Mania Grade: B-
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- Episode: Second Opinion (Season 2, Episode 5)
- Starring: Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster, Erik Knudsen, Stephen Lobo, Roger Cross, Lexia Doig
- Written By: Jeff King
- Directed By: Pat Williams
- Network: SyFy Channel
- Studio: Reunion Pictures
Continuum: Second Opinion Review
Coolest ideas within the weakest episode
By Chuck Francisco
July 08, 2013
Full spoilers below!
The role of a protector carries with it some heavy burdens. Certainly the invasive nature of their society doesn't appear odd to them, having been born and raised in it. Still the pressure involved in maintaining the long arm of justice, under a totalitarian corporate dictatorship, must be immense. It stands to reason that certain measures would be encoded to prevent a buckled protector from doing more harm than good (harm being up to the discretion of the corporations of course). When Kiera physically lashes out at Gardner in the midst of a psychological breakdown, her CMR triggers an artificially intelligent psychologist construct.
Seeing Alessandro Juliani again triggers a flashback to his Battlestar Galactica days. I know he pops up briefly in Man of Steel, but we get much more of him here. As an artificial software construct, he puts in a slightly bemused, world weary performance (which I thought was just perfect). His behavior explores an interesting conundrum: how can software be expected to react when it was written without a contingency for time travel? As the cyberpunk psychologist, he's in her head and knows that she isn't lying. Simultaneously there is no room in the coding for a theoretical branch of pseudo science like time travel. The likeliest conclusion, from his perspective, is that she's much more mentally damaged than previous diagnosis would suggest. I found it thought provoking that he could assist Kiera in working through her issues without explicitly accepting the reality of time travel. Though he does later on, asking question about their surroundings. His programming clearly was designed to evolve, and there was genuine concern expressed when it appeared Kiera's future would likely include incarceration.
The CMR's programming is curious from a technical standpoint as well. With the ability to completely disable Kiera's entire package of electronics, the psychologist gains an unprecedented level of control. I wonder if there are emergency override protocol for life and death situations. With access to a subject's biometrics and memories, it would seem like mental help is far more capable and thorough then current medical care. The danger is expressly stated though, since the construct has the ability and the authority to permanently delete any memories it deems counterproductive to the protector in their execution of duties. This is a double edged sword in itself, since for some this would greatly aid the healing process. I take a Captain Kirk stance about emotional pain: I need it (Spock). Others might choose otherwise but choice is the key. Forcing it upon someone would be immoral.
The AI construct was the coolest part of this week's episode for sure. The weakest? Kiera's complete emotional breakdown over her (let's be honest) unlikely to actually exist anymore son (though that depends on exactly how time travel functions in this universe; if it's working on a predestination paradox then all of this has happened to ensure it will again). I didn't find issue with Rachel Nichols' performance, not at all. It's just that each of those break downs was overwrought, and they only served to bog the plot down, lengthening the time it took to get back to the good stuff. I'm hoping that Kiera's epiphany is genuine, and we can all simply assume that the crying over her potentially paradoxical parenthood is happening off camera, between episodes.
With chief inspector Dillon receiving the axe, and a changing of the guard in the works, I'd like to acknowledge the excellent work of Brian Markinson. Praise for his dependable superior, always protecting his people, typically flys under the radar because he worked to avoid becoming the stereotypical aggressive police chief. It lends a great sense of credibility to the entire setup, allowing the setting to remain just that, so the story can be told without distraction. I doubt we've seen the last of Dillon, but if we have let me just say: thank you Brian Markinson for giving what is typically a thankless role some three dimensional realism. (That parting warning glance to Carlos was awesome!)
I hope this changing of the guard doesn't come with and increased case of inflamed Gardner. Man that guy is so obnoxiously annoying. I comprehend that he's supposed to be, but he comes off as such a weasel; cartoonishly so. He's reminiscent of Bradley Witford's childish board member character from Billy Madison. His comeuppance has got to be en route via a NYC taxi cab because it's taking forever to arrive.
If the mysterious Escher is a character which we've already been introduced to, then the strongest cases are that he's either Kellogg or Jason. I don't buy that it's Kellogg since he's pretty much fallen into all the money and power he could want (unless he desires the control old Alec possesses). Jason fits if his story to this point is a ruse and he's actually a freelancer working to supplant Sadler as the ruler of 2077. Escher could still be someone else who hasn't been introduced yet.
Betty has successfully pulled a Baltar: be accused of a crime which you are guilty of, make it appear you were falsely accused and harassed, then continue your clandestine activities completely beyond reproach. There's probably a good dose of jealousy behind Betty's motivation, after all Kiera stole hunky Carlos from her (even if she's too short sighted to see it). At least she's working with the more tender hearted splint of Liber8.
This week's episode contained some really cool tech, and posed brain teasing quandaries about the nature of artificial intelligence, but was hamstrung by too many moments hinging on the waterworks. It derailed the flow and didn't win any points with me. I'd be far more interested if Kiera were pining over the husband and life partner she'll never see again instead of her son, who is kind of whiney. It's a shame that the coolest ideas of the season so far came packaged within the weakest episode.
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.