Continuum: Matter of Time Review (Mania.com)

By:Chuck Francisco
Review Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Source: Mania.com

We've got a pulse, and vital signs are improving on the site of (to this point) middling scifi show Continuum! Some of the moral dynamics have become just that (dynamic), finally introducing an area of grey flux to the solidly black and white situations we've been witnessing. Ironically, this coincides with a drop off in future tech showcased in the episode. The damage which Kiera's protector suit sustained in the last episode has rendered it inoperable, and she periodically turns off her HUD to get a better sense of gut instincts. This last point isn't clear at first. I spent about half of the episode wondering why we were being show Kiera's POV, with a number of lie detection and social scanning readouts, only to have it cut away quicker than I could figure them out. I'll admit that this was frustrating on two fronts: it wasn't obvious that she was disabling these readouts, hence the cut away, and I really dig this development team's vision of future tech- I always want to see more of it. 


A number of important things had to happen this week on Continuum for it to fire on all cylinders. It's been living dangerously for some time, never quite delivering a strong enough showing to demand our respect and attention. Oh, for sure it's working from a solidly fascinating premise, but until this episode, it always seems to fall short of delivering the knock out punch. Most importantly, some doubts needed to mar the unblemished depiction of our future benevolent corporate overlords. We're given just what the doctor order with the arrival of Liber8 mastermind, Kagame. The mind, soul, and conviction of the terrorist group arrives through the time ripple in the same location that the rest of our displaced travelers did, only temporally later than expected. Lucas' speculation that Kagame's relative greater distance from the time travel device may have altered his arrival opens up an interesting possibility regarding more travels joining the present in later episodes (hmmmm). 


Kagame heads to the agreed upon meeting place for the group, a Buddhist meditation garden (which still exists in his time). Interacting with the locale triggers the important flashback sequence, where we're shown the unchecked brutality of future corporate dictatorship. Future Kagame is leading a peaceful gathering of malcontents; explaining how every citizen is born into corporate debt, that they can never work their way out of it, since their every need is provided by the very debt holders which they all must work for. It's a fancy form of unending slavery which these people wish to liberate themselves from. Rushing in to brutally disperse the gathering are combat equipped storm troopers, who beat and electrocute the congregation. Does this at all excuse the murder of tens of thousands? No, not at all. It does, however, muddy the waters. It forces the viewer to reexamine their preconceived notions. It's compelling. And it's exactly what Continuum needs to keep doing. 


Meanwhile, Kellog's motivations continue to evolve, painting him as even more complex than previously thought. He's the Gaius Baltar of the series; every scene of him has me searching for the angle. He's become incredibly rich on the stock market, using his future knowledge to great advantage. His first purpose for that money? Paying off the mortgage on his grandmother's house, then treating her to a shopping trip. The struggles he witnessed as a child very obviously shaped him, and showing that to us fills him in more fully, bringing him closer to real (far more real than some of his two dimensional former cell mates). He also is the stand in for us, the viewer. Think about any conversation that you've ever had with friends about time travel. Did it involve using knowledge of past events to become rich? Did it also involve setting in motion a chain of events to set your younger self up too? Perhaps Kellog becomes the hero, amassing such a fortune that he's able to thwart the corporate take over of the world. If the law of time travel on Continuum follows that everything that happened can't be altered, it might even be that Kellog's playing of the stock market is exactly what causes world debt and corporate dictatorship. Speculating on the nature of time travel is so much fun!


Liber8 needs to find a new home, since they exploded their old one. They take over the warehouse den of skinhead pot growers. In a brutal scene, the female members of the group bust in to beat the hell out of the tough guy tenants. That's actually a more important point that most might think, as it reconfirms the martial power of the group post Curtis' death. The choreography is solid, with inspired use of a crowbar as close quarters weapon, but isn't as dynamic as last episode's fight between Carlos and Curtis.


Alec finally meets Kiera! Set up in a shadow layered room, Eric Knudsen really resembles William B. Davis (old Alec) circa his X-Files, Smoking Man days. Sadly, besides the elation for uncanny resemblances, and the thrill of the moment, this isn't a strong scene. Kiera seems on the verge of crying (as she does in a number of scenes throughout the episode). It simply doesn't work, in the same way audiences refused to buy into the Charlie character from the beginning half of Revolution's first season. There comes a point where the weepy anguish has got to be toned down or used sparingly, in it's proper place, to good effect. Their conversation is important, though. Kiera's just allowed a murder conspirator to escape justice because she knows that person goes on to develop the free energy that powers the world.  It's another of the type of time travel quandaries that where glaringly absent from the first three episodes. It's also clear that Kiera and Alec do not agree on the chosen course of action, which sets up a potential strain in their dynamic going forward.


So, a number of potential paths have opened up for Continuum. Some lead to the well known doldrums of the past three episodes, while others ask hard questions with no easily determined answer. My hope is that we continue down the rabbit hole of this episode. The show still isn't to the point of must watch TV, but it's now far more compelling than the first three episodes would have led you to believe. If you've stuck with it to this point, you've been rewarded and are likely now in for a much long haul. Still, I'd like to see a toughened up Kiera, who doesn't feel the need to kiss stranger's babies while terrorists escape, or who is believable in her role as future cop bad ass. 


Now that the moral waters are muddied, are you fully on board or do you still have reservations?

 

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Saturday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famousColonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.



Mania Grade: B-
Episode: Matter of Time (Season 1, Episode 4)
Starring: Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster, Alec Sadler, Stephen Lobo, Omari Newton
Written By: Sam Egan
Directed By: Michael Rohl
Network: SyFy Channel
Series: