Continuum – Season 4 Episode 3
I wondered what direction Continuum would move in for its finish in three episodes time. Would the focus be on the characters pursuing their goals, so it’s more about us cheering for our favourites, or would it move back to the philosophy and ideology of the first series? In this episode I think we’re seeing both.
The first theme of ‘Power Hour’ is that of the whole show: ‘what action should you take in life to create a good future?’ Should you try to build the best future for yourself? Should you take action to make sure a future comes about that’s best for all people, no matter the cost to the present? Or should you live in the present and take the right actions for the here and now, trusting that a well laid foundation is the best way to ensure a good future. There are characters that come down on all three sides of this choice – I’m thinking Kellogg, Garza and Carlos respectively – and Kiera is our connection to the choice: she still has to make it.
Kiera’s been back and forth a lot over the first two episodes of season 4 already, jumping between ‘I must stop Liber8’ and ‘I just want to go home’, and now she seems caught right in the middle. At the end of the episode she confides in Travis, perhaps even seeking guidance, confessing that she wants to create the right future for the world but she doesn’t want this to come at the cost of not getting what she wants for herself. As she seems to lose all hope, not knowing what to do, Travis fills the gap with his ideology. Though he’s helped prevent the corporate future, he knows that his mission carries on, just that the target has shifted to Kellogg, who will bring about a worse future still; and Kiera seems to take up his mission without question: she will stop Kellogg.
A second strong theme of the episode is trust. With enough politics and switching allegiances to rival a chapter from Game of Thrones, we see that no-one really trusts anyone anymore. Even Carlos is affected: As Kiera takes on Travis’s advice we are shown that Carlos is watching them through the police station’s CCTV. (Which was nice to see: you don’t need fancy future tech to get involved in good old-fashioned power politics.) This distrust builds from that problem set up in episode one: no-one knows if the connection between Brad and Kiera is bad for them and it forces everyone into action – even Kiera herself.
I’ve often found Kiera to be unfair on… well, everyone around her. Sure they’ve all made some selfish choices but she’s not above putting herself first nor above keeping people out of the loop and taking decisions out of their hands. Now, I don’t find this a bad thing: no character should be perfect – they’d be boring otherwise – but will this weakness be Kiera’s downfall? As Alec joins the police to take up Betty’s role, Kiera immediately approaches him and asks him to run everything he finds past her first, keeping Carlos out of the loop; it’s better for everyone if I deal with these things my way. And as she’s given Carlos sufficient reason to be wary of her he asks the same of Alec in reverse. Unfortunately for Carlos, at the start Alec still has greater connection to Kiera. Unfortunately for Kiera, Alec still has enough doubt in her choices that he will question her reasoning, especially in the light of a failed plan that leads to someone’s death.
Several characters got a share of centre stage but I think this was Lucas’ episode. He simplifies the whole philosophical question for Alec and Julian by telling them to “take action! Man up! You’re the author of your own destiny; act like it!” I like this. Maybe because I am the type to overthink things myself. Maybe because it’s just good advice. Either way, while all the characters of the show speak on the subject at some point, Lucas answers the question succinctly and completely.
Now, I know Lucas doesn’t get that much time on camera after this scene but I felt for him every time I saw him. Later in the episode there’s a really charming scene where he’s backup for the Kiera and Garza show, waiting outside the future soldier base whilst they go in on a recon mission. Never one to want part of the combat and action, Lucas nonetheless agrees to get closer to the base when all inevitably goes wrong and Kiera and Garza need help to escape. This puts Lucas in danger but he overcomes it: faced with a nervous newbie guard who has him at gunpoint Lucas talks and then punches his way through. It’s a win, a high point and a moment of success and I didn’t – completely did not – see it as a set up for what happened next…
The episode is not all politics and ideology. In the first two episodes of the season we’ve seen some excellent action scenes and episode three doesn’t let that score down. The Kiera / Garza team up is a joy. They’ve done it before sure, but it only gets better. This time they both get a CPS suit and use them to full effect in a fight with the future solider Rollins. Throw in an ideology clash, an argument and Garza’s cheeky grin as she spies the super soldier suits and what could you possibly not like?
Despite this scene though, I still think the best part of this episode is the trust, distrust and a sheer manipulative power of the characters in their arguments.
By the end of the episode almost all the alliances we’ve seen are undermined. In the wake of Lucas’ death on the mission to stop the future soldiers, Alec comes to believe that Kiera is out for herself first and foremost. As that death came at the hands of Brad, Kiera feels that she’s on her own against Kellogg and his soldiers. And as Kiera seems completely unmoved by Lucas’s death, despite him having to save her because she chose to ruin the mission for her own advantage, Garza finally turns her back on Kiera.
I was fully onside with Garza on that one. Perhaps some people still feel sorry for Kiera but I’d had enough when she challenged Brad for shooting Lucas. He only reacted to someone behind him, someone who’d just shot his friend but Kiera gets in a pained “how could you?” Maybe it bothers me because I was left thinking it just needed to happen, that Kiera needed a reason to distrust Brad if we’re to get a moment in a later episode where we’re unsure if they can trust each other or not and then they do. However, if I accept that Kiera’s human failing is that she is as selfish and manipulating as all the rest then I can see that she simply said that because it impacted badly on her: she lost someone who could help her get back home and it damaged her alliance with Garza.
Either way, the best of all the break ups came from Kiera’s move against Kellogg, which might just ruin his alliance with himself: “if nobody can trust you then tell me: how can you trust you?”
As for the manipulative power of the characters, I want to give mention to the little speeches that many of them get to make this episode. A highlight of the writing in this show is how reasonable everyone’s arguments come across. You always know that there’s a bad guy somewhere and you always know that ideologies are being stretched too far but still everyone manages to argue so rationally. When Chen seems to be trying to get Theseus to recreate a dangerous future it comes across as good life advice: “would you rather bury your head in the sand or take action now to make sure your work will never be bastardised by fanatics?”
Admittedly, I did find the part of this scene when baby Kagame knocks over his toy blocks set up like a building to be a bit heavy handed. I shall always prefer the subtlety of Alec saying his computer in the police office is “not exactly CMR compatible you know” and Carlos showing his new distrust of Kiera with a simple look at her whilst saying “yeah”. Nonetheless, ‘Power Hour’ enjoyably takes the season into perhaps its darkest hour. Trust is gone. Alliances are broken. The future soldiers are building something bad and Kellogg is a loose cannon with a selfish need. Everyone’s out for their own ends and nothing about their future is certain.
‘Power Hour’ brought Continuum’s ideology and philosophy to the fore again in two themes: in asking the question ‘what action should people take in life to create a better future’ and in trust and manipulation. By the end of the episode all trust is gone and all alliances are broken. However, everyone is still tied together because their actions will still decide whether the new destroyed future will come about and every character is trying to persuade the others that their philosophy is the best and the only way of ensuring the right future comes about.
I was glad to watch this. I know we’re all supposed to love the politics and manipulation of Games of Thrones because it’s all just so shocking but I prefer Continuum’s take on it. Its characters are all out for their own ideology but they all seem so reasonable in their arguments that it better invites you to sit down and think them through, to decide which path you’d take. If you could rise up and punish people for the 2008 financial crisis, would you? Do you believe instead that we should just try to live our lives right and trust that this will ripple out and create a better society around us? This is the relevance of science fiction and I’m pleased to see Continuum still live up to it.
Politics and manipulation aside, is the action / thriller element still there and enjoyable? Yes, absolutely: Garza and Kiera both getting a CPS suit and taking on a competent future soldier together in those suits – yes, “momma likes” indeed. Better still for me were Lucas’ scenes: his action scene with the nervous newbie guard is both charming and fun.
Lucas is this episode’s best summary. He so neatly simplifies the ideological wrangling in his attempt to get Alec and Julian to step up and try and create a better future: “Take action! Man up! You’re the author of your own destiny; act like it!” Then when the need calls for it, and Kiera and Garza are in danger, he follows his own advice, even though it puts him in danger. Great character, great end.