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Continuum Review

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  • Episode: Second Time (Season 2, Episode 13)
  • Starring: Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster, Erik Knudsen, Stephen Lobo, Roger Cross, Lexia Doig
  • Written By: Simon Barry
  • Directed By: Pat Williams
  • Network: SyFy Channel
  • Studio: Reunion Pictures
  • Series:

Continuum: Second Time Review

A unique exploration of our time?

By Chuck Francisco     September 02, 2013

Full spoilers below

A chaotic divining rod illuminates a path through the maelstrom of Continuum's season finale, but are viewers being led down a trail of misdirection? Given the intricacies baked into this small screen pie by creator Simon Barry, I don't doubt for a second that many of the thought seeds planted in this finale as setup for season three will prove false scents for our mystery addicted consciousnesses. 

Despite the con game being played on our expectations, Continuum is never cheap or unfair when exposing its logical conclusions. Motivations are almost always well reasoned in hindsight, coming off as deeply considered plot twists rather than shocking revelations, tossed about in a slap-dash manner. Credit Simon Barry for his intricate prep work, then extend that credit to a sequence of writing/directing teams who truly comprehend the material. Another thread of instilled quality winding through this second season is cohesion of directorial reigns. The first ten episodes of the second season where grouped into pairs for the directors, so each helmsman would handle two episodes sequentially. The added stability conferred a confident swagger to Continuum, keeping the episode quality level high across the board in a way that most shows fail to attain.

The continuing saga of Alec's linage has taken on a staggering Maury Povich turn, with multiple parties on the genetic hook, only the twisted pretzel logic of time travel can sort out this paternal conundrum. While Jason had the glaring spotlight of Deoxyribonucleic acid blind and befuddle him last week, there still stood the slim possibility that he was related to Alec in another way. And so old Alec sent his own son, Jason, back in time to sow the seeds of a new future. Whether Jason retains the cognitive ability to comprehend the enormity of this is at present open to debate, but this relationship dynamic does illuminate the way Jason dotes on Alec. It's very much akin to Marty McFly's behavior around 1950's George in Back to the Future. 


This revelation then implicates Escher, the former freelancer, in the potential unwitting attempted murder off his own grandson Jason (in trying to thwart the plans of his own son). I may need a flow chart if this continues. If we are to take the Sadler lineage as truthfully depicted (with no more mysterious shenanigans), then old Alec must always have sent travelers back in time, thus ensuring his own existence. In giving us too much information, the team behind Continuum may have inadvertently created their first inconsistency: if Alec is born of a man sent back into the past by an aged version of himself, how then did his father originally create him so he could create the means of uniting his mother to his father to begin with? It's a paradox unless we're missing vital information. Giving the well thought out complexity of the show to this point, I'm willing to put a little faith in the as yet unexplained. 

Erik Knudsen puts in a credibly guarded performance, with deceptive layers reminiscent of the first Mission Impossible film staring Tom Cruise. Growing tired of the selfish agendas orbiting his future, he fools everyone in an attempt to save Maya and grant himself happiness. We're talking Inception level of deception here: in appearing to help Esher, he's helping Kiera; in appearing to help Kiera, he's setting the stage to help Maya (in turn, himself). This presents multiple interesting scenarios for season three, as a second Alec Sadler is manipulating the events of seasons one and two from the shadows. Have we already seen his work in unexplained occurrences, meaning he can't alter Maya's fate? The potential draws more favorable comparisons to the Back to the Future series, but with a decidedly more serious stakes. 

Carlos makes the career change which has been foreshadowed on his tortured face for half the season, abandoning his role as a peace office not long after the job abandoned its principals. Through Betty's tender encouragement he finds himself on the run and allying himself with Julian Randal, which makes a great deal of sense in the context that the future rebellion leader's goals actually are freedom and justice for everyone. Carlos has been one of the best characters to watch this season, and the ship's mast to tie yourself to if a virtuous paragon is the archetype character toward which you gravitate. Victor Webster has been doing a bang up job, and I'm hotly anticipating the dynamic he creates working with Julian. 

Travis and Kiera share a a series of battle vignettes which run the homage gamut from The Matrix through The Terminator, offering stylistic visual motifs within the wrapper of rousing action. With both gladiators clad in protector armor, the contest is a clash of cunning, persistence, and deception. The protracted combat encounter leverages nearly all of the future tech at their disposal, and even at the climax Travis somehow survives or is revived by their warden freelancers. Credit to director Pat Williams for staying with the action, allowing the prowess of these combatants to be showcased fully. The high water mark for Continuum still lies in season one when Kiera took down Curtis, but this brutal battle against Travis is still quite praiseworthy. 

Thank Curtis and the Freelancers (terrific band name, by the way) for another conundrum which will plague viewers until next season: what is their ultimate goal and how does imprisoning all other time travelers service that goal? In their fanaticism, they may not have followed temporal mechanics to the logical conclusion. If their drive is to restore an unmanipulated timeline, then how can Sadler exist in the future to send his own father back in time? Or does this actually mean the freelancers come from a timeline where Alec Sadler does not exist and thus an all powerful corporate dictatorship never comes to fruition? That scenario would paint the Freelancers as the good guys then, which would be a fascinating way to turn the show on its head. Still, if they are attempting to thwart manipulation of the timeline, flat out murdering people like Gardener runs against the grain of that goal. Who speaks for all of his descendants who were just winked out of existence? 

With so many potentially explosive threads left hanging as part of the season ending cliffhanger, the break until new episodes arrive may feel like an eternal punishment. There are so many fascinating directions in which the creative team could take the show, and odds are good that they'll explore them all. Hopefully the season three resumption allows Canadian and American broadcast schedules to align so we can all discuss plot ramifications simultaneously. Continuum is an amazingly complex and nuanced show that has also been able to bring explosive action as needed. It's consistent, it's intriguing, and it's high time your friends found the fascinating delight of this show. Use this time off to get them hooked, and I'll see you next season for what promises to be a unique exploration of our time. 

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.


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blankczech 9/2/2013 6:58:15 PM

 The following comments may contain spoilers...even though I have no idea what I'm talking about.

The season finale was literally...too much.  So many twists and many tough questions...I'm having a hard time processing it all.  It was nice to see young Alec grow a pair and do a little manipulating of his own, but if he's going back in time to save Maya,this is really going to pose some interesting conundrums.  Can he alter the present (or future) by changing the past?  What will be the effect of the anomaly posed by having two Alec's in the same timeline?  Would the timeline that Alec left during this episode be sans-Alec going forward (unless the Alec from that timeline decided to travel into the future to return to it)... similar to Kiera...who no longer exists in 2077 with her family, and must travel through time into the future to be be re-united with them.  If Alec saves Maya in the past will she suddenly appear alive and well in all future timelines? How far back in time will Alec go to save Maya (wiser to revisit one their romantic early meetings than to re-emerge in the middle of a gun fight?) Will the balance of the show take place in the timeline that Alec has just time travelled back to, causing the writers to repeat several episodes showing the ripple effect of Alec's time travel?....

jd25u 9/2/2013 9:13:09 PM

 Blank ..... I think you're on to something there.  Season 3 could very well take place over the course of Season 1 and/or 2 .... Using the same principle which started this whole thing, but on a smaller timescale ... Changing the past to change the future.  I believe Alec would exist simultaneously along with past Alec, ala Marty McFly, and we may finally see if this idea works or not ... Or if the future is pre-ordained no matter what we do.

doomcrow 9/2/2013 10:37:37 PM

Spoilers, dude...



Chuck, Old Alec didn't send Jason back in time to father him instead of Escher. We don't know the exact reason why Jason was sent back yet. Escher is and has always been Alec Sadler's father. Something happened to Jason since he jumped back in time that has made him forget his purpose. I believe Kiera called it time displacement. He probably went back too far, and by the time Alec was of age for him to interact with, he'd already lost it and started living on the street. Whatever Old Alec's plan is, it won't be set into motion until Jason's condition is reversed, treated or cured somehow. 

CyanideRush 9/3/2013 4:38:17 AM

 @Doomcrow (spoilers ahoy)

I didn't imply that Old Alec sent his son Jason back in time to sire him instead of Esher. My thought path lead more toward the paradox of Old Alec creating time travel, which results in his own father being sent back in time to concieve him. If that's the truth of it, how was the man who created time travel concieved to begin with. It's a chicken or egg connundrum made more complicated by time travel.  Jason was forcibly committed to a mental institution, which may have had the adverse effect of actually damaging him, or it could be some sort of damage brought on by the effects of time travel. 

@Blank - It took me far longer than normal to process the sheer enormity of this episode; I'm right there with you. 

blankczech 9/3/2013 7:40:04 AM

 I was just thinking that if Alec was able to go back in time to keep Maya from being killed. He'd have no reason to go see Escher after the shootout with the Freelancers and Keira wouldn't go to Eschers offices to bring Alec the missing piece to the time device. Thus Keira wouldn't encounter Travis and stop him from killing Escher. One little change to the past can create a lot of ripple effects?

I haven't totally bought in to Escher being Alec's Dad. His only proof was a photo and nowadays photos aren't reliable evidence of anything. Escher had lots of opportunities to tell Alec he was his father in earlier episodes but it wasn't until an enraged Alec confronted him with his knowledge of Escher's plot to send Maya to spy on and steal from him that Escher made the proclamation. Even if Escher is Alecs father it doesn't change the fact that he could be an evil SOB.

This episode made it clear that Old Alec meant for Keira to be sent back (it wasn't an accident). We are shown a scene where she is awakened by a sharp pain in her head the night before the scheduled execution (implying a signal has been sent to her CMR). Old Alec seemed impressed that Keira was an honest cop bent on digging for the truth...but what truth does he want her to discover in 2013?

The final scene was very confusing...was it a flashback to something that happened in 2077 prior to the event that sent Keira and Liber8 back to 2013 (in prior episodes we've seen other visions of Keira in a white patient gown, being restrained and injected) ...or was this taking place now (have the freelancers imprisoned them)?

monkeyfoot 9/3/2013 8:02:16 AM

Wow, I agree with Blank and Chuck, I can't even keep all the various twists and turns in my head at the same time. Fantastic, intricate storytelling!

From the behavior of the Freelancers it seems less likely that they are complete machines. They are acting with a near religous zeal to do their duty.That is very human.

Fantastic action between Travis and Kiera!!! 10 times better than anything you can imagine on TV. The brutality of the fight startled me. But also Kiera's constant cleverness to keep surviving. At first after she first shot Travis I thought, "Just shot the guy over and over til he's dead! One shot put him down!" But they quickly answered that question. Even a heavy voltage groin shock couldn't totally stop the chemical induced beszerker.

Young Alec going back in time does have reminders of BTTF2 with Marty going over his own path. Will it work out that way here? Will we even see it happen on camera I wonder or will it just be revealed to us later?

But this also "time travel overlap" also reminds me of the obscure comic book based genre show Witchblade of the early 2000s. In that our heroine was dying at the hands of the bad guy who was going to destroy the world as we know it in the season 1 finale when she sees a vision from the enchanted witchblade gauntlet she wore. She could fix everything by going back in time to when she first got the weapon and have a re-do but she wouldn't remember anything and she could only do it once. She opts for this and season 2 began with her re-doing everything from the first but with new twists and turns that made the story different. Things like her partner who died the first time and spoke to her as a ghost was now alive this season. I'm wondering if we are in store for something similar.

Long damn wait! Best sci-fi show on the air.

CyanideRush 9/3/2013 8:23:36 AM

 Blank, (SPOILERS)

That final scene was in the present, showing most of the time travellers (Liber8 and Kiera (I'm not sure if Escher or Jason were there- can't remember) imprisoned in our time by the Freelancers. There was an episode ealier this season where Kiera had nightmares about that exact scenario (Which I think was the episode where they introduced the idea of old alec beaming info to Kiera' CMR in a flashback to 2077). 


AZMarsGuy 9/3/2013 8:30:03 AM

 Chuck, I don't understand why you still think Alec's father was sent back in time to conceive him, let alone that it was Old Alec that sent him. The big reveal was that Jason was not his father, but his son, and that Escher is his father, this eliminating the paradox, which was a fake out. There is no evidence that Escher is from the future originally. He was recruited by the freelancers, but since they're time travelers,  they could have recruited him at any point in history.

CyanideRush 9/3/2013 10:41:38 AM

 AZ - You're very much correct that Escher could be from the present, having been recruited into the freelancers. However, since their primary goals seems to be one of preventing changes to the existing time line, wouldn't it then follow that they would not recruit from people who are not from the future like them? To do so risks further damage to the timeline, which they seem dedicated to preventing. Of course, their true motives have only been surmised at, so you or I (or both of us) could we working from incorrect pretences anyway. In my estimation, Escher is also a man out of time. Now if he's actually Alec's father or is simply decieving him, I don't know either. 

CyanideRush 9/3/2013 11:09:05 AM

 I'm also totally open to others' interpretations; that's one of the reasons this show is so much fun!

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