This is one of two reviews from All Too Convenient, a project I recently cancelled. It was originally published on October 13th, 2012, and features a humor-based writing style. Hope you enjoy!
Spoiler Level: Mild
I finally got around to watching Continuum in the last few days, and felt like sharing a little bit of the ridiculousness with you all. Ever since the creation of Corner Gas, I’ve been desperately awaiting the arrival of a TV-show that would allow us Canadians to regain some of our dignity. Yes, I realize that it’s a comedy, and Continuum isn’t, and I also realize some of you actually like Brent Butt‘s monstrosity of a TV-series, but can’t quite understand why that is. But, you know, to each his own. Anyway, I felt like Canada had a chance after the drunken arrival of the so-called Trailer Park Boys, and although Continuum isn’t a comedy, it’s one of the most recent examples of a Canadian show that I felt had some hope of being respected and watched beyond the border. In case you haven’t heard of it, here’s what they’re saying on Wikipedia:
When a group of rebels convicted as terrorists escape execution by fleeing from the year 2077 to 2012, Kiera Cameron, a future Vancouver law enforcement officer (called Protector), is involuntarily transported with them. In order to track them down and keep them from changing the past (and presumably future), Kiera joins the Vancouver Police Department and uses the skills of a young tech expert [to help locate and apprehend the criminals].
A high-tech “Protector” finds herself in our time, and has to cope with all of our old-school silliness while fighting a highly skilled team of evildoers. It didn’t take long for me to like the concept, but there’s this one scene at the start of the pilot that really made me roll my eyes. You see, the ass-kicking Kiera soon finds out she’ll need to go into work for one big event, the aforementioned execution. It’s at that time that we find out she has a little boy, Sam. We meet him when he walks up in his PJs, and asks his mother if she’s expecting to fight a galactic war anytime soon, or something like that. His mother crouches before him and assures him that no, everything will be fine, and soon the bad guys won’t be able to hurt anybody.
The camera then finds itself over Kiera’s shoulder, and we see the oh-so-cute little Sammy looking down at his Mom with an innocent and fragile gaze. “Do you have to go?” he asks, perhaps realizing that the galactic war would occur nonetheless, by way of TV destiny. Kiera explains that she’s simply doing her job, and little Sammy looks down at a little toy soldier he has in his hands, lifts it up, and figures he’ll do something totally adorable and predictable. He says the toy soldier is for her, and it’s in case she needs backup, which of course results in widespread AWWWs across the country. His mom smiles warmly, there’s this warm but slightly-dramatic music playing at the same time, and I can’t help but know with certainty that Sammy isn’t gonna see his mom for quite a while. Something’s gonna go down.
To me, it was very clear that they were trying to show the audience something: LOOK, KID ADORABLE, MOTHER WUV. Yes, writers and directors of Continuum, I get it. I see what you’re trying to show, but did you have to be so obvious about it? Do you think people typically have the chance to say proper goodbyes, when real tragic accidents or events occur? That’s not how real life works, in my experience, and there’s value in supporting a certain realism. The loss of Sammy could have been illustrated without spelling it out in such a way that everybody’s pets could understand it too. And that little toy soldier bit, give me a break. Ain’t it a little convenient that he whips out that little number right before his mother gets transported 65 years into the past?
We’re human! Show little Sammy in a natural, organic everyday moment with his mother, and then reveal the look on his mother’s face when she realizes that she won’t be able to see him again. To me, that’s one of the most fascinating things about acting – facial expressions, the show-but-don’t-tell method of conveying an emotion. Hell, if you want to drive the point home, just set up a scene with that little toy soldier, and have her look at it ever-so-briefly, and show her facial expression during the process. Subtle, you know? Not over-the-top by staging a scene where we all get to bathe in just how precious and fragile little Sammy is.
Oh, and in saying this, I’m talking to TV writers everywhere, not only the folks from Continuum. As a whole, Continuum remains an interesting show, and a Canadian one at that – so I’m certainly planning to continue watching. I just hope they try to stay away from moments of extreme convenience like the one I highlighted today. I want to be surprised and challenged, not placed on rails while waiting for cliché after cliché to hit me in the face.