Continuum: Playtime Review -

Continuum Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Episode: Playtime (Season 1, Episode 8)
  • Starring: Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster, Erik Knudsen, Stephen Lobo, Roger Cross, Tony Amendola
  • Written By: Andrea Stevens
  • Directed By: Paul Shapiro
  • Network: SyFy
  • Studio: Reunion Pictures
  • Series:

Continuum: Playtime Review

Pandoras temptation

By Chuck Francisco     March 05, 2013

Continuum overcomes a TV trope that nearly always plants an episode squarely on it's face. Intriguingly, this episode manages to excel despite failing to stick the landing of the "video gamers" portion of the proceedings. Yup, episode eight is the series' attempt to convince us that they don't at all understand video games or their players. Every procedural show eventually gets to it, though I've never seen it so early on. These electronic entertainment flavored episodes are chock full of tidbits that affirm the average American's irrational fear of anyone under twenty-five, while managing to come off as eyerollingly foolish to every male under forty. Continuum's writers even manage to hit the bonus jackpot by squeezing in a line that one of the bata testers is a furry (though being a Canadian produced show, they politely leave out the fetish's fluffy details).

Once the episode has established that beta testers for a video game producing company are being brainwashed into murder people and then kill themselves, many of the gamer stereotyping is put away. Most shows' episodes that sink to this cheap low don't amount to much, however Continuum breaks that trend. This episode tantalized with mystery, offered an insight into Kagame's intriguing games, and posed another hard question for discussion. 

We discover, via this week's only flashfoward, that Lucas didn't live his preLiber8 life as an underground hacker, but instead was actually a big wig programmer, who was working on a technology which would allow complete control over a person's actions. In the 2070's it's being showcased as a business proposal to control violent prisoners. In 2012, Lucas is using it to force beta testers to kill Liber8 targets. This was a case where Continuum's writers tipped their hand too early, removing the mystery of why people where randomly killing others before it could even become one. Still it does work as a solid setup, and the scheme's goal is actually to create a situation Kiera would investigate, prompting her to try out the virtual reality video game at the company the perpetrators worked for. This offers Lucas a back door into Kiera's implanted software, which Kagame intends to use to remove the protector from the equation. While it's a clever setup, it feels a tad bit mustache twirling for Kagame; there has to be an additional end result in mind for this scheme (his usual modus operand, not shown here). 

Several complications arise while Alec is working to debug Kiera, and they're all exciting and compelling. During the hacker battle to control Kiera between Alec and Lucas, Kagame comes to realize that the only personal alive in 2012 who could possibly understand the technology enough to thwart Lucas must be young Alec Sadler. What this means for the boy, his family, and their farm, will certainly contain violence (likely in the next episode, since only two remain this season). Will this lead to Alec's brother joining Liber8? The more interesting turn of events is young Alec discovering a message directed to him, hidden behind a password in Kiera's firmware (minds out of the gutter, Maniacs!). Since it requires a password (which Alec guesses in a single try) it's inferred that this is a message from his older self. He's clearly torn on whether to open it, but a message from the future which is hidden in such a way that you where meant to find it is an irresistible Pandora's box. I'll be honest with you, my Maniacal readers, this end teaser has driven me the closest to searching the web to discover more. I resisted, since I promised I'd give the series a fair, spoiler free, shake. Damn if it was incredibly tempting, though.

Kellog's become a quasi James Bond-esk agent of subterfuge. He also has seemingly thrown his lot in with Kiera. The romantic interest in her seems purely carnal, so it's unlikely a case of desiring to start a life with her. Perhaps he believes that she's on the winning side, or that of the two sides she is more likely to let him do his own thing if she triumphs. In choosing a side clearly (at least for now), Kellog seems far less ingesting. As a character, he's at his most fascinating when the duality of his purpose confuses our understanding of his motives. I have the feeling that we're in for a shocking course change from him at the last possible second, as though he's played Kiera with the long con, but I'm unable to say for certain. 

The right of any thinking being to their private thoughts is innate. Even in a dictatorship, a person can think what they like without facing reprisals (so long as they keep it to themselves). The mind control technology introduced this week poses philosophical questions around the nature of conscious existence, and ethic questions about the right to freedom of though and choice. Lively debate can easily spring up around these topics, and it's absolutely wonderful when television can probe these topics while still remaining thoroughly entertaining on the surface level. A more interesting question, in the context of the show, is how Kagame can rationalize taking away the innate rights of any human being in such a manner. He's been shown to be a determined strategist, who seeks the path of least unnecessary civilian casualties, and who preaches about the importance of personal freedom and conscious though. Is this a comfortable lie which he's feeding to himself? Is he really an ends justify the means man, with far too much in common with the corporate dictators he means to overthrow? 

Continuum becomes better and better with each installment. What are your predictions for the final two episodes? What did Alec write to himself? Far more interestingly: which theoretical model of time travel is the show assuming is in effect?


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.


Showing items 1 - 7 of 7
blankczech 3/5/2013 10:22:42 AM

 I'm guessing that hardcore video gamers winced at the gaming sequences much as I do when I watch actors portraying athletes.

My biggest problem with this particular episode is that in a fight sequence Kiera takes a roundhouse right from Carlos (who looks to be around 6'3" and 225 lbs) square on the jaw and shrugs it off like it was nothing when it all realty it would have knocked her into next week. 

I do find this show very thought provoking / interesting...but I think that tekkies who can do more with a smart phone than I can do on my computers are getting even more out of it.

The second season of Continuum has all ready begun in some countries and I've had all I can do to avoid reading reviews on UK Sci-Fi websites. 



rkngl 3/5/2013 12:21:27 PM

Since I have seen the entire show and am eager for the second season to start this May, I can only say this about the next two episodes: episode nine is rather dull but full of misteries, and doesn't end well for some characters (one of them even dies an unjust death); episode ten... BRACE YOURSELVES FOR IMPACT!!!!! And then you'll realize: it was planned from the beginning!

monkeyfoot 3/5/2013 12:36:28 PM

I enjoyed this episode though of all of them, this one had the most obvious "cookie cutter" sci-fi plot. Once you know about the Liber8 programming, you are just wait (at least I was) for when they took control of Kiera. All I was wondering about was how she was going to solve it and how bad the damage that was going to be done. Luckily, not much physical harm occurred, but my worst fear was realized with Kagame realizing the Alec is around and is adding our heroine. He was her only "secret weapon" and ace-in-the-hole. They have mostly kicked her ass at every turn and continued on with their plans and the only way Kiera has even kept pace with them was with the aid of the future tech wizard. I'm afraid of what they might do to him. They can't kill him. But what coersion will they put him under to work on their side? 

monkeyfoot 3/5/2013 12:41:30 PM

Rkngl, I can't even read your posts. You always reveal way too much. It's nice that you know the future (are you a time-traveler?) of the show but your every comment just ruins it for those of us enjoying it in the now. It's why I find it difficult to read the Walking Dead and soon the Game of Thrones comments: TMI!

I for one would appreciate it if you just talked about the episode at hand. But do what you want. It's a free country.

nohater 3/5/2013 3:45:13 PM

 I liked this episode, too. My only beef was that after the team's first visit to the video game company offices, the only clue they left with, that gamers use some kind of speed, was something Betty already knew anyway.

elephantbird 3/6/2013 6:49:54 AM

This struck me as a filler episode until the very end when the revolutionaries learned of her ally which may result in some long term complications.   I'm waiting for the payoff and hoping this show doesn't get stuck in a procedural rut.

"My biggest problem with this particular episode is that in a fight sequence Kiera takes a roundhouse right from Carlos (who looks to be around 6'3" and 225 lbs) square on the jaw and shrugs it off like it was nothing when it all realty it would have knocked her into next week."

That doesn't bother me because at least its consistent.   Kiera and some of the revolutionaries seem to have a physical edge over folks from our time.    Be it intense physical training or biological and/or cybernetic enhancements who knows?.

nohater 3/6/2013 10:52:08 AM

 @monkeyfoot... Go ahead and read the Walking Dead comics. The TV show and the comics have diverged into alternate realities. In other words, the comics don't spoil the TV episodes.



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