3.3

Continuum Review: “Last Minute”

(Episode 3.13)

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<i>Continuum</i> Review: &#8220;Last Minute&#8221;

We’ll do ourselves a favor upfront: We’re going to abandon logic. Forget it. Throw it away. The wind will have it. You must not. You throttle the boat, and it is your lifejacket. You soar on a roller coaster, and it is your harness. You roar on a motorcycle, you paddle through rapids, you explode from a cannon—and it is your helmet. Choose your means of transport; it is that which tethers you to life and limb. Safety is for cowards. Cut the tether. This is a place of fun.

This season of Continuum should have started with a disclaimer. It would have read: Farewell. “Last Minute” capped this third season. Here is what happens. Young Sadler “sends a message” to Alec. The gang teams up with Liber8. They conspire to swap the Alecs. The plan fails. The boy geniuses engage in a battle of brawn. Alec kills Young Sadler. That plan fails. Brad activates a homing beacon. Future cavalry arrive. The Rastaman gurgles: “It has begun.” Kellog wins. If I could trace the fermentation of it all, I would. But aha! Farewell.

At first, the show seemed to be suffering from burdensome storytelling. The plotlines didn’t arc so much as duplicate. Nothing cohered. For large stretches, Liber8 disappeared. They were never the most cunning of revolutionaries, but regularity has its uses in lieu of inspiration. When they lost that, we lost them. Instead, one of them would show up for an expository line every few episodes. Two lines, if they were lucky. A given episode couldn’t afford much more. Kiera’s heart, Young Sadler’s culpability, Carlos’s sanity—everything was individual, overlapping only when the staff had vacuumed out all the life.

In place, it’s become a show that doesn’t unpack itself. When it wants to misdirect or layer, it sends in backup. Kellog and Curtis team up in “So Do Our Minutes Hasten.” One scene. Kellog finagles his way into Piron in “Minutes of Silence.” Two scenes. In “Revolutions Per Minute” he does Sonya a favor, and in “3 Minutes to Midnight” he struts from nothingness into the tail end of a verbal showdown because he’s Kellog. Two more scenes. The cherry is “The Dying Minutes,” in which Curtis dices Cynthia with a pair of tant?. Where does it lead? To Kellog informing Alec that he’d been duping Young Sadler into appropriating company authority for him. We find this out as Alec does: in the finale’s closing minutes. This is a collection of scenes, not plotting. The sense of something’s up is anonymous. It leads to a climax that cold-shoulders every tangential particular of its supposed rising action. “I’ve been doing it for weeks,” Kellog tells Alec. Really? Where’s the camera been?

It isn’t Kellog and Curtis’s shadowy competence that shrouds their plans, but the dozen other storylines behaving in exactly the same way. The centerpiece of “Last Minute” is the Alec swap. Young Sadler, staged as if Zuckerberg was a last minute fill-in for Jobs, hosts a HALO rally. Deny the urge to read the imagery. It’s the old anti-joke: “There once were three tech savants.” “Yeah? And then what.” “No, that’s it.” Still, he’s nervous, if you cared. Garza infiltrates past security and fires two shots past his head. The fangirls scream—the ones with the shirts. His police detail bundles him up. Interim chief Carlos Fonnegra shuffles him to an elevator, where, wouldn’t you know, Kiera was waiting all along. Travis and Lucas also lend a hand. Future soldier and deft brain-basher Brad Tonkin is, inexplicably, nowhere to be found in any of this—a situation that revolves around combat.

No, of course there’s no sense to be had in it. The show just needed a tieless way to put him in a specific spot for the last scene. That’s not the point. A show can get by on tomfoolery. Fox’s Sleep Hollow did it in such a way as to create something of a minor hit. Continuum, though, has none of the groundwork for that brand of dazzle. It’s no mad hatter of a show. It could play loose, but it was always complex. Alec lobbied theoretical dilemmas at Kiera; she churned out moral ones toward the police department. The entire thing’s underwritten by a comprehensively science fiction framework. It’s built for speed, not nonsense. Yet, this is what we’ve devolved to: defiant refusal to tell rather than show, and characters more mannequin than even caricature.

It’s alarming. The last thing you want to see in a show is evidence of the fatal Lost Grip. It turns any thought on the series towards eulogy. I can’t help but recall “Second Thoughts,” “Second Truths,” “A Test of Time,” “Second Opinion,” or “End Times” and dishearten. Perhaps “Second Time” might find its way in there, or “Waning Minutes,” if purely for its ambition. Likely, we’ll see the show again. It’s unrenewed, but a hit in Canada. But the likes of these episodes, the show’s peak, seem fit to be ghosts. The history of slippage is unflattering in television. Dexter suffered, Homeland, House, The West Wing, Heroes, Lost. Momentum’s indifferent to what we want.

Kiera meandered through the front of the season. We could assume she was coming to grips with the loss of her family. “Last Minute” would have us believe as much. But throughout, those scenes too internally steeped were relegated to sidebar. Kiera looking out a window here, Rachel Nichols trembling over some words to Carlos there. Character development became lip service. Last ditch efforts felt phony. Erik Knudsen, whose Alec was put away and taken back out like a toy and could flaunt less autonomy than Woody or Buzz, humored the doppelgänger waltz of fury. He smoldered at himself, the other self seething things like “This timeline isn’t big enough for the two of us” back at him before blood and death and robots come. He needed to break broader: Our TV’s weren’t big enough for them.

The Rasta’s right. Indeed it has begun. It’s become our default position—introduction, starting anew, every week, from scene to scene. What have the first two seasons been worth? Apparently, the faces. “Last Minute”’s weakness are its own. But the sheer sourness of an episode like this is its encapsulation of the show’s creative deterioration. The soul is gone. The curiosity, the restrain, the sincerity are all far, far gone. There is a crater, and it’s not from time-space collapse, or unauthorized time travel, or an obliterated skyscraper. The writers blew the thing up.

Kyle Burton is a freelance critic and an inaugural recipient of Indiewire and Sundance’s Roger Ebert Fellowship. You can follow him on Twitter.