In a mostly standalone episode, Continuum plays puppet vs puppeteer as it tackles free-will and the future tech of gaming. Despite the lack of overall mythology, I really enjoyed the episode. Wanna know why?
Let’s bitch it out…I’m basically a sucker for all things “tech” related when it comes to my visual media. Some of my favourite films in the last few years have been Surrogates (Mostow 2009) and Gamer (Neveldine & Taylor, 2009). Both films focus on “playing” other people’s bodies: Surrogates is a very loose adaptation of a graphic novel in which people only venture outside in robotic bodies, while Gamer allows individuals to take control of death row inmates via nanotechnology and kill or be killed in a non-simulated battleground. Whether this is hard or light sci-fi, I love dystopian visions of the future in which humanity has become so desensitized that we’ve lost control of our bodies and, correspondingly, our humanity.
‘Playtime’ examines the same ideas, though it’s a much more surface level examination than some of the other episodes. Perhaps because of its standalone nature – ie: not plugged into the other episodes in the same way that other Liber8 plots have been – it feels just a smidge less vital. It’s a challenge that action shows centered around a single protagonist struggle with: we know that Kiera (Rachel Nichols) will not kill Carlos (Victor Webster) or herself. As a result there’s less tension in the climax when her body is taken over by Kagame (Tony Amendola) and Isaac (Omari Newton). There’s also something anticlimatic about watching people desperately type away at a computer, which the entire climax is built upon – both Isaac and Alec (Erik Knudsen) furiously type and make desperate exclamations as they battle each other for control of Kiera. The fact that the battle literally ends when Alec unplugs Kiera from the system (CTL+ALT+DEL?) solidifies that it’s all a bit silly.
The ideas behind the story, however, are really interesting. The events of ‘Playtime’ are nicely set up in the 2077 opening when the body controlling software is demonstrated on a volunteer prisoner. The fact that the scientist cannot control the patient, and that he still receives a round of applause simply for trying is its own cautionary tale (to both Kiera and us). Individual agency is too strong to be controlled by others, though it requires extraordinary willpower to overcome the mechanical trappings of technology. The prisoner’s ability to resist it foreshadows Kiera’s ability to resist shooting Carlos in the climax, even as it makes us wonder whether her reliance on superior technology has become a weakness.
The fact that her suit lingers in the background of all this is important: Kiera has become a lot more human (sociable, interactive, a member of a group) since her suit went on the fritz. The inclusion of the team retreat theme and her decision to include Betty* (Jennifer Spence) is a testimony of Kiera’s progress. I worry that as soon as the suit is back in business – and you know it’ll be back in time for the finale – Kiera will revert back to the woman we met in the early episodes. I like the Kiera we’ve seen in recent episodes a great deal more than the Protector who traveled back 65 years in the pilot.
*Side Note: How awesome is it that Betty finally gets out of the precinct?! I love it when they let the squids out into the world.
- This is the first episode in a long while without an appearance by Kiera’s husband, Greg (John Reardon), and Alec’s brother, Julian (Richard Harmon). While I don’t think ‘Playtime’ necessarily suffered from their absences, it likely contributed to the standalone feel since both are involved in the broader conspiracy unfolding in 2077. Or at least we assume they are…
- Two big developments come from Kagame’s take-over of Kiera: he witnesses Kellog (Stephen Lobo) at Tendyne (and wonders what he’s doing there) and – more importantly – Kagame realizes that “the only logical explanation” for Kiera’s escape from Isaac’s control is that young Alec Sadler is helping her. We always knew that that farm was an unlikely sanctuary, but the teen genius is in big trouble now that he’s in Liber8’s cross-hairs. It’s only a matter of time before they descend upon him, his family and all that tech in the barn.
What do you think, Continuum fans? Did you enjoy the show’s take on game play? Were you surprised that Betty knows about games and furries?! Do you have any concerns about the restoration of Kiera’s suit? And how long before Alec’s barn comes under fire? Hit the comments and let’s chat
Continuum airs Sundays at 9pm EST on Showcase (Canada)