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- Episode: Second Guesses (Episode 11, Season 2)
- Starring: Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster, Erik Knudsen, Stephen Lobo, Roger Cross, Lexia Doig
- Written By: Sam Egan
- Directed By: Simon Barry
- Network: SyFy Channel
- Studio: Reunion Pictures
Continuum: Second Guesses Review
Who really is the bad guy in all of this?
By Chuck Francisco
August 20, 2013
Full spoilers below
It seems I've got my work cut out for me this week.
Second Guesses may be the densest installment of the season, exploring a bevy of critical and socially relevant topics within the allotted time slot. Partially chilling are allusions to the NSA total spying package, only recently revealed to the public. One of the more fascinating brain ticklers woven into the episode's fabric is the complete exposure of everyone's formerly private information. Police emails, video of mayoral candidates, records of cheating spouses, and back room deals are all stripped of their secure encoding then plastered to digital telephone poles for public consumption. Julian's televised speech perfectly lays bare the truth of it: we didn't recently loose privacy; it was never ours to begin with. Does he refer only to the world of Continuum or to us as well? Bravo, Simon Barry.
The mechanism for this digital revelation is a cloned version of Alec's Ark system, created by an off his rocker Lucas, and relying on more slices of the time travel device to power its computational cycles. The danger of an all powerful surveillance state is starting to build cracks into Alec's technotopia vision for the future, and I found it even more poignant that the situation moves Kiera to a privacy epiphany. When the woman who originated as a cog in the totalitarian system speaks up for privacy concerns, it's a specifically engineered warning to the viewer; screaming for us to pay attention. The initial scene, a flashback, directly deals with America's current NSA saga; Kiera queries regarding the length of time her CMR recordings are kept and uncovers that, despite being told that they're erased after a few cycles, every single thing she does is being kept for years or possibly indefinitely. The technician is clearly ecstatic at the possibility of this state of affairs assuring his continued "safety".
Julian really comes into his own in the battle for hearts and minds. Amazingly, without the need for bloodshed, he succeeds at shaking the public from their feeding stupor. I can really get behind his purpose and his methods in a way which I never could for Liber8. Manipulating an already unstable Lucas into crafting the evil nemesis to Alec's Ark, he then engineers the forward progress of the Theseus agenda under the guise of a wise Kagami- which makes sense in many ways as Julian grows up to mentor the Liber8 leader. He further sells the con by surrendering himself for police questioning, then accuses Alec of a crime he committed. I couldn't have imagined a scenario where I found myself sympathetic to Julian, but here I am, considering just such a thing.
Dillon emanates all of the signs of having gone off the deep end in search of the greater good. Taking his new mandate and funding from Escher to the darkest shades of police state, he sends swat squads to arrest everyone who ever even glanced sideways at a word substituting an 8 for a syllable. Certainly he feels as though he originally lost his job because of Liber8, but there must be something else driving him so hard to have fallen so far. Carlos seems perpetually on the verge of quitting over the gross abuse of civil liberties, but has been working hard to convince himself that it's necessary. Was a benign act from the end of this week's episode, turning a blind eye as Kiera pockets the crime scene evidence, the subtle straw that breaks the good cop's resolve?
A handful of tabletop RPG systems treat dangerous social situations almost exactly as if they were a round of combat, with opponents rolling against each other's ability scores in the realm of personality. Kellogg's squaring off against Esher could have been ripped right from the pages of a FATE role playing game example- one which sees the former Liber8 member loose handily. We can actually feel Kellogg projecting his insecurities upon Escher, longing for a kindred spirit because that would make him a known quantity; a conquerable opponent. Loss was not without gain, however, as in consulting with Alec it becomes evident that Escher is advancing antimatter technology as a potential means to power indiscriminate time travel. What the devil is his end game?
New mayor Jim Marten is not long for this world after attempting to set Sonya and Travis against each other like rabid dogs. The reunion of Liber8 factions was not an eventuality which I had considered. Was it necessary to combat the currently nebulous forces of Escher? Very, very likely. Even Kellogg seems to be coming into alignment against the threatening foe. The question is: will Kiera side with them to stop Escher?
This is an excellent, tense, densely woven episode, which epitomizes the high level of entertainment which has become the calling card of Continuum. If you've not done so already, be sure to introduce your friends to it; season one is available to stream on Netflix.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday'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 famous Colonial 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.