After a few weeks of narrowly focused episodes exploring destiny and the possibility of change, Continuum shifts gears to deliver a tightly plotted game-changing episode that advances all plots at once.
Let’s bitch it out…Several episodes of Continuum‘s second season have been flat-out excellent: 2×05 ‘Second Opinion’ introduced new technology that brought out an emotional intensity previously unseen on the series while 2×08 ‘Second Listen’ paired Kiera (Rachel Nichols) with Gardiner (Nicholas Lea) to investigate the freelancers and (re)introduced how vital Erik Knudsen’s Alec is to the future (an idea explored again last week with Richard Harmon’s Julian). These episodes have been amazing, but they often focus on one or two storylines at a time, sometimes to such an extent that they feel almost like a bottle episode.
‘Second Wave’ is different because it is much more epic in scope. The episode is clearly intended to begin setting up the season finale, but instead of feeling perfunctory, it feels vital. The plot feels energized, as though we’re barreling forward at breakneck speed. There’s no reason why this mid-to-late season episode needs to be this good, and yet, by the end of the 42 minutes, it feels as though many of the elements in the world of Continuum have changed.
As expected Julian has embraced his fate as Theseus, but like many leaders whose movements are built on a foundation of emancipatory language, he refuses to commit simple violent acts to accomplish his means. This is good news for an imprisoned Kiera, whose day starts off well when she and Carlos (Victor Webster) capture Garza (Luvia Petersen) and pretty much goes downhill from there. There’s a doomed attempt to locate Travis (Roger Cross) that ends with a linked CMR, followed by a knock down, drag out fight with the freelancers that leaves her suit powered down, followed immediately by her capture and near execution by Julian’s rabid band of followers. When Julian’s politically savvy stay of execution is the highlight of your day, you know life sucks for the Protector from 2077.
Of course, it could be worse: she could have ended up like Martinez, everyone’s favourite 70s mustache cop, whom Garza shoots during her escape from the police precinct. Or she could have ended up like Garza, who is tased by the freelancers and carried off to destinations unknown. Or she could be Emily (Madga Apanowicz) who gets blackmailed by her employer, the mysterious Escher (Hugh Dillon) and forced to continue spying on Alec.
Come to think of it, nobody really has a good day in ‘Second Wave.’
What’s surprising is how well these disparate storylines work. If we consider only Kiera’s storyline, it reads like a frantic, jumbled mess. And yet watching it play out, we see a series of taunt, gripping scenes (particularly the transition from the linked CMR to the freelancer fight to the political rally). There’s even a nice emotional beat after things have calmed down when Kiera thanks Alec and reiterates the importance of their friendship.
The fact that ‘Second Wave’ can accomplish such a delicate balancing act speaks volumes about the strengths of Matt Venables script, not the mention the editing, which helps to keep things moving along at breakneck speed. The end result is an episode that feels vital for setting up the show’s endgame by moving all plots forward together. Beyond that, however, ‘Second Wave’ serves to confirm the quantum leap forward in quality the show has seen this season.
- The linking between Travis and Kiera’s CMR is clearly going to be bad news, but I got a gleeful satisfaction watching these two rivals realize that they are momentarily inside each other’s heads. I can’t wait to see them come back together to battle it out
- Kellog (Stephen Lobo) reappears after a few weeks on the sideline and he’s hot on the trail of Escher. He asks for help from Sonya (Lexa Doig), though the scene is really more interested in Omari Newton’s Isaac (more on that below). Later we see Kellog shadowing Alec and Emily on their date, but it’s unclear whether he overheard Emily and Escher’s subsequent (very public) conversation. It’s about time Kellog got back in the game, so it’ll be interesting to see what his next move is
- Carlos provides the one moment that feels “off” to me. I’m referring to his angry demand that Kiera explain the goals of the freelancers following Martinez’s death. I get that he’s upset, but this reaction doesn’t really make a great deal of sense. Luckily it passes quickly, but in an episode that nails so many elements well, this sticks out as a gaffe
- On the flip side, I’m enjoying Carlos role as an ‘agent of sanity’. Dillon (Brian Markinson) is increasingly showing more and more contempt for the rules and Carlos seems to be one of the few to keep him in check. Garza isn’t far off when she suggests that it’s becoming a police state. Expect continued tensions and possibly some fisticuffs between Carlos and Dillon before the season is over
- Rebecca (Tanaya Beatty), Julian’s lapdog, is annoying and stupid. It’s clear that she’s there to contrast Julian’s pacifist approach, but the actress isn’t wowing me. Although I appreciate that Harmon and Knudsen look age-appropriate, at times their youthful appearance makes it a little difficult to accept everything that their characters are meant to have achieved. Rebecca embodies this problem to the max: she looks like a little girl dressed up as a revolutionary (although that may be the point)
- Are we all in agreement that Alec totally does know more than he’s telling Kiera about her “purpose”? We still don’t know what was included in that message from his future self
- Finally, how amazing is it to see Curtis Chen (Terry Chen) again? As you may recall Kiera killed Chen waaaay back in 1×03 ‘Wasting Time’, so it’s quite the blast from the past to see him showing up in Isaac’s visions (remember Isaac was acting funny last week with Julian). The kicker is that in the flashforwards, we see Travis meet with Chen to discuss what sounds like a plan for resurrection (strange since Travis and Chen hated each other in 2012). There’s clearly more to Chen’s reappearance than we know. I’m totally psyched to see what becomes of this recent development. It must connect to the freelancers, right?
- Garza (as Kiera tortures her): “Try a little harder. This feels like foreplay”
- Alec (as the CMRs link): “How did this turn into a conference call?!”
- Garza (when Martinez enters the holding room): “Hello fresh meat. I guess this makes you bad cop”
Your turn: were you impressed with how many storylines ‘Second Wave’ managed to juggle? Why has Chen returned? What does Kellog know? How long before Emily is revealed? Did you find Carlos’ reaction to Kiera strange? And why are the freelancers collecting time travelers? Speculate away below!
Continuum airs Fridays at 10pm EST on Syfy