Oh, Nostalgia, you can never catch a break, can you? People are always saying you embargo the present. There can be no pleasure taken in the delight right there, they say of you, if we dwell on some bygone joy that likely wasn’t quite as joyful as you trick us into remembering. You’re a phony. Your eradication gives way to genuine progress. If the setting is plutocracy, your absence means greater efficiency and, of course, profit.
For Kiera, nostalgia was a proving ground. In the cold-open flashback (flash-something?—what a joke Continuum makes of the term), CPS is repossessing Mrs. Cameron’s belongings. She quips once or twice about the bill she will receive for their collection, but is no revolutionary. She’s a mother, once a wife, with possessions that evoke memory. She wants to protect some of them. The inventory officer may be compassionless, but he’s not unreasonable. But you’d think empathy wins within the family.
When a tub of secret contraband—books, antiquated media like iPods, things futuristic systems of authority don’t approve of—overturns, a pseudo-sixties Kiera betrays her mother and sister. Director Pat Williams blocks the room into literal sides, framing Nichols with the officer and cutting to Mrs. Cameron and Hannah who seem both unsurprised and devastated. For us, this isn’t the first time she’s abandoned her family. The contrast, though, is that her hope is for all the pieces of her current situation to lead her back to her husband and son. Her pushback against Liber8, her protection of Alec—it’s all meant to punch her return ticket. Family, here, comes first.
“Minute Men” externalizes the identity crises that have long populated Continuum. Some of it’s clumsy; Kiera and Alec repeatedly stumble over the appropriate pronoun for their other selves. The theory is more compelling than the execution, and it’s better pulled off when the episode considers how Kiera and Alec’s selfishness impacts others. Kellog enlists Emily to kill Escher before either realizes he’s Alec’s father. Jim’s political double dipping runs its course, but not before he calls out Dillon for hopping into bed with big business. In the middle of all of it is Carlos: “Which one of you is my Kiera?”
Carlos, as usual, has it rough. He’d just started getting used to the time travel thing. Now it’s wrapped back around and robbed him of a friend. He puts his faith in this Kiera—our Kiera—because that’s the sensible decision. She’s still her. But the bottomlessness of a single person must make everything feel artificial. If a million of your best friends crowd in front of you, whom do you choose? Can you? What if there’s only two? “Minute Men” builds to despair. Kiera and Alec need to solve Kiera B’s murder, but existentially the episode is aimless. It’s caught up in deliberation. The stakes have become either too large—Jim—or too murky—Carlos. (The closing moments of “Minute Men” are everything missing from last week’s premiere.)
The characters on Continuum are always grappling with whom to be. Looking into infinity, how could they not be overcome with Option. They make contradictory choices at times. There’s confusion. Alec’s a genius, but he had no idea of the consequences his saving Emily would have. How does a 64-space strategy apply to a game board without limits? More and more, their decisions have less to do with their personal makeup than their desired end game. Kiera wants to get home. That’s a conclusion. Alec wanted to save Emily. Then what?
There’s a way to see Continuum as a meditation on the power and worth of nostalgia—wanting to shape the future around times remembered. It has a strange timelessness; nostalgia’s entrenched in something that’s never existed. We know Kiera’s past was not ideal and a “return” is implausible. There’s a means for transportation, but her destination more than likely will be a resemblance of “home,” not the real thing. This terrifies Kiera. Nichols summons more menace for her confrontation with Alec than when Kiera needed to convince Julien she could kill him. Accident? The thing she once crushed in her mother she now clings to with a desperation that has proven more willful than her natural disposition. Her sentimentality corrupts her.
—I had a screener for the premiere, but it lacked the new title sequence, so this week was my first exposure. Big upgrade.
—How in the world would Thailand not have come up between this Emily and her Alec?
Kyle Burton is a freelance critic and an inaugural recipient of Indiewire and Sundance’s Roger Ebert Fellowship. You can follow him on Twitter@KyleBurton9106.