Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Allies

Oh wow, can you believe it? We're already up to the season two finale on the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch! Thanks for sticking with me on this journey, I hope you'll accompany me for the next three seasons as well.

Spoilers, as always, as we discuss today's episode, "Allies." Here we go.

What Happened

The episode opens up with a countdown clock, telling us that the arrival of the hive ship is expected at any moment. Preparations are well under way to protect the denizens of the planet. The Athosians have been moved to the city, the Daedalus is standing by just out of scanning range, ready to jump in should it be needed. The Orion is likewise standing by, though it is not quite as ready to join a fight. Rodney's working on that though. The city's cloak is up and all that's left to do is wait, and hold our breath that the wraith are just swinging by to check on things and see if the city really is gone.

The hive drops out of hyperspace and goes into a geosynchronous orbit. It then begins broadcasting an audio transmission, "We know you are there, we mean you no harm, please respond." When the transmission mentions Elizabeth by name, she knows it is Michael. Caldwell and Sheppard both argue against answering the transmission, worried that doing so will give away the city's exact location. Elizabeth looks a question at Teyla and she shakes her head, saying that trying to make mental contact with Michael would give their position away as well. Still, Elizabeth thinks there isn't much point in pretending they cannot hear the transmission. Rodney suggests opening a secure channel via the Daedalus, that way the wraith won't be able to pin down the city's location.

They get it set up and Elizabeth takes a video call from Michael. He tells them that ever since the wraith all woke prematurely from hibernation, they have more or less devolved into civil war. For the first time in their existence there are not enough humans in the galaxy to feed them all. Elizabeth points out that she doesn't really have a problem with that and asks what Michael wants from Atlantis. He says he wants the retrovirus. His faction of the wraith can use it on their enemies, eliminating them as a threat and turning them into an alternate food source in one fell swoop. In return, he sends them the codes that the wraith have been using to jam the Daedalus' beaming technology. The hive will allow the Lanteans to run tests on it to figure out how to break the jamming codes in exchange for the retrovirus. Michael tells Elizabeth to call back the ships she has lying in wait and talk it over, but warns her that if his hive is attacked, they will be sure to broadcast the existence of Atlantis to every wraith in the galaxy before they can be destroyed.

Caldwell brings the Daedalus back to the city, and John and Rodney come back as well, though they leave the Orion in Lorne's care to keep it hidden for the time being, just in case. Elizabeth, Sheppard, Caldwell, Carson, Rodney, Ronon, and Teyla get together for a powwow over the wraith's offer. Rodney goes through the information sent by Michael and is geeking out over it, very excited to have the chance to break the wraith jamming codes. Elizabeth asks if he can use it to beam something aboard Michael's ship and he says not without a few tries, which give the wraith plenty of time to broadcast Atlantis' secret. They talk over the offer and Sheppard is all for it, pointing out that this is pretty much exactly what they intended the retrovirus to be used for, minus the former wraith being eaten bit, but he's not really too upset about that. Their experiences with Michael in his human form have left a lot of them feeling that even human-form wraith are not entirely human. Teyla weighs in that she doesn't think they have a choice in complying, Michael will gladly tell all of the other wraith about Atlantis if they do not agree. Everyone looks at Ronon, surprised when he says he is fine with the plan. He tells them he has no problem helping wraith kill other wraith.

Sheppard catches up with Teyla after the meeting and remarks that she seems unhappy about the plan, even though she voiced no objections. She reiterates that she thinks they have no choice, but she has never been behind the whole "turn wraith into humans" scheme. He says he wants her to be okay with it, and she tells him as long as this is the extent of their plan, she is. But she isn't so sure that is all that they are up to--they are, after all, wraith.

The hive's queen and a delegation of wraith come to the city to negotiate the terms of the alliance. Everyone is kind of on tenterhooks as they arrive. Elizabeth and Sheppard sit down with the queen and start imposing conditions on her (only three wraith in the city at a time, they will be subject to searches, monitoring their hive ship for communications, etc.). The queen tells them that all she wants is the retrovirus. It is the key to ending the wraith civil war and bringing her hive into dominance. She will accept any conditions they wish.

(A very nervous) Carson and Zelenka meet with a wraith scientist to explain the progress they have made on the retrovirus. They have refined it somewhat since Michael and have lately been working on a way to effectively disseminate it. They have pretty much settled on an aerosol gas as the best method, now they just need to figure out a way to get it aboard an enemy hive in a way that will avoid detection and allow it to be evenly (and quickly) distributed.

Rodney, meanwhile, is working with Hermiod on the Daedalus to crack the wraith jamming codes. He is really weirded out by radioing the wraith hive to ask permission to begin trying to beam something aboard.

Michael is in the city as part of the queen's delegation. He heads down to his room in the infirmary and asks to see Teyla. Ronon insists on tagging along to the meeting. Michael tells Teyla the last time they saw each other, he really was going to feed on her, but not because he wanted to. He tells her that his experience has given him a perspective on humans unique among the wraith. He doesn't see them as just food anymore. He says that if their alliance is to succeed, both races must learn to overcome their instincts regarding each other. Teyla denies that humans are anything like wraith, but Michael is not so sure.

Elizabeth and Sheppard meet with the queen again to see if they can suss out her endgame and what it will mean for Atlantis. Once she has the retrovirus and a working delivery system, she intends to work her way through all enemy wraith, turning them and feeding on them. She promises that as part of their agreement, Atlantis and its people will not be harmed or fed upon. Elizabeth and Sheppard ask about the rest of the humans in the galaxy. The queen admits that there will come a time when the supply of enemy wraith is exhausted, at which point humans will be back on the menu, but that will not be for a few generations, at least. Should Atlantis at that point wish to break the truce, then she will understand. She points out that the wraith and humans will be on much more even footing by that point, and that the only reason the wraith ever defeated the Ancients was due to superior numbers.

Carson and Zelenka discuss the best way to distribute the retrovirus though a hive ship with the wraith scientist and both agree that getting it into the ship's life support system will be the most effective method. The wraith asks them how long the gas needs to take effect and Carson and Zelenka admit they are not sure yet. The wraith makes arrangements to have a member of the hive brought to the city to be tested. Watching from the observation chamber as the test subject transforms, the queen says she wants to go down and see him. They vent the gas and all go down to look at the (very confused) newly transformed human. The queen suddenly slams her hand on his chest and feeds upon him. Sheppard and the guards raise their weapons but Elizabeth orders him to stand down, reminding him that this was the whole point of the exercise. Everyone watches uncomfortably as the queen drains her former subject dry and then declares the retrovirus works.

The queen says she would like to test the retrovirus on a full hive ship. There is one nearby that has recently annoyed her. She said she will send a delegation to the enemy hive under the pretense of negotiating a surrender. Part of the delegation will break off and plant canisters of the retrovirus throughout the ship. She just needs the Lanteans to come up with a remote detonator that release the gas from all of the canisters at once. Rodney says that is totally doable. Elizabeth wants to send her people along to observe the test and to keep the queen honest, make sure she does what she says she will.

After all of this, Carson finds Elizabeth and reveals that he is really unhappy with how his creation is being used. He developed the retrovirus to free the wraith from what he considered an unnatural state. Now, as soon as they are "freed" they can expect a horrible and painful death. Seeing the demonstration really hit home with him. Elizabeth seems to feel it is a moral grey area, or at least is trying to convince herself of as much. But it is clear she is also very uneasy about the situation.

Rodney and Hermiod, meanwhile, have finally managed to crack the jamming codes.

The Daedalus goes to observe the test of the retrovirus, hanging back out of sensor range with a cloaked jumper in place to watch. The delegation from the friendly hive leaves ahead of schedule and is destroyed as it is leaving. Then the enemy hive opens up on the other one. Knowing that if the friendly hive is boarded they will give up Atlantis' secret in a heartbeat, Caldwell orders the Daedalus to jump in and start firing on the enemy hive, giving the friendly time to escape.

The queen tells them that the delegation was searched and killed upon arrival on the other hive and the canisters were found. The pilot of the delegation's ship tried to escape and that is when it was shot down. She is really pissy and tells them they need to come up with a better delivery system for the retrovirus, otherwise she is going to broadcast Atlantis' location. Everyone looks at Rodney (even the wraith queen). He says fine, but tells the queen she needs to stop holding back. He needs all of the schematics and data she has on hive ships so he can figure out how best to get the retrovirus on the ships and distributed. She complies and sends a databurst. Rodney runs to the firewalled computer they have set up to receive transmissions from the wraith, shoving Chuck out of the way, and declares that she sent him everything he asked for and then some. Elizabeth asks why and the queen grudgingly admits that her ship was very badly damaged by the other hive. Elizabeth offers her people to help effect repairs more quickly.

Zelenka is going over the wraith data, assigning teams to try to solve the problems of figuring out how to plant and distribute the retrovirus and of how to repair the ship. He marvels at the organic components of the hives. He also tells Sheppard that he was able to locate several external weaknesses in the hive ships, places where the Lanteans could fire to cripple an enemy hive, for example by disabling the hyperdrive engines.

Rodney is sent to the hive ship to supervise the team helping with repairs and also familiarize himself with the ship's layout and systems to figure out the retrovirus distribution. Ronon goes along to serve as a bodyguard and is very jumpy around the wraith.

Rodney finds the sweet spot on where to plant the retrovirus--they will only need to plant one canister and it will be pretty much immediately distributed throughout the entire ship. It will be difficult for the wraith to get in place, but Elizabeth tells the queen that will be her problem to figure out. Rodney and Sheppard have come up with a temporary solution to test it though, just to be sure that it works. The Daedalus will basically hide under the hive ship so that its signature is masked and when the hive ship gets close enough to its enemy, they will beam the canister on board using their new ability to crack the jam codes. The queen reluctantly agrees to the plan and goes to make arrangements, telling them she will send them the coordinates to meet up once she's picked a new target.

Rodney tells Elizabeth he should be on the hive ship when they do the test. He says he hacked a lot of the ship's systems under the guise of repairing them and will be able to blow it up if anything goes wrong. He adds that he has also rigged up a remote trigger to beam himself out of the hive ship back to the Daedalus if he needs to. Sheppard and Elizabeth agree, but only on the condition that Ronon goes with him.

Zelenka is going through the wraith data when suddenly his computer screen goes blank, as do all of the other screens in the room. One of the scientists brings him a tablet and says he needs to see this. He curses in Czech and asks if the Daedalus has left yet. It is already too late, the ship is gone.

The Daedalus drops out of hyperspace to meet Michael's hive and is immediately fired upon by two hive ships, the "friendly" and another one. Everyone scrambles to get their defenses up and Caldwell orders Hermiod to beam a nuke aboard the "friendly" hive as soon as they are in range. Sheppard argues that they need to give Rodney and Ronon time to beam out and Caldwell responds that they have until the ship is within weapons' range. Sheppard wonders out loud why the wraith are attacking now, the canister is still on the Daedalus after all. On the hive ship, Rodney and Ronon hear the sounds of battle and immediately try to beam out but Rodney's transmitter isn't working. They find themselves surrounded by wraith and taken into custody, Ronon tries fighting back but is quickly stunned.

Hermiod is unable to beam anything aboard the hive ships, the wraith are employing countermeasures to the new beaming frequencies. He says he might be able to adjust it and get through but needs time. Sheppard takes a flight of F-302s out to try to disable the hyperdrive on Michael's ship so it cannot get away with the knowledge of Atlantis (and with Rodney and Ronon). The 302s come under heavy fire and Daedalus loses contact with Sheppard. Suddenly both hive ships jump away into hyperspace, quitting the battle. Three 302s return to the Daedalus, but Sheppard is not among them. A scan of the area shows nothing but wreckage, and there is no reading on Sheppard's locator beacon. Caldwell somberly orders the Daedalus to return to Atlantis.

Back in the city, Zelenka explains that the wraith hacked into their system. The data they sent contained a virus. Even though the Lanteans checked the information before taking it off the firewalled computer, they did not find the virus because it was only designed to target and copy very specific information. Once it had that information, it sent it to the hive ship and then deleted itself (and all of the other wraith data) from Atlantis' systems. Elizabeth asks what data the wraith got and Zelenka gravely tells her they took two things: the Aurora mission reports and the the location of every world in Atlantis' database.

Ronon and Rodney wake up in cocoons on the hives hip with the scientist wraith looming over them and gloating. He tells Rodney that the queen wanted him to see the fruits of his labor and explains that thanks to the Lantean's help, the hive ship is headed to Earth.

To Be Continued...


So...yeah. Trusting the wraith? Bad idea. If Teyla wasn't a better person, I would suspect her to be engaging in a severe round of "I told you so" right about now. She's not the type, however, and I suspect she is probably a lot more worried about her three missing teammates.

Despite all of the game changing and high stakes going on, this is actually a really fun episode. It walks the right line, I think, of acknowledging the fact that they are engaging in a morally questionable path but going down it anyway because it could possibly end up benefiting every other human in the galaxy, as well as get rid of a long-standing threat (the wraith seem to be giving up on the idea of ever getting to Earth when they approach Atlantis). Of course it all blows up in their faces, but it does so in such a fantastic manner, that it is hard to even gloat about it. On my first watching of this I really was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out where they were going with this. Like Teyla, I (and most viewers I suspect) knew the wraith weren't on the level, but their exact plan was never evident until the very end of the episode.

"Allies" holds up to multiple viewings, too, largely because everyone is in fine form throughout. Carson and Zelenka explaining things to the wraith scientist? Makes me giggle every time. Carson yelling at the wraith that he's completely wrong and not to be an idiot and then realizing what he just said and to whom? Awesome. Rodney and Hermiod's little passive aggressive intellectual competition is always a joy to watch, and Rodney's sneaky hacking attempts and geeky delight over all of the wraith information he was given to play with were fantastically done. Elizabeth's ability to put aside her personal feelings and work with those she detests for the (perceived) greater good was also quite solid. Then there was Rodney and Sheppard's little synchronized presentation of their plan to test the retrovirus using the Daedalus. They are just so darned pleased with themselves.

I really liked the interactions of the wraith in the city as well. You could see that the queen was relishing in entering her ancient enemies' inner sanctum, but she also clearly manages to convey that she never expected to be there at all. Everyone else's reactions to having wraith in the city on purpose were very well done as well.

Also, rolly chairs! Watching this show weekly as it aired, I did not notice until this episode that there are rolly chairs all over Atlantis. But the second that Rodney runs to check on the wraith data and just shoves Chuck out of the way, sending him rolling off to wherever, it hit home. Then later when Zelenka is showing Sheppard the interesting bits he found in the wraith data, they are featured again. I mean, in subsequent viewings it is clear that the city always had rolly chairs. This means that either the Ancients also approved of easily moved ergonomic seating or the expedition actually thought to bring along office furniture on their trip to another galaxy. Either way, I am amused. Vastly.

I think, all in all, it is very clear throughout the episode that everyone involved is having a ball making it, and that in turn makes it very fun to watch. This is honestly, to me, a huge turning point on Stargate Atlantis. "Allies" sets the bar for what is to come in the next three seasons in a lot of ways, and one of those is that it has decided to just be the "fun" Stargate series. I am really okay with that.

Favorite Quotes

"What's the down side? I mean, other than the fact that we would be working with the wraith?" (Sheppard)
"Isn't that enough?" (Caldwell)

"Hey if they want our help killing other wraith, it's one kind of help I am happy to provide." (Ronon)

"We call it flashing." (Carson)
"Flashing!" (Zelenka)

"Oh come on. I understand you're an Asgard and everything, but even you've got to feel a bit of an adrenaline buzz." (Rodney)
"My body does not possess the adrenal gland that produces epinephrine in your system. And even if it did, I would not be as easily impressed." (Hermiod)
"I get it! I get it. You think you're smarter than I am." (Rodney)

"We're not as different as you think." (Michael)
"We are nothing like you." (Teyla)
"You are a lot more like us than you allow yourselves to believe." (Michael)

"Oh! She actually did it! I mean, this is the mother lode!" (Rodney)
"What is, exactly?" (Elizabeth)
"Only everything you've ever wanted to know about wraith technology but were afraid to ask!" (Rodney)

"When I was a kid and I got my first encyclopedia, I started with the letter 'S.'" (Sheppard)
"Yes, well, while I'm sure wraith sexuality is interesting..." (Zelenka

"Without your help, this damage may have been irreparable." (wraith scientist)
"Ah! Finally an alien race that appreciates me!" (Rodney)

"Are you sure you want to do this?" (Elizabeth)
"Of course I don't want to do it! I just...I think it should be done." (Rodney)

That's it folks, there's season two. Next week we'll start up brand new with season three's premiere "No Man's Land." Lucky you, you only have to wait a few days as opposed to four months to find out what happens next. Yay! See you then.

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