14 May 2013

[Review] - Continuum, Season 2 Episode 4, "Second Skin"

[Author's note: the Continuum and Game of Thrones reviews will be swapping publication days. Continuum reviews will appear on Tuesdays, and the Game of Thrones reviews will appear on Wednesday for the remainder of their respective seasons.]
Courtesy of Reunion Pictures
 I had apprehensions going into this episode. On the surface, this is the closest this series has come to doing a comedic episode. And the sci-fi plot of someone using a device to become a superhero is usually marred by the opportunity to create an unfair representation of geeks, something geeks don't need any more of (and which geek TV shows are just a guilty of as anyone else). However, I felt vindicated in my trust in this series when the episode came together in a emotionally gripping story, which is not a one off, but plays deeply into the greater mythology of the show.

I just have no idea where it leaves the (as of yet unestablished) rules of time travel.

Hit the jump for the review, which have never bought anything remotely cool at a yard sale.

We might as well get straight to it: how did Elena end up in 1975? From what the show has established thus far, the further back a person was standing from the initial blast from the time sphere thing, the later they arrived in the jump. The primary group of Liber8 was standing near the blast, they arrived first. Kiera was standing at the edge of the group, she arrived a day or so late. Kagame was standing a step or so back, he arrived weeks later. Elena was standing at the edge of the room, so far back I assumed in the pilot that she was vaporised rather then went time hopping. But wouldn't that have meant she would have arrived years after Kiera?

To the same extent, how did Jason arrive in the 1990's? If he was also in the room, does this mean that the further a person was from the contained blast, the less focus in where they landed occurred? Essentially making anyone caught in the wake of the blast floating freely through time, liable to appear anywhere in the stream? Is this instability by accident or by design? And what does it mean for these Freelancers we've been hearing about, or more importantly, the mysterious Mr. Escher, whom Elena seemed to have knowledge of. Who else was in that execution chamber in the pilot?

The episode was structured around a standard MacGuffin premise: a protector's suit is discovered by Kiera, and both factions of Liber8, and all sides want to get their hands on it. Future tech would be useful to all parties, and not just because it is essentially the suit from Greatest American Hero. What follows is alternatively a missed opportunity, and a smart move. We get to see very little, if any at all, of the Liber8's attempts to track the suit. What we get instead is more loaded onto Kiera's fragile emotional barge, as her former partner lay dying, having lived a full life. By focusing less on the standard sci-fi trope, and more on the emotional journey (and I feel inevitable collapse) of the character, it both furthers the story and doesn't have to resort to anything foolish or contrived. It did, in this episode, what Warehouse 13 has always been incapable of doing. Same "go-and-grab" plot, different route, better results.

A lot this season has been building around the idea of Kiera being forced to admit that she's stuck in 2012, and that she needs to accept this and move on with her life. Kudos to the show for never once pushing Carlos as a love interest, but he is, along with Alec, the closest thing she has to family in the present and her emotional crutch. But between Jason's mysterious past, and Elena's fulfilled life, more and more the world is telling Kiera to let go, and it is her steely resolve and refusal to do so that will be her downfall. Because thus far, the evidence suggests that going it alone only ends in misery, while finding an anchor, or some support elsewhere makes for happier, healthier lives. And don't forget, we have that haunting vision Sadler put in her dreams in the season premier that has yet to rear it's institutionalised head again.

Patrick Gilmore, late of Stargate Universe, was fantastic as the average schlep who tries to do the right thing when the tools fall into his lap, and ends up nearly dead for it. How quickly the show passed over the potential comedy (and all fairness to Gilmore, who is usually cast in the comedic roles) in order to bring it back to bone crunching reality. The finale show down sequence, between the Liber8 factions, was amazingly well done. Near silent, pure unfettered violence. And not the glamorous kind. Just people beating each other bloody. How quickly Sonya gave up last week's passive ways, if it meant putting a round into Garza.

If the show has one weakeness, its that they need to find a better way to conclude episodes, as this is at least the second time this season, and one of many more from the entire series run, where the climax was a shoot out in a maze-like warehouse, which ended with Kiera being a terrible shot and Liber8 running away like scared children, despite having the upper hand. This show is better then that sort of tired repetition.

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