Continuum has always had some really interesting political questions at its core: the rise of corporate power, the independence of the police, and the morality of trying to preserve a flawed status quo. But the barbed latest episode proves this show might be ready to delve deeper. Spoilers ahead...
The above clip shows my absolute favorite moment in the episode, when the liberal talking head on the current affairs show starts speechifying about how Liber8 has the right idea — and Liber8's Travis shoots him, without a second thought. "No more talking heads." Heh.
This was a really neat setup for an episode that explores some of the biggest cracks that have been opening in the show's two opposing sides. Liber8 has been divided, on and off, over the question of how extreme and violent its means should be. And meanwhile, the cops are under the thumb of big corporations (especially Piron) and have been getting a lot of flak for snafus like the big college campus massacre.
So in last night's episode (as aired in the U.S.), Dillon's daughter gets caught putting up an anti-corporate banner at the headquarters of Fermatas, a big weapons-maker. Facing accusations of favoritism, Dillon goes on the same current-affairs program that Julian went on recently, opposite Nigel the blowhard leftie. But just as Dillon is scoring some points, Travis and Lukas show up to take everyone in the TV studio hostage. They claim to want to broadcast a manifesto, but actually they want the station's satellite codes because it was bought by Fermatas — so they use the satellite codes to break into Fermatas' secure system and get some corporate espionage against other companies.
Along the way, you get some really neat debates over stuff like whether big-money democracy is still democracy. And whether you can use the corporate-owned media to criticize corporations. (Which is why Fermatas bought the station in the first place, to silence critics.) And is Dillon a fascist, or does being a corporate pawn absolve him of fascism? Is Travis really pro-freedom, or just wanting to substitute his own form of totalitarianism for corporate control?
The whole thing reminds me a bit of Network, a weird subversive 1970s movie that takes place in a then-near future where TV networks have gone way over the edge into journalism-as-entertainment. Everybody remembers Network for the bit where the guy shouts "I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take any more." But there's also a running subplot where the enterprising faux-journalists try to turn some leftist terrorists into TV stars, to get ratings from their murder spree. (And it backfires horribly, of course.)
Mostly, though, after too many hours watching CNN, MSNBC and Fox News on airport TV screens, there's something ridiculously satisfying about the idea of shooting a few TV pundits. Moving on.
In the end, Dillon gets to play hero — in more or less exactly the way that Travis predicted he wouldn't (almost as if Travis planted that idea in Dillon's head.) Dillon gets the host of the show out, and she's in lurve. But Liber8 gets what it wants, too. And then it turns out that Dillon's daughter is actually mostly pretending to be a Liber8 sympathizer — she's actually undercover, infiltrating Liber8 for daddy.
(And she's also the daughter of Weaver on Falling Skies, which is hella distracting. Plus she co-stars with Terry Chen, who plays Curtis on Continuum, in a "cannibal Chinese restaurant" movie called Evil Feed. Huh.)
Anyway, there's a bit of a "fathers and daughters" theme in this episode — the framing story is about Travis, back in the dystopian future, visiting his previously unseen wife and daughter. The CPS shows up and Travis hides, but Travis' daughter gives his location away. Thus earning a special CPS badge to show that she's a loyal corporate citizen. Yay!
Oh, and Dillon gets into this scrape in the first place, because he misplays his hand. When Lukas calls Betty, he orders her not to answer. That means he doesn't get advance warning of the TV station attack, which could have come in handy. And later, everybody overcompensates by giving Betty too much rope — which is how Liber8 gets the full satellite codes.
Sharks and Mongooses
Meanwhile, the big ongoing story of "too many Alecs" continues — Alec Prime has taken Kellog's advice to swim with the sharks, and has turned out to be a quick study. His off-the-rack suits have been replaced with tailored ones, and he's getting awfully comfortable in his corporate throneroom. When Kellog visits again, suggesting this time that Alec could use a mongoose to deal with snakes on the board, Alec just shoots him down, offering him a settlement for SadTech and kicking him to the curb.
Alec Prime has really taken the "corporate alpha" thing to heart, to the point where it has to be a front. He's overwhelmed by all the stuff he's learned lately, about Escher being his dead father and Jason being his son, and he doesn't trust anybody after Emily turned out to be a fraud. He didn't get any of the catharsis his other self got (something that also seems to be true of Carlos in this timeline) and he's overcompensating by turning himself into a tough guy.
At least, that's my read on Alec Prime's transformation, which has happened at insane speed and seems skin-deep.
Meanwhile, Alec Prime pursues a vendetta against alt-Alec, the time-traveling version. All of a sudden, alt-Alec can't get into his bank accounts or get access to any of his other stuff. Alec Prime is "the landlord" of this timeline, and he's evicting the squatters. Kellog laments to alt-Alec that his time travel has ruined Kellog's life — ignoring that Kellog chose to have Escher killed, setting off this whole chain of events. Alec says that nobody's life needs to be ruined, and it just depends on what you're capable of. (Is Alec hinting that Kellog should kill his other self for him? It sure sounds like that.) To which Kellog says he's flattered, but the fanciest dancer in Alec's life is actually Emily. (In other words, if you want someone to kill your other self, try your girlfriend, I guess.)
Around that same time, Alec Prime discovers that Kiera knew about his other time-traveling self all along. Because he's seeing betrayal everywhere, Alec Prime decides that Kiera has betrayed him, and cuts her off, with a stream of corporatese about how a double-crossing partner needs to be bought out or cut loose. This is the hundredth time Kiera has kept things from Alec, but this time he's suddenly sensitive.
Kiera continues to be the worst
She really is. The worst. Bear in mind that this "two Alecs" problem is what Kiera was sent back in time to stop. The Freelancers didn't waste their valuable time machine on Kiera just so she could conveniently replace her dead other self, or play cops-and-terrorists with Liber8. Her mission — her only mission — in going back in time was to deal with Alec traveling back and mucking up the timeline.
Kiera made some noises, early on, about deciding which Alec she liked better, or could trust to help her get home. But really, if her job was to prevent contamination of the timeline, she should have killed the time-traveling Alec (or locked him in one of those Freelancer cells) the moment she found him. Maybe she hasn't done that because she needs him to find out who killed her other self — but if so, that's a pretty selfish explanation for shirking her duty.
And her rash decision to show Carlos her own dead body continues to bear fruit, with Carlos seeming increasingly unstable. And pissed off. He's got some specific issues, including the fact that the cops are getting closer to being the corporate enforcers from Kiera's future (in this episode, he wonder when they'll start being called "Protectors") and companies like Fermatas seem more interested in shielding their secrets than saving lives. But he's also just randomly twitchy and angry.
Kiera's also the worst because of her treacley approach to Dillon after Dillon's daughter fake-yells at him, giving Dillon a sentimental line about how Christine will find her way back to him.
And meanwhile, Kiera's status seems increasingly uncertain. She's still working for the Freelancers, but mostly just feeding them vague platitudes about how the timeline seems fine and Liber8 isn't causing too much trouble. When Curtis approaches her and offers to be her new partner because she's burned all her other relationships, she plays hard to get. But Curtis is right — soon enough, Kiera is going to need all the friends she can find.