In the first half of "Revolutions Per Minute," Kiera remarks to Carlos that she "doesn’t like secrets." She’s the matured hypocrite, having lied herself sick, like a week of subsistence on rice cakes. "Revolutions" is Alka-Seltzer; in incremental doses, truths come out. Most of the season’s tension has come from withholding. These people, in other lives, often operated outside of acceptable conduct for the sake of each other. They followed rules, but they had hearts. This season had to depart from that, and finally, we’re seeing some consequence.
We might’ve expected more uncanniness throughout. Season Three has been more fascinated with than horrified by the doublings. Uncanniness is the brain’s inability to compute a paradoxical self-reflective reality. Continuum isn’t a show that ever displays "ERROR." Instead, Kiera’s strangely settled into complacency. She seems over the particulars of Alec’s betrayal. Initially, it was that he hijacked her only vehicle back to her family. How, then, do we reconcile Kiera growing adversarial towards the Freelancers? Oddly, in her bigges panic about her original goal, her stakes flipped. The present weighs more heavily on her than her home.
In the scope of the season, the introversion is sweeter in concept than execution. But the dynamic between personal history, present, and progression fuel this episode. Carlos and Young Sadler have othered Kiera from the start. She’s a fill-in. Their memories and experiences together aren’t shared. To them, she is Masahiro Mori’s prosthetic hand;. We can’t blame them. But "Revolutions Per Minute" extracts confrontation: What do you mean to me?
By the end, the question is addressed directly. Carlos finds the subzero tomb bodiless and clean. Young Sadler counters his anger with funeral arrangements. Carlos has needed clarity from circumstances that cannot provide it. Closure will have to do. Kiera stumbles into an invite and so proceeds the living funeral to end all living funerals. The last words are brief. Carlos’s stick: "So long, partner." Kiera turns to him with a wrenching mixture of understanding, sorrow, and inadequacy, and it does not falter when he comforts, "I’m glad you’re here." Something might be better than nothing, but let’s speak straightly: Perhaps not unlike her family hopes, there is no return in sight.
The episode is a bit of a showcase for Rachel Nichols. She hasn’t had the chance to flex her hold on Kiera for a while. Here, she cracks near the end and plays the emotion as a minor surprise to Kiera. It overcomes her in a way for which Season Three hasn’t allotted time, and Nichols’s footing never slips. But her strongest moment is that tearless one. The sheer letdown in her eyes when Carlos confirms his secondary affection for her releases far more tension than prior episodes had built. We’ve seen the gears and recognized the direction, but Nichols’s compensates in a single shot for much of the season’s developmental shortcomings. It’s a good thing too, because Denis McGrath’s script asks the actors to interact with the things they say more than it requires that they embody them.
The episode opens with a vision instead of a flashback. More so, we witness someone having a vision. It’s violent. John Doe describes the nightmare to Kiera in fragments of pseudo-verse, as if a half-coherent Poe were transcribing Bradbury into couplets. The nightmare is of his wife and daughter, of something dark. What he describes sounds like collapse. Amidst it, he envisions a rainy day, and his daughter counting sapphire beads on a windowsill. It’s an elfin image: the sparkling, jeweled blue of feminine innocence in contrast with the greyness of a world it can only, if safeguarded, enlighten.
It’s the seed that sprouts Devil’s Snare. It’s idealism, with which Continuum shares no oxygen. It doesn’t only foreshadow John Doe’s purpose. Kiera’s hopes have gone. Young Sadler reopens his line to Kiera’s CMR. There’s relief for her; it’s a habit of old friends. But she’s lost more preciousness than family alone; this too is her vision. The memorial is nothing of the sort: That old friend’s erasing evidence. She confronts him, and Young Sadler goes Old Sadler: "The Alec you met two years ago is dead—or in a cage somewhere." And he’s right. Whatever is irreconcilable between them is also her doing. She chose the Alec whose rejection was a dormant thing. It’s the sort of confrontation that beckons spillover.
"Revolutions Per Minute" had boatloads of setup. The thematic and character drama demanded closer attention, so I’ll run through the plot points here:
—John Doe’s name is Brad Tonkin. He’s a militia field commander. He killed the other Kiera. (This storyline, despite Ryan Robbins best efforts, is in limbo.)
—Kellog’s maneuverings are getting more complex. Between his yet mysterious partnership with Curtis, last week’s annexation into Piron, and this week’s manipulation of Kiera for Sonya, plus Brad’s not knowing the name Alec Sadler, Kellog’s role is set to explode (probably in the finale).
—Dillon’s daughter is pulled from undercover.
—Young Sadler knows what Brad did, and, in angst, keeps it from Kiera.
—Young Sadler brings Julien onto the Piron payroll thanks to a little puppeteering from Kellog. (I think it’s safe to assume Kellog isn’t seeing some untapped market for pseudo-terrorism.)
—One difference between serial and procedural (or hybrid) formats is the convenience of plot. Reintroducing a memory drug exactly when we want to erase the Amnesiac Character trope exposes narrative gears. There’s no reason for these two storylines to play out in unison. One is clearly a MacGyver for the other.
—Not sure how Kiera’s CMR would be able to reconstruct the object in Brad’s pocket via a security feed. The picture’s just two-dimensional grey scale. This took nothing away from my experience with the episode, just curious to know if others thought something similar.
Kyle Burton is a freelance critic and an inaugural recipient of Indiewire and Sundance’s Roger Ebert Fellowship. You can follow him on Twitter.