Continuum: Seconds Review -

Continuum Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Episode: Seconds (Episode 9, Season 2)
  • Starring: Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster, Erik Knudsen, Stephen Lobo, Roger Cross, Lexia Doig
  • Written By: Matt Venables
  • Directed By: Michael Rohl
  • Network: SyFy Channel
  • Studio: Reunion Pictures
  • Series:

Continuum: Seconds Review

Does Continuum try too hard to examine cultural morality?

By Chuck Francisco     August 05, 2013

Full spoilers below

Continuum has yet to be accused of taking the easy way out when plumbing the depths of a complex ethical quandary, and this week's episode, Seconds, won't become the ice breaker clearing that path for the fragile freighter of cowardice. When you consider the real world parallels depicted this week, an understandable amount of discomfort is expected. Some of these issues may strike so close to the mark that I wouldn't be at all surprised if some folks hated this episode but were unable to to place their finger on precisely why. It's discomfort. Our culture is fairly reluctant to engage in most manners of introspection (which is likely why we rely so heavily science fiction to examine our more shameful aspects), and the most natural defense when entertainment (be it cinema, television, or games) brings them to the forefront is to throw up a wall of derision. Being made to consider that a long held belief is wrong hurts our ego; the natural human response to pain is to lash out in retaliation. (Consider Cloud Atlas as a stellar example of this phenomenon).

Now consider that Continuum is unflinchingly examining these tender wounds with salt scalpels. How can it skate by without coming under barrages of shame fueled rage? The answer is that it is so absolutely well crafted that it's almost as if the writing staff calculated the backlash and thought "that's nothing; our show is going to be so awesome that it will override it". That's confidence; that's planning; and that's awesome. Our culture needs a kick in the alignment of acceptable morality. This week's episode took a running start before lining up the delicate bits with a steel toed boot.

Kiera the protagonist brandished her fascism like a broadsword, taking the law into her own hands via kidnapping, torture, and (without the timely intervention of Carlos) murder. That's our protagonist. The amount of misinformation Kiera's been fed has basically turned her into one of the totalitarian goons who are wholesale slaughtered by our plucky hero in other, pulpier, action science fictions. Consider that even with the all seeing super computer of the future she didn't know the true identity of Theseus. As soon as she discovers this, something breaks inside and vengeance is broadcast across her every action. From here a weighting of the scales begins, and the oft floated question, would you kill one to save many more, is brought to bear. 

Or perhaps it's laid bare, but not until the final moments of the episode, when the truly repulsive facts are  shown to us, the audience. The corporate court (a disgusted shudder actually ripples through me as I type that) has unprecedented power by 2035. Sentencing people guilty of triple "civic debt default" to a life sentence of servitude, which comes with a revocation of citizenship. Consider this distinction in the context of how America already handles citizens versus noncitizens; this stripping of status opens up an entirely new toolbox of malfeasance in leveraging punishment. At the factory town of New Pemberton, the guilty are implanted with slavery chips crafted by SadTech. They're transformed into mindless workers for the duration of their lifespan, placed into a handy cubical, and left to their computer mandated devices. This is frightening in itself, but Continuum paints every side of the box a different color to muddy the waters.

Kiera grew up fully indoctrinated into this corporate totalitarian society, where she learned of the New Pemberton Massacre as an atrocity: the wholesale slaughter of tens of thousands by Theseus. Since that is all the world leaders wanted known, that's all she knows. So the fact that those people, when their slavery chips were shutdown, could only ever hope to be immobile vegetables until they expired, does not even factor into Kiera's through path. This mass misinformation is happening to a lesser degree right now, and here is a television show forcing us to look at the wart encrusted truth of it. Kiera's vengeance is rooted in the death of someone close to her parents, at least that's what she says; the woman in the prologue resembles the protector a bit too much to rule out a maternal connection. The sad truth is that every one of those supposed Theseus victims were, for all intents and purposes, already dead. Consider Kiera's opening voice over though: her indoctrinated culture was fed that from the darkness of chaos, the people of New Pemberton willingly came together and brought society out of the morass into which it had fallen, only to be cut down by the terrorist Theseus. There's even a nursery rhyme casting Theseus as the boogieman!

So much else transpired this week, but the heady central premise forces itself onto the center stage. One thing which didn't work was the brotherly bonding sequence. It seems broken on two battlefronts. The first, and most glaring, is Julian's pocketing of Alec's cell phone. As a technological wizard from whom no system is safe, there's simply no way that he leaves his cell phone behind and forgets about it. Hell, I tap the pocket I keep my phone in for assurance every time I stand up when out somewhere. We'll let slide that Julian was chased, tackled, and laid out in a massive rainstorm with the device in his pocket, since Alec probably has a beefy, boss phone. The other irreconcilable issue is between the boys themselves. Julian's actions lead directly to the death of their father and to their mother being shot; and his trial was puppeteered by both portions of Liber8. Reconciliation seems incongruous at this point. 

This is a heady course of science fiction as teacher, as a consequence it comes across as more important than normal episodes but a bit less entertaining. Consider though that Continuum is so tremendously excellent that even a lesser episode warrants a "B" sized Mania grade. One final thought, a note on the cinematography- the instant where Carlos approaches Kiera with her gun drawn on a kneeling Julian amidst a downpour in the forrest is astonishing. Lasting only a few seconds, the scenescape was etched into the back of my eyes (I can still see it when I close them). When a TV show can offer something which is normally reserved for the cinematic realm, I simply have to take my strictly metaphorical hat off to those responsible. Bravo.

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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JDK008 8/5/2013 9:16:06 AM

 Continuum continues to surprise me each week. Kudos to the writers and the actors for consistantly delivering to us viewers. I loved the moral dilemma this week's episode poses. At what point do you end up losing your soul for thinking it's for the "greater good" I agree with you Chuck about cinematic excellence at the end in the woods. It reminded me of LOST episode "all the cowboys have daddy issues". Just beautifully shot. I can't wait to see what the writer's have in store for us in these next few episodes.  One last thought, the actor who plays Alec was in Jericho and I couldn't stand him on there. Alec has become my favorite character on Continuum and that's do with the quality of acting from Eric Knudsen. I'm happy that he landed this role so that I don't have to remember him as the whiny kid on Jericho. It seems trivial to say that since Jericho has been off the air 6 years now. But it just goes to show that the character you play on each show either makes or breaks your likability factor! 

monkeyfoot 8/5/2013 1:26:36 PM

My thoughts on the episode:

The idea that Kiera was going to do something horrible/dumb to make him decide to become Theseus was as obvious as a freight train.

I'm wondering how Kiera doesn't know that Julian was going to be Theseus? She's a cop. Even if his files were kept sealed to the public for some reason I would think she knew this as part of her profession. We've also seen scenes of Julian/Thesesus inprisoned in the future (with his brother apparently getting him stayed from execution) in the future. I can't recall if they used his given name in the court then. If they did then why wouldn't Kiera know it?

So far we are still dealing with the main crux of the show: Can fate be changed? Is the future Kiera comes from inevitable? So far its looking like you can't But,time will tell!

I didn't think this episode was a good as some of the previous this season I still like it. This show is great.

CyanideRush 8/5/2013 2:14:48 PM

 @Moneyfoot: They call him Theseus at his future trial. I get the impression that his true name is either lost to the havoc in the mid 2030's or that the corporations are purposefully repressing it. 

blankczech 8/5/2013 10:55:14 PM

 I wasn't going to comment on this...I don't really have anything to add to Chuck  Francisco's well written revue...but then I noticed there were only 3 comments (one  by Chuck himself) and I thought I should stand up and be counted as a big fan of this show (watch it religiously).

Unlike monkeyfoot I thought this episode was excellent.  It asked some tough moral and ethical questions...about whether the end justifies the means.  Like the post 9/11 dilemna of whether or not things like gov't sanctioned kidnapping, torture, and imprisonment without due process are acceptable when innocent (civilian?)  lives are at stake...What muddied the waters even more in this instance was the fact that we're not even sure if Kiera knew enough to make a informed she just a brainwashed corporate puppet from 2077?  

Did this show make anyone else wonder what they would do if they were sent back into the past to the year 1907 and had an opportunity to murder an 18 year old Adolph Hitler (before he had done anything wrong)...would you..could you pull the trigger...and if you did...what effect would it have on 2013 (it couldn't possibly have a negative effect , could it ???)

monkeyfoot 8/6/2013 7:37:45 AM

I didn't dislike this episode. Every episode in this show is well above the average TV. It was just Kiera doing something to make Julian become Theseus was telegraphed to me very, very loudly. That just seemed like a bit of bad writing to make it so blatant.

When he left the Liber8 meeting refusing to be a part of it and Travis said he'll be back I knew immediately what was going to happen. I think it would have been better to make Kiera's execution attempt come an episode or two later.

Blank, its funny you mention the "Should we kill Hitler at 18?" question. I happened to watch an oddly name documentary on the Military channel called Nazis vs. Aliens. It dealt with the advanced planes the Nazis were building at the end of WWII. U.S.pilots say these rocket powered planes zip by so fast they thought they were UFOs. In a nutshell it said that the urge to keep up with the Nazis spurred loads of scientific advancements, like modern jets, the atom bomb, the Cold War with Russia, computer advancements, the space race and moon landing, and our modern era of cell phones and computers. If not for Hitler pushing his scientists for advancements and theU.S. responding we wouldn't have the tech we have today.

ddiaz28 8/6/2013 7:48:42 AM

monkeyfoot ... I live in Toronto so I saw this episode a few weeks ago but I'm pretty sure at the end that Kiera laments to Carlos that what if nearly killing him pushes Julian to become Theseus.  She knew who he was going to become which is why she wanted to kill him in the first place.  Can anyone who has the episode fresher in their mind confirm that for me? 

Still wish this aired at the same time in the US so I'd be able to discuss the awesomeness of the latest episode.

CyanideRush 8/6/2013 8:10:00 AM

 We're getting closer, Ddiaz28! Maybe next season will see the Canadian and American broadcasts sync up. *fingers crossed*

ddiaz28 8/6/2013 8:58:43 AM

I hope so cuz it's killing me that I have to wait four more weeks to talk about the kick ass finale here.

jd25u 8/6/2013 12:24:18 PM

ddiaz28  ... I'm right there with you.  I just saw the Season Finale, and all I can say is, Holy Crap!  I wish I could talk about it.  But unfortunately, it is behind in the States, so its harder to comment on here about the older episodes, especially knowing what is coming.  All I can say for sure is, I wish there were more shows like it on TV, and I am now a HUGE fan.  One of the best Sci-Fi shows since BSG.

monkeyfoot 8/6/2013 12:28:57 PM

Ddiaz, yeah that scene where she did realize after the fact that what she had done could have been the tipping point that changed him was in it.

I'm also hoping next season syncs up.

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