Ah, another Monday, another Stargate Atlantis Rewatch post. Today I'm gonna discuss season two's "Runner." For my money, this is the episode that really kicks off the second season.
Spoilers, of course, lie ahead for those who have not seen the episode. Onward!
Things kick off with Sheppard's newly installed second-in-command, Major Lorne (Major Lorne!!) following an extremely enthusiastic Dr. Parrish (botanist) through the woods at night. Parrish is waxing poetically about the fascinating flora on the planet, which apparently has an extremely ionized radioactive atmosphere during the day. It's really super close to the sun or something. The radiation means that animal life is not sustainable on the planet. Plant life should be out of the question too, but somehow it seems to thrive instead. Lorne, meanwhile, is questioning his life choices and wondering why he accepted the assignment in Pegasus. While examining a particularly interesting species, Parrish stumbles over the body of a dead wraith. Lorne radios back to the men at the gate, and learning that there has been no wraith activity, he marks the area and immediately hauls Parrish back to Atlantis. Overhead, Commando!Ford watches all of this silently from a perch in a tree.
Lorne reports the situation to Sheppard and Elizabeth on Atlantis and Beckett stops by to let them know that while he hasn't finished his autopsy of the wraith, he did find that its enzyme sac had been removed after it was killed. This immediately brings them all to the conclusion that Ford likely killed the wraith and the hope that he might still be on the planet, since the wraith was quite freshly dead. Sheppard, Teyla, and Rodney prepare to return to the planet with Lorne in a jumper to see if they can find their wayward friend. On the way out of Elizabeth's office, Caldwell pulls Sheppard aside and reminds him that Ford, with his knowledge of the city, is a threat to their security if he can't be recaptured. He advises that Sheppard needs to be prepared to kill Ford if he can't be brought back in. Sheppard doesn't want to hear it, but he knows it is probably true. Still, he is not willing to give up on Ford quite yet.
Back on the planet, Lorne's men are left to guard the gate and the jumper while Sheppard, Teyla, Rodney, and Lorne split up to search for Ford. They can't use the life signs detectors because the radiation absorbed by the plants during the day messes up the sensors at night. All of the foliage also prevents them from doing any kind of aerial search in the jumper. Sheppard and Teyla, looking at the site where the wraith was found, wonder what a lone wraith was doing on the planet on foot in the first place. As they search, each team thinks they've got Ford's trail and hear someone in the woods, giving pursuit. Lorne radios Sheppard just as Teyla is hit by a beam of red energy, falling to the ground. Sheppard tells Lorne he will have get back to him and goes to check on Teyla, only to be shot by the energy beam himself.
Sheppard and Teyla wake up in a cave, tied together back to back with their hands bound. A big wild looking dude, not Ford, is going through their stuff. Seeing they are awake, he comes over to them, and Sheppard starts talking, introducing himself, giving his rank and name, then Teyla introduces herself. The big man introduces himself as Specialist Ronon Dex. Sheppard asks if Ronon is military as well and Ronon replies that he used to be, but that was a long time ago. Now, he's just deciding whether or not to kill them and the rest of their friends. Sheppard quickly starts trying to negotiate their release, he and Teyla explaining that they mean Ronon no harm and are just there looking for their friend. Ronon flashes back to being chased by a wraith and encountering Ford on the planet. He tells them he saw their friend, that Ford killed the wraith that was hunting him.
Meanwhile, Lorne and Rodney, having lost their quarry as well as contact with Sheppard, have reported back to the jumper, radioing in to Atlantis for reinforcements to search for the missing team members. Rodney also has Elizabeth send through all of the city's radiation suits, since the sun has come up, but he is the only one who actually wears one (the other scientists have said that limited exposure to the planet's radiation will not be that harmful). He and Lorne are back out on the search and of course Rodney is slowed down by the cumbersome suit. While Lorne is distracted trying to cajole Rodney into keeping up, and realizing how much better he had it with Parrish, he is shot by a wraith stunner. Rodney immediately panics and tries to radio for help, pulling out his gun and waving it wildly about when Ford steps out from cover, easily disarming Rodney and taking away his radio.
He leaves Lorne where he fell and tells Rodney (at gunpoint when the scientist balks) to come with him. He tells Rodney that he is "better than fine" and loves his new "superpowers." He says he just needs to prove it to Rodney and everyone else so that he can go back. Rodney tells him he can come back any time, but he knows they'll try to "fix" him if he does. So first he's going to save Sheppard and Teyla to prove that he is better how he is, and then they'll let him stay like that and come home. Ford has clearly gone 'round the bend a bit by this point. Drugs are bad kids, mmmkay?
In the cave, Sheppard and Teyla manage to get free of their bonds and recover their weapons, getting the drop on Ronon. They have a standoff, Ronon says he just needs to get through the gate and go somewhere else. The wraith are coming for him. Something clicks with Teyla and she realizes out loud that he is a "runner." Sheppard is, of course, confused, and Ronon tells them about being captured by wraith who started to feed on him and then changed their minds. Instead they planted a tracking device of sorts in his back and set him free so they could hunt him for sport. He tells them that he decided to hunt the wraith right back.
Meanwhile, Ford is explaining to Rodney about "the guy" that has Sheppard and Teyla. He tells Rodney he was on a wraith-controlled planet trying to get some more enzyme when he saw one armed to the teeth go through the gate alone. He figured one wraith would be easier to take down than a whole gaggle of them and so he followed. The wraith must have been hunting Sheppard's captor, because when Ford caught up to him he was chasing that guy.
Sheppard, trying to bargain with Ronon, promises to call his men off and let him pass through the gate if he will give back their radios. Ronon doesn't trust either of them, says Sheppard can order his men to stand down in person, since he will be coming along to the gate as a hostage. Sheppard, realizing how skittish Ronon is, worries that someone is going to get hurt in this scenario. Grasping at straws, he tells Ronon that they can help him remove the tracking device. Ronon hesitates but then makes the deal, promising that if Sheppard can get the device removed, he will bring back Sheppard's friend.
Ronon lets Sheppard go back to the jumper to send for Carson, keeping Teyla as security. Carson is, of course, once more annoyed that his services have been volunteered without his knowledge. This time to do surgery in the middle of the woods on a hostile stranger with a crazy Ford presumed still out there and wraith due in at any moment. Still, he packs up his gear and heads out, determined to do what he can.
Rodney and Ford are still wandering the woods looking for Sheppard, Teyla, and Ronon. Rodney calls Ford out on being lost and Ford kind of cracks, alternating between threatening Rodney and trying to convince him he is just fine. Rodney somehow manages to almost talk Ford down, tells him to just come back with him to the jumper and everything will be fine. He is sure Carson can figure out a way to make Ford feel better without getting rid of his new "superpowers." Ford is very tempted, but says first he has to prove himself and save Sheppard and Teyla. He tells Rodney to head back to the jumper and then heads back into the woods. Exasperated, Rodney follows him.
Waiting for Carson, Teyla talks to Ronon, convincing him that it is not necessary to keep his gun on her. She asks him about being a runner. She had heard of them all her life but had believed the stories to be just that, tales. Ronon tells her that he has been a runner for seven years, alone all that time, not by choice but because he can't risk staying in one place too long. One time, he did, and it brought the wraith down on the village where he was staying, the wraith wiped it out completely. So he stays by himself and he keeps moving.
When Carson arrives at the cave (Sheppard stays out of sight up on a ridge, with a sniper rifle aimed at Ronon, just in case), Ronon isn't quite sure what to make of him. He keeps his gun pointed at Teyla during the whole procedure and refuses to allow Carson to administer any anesthesia or to lie down for the procedure. Carson grumbles but carries on, using a scanner to locate the device. Ronon's back is covered with scars from previous attempts to remove it (one his own, the rest "doctors" he encountered on various worlds). Carson is more affronted by the botched surgery attempts than Ronon himself. Carson manages to pull out the device and as soon as he does, Ronon passes out, leaving Carson and Teyla staring at each other in bewilderment.
In the woods, Rodney and Ford run into two soldiers from Atlantis. Rodney is relieved and goes to greet them but Ford stuns them with his wraith gun, claiming they can't be trusted. Rodney gets really mad and calls Ford on his crazy, pulling out the gun that Ford had given him during a friendlier moment and telling Ford that he is coming with Rodney back to the gate. Ford refuses and they exchange angry words, Rodney's gun accidentally going off and hitting Ford in the soldier. Ford looks at Rodney in astonishment and, realizing his error, Rodney turns tail and runs for his life, Ford shooting after him and Rodney shooting his gun in the air, hoping to attract the attention of allies.
Hearing the gunfire from Ronon's cave, Teyla and Sheppard duck back inside to gather their weapons and find that Ronon has disappeared. Sheppard tells Teyla to get Carson back to the gate and goes to investigate the shots. Just as this is going on, the gate fires up and a wraith dart comes through. Major Lorne manages to get the jumper cloaked in time and alerts Sheppard to the situation.
Running from Ford, Rodney gets caught up in a snare. Ford comes upon him hanging upside down and panicking. Rodney tries to talk some sense into Ford again but Ford replies no, he's still going to have to kill Rodney. Just as he is about to take his shot, Ronon barrels into him and the two begin brawling. Sheppard manages to find the group as Ronon disarms Ford. When Ford reaches for his gun Sheppard stops him and Ford takes off, refusing to go back with them. Sheppard goes after him, leaving Ronon to cut Rodney down from the snare. Sheppard tries to convince Ford one more time to come back, even going so far as to shoot him in the leg to stop him from running away, but it doesn't even slow Ford down. The wraith dart zooms overhead, culling beam out, and Ford jumps into the beam to escape, shouting "I'll show you!" at Sheppard in parting.
Back on Atlantis Sheppard makes his report. They are all worried about Ford but unsure of what they can do for him at this point. Caldwell is, of course, pissed at Sheppard for letting Ford get away alive, convinced that he will give away the fact that Atlantis is still very much around.
Sheppard goes to speak with Ronon, who came back with them. He asked them to contact his home world, Sateda, thinking to go back now that the tracking device has been removed. Sheppard ushers Ronon to the gate room where they show him an image from the MALP they sent to Sateda. It has been completely wiped out by the wraith, no survivors, and it looks like the damage was done quite some time ago. Ronon stalks off in despair.
Major Lorne! Yay! I love his snarks with Rodney, it's wonderful. I adore Kavan Smith, largely because of his role as Major Lorne, so it is nice to finally have him in the city, calmly dealing with all of the crazy the Pegasus galaxy likes to throw at him.
Also, Ronon, yay! Jason Momoa actually initially auditioned for the role of Ford, but didn't get it because he didn't want to cut off his dreads. So when the showrunners decided they needed to bring in a new character, someone wilder and more of a challenge to Sheppard than the happy-go-lucky puppy dog Ford, they came up with Ronon, which Momoa was perfect for. I can't even imagine how things would have worked out if he had entered in as Ford in the first place. I wonder where the story would have gone?
Also, clearly, Ford is no longer happy-go-lucky, poor guy. He is determined that he is "better" in crazy doped up mode, and he is apparently a little obsessed with showing Sheppard that this is the case. It, well, it can't really end well, can it?
Largely this episode serves as an exit for Ford (though not the final chapter in his story quite yet) and an entrance for Ronon. We also get some further establishment of the power struggle between Caldwell and the senior staff--this time with Sheppard. He's got to find his place in Pegasus, and it's not going to be easy for him. Plus, we got some nifty expansion on the mythology of the wraith. Runners, what a horrible concept. Seriously, the argument can be made that okay, the wraith eat people and that's just their biology, that doesn't make them evil, necessarily. But their actions? Those actions just keep proving the evil is as evil does rule day in and day out, folks.
"Major, you've got McKay." (Sheppard)
"Oh, lucky me." (Lorne)
"I've been keeping a running tally of my lifetime exposure to radiation: X-rays, cell phones, plane rides, that whole unfortunate Genii nuclear reactor thing. My god, last week we flew dangerously close to the corona of a sun! As it is I may have to forego reproducing!" (Rodney)
"Yeah, that's funny. I was just thinking that might be wise." (Lorne)
"For what it's worth, I'd never send you in there if I thought the guy was gonna hurt you." (Sheppard)
"Is that opinion based on some sort of evidence, or is it just a gut feeling that this gentleman isn't dangerous?" (Carson)
"I didn't say he wasn't dangerous. He could probably kill you in the blink of an eye. I don't think he will." (Sheppard)
"Well thank you, I feel much better now!" (Carson)
"You can't kill an unarmed upside down man!" (Rodney)
There we have it, another rewatch complete. Come back Wednesday to tackle one of my favorite episodes of the entire series, "Duet," won't you?