It appears my meal this evening is a heaping helping of crow. I eat it dutifully, humbly, and admit that I was wrong in bashing the police procedural aspects of Continuum. True, the previous episodes which rely heavily on it are less than compelling, but I’m not using that as an excuse. This week’s episode pulls none of those whiffing punches; it succeeds in maintaining mystery, crafting difficult situations for Kiera, and draws the viewer in completely. If all of the previous episodes brought the investigative intrigue up to this level, I’d dare speculate that their Mania grades would be at least a half letter higher.
Why the sudden change? I believe that the director deserves much of the credit here. Patrick Williams, whose directorial credits include episodes of Smallville, Kyle XY, and The Secret World of Alex Mack, is also responsible for what I consider the best episode of Continuum to this point: A Test of Time (Episode 5). It seems this show is reaping the benefits of his past experience working with secretly superpowered individuals (the difference being that Kiera’s abilities are technology based). The pacing is well managed, which is important, but of more critical concern for a show or episode of the procedural bent is to make sure to contain the mystery to keep the audience guessing. Up until now, we’re constantly switching between Liber8’s perspective and Kiera’s, which makes it quite difficult to stoke the fires of a “who-done-it” style show. Williams pulls back, only giving us scant insights into the terrorist group this go around. In fact for the majority of the running time, we can’t even be sure that Kagame’s group has anything to do with the events unfolding. It works so well here. We don’t get much in the form of development for the group this week, but its offset by an extra helping of Kiera and Carlos characterization.
While we’re discussing the dynamic crime fighting duo, there’s a question which I’m dying to dig into. Carlos asks her to enter into an agreement with him, promising only to be truthful with each other from that moment on. She hesitates, then tells him she’d rather not make a promise she can’t keep. We know her reasoning; she can’t tell him that she’s from the future or any of the details related to it. But why is that? Would it be so detrimental to their friendship or partnership if Carlos knew she was from 60 years in the future? It can’t possibly alter the timeline more than already working alongside a future cop, or all the lives cut short by Liber8. Kiera wouldn’t even have been able to operate as effectively as she has been without cluing in Young Alec (a man who pretty much runs the world in the future). So, aside from the initial difficulty of convincing him that she’s telling the truth, why shouldn’t Kiera clue Carlos in? (Honestly, how is she going to explain the complete lack of romantic interest in him without blurting out “I’m married to a man who hasn’t even been born yet and whom I have a future kid with?)
It was great seeing Tahmoh Penikett. His character on Battlestar Galactica (Karl “Helo” Agathon) was one of my favorites, as was his character on Dollhouse. True to type he plays the uncompromising Politian, running to head the powerful dock workers’ union. However, it turns out his wife is has been taking campaign money from Kagame. This is setting up the tendrils of revolutionary control. It’s a brilliant positioning move to take the revolutionary group and place them in a position of backdoor power. It’s not even a gamble, this is the winning maneuver. This is the sort of tactic I was shocked they hadn’t attempted right from the get go, but it seems that Kagame hadn’t completely recruited members for their tactical genius. My mind continues to be drawn back to the pilot episode. The moment where old Eric smiles knowingly, as seconds earlier Kiera’s husband freaks out that she’s been rotated into guard duty for the execution. He knows something, and given his penchant for being untruthful to his wife, he was probably privy to insider knowledge. I’d wager that old Alec is in league with Kagame and is sympathetic to their goals of removing the Corporate Dictators (and probably even set them up with the time travel device).
On the tech side of the equation, we’re treated to a unique usage of tech we kind of saw in The Dark Knight. Eric is able to use the disruptions in the signal sent out by a cell tower to recreate a slightly muted rendering of a murder from the previous day. The amount of data required for processing is enormous. So great is the computing power needed, that it has to run through Kiera’s suit (which Eric has been partially successful in repairing). The privacy implications are immense. Kiera shrugs off Alec’s question about 24/7 monitoring of citizens in the home from the 2070’s, which makes sense since that all she’s ever known. Is the implication we’re supposed to come away with that this has all happened before; that Kiera’s tech and revelations about the future help shape Alec (and by extension form the future)? It certainly seems so. If we take that as true, then the smile on old Alec’s face comes from knowing that this chain of events creates his empire.
The Politics of Time is the first Continuum episode to earn a “B” grade from Mania. If future me would have told my past self that it would be a heavily procedural one to earn it, I’d never have believed it. If this is the ramp up toward the end of the season (with only three episodes remaining, it has to be), then we should be in for some excellent TV. And if you’d rather look forward pragmatically instead of hoping, rest easy knowing that Patrick Williams also directed the final episode of the season. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?