June 16th, 2005, 08:51 PM
Okay. Well. Of all the episodes listed, I’d rate ‘The Changeling’ as the best, in terms of writing, performance, execution, dramatic impact and originality; narratively, stylistically and emotionally, Chris Judge’s little masterpiece is almost unsurpassed. At the same time, though, I’d probably rate ‘Abyss’ as the episode that best showcases Daniel as a friend – since that’s essentially what his role is in the episode. Scene after scene of examining his and Jack’s relationship. As different as ever, as contentious as ever, as constant as ever, as intimate as ever and with as much unyielding faith in each other as ever: This is what the whole thing’s about (and it’s too bad I find everything else about the episode to be fodder for the fast-forward button).
Thing is, I just can’t see my way through to voting for an episode where Daniel has that ascended “advantage” – even though that advantage, and how he uses it, doesn’t matter, in either case, and his simply being there, in and of itself, is the most powerful gift of all. But the being there was largely dependent on that advantage and I don’t know, I’m not sure I can explain it, but it’s in seeing what that “being there” has wrought him, and how the little creature of flesh and blood copes with choices he can’t remember making, that I get the full hit of pride and joy in both Daniel's actions and his becoming human again.
And maybe it’s the joy that makes the difference. I’m hugely, ridiculously, beamingly proud of Daniel on a pretty regular basis, and find a measure joy in his “existence,” but it’s so rare that there’s an accompanying sense of joy for him – those choices and actions that make me so proud are so often so damn hard on him – that I cannot resist an episode where that kind of joy is there.
So ‘Orpheus’ it is.
‘Orpheus,’ for me, is both the price Daniel pays for ‘The Changeling’ and ‘Abyss,’ and the pay-off for those episodes; the story that reaches back to Daniel’s extraordinary acts of friendship, but shows us a human Daniel dealing with the consequences and, ultimately, the rewards.
Yeah, yeah, okay, I realise that the whole “return to human form on a distant planet with no memories and no clothes” business was the price Daniel paid, specifically, for ‘Full Circle.’ But I see ‘Abyss’ and ‘The Changeling’ as the precursors to that episode. If so much of Season 5 can be seen as the build-up to ‘Meridian,’ the long, difficult road to ascension, then I think Season 6 can be seen as the road to 'Fallen': "How To Become Human Again In Three Not-So-Easy Steps." Beginning in Ba'al's fortress.
In effectively giving Daniel an “ultimatum” – and, given the circumstances, Jack gets a free pass on anything he might have done here (if anything, I owe him one for giving Daniel that first nudge out of the clouds) – Jack opened Daniel’s eyes to choices that, to that point, I don’t think he realised or could acknowledge he had. It may have required a little end-run around some rules, on Daniel’s part, but a human existence was still an option for Jack, and faced with the choice between fully honouring his ascended life and salvaging a human life for Jack – giving in to the pull towards his “old” life – Daniel sided with the latter. For Jack’s sake, but it was a start.
By the time ‘The Changeling’ happened, there was no need for consideration. There’s no question of which life was better for Teal’c, and Daniel bent the rules to sustain that life – and, in some ways, to maintain the life that he’d left behind, even if he was no longer living it. With or without Daniel there, Daniel’s world was a better place with Teal’c in it, and it was worth whatever risk he took to see that all remained “right” in that world (even if he couldn’t see that it could never be “right” as long as he wasn’t there).
After that, ‘Full Circle,’ for all its complexity, is more or less a case of “in for a penny, in for a pound.” ‘Abyss’ is the hop, ‘The Changeling’ the skip, and ‘Full Circle’ is the jump (okay, maybe more of a great, flying leap).
Geez, to hear me tell it, you’d think Daniel’s actions in ‘Abyss’ and ‘The Changeling’ were self-serving, when all he doing in either case was helping a friend, and risking his existence to do it (not that I find fault in that; we’re probably all a little selfish in love that way, and it doesn’t take anything away from the things we do out of love). At the time, I suppose, it was all about preserving Jack’s life and Teal’c’s life, full stop, but I can’t look back on either, from the vantage point of ‘Orpheus,’ without seeing what Daniel’s actions meant for his life, the choice he was making for himself, whether he realised it or not. (Who knows, maybe I just like the image of Daniel as the little absentee caretaker. :))
There is a give and take, after all. Daniel could have lost everything, was willing to take that risk, and there’s no taking that away from him; but, God, for once Daniel ultimately gained everything in the end, and I can’t help but celebrate that. Daniel may not care - he does what he does with little or no regard for what it might mean for him, and I love that about him – but, darn it all, I do.
More so than even the Daniel of 'Fallen,' the Daniel of ‘Orpheus’ is a Daniel dealing with the fallout of helping those he loves. The Daniel of ‘Fallen’ is a lost soul named Arrom who’s struggling with becoming Daniel Jackson. In ‘Orpheus,’ he is our Daniel again, coming to a painful awareness of what he’s lost – and, in typical Daniel fashion, fretting over it in terms of what he could be doing for others, if only…
…and that would be the cue for my “Give that girl a cheesecake, and bring two forks!” moment with Sam, in this episode. There’s an abundance of friendship in ‘Orpheus’ and while, once again, Sam gets relatively short shrift on matters pertaining to Daniel’s ascension and return, Amanda grabs a moment for her, in the scene where she’s navigating him through the gate records she’s pulled up on the computer, and he starts wondering out loud if he might be doing more good if he were still…and she finishes the sentence for him. He realises what he’s saying soon enough to stop himself, but not so soon that she doesn’t know, not so soon that it doesn’t hurt. You can see the hurt as it registers on her face, and as she bites back on it and lets it go.
When Sam was talking to “Arrom,” she held back nothing; she gushed with abandon, gave him the hard sell on what a great gig it was to be Daniel Jackson. In a way, it was as though she was pleading with a stranger to give her friend back to her. But, now that she has Daniel again, she knows he has to work through the rest of it himself; and if I could wish anything for the episode, it would be just one moment near the end, just a look from the camera in Sam’s direction where, even if neither of them said a word, it was clear that she knew he had worked it through, and she could let go of that tight little breath she drew.
Funny, though, no matter how discombobulated Daniel is, he’s still the first person Jack turns to when he finds himself wanting in the “pep” department. If there’s cheering up to be done, Daniel’s your man, apparently. Naturally. (Typical, too, the way Daniel isn’t talking about what he’s going through, but is right in there trying to draw Teal’c out, unwilling to let him feel like less that what he was before.)
Jack gives Daniel more than I think he realises – comes to more of an understanding with him and of him – when they’re on Erebus and Daniel’s bogged down with regret over not having acted when he had the power, and Jack tells him it wouldn’t have worked, and they both know it. It’s the closest we’re ever going to get, I think, to an acknowledgment that Jack fully and finally understands the constraints Daniel was struggling under while he was ascended. I like to think it was the scare after ‘Full Circle’ that drove it home for him, made him realise the enormity of what he was asking Daniel to do when he told him to screw the rules, both then and before. Daniel was gone, really gone, and Jack went from the fear that he’d taken on Anubis and lost, to the realisation that the Others had stopped him, had punished him – and punished him harshly – and they were all just damn lucky somebody up there cared enough about Daniel to leave him where they would find him (there but for the grace of Oma).
In his heart, Jack may not regret how things turned out – it brought Daniel back to them, as good an outcome as he could have hoped for – but I don’t think he would ask Daniel to take that risk again. Of course, by this point, Daniel wouldn’t need asking, but we have this lovely balance now. At the time of ‘Full Circle,’ Jack was still pushing, and Daniel fell. Here, Jack appreciates how dangerous a push that was, and won’t hear another word from Daniel about the things he “should” have done.
And then, of course, Fate has to get into the act and force Jack into a situation, when Teal’c is captured, where he is forced to watch and do nothing. Different reasons, same awful choice and, in sympathising with Jack’s position, this confused and regretful Daniel may have made a little peace with the position he was in before.
This really is Teal’c and Daniel’s show, though, a bookend for ‘The Changeling’ on a series that too rarely explores the emotional fallout of past events. And another one that deserves a nod for the way it was shot, with the candlelit warmth of Teal’c and Daniel’s friendship contrasting with the cold, sombre hues of Daniel’s ascended memories, and the scene twice “fading to white” on a moment of pure hope. I love little details like that.
I love the dog-with-a-bone determination Daniel tackles Teal’c’s problem with (and, in the absence of any other explanation for why this one, lone memory from his “lost year” was able to surface, I’m content to tell myself that determination just might have knocked it loose). And I love the way Teal’c “pulls a Daniel” and, even while he’s sitting there feeling all “weak” and “diminished,” faces a Daniel haunted by uncertainty over the things he could be doing for others and tells him about the things he did do for others – the things he “shouldn’t” have done, but did anyway – and, if you ask me, the force of Teal’c’s love and regard for him is worth more than all the cosmic power in the world. (And can I give extra marks to the big guy for taking advantage of Daniel’s memory problems? When he and Jack tried to thank him before, he either denied having done anything or said, “It was all you, pal.” Teal’c tries it again, only this time, unable to “remember differently,” Daniel actually has to take the credit, and the thanks. Ha!)
It’s there, now, for Daniel to consider, that it’s the things he did – the very things he’s so worried he “could” be doing now (if only…) – that brought him here, and to figure out what that means.
The final scenes of ‘Abyss’ and ‘The Changeling’ are hard to top, and hard to shake. I still tear up every single time I watch ascended Daniel, in all his sureness and serenity, promise Jack and Teal’c that they’ll be alright, that he’s there and always will be. But neither of those scenes sends quite the same warm little rush right through me as the sight of the oh-so-very-human Daniel, without a cosmic power to his name, more unassuming than serene but as sure as ever, promising Teal’c that he, in all his powerlessness, is here to stay. It’s settled finally, the realisation’s sunk in, that the greatest thing Daniel ever did, or ever could do, for his friends was come home.
June 19th, 2005, 08:54 AM
I voted for "Abyss" for purely emotional reasons. It's the episode that just grabs my heart the most.......
"Solitudes" was a close second though because Daniel's love and concern for his new "family" is evident when Jack and Sam are lost. He can't entertain the idea of giving up on them----can't even sleep because their unknown fate is so heavy on his mind. (This episode is also one of the reasons for my choice of "Crystal Skull" in the Angsty Daniel Poll----Daniel can't help but go without sleep when his friends are missing and does everything he can to find a solution, but when Daniel goes missing in "CS", his "family" goes to sleep! Big ouch.)
There's such beauty, though, in watching the development of Jack and Daniel's friendship, starting with the movie and throughout the series (and I personally believe it's a deep, abiding, platonic relationship forged between two guys who are opposite in so many ways----not slasher in any way). Daniel's loyalty to Jack is strongly evident in many episodes including "The Fifth Race", but in "Abyss" it has evolved. Even though Daniel has achieved a personal triumph in ascending, his heart is still with his family (with Teal'c in "The Changeling"; in "Full Circle", with the whole SG-1 team and his extended family, the Abydosian people; with Jack in "Abyss") and the first member of that new family was Jack (the older brother, so-to-speak).
In my opinion, there's a new equality between Jack and Daniel now that little brother Danny has grown up (ascended)----Daniel is more secure within himself as a person (a being?) and has more to offer Jack in the area of friendship without even being aware of it. To me this is the first time their friendship has been on a truly level footing, emotionally speaking. He levels with Jack, man-to-man----this is the situation, Jack, and this course of action is your only way out. He sees something in Jack that Jack is unable to see in himself and even when Jack rejects ascension, Daniel refuses to leave, determined to stay with him to the end. Lots of beautiful friendship and loyalty there....... One of my favorite Jack and Daniel episodes!
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