Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stargate Wednesday: Aftermath (2.2)

Last night brought us another new episode of Stargate Universe, and Aftermath was a bit of a doozie.  It's awesome to see them kicking off the season on such an intense note.  Hopefully enough people will follow the show to Tuesdays that we can secure a third season. 

Alright, first, the formalities. 

There be spoilers coming your way, yo.

So this week on Stargate Universe, our intrepid band of explorers are running quite low on supplies and anxiously awaiting the next drop out of FTL so that they can find a planet that will allow them to replenish their stock.  The shortage is largely due to the presence of the Lucian Alliance (LA) prisoners now on board the Destiny.  In the episode's main story line, it appears that Rush has found the bridge of the ship--but he hasn't told anyone yet.  This means Rush is more or less in complete control of Destiny.  I'mma just gonna take a moment to let the freakiness of that statement sink in.....

.....yeah.  So.  In one of his secret jaunts to the bridge, Rush sees that the ship is approaching a planet that seems to have what they need, but he's left the ship on autopilot to avoid suspicion, and the ship doesn't appear to want to stop at that planet.  Seems like the gate on that planet is locked out of Destiny's dialing systems.    Rush gets the ship to drop out of FTL and Young sends Scott down with a crew in the shuttle to try to locate the gate and repair it.  Of course, Rush didn't bother to learn why Destiny had locked that gate out of its dialing systems, and it turns out there was a pretty darn good reason.  The planet is all kinds of volcanic, which has not only resulted in a buried stargate, but has also caused all kinds of wacky interference in the atmosphere of the planet itself.  After some crazy turbulence on entry to the planet's atmosphere, the shuttle then loses all power and crashes.  Mostly everyone is okay except for Riley, who was pinned by some falling debris in the crash and can't get out or feel his legs.  The shuttle is scrapped, which means the team's only way off the planet is to find and fix the stargate.  Oh, and of course, the clock is ticking, and they don't have very long before Destiny jumps back into FTL.  Goody.

The Destiny does end up jumping without the ground team (because, you know, buried stargates take time to unbury).  The plan appears to be for everyone to cross their fingers and hope that the next time the ship drops out of FTL, the gate will be fixed and still in range of the Destiny.  Yeah, that's an excellent plan.  There aren't any number of variables that could cause that to go FUBAR or anything.  While Destiny is in FTL, Rush sneaks back off to the bridge and realizes that their next stop will be well out of range of the gate.  He dithers about whether or not to tell the ship to stop within dialing range.  His delay isn't because he's not sure he can do it but because he's not sure what excuse he can give for the ship dropping out of FTL early with no other gates within dialing distance.  He is determined to keep his discovery of the bridge a secret, you see, even though he clearly could use some help actually figuring out all of the ship's systems.  But he does manage to think up an excuse and the ship stops, the stranded team has managed to dig up the gate and get it in working order.  

So everyone gets to go home again.  Except Riley.  Because it turns out that debris that had him pinned was the only thing keeping him alive.  It was keeping pressure on a wound that without it would have bled out immediately.  Which means that even with backup to help move the debris, they still can't get Riley out of there, because as soon as the debris is gone, he's dead.  So Young has a quiet conversation alone with him and they both acknowledge that he's going to die, and Riley asks Young to end it for him so that they don't all waste their time waiting around for him to go.  Bye, bye Riley, you will be missed.

And that's pretty much it.  There was a secondary story on the ship with Wray conducting psych evals of the LA prisoners and trying to convince Young not to just drop them all off at the first available planet.  Young pretty much tries to avoid the whole issue, and Telford goes over his head to Stargate Command via the communication stones.  The prisoners can be offloaded to a hospitable planet, with the exception of a few key members of the group (like Varro and Science Girl Ginny), who they are to keep because Wray and Telford have deemed them valuable assets.  So, bye, bye most of the LA prisoners.  It was nice meeting you.  Have fun on Volcano Planet.  Try not to get buried, I guess.  

All in all, I thought this was another very solid episode, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Despite the fact that they killed off one of my favorite characters.  Admittedly, Riley was one of my favorite characters primarily because he was one of the few non-mains whose name I knew.  Last season every time it looked like he was in peril, I would always yell at the screen, "You can't kill Riley!  I know his name!"  Also, he's the gate tech, more or less, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the gate techs.  If I lived in the universe of stargates, that is totally the job I would have.  So, it blows that he's dead, but it is science fiction (and more importantly, Stargate), where no one is ever really dead.  Maybe he went to live on Crazy Alien Planet with Caine and T. J.'s baby?  Actually, no, let's pretend I didn't say that.  Please, dear writers, don't do that, okay?  Still, Riley's death was very well done, and kind of a necessity.  I mean, early in the episode I honestly thought that if anyone was going to die, it would be the random Red Shirt Marine with a head wound, and that's exactly the kind of thinking Riley's death was meant to squash.  His death is important because we did know his name.  It shows us that the stakes are real, and that the crew of Destiny is very much fighting every minute simply to survive.  Anything they do on this trip could lead to death.  This show is so different from the other two in the franchise because it's really not about good versus evil or about saving the planet/galaxy.  It's about just trying to survive.  Early Atlantis had a similar feel, but it wasn't the focus because, you know, the Wraith.  Here, that's all there really is.  Even the aliens we've encountered so far--the crew isn't trying to fight them or stop them, they just want to stay out of their way.

Now, let's take a moment to talk about Rush.  Holy cow, the ARROGANCE of that man.  He has a moment where he's speaking to his hallucinated dead wife where he admits that, yeah, this is all his fault.  He is primarily talking about Riley's death, which could totally have been avoided had Rush not been such an asshat.  But he's also kind of talking about the whole being on Destiny in the first place situation.  Usually, I'm not one to place blame on one person for a series of events, but damn, no, this is really all Rush's fault.   It's not as if the people on Destiny signed up to go through the gate to the 9 chevron address--they didn't.  They were the research team and the support personnel for the research base.  Almost all of them thought they were going through that stargate to Earth when the Icarus planet was attacked.  And no one who knew what Rush had done could stop and redial the gate because the planet was about to blow up.  The man had his research and he had the address, but he wasn't willing to wait to find another power source, so he said "To hell with everyone else's life, we're doing what I want to do."    And it was the same thing in this episode.  Yeah, ostensibly, he was trying to get supplies for the whole ship, but really all he wanted was to see if he could get the ship to do what he wanted it to do, and he didn't bother taking into account how that would affect anyone else until after it was too late to change course.  I have to say, I am absolutely floored by the job the writing team has done with this man.  He is deeply human.  He's not even a bad guy (or the bad guy), he's just a guy that only cares about himself and getting to do what he wants to do.  And I totally believe it.  Robert Carlyle is an amazing actor--but this may be the role of his lifetime.  I know everyone is super excited about the McKay cameo coming up later this season because they want to see a McKay/Eli showdown--but you know what, forget that, I want to see McKay and Rush go toe to toe, because that, my friends, will be a spectacular fireworks show.  

And I've wandered off track, sorry.  Back to Rush.  My point in highlighting his arrogance is the thing with the bridge.  Finding the bridge is something that is important to everyone on the ship, because it means, if not turning around and going home, which honestly isn't really an option, at least being able to control things like how long the ship stops, as well as when and where the ship stops.  Not to mention finally getting a full grasp of what kind of resources may be hidden on the ship itself.  But Rush keeps this to himself.  He knows that he can't keep this secret forever, but he thinks he can figure out all of the ships systems before everyone else knows about the bridge.  He wants to be the one who knows everything and who holds all of the cards.  If he already knows how to run everything, then everyone will have to come to him for help when things are glitchy--and he will likely be able to stop anyone from doing anything he thinks will not benefit his own plans.  If he's as smart as he thinks he is, he'll let someone else on the crew "accidentally" discover the bridge in a way that will keep secret the fact that he's known about it for a while.  But I really hope he's not that smart.  Why?  Because when Colonel Young finds out Rush knew about the bridge and didn't tell anyone--well, that fight is going to be EPIC.  Especially if Young realizes exactly what role Rush played in Riley's death.  That is a showdown that will be the stuff of legends, and I truly can't wait.

I did kind of like the little moment that T. J. and Riley (and, unbeknownst to them, Park) had in the shuttle where T. J. opened up to Riley about the whole Crazy Alien Planet business.  It was nice to hear that she isn't really sure it happened, but she thinks it is a nice idea and is at least taking hope from it.  And seeing that her sharing that with Riley also gave Park a little bit of hope, well, that was a very lovely little bit of television.  Let's hope the show can leave it at that and not make that some weird thing that really happened.  Please.  

I did have two quick little quibbles with this episode though.  The first was about Telford.  It seemed to me at the start of the episode that he was imprisoned with the LA soldiers (keeping up appearances that he was still brainwashed to, I would guess, gather intel).  But then after he reported to the SGC and told Young they were keeping some of the LA prisoners, he was all of a sudden back to being on our side.  And yet, no one from the LA made any sort of noise about this.  Did I miss something?  Did they just feel like not showing us that?  Is that a deleted scene I should be looking for on the DVDs?  I just, I felt like they skipped a step there I guess.

My other quibble was about when they were digging up the gate with explosives.  Eli was all like "I read somewhere that..."  Oh really, Eli?  When were you reading up info about gates?  Your introduction to stargates was with a Daniel Jackson tutorial video.  I know there were more videos, but I never got the impression there was reading material, and even if there was, do we really believe anyone brought it on board the Destiny?  And, yeah, he wasn't wrong that a big enough explosion would blow up the gate and therefore the planet, but that takes a really REALLY BIG explosion.  With their little bit of C4 they were pretty safe.  I guess I can expect Eli to have the question, but shouldn't at least the scientist with them have been able to reassure him?  He just got a bunch of blank looks and shoulder shrugs and they went ahead and blew it anyway.  More finger crossing.  That seems to be the go-to plan for this group.

It looks like next week we get to see one of the seeder ships that has been planting gates for the Destiny.  Cool, I can't wait!

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