Continuum delivers its first entirely flash-forward episode to analyze the worth of a human life and how misinformation drives our characters.
Let’s bitch it out…One of my favourite components of Continuum is the show’s refusal to make the conflict uncomplicated. In most shows, Kiera (Rachel Nichols) would always be right and Liber8 would always be wrong. But that’s simple and Continuum has proven over its three seasons that it isn’t interested in simple.
The flash-forwards have been useful in this regard. Unlike other shows that use a similar narrative framing device (Lost, Arrow), Continuum ensures that its jaunts to different times contribute to world-building, as well as character development. Arrow often struggles to tie its flashbacks into the current storyline in a compelling way and Lost never used its flashbacks, flashforwards or flashsideways to develop the world of the show (just its characters). Continuum frequently uses flashforwards to comment on the events of the present, although the time that we’ve spent in the future is usually fairly limited. ‘Waning Minutes’ changes this by upending the show’s formula. The result is that we now have much greater insight on two fronts: Sonya’s (Lexa Doig) reasons for joining Liber8 and the next stage of Kiera’s awakening.
The world of ‘Waning Minutes’ is fascinating because it’s far removed from the usual mise en scene of the show. We’re not in Vancouver – we’re in far more traditional science fiction territory, out among the rock quarries and the mountains. For me the visual aesthetic feels more like science fiction because the locations have a familiarity to them courtesy of other shows like Battlestar: Galactica, X-Files, and Defiance (all of which shoot in British Columbia). There’s a rough dystopian feel to the agrarian lifestyle of the Gleaners, the community of farmers living on the edge of society, and it feels so removed from the blue/grey filter the show traditionally uses that it really helps to distinguish this future world.
I will freely admit that I had completely forgotten who Stefan Jaworski (Mike Dopud) was, though in my defense he hasn’t really been an active figure on the series since season one (according to IMDB.com, he was briefly glimpsed in the Freelancer’s prison in the second season finale). Jaworski is a loose tie to the world of Liber8, but in this episode he’s more of a narrative device to drive the conflict between Kiera and the Gleaners. He’s definitely not the most interesting aspect of the episode, though; that role belongs to Tony Amendola’s Kagame. This is the first time that we’ve seen Kagame since’s Lucas’ break with reality in 2×11 ‘Second Guess’ and before that he wasn’t seen since the first season finale when he blew himself up to “create” Theseus.
‘Waning Minutes’ is most interesting when it’s focusing on Kagame’s recruitment of Sonya to Liber8. The background of most of the remaining Liber8 members is one of the least explored storylines in the series, so it’s nice to learn more about Sonya who has always seemed like a bit of a weird fit with the more radical proclivities of the group. As we learn, in the future Sonya fled the city because she was offered a job in the super soldier program that she could neither accept or refuse. Kagame uses her refusal of her two options to his advantage: first by capturing her attention with the teachings of Theseus (I love how the book is treated like a political manifesto similar to how we treat Marxism and Communism now), and later manipulating her emotions with the destruction of the Gleaner compound.
We’ve long known that Kagame is a master manipulator, so it’s interesting to see both him and Old Alec Sadler (William B. Davis) in the same episode. Old Alec is exactly the same as his enemy: he orders an air strike on the Gleaners even though he is aware that Kiera is there, even as he reassures her husband Greg (John Reardon) about the value of her life. It’s clear that both Kagame and Old Alec believe that they are doing good despite the violence that they inflict on others, which is fascinating considering how many atrocities have been committed in each of their names. By episode’s end Sonya has fallen for Kagame’s twisted rhetoric and Kiera has realized the power of commitment in achieving clarity. What that means for the Protector moving forward is unclear, however…
- I’m not sure about Kiera’s decision to reveal to Catherine (Rachael Crawford) that she’s had an epiphany considering how shady the Freelancers are. I mean, they lock people in glass prisons (including Kiera earlier this season!). Catherine doesn’t strike me as someone who tolerates anyone rocking the boat.
- It’s mildly amusing that Alec (Erik Knudsen) is unintentionally responsible for helping Curtis (Terry Chen) escape the Freelancer prison. I half expected Curtis to let Alec out, but alas the curly haired boy wonder remains in lockup.
- Is Pangea’s (Sharon Taylor) pregnancy important, or is it simply an attempt to flesh out an otherwise two-dimensional character?
- Considering the entire flashforward is prompted by Kiera’s visit to the Freelancer prison, it’s intriguing that a substantial portion of the story explores the “worth” of a human life (Ben Cotton’s Jaden is driven by the financial value of Jaworski, Kagame and Kiera; Greg and Old Alec’s discussion centers around the actuary’s financial compensation for Kiera’s life; Kagame’s argument is that the Gleaners and Kiera are not free because of their indebtedness to “the system” and that their lives are, as a result, less worthwhile). Continuum loves to delve into these philosophical debates in order to complicate our emotions about what is right and what is wrong.
- Finally, one understated element that I really like about ‘Waning Minute’ is how the opinions of characters are (mis)informed by false information. We’ve never known why a doctor like Sonya would join a “terrorist” group like Liber8 and now we know that she was emotionally manipulated (we now also have a better sense of her relationship with Kagame and why she chose Kagame over Travis back in the season one finale). What I found most interesting is Kagame’s dismissal of Kiera because she has chosen to serve the system. Only a few episodes ago we learned that Kiera signed up to CPU to protect her mother and younger sister after contraband was found in their home. While it’s true that Kiera is also manipulated by CPU (Sonya describes how the CMR alters people’s processes), Kiera’s motivations are far more complicated than Kagame gives her credit for.
Your turn: what did you think of this flashforward episode? Did you miss our “present day” characters or did you like learning more about the future? Were you surprised that Sonya was manipulated into joining Liber8? Did you enjoy seeing Kagame and Old Alec again? And should Kiera have kept her epiphany to herself? Sound off below.
Continuum airs Fridays at 10pm EST on Syfy