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Friday, April 11, 2014

CONTINUUM Makes You Think For a "Minute"

Article first written for Seat42F.

CONTINUUM, a Canadian import airing on SyFy, seems science fiction-light in the first two seasons. It centers on Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols), who is a cop from 2077 trapped back in our present day. The series follows larger plot arcs, rather than just case-of-the-week stories, most of the time, but it still limits itself by keeping the setting and story something familiar and not too far off the beaten path.

However, in the third season premiere, “Minute by Minute,” things only get more high-concept and twisty as the hour goes on. We’re now firmly into the genre, and this benefits the show, making it both harder to follow and more rewarding to do so.

As season two closes, Alec (Erik Knudsen) steals Kiera’s chance to return home because he wants to save Emily’s (Magda Apanowicz) life. This creates a separate time line in which there are two Alecs running around. Alec from the future wastes no time reaching out to Emily, and because he’s not shy about the truth when he encounters Kellog (Stephen Lobo), things begin to change rapidly.

How fragile is the time line? Well, that’s been debated in many different projects, but in the world of CONTINUUM, it seems quite fragile indeed. Alternate lines are created by certain actions, so infinite numbers of scenarios might be playing out all at once. What’s important to viewers is that the one the show sticks with play out as it should, so the future happens and Keira is born and sent back. Alec’s actions, and the actions of those he encounters, start to threaten that.

Meanwhile, Kiera is still in the original timeline, locked up by the Freelancers. This group has a number of secrets, some of which Kiera learns. Kiera is a resourceful woman, so don’t think she spends the whole episode locked in a cell. However, where her plot goes is a bit surprising, and she makes an unexpected ally in the midst of the crisis. Possibly several allies.

I really, really like “Minute by Minute.” It takes what CONTINUUM, already a good show, has built and expounds upon it in new, interesting, dramatic directions. There is nothing in this episode that doesn’t fit with what’s come before, but adding alternate time lines into the proceedings crank things up a notch and start to spin off numerous possibilities. If the show wants to jump over to another line, it can. If a character is killed and the writers regret it, they can bring them back.

Will this make the series harder to follow? Of course, because now you don’t just have to keep track of one set of players and their situation, but also different versions of them, and how what happens in the past might affect what we’ve already seen in the future. Yet, I’m not complaining because it takes a series that follows a relatively predictable course and spins it off into uncharted, high-tension territory, injecting a sense that anything could happen. Anything.

Another new element in CONTINUUM is the development of the Freelancers. Previously, they are shown as villains whose motivations are unclear. In “Minute by Minute,” we learn about the origin and mission of the group. Who they are makes for a potential game changer, and also adds another bunch of people whose purpose may or may not be contrary to what Kiera wants, and where they stand in relation to one another will almost certainly change as the story develops.

“Minute by Minute” is all about adding possibilities. It does nothing to limit CONTINUUM, and everything to expand it. From here, there’s no telling where exactly things will go. It also seems to indicate that this is the new normal for the show, and it won’t be going back to the steady, measured arcs it previously played out. Excellent.

It’s hard to really delve into the bones of this episode because I really don’t want to spoil all the great things it has in store. Just trust me, it’s well worth tuning in for.

CONTINUUM returns Friday at 10 p.m. ET on SyFy.

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