This week riffs somewhat predictably on The Manchurian Candidate, but it also features some promising and suspenseful developments in the greater story arc.

Title: “Playtime”

(Identified in some places online as “Game Time”)

Cast and Crew
Director: Paul Shapiro
Writer: Andrea Stevens

Rachel Nichols as Kiera Cameron
Victor Webster as Carlos Fonnegra
Erik Kundson as Alec Sadler
Stephen Lobo as Matthew Kellog
Brian Markinson as Dillon
Richard Harmon as Julian Randol
Tony Amendola as Edouard Kagame
Omari Newton as Lucas Ingram
Richard Harmon as Julian Randol
Mike Dopud as Stefan Jaworski
Tony Amendola as Edouard Kagame
Cameron Park as Tech Exec
Evan Frayne as Cole Bartley
Victor Ayala as Copeland
Danny Wattley as Greg Morit

Full cast and crew information may be found here.

Premise

Two bizarre murder-suicides lead Cameron and Fonnegra into a mystery involving proto-VR technology, videogames, and corporate rivalries. Kiera has to cope without her future tech, while technology begins to change the game she and Liber8 have to play.

High Points

A well-directed episode, “Playtime” features a gripping opening sequence and some excellently framed shots. There’s a post-cyberpunk, pre-cyberpunk feel and visual style to the episode. Cyberpunk is largely a genre of the past—but is it becoming our reality?

Low Points

1. Kellog uses the old “I’m a journalist and we’re doing a story on you and no I don’t actually have any I.D.” ploy to gain access to an individual and a secure location. Would this ever really work?

2. Despite the strong overall arc, individual episodes of the show appear to have a reset button of sorts. Carlos Fonnegra gets instantly reinstated last week; this week, Kiera Cameron appears ready to go back on active duty, despite the events and her unusual actions.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 Videogame violence and the Manchurian Candidate.

Effects: 5/6 I really liked the slightly fake look of the proto-VR reality.

Story: 4/6 The episode features good development of the overall series arc. Liber8 now knows that young Alec is helping Kiera, and Alec has clearly discovered something significant, as yet unrevealed.

Acting: 5/6

Emotional Response: 4/6

Production: 5/6.

Overall: 5/6 The series always had SF in terms of the future tech. With this episode, we see present-day technology which, while familiar to readers of SF and thrillers, is highly speculative. The show will have to take care balancing these two different elements as present and future start to connect.

In total, “Playtime” receives 30/42