Continuum: A Test of Time Review (Mania.com)

By:Chuck Francisco
Review Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Source: Mania.com

Fascinating. Heady. Thought provoking. I can finally break the emergency glass and solidly affix these adjectives to a single episode of Continuum. The promise of speculative time travel is given room to run around, resulting in some answers while also posing more theories for the fans to debate. That, in my opinion, is the best aspect of a series like this one. It's not all rose tinted sunglasses for us though, as this episode harbors a noticeable dead spot, which sits like week old cold coffee in our bellies. Worse still, it's right in the middle of the episode. It's short lived, and those who stuck it out where reward with the most interesting portions of the show to this point, but it does hamstring this week's story from rising head and shoulders above it's contemporaries, netting a similar Mania grade as last week's episode. In all honesty, it is incrementally better than Matter of Time, but not by enough to warrant an increase. I'm being pedantic; let's dive into the good stuff. 


Very little time has been spent discussing temporal mechanics in the series, outside of Kiera and Alec's early conversation in the pilot, detailing one of two possibilities. The first is that all of this has happened already; that Kiera's presence in the past influenced the future we've already seen and nothing they do can change that. The second follows that everything they do is causing irreparable changes to the timeline, leaving the future altered and unknowable. A third possibility may be that when they shifted back in time, they created an alternate time line, which is malleable to their actions but will not effect the time and place which they left from. The configuration of the "O" in the title may even suggest that our characters are now in a tangentially separate universe, nearly identical to their own but different In that several people from the future arrived and are effecting this timeline's future (but not their own). 


This week's episode deals heavily with temporal cause and effect. Liber8 is firmly back under the control of Kagame, who is determined to utilize less violent means to effect change. Concurrently, the nature of time travel is still somewhat a mystery to them, and so Kagame proposes a combined experiment and pest control mission. He sends Sonya and Jasmine out to find all women named "Lily Jones" (the name of Kiera's Grandmother), and test their DNA to find the correct one (after Travis murdered the first one without first verifying). In this way Liber8 can discover if murdering a person's ancestor in the past would eliminate them from existence, and take out Kiera if it does. Even if it doesn't remove the protector from their path, it at least fills a gap in their information. After some epic gamesmanship, which sees Kagame threaten Kellog's grandmother, and Kiera actually bringing the Liber8 mastermind's own mother (pregnant with him) into the standoff, we find out that it does not work that way (or our characters don't have accurate information). It was a tense moment, Kellog over his dead grandmother, Maddie, begging her not to die. I don't know what I expected to happen. I guess the first thing that popped into my head was in fading out ala Marty McFly (which had to have been on the mind of the director as there was a solid focus on Kellog's bloodstained hands).


Given this new data, several possibilities exist: Maddie was not actually Kellog's grandmother as he thought she was; the time travelers are granted some special protection from changs expressed upon their past; or the jump back created a new, completely separate timeline as discussed above. The first possibility would leave open the tactic of wiping out an enemy before they exist, it would also make it possible for everything that's happened to have been an elaborate plot concocted by future Alec (a prospect I'd find fascinating). Regardless of the true cause behind it, Continuum has done itself a solid in prompting cool theoretical discussion that lives up to the promise of it's premise (I can't wait to see what you guys have to say in the comments). I'm now very interested to discover the logic behind their time travel, as some possible temporal situations would preclude the possibility of ever returning home again.


It's critical to point out that Kellog is noticeably damaged by the death of his grandmother. The consummate con artist does not just shrug off the hurt upon realizing he still exists, which shows that Maddie truly was a monumental force in his young life. I've no doubt that his core modus operandi will remain intact, but people don't weather emotional trauma such as this unchanged. This is already a complicated fellow whom we haven't gotten the full measure of, and now another layer of complexity has been placed on top. There's not doubt the favor he calls on from Kiera will be unreasonably shady in nature.


The dead spot I alluded seems to revolve around the police procedural aspect again. Carlos and Kiera ride around in unmarked cruisers, having uninteresting conversations. I don't know, it all seems so mundane when it's placed next to compelling time travel mysteries. It's a done to death style and it needs be killed again and again like pesky walker hordes. And while we're extolling the undesirables of this episode, what was up with the subpar CGI during Kiera's flashback? The title sequence always showcases beautifully rendered flying vehicles. A version of the same vehicle in the flashback looks out of place and poorly textured or rendered, as though it was rushed. I'm very willing to give it a pass, since Continuum normally never fails to impress technologically, but it did momentarily break my immersion. I'm confident it's a one off (and they built enough credit in my bank of impressive visuals to make a minor withdraw).


The gun battle sequence was lively and kinetic. It was a much needed caffeine booster, which singled the switch being thrown and the episode's flat spot evaporating. The blocking for this lead exchange had impact, the danger was palpable. Kiera actually manages to wound Jasmine, dispelling the lack of urgency that's plagued all of the gun fights so far in the series. Something about the sustained framing, letting us see (without confusingly fast cuts) where our combatants were positioned, really made me sit up and take notice. Bravo to director Pat Williams for focusing on the firearm combat and making it pop as it hasn't been able to previously. 


Overall Continuum still holds my interesting, yet it could still be better. I know those of you who have seen it to the end of season one are singing it's praises to high Asgard, but I would prefer if it cranked the dial to "knock my socks off" before the last ten minutes of the season. It is getting better, and it's time travel hooks have got me now. Many of you have been following along with the series and my reviews from episode one; how do you feel the show is progressing to this point? I can't be the only one who snorted when Kiera's grandmother made a Terminator reference! 


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: A Test of Time (Season 1, Episode 5)
Starring: Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster, Erik Knudsen, Stephen Lobo, Roger Cross, Tony Amendola
Written By: Jeff King
Directed By: Pat Williams
Network: SyFy
Studio: Reunion Pictures
Series: