In last night's episode of Continuum, the whole town of Vancouver goes bonkers. It's basically a total political/social meltdown, precipitated by the internetz. But really, all this madness is just various forms of future-shock, because the future is arriving ahead of schedule. Spoilers ahead...
The original logline for Continuum — which is still basically mentioned in the opening credits every week — is: "Terrorists go back in time to change the dystopian future, but one cop also goes back in time to try and stop them, so the future she comes from will be preserved."
The show has largely departed from that mission statement at this point. Various people are trying to bring about the corporate-dominated future that Kiera comes from ahead of schedule, while the Liber8 terrorists seem to have multiple different goals and game plans.
In fact, the most interesting moment in last night's episode is when Kellog plays mind games with Kiera, saying that he wants to offer people a shortcut to the future — meaning the corporate-ruled future that Kiera comes from. Kellog assumes that Kiera will be happy that Kellog is trying to bring about the world of 2077 ahead of schedule. But it's not that simple.
In fact, if Kiera still wants to get home to the 2077 she comes from, then she would be just as opposed to creating a corporate dystopia, ahead of time, as she would to creating a workers' paradise. Either way, it's not the "original" timeline, and Kiera's husband and son are unlikely to be the same people she left behind. If corporations take over the world ahead of schedule, then 2077 will look way different than the version Kiera left.
(But in fact, Kiera is probably out of luck in any case, at this point. Assuming she can only visit the 2077 of this new timeline, then if she does travel forward in time she'll definitely find a world that bears almost no resemblance to the one she left. Just the fact that future technology has been introduced and copied in 2012 is a major shift, and that's just one of the massive changes that are taking place, thanks to the time travelers. At this point, preserving the original timeline would be like closing the barn door after the barn's been set on fire and all the horses have been thrown into the sun.)
Futureshock is madness
In any case, the theme of "Second Guess" seems to be insanity — with Lucas Ingram as its poster child. Lucas has gone nuts due to temporal dislocation, and is seeing Head Kagame everywhere. Head Kagame is encouraging Lucas to hack all the computers, using Alec's "Arc" code and some pieces of time machine, and create total chaos. Emails are made public, traffic lights stop working, ATMs spit out cash, etc. etc.
But there's no sign of Curtis, the other dead Liber8 member that Lucas was seeing last week — and it's true that Curtis did seem to be sporting "freelancer" tattoos, so maybe he's really back from the dead and on the freelancer team now?
In any case, Lucas' insanity is the spark that creates a wave of insanity across the city, as people discover lots of nasty secrets and Vancouver goes from "most dangerous city in North America" (on this show, anyway) to "total bedlam."
(In fact, it turns out that Head Kagame is at least partly Julian, playing on Lucas' insanity and telling Lucas to "bring the city to its knees." How did Julian know that Lucas was going insane, and figure out what Lucas was capable of, and how to instruct him? Your guess is as good as mine.)
The wave of cyberterror, and the ensuing realization that nobody really has any privacy, are just one form of futureshock, as people confront how vulnerable the internet age actually makes them.
The rise of Big Brother
The other big manifestation of futureshock in this episode comes from the rise of the corporate police state. Now that the corporation Piron is running the Vancouver PD's Liber8 taskforce, the cops feel free to violate everybody's civil liberties — and this time around, once everyone's email accounts become public, the cops haul in anyone who's even expressed Liber8 sympathies in an email.
Later, Piron's deal with the Vancouver PD becomes public as a result of Lucas' hacks, and it's a huge embarrassment for Dillon, who's generally starting to lose his marbles a bit. But after stewing, Dillon decides to disregard Kiera's advice to do a press conference and come clean — instead, he doubles down in the hopes that the public outrage will move on.
And speaking of Big Brother, we also learn, via a flashback to 2077, that all of Kiera's memories (and those of other future cops) were being stored on SadTech's servers, going back decades. So Future Alec has the ability to spy on any of these police officers' memories of their personal or professional lives, going back to when they first signed on. Creepy!
By the end of the episode, Escher, the apparent head of Piron and the mastermind of the police privatization, has also gotten hold of the only copy of Alec's "Arc" program, thanks to his agent Emily (who pretended to destroy it.) Although Escher would need some time-machine segments to make the Arc program work, he's apparently able to use it enough to spy on the entire city at once, while sitting in his Evil Chair. (It's ergonomically wicked.)
The only person who appears to stand in Escher's way? Kellog, who basically wants the same things Escher does, and sees Escher as his main competitor — although, when Kellog confronts him, Escher doesn't even seem to regard Kellog as a worthy opponent. Kellog believes that now that Escher is in control of the most promising research into antimatter, he's close to being able to power a working time machine, in addition to becoming the richest and most powerful person on Earth.
Politics ain't beanbag, whatever that means
The other person who rises to power in this episode is Jim Martin, who gets elected mayor despite wearing an "I'm crooked" sign around his neck, publicly hanging around with Liber8 members, buying lettuce wraps from a terrorist food truck, and having all his email conversations with Sonya leaked to the public. (Apparently Roaming Dragon was willing to deal with the implication that its food trucks are staffed by time-traveling mass-murderers, as long as it meant some product placement.)
When Jim Martin's dealings with Liber8 are exposed, he decides to try and trick Sonya and Travis into killing each other, in a "sneaky" misdirect that feels like it comes out of every romcom ever. It's like Jim is trying to goad Travis and Sonya into kissing and making up, by basically Parent Trapping them. (He's not just the mayor of Vancouver, he's the Mayor of Romance.)
So Sonya and Travis do indeed kiss and make up, and bond over their shared desire to kill the new mayor.
Oh, and speaking of Jim Martin — my favorite scene of the episode is probably when both Jim and Julian, who've both been questioned by the police, meet in front of the elevators, and Jim tells Julian that they're both politicians. Julian tries to protest that they're nothing alike, and Jim responds that that's true, but only because Julian's social protest movement looks like a temper tantrum. Snap!
This episode felt as though it was sort of rushing to tie up some loose ends, like the Travis/Sonya rift and the "Lucas is seeing things" storyline. Plus Julian is now officially a terrorist, putting an end to what could have been an interesting bit of ambiguity. Oh, and Kiera now has a complete time machine — but no power source for it, I guess.
But it's probably for the best that Alec has made some decisions about whether he wants to follow in his own evil footsteps. It was never entirely clear why he thought it was a good idea to create a "Big Brother" computer program to spy on the entire internet, or why he would try to harness future technology to become all-powerful even faster than the "original" Alec — who, after all, went to all this trouble to warn him against the dangers of becoming all-powerful.
By allowing Emily (he thinks) to destroy the Arc program once and for all, Alec has apparently taken to heart the lesson that when you invent a technology, you're not just responsible for what you do with it, but what everybody else does with it. (As opposed to the real lesson, which is "don't put sensitive computer code on your phone and then let a psychopath swipe it.") Learning to be responsible in the use and development of technology is, in the end, our best protection against futureshock.