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Continuum

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The time-travel pseudo-political mindfuck Continuum has vehemently established its second season as the sort of no-holds-barred affair that turns a good show with a cult following to a great show that all should dedicate some DVR and hard drive space for. The question of what makes a hero, the grey area between revolutionary and terrorist, and our basic comprehension of time travel, were explored adeptly in the first season with certain lines drawn, alliances created, and, most importantly, explosions. This week’s episode, “Second Last,” puts a dead body in a trunk and teaches us that there’s still dirtier, grittier, darker places to go than political corruption and corporate tyranny.

The most striking and compelling aspect of this episode, which can also be said for the last few, has to be how carefully the pacing takes care of and develops each of our characters. Alec is in love with an adorable redhead with some skeletons in her closet (which she probably beat to death). Kiera genuinely feels that she’s closer to the future, her home, than she’s ever been, literally having her hand on the contraption that brought her here. The weight is coming down on Carlos due to his close proximity and loyalty to Kiera and her more secreted extracurriculars. Liber8 is, for all intents and purposes, back together (sans Lucas in the crazy house) with Travis and Sonia rekindling the sort of semi-abusive bi-racial lovemaking that would yield the most cheek-pinchable little Canadian anarchist babies.

There are a lot of moving parts to this series, which at times seems cumbersome, but in this episode feel as if they’re all moving collective towards one climactic point. The trajectory is thoroughly set by: Emily’s decision to be with Alec despite her secrets and the questionable origins of their relationship; Alec’s belief that he has found his biological father (while completely ignoring the fundamental logic of a time travel-based familial drama); Liber8 finally re-focusing their energies on not only killing Kiera but also Escher; Carlos’s white knight complex; and Kiera’s one-future-tracked mind that will put getting home above all else. It’s unclear that the dynamics we’ve grown comfortable with can withstand all of these conflicting and distinct interests. And trust has always been an issue in the series, or at least it should be to anyone paying attention.

Interestingly enough, the build-up doesn’t amount to much in this episode. Nothing that the viewer doesn’t already know or see coming. And if you couldn’t see the most expendable character to date, Emily, being shot with so many bullets flying through the air without hitting anything but rooftop, you were either too enamored by the flame-kissed locks or a sucker for a love story not ending in heartbreak. Silly you.

But still, what this episode does set us up for is the future. The faraway time of Kiera and Liber8 has in some ways been meticulously preserved and even utilized to greater affect this season, this episode in particular. Flashforwards are no longer blatant overtures of what we need to remember about Kiera to understand her next monologue. They’ve become a hint at what’s to come in the future-present (tell your primary school English teacher about that shit!) and a pretty coherent framing device for present-day shenanigans. This episode from beginning to end, establishes that there is obviously more to fear than Liber8, perhaps even more to Alec and Sadtech than we previously thought. The episode ends with his heart breaking and a fire igniting, which may be the firmly planted bridge between the two times we’ve been waiting for. The next episode is bound to have more to digest, being the season finale and consisting of some sort of a Escher-Alec showdown. Fingers crossed for more explosions and a thorough reconfiguration of how we see Continuum. Emily’s (or is it Maya?) death should mean at least that much.

Continuum is a new sci-fi crime drama airing on Canadian network Showcase. The series explores time travel interlaced with socio-political upheaval in the Vancouver of 2077 and today. A group terrorists on deathrow (or justified revolutionaries, if you broaden your perspective in a way the series seems reluctant to allow) hop back in time to 2012 accompanied by Protector Kiera Cameron, played by Rachel Nichols1 — a title bestowed upon future cops who enforce the laws of our big business overlords. Fundamentally, the future painted in Continuum is in direct conversation with our present day Occupy movement, painting a world controlled by corporations where laws and legislation are plainly the manifest will and interests of the 1%. Thus the so-called terrorists are merely the expected backlash to oppression and diminished liberty. Heroes in the guise of villainy. Who knew Canada had the cynicism to pull off such an Orwellian feat?

They don’t really. The gang of thoroughly diverse (almost par for course in a contemporary Canadian series2) terrorists proves to be unavoidably, almost cartoonishly, villainous — they murder without remorse or even a thought out plan it seems. And the Protector turned Detective is undeniably and often robotically the heroine of the story. Arguably unfit for police work, she consistently solves cases using a combination of technological advantage and sheer good guy good luck/bad guy bad luck. The characters of the series are pretty linearly drawn out this way for easy consumption.

And sure, there’s an ideological greying on the horizon, having briefly been lampshaded early in the series and foreshadowed in the awkward subplot featuring telecommuting sidekick Alec’s interactions with his clearly shady family, but it can’t possibly function as an actual revelation. It’s largely expected at this point and may actually disappoint if, for example, Kiera grows a little more pessimistic about the benefits of having an evil corporation place a monitoring chip in her brain to record her every waking moment; or if the terrorists stop relentlessly and aimlessly murdering people to further their plans of making the world a better and more fair place; or if the Vancouver PD simply realize that terrorist threats might be of serious concern and not something a clearly fake FBI agent and the guy from Charmed can handle on their own. I for one don’t want any of those things to happen. It’ll ruin the fun.

The fun of Continuum is reminiscent of that late 90s-early 2000s golden era of guilty pleasure television. There’s certainly a Cleopatra 2525 vibe entwined within the premise of this series, along with an Alias or Dark Angel-esque belief that sending a cute brunette on action adventures will always work out, we’ll figure out the kinks of the adventures later… Ooo, look tight leather. As the examples given can attest to, the philosophy had mixed results back then, yet was always fun.3 But to give the show a bit more credit than that, there is surely a concerted effort to make Rachel Nichols more than just a pretty face. She is effectively given two male subordinates and has a maternal bend to her character that gives her a concurrent strength and weakness, a staple of captivating female leads in television. The poor man’s Olivia Benson or a Det. Linden that smiles.

There’s even something fun about the Canadian take on sci-fi action. The gadgetry is humble, and the science fiction seems almost apologetic. We see Keira sport toys that are just a bit past touchscreen. Of course, 2077 isn’t that far away, so how advance could everything really get? But it’s nice to learn that the future has pregnancy tests that you can just lick and stick to a bathroom mirror. Also, throughout the series, the paradoxes that often arise from time travel in fiction are considered pretty matter-of-factly and ever so slightly touched upon. Physicists across the land must find that considerate. But atop all of that, the violence is surprisingly satisfying. People, main characters, are expendable in Continuum, often perishing in drawn out fire fights. Hand to hand combat is fairly entertaining too. There’s no Canadian jokes to plug into this aspect of the series.

Overall, Continuum may prove to be a universally rewarding series if it plays to its many strengths and utilizes the bit of suspense and intrigue that arises from a beloved protagonist trapped in the past in the pursuit of justice and a way to get back to her family. Well perhaps “beloved” was a strong word. Come to think of it, I can’t say I feel that strongly about any of the protagonists. I sort of like the terrorists. Yeah. Canadian terrorists are cool. Watch Continuum.

1It was actually pretty difficult to think of a brief description of why Rachel Nichols should be familiar. She sits somewhere strangely between ubiquitous and obscure. She’s been in blockbusters and high-rated CBS shows, played significant characters in major plot arcs and minor forgettable roles. Her Google image results look like 2-3 different people. Apparently she was blonde at some point. Apparently she’s not even Canadian! Those are the main things about Rachel Nichols. You’re welcome.

2Not necessarily a bad thing. And I base this solely on Degrassi reruns and half an episode of The L.A. Complex. Sorry, Canada.

3Oh and you can do it with blondes too — remember when Pamela Anderson was a bodyguard in the most amazingest show ever? — but for some reason it was rare. Late-90s. Go figure.