Continuum season 1 episode 5 review: A Test of Time
Continuum is just getting going, and yet something's missing. Here's Rob's review of this week's episode...
Last week’s episode saw a rise in quality that rewarded viewers’ patience. Up to that point, the show had been high on promise but its implementation had lacked freshness and innovation. That’s not to say all the show’s problems had been fixed; there were still elements that needed tweaking, such as Liber8 motives, and a much needed dynamism between Kiera and Carlos. A Matter of Time examined the moral dilemma of time travel in that should foreknowledge of someone’s great deeds provide immunity for their past crimes. This week we explored similar territory in the ‘what would happened if someone killed my ancestors?’ subsection of traditional time-travel themes.
As always, the acting is roundly strong although the spark between Kiera and Carlos still isn’t there. We’re now halfway through the season and it consistently feels that Carlos is purely supplemental, merely a mechanism to lend Kiera an element of authority and legitimacy as well as extra muscle when required. The show could have gone down many routes for the way Kiera and Carlos interact, some more obvious than others (romantic, comedic, suspicious etc…) but by relegating Carlos to a means of exposition, Kiera has little to emote against and remains primarily self centred.
Carlos isn’t alone in being short changed, as Alec is also beginning to suffer the same fate; physically relegated to a barn, we have only seen snatches of his motives and strange family background. I have no issue with shows that are reluctant to reveal all in the pilot, but allowing us glimpses of character motivation whilst refusing to delve persistently deeper is becoming frustrating and leads us to believe that mystery is being chosen ahead of characterisation, (Lost is a good example of when mystery and characterisation work together to enhance the story - not weaken it). Kellog once more ascends to the top of the supporting cast list as Stephen Lobo manages to squeeze every inch of ambiguity from his performance – we honestly don’t know Kellog’s angle, but that’s what makes him interesting.
The plot deserves praise, although I hope the effort that has gone into providing the set-up is properly realised and not forgotten. Allowing Kellog to live after the death of his grandmother proposes a more interesting and complicated time-travel mechanic – although much care is now needed. If there is no consequence to any of their actions in the past then Liber8’s threat is diminished. Considering that this was directed as part of an experiment by Kagame, I would have thought that it would have merited at least some comment prior to the episode’s end – its omission is strange and hopefully not indicative that it will be a theme not soon forgotten.
It could be that mystery yet again is used as the tool to heighten our interest – is it a parallel universe, does it postulate that cause does not necessarily have an equal effect, or something more unique (Lost, again, is another good example – although this time of one not to follow i.e. they better not be dead and in some personal heaven). Whatever the reason, it wasn’t the most predictable take, so kudos to the writers and let’s hope it takes us somewhere interesting.
As highlighted above, we are now halfway through the season and despite the show’s progress and moves to carve out its own niche in a crowded genre TV schedule, there are still elements that hold the show back. I like the book-ends, I like their perception of the future, but a consistent complaint of mine has been that I see a future that looks pretty good, and as such, the terrorists’ motives lack definition and importantly, sympathy.
I had hoped, and it was indeed hinted at in the pilot, that Liber8 would debate the merits and complexities of the notion that one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist. Yet the show portrays Liber8 as thugs with a singular purpose (Kellog aside). Even Amendola’s Kagame hasn’t had the impact that we could have hoped. Yes, weapons won’t win their conflict, yes violence won’t win them supporters (although this is in heavy contrast to last week’s ‘a war is coming’ speech) but as a character he remains aloof and has displayed none of the required qualities that would win support from others should Travis contest his leadership. I understand why in a first season, show-makers are unwilling to stray too far from formula, but surely at least one episode dedicated to who and what Liber8 is, could have given so much more impact to the ones we’ve already seen?
If last week’s episode gave us a glimpse of what Continuum could be, this week provided further evidence that the show is going in the right direction. However, it also demonstrated that unless some of its weaknesses are addressed then that promise could stagnate.
Next week’s episode will focus on Kagame’ s plan for Liber8 and how his strategy, as opposed to Travis’s more action focused tactics, will bring the group success, (hopefully the ramifications of this episode are not completely forgotten otherwise no strategy would be effective…)
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