Continuum: Matter of Time Review - Mania.com



Continuum Review

Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • 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:

Continuum: Matter of Time Review

Everything old is new again

By Chuck Francisco     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.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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Ryodin 2/5/2013 6:11:54 AM

I was just about to call it quits with this episode. I felt I gave this show enough of a chance, and that this 4th episode would make or break it for me. But, finally, I do see a glimmer of hope here. You're right, the Kagame flashback went a long way toward making us see Liber8's side of things, and to maybe even begin to sympathize with the group. This sort of gray, complex layering is what we really needed. I'm still not sold on Kiera as a badass future cop. She's still too weepy at times, and at other times supsiciously cheerful. Can't quite get a good peg on her character yet, which seems to be more a fault of the writing for her character and not so much of the actress.

Still, I'm going to give this show an extended chance now. Maybe 2 more episodes to really prove its worth.

karas1 2/5/2013 6:50:04 AM

Kiera's emotions don't seem out of place to me.  She's been thrown into an unfamilliar environment and seperated from a family she may never see again.  To expect her to cowboy up and concentrate solely on business is unreasonable.

And if she is trying to protect the future from timeline shifts that baby was important.  Who knows who it could grow up to be, perhaps somebody vitally important to the future.

I always saw Liber8's side of things.  Living under a "government" devoted solely to profit would be terrible.  Why NOT burry that toxic waste under the playground?  Why NOT have 12 hour shifts and child labor and no health care for your employees?  Who could do anything about it if the employees complained?  They can always go get another job at another company with the same policies.

Live without hope like that long enough and 30 thousand civilian casualties might seem like a fair trade to take out those responsible.  Particurlarly if those "civilians" were upper class folks.  They probably had it coming anyway.

Kiera with her privilidged life style and her gorgeous condo and her stylish friends would never understand.

As for Kiera trying to do without her future tech, it's a good move for her.  When she joined the police and recieved her upgrades she was told that the tech would do all the work and it would be what made her a good cop.  She never before had to work at developing her skills or instincts.  And with her magic suit on the fritz, how long before her other techie toys are broken or not working?  She HAS to develop the skills and instincts Carlos uses.

I think it's only a matter of time before Liber8 targets Alex.  If you wanted to change the future, killing the man who's scientific and corporate work was the basis for that future is a logical move.

One question though, since Liber8 originally thought they were only traveling back 6 years and if they appeared in the same place they disappeared from, they would have popped back into existence in the death chamber of the prison they were trying to escape from, just 6 years earlier.  Unless that was a VERY new facility I don't see what good it would have done them.  And why pick a rondevous point that existed 65 years ago?  Going back so far in time MUST have been somebody's plan to begin with.

CyanideRush 2/5/2013 6:58:21 AM

 @Karas you make a number of valid points. I don't disagree with you entirely, but to degrees. I don't completely expect Kiera to cowboy up and display no dispair at all. At the same time, she's like a broken damn that flows over far too much. Tone it back a few notches and I buy it. Have her cry every other scene and I'm not on board. I mentioned kissing the baby because it was hammy and too much. I agree with you on the importance of the baby; that saving them leaves the timeline around them intact- but kissing the baby? That's a bit much. Shouldn't Kiera care more about killing those Liber8 members, who have already killed dozens of people (which should alter the timeline far more than saving one baby may maintain it)?

I also agree with you that the governmental system in place in the future is likely bad enough to warrent those civilian casualties but to this point we've only had the word of terrorists to go off of. They needed to show us the ugly side of this dictatorship, not just handwave it away as "bad". They did that here, and I feel it goes a long way toward making this a layered drama, asking important questions.

I think we agree more than we disgree.

-Chuck

monkeyfoot 2/5/2013 9:24:25 AM

Chuck, again we pretty much agree on this episode. Storyline and character development went in the right direction to make me really look forward to the next episode.

I knew the waters would get muddy on the Liber8's ideals. I could see it wouldn't sustain itself as an interesting show if they were just absolute bad guys. We'd already seen from the pilot episode that as cool as that future tech living is it was coming at a lose of freedoms most of us may not tolerate.

I wasn't as pleased with the drug den fight choreography as last week's. We kept seeing them start to go at the druggies with the crowbars but they would cut away before they even got close. This may be due to TV standards for too brutal violence. But if they were using crowbars full force that fight should've been over in 5 secs.

I also liked Kiera turning off her HUD. It is a good evolution for the character as was the meeting with Alec. This is the only close relationship she has in the present and it is the only place where I find her character more likeable and more importantly more someone I can feel for.

I don't seem to have trouble with any of her actions and reactions to what she does. Unfortunately, it seems to be the choice of actress doing the character that bothers me. After watching the episode I rolled back my DVR and tried visualizing other actresses doing the same scenes (Ashley Judd and Diane Lane were my choice) and that seemed to make every scene seem better. I just don't seem to gel with her portrayal of Kiera. If I had my way I would have picked another actor. I can live with Rachel Nichols but I'm just not feeling her - yet.

All in all, the show is developing nicely. Ilook forward to next week.

 

 

blankczech 2/5/2013 10:50:25 AM

 I've been hooked on this show since the beginning and was pleased with developments in this episode.  What I'd like to see in future episodes are flash-forwards that will explain Kiera's steadfast loyalty to the  corporation.  She doesn't seem to be stupid, selfish or insensitive so I expect that there's a compelling argument that can be made against the Liber8 movement.

Since the beginning of the series I've never seen Kiera's role to be a future cop badass.  I would think for a devoted mother to be trapped in time away from her child would do a real number on her emotional state.  I don't want her to be Alice from Resident Evil.

skoora 2/5/2013 11:07:52 AM

 I gave up after not being able to pay attention during the 3rd episode. Luckily there's plenty to watch and maybe Defiance can do something good.

karas1 2/5/2013 11:33:02 AM

The notion of flashbacks that occur in the future does a real number on the verb tenses of the English language.

Blankczech, I don't see Kiera as being loyal to the corperations as such.  She's working to maintain the timeline so that her son will be born which is her overriding concern.  Also, she just has an aversion to mass murderers.  Fancy that.

blankczech 2/5/2013 12:01:29 PM

 Yes I had trouble coming up with a word for flashbacks that take place in the future so I wrote flashforward.  I don't think of the Liber8 as mass murderers in the traditional sense, but more as terrorists (political zealots). They don't have the resources (manpower, weaponry etc) to fight toe to toe against the coporation so they resort to these tactics.  Still, like you I suspect, I have a problem with the murder of innocent civilians to advance a cause (even a just one). 

rkngl 2/5/2013 1:04:04 PM

 As I have said in other reviews, I have seen the entire season and I can assure you that what seem like gaps in Continuum's story are in fact premeditated, and will be resolved fully in future episodes. As a matter of fact, the story is as muddy as they come. The secondary characters will be revealed as the most important... KIera's cover will be blown, Liber8's true intentions will be revealed but not stopped, and don't even think that this time travel device was created and put to use for the first time to arrange the escape of a few a-hile terrorists... as a matter of fact, and the last episode reveals it, the time travel machine was created for eajkhf e ytir mwmamahjdf nom nom nom...

 

(This comment has been attacked by the spoiler-eating monster.)

rkngl 2/5/2013 1:23:52 PM

 Just think: if corporations rule because governments failed due to economic problems, civil unrest, and terrorist attacks, what better way to ensure that destiny fulfills itself than sending a few hyper-tech terrorists 60 years to the past to provoke civil unrest and economic problems that will lead to government failure...? Maybe Kiera will end up fighting Liber8 TO fight the corporations? Maybe the founders of LIber 8 and the leaders of the corporations are sjhfyw je rkusmd nom nom nom...

 

(The spoiler-eating monst attacked again...)

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