Monday, February 13, 2012

SGA Rewatch: Vengeance

Hello! Welcome to the Stargate Atlantis Rewatch. This week we are wrapping up season three, beginning today with "Vengeance." Beware of spoilers for the episode and all that came before.

What Happened

The episode opens up with Ronon giving a very intense training lecture to...Rodney. Apparently he's training Rodney in swordplay, or as John puts it, "ninja lessons." This is going about as well as you would expect. John and Elizabeth stop by to tell the pair that they have lost contact with the Taranans. Remember the Taranans? They of the super volcano and Ancient warship that we done got blown up before it was even completely repaired? It appears they haven't really harbored any ill will toward Atlantis about that though, since the expedition has been helping them get settled in on their new planet and has been providing food and other supplies to them over the past year. Elizabeth is concerned at their inability to reach the Taranan settlement, so she wants to send the team out to check on them.

As the team arrives on the planet, they begin their hike to the settlement, which is some ways away from the stargate. John tries to establish contact via radio but gets no answer. They arrive to find the place deserted. There are no people anywhere, although it doesn't look as if anyone actually packed up before leaving. All of their stuff is still sitting around, as if everyone just got up and left in the middle of whatever they were doing at the time. After a cursory search, Rodney notices one extra life sign on his scanner. It is located some way beneath the village. Teyla explains that a previous civilization on the planet had lived underground, similar to the Genii, and had left behind a large network of tunnels. The Taranans did not utilize the tunnels, however, she adds. They decide to go check it out and see if they can locate the owner of the life sign and maybe get some answers. As they explore the underground complex, they find a room containing a giant cocoon of some sort. The cocoon is empty.

Elizabeth dials in to the planet and radios the team to check in on their progress. John tells her about the abandoned state of the settlement, as well as the cocoon. He also says they are tracking one life sign in the tunnels, and suspects that it belongs to whatever was in the cocoon. He and the team want to investigate further. Elizabeth decides to send a team of marines to the planet for backup. John and company continue exploring and Ronon finds a room containing a pile of dead bodies. The team is dismayed to recognize many of the Taranans in the pile. Every body has a wound in its neck that Rodney and John find disturbingly familiar. Ronon presses on and next finds a laboratory of some kind containing a tank holding an iratus bug. The familiarity of the neck wounds is explained, but John is not pleased. Teyla, disturbed, remarks that the iratus bug is not indigenous to this planet. That means someone brought it there on purpose. Someone wonders aloud if it is a wraith experiment of some sort, but Teyla senses no wraith nearby.

The team, even more desperate for answers now, goes back to tracking down the life sign. The marines arrive from Atlantis and radio in from the gate. John tells them to go to radio silence until they hear from him again and to head to the settlement, saying he will meet them there. As he cuts off his radio, they hear a noise and a creature flies out of nowhere to attack them. Everyone opens fire and they manage to wound it (cutting off one of its arms). The creature runs off and everyone takes a moment to regroup, relieved no one was seriously hurt. They examine the arm of the creature, which John thinks they should try to capture alive, before setting off again. As the marines head to the settlement, they hear the sound of the gate opening and turn around in time to see a wraith dart fly through. They raise their weapons to open fire but are scooped up by the dart's culling beam before they can do any damage or contact John. John and company, meanwhile, stumble across a room full of cocoons in their search for the creature. Unlike the first one they found, these all appear to be occupied still.

In Atlantis, Chuck pops his head into Elizabeth's office to let her know that the marines have checked back in. They have made contact with John's team, who has moved further inland from the gate. Elizabeth is puzzled but Chuck elaborates that according to the marines, the team has located the Taranans, who had just left their original settlement for better ground. Elizabeth asks about the cocoon and the life sign and Chuck replies that no mention was made of either, though it was a very brief transmission.

The team has decided that destroying the cocoons is a good idea and have opted to go with C4. The creatures start to hatch as they set the last of the charges and they barely manage to get out of the room and get the door shut in time. They detonate the explosives and check the room again, relieved to see that they have destroyed all of the creatures. Now they just have the first one left to deal with. John tries to radio the marines for a status update and grows concerned when he receives no answer. On his scanner, Rodney realizes that the creature has somehow managed to double back behind them. John thinks it is using the air ducts. Teyla says that it is clear the creature knows the tunnels better than they do and suggests that they return to the surface. That will give them a chance to find the marines and to radio Atlantis for more reinforcements if necessary. Ronon doesn't like the idea of giving up, but they manage to convince him that for the time being it is the best plan they have.

As they head back to the gate, they discuss what they have seen of the creatures as well as the lab they found. Teyla thinks that someone has been experimenting with crossing the iratus bug with the Taranans. Rodney points out that this is pretty much how the wraith evolved, although clearly whoever is behind these experiments isn't trying to make actual wraith. He suspects the end goal is some sort of hybrid creature that can be used as a weapon. They are all disturbed at the prospect. They reach the gate without having seen any sign of the marines and begin to fear that the men might have encountered the creature as well and not survived. Rodney tries to dial Atlantis but nothing happens. He looks under the hood of the DHD and realizes that the control crystal has been removed. Someone doesn't want them to leave the planet. The scene shifts back to the tunnels where we follow a figure walking through them into the room where the cocoons had been. The camera pans to reveal Michael as he surveys the destroyed cocoons, looking quite distraught.

John decides to head back to the settlement on the off chance that the marines survived. He wants to try to find them. They return to the tunnels and this time Teyla senses something, though she is not entirely certain it is a wraith. Rodney checks his scanner and is surprised when a second extra life sign suddenly appears as if out of nowhere. He realizes that part of the complex must be shielded somehow. The scanner shows that the creature is heading for the extra life sign and the team heads to intercept in case the extra is one of their men. As they approach the life signs, Teyla ducks in a room to scope it out and the door suddenly slams shut behind her. The rest of the team whirls around to try to open the door but the corridor is suddenly flooded with fog or smoke of some sort, destroying visibility, and then the creature attacks. In the room, Teyla bangs on the door, unable to open it from her side. She senses something behind her and whirls around to find herself face to face with Michael. In the corridor, the team manages to kill the creature at last and the fog begins to clear. They get the door open but there is no sign of Teyla. Rodney quickly checks his scanner and finds two life signs moving away from them. The boys start to follow the life signs but they suddenly disappear, confirming Rodney's suspicions that the complex has shielded areas.

We find Teyla strapped down on a table with Michael looming over her, gloating silently. He indicates a tank holding an iratus bug and it is clear that not only is he behind the experiments they have discovered but also that he means to conduct them on Teyla. She begins talking to him, trying to stall for time and to get an explanation of what has happened to the Taranans and what those creatures really are. Secure in the knowledge that he has the upper hand, Michael is only too glad to oblige her. Thanks to the Lantean experiments on him, he is now perceived as unclean by other wraith. He barely escaped alive off of the hive that saved him from the planet the team left him on. He has decided that he needs to find a way to protect himself, and so he has begun his experiment. He was able to figure out how to reverse the process of the retrovirus and use it to create creatures even stronger than the wraith to serve him. He explains his basic process to her (also filling in how and why the Taranans died) and says he has created the perfect animals to do his bidding. Pissed as he is that they destroyed his incubation chamber, he assures Teyla that it was not the only one in the complex. Nor is this the only planet on which he is conducting the experiment.

The boys manage to locate the shielded part of the complex and blast their way in. This trips a silent alarm and Michael tells Teyla that the rest of her team is coming for her. He tells her it doesn't matter though. They will meet the same fate as her and the Taranans. Horrified, Teyla warns Michael that Elizabeth will send help, but he just chuckles and tells her about sending a false message to Atlantis after capturing the marines. He doesn't expect any further contact from the city until well after he is done with the team. Meanwhile, John, Rodney, and Ronon have located the bodies of the marines. They were clearly killed by the iratus bugs. One of the creatures appears and attacks them. They manage to kill it. Hearing the gunfire from his lab, Michael looses the iratus bug on Teyla and leaves. It is about to latch on to Teyla's neck when the boys arrive and Ronon shoots it right off of her. They unstrap her from the table and she tells them it is Michael behind the whole mess. John and Ronon go after him while Rodney stays behind to gather as much information about the experiment as he can in the hopes of finding a weakness of the creatures. Teyla stands guard.

John reminds Ronon to leave his gun on "stun" and Ronon lashes out, telling John that he isn't playing nicely anymore with Michael. He is going to do what they should have done in the first place and kill him. As far as he is concerned, their whole ordeal with the retrovirus has brought nothing but trouble and as long as Michael lives that will continue to be the case. They split up and resume their hunt. In the lab, Rodney marvels at how quickly Michael was able to progress with his experiments. Teyla wonders aloud what Michael left behind when they captured him, lamenting that they know nothing about his past other than that he was a wraith. Rodney comments that he must have been a very smart wraith. He manages to get the shielding in the complex turned off and contacts John to let him know. As they are talking, Rodney picks up a very large number of life signs directly ahead of John. We see Michael open a door and creatures start pouring out of the room beyond it.

Over the radio, Rodney guides John away from the creatures and toward Ronon. But when John rounds the corner he finds himself face to face (and gun to gun) with Michael, not Ronon. They have a bit of a standoff and Rodney sees that the creatures are starting to close in on John's position. John tells Rodney and Teyla to head to the gate and that he will meet them there. He then demands the DHD control crystal from Michael, but Michael refuses to hand it over. A creature appears and attacks John and Michael takes advantage of his distraction to escape. Before the creature can do any damage, Ronon appears, guns blazing, and kills the creature.

John and Ronon make their way out of the tunnels through an escape hatch and come across Michael's dart. Ronon's first thought is to blow it up, but John says he can use it to beam up the rest of the team and then fly them out of there. Ronon stands guard while John gets inside and fires up the dart, creatures closing in all around them. Just as Ronon is about to be overwhelmed, John flies by and beams him up. Elsewhere, Teyla and Rodney are running for the gate and also find themselves surrounded by the creatures. Rodney is appalled as Teyla is shot by a stunner and collapses next to him. He turns to locate the shooter and is stunned as well. Michael strides forward, a look of gloating once more on his face. But before he can do anything, John flies by in the dart and scoops them both up. Michael looks after the dart, chagrined.

In Atlantis, the team dials in and arrives on foot having ditched the dart on another planet. Elizabeth is surprised at their state and then horrified to learn that the marines and all of the Taranans are dead. John promises an explanation but first wants to have the Daedalus diverted to fly by the planet and destroy Michael's facility. Later, Elizabeth tells Teyla that Rodney has finished going through all of the data he downloaded from the lab. Michael has similar facilities on at least three other planets and it is a safe assumption he has hundreds of these creatures bred already. Elizabeth also reveals that Michael got the information about the Taranans from the Atlantis database when the wraith hacked it the previous year, meaning they led him right to them. The guilt is written plainly on her face and Teyla has no real response to comfort her. John stops by her office a little later and says that he's heard back from the Daedalus. By the time the ship got to the planet Michael had already taken all of his creatures and abandoned the facility. They were unable to capture him or destroy any of the experiments. The episode ends with John and Elizabeth reflecting that they need to find Michael. He just gets more and more dangerous every time they meet him. John remarks that it's a safe bet that Atlantis is at the top of his hit list.


My, my, how the sins of the past season come back to haunt us. For the record, I am with Ronon on this one. The second they began to experiment on Michael, they set this whole ball in motion. Granted, he is not without blame for this mess at all. But still, what were they expecting, really? That the wraith would just gladly go into oblivion? That there would be no backlash? That after repeatedly converting Michael and abandoning him he would just walk away and forget about them? Really?

Anyway. I think it's interesting that so much effort was spent on the creatures and establishing how many of them Michael has and what a huge threat they are to the galaxy. Why? Because as far as I can recall, we are never going to see them again. On the other hand, this episode also goes to great lengths to establish that a) Michael is a huge threat to the galaxy, and b) that he has a huge ax to grind with Atlantis in particular.

This isn't a bad episode, but it definitely isn't one of my favorites. Largely because the whole story of Michael rubs me the wrong way. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to see that our heroes are fallible, but this seems like it is just too big of a mistake for them to have made in the first place. Also, it is set up to have a very campy horror vibe, and while well done, that really isn't my cup of tea. I did like how it paid tribute to Alien, though, because that film clearly had a lot of influence over this episode.

Re: Ronon teaching Rodney swordfighting. Ha! I feel a bit vindicated. Ronon is teaching Rodney how to look out for himself. It's a very touching (and funny) scene, and I love that it was included. It also confirms the brotherly relationship these two men have, which I think is becoming one of my favorite aspects of this series the more I watch it over again.

Finally, I do have one nitpick. I noticed in the opening credits that Carson still makes an appearance. That just strikes me as incredibly, well, tacky. The character has been dead for two episodes now, we shouldn't still be seeing him in the credits. I realize that in killing off one of the main-credits characters three episodes before the end of the season, they weren't going to make a new set of credits or anything. I am not suggesting that they should have. But during the transition between Ford and Ronon, they just didn't have an opening sequence at all, instead rolling the credits over the episode itself. I think it would have been a lot more respectful to do that in this case too. Granted, in the long run it isn't really an important detail, but this is one of those shows where the little details do matter to the fans. It strikes me as odd that the producers fell down in this is what I guess I am saying here.

Favorite Quotes

"Are you weak?" (Ronon)
"" (Rodney)

"What is that?" (Teyla)
"Ugh. It's a piece of an arm, it looks like." (Ronon)
"Let's hope that slows him down." (John)
"Well, maybe it'll bleed to death." (Rodney)
"Or just grow another arm." (Ronon)

"Alien.... The movie Alien. They used the air-shafts when they overran the ship." (John)
"And then they systematically killed the entire crew one by one. Thank you for bringing that up." (Rodney)
"They didn't kill 'em all. " (John)

"In some ways, it looked almost like a human." (Ronon)
"If by 'human' you mean clad in a grotesquely proportioned exoskeleton, yes, very human." (Rodney)
"I meant it looked like it had two arms and two legs." (Ronon)
"It looked like a giant bug to me. I hate those things." (John)

"Oh, hey, wait. Set your gun to stun." (John)
"What?!" (Ronon)
"Yeah. We're gonna need to question him." (John)
"No. No more talking. No more questioning. I'm gonna do what we should have done the first time we captured him." (Ronon)
"Ronon, listen to me." (John)
"No, you listen to me John. This retrovirus thing was a mistake. I said it then, no one listened to me. It was a bad idea." (Ronon)
"We had to try. If it worked, we wouldn't--" (John)
"But it didn't work. Admit it. It just made things worse. How long do you wanna keep paying for it?" (Ronon)

"You'd think that the human side of him would temper his aggression a bit." (Rodney)
"Yes, because we humans aren't aggressive at all." (Teyla)
"Well certainly less aggressive than, uh...oh, sarcasm. Yeah, nice." (Rodney)


There we end for today folks. Man, I don't know why I think that Ronon never talks. He's been getting some of the better lines all season. Huh. Anyhoo, see you back here on Wednesday when we'll finish out the season with "First Strike."

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