Continuum season 1 episode 8 review: Playtime

Review Rob Kemp 16 Nov 2012 - 08:25

Continuum picks up the pace in the run-up to its season one finale. Here's Rob's review of Playtime...

This review contains spoilers.

1.8 Playtime

I’ll be up front; I didn’t have high hopes for Playtime. The last couple of episodes had promised much but delivered little. So I was reasonably surprised to find that this episode wasn’t bad but actually good, entertaining and restored a little of my faith in the show.

The theme of mind-control is not new, especially not in connection with VR worlds, but what was interesting was not so much this central theme but the smaller details that to date have been missing from previous episodes. One of my criticisms of the last episode was that it lacked momentum. Playtime may be largely a standalone episode, but the consequences that it will have on the season as the whole carry far more weight than any other episode this season, and sets the stage well for the last two episodes. So what changed?

Firstly, we had been missing those vital clues to indicate why Liber8 were hell-bent on destroying the future. Freedoms had been sacrificed, but until now why didn’t understand exactly what that meant. The big-brother concept is generally horrific without the physical elements included here, but I’m beginning to understand why changing the future would be so important. Would this have been better at the beginning of the season? Absolutely, as we finally get a sense that Liber8 may have a point, although they still have to convince us why mass slaughter of the innocent is an appropriate tactic. At least now, the group affliction of being rather generic bad guys has the potential to change into at least something more dynamic.

Alec’s discovery by Liber8 should also hopefully change the somewhat stagnant dynamic he had developed with Kiera. He was in fear of becoming a gimmick not too dissimilar from Kiera’s wondersuit and the final reveal of a possible message from himself in the future opens up a whole raft of ideas. True, this is where one of Continuum’s major failings has been – not in the generating of the big ideas –but in picking them up and running with them.  I can only hope that the truly Sci-Fi theme of messages being passed from the future is fully exploited, (what if old Alec intends to mislead young Alec, what if old Alec does more damage to the future by messaging young Alec, what if, what if what if…).

Another change is that Carlos is no longer up for the most ineffective cop award. He’s only gone and won it. If last week’s episode was an attempt to add some depth to the character, the reset button had firmly been set this week. This was no more apparent than when he questions Betty’s ability to do her job. That’s right - Carlos, the very same cop who only recently had been suspended from his job for perverting the course of justice seemed to think nothing of questioning the colleague who had offered to help him the previous week. He also has the worrying ability (for a cop) to believe anything he’s told, as Kellog can seemingly pass himself off from section six without any kind of check. I had hoped that in the climatic scenes the reason behind the writers’ reluctance to give Carlos anything substantial would be revealed in Kiera’s shooting him, but not this time…

Which leads me to just one more issue – Liber8 had the opportunity to kill Kiera, the one person who can do real damage to their schemes, and yet inexplicably they decide to target someone who is of lesser threat first. This is similar to when Liber8 managed to stab Kiera to get a DNA sample in order to kill her. Okay – we get that killing the main character is not something that Continuum is likely to do in its opening season, however, the nonsensical and convoluted ways in which the writers are posing threats to Kiera are beginning to detract from the other elements that they’re getting right.

Niggles aside, Playtime is actually a decent hour of TV. The plotting and acting are generally strong, effects still look good and we’re finally getting some momentum which will hopefully translate into a couple of exciting final episodes.

Next week – a farm, some hostages and the suit. 

Read Rob's review of the previous episode, The Politics of Time, here.

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