|Courtesy of Reunion Pictures|
Season three returned off the back of a continuum shattering cliffhanger, which saw Kiera and most of Liber8 held captive by the Freelancers, Carlos and Betty turning to Julian in their moment of greatest need, and Alec disappear into time with motives and alliances unknown. And while this hour was dedicated mostly to explaining the who's and the where's, it also set up what will be the driving force behind this season.
Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that are settling old debts.
The Freelancers: not what I was expecting. Rather than some nefarious temporal agency manipulating time for their own benefits, they are guardians of destiny; a cult dedicated to the strict and correct unfolding of time. Originating from about 200 years in the future, they've spent the last millennium acting as an ever present force to combat those few travellers that have actually come back, with a mindset like Kellog, to reap the benefits of foreknowledge. There remains a lot that is unexplained about them, gaps that I assume will be filled in slowly as the series continues. Considering the level of technology they continue to operate with, I assume that they remain in contact with the future and the organisation which established the Freelancers to begin with. Catherine was purposely vague about their abilities to affect change in the collapsing time line, suggesting that the removal of Alec cut off their contact with their futuristic overlords. Which, if the timeline was collapsing from the future back to the point of Alec's arrival, makes sense.
Alec's time jump took him back one week, just long enough to undo the events of the season two finale, and just long enough to effect massive changes. Which answered a lot of questions viewers have had about how time travel works in the Continuum universe. Time can be changed, it just depends on what changes. Thousands, Catherine pronounces, can be killed with no effect, while one person can change everything. This explains why Kellog's grandmother could be killed without incident, because he is unimportant to the grand scheme. Alec is fundamental to the sequence of events. Without him, time travel isn't invented and nothing of Kiera's world remains. Alec removing himself from the timeline caused it to disintegrate, but it can be rebuilt from the point of his incursion.
It also confirmed that time travellers are immune to changes in the timeline. The retroactive unmaking of time only affects what inhabits the timeline at the time of dissolution. Killing Kellog's grandmother erased any future Kellog from existing, but the original doesn't get McFlyed out of existence because he is part of the new sequence of events. Which means that Continuum's time travel isn't conventional time travel at all. Every time a traveller moves into a different time frame, they are moving into an entirely new timeline. Which means, effectively, that Kiera will never be able to return to her home. The best she can hope for is something reasonably similar (think Simpson's Treehouse of Horrors V, or Michael Crichton's Timeline).
Alec's grand plan is to undo the events of the finale (or rather, the last two episodes) of season two. And he succeeds by making things kind of worse. His primary objective is to stop Emily from being killed. Secondary to that is manipulating his knowledge so that he achieves the result he wants with none of the harm. He gives Carlos and Kiera the information they need to arrest Lucas and acquire the time travel sphere, while also protecting Kiera from being framed for Gardener's murder. He tells Kellog enough information about Escher's plans to give Kellog the fortitude to have Escher killed (by a more than willing Emily). Travis never gets his hands on the second suit, inhibiting his ability to rampage, which also has the side effect of keeping Travis alive. Things proceeded as well as Alec could have hoped, right up until something got Kiera killed.
Unforeseen consequences are a well established quagmire of time travel, and Alec I fell will learn that more and more. Luckily for him (and us), the original Kiera - who, it should be mentioned, is now inhabiting her third separate timeline - had joined the ranks of the Freelancers in order to come back and make a choice. The timeline now has two Alec's: one, the original, who doesn't know the truth about Emily, who still sides with Kiera and is conflicted about his future. And the second, the interloper, who is determined to manipulate time to give him the happy ending her feels he deserves. Only one can survive, according to the Freelancers. One will create Kiera's future, the other will destroy it. And because this is Continuum, there is no chance in hell that it's going to be obvious which is which.
Where does this leave us moving forward? Well, thanks to Kiera's deal with the Freelancers, Carlos shouldn't have needed to quit the police force and side with Julian, though we saw very little of Carlos this episode and nothing of him in the disintegrating timeline. Kiera herself has to choose between the "innocent" Alec and the frantic one. Jason is aware of the interloper Alec's intentions, and he has always been a wild card, but the original Alec's intentions are still uncertain. He's saved Emily for now, but for how long. I expect more unintended consequences to develop as things move forward. And, as always, Liber8 is still out there somewhere.
I'm so very glad that this show is back.