Here’s a savvier, trend-bucking sequence: separate strands of plot in “The Dying Minutes” lead to paralleled infiltration setpieces. Kiera leads Brad, disguised as her prisoner, into the Freelancers layer in one; Dillon, Carlos, Piron in the other. Kiera told Catherine she’d trade Brad for Alec, but it’s only confirmed as a trick moments before she and her dreamy squatter knock on the door. Similarly, we’re suspicious of Dillon inviting Carlos to “see the lab.” This is partially attributed to the direction (creator Simon Barry wrote and helmed the episode). Barry allows Dillon to leave the frame, Carlos following in the background, as he enters the building, suggesting he’s leading Carlos to some place we can’t see or anticipate. Everything feels like a trap.
Only one of them turns out to be, but the reveal is through misdirection. Carlos isn’t the only one at Piron with a visitor’s badge. After sending a Piron techy into hormonal fits over a coffee request, Sonya uploads a HALO virus. Her half of the setup is coy: Piron’s most sophisticated facial recognition software is Matthew Kellog? But the end game is effective—and the misdirection isn’t over. With her hands on her head, Carlos waving off Dillon’s hotter guns, we notice Sonya’s overcoat. She wasn’t wearing it before. Now it covers her body. Overcoat plus terrorist equals: How wide’s the blast radius? But Carlos cuffs her. They bring her in. Kiera, whose Operation I F’d Up was a success, sits in on Dillon’s interrogation briefly. He shoos her away. She share her apprehensions about Dillon’s power with Carlos. Finally: the boom.
Now, how anyone—especially issue—missed the golf ball-sized boils on Sonya’s forearms is its own thing. Without anointing it, it should be said that this is one of the better plotted episodes of Continuum in a while. Prepping for what turns out to be her suicide mission, Sonya has Lucas test the HALO virus on her. The virus tells the device, which calibrates all of your bodily chemicals (i.e., controls your health—see: general disposition—see: you), to overwhelm the amygdala. The result: terror. The idea of manufactured fear pairs well with Dillon’s philosophy on police work. But don’t prop it up next to Julien, or to Curtis’s “A great day is coming” line: you just might laugh.
Though it never seem intentional, there’s some revisionism in “The Dying Minutes.” Kiera frees Alec. The entire Freelancer clan winds up in pools of blood. Sonya’s gone, and Dillon might be. These all serve the plot moving forward. But there’s pleasure in looking at these developments and envisioning Barry rinsing the suds off his hands. It feels like the show’s taken several steps backwards—not by retraction, but by about-facing and Juggernauting through a few episodes. Barry’s tightening the unit up.
He’s also bringing back welcome faces. Erik Knudsen’s was never missing, but Alec’s was. Knudsen doesn’t play Young Sadler with the same innate depth. Young Sadler’s never been as natural, veering from conniving, to tragic, to manipulative, to self-destructive, to whatever other insecure-genius-mogul flavor of the week. He’s played a ton of roles, instead of one that requires many looks. Alec, on the other hand, was brought to a state of narrative stasis. Wanting to abandon his future and only be with Emily, there was nowhere left for him to go. So the writers dumped him in storage for a while. But Knudsen always kept Alec engaging. We can thank Magda Apanowicz for part of that. The simplicity of her chemistry with Knudsen is deceiving. Their characters share an understanding of the world. It’s easy, which makes it easy to enjoy them, even when the scripts make it difficult.
Kiera and Brad share some symmetry. They’re an effective (ass kicking) team. Their worlds overlap in ways they would with, maybe, five other people (not accounting for unaccounted time travelers). And they’ve found a way to get over some hurtful backstories. In explaining to Alec why he “stopped at one” Kiera murder, he says, “I felt guilty about the first one.” There’s chemistry. It can be a brilliant thing. It helps that Ryan Robbins has made Brad this season’s unchallenged, most convincing character. Because even with all this wrong righting, his relationship with Kiera and their younger counterparts’ reunion, which are the denouement of that second setpiece, has that feeling of tune in next week. Alec’s not going to get as far away as Emily assumes in her warm and fuzzy relief.
The show’s not always responsible. Fiction doesn’t need a moral code, but Continuum’s deployment of violence can be reckless, unconscious to its effects. Usually it’s the torture, but here it’s Sonya’s suicide bombing and Catherine’s cut throat. The latter’s equally not gruesome and unnecessary. It’s also not compelling filmmaking. Keep the focus on Curtis. The moment is about his ruthless worthiness, not Catherine’s death. If she simply crumbled, and blood coated Curtis from midriff down, the shot would’ve been more memorable.
The camera and pacing of Sonya’s interrogation and bombing are a bit frantic, appropriately, but there’s less gravity than we might expect. Largely, that’s because Dillon lives, somehow. Yet it’s another moment—like the mayor’s assassination in season two—where Continuum pulls this headline iconography but doesn’t dwell long enough for it to feel like, Yeah, this is a part of this world. Which is strange, because, at this point, its world seems to be about the only thing the show has stakes in. Let’s see if Barry indeed has his climbing shoes.
—Obvious addendum to last week’s notes: This episode was not in fact titled “2 Minutes to Midnight.” My apologies on what was surely repercussive misguidance. But I blame the She Witch Formerly Known As IMDb.
—I’m very much not excited for Battlefield Earth John Travolta with superpowers to have any influence on this show—let alone exist. Did ScyFy edit in those scenes
—Why Julien is the worst revolutionary: “Julien, do this.” “Nah, man.” “C’mon, you’ll be great.” “I will, won’t I? Sure! Rabble rabble bullshit rabble.”
—Conflicting info on Dillon: Two people gurneyed out, one in full-bodied bandages, the other in a bag; later Kellog’s line about Piron being “down a board member.” We can assume Kellog’s talking substitution, not outright replacement, since the EMT scene would suggest Dillon, somewhere, survived the blast. Besides, we know Kellog: substitution is as good as replacement.
—Finale time, yo.
Kyle Burton is a freelance critic and an inaugural recipient of Indiewire and Sundance’s Roger Ebert Fellowship. You can follow him on Twitter.