This week’s titular “minute” refers to that moment in which more marginalized people must decide to abide by or disobey the ruling system of power, whether that means rescuing economic players at the expense of a child’s life or protecting an institution of justice to maintain a just state. We’re supposed to question these motives, and we do. Kiera’s increasingly uneasy with her CPS handbook. Carlos cannot keep up with the evolving grimness surrounding him. However, “A Minute Changes Everything” falls short of directing our focus. Its roadmap is a mess, but, worse, it’s lacking a grasp of what’s actually going in its story.
Here are the logistics. Liber8’s ideals have resonated with a local college campus. One protest ends with a melee on campus security, the other with the death of three unarmed students. The matchup is clear: enforced rule versus anarchic freedom. It provides Carlos another platform to exercise sympathies for Liber8 sympathizers. These kids face a tough job market, after all, and skyrocketing student loans. So it’s a relief to hear their assault can be Neuralyzed out of the officers’ minds. When a brother cop is accused of killing in a panic those three students, Carlos reverts back to departmental guard dog.
“A Minute Changes Everything” is unkind to Carlos. The torment over his dead (but sort of not) partner is beginning to manifest itself. He glances into the mirror in his locker, and we cut to trunk with dead Kiera. The soundtrack squeals, and the corpse opens its eyes and turns to Carlos. Back to his reflection. Remember, he died, too. Our Carlos went with the timeline Kiera and Alec left. This Carlos might as well be a doppelgänger. He doesn’t know why Kiera A is here—she lied to him. But something in him is rotting. His best friend was killed, and now, between Betty being the mole and Dillon positing the police force as the next generation military, the integrity of the department is crumbling. Regardless, no amount of alcohol lessens the surreal, horrific weirdness of a person fetching their friend’s corpse for a heart to heart.
I’m not confident the show has a hold of quite how devastating this is to the character. The scene plays to a ghoulish drone. Cinematographer David Pelletier contrasts harsh fluorescents with shadows tinted with the pale blue of lifeless flesh. Carlos downs a few bumps of paper-bagged vodka. Then he gets back to serious police work. It’s too casual. No one would buy a complete mental erosion. But when a man resorts to necro-therapy, we’ve hit a new level of morbid instability, and it must be proportionately addressed as the writers continue to slather it onto Carlos. The uneasiness is symptomatic not of his sanity, but of episode’s construction.
The need for the “asking the right questions” echoes throughout the episode. The professor monologues it to Kiera. Kiera repeats it to Dillon. And though “A Minute Changes Everything” would like us to believe, for the sake of tension, the truth may win out, we know there can only be one outcome because the script itself neglects the right questions. The investigation into what led to Batista shooting dead three students focuses on whether or not he shot first. Since the script bounds the incident to whether this cop was spooked or justified, the episode becomes about protecting one’s institutional home versus shaving off its weaknesses. (Think, too, of Kiera pushing Carlos to out Betty.) How do we best save ourselves, it asks. Meanwhile, somewhere, parents bury three slain teenagers.
Mostly all of this works in the abstract. We can count on Continuum for that. But the execution is in shambles. The script hams out too many lines from Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime. It’s the sort of episode in which “terrorist-affiliated” student organizations must be suspended, a police chief laments as “a good idea at the time” the automatic disabling of video surveillance during police peace-keeping, and a professor rationalizes his students’ mass murderer-sympathies as if Theseus were Allen Ginsberg. Early on, Carlos rebuffs a string of Kiera’s “I’m-from-the-future-so-I-know-better-isms,” but the feeling isn’t catharsis or meta-inclusivity: like the rest, it’s irritation.
The little bit of connective tissue comes during Alec’s story line. With two otherwise preoccupied episodes, Continuum has sent Alec B in a direction we’d never assume of Alec A. The former shuns Emily while the latter pleads to her. He may show nerves in his first board meeting, but he’s just a Kellog pep-talk away from asserting his vision over those of qualified men and women more than twice his age. This here is the beginnings of the man who incited this whole story. Alec A has priorities for few other things than love. The Alec B at the end of “A Minute Changes Everything” wouldn’t care that Emily chose Alec A. When our Alec doesn’t acquiesce to Alec B’s fascinated want for explanation, he makes Alec A an adversary, too. For the second week in a row, the drama’s in the smaller quarters of the episode. People can change, Carlos: Introduce them to power.
Kyle Burton is a freelance critic and an inaugural recipient of Indiewire and Sundance’s Roger Ebert Fellowship. You can follow him on Twitter.