Kiera Cameron is ostensibly the main character of Continuum, but A) she's less and less sympathetic lately, and B) it's less and less clear what her goals are. Meanwhile, last night's episode makes a strong case that the real protagonists of this show are Alec and his step-brother Julian.
The basic plot of "Seconds" is pretty simple. Julian Randol is released from prison in the wake of his unlikely acquittal, and he visits both dueling Liber8 cells without finding what he's looking for. Then he meets up with his stepbrother Alec, who refuses to turn him in to Kiera and instead tries to convince him that they can both change their destinies. At last, Julian gets captured by Kiera and her friends, Good Cop and Bad Cop, who torture Julian until Kiera tries to kill him for the things his alternate future self did. Carlos saves Julian, who promises to change — but then he goes back to Travis' Liber8 cell and gathers his followers.
The real linchpin of the episode, though, is the interactions between Julian and Alec — especially when viewed through the prism of the very end of the episode, which returns to the futuristic debtor's prison/factory in 2035 where mind-controlled slaves are working under computer control until they die. Julian "frees" those prisoners by killing them all, in their tens of thousands — but who actually killed them? Is Julian right, and were they basically already dead? At the very end of the episode, we see the "SadTech" logo on all the mind-control chips the prisoners are manufacturing. So maybe Alec killed them, not Julian.
In any case, the great thing about this episode is the way it lets Alec and Julian breathe in their scenes together, and holds out the possibility that these two could actually become real brothers instead of arch-enemies. Of course, if that happened, there'd be no TV show, so we pretty much know the rapprochement between Alec and Julian is doomed to fail — but that knowledge only lends an extra edge to the scenes between the two of them.
Both young adults share a love for Ann Sadler, Alec's mom and Julian's stepmom, who takes a bullet for Julian at the start of the episode, and that's almost enough to bring them together.
I love the whole thing where Ann basically says she loves Julian more because he needs her love more — Alec will be fine, because he's a smart cookie and doesn't go around shooting cops or trying to blow up buildings full of people. Alec tries to hint that this isn't entirely true, and he might actually need some motherly love as well — but given that Ann's approach to motherhood is basically to be an enabler, maybe Alec is better off. In any case, Ann's two sons talk about her and how it's easier to change the future than it is to change "mom reality." And apparently Julian has been snooping around his mom's bedside, and found books on Asperger Syndrome.
In any case, I'm a sucker for stories where you get a hint that things could really turn out differently, and then that possibility gets flushed down the toilet — and this time it's Kiera who pulls the flush.
Like I said, Kiera has been getting less sympathetic lately, given how crappily she treated poor Agent Gardiner (whose death she doesn't seem all that concerned about.) And how crappily she's treated Carlos. But most of all, Kiera doesn't seem to know what her own agenda is any more — is she trying to preserve the timeline, or create a better future? She made one huge lurch in the latter direction by trying to prevent the bombing in the first season finale, and she makes another lunge towards changing the future here, by deciding to go all "Let's Kill Hitler" on Julian. (I love that they actually bring up the Hitler thing.)
Kiera may just be one of those people who's better at following orders than taking her own initiative — since whenever she tries to make up her own script, it seems to turn out badly. In any case, she becomes kind of a Terminator here, trying to hunt down the guy who will one day become an enemy. She condones torture without even flinching, and is prepared to gun down Julian for crimes he hasn't committed yet. The bit where Alec watches his step-brother being tortured, through Kiera's CMR, is a real gut-punch.
She's gone down such a bad path, it even starts raining torrentially, out of nowhere.
I love the "no-duh" moment at the end when Kiera muses that maybe her holding a gun to Julian's head will turn out to be the thing that turns him into the murderous zealot she heard scary nursery rhymes about as a kid. Maybe she should have thought of that before she went all psycho on him.
Meanwhile, a major undercurrent in this episode is the rise of the corporatocracy. Escher, who last week killed Agent Gardiner, now basically takes over the police's Liber8 taskforce and reinstates Dillon as his puppet. This means corporate rulership is actually happening ahead of schedule, thanks to Escher's interference — but what's his agenda? We'd all assumed Escher's aim is to preserve the "original" timeline, but that would mean ensuring that Julian becomes a murderous anti-corporate zealot. How does sending Good Copski and Bad Copovitz to interrogate Julian with extreme nastiness fit in with that goal? Is it just to terrorize Julian to make sure he turns evil? Or is there some other game?
In any case, I'm now imagining the final episode of Continuum, whenever it arrives, revolving around a confrontation between Julian and Alec — based on this episode, the way in which the two step-brothers resolve their weird relationship will wind up shaping the future, for good or evil. A lot of TV shows never manage to create a dynamic as interesting as the Alec-Julian one, so here's hoping the show keeps finding ways to put the two of them together. They could become this show's answer to Sam and Dean, or Jack and Locke on Lost. The fact that neither of them is supposed to grow up to be "good" only makes it better — they're both future monsters.
Finally, what the heck was going on in that weird scene with Lucas Ingram? Seriously. When Julian visits Sonia's tiny sad Liber8 cell, she tells him he's destined to lead the organization — and then Lucas comes to mindfuck the hell out of Julian, saying that Sonia is a crazy person who believes that she's from the future and warning that Sonia will kill Julian and take credit for his ideas. Then Lucas acts like a zombie, who's receiving messages from the dead Edouard Kagame. Is Kagame not dead? Is he alive as a computer virus or something? Why would Kagame appoint Sonia as his successor and then order Lucas to undermine her?
In any case, both Sonia and Travis suddenly seem way more irrelevant at the end of this episode, with neither of them allowed to be a part of the new Liber8 that Julian is building. Maybe Sonia and Travis can go off to Prince Edward Island and try to kill each other there.