Thursday, October 3, 2013

'Continuum' Season Two (2013)

Starring Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster and Erik Knudsen
Created by Simon Barry

Following the terrorist bombing in downtown Vancouver in Season One, time traveller Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) decides to end her official association with the Vancouver PD. She feels it's safer for her and her allies there to work on the fringes. Meanwhile, her friend Alec Sadler (Erik Knudsen) suffers a personal crisis: His stepfather has been killed and his stepbrother Julian (Richard Harmon) was arrested in connection with the bombing.

Elsewhere, the terrorist group Liber8, now led by Sonya Valentine (Lexa Doig) continue their campaign to alter the future by taking the bold move of assassinating Vancouver's mayor. Kiera teams up with VPD detective Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster) once again to investigate the crime, and eventually pulls Alec back into the fold as well. But schisms within Liber8 set up an even deadlier set of circumstances as rival factions set off a gang war in the streets.

All the while, the influence of the mysterious and powerful owner of Piron Corp, the man known as "Escher" (Hugh Dillon) becomes known. Who is Escher? What interest does he hold in Kiera and Alec Sadler? And why is he using his money and power to turn the Vancouver Police into a private army with little regard for the rule of law?

I felt that the first season of "Continuum" was a good, but not great, sci-fi series from our neighbor to the north. The premise was intriguing, the cast decent, and the episodes themselves solid, if not rarely brilliant. Season Two continues that trend, though it ultimately throws in a few too many head-shakingly out-there twists and the finale kind of drops the ball (...literally).

On a technical level, the show is slick and has a lot to offer in terms of cool sci-fi gadgetry, settings and special effects. The futuristic version of Vancouver is seen in nearly every episode, and the show's makers do a great job layering it with new buildings and interesting technologies. Action sequences are usually run-and-gun, hand-to-hand combat affairs that are competently made and entertaining to watch, though a few times too often characters take cover behind objects that should provide no protection whatsoever yet end ups topping bullets from all kinds of machine guns.

Rachel Nichols grows a little bit in her role this year. She feels a little looser and a bit more comfortable with the Kiera character. This is not to say that the performance will win her any awards, and she rarely feels commanding when shouting orders to others, but it works better than it did in season one. An episode in which she very nearly has a full mental breakdown and is given a pysch-evaluation by an AI imbedded in her brain is a highlight.

But ultimately, it's the plotting that drags this season down. The show seems like it's trying too hard to have complex machinations and betrayals and dealings. In particular, the feud between Liber8 factions led by Sonya and Travis (Roger Cross) comes to a disappointing and nearly absurd end. Much talk is made of Kellog's (Stephen Lobo) attempts to maneuver between Alec and Escher, but this too falls prey to some "WTFery" in the choices the character makes later on in the season.

Biggest of all is the season's cliffhanger ending, which involves the Alec character making a series of inexplicable choices. Maybe I missed something, but it all just felt like nonsense to me for the sake of shocking twists.

Still, like the first season, there's enough here to find enjoyment in the series. While the episodes are a bit less standalone, there are some solid mysteries afoot for the characters to solve, and more hints dropped about the nature of Kiera's arrival in 2012 from the future, and what exactly it is the older version of Alec (William B. Davis) is planning to do.

In fact, those aspects of the season are what I found most fascinating. The relationship between Alec and Julian, and the juxtaposition of them in the future, is fertile ground for some excellent storytelling. One of the "twists" that does work in this season is finding out what it is that the older version of Julian does to get him labeled a "mass murderer" decades in the future. Additionally, the series begins to explore the idea that Kiera, despite being a good person and genuinely wanting to fight crime and the like, actually does fight for the wrong side.

So season two stumbles a bit, but still has some great concepts and solid entertainment to keep things going. The show was renewed for a third season, so hopefully some of the problems can still be fixed. It might not have made sense to me, but I like the show enough to be interested in how the cliffhanger gets resolved, and to see more of the intriguing interplay between present and future being established by the writers.

See Also
"Continuum" Season One