Season 3 Spoilers Ahead
Written by Simon Barry
Directed by William Waring
“That’s one of the remarkable things about life. It’s never so bad that it can’t get worse.”
— Bill Watterson
One of the many reasons I am so fond of reading is because simple complexities come out when an author needs to relate to broad audience. Bill Watterson is the artist who created the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip (1985-1995) and somehow he was able to make the abstract very concrete. There is one thing in particular I remember Calvin saying to Hobbes: “I think night time is dark because you can imagine your fears with less distraction.” In one interview, Watterson defended Hobbes, the tiger who interacts with Calvin the most in his comic strips. He says that Hobbes is not imaginary, that he is more about the subjective nature of reality than he is a stuffed animal coming to life. But Hobbes is brought to life, in one way or another, through the boy and, in effect, both sides of the conversation come out through Calvin as he, a six-year-old with a profound imagination, absorbs the world around him.
What does this have to do with Continuum, you ask? Over the last 10 months I have read 54 books for a podcast I’m doing with Golden Spiral Media (We Have to Go Back: A Lost Revisited Podcast). It has been challenging, yes, but moreover, it has been so enlightening to read the array of genres all in such close proximity (just for a list of the ones I analyzed, if you want an idea, click here). From philosophy to mystery to pulp-fantasy, my brain is so crammed with all of these stories and possibilities and universes and conceptions…
And yet, Continuum is still unique. Continuum is still set apart from this literature. And on this list are books like The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostvoesky and The Stand by Stephen King and Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie and Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nobokov whose authors are revered as being pioneers in their genres.
Often a huge downfall of genre television is the coming and going of showrunners. A vision that was formed under one showrunner is hurt in more than one way when that showrunner leaves. In a straight-up drama, the showrunner change influences a certain path a character will take and changes the mood of the story, but in a science-fiction production, not only is the former true but new elements are added that weren’t accounted for early on so that even though something down the road was planned for, bits and pieces don’t fit into place. And this doesn’t exclusively happen just when there is a showrunner change, a lot of shows seem to start with a narrow story that has a broad potential, but that potential isn’t realized until the first finale and they try to piece together possible tie-ins throughout the season to prepare for the next. The show coming to mind in this is Arrow and how the character of Sarah Lance was developed. I don’t know for certain if her character was expected to make a comeback or not, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest she wasn’t and in the early episodes of season 1 it really doesn’t feel like she was.
While I’m watching Continuum, I am immensely grateful for a couple things. First that there has been no change in showrunners. Second that there was a vision for this story from its conception. And third, that whatever wasn’t accounted for at the show’s conception seems to be carefully woven in, instead of abruptly sprung on us, so that it feels like the intention was there all along. What might be more accurate is to observe that the direction this show takes fits within its universe. And with 10-13 episodes a season, it must be no small task to make these additions seamless.
Continuum isn’t Calvin & Hobbes. I don’t find complexities made simple through this show. I don’t understand time travel any more than I did five years ago. However, that being said, it has succeeded in helping me to see an even bigger web of cause and effect in the universe. I keep coming back to Kagame’s words to Alec at the end of season one: “A pebble tossed from the beach can become a tsunami on the other side of the world.” And I think, at least for me, that learning to think bigger is often as important as learning to think simply. Watterson taught me to see the world through the eyes of a six-year-old who was more honest with his universe than any adult would ever be, and Continuum is teaching me how broaden my scope through the lens of adults who think they are being honest with themselves.
The Cabin: Kiera and Brad
I don’t typically watch television for the love stories, but it’s funny how my favorite science-fiction shows end up making me care about relationships. Lost made me care about Sawyer and Juliet, Fringe made me care about Peter and Olivia(s), Falling Skies made me care about Tom and Anne. I really thought I wasn’t going to have to think about romance on this show, not legitimately, but I now care about Kiera and Brad. And I’ll tell you why…
Typically, when quoting Pride and Prejudice, I like the line: “What are men to rocks and mountains?” In context, I find it extremely funny. Out of context, it’s even funnier. However, in this instance I’d like to quote something else… After Elizabeth has received the letter from Mr. Darcy explaining the nature of his relationship with Mr. Wickham, she is appalled with her own behavior toward a man who did not deserve her hostility (and, remember, he had confessed his love for her right before writing the letter). She says to herself:
…vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself. (Chapter 36)
In a strange way, Kiera is in a similar position. Where Elizabeth welcomed the attentions of Mr. Wickham and then spurned Mr. Darcy, when the former was deceiving her as the other simply portrayed himself as proud, Kiera was more apt to believe what the Corporate Congress told her and less willing to believe that the abrasive and radical Liber8 was on a mission to correct wrongs. She was awakened. Until now, I believe, Kiera never knew herself.
Because who are we, really, but a product of the strongest influences in our environment? If we’re lucky, a Kagame comes along to wake us up, or we follow the thread of our own curiosity in order to find that the world is not what we perceive it to be. But all too often we don’t fight the reality shown to us. The Matrix is such a good representation of that truth! But in the non-sci-fi sense of it, I would qualify voting for someone just because they are in “our” party, or getting vaccinated because the news told us to do it as falling into the category of not fighting our reality. These things aren’t inherently bad, but they can become so when we don’t apply reason and research to the decision-making process.
And for Kiera, now awakened, I am drawn to the way she sees the world now. She has relaxed because the control she once needed to exercise in order to remain so committed to the Corporate Congress is relinquished. Her brain can rest. And yet, she still has a strong moral core because the essence of why she fights hasn’t changed, just who (or what) she is fighting for. And this changes a person, profoundly. Or perhaps, this results in coming to know oneself better. As Elizabeth said, Kiera might not have truly known herself until now. I think Brad is what she found after coming to know herself. He is the result of a future that she doesn’t want to happen, and, ironically enough, is a tangible piece of the future that reminds her of Sam.
Kiera: “For the first time in a long time [Sam] feels closer, but I feel like I belong here. Then the funny thing is even with Liber8 trying to destroy everything that leads to him, somehow he still feels possible.”
Brad: “Even if you can’t get back?”
Kiera: “I didn’t say it made sense. I just have this bizarre perspective that no one will understand, except you.”
Without just restating that I am drawn to the chemistry of these two actors, I think the other piece of this story I am drawn to is the impossibility of this relationship under “normal” circumstances. This relationship is absolutely impossible in the real world. A woman from 2077 and a man from a timeline in which she might possibly never exist, meeting at a specific point in the past. It’s the impossibility of it that draws me to it. And the relationship didn’t spawn from pursuit of love or pursuit of identity, it is Kiera seeking out trying to simplify her life. “I never knew I could want so little so much,” Kiera tells Brad at the beginning of the episode. For a time, their lives were made simple as they left the complexities of life back in Vancouver. A short period of serenity comes from reckless abandonment.
The Beacon: Nothing Didn’t Happen
Raise your hand if you were surprised nothing didn’t happen! That’s right. There was no way they could win, because there’s no way they could have accounted for the reason what they did didn’t work.
(Imagine me saying that with the intonation of Evil Emperor Zurg.)
The irony is that even if everything had gone exactly to plan (Carlos hadn’t lost Alec, Emily hadn’t been arrested, etc), the beacon still would have alerted the future to that specific moment in time because the target of Kiera’s plan was not, ultimately, what had caused the timeline to change. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to state this as absolute, but it sure seems that while Liber8 and Kiera and Brad were each humming their own tune, Kellogg was orchestrating his own endgame. At the end of The Dying Minutes, Kiera acknowledged that she was the problem when she originally thought Alec was the problem, but that was only from their narrow awareness of what is going on around them.
Dealing with unknown variables is an interesting dilemma. I work in the business intelligence field, specifically in application and warehouse design. For the application we’ve built, we started off by attempting to make the app so flexible and so dynamic that it could handle “unknowns”. But we soon realized that doing it in this way requires a lot of customization and hands-on approach on our end and it makes automated processes extremely complex. The size of our business (small) makes the utilization of these features expensive (on our end) and we’ve moved toward standardization and normalization that are much more common in warehouse design. With where we want to go with this application, we have to draw the line somewhere and say this is what we expect rather than trying to design it to handle any and all dimensions associated with any business in any industry .
It was interesting to think about the results of the beacon in this way. Kiera, Brad and Liber8 needed to establish variables in order to take any action, and now with Brad some of those variables have changed. And yet, even with the knowledge that Kellogg is a big deal in the future, they do not incorporate Kellogg into their plan in any way. They think, Kellogg hasn’t become a big deal yet, so what can we do now in order to make it so Kellogg does not become a big deal? Kellogg is what we call, in the biz, an unstructured dimension (this is an article about dimensions and metrics, so you can extrapolate what an unstructured dimension is through the description). Every company has custom dimensions and it’s almost impossible to escape them in any reporting scenario, but the unknowns are unpredictable because they are custom. So when it comes to analyses generated by a control group that does not strictly have definitions for that dimension, even though the dimension exists it cannot properly be analyzed against existing datasets even within that company’s industry. A system must be aware of the dimension, what it means, and how it can be analyzed in order for any comparisons to make sense.
Kellogg is like an unstructured dimension. Now we must add that dimension to our data model, run molap setup, and reload data. I’m excited.
When the Alecs began to fight, I was able to keep track of them for a while. But when the sphere broke apart and they crashed through the window, I completely lost track of which was which. Their comments were perfectly vague enough to apply to either of them (i.e. “I’ve seen the future, Alec. And you’re not in it!”). And so I knew that I wouldn’t be able to tell for sure which Alec was which until we saw him alone. But, then, I realized that Kiera had removed the chip thing from Piron Alec’s arm and inserted it into Time Travel Alec, which solidified for me which Alec remained. For a while I was sure that the Alec who was left standing outside Piron as Kiera and her new gang drove away was going to turn on a sinister grin and laugh that he’d beaten her… but then I remembered the chip thing. And unless Piron Alec pulled some hokus pokus and put a chip into the other Alec, I’m pretty sure the Alec we’re left with is Time Travel Alec.
But, once again, it doesn’t matter which one is left! The future that resulted from Kellogg’s takeover of Piron must have influenced the course of events enough to render the surviving Alec irrelevant.
How beautiful is that? The man who orchestrated for Kellogg to travel into the past to correct his mistakes, ends up becoming invalidated by the one he commissioned to save him. Perhaps Kellogg views his actions as righteous, as in, he believes he is saving the future from Alec by making Sadtech immaterial.
….of this post.
I have a lot to think about. And now I need to go listen to Mike and Dave talk about the episode and pick up on all the stuff I missed. Or got wrong. I generally listen to their podcast within hours after I post this blog every week and sometimes I just hit my forehead and go, “Duh!” If you are not listening to Liber8: A Continuum Podcast with Mike and Dave, you better start now.