After twenty-five minutes of stuff, episode scribe Jonathan Walker delivers a fifteen-minute monologue. HALO turns decent people into Hulks—i.e., Jason trying to kill two people (one of them Julien). Carlos is uncool with Dillon buying off the hulks, and Kiera accuses Young Sadler of prioritizing profit over public safety. But forget the prologue: Liber8 wrangles up Kiera and a now fully-functional Brad. They commence the torture. They want answers.
They get a show bible.
At this point, what should we expect? Continuum has deployed two modes of suspense this season: carrot dangling and cartography. "3 Minutes to Midnight" simply does away with pretense of sublimation. Yet the only thing bordering on grand is the confusion of plot for narrative. Plot involves world-building and table-setting. The ways in which characters interact with all of that and overlap in their interactions is narrative. Continuum demonstrated a similar disposition in "Waning Minutes". When departing from template or, here, dramatic rhythm, writers have magnetization in mind. They aim not only for the forward inching of our butts, but our upward springing arms across our neighbor’s chest. This way, when the sequence concludes, we all exhale a collective Yeah, bitch! Magnets! "Waning Minutes" broke away out of ambition. "3 Minutes to Midnight" miscasts itself as epic.
After memory rushes Brad, he takes off before Kiera returns with breakfast. Assassination leads to a shameful walk indeed. Kiera eventually locates him, interrupting his reunion with his adolescent self. They have the ol’ verbal run around: Don’t vanish. — I had to (I sent a slug through other-you’s brain.), to paraphrase. In turn, and for hardly a good reason, Travis and Sonya and Garza and Lucas interrupt them. It can’t be a reunion until everyone’s present.
Kellog and Curtis eventually show up, but not at this point. The informational advantage Kiera and Brad hold over the Liber8 foursome does not extend to Kellog and his immortality guru. They’re the beneficiaries, and the final straw. They get to arrive when flabbergasted stares are at their most impressionable. All it takes is ten minutes of Q&A.
Travis and Sonya demand to know what Kiera and Brad know. How is she here? Why is he here? What does his future look like? It ends in cheer: Decades before 2077 the corporations and the government have dissolved and civil war fractures the country. Travis remains skeptical. Sonya rejoices. She must, so that Brad and Kiera can attempt escape. And they must be allowed to attempt so that a chase sequence can ensue and then end with reheated questioning.
Some might call this interrogation. Entire episodes of 24 centered on one character, usually Jack Bauer, looming over an adequate secret-keeper. The interrogator barks. The prisoner eventually folds, dies, or—uncommonly—dupes the interrogator. Sometimes car batteries (or nail guns) are necessary. Other times, it’s just about endurance. Either way, the content of question/response is plot. Where the bomb is, who killed who, what future belongs to this timeline: all of this is raw information, the mechanisms of the world in which these characters exist.
A world is only as interesting as its inhabitants. What makes these loquacious set pieces interesting is the way the characters spin them. When henchmen zap Jack’s heart into arrest, we hold our breath over his resolve to actually die before betraying his country: He’s a superhero; that doesn’t make him invincible. For god’s sake, Homeland has an episode titled "Q&A." It’s their best, a shattering masterclass in subtext, dialogue, emotion, acting, and direction. We anticipate the questions and are well aware of their answers. Carry and Brody’s conversation isn’t developmental: It’s revelatory. But here, what are we to pluck from Sonya’s use of power tools? Her sudden lack of rationality? Of Travis not sharing her sense of triumph?—Is destiny igniting his ascension?—Is Sonya’s desperation overtaking her intellect?
No. And to the formers: Nothing.
All of it is a cog in the Out-In-The-Open contraption. Between Kiera and Brad’s separate testimonies, the series’s original players all land on the same page. Liber8’s impotency leaps beyond the writers’ handling this season: their mission, as Travis says, was "conceptually flawed." By extension, Kiera’s efforts to contain them and return to her family were likewise foolhardy. Time is an organic thing. People can participate in it however they please, but they have no grasp of consequential precipitation. Their ignorance is its will: They do things, but no matter their misguided clarity, their blindness is unconquerable. It’s semi-heady stuff, but water spouts don’t tell stories. Human beings do.
—This isn’t a cast that overcomes a poor script. It’s hard to fault Lexa Doig. What else do you do when handed a turd but gawk? Rachel Nichols throttled
; a moment last week the show didn’t deserve, but Brian Markinson is about the only one prepackaged with some gravitas. When the script flounders, so too, quickly, does the episode.
—That said, cinematographer David Pelletier, who shot the evocative "Waning Minutes", maintains the visual standard.
said, "3 Minutes to Midnight" practically boasts about its dramatic machination: Young Sadler thwarts Kiera’s biometric polygraph with his spiffy and entirely unestablished "Kiera CMR Blocker"; Carlos hits an investigative dead end—enter random Cop With Intell who Carlos happens to know has been having an affair; boy genius utters, "I was just trying to prove to [my dad, the controlling sociopath] I deserved his praise and his love." Bonus: Kiera lands a passed-out-but-nope counter.
—The countdown to the finale has kicked off. Next week’s episode will be titled "2 Minutes to Midnight." The finale’s title is yet disclosed; "Midnight’s Minute", perhaps?
Kyle Burton is a freelance critic and an inaugural recipient of Indiewire and Sundance’s Roger Ebert Fellowship. You can follow him on Twitter.