Continuum takes superhero tropes out back and shoots them in the head

Back when the second season of Continuum began, we wondered if this show was trying to turn Keira into a superhero. That hasn't panned out so much — but last night's episode, "Second Skin," gave us the start of a big superhero origin story, then turned it on its head. Spoilers ahead...

Continuum is really burning on all thrusters in its second season thus far, after a hit-and-miss first season. The relationship between Kiera and Alec, in particular, keeps getting more nuanced and a bit more thorny than their collaboration in the first year. And the show seems to be finding interesting metaphors and clever twists in its story of people from the future trapped in the past. Good stuff.

"Second Skin," in particular, is a pretty neat fakeout. There's a second super-suit, like the one Kiera has, on the loose in Vancouver — and it's just been sold at a tag sale. The guy who gets it decides to use it for cosplay at a wedding themed around a random space opera show, and then discovers that he's fireproof and bulletproof while he wears it. He even gets to be a hero, saving a gas station from a Liber8 attack.

The whole show seems to be setting up a thing where this guy becomes a superhero — or at least tries to, as he realizes that the suit gives him amazing powers. He's an ordinary shmoe who dropped out of college and now runs a dry-cleaner, and he feels like he doesn’t deserve his awesome girlfriend. And now, he finally has a chance to be somebody, and make a difference, and great power and great responsibility, etc.

Instead, the suit just causes him to get his ass kicked, kind of brutally, as he gets caught in the crossfire between the two Liber8 factions. The suit kind of saves his life, but it's also the reason why he's beaten to a pulp.

In fact, the episode kind of pulls the rug out from under us — we're set up to think the big crux of the story will be this guy deciding whether to put the suit on and fight bad guys, or to follow his girlfriend's wishes and put the suit away. Instead, the climax of the episode is just this guy getting caught in the middle as everybody wants the suit.

Meanwhile, we meet the suit's original owner — Elena, Kiera's former partner from 2077, who was also sent back in time but wound up in 1975. She's spent the past four decades as a regular person, getting married and raising a family — ironically, since in a flashback from 2077 we see that Elena gave Kiera a hard time for being torn between her family and her duty as a Protector.

The scenes between Kiera and the elderly Elena are kind of lovely, especially the part where Elena helps Kiera run rings around poor old Agent Gardiner. ("Who's the asshole?" Heh.) Elena is like a version of Kiera who's gone native, because she landed in an era when there was no Liber8 to fight. The show sort of dangles the possibility that Kiera could have a confidant in 2012 who can understand all of the stuff Kiera's dealing with — and then snatches it away, having Elena die of her liver disease.

Oh, and speaking of superheroes — for some reason, Rachel Nichols seemed to be really channeling Lynda Carter in this episode. I was realizing I could actually see her playing Wonder Woman, if Gina Torres isn't available.

And meanwhile, when Alec locks in to Elena's CMR, we learn that Travis, too, has a CMR. Did he get it as part of his super-soldier process? Could Alec and Kiera use it to control him or track him?

Speaking of Travis, he's got a brand new tactic: targeting evil oil companies, which the public already hates for their price gouging and environmental destruction. It's really not clear that this ploy will work out that great — as Curtis points out, won't people be kind of annoyed that they can't gas up their cars, and blame Liber8 for the inconvenience? In any case, it's a fairly dramatic gesture, and meanwhile Sonya is just hanging around making speeches about non-violence.

A huge trope of superhero shows is the hero being torn between the call to heroism and the need to have a personal life — so it's fitting that this time around, we get to see Alec struggling to balance his duties helping Kiera with his newfound romance with Emily. (Luckily for Alec, he no longer has a day job and hasn't yet decided whether to throw in with Kellog, or the scheduling would be really nightmarish.) It's great to see Magda Apanowicz from Kyle XY and Caprica playing another awesome nerdy girl, even if the bit where Alec asks if she lost a bet is slightly cringe-worthy — but believably so.

All in all, this show seems to be having fun playing with tropes instead of being shackled to them. But the biggest question I was left with is: Kiera knows where to find her mysterious benefactor Escher, since Piron Corp. apparently has a headquarters and stuff. Why doesn't she go visit him?