Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SGA Rewatch: Michael

Ooh, it's time for another installment of the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch! Can you feel the excitement? Are you ready? Today we continue plowing through season two with a game-changer of an episode, "Michael." There will be spoilers, so turn back now if you haven't see the episode and want to be surprised when you do finally get around to it!

What Happened

A man wakes up in what is clearly the infirmary in Atlantis. He is alone and seems a bit lost. Elsewhere in the city Elizabeth receives a radio call informing her that "he" is awake. She and Sheppard go to the infirmary where they greet the man along with Carson. He doesn't seem to know who or where he is so they quickly fill him in. He is Lieutenant Michael Kenmore, one of Sheppard's men. On a mission he was captured by the wraith. The Lanteans managed to rescue him but he has been unconscious for days and they are unsure what, if anything, the wraith may have done to him. They want to keep him in the infirmary under observation for a few more days. When they leave his room they enter an observation chamber of sorts that looks down into Michael's room through a big glass window (presumably a two-way mirror). Elizabeth tells the techs in the room to keep a close eye on Michael and tells Sheppard and Carson that they need to proceed with caution.

Carson visits Michael again and gives him an injection. He explains to Michael that he has diabetes and requires daily injections of insulin but handles the illness quite well otherwise. He also explains to Michael that the amnesia was likely caused by recent trauma, Michael assumes at the hands of the wraith. Hearing that Michael is awake, Teyla asks if she may visit him and Elizabeth gives her the go-ahead. Michael tells Teyla that she seems familiar to him and asks if they know one another. Teyla responds that they have worked together on a few missions. He asks her if they are friends and she says yes. He is relieved to hear that , as he has been feeling a bit alone and out of his element. He then asks if Teyla was on the team that rescued him from the wraith and once more she answers in the affirmative.

Later, Teyla is reporting on her visit with Michael to Elizabeth, Sheppard, Carson and Kate Heightmeyer, the city's shrink. She reveals that she told Michael that they were friends because she thought it might help him and Kate agrees this was a good idea. Elizabeth asks Kate what the next step is and she responds that he should be integrated back into the population. She and Carson both believe he is ready to be released from the infirmary and Elizabeth gives the order. Teyla escorts Michael to his quarters where he looks around but still does not recognize anything.

Michael is eating in the mess and can't help but notice that people seem to be eyeing him strangely. He is alone except for two guards who have been assigned to keep an eye on him in case he "freaks out" as a result of his recent trauma. Rodney sees him and stops by to say hi, ask how he is doing. Rodney is clearly a bit nervous around Michael as well and babbles a bit. Michael glances at Rodney's tablet and sees that he is working on wraith materialization data. Seeing the surprise on Rodney's face, he wonders aloud why he knew that. Rodney answers that the goal of the mission on which Michael was captured was to get that data, so it makes sense that he would have passing familiarity with it. Seeing that Rodney is still clearly very uncomfortable, Michael makes his excuses and leaves the mess, guards in tow.

We next find him in a workout room sparring with Teyla. They are working on a particular move and he isn't quite getting the hang of it. He says he doesn't think he has it in him but Teyla replies that she knows that he does and encourages him to try again. They resume and he is able to hold his own a bit better, even managing to get the drop on Teyla and pin her. In the blink of an eye Ronon flies into the room and pulls Michael off of Teyla, slamming him up against the wall. Michael is very confused and Teyla calls Ronon off, telling him that they were just sparring as part of Michael's physical therapy. Ronon relents and storms off. Michael tells Kate about the incident in a session with her and wonders what he did to piss the guy off so badly. Kate brushes it off by saying that Ronon is new to the city and still learning their ways. Michael doesn't really seem to buy it. He tells Kate he just wants to get back to feeling normal again.

That night Michael has a nightmare about the wraith and then another in which he sees himself as a wraith. He is very disturbed by this and later confides in Teyla. He tells her he is worried that the wraith must have done something to his mind. He also thinks that she and everyone else have some idea of what was done to him and implores her to tell him. She replies that she doesn't know but comforts him with the knowledge that many people in the city have had the same kinds of dreams. He realizes that Teyla is one of those people. Later, Teyla reports in to Elizabeth and crew about Michael's dreams and trouble sleeping. Elizabeth asks Carson if there is anything she can do for Michael, but he responds there really isn't any option other than to give him something to help him sleep. Teyla pipes up that she thinks it is time they tell Michael the truth. She is having a hard time keeping it from him and isn't so sure that doing so is the right thing any longer.

In another session with Kate Michael insists that there is something wrong with him. He gets the feeling that everyone knows something about what happened to him that they aren't telling him and he just wants to know the truth. Kate looks at him sadly but does not offer any information.

On his way to visit Carson, Michael runs into Sheppard and Ronon in the corridors. Deciding that he wants to put the past behind him, he stops Ronon and apologizes for whatever he might have done to him. He wants to just bury the hatchet. He extends his hand to Ronon but Ronon just glares at him stonily refusing to take it. Sheppard tries ordering him to do so but he says no. He starts to leave but Micheal steps in front of him and Ronon punches him. They start to go at it before Sheppard and the guards pull them apart.

That night Michael has trouble sleeping again so he goes to see Carson for some sleeping pills. When he arrives in the infirmary he finds Carson passed out in a pile of data. Glancing around, the calendar on Carson's wall catches Michael's attention. It shows a scene labeled Kenmore, Scotland. Curious, Michael tries to see Carson's files but cannot get into his computer. He then notices a sleeve of DVDs and the label on the outside has his name on them. Looking around, he pockets the sleeve and sneaks it back to his quarters. When he arrives, he picks up his laptop and turns it around so that the security cameras cannot see what he is doing, then he pops in one of the discs. His observers note his strange behavior and alert Carson, but by the time Carson and more guards arrive it is too late. Michael has learned the truth, he is a wraith that Carson and the others have somehow turned human.

Michael confronts Elizabeth and the others and she begs him to let them explain. Carson tells him about the retrovirus he has been working on to eradicate the traits in the wraith inherited from the iratus bugs, turning them back to human. He goes on to explain that while they were able to turn him, there was the side effect of memory loss and the virus isn't completely effective. It requires daily injections to keep Michael stable as a human. Michael is appalled and indignant.

The senior staff hold a conference to discuss what to do now that Michael has discovered the truth. Sheppard thinks they've learned a lot from the experiment and should now start trying to figure out a way to weaponize it. Carson says they are not there yet, with the daily injections still needed. Ronon says that it doesn't matter. Even if Carson perfects the drug, the turned wraith will always still be wraith.

Teyla goes to visit Michael and try to apologize. He is very hurt that she lied to him. He realizes that when she claimed to have been on the team that "rescued" him she really meant she had been on the team that captured him. She does not deny it. She tries to explain their position, reiterating that the wraith are evil and they treat humans with nothing but contempt. Michael asks how the humans are any better given what they have done to him.

Kate tries to talk to Michael, encourage him to keep up with the injections. She tells him that with time he will accept being human and see that he is better off this way. He tells her that he has realized that the "off" feelings he has been having since he woke up were just his wraith instincts of hunger and aggression, that the medication was never able to fully suppress them. He adds that now that he knows what he really is, the feelings are even stronger. After this session Sheppard and Elizabeth ask Carson to up Michael's dosage of the retrovirus, hoping that it can wipe out those lingering traits.

On the way to get his next injection, Michael manages to escape his guards briefly. One catches up and he kills the man accidentally. As he stops to look at the man and realize what he's done Ronon catches up to him. He is just aiming to take fire when Sheppard arrives from the other direction and stuns Michael. He checks Ronon's gun and gives the younger man a dirty look, unsurprised to find that his weapon had not been set to stun. At this point they all agree that it is too dangerous to let Michael remain on Atlantis. They decide to move him to the Alpha site. Carson wants to continue his treatment hoping he can find a way to make it permanent and get rid of the lingering wraith feelings. Ronon advises that they should just kill Michael now but Teyla and Kate object. Even if they wouldn't have hesitated to kill him as a wraith, he isn't a wraith any more and that is because of them. It is their responsibility to keep him safe and to keep others safe from him.

Michael is sedated for transport and wakes up at the Alpha site to find himself restrained to a gurney. Teyla is with him and reassures him, explaining that he is safe and asking how he feels. He tells her he is hungry and she goes to find food. When she comes back he is not really interested in the meal, however. He begins talking to her, telling her that he could tell she is different from the others the moment he met her. He knows she is the only one of them with any compassion, the only one who actually wants to help him. As he talks she seems to go into a sort of trance, undoing his restraints. As soon as he is free he grabs her violently she seems to snap out of her fugue.

Michael binds Teyla's hand and makes for the gate with her as his hostage. Teyla asks where they are going and he says that he needs to get away from this planet, but he is unsure of where. He dials a gate address and as he does, Teyla scratches it onto a rock behind her, hoping the others can use it to follow her. Sheppard and Ronon arrive at the gate just as Michael pulls Teyla through. Sheppard says they need to get Rodney there ASAP to figure out if he can determine the last address dialed. Ronon finds Teyla's scratchings and says that won't be necessary.

They hike for a while on the new planet, Michael pushing Teyla in front of himself. After a while she stops and realizes that she can sense wraith nearby. She turns and sees that Michael is starting to revert back to a wraith. He knocks her out and when she wakes up again she is no longer bound. She looks around and can see a wraith ship in the near distance. Michael pipes up that he was drawn to their presence and that is why he chose this planet. They are coming and will be there soon. He is almost completely turned back into a wraith. Teyla asks what he plans to do with her and he says he is not sure. He has been thinking about feeding on her for a while and now that he has that ability back he just might. She tells him to go ahead and do it then and just as he is about to Sheppard and Ronon arrive. They barely get Michael knocked out before the other wraith show up, however, and they hightail it back to the gate, leaving Michael to be discovered by his own kind.

Back on Atlantis there is another conference. Ronon insists that he should have killed Michael while he had the chance. Rodney pipes up that he's not wrong. Michael knows that Atlantis still exists and who knows what else he discovered or saw while he was there. He clearly still has all of his memories from being human. Now that he is back with other wraith, they know all of that too. They realize that the wraith will certainly send another waive of hive ships to attack the city. The episode ends with them stating that they need to prepare themselves for the coming attack.


Isn't there an old saying about how we make our own worst enemies? Yeah, this is pretty much a textbook example of that. Well, if your textbooks include life-sucking aliens and transformative wonder-drugs and whatnot. Anyhoo. "Michael" is a huge game changer for Stargate Atlantis. Not only does it set up the big confrontation for the end of the season (wow, only two more episodes to go!), but the events of this episode continue to have ramifications pretty much for the rest of the series. Even better, they resound on a general plot level and on a personal level for many of the characters. The writers honestly struck gold with this story. Because even with its flaws, it pretty much set them up with a good throughline for the rest of the series.

I mean, yes, there are some serious ethical and moral implications going on here. I don't really want to get into those. I do appreciate that there were multiple conversations about the ethics and morality of their actions during the episode, however. I actually felt like they were very well done, too. It wasn't the pound-you-over-the-head-with-it kind of commentary dropped in just so that we the audience understand that the writers don't condone these kinds of medical experiments. It is quite clear that the people of Atlantis aren't completely convinced that they are doing the right thing here, and they know the chances of backlash are high. But it is also quite clear that they are desperate to strike a blow against the wraith. Sentient race or not, the wraith pose a clear and present danger to every human in the galaxy (and to the Milky Way as well). If humanity wants to survive, the wraith need to be stopped. Period. The Lanteans know that the Ancients lost this battle, so they are trying to think outside of the box and find alternative methods to bringing about that end.

I mean, I personally think that capturing a wraith, turning him human, then lying to him about being a wraith-turned-human while letting him run around your secret base is a Bad Idea in every aspect, but hey, no one asked me.

The other really noteworthy thing here is the almost instant bond between Michael and Teyla. He senses right away that she feels familiar, and I think we have to assume this is because of her wraith DNA. This suggests to me that Ronon is right in at least one aspect--the turned wraith will always still be at least a little bit wraith. Even before the retrovirus really started to wear off, Michael shows some of the mental abilities of the wraith when he takes control of Teyla to have her release him. Her reactions to the whole experiment are also pretty fascinating to me. She grew up in the shadow of the wraith, always under threat of culling. She lost her father and many loved ones to them. She categorically defines the race as evil. Yet as she watches them change Michael and gets to know him, it is clear she feels sorry for him and that she truly does mean it when she says she would like to be his friend. I think she wants to understand him, and she wants him to understand her and what she has been through. She does try to show him kindness. Not that it gets her very far, but still. This episode tells us a lot about Teyla and her strength of character.

Favorite Quotes

"We've all been captured by the wraith at one point or another, haven't we?" (Rodney)

"So what are you saying? That...that being a wraith is some kind of disease? Something you think you can cure? What gives you the right to do this to me?" (Michael)

"What do you want from me?" (Michael)
"Just waiting for you to give me a reason to kill you." (Ronon)

"I know, you're angry. I lied to you. But you had no right to do this to me. I won't let you experiment on me anymore." (Michael)

"Then we shall be enemies again." (Teyla)
"We never stopped being enemies." (Michael)

Whew. That is a pretty heavy episode. Luckily the next one, "Inferno," is a bit of a light(er) romp before all of the crazy end of season happenings. See you back here Monday for that!

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