Mania Grade: A
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- Episode: Split Second (Season 2, Episode 2)
- Starring: Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster, Erik Knudsen, Stephen Lobo, Roger Cross, Lexia Doig
- Written By: Simon Barry
- Directed by: Patrick Williams
- Network: SyFy Channel
- Studio: Reunion Pictures
Continuum: Split Second Review
By Chuck Francisco
June 17, 2013
Full spoilers in the section below
Last week's Continuum unsatisfyingly appeared to have reset the board to season one status quo levels. This felt like a major misstep because the relationship dynamics established in the first half of the episode gave great hints of promise. Reassuringly the crew behind the show put these concerns to rest in this week's episode by firmly reveling in those new patterns, and making the promise that this season is not going to behave at all in the way we expect it to.
Perhaps the most interesting new relationship is between Alec and Kellogg. The latter's play is obviously one for riches by riding the coattails of the boy who will become the most powerful man in the world. Kellogg even refers to future Alec as king-like in his breadth, yet it seems as though he really wanted to say "god king" but tempered his speech. Young Alec is in such an awkward position that he's easy pickings for a superb manipulator like Kellogg. The young man with a future so bright he has to wear shades knows that as an old man he will regret what he's done, and so the timeline needs to be altered. Yet what if it is being firmly established with this corrupt partnership between these men? Was Kellogg always destined to bankroll Sadler, crafting the totalitarian future he loathes? Is the future mutable?
If it is, does that make Kiera the bad guy when we take the wide view? Narrowly she is on the side of good; protecting innocent people from coming to harm and combating "terrorists". Consider however that she is actively working to protect a timeline which sees a corrupt, all powerful totalitarian government established. She's doing so for a noble seeming reason: to see her husband and son again, but I'd argue that this is at the expense of many thousands or millions who suffer at the hands of this oppressive government. Should she be the "protagonist" of the show or is she the character that would be killed by the protagonist in other time travel films to prevent the emergence of such a timeline?
We learn a great deal more about Travis this week. Before the corporation deems his experimental super soldier program too costly and orders him eliminated, he appears to be a jovial fellow. Making Sonya the doctor who gave him his abilities (and his freedom) is an interesting wrinkle. It also means that she does know what it would take to kill him, and was trying to reload for a headshot to end him in the hospital. We've seen this one man wrecking crew exercise his brutality before, but never to such extremes as he does in the prison fight against the Aryan Nation. Compound fracturing the arm bone of an opponent to use as an impromptu blade (slammed home into a throat) is gruesome (and awesome). We see him in the full red of his inhumanity, and yet he then speaks as a surrogate for us in the van. His speech to Kiera and Carlos about the corruption of corporations and gradual subversion of our world in the present is evocative of science fiction trying to show us ourselves in an attempt at grave warning.
The vehicle chase sequences were film worthy in their production values. I particularly was impressed with the side mounted cam shots on the prison transfer van, which were used in just the right doses. The speed held enough momentum to evoke a sense of danger, and the collisions felt visceral. Crossing tracks seconds before a train can pass to cut off pursuit is a well used trope, but it's fallen to disuse (or lesser use) in at least the last decade or so. I grew up on it and so I was unreasonably excited when I realized it was coming. Here too the show runners add their own twist to it, letting us see Kiera's CMR calculate out the exact curvature and path she would need to escape an explosive end.
Perhaps the most stunning development in this week's episode is the segmentation of Liber8. Garza enacts her own plan to spring Travis, which is at cross purpose with Sonya's. When the dust settles Lucas and Sonya (the tech and brains) find themselves at odds with Travis and Garza (the muscle and guns). I see this as a potential move which would allow Kiera to align with part of Liber8, but I still don't believe she would without coercion. This effectively means that there a four factions in play: Kiera for the status quo, Alec and Kellogg for riches, Sonya and Lucas for change via subtle action, and Travis with Garza for change via blunt force.
Continuum poses so many questions and yet it never lets that desire to examine interfere with compelling storytelling. The action works as a compliment to the quiet character moments, while the message works to help the viewers question that which they take for granted in their real lives. This wonderful balance is why this show is the one I look forward to most each week. This week's episode earned its Mania grade; they don't come much better than this.
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.