Intriguingly, my feelings on this series continue to contradict themselves. Presented this week where concepts and situations which I've been insisting where necessary to the success of the show. Yet for all of Kagami's grandiose machinations, for all the muddied waters of moral ambiguity, and for all the savvy use of the past to program future, this week's installment of Continuum simply didn't ever fulling engage. The fault doesn't feels as though it belongs to the writers; the ideas are interesting and the dialogue is sufficient (though not as profound as the subject calls for). Nor does the fault lie with the cast, as they're all up to their normal level, with Rachel Nichols turning it up a half a notch in Kiera's boots this week. It's the pacing, Maniacs, where this episode is truly flawed. Up and down with no sense of rhythm, and no feel for the timing, this week's episode manages to deliver so many important story beats in such an unengaging way that they cancel each other out. Despite all that, this is a cerebral show, and we were given Jane's share of George Jettson's intellectual wallet this week, so let's dwell in ideaville (to borrow a phrase from Tedx).
Kagame completely changes up the ground game, bringing Liber8 into the public spotlight in a vie for the hearts and minds of the people. Playing a brilliant gambit, he uses anarchists to hijack a peaceful protest against a banking firm (a fictional company based on a bailed out American bank). Paralleling the Madoff Ponzi scheme recession (and the bank bailouts which followed) is an absolutely vital part of creating relatable sympathy for the terrorist group. By doing this, viewers are no longer trying to relate to an abstract, distant evil (future corporate dictators); they now have a solid road map for how we could get from here to there. This goes such an enormous way toward making Liber8 a more sympathetic entity that I'm immensely surprised they waited this long to introduce the point. While I was watching, I couldn't help but be reminded of the terrorist exploration themes of the third season of Battlestar Galactica, with our normal view point being traded for that of "the other", leaving us to consider our own preconceived notions under a microscope. Undoubtably this can cause uncomfortable feelings among some viewers, but that's totally ok! The best media challenges while entertaining (which is why it's such a shame this episode lacked the directed punch of last week's).
We also learn a great deal via a flashback/forward sequence, which sees Kiera on riot duty. Upon disbursing the crowd, she discovers that the motivation for their theft was not greed, but food, and that this food was supposed to have been distributed by one of the corporations (it's a very Demolition Man moment). It's not comforting to see the other protectors blindly trust that the corporation will do the right thing, but it is good for viewers to experience that angle. The blind indoctrination has been shown a scant handful of times, but never quite so bluntly. Refreshingly, Kiera is the one calling this unquestioning devotion into question, and it's even more evident that her husband and older Alec are somehow in league, manipulating events from the shadows. I'm certain that the astonishingly gripping reveal, which our Canadian Maniacs have been teasing, revolves somehow around this plot point (likely among others). We'll know soon enough.
What is perhaps most chilling is Liber8's primary plot: kidnapping a bank executive, explaining her sins, then allowing the general Internet public to vote whether she should live or die. If you remove yourself from the situation, it's easy to say "those monsters, how could anyone vote to execute someone live on the Internet?". After I allowed my mind to connect the dots to our real world parallel, I found myself torn as to how I would vote, if compelled to do so. That's the chilling part, the thoughts it prompted me to consider, not the particulars of the peril on screen. If I'm being perfectly honest, I still haven't come to a decision which way I'd vote. Carlos gives voice to the heart of the matter, all under the guise of explaining it to Kiera: these bailed out executives cheated the system, were bailed out, then walked away with billions of dollars in bonuses, paid for by those people who bailed them out. It's heady and dense. There isn't a right answer, but there's plenty of debate. This is an awesome predicament to be in as viewers.
Concurrent with Kagami's brilliance, several goals were accomplished simultaneously, despite Kiera successfully saving the executive. In a method of stock shorting similar to the one planned in Casino Royale, Liber8 greatly exploded their financial pool, assuring they have the means for a continued war for the people's hearts and minds. They've begun a movement among the disenfranchised, exposing the executive and at the same time portraying their own mercy in allowing her to live (despite a majority of Internet voters wishing her death). Liber8 has also won more sympathy by publicly giving the protesting masses the twenty million dollar ransom, which they purport was stolen from them by the firm. This is a cunning game of Vulcan chess that Kagami is running, a game which Kiera doesn't seem equipped to compete in.
So how do I a score an episode that is intellectually stimulating but has major pacing problems? Does one outweigh the other in terms of importance? The entertainment factor must be taken into account. I enjoy the director the series is headed in, but feel as thou this specific episode warrants a B-. It has nearly everything going for it, but is hamstrung by poor direction. Do you guys and gals agree?
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.