Friday, April 11, 2014

Continuum continues

Continuum was one of those programmes I started watching on Sy-Fy because new sci-fi. Also it had a cool time travel concept, and Rachel Nichols. It helped that at the time I didn't have a whole lot to watch. Unfortunately, the first season quickly devolved into a police procedural with some cool future tech, and not much else. But because I tend to quite like police procedurals I stuck around.

Continuum tells the tale of Keira Cameron, a CPS protector – that's future corporate cop in normal language – who gets pulled from 2077 to modern day while trying to stop a bunch of anti-corporate Liber8 terrorists from escaping their execution via time travel. Once here she integrates herself with the Vancouver PD – yes, a show filmed in Vancouver that actually admits it – and does every thing she can to stop Liber8 from altering the future.

As I said before, once the pilot was out of the way it settled into a bit of lull. Liber8 would commit some crime with future knowledge, Keira would use her future tech to help solve it, and the credits roll. However, it was also setting up quite a few pins it intended to knock down. We're introduced to Alec who, over time, we learn will some day be one of the biggest oligarchs that run the future and his step-brother Julian, who may or may not become one of the big guiding lights of Liber8. The future members of Liber8 seemed to be at a disagreement as to whether to change hearts and minds, or just blow shit up.

The final episode of that season ended in a way that seemed to hint that those pins were finally in a place to be knocked down. If a second season happened it would prove interesting.

When the second season started it mostly certainly was. Liber8's difference of opinion developed into a minor civil war and they finally seemed to have a plan rather than random terrorist actions that might shift the future a little bit. More than that, they shifted away from bog-standard villainy and started to become sympathetic, which considering their beliefs took longer than I thought. It also started making Continuum's audience ask questions, as any good sci-fi should. These are people who want to stop the rich taking control. That's a goal that a lot of people can get behind at the moment. Even the one on a killing spree is made a tragic figure. The fact the battle-lines aren't clear and you can tie personal relationships across the divides show just how deep Continuum was getting.

Those moral problems are encapsulated with the show's main star as Keira seemed to come to an impasse. She slowly realised how broken the corporate future was. Should she strive to keep it the same, so she could get back to her husband and son, or try and improve the future, as she slowly realised that a trip back wasn't that likely? Alec was left in a quandary over what his future self intended as we're shown he orchestrated the entire thing to send Liber8 and Keira back through time, and Julian steps into his role of the founding father of modern day Liber8. It kept introducing more too, such as the CSIS agent who spotted some of Keira's future tech and decided that she was probably a mole for Liber8, and a new set of time travellers, the freelancers, who seemed to be after everyone. It was ramping up the action, and doing it expertly.

Then the finale happened, and that seriously shook things up. People died, others switched sides, and someone did some time travel. It left me open mouthed and in need of a new episode as soon as possible.

We're now four weeks into Season 3, and it's not disappointed. It has taken the easy way out of the incredible finale it started from, but it did it so well and assured of itself it's hard to hold a grudge. Continuum uses its original premise of time travel to step back from most of the big changes that finale made, with Cameron taking a second trip to one week earlier. This results in a lot of details and character motivations laid bare to Keira and the other time traveller but not to the world at large. It has also left us with the rather interesting position that the audience knows one of the semi-regular characters is actually a traitor, one of the big plots of the previous season that was resolved but no longer is, and neither of the time travellers know about it. And that twist is being used well, with a wink to the audience while everyone else is left thinking none the wiser.

Also, in the process, the rules for time travel are made clear, something the show had up to this point posed as a question to just how much changes were effecting, since among other things a character's ancestor was killed, but they remain alive. The freelancers goal is one of keeping the future on track, because a change erases a timeline, not create an alternative. Oh, and they can't time travel, which is why Keira gets a second jump. They just have future knowledge, which is why we were led to believe they were time travellers. Quite a deft little bait and switch there.

All of which leaves me with the understanding that Keira's future is already gone, despite what they claim. The only thing they can hope for is to keep it relatively close. Too many changes have already been made. However, season 2 Keira suffered a little from a lack of direction, torn between what she wanted and what she could do, as she realises that the want was getting even more unlikely. With the freelancers, that's now back on the table, and the shake up has injected a lot more life into a show that was already firing on all cylinders.

Continuum has reminded me that not every show can be a Walking Dead or Breaking Bad, capturing everyone from the get go. Most shows need to lay the ground work before they really grab you. All the shows of old tend to have relatively slow beginnings, and once we care about the characters, things start kicking off. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has improved a lot in the back half, even if no one cares about Skye still.

I also can't help but think of the other sci-fi cop show that I recently went on about, Almost Human. That seemed to suffer the same problem of concentrating on the police procedural side and not the bigger plot/sci-fi elements. We now know Continuum was setting the ground rules before it got up and started running with it. Hopefully Almost Human gets that same chance, because now we're into the third season Continuum is downright awesome.

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