Continuum: “Fast Times”
B+

Continuum: “Fast Times”

For Continuum to work as a show, it needs to lay down a solid narrative foundation that can support the intriguing, outlandish time travel premise. That means the sci-fi elements are overlaid atop a police procedural format, in which stranded 2070s cop Kiera Cameron spends each episode tracking down the Liber8 terrorists or getting involved in some other temporally intriguing case. This is a well-worn approach, but there’s no reason it can’t work so long as the basic storytelling structure is sound. At the end of last week’s premiere, there were two major unanswered questions that threatened to break Continuum’s already considerable suspension of disbelief.

To the show’s credit, tonight’s “Fast Times” doesn’t elide over either issue, instead devoting considerable chunks of the episode to dealing first with just how the hell Kiera can pass herself off as a contemporary Portland cop when she clearly isn’t one, and secondly why she would ever commit herself to living and fighting crime in 2012 when there’s even the slightest chance she could return to 2077. The answers are wonderfully straightforward: Her deception immediately falls apart, and she jumps at the first possible chance to return home. The way in which Continuum resolves and pivots around both these issues is a big reason why I remain optimistic about the show’s potential, even as it apparently moves toward a more conventional formula. There’s a fine line between compelling sources of narrative tension and elements that simply aren’t sustainable. On a lesser show, Kiera’s flimsy Linda Williams charade could easily have been misidentified as the former, relying on increasingly improbable workarounds to preserve her lie.

Instead, tonight’s episode exposes her lie in the first five minutes, as a Portland police officer shows up with the straightforward news that he’s met Linda Williams, and she most definitely is not Kiera. Her Vancouver Police Department ally Carlos is left in a distinctly awkward position—Kiera saved his life last episode, so he feels that he can’t entirely dismiss her when she asks him to trust her, but his continued faith in her is quickly making him the department laughingstock. Of course, Kiera is only trapped inasmuch as she allows herself to be, as she quickly enlists he computer genius ally Alec to create a more believable false identity for her, and she uses her 2070s tech to escape custody as soon as it becomes too inconvenient to remain locked up. She’s forced to go on the run when Liber8 launches their latest plan, as it turns out Lucas Ingram wasn’t exactly telling the truth last time when he told Kiera there was no way back to their time. Ingram’s plan is risky and liable to knock out most of the Vancouver power grid, but it still represents a way home, one that Kiera and the Liber8 members—except for Martin Kellog, who is allowed to go his own way and remain in 2012—are desperate to take.

Again, if Continuum is going to work as a show, then Kiera really has to remain in 2012. But for Kiera to work as a character, it has to be just as clear that she doesn’t accept being stranded, that she is desperate to get back to the world she knows and the people she loves. Taking those two facts together, there’s of course zero doubt that the time machine will fail to send her and the Liber8 team back to 2077. As such, the episode focuses more on what Kiera’s actions reveal about her character. Kiera wants Alec and Carlos to believe that she is going after Liber8 in order to bring them to justice, and the episode is intent on extending that deception to the audience. There’s no doubt that Kiera holds her Liber8 foes in contempt—indeed, she actually says that she would like to shoot a couple of them even as she proposes a ceasefire—but she’s willing to put aside her disgust and her commitment to justice for the sake of a temporary alliance of convenience. In the aftermath of this episode, Kiera can shift her focus to building a life of sorts in 2012, but “Fast Times” firmly establishes that her overriding motivation is returning to 2077. This weaves much-needed unpredictability into the show’s procedural format, as no matter how invested Kiera might become in a future case of the week, there’s always the chance she could abandon all her apparent commitments in an instant if she thinks there’s a way of going home.

As for the world of 2077, we’re treated to a pair of flashbacks—and yes, I’m calling them flashbacks, if only because they are in the past from Kiera’s perspective—that detail with a bedtime promise Kiera made to her son and her first day on the job as a Protector. Her CPS orientation hints at the antiseptic, impersonal nature of 2077, as her superior tells her to ignore her instincts and instead place her trust solely in the technology. When Kiera is chipped, giving her mind access to a constant stream of information and allowing her to act as a passive recorder of everything she sees, hears, and smells. The word “passive” is crucial here, as the orientation suggests her job is to act not as a thinking, conscientious public servant but as a largely unthinking tool of the state. In 2077, people aren’t individuals so much as they are data points in a massive network of information. It’s an intriguing extrapolation of how current technological trends could build a dystopia, although the episode only gives us a glimpse of what’s really going on.

The other flashback, in which Kiera promises her son that she will always be there to tuck him in at night, serves as the emotional crux of the episode. It’s necessary insofar as it establishes Kiera really is a warm, loving person, and it sets up one hell of a counterpoint when, once the time travel experiment fails, she immediately declares the ceasefire over and opens fire on the Liber8 terrorists, reestablishing that, yeah, she’s still kind of a fascist. Even so, the exchange with her son is a little treacly, and it’s not helped by the limitations of the young actor playing Kiera’s son. The most interesting moment here comes at the end, when her husband takes her to task for lying to their son when they both know there will be nights she doesn’t make it home. It’s an unexpectedly harsh rebuke, and it suggests deeper significance as to why Kiera talks way more about missing her son than she does her husband, or indeed why she confirmed to Carlos that she had left him. Something isn’t quite right in the Cameron household, and on some level, that might actually be part of her motivation for remaining in 2012. After all, her goal to find a way to make things better for her family in 2077 seems awfully specific.

“Fast Times” concludes the table-setting that last week’s “A Stitch In Time” began, as Kiera is now firmly stuck in 2012, but now with convincing law enforcement credentials and Carlos as her somewhat reluctant partner. Liber8 has also lost a vital piece of tech that means it too can’t attempt any more time traveling, and former member Martin Kellog is still out there on the periphery, setting up sure to be successful investment accounts and creeping around his future childhood home. Continuum has done a very solid job building its world and giving its narrative formula room to breathe without constantly running into logical or character problems. Now, it’s just a question of what the show and Kiera do next.

Stray observations:

  • Continuum is still a candidate for weekly coverage, and it’s all down to what kind of response tonight’s review gets. So keep reading and commenting, and hopefully, we’ll be back here again next week.
  • I’m now avoiding spoilers for the subsequent episodes so as not to color my judgment of the episode I’m currently watching. Like last week, if anyone wants to discuss upcoming plot developments, please be so kind as to mark your comments with a “Spoilers” tag.
  • Perhaps our Canadian readers can help me out with this—the professor kidnapped by Liber8 to help activate the Linear Collider is named Simon Fraser, which is also the name of the first European to reach the Vancouver area and the namesake for one of the premier universities in British Columbia. Isn’t that kind of a weird name to give a professor in a Vancouver-based show? Would it be like putting a brilliant scientist named John Harvard in a Boston-based story and then just never commenting on it?
  • The scene where Kiera reveals she doesn’t have the foggiest idea how to drive a car was a great comedic fish-out-of-water moment, and another reminder of just how different 2077 really is from our time.

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