TV Testimony: Continuum S01E02 – Fast Times

Welcome to the second edition of TV Testimonals! In TV Testimonals I will be watching a season of a television show I haven’t seen before and hoping to give it a fair shake from start to finish as I watch all of the season and see what it has to offer. I will be sticking with a show no matter what, and I just pray I won’t become bitter and sad as a result of terrible television. I am currently watching Continuum, a 2012 sci-fi series that originally aired on Showcase in Canada. I have watched one episode prior to this, which can be found here.

The second episode found me focusing on the style of the show now that I had a handle on the basic conceit. The show does some interesting visual trickery in a lot of its shots in this episode, using a soft blur on the top and bottom of the frame to create a sharper, more refined focus on the middle of the shot. Sometimes this is just background blur, and sometimes it’s more noticeable total blur. This is normally referred to as Tilt Shift. This gives a lot of the shots almost a hyper-real quality, in a similar way to how the soft-hard focus shifts of Firefly were used in the space shots. It’s a little jarring at times, but in the tech-heavy shots it really adds to the foreground props, and it doesn’t feel like a bad CGI job in the background. It’s a pretty solid look for the show and it’s definitely distinctive. I am going to keep an eye out to see if this eventually bothers me, and it might, but for now I like it.

On to the show itself. This episode uses two techniques in a way that helps convey theme and provide parallels. The show cold opens in 2077 again, as we see Kiera Cameron on her first day as a Protector. She is wide-eyed and overwhelmed. She hustles through the details, repeating facts she is asked to repeat, being tagged with the CMR, her memory recorder, and receiving a lot of dystopian propaganda along the way. I greatly enjoy when stories present the setting through dialogue in a seemingly natural way. The idea that high up in the police force would want to tag everyone with tracking chips to cut down on crime is one that doesn’t seem out of place. As a smiling Kiera gets on the elevator we shift to 2012 and find a Kiera dressed in normal clothes as she is riding the elevator up to the Vancouver PD. She begins to talk to herself, and we quickly find Alex on the horn, chiming in with creepy commentary. She reprimands him, something I will come back to a bit later, and then heads into the station. There is a quick conversation with Carlos, and Betty comes over to be jealous. Kiera and Carlos discuss relationships briefly after Betty wanders away, with Kiera stating that Betty has nothing to worry about, and Carlos insightfully commenting that break ups are hard. One of the things I like a lot thus far is that Kiera is genuinely upset over the loss of her family, and this scene is no exception. A few moments later, Kiera is called into the chief’s office and is confronted with her lie as a Portland PD chief is there. Kiera is arrested and we head to commercial.

We come back to find Liber8 planning their next actions, Kagame, the leader, is rallying the troops to get ready, while Lucas fidgets with the time-travel orange. Meanwhile, Kellogg decides that 2012 is the perfect time to really start their movement, so fuck all that 2071 jazz. He’s not going to be attempting to head back to the future. Instead we see Kellogg head to a bank with a dufflebag full of cash and open up a savings account. We later see him head to a house with a for sale sign and he wistfully stares at it. A girl walks up and ask him what he’s doing and he responds that his family used to live in the house he’s creeping on. The girl informs him that her family lives here now…so I guess the For Sale sign is a vestige of the past? Eh, whatever. I think the take away here is that the girl will probably eventually be his mom? Anyway, Kellogg seems to have his own motives that are not Liber8 related, that’s what all this really tells us. This is somewhat out of order from the episode itself, but it’s all Kellogg related.

The Liber8 crew shows up at a BC Power Station, where Lucas is opening to use the power grid to trigger a fusion reaction and zip them through time. We are introduced to Jasmine Garza, who looks at home in Tank Girl, and she’s a crazy person. She’s actually so over the top maniacally crazy that it’s a little jarring and she really needs to tuck it back. Her cheesy, obviously dubbed in dialogue in the final action scene of the episode is just ridiculous and it is just bad. Anyway, the plan doesn’t work here and shit explodes, causing a power outage.

Kiera has been interrogated during this, and Alex has been leading a false trail of breadcrumbs while he gives her a solid fake ID. Betty is trying to track Alex down during all of this. Kiera utilizes her future tech to scan her own finger prints for Alex, and then sends him a text through her cybernetics. It’s all pretty rad. She’s in an elevator with Carlos during the outage, and, after getting footage of the criminals to confirm it’s Liber8, she tazes him with her built in suit tazer and then handcuffs Carlos to the elevator. Alex is appropriate wowed by how bad ass Kiera is here, in a total fanboy sort of way. This felt pretty realistic, and Alex shines when he’s in full teen trying to be cool mode. Kiera runs off, shows up at the crime scene, learns there is an APB on her and then runs away again. This is kind of a filler scene, but it was fun to watch. It didn’t really further the story at all, other than to increase the need to find the Liber8 group, as she expects they might go underground. She spends some time talking to Alex about the device needing a fusion reaction to power it, and Alex goes on about the science behind fusion. He ends this intelligence showcase segment to explain that a noted scientist was just featured on Wired, and he lives in the area.

We then cut to Liber8 kidnapping this guy and heading down to the university in order to use the linear collider. Lucas is overconfident at him in a funny way, especially given his last failure at the power plant. If I was the rest of Liber8, I am not sure I’d trust him to do his job aboard this expedition, but I’m just a lowly viewer. Kiera shows up at the guy’s house and his wife gives her the lowdown after some initial pushback out of fear. Kiera uses the woman’s cellphone to call into the PD to come and arrest her at the university, where she lays the phone down on some tanks. Alex is out of the room during this, but rewinds the camera feed and sees the phone. He then seemingly abruptly asks Kiera to talk about her family. There has been a bit of flashback during the episode showing Kiera tucking her son in at night and promising to be home. Kiera responds to Alex’s question about her family, and we cut to Alex and see the memories playing on the screens in the background. While this starts off a little weird and abrupt, it’s a build up to Alex asking Kiera if she plans on hitching a ride with these guys. The answer is yes, Kiera is trying to find a way back home, regardless of if it’s the same future or not. Kiera then turns invisible thanks to her suit and stealths up to Sonya Valentine, completely taking her hostage. She then negotiates a cease fire with the group, ensures the scientist’s safety and then the collider blows up and no one goes home. Lucas also loses one slice of the time orange, whoops! Liber8 escapes though, and Kiera ends up arrested again voluntarily.

The episode ends with Carlos and Kiera being made partners officially, as the fake ID that Kiera ends up with is Special Agent Kiera Cameron of the FBI. So, Carlos forgives her. The last segment is an ending that parallels the beginning, with Kiera being inundated with Vancouver police procedure. It’s a nice bookend. Kiera spies the time orange slice and leaves Carlos to drive home alone. The episode wraps up with Kiera having a heart to heart with Alex and then turning off her ear.

The episode itself was solid with fast pacing, some very realistic interactions and procedures, and a great use of storytelling through visual elements. Kiera telling off Alex for being a horny teen is an example of the realistic reactions that the show portrays well. The tech remains cool and not distracting, and you really do get a great sense of why the Protectors are so feared by the criminals. When Kiera shows up on scene, you really do get the sense that she probably could have killed most of those people without problem due to her planning and execution. I like the consistency and world reinforcement that has thus far gone on in the first two episodes. However, this episode suffered when the militant crazy blonde, Jasmine Garza, was around. She was just a negative for the entire show. Kiera’s final monologue was a little rote and emotionless, which was a bit jarring given that it was just a very out of place flat acting performance. Still, the rest of the episode showed better dialogue, pacing, and realistic reactions. This was a noticeable step forward over the pilot, while retaining the best pieces of what came before. It did have a little waste, which is possibly a warning sign, but I am willing to forgive a single scene being wasted in an episode at this point in time.

The final rating stands again at three smiley faces. It is a harder earned three faces, given that this was a real episode and not the pilot.

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