TV Review - Continuum
|Rachel Nichols and|
Victor Webster in "Continuum"
One thing that I like is that the show takes place and is set in Vancouver, Canada. So many shows like one of my favorites, The X-Files, are shot and produced in Vancouver, but only as a substitute for various cities and towns all across the country. Rarely do those shows set their stories in the actual city where it's shot. Continuum earns major brownie points for doing that. It embraces Vancouver like no other show.
Created by Simon Barry, the narrative is about a highly-trained, police woman from the future named Kiera Cameron. She follows a group of terrorists who find a way to travel back in time 65 years. She works to either kill or capture them in the past. Armed with some advanced technology, she tracks them under an alias and with the help of a Vancouver cop. The action is amazingly written and staged and it moves us through the mystery of how the future that Kiera leaves becomes what it is and how the terrorists intend to alter it.
The future is 2077. It has an aesthetic and even some politics akin to the Star Wars prequels. Democracy has given way to a dictatorship. An organization known as the Corporate Congress runs the land. Because it's not the United States, the show spins this premise that the Corporate Congress is actually a large, monopolistic business that bails out the bankrupt government, essentially buying it in return of everyone giving up some liberties.
We're not sure what liberties are sacrificed. Again, it's not the United States, but it's a wonder if one of those liberties is Freedom of Speech or something as fundamental to that. Regardless, a movement develops that seeks to fight back against the Corporate Congress and do what they can to get these liberties back. The leader of which is Edouard Kagame, played by Tony Amendola (Stargate SG-1 and Once Upon a Time), who looks a lot like F. Murray Abraham.
He calls the people "slaves to corporation" and based on what we see, that description doesn't fly. We see Kiera, played by Rachel Nichols (Alias and Criminal Minds), use questionable police tactics, which echo Minority Report (2002), but nothing that rises to the level of real, historical slavery. Therefore, when Edouard pulls an Osama bin Laden-move and brings down a skyscraper, it's easy to label him evil. Yet, as the episodes go on, the show spends time with Edouard and his group, forcing us to get to know them and possibly understand or even empathize but that's not being pushed as much yet.
Right now, we're supposed to empathize with Kiera who was pulled into the past with Edouard and his terrorist group, known as Liber8. We empathize with her, not only because she's tasked with the job of capturing or killing Edouard and his terrorists, all of whom are highly-skilled as well, but also because Kiera left behind a handsome and loving husband and son. The show flashes us back to Kiera's life prior to the time jump. We see her holding her husband and son. We then go back to a lonely Kiera, sad at missing her family and possibly not being able to see them ever again.
Kiera is lonely but she isn't totally alone. Kiera has a computer chip in her head that records her memories for later use like Robin Williams' The Final Cut (2004), but it also allows her to communicate with others with this technology. Because she's traveled back 65 years, no one has this technology, except for one person. That person is Alec Sadler, played by Erik Knudsen (Beastly and Scream 4). The reason Alec has this technology is because, as Kiera discovers, Alec is the original inventor of that technology, so she's able to communicate with Alec and he believes her.
If you've seen the TV series Quantum Leap, Alec functions in the same role as Al, played by Dean Stockwell. Alec helps her to adjust to living in a different time period. He's also the tech support for her. It's also through him that we see strands of how the Corporate Congress comes to be. William B. Davis from The X-Files plays the future Alec and it's interesting to see how that character is informed by what's happening with Kiera.
Kiera isn't lonely because she also has Carlos Fonnegra, played by Victor Webster (Mutant X and Charmed). Carlos is a detective in Vancouver who is initially assigned to the case of a bridge bombing that's actually the spot where Kiera and the terrorists arrived from the future. The bridge wasn't intentionally bombed. It looks as if it were because the time travel incident destroyed it like a bomb would.
Kiera goes back to the bridge for a clue as to where the the terrorists are. She meets Carlos. She lies to him and is able to partner with him, as he investigates and tries to find the terrorists too. She does provide him with a lot of intelligence about the terrorists that really helps him. She just can't tell him how she truly knows it. Each episode focuses on Kiera and Carlos tracking a specific terrorist or investigating a specific plot that the terrorists are building. As such, it's like the short-lived Alcatraz (2012).
Along the way, we get to know the terrorists. The first is Travis Berta, played by Roger Cross (24 and The L Word). He is the austere, fearless leader, a believer in the terrorist cause and is uncompromising. The second is Lucas Ingram, played by Omari Newton (Blue Mountain State). Lucas is the black nerd. He's good with computers and technology. He can operate a particle accelerator as easily as most people operate a microwave oven. The third is Matthew Kellog, played by Stephen Lobo (Little Mosque on the Prairie and Smallville). Kellog is the separatist. He's more selfish and is not as dedicated to the cause. The fourth is Curtis Chen, played by Terry Chen (Combat Hospital), the tattooed muscle of the group.
The action beats are well-handled. The sci-fi ideas aren't new. For example, Kellog attempts to do in the fourth episode what the character of Biff attempts in Back to the Future II (1989). Yet, the show takes ideas that have been put out there and explores them in new ways.
The goal of Kiera intrinsically is to stop the terrorists from doing anything to alter the past and change the future. Yet, it's interesting because she could easily alter the past to prevent these terrorists from being born. She even threatens that possibility to one of them and she's convincing, but she ultimately has to fight that impulse.
The impulse is if you're presented with the opportunity to go back in time and stop Osama bin Laden from being born, do you do it? The fear would be what ripple or what butterfly effect would it cause. With any work that deals with time travel, there's two main premises that it can take. One is the premise of predeterminism as in The Terminator (1984). The other premise is that one that says there's multiple realities as in Back to the Future Part II.
This show hasn't yet made clear what premise it has. The fun will be learning which premise it is. Because we don't know the time travel premise, decisions that Kiera makes that could potentially alter the future are more exciting. For example, Kiera investigates a murder with Carlos. The murderer is an inventor whom Kiera knows in the future. Kiera solves the murder, but if she tells Carlos, he'll arrest this inventor, thus changing the timeline. Kiera has to decide what to do.
It's because of things like this that ultimately make this Canadian import compelling.
Five Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 8PM on SYFY.