a time-travel orb, the writers have made it clear that this is not going to be another CSI clone.

Some things still come a little too easy, like when the wife of the kidnapped doctor helps out Kiera. Her husband was just kidnapped by terrorists, but when another stranger comes to the door looking for him, the woman offers her total assistance almost immediately. It’s a small problem, though, and I still can’t fault the show for wanting to keep things moving. Continuum ain’t Looper, and my enthusiasm might fall off if Kiera spends the entire second half of this season sitting around on a farm.

Hopefully, the show will continue to use flashbacks to flesh out Kiera’s character, although her son is still grating, even in the small glimpse we get of him in this episode. Maybe the whole “I get two tuck-ins?” doe-eyed innocence thing plays better for people who have children. For the rest of us, it’s like nails on a chalkboard… or maybe that’s just me, too. Either way, if Continuum can keep developing its characters and deliver a cool gunfight in every episode, it’s going to turn into quite the show.