When time runs out for a series that has been going for more than two years, it’s often a sign of a creative misstep or a drop in quality. Neither of these can explain Continuum’s failure to secure more than three full seasons, however. Following directly on from a second season finale that blew away any doubts about the show’s genre credentials, Season Three strikes the ideal balance between fantasy and reality. The result is some of the best sci-fi TV we’ve seen since Fringe.
Time travel plays a prominent role in key story arcs and character development this year. What keeps Continuum firmly rooted in the real world, though, is an informed emphasis on topical issues around technological progress, corporate power and surveillance. Only when the shaky finale takes one step too many into Terminator territory does it feel like the writers have forgotten what keeps the show grounded.
Much of what happens is still tied to the cat-and-mouse game between the Vancouver Police Department and Liber8. Yet, at its most fundamental, this season is about choices and consequences. As this plays out the focus shifts off attempts by Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) to get back to the future and onto shocking conundrums that several characters have to come to terms with. The upshot is that boundaries between good and evil become blurred. There’s also ample bashing of big business that’s made convincing by having a basis in truth.
A conspiracy theorist might suggest that this is actually why Continuum’s producers found it hard to attract funding for a full fourth season: even if this season simply reflects society’s distrust of corporations, it makes a strong case for remaining vigilant about how much power we cede to them. A cynic, meanwhile, might point to the ratings and say that the problem with Continuum is that you have to pay attention while you watch it. What’s not in doubt is that it should be considered a success, even if its truncated history suggests otherwise.