Contributor: Gregg Wright
Again, I struggle to decide whether this season is not up to par, or whether season 1 simply isn’t as stellar as I remembered it to be. If not for overall grittier vibe and some edgier writing, one could easily mistake this episode for one of many similar episodes on “Stargate Atlantis” (one of which Varro actor Mike Dopud guest starred in, as a different character). There’s the typical Canadian forest alien planet setting, and what initially appears to be a very standard Stargate monster hunt. I was actually looking forward to seeing “Stargate Universe’s” take on the monster formula. But the end result is a underwhelming.
On the bright side, Varro (and the rest of the surviving Lucian Alliance members currently onboard the Destiny) finally gets to be in the spotlight again, after spending damn near the entire season off camera and in custody somewhere. He’s popped up occasionally, but his few brief scenes accomplished very little besides establish that he and T.J. were still headed towards forming a relationship. Unfortunately, all of the Alliance soldiers (aside from Varro) are given rather pointless red-shirt deaths, along with at least one other Earth soldier. Considering how things were going, I was a little worried that Varro would end up dying a noble death to save T.J. just so the writers could be rid of him. But thankfully they didn’t go that far.
A major focal point of the episode seems to be Greer’s mental state in the wake of his surgery. Commenter “autumnfire” took note of the lingering shot of Greer in “Hope” that seemed to suggest that Greer wasn’t completely fine after the surgery. So now we get confirmation of this, and an explanation. Apparently, Greer is one of those soldiers whose been through so much now, with nary a scratch, that he may have actually begun to believe that he was invincible. But Greer’s surgery experience harshly reminded him of his own mortality, so he’s no longer his usual fearless self.
I have mixed feelings on this story thread. One the one hand, humanizing Greer so he’s not just a perfect super soldier is good, in concept. But somehow the whole thing feels a bit unbelievable. I never thought Greer’s fearlessness came from an ignorance of death. I thought it came from sincere pragmatism and a sense of duty and honor. So I find the the idea that a drug-induced experience in surgery could rattle Greer to be hard to swallow. Greer is better than that. And Lt. James dialog with him about what she knew in her heart to be true was just too hammy for me.
But what really broke the episode for me was the resolution of the alien threat. This predatory animal apparently recognizes that humans are intelligent after noticing that we can make fire. Maybe it’s just a failure of my imagination, but I found it hard to believe that this creature would be smart enough to somehow associate fire with higher reasoning when it hasn’t even reached a tool-making stage of its own. I cannot imagine this creature being that intelligent. I could see that the writers were trying to imply some message about not judging an alien’s intelligence by our own preconceived notions about what intelligence looks like, but I don’t think it worked as well as they wanted it to.
The sub-plot with Rush having some fun with Eli and Brody was amusing enough. I’m still a bit confused as to whether Rush was just pulling a prank or had some actual agenda in mind. But I enjoyed seeing Rush smiling to himself in amusement. The sub-plot with Volker realizing he has feelings for Park worked fine. I like Volker. But it still managed to be one of the least interesting threads in the episode. I did, however, like the scene where Rush uses reverse psychology to encourage Volker to act on his romantic impulses. Rush seems more lighthearted, which I like, but it doesn’t really make sense, given the events in the previous episode. I would have expected him to be more bitter, toward Eli at least. Or is his screwing around with Eli and Brody his way of getting back at Eli? That doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t even remember a single mention of the incident in the previous episode.
I suppose part of my disappointment in the episode stems from my lack of interest in seeing such a stand-alone episode when there’s so few episodes left in the entire show. Season 2 has had a large amount of sub-par episodes and some strangely shoddy writing mixed in with the show’s usual brilliance. So, as discouraged as I am about the show, I’m still finding a lot to like about it. I just hope that the writers can find a way to channel that brilliance into some truly good episodes before the end of the season.