View Full Version : FAN REVIEWS: 'The Last Man'
January 30th, 2008, 08:08 PM
<DIV ALIGN="center"><TABLE WIDTH="450" BORDER="0" CELLSPACING="0" CELLPADDING="7"><TR><TD STYLE="border:0;"><DIV ALIGN="left"><FONT FACE="Verdana, Arial, san-serif" SIZE="2" COLOR="#000000"><A HREF="http://www.gateworld.net/atlantis/s4/420.shtml"><IMG SRC="http://www.gateworld.net/atlantis/graphics/420.jpg" WIDTH="160" HEIGHT="120" ALIGN="right" HSPACE="10" VSPACE="2" BORDER="0" STYLE="border: 1px black solid" ALT="Visit the Episode Guide"></A><FONT SIZE="1" COLOR="#888888">ATLANTIS SEASON FOUR</FONT>
<FONT SIZE="4"><A HREF="http://www.gateworld.net/atlantis/s4/420.shtml" STYLE="text-decoration: none">THE LAST MAN</A></FONT>
<FONT SIZE="1">EPISODE NUMBER - 420</FONT>
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Sheppard returns to Atlantis after a mission and finds the city abandoned, all systems dead -- and instead of ocean, sand dunes as far as the eye can see.
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March 8th, 2008, 07:32 AM
I think I can assume that many of the readers of this site have seen quite a bit of science fiction television. As we watch these shows, many of the same plots and themes are re-examined in relation to that particular set of characters and circumstances. And this week's episode of Atlantis was no different. In "The Last Man" we saw the time-travel plot, mixed in with the ethical dilemna of changing the past, and that well-used theme of how one person's actions can change the path of those around him. Even the cliff-hanger wasn't something new. All familiar to the average scifi tv viewer but well-done and in keeping with the tools and devices particular to Atlantis.
That sci-fi theme of wanting to change the future by changing the timeline was presented here with the two main characters alone and left to make things right. Putting two characters in a room (or abandoned city) alone can have the potential to be boring. Rodney's determination to change the past was compelling but only because of the way each characters fate was retold. David Hewlett managed to bring out Rodney's measured emotion of regret and sadness with a slight sense of hope. But with a little of that Rodney reality check that is so familiar in this character. Joe Flanigan matched that with his character's frustration and determination to do what it takes to save his team and the fate of Atlantis. The challenge with only two characters is to keep things interesting and these two characters, and the actors who play them, have proven that this mix works and it worked in the telling of this story.
Of course, Rodney is successful with changing the past and getting Sheperd back just in time to rally everyone to save Teyla and prevent the fate of the rest of the characters. We've seen the wrap-up a hundred times. Hero comes back from the past and saves everyones life. The end. Well, not so fast. This is a season finale and therefore a cliffhanger is sure to follow. It did and it was somewhat unexpected if not seemingly disappointing. But it kept with the theme and action of the episode and reminds the viewer of the danger of messing with the timeline. Still, the question is how will this be resolved? We know they will live, they almost always do, but the cliffhanger isn't about who lives but how will they get out of it this time. Even if it is a same-old ending, I'm intrigued enough to tune in next season to find out the rest of the story.
So don't get bogged down in the familar plots and themes of this episode. Focus on how they tell it, how well they tell it, and how these characters react in these situations common to the viewer. This is a compelling episode that will leave you feeling that tinge of sadness at their fate but as with most sci-fi tv, and even with it's seemingly lackluster ending, it will leave you with a sense of hope.
March 8th, 2008, 10:45 AM
This episode, while holding a great premise, fell short when it came to finalizing the storylines of some key character's alternate time line equivalents. I was most distressed by how Sam and her new ship, the Phoenix where portrayed.
To much emphasis was put on Sheppard's disappearance. Tragic though it would be to the crew, he is portrayed as being a critical determining factor for the fate of the Pegasus Galaxy. His demise apparently sets a series of events in motion which brings the end of humans in Pegasus at the hands of Michael. Though he is undoubtedly a critical character in the Atlantis story, John is not so important that life could not go on without him.
Sheppard's demise also seams to cause the complete collapse of all common sense within the IOA and the SGC. Wolsey is portrayed as an IOA puppet, an unlikely turn of character even for him.
The Team continues their search for Teyla only to find her dead in an abandoned factory on some forsaken planet. She has given birth, and it is stated that Michal killed her once the baby was born.
Ronon's demise was what you would expect for his character, going out in a bang of glory. Very fitting. He also happens to go down with the wraith "Fred." The two quasi-team up to destroy an important base of Michael's which they do with copious amounts of C-4. A fitting end for both characters.
Sam is given a new ship, the Phoenix, to try and take out as many of Michael's Hive Ships as possible. Barely off the assembly line it takes months of work from Rodney and Zelenka to get the ship working.
Sadly the portrayal is very disappointing. We know that the Daedalus class ships can take continuous fire from 10 or more Wraith Hive Ships for about two minutes (episodes The Siege 1, 2 & 3, and remember that the Daedalus had already given Atlantis the ZPM so the shields where at normal integrity). Yet in this episode the Phoenix, equipped with Azguard weapons, and portrayed as able to take out a Hive ship with ease, is nearly destroyed by 3 Hive Ships in what appears to be under a minute of firing. Previous episodes have shown a Daedalus class ship being ambushed, but in every other case her shields where not active at the time. It is obvious in the episode that the Phoenix had her shields up as soon as she exited subspace and there was a considerable pause on the side of the Wraith before opening fire.
Sam's alternate character is portrayed as weak and indecisive, choosing to retreat in the first encounter (2 Hive Ships) when she clearly had a huge advantage, and waiting until the Phoenix had nearly been disabled before giving the order to fire in the second encounter (3 Hive ships in an ambush).
Sam meets her demise ramming the Phoenix into one of the Hive Ships after beaming her crew safely to the planet. The explosion she causes takes out the other two Hive Ships. A poor end considering that with the simple command "Fire at will" all three ships would have been at least disabled enough for the Phoenix to retreat with ease. If the Phoenix' shields had been portrayed accurately to past episodes, all three Hive Ships could have easily been neutralized.
The new IOA enforced policy of retreat and defense, has given Michael's hordes free run of the Galaxy. Discouraged and frustrated, Rodney and Jennifer leave the SGC. Ronon's demise and the collective circumstances push the two to become “more than friends” on their trip home aboard the Daedalus. One major inconsistency here: a year later Jennifer begins to suffer total organ failure do to her multiple exposures to the Hoffan drug. We know from previous episodes that exposure to this drug causes serious illness within hours, days at most. She dies of course as we have not yet been shown a cure for this drugs affects.
Rodney, now alone, sets himself to figure out how to bring Sheppard back from his 48,000 year excursion. It takes him 25 years even with the help of his sister. This is consistent with Rodney's character. He is obsessive compulsive and his entire life has been ruined. This is his only chance to get everything back to normal.
He creates a hologram to help Shepherd get back to his time, and convinces Evan Lorne, now head of the SGC to let him install it on Atlantis. Most of the story is the hologram of the now elderly McKay, explaining all this to John on the now long abandoned city of Atlantis.
Rodney is successful in the end, Shepherd makes it back within 12 days of his disappearance. It is revealed that Rodney and Zelenka had been tinkering with the gates protocols and it had suffered some “minor glitches”.
After some convincing that he isn't a replicator or clone Shepherd and the Team head to the location where Rodney's hologram had told John to look for Teyla. They arrive, finding she isn't there yet. Rodney accesses a computer terminal, inadvertently setting off a booby trap and the whole building collapses on the team leaving us in suspense until Season 5.
The overall premise is is fascinating and leaves you scratching your head for a good part of the beginning. But the portrayal of Sam's Character and the Phoenix' combative abilities are a huge detractor from this episode, thankfully in the Stargate Universe we enjoy every Friday night, this never really happened once the time line was corrected.
March 9th, 2008, 04:01 AM
I have been fairly critical of season 4 as a whole and this episode wasn't without it's flaws but as an episode i really enjoyed it, as a season finale however it didn't quite work, the only thing to my mind that made it a finale was the last five minutes, and the cliffhanger ending which was really quite lame and predictable.
It was quite clear to me as a Gateworld reader that with all the news coming out about season 5 that this last 5 minutes was just set up for the coming season , but even someone who has no idea about what's in store would know that come the next episode they'll all be fine, i mean how may shows kill their entire cast? Now if we had reason to beleive one or two characters might not survive a building collapse, then you could say "wow i wonder if they survive?"
So overall good episode but it just didn't work as a finale, especially if the writers wanted to create some suspense for the next season. I hope this isn't an indicator of things to come for Stargate Atlantis season 5, because i really like this show but another season like 4 and i won't have to switch off because SGA won't be around!!!!
March 9th, 2008, 10:43 AM
The Last Man
"I was just going to blow it up." -- Ronon Dex
Summary: After a Stargate malfunction, Sheppard is sent 48,000 years into the future, where a holographic McKay describes how the Atlantis expedition went wrong after his disappearance.
To say that “The Last Man” is walking on a well-trodden path in science fiction is definitely an understatement. Even aside from the shout-out to “1969” made by McKay at the beginning, one can draw strong comparisons to DS9's “The Visitor”, TNG's “Yesterday's Enterprise”, SG-1's “2010”, and SGA's “Before I Sleep”. And not only is this familiar territory, but the challenges are relatively light. Braving a sandstorm and one's appetite isn't quite the death-defying action that similar episodes may have.
But where this episode really succeeds is in its setting of complete isolation and powerlessness. Unlike most other “future gone wrong” episodes, a good part of the action happens in a completely abandoned Atlantis surrounded by nothing but sand, with a dying star in the sky. The city, of course, has existed for millions of years, so it isn't likely that the physical structure itself, or even many of its systems, would ever simply decay. But the most jarring visuals don't involve what is there, but what is not. There is, quite simply, nothing: no disintegrating Dell laptops for product placements, no power to the city, and worst of all, no hint about what happened to the city's inhabitants. No human traces are left, and that absence of information provides most of the real gravity to the episode. You can feel that Sheppard is really, truly alone, even without McKay's comment about possibly being the “last human alive”.
The stories that McKay tells about the time after Sheppard's disappearance are a mixed bag. For the writers, this episode must have been a dream, as it gave them the opportunity to kill off *four* major characters (and a strong minor character) in less than forty minutes. Unfortunately, more death does not equal more drama in this case. Teyla's death is little more than a plot point, with little on-screen impact. Not only that, but after getting out of numerous close scrapes with SG-1, the idea that Sam would be killed in a simple ambush like this is straining credibility. Sacrificing herself to take out three Hive ships seems to be less a brave last stand, and more of a case of a contrived end with a suddenly revealed death wish.
Ronon's death has more impact than these two, mainly because he dies working with his one sworn enemy. This presents an example that he has truly grown and developed into a leader and moved past blind hatred, that Sheppard's example has been a positive influence in his life. It also seem gratuitous though, since like Sam, the team had been in equally as bleak of situations in the past and had managed to escape. Assuming that his number would be up just because Sheppard isn't around is a stretch.
I'm mixed about my feelings about McKay's relationship with Keller, and her early death. The potential for romance with McKay was there from “Trio”, and I'm glad that this has some basis in continuity. The writers also manage to develop the relationship and actually make it seem plausible in a very short period of time. Jewel Staite is a great actress, and her final scene in that episode was very moving.
But where it goes flat for me is with the end result. Keller comes to terms with her death, and asks Rodney to do the same. Instead, he is launched into an obsessive, 25-year-long personal mission by that one event to “invent new math” to solve the “problem” (why that is needed is not entirely clear). It is admirable, since he's saving a number of his friends and not just one, but how plausible is it for him to develop this level of obsession so quickly, and at just this moment?
And that leads to the main philosophical problem that I have with the episode. So much about Stargate has been driven by this idea that accepting the way that things are is not desirable, even when the byproducts of messing with the system (alerting the Goa'uld and Ori to the presence of Earth, awaking the Wraith, helping Michael and Repli-Carter to gain power) often seem to outweigh the benefits in the short-term. But McKay obsessively works for 25 years to essentially doom his own timeline to destruction for the love of one woman. Does that make sense? Again, referring to DS9's “The Visitor”, if Sisko knew that by being in the timeline, the Dominion would start a war that would kill billions and that Jadzhia would die in the process, would he have made the decision he did? And in SG-1's “Window of Opportunity”, they make the argument to Malakai that he *shouldn't* attempt to change history, given that billions of people are being affected by his efforts. Isn't the same case relevant here?
* Nice to see that Lorne was promoted from Major Exposition to General Exposition! Of course, his ill-fitting, vaguely totalitarian uniform was a distraction.
* Whatever happened to Carson, then? It didn't seem like the other stasis pods were being used, so was he revived in the interim? More importantly, if there was a way to reverse his condition that was found, shouldn't he have included it in the information he provided?
In the end, a strange season ender, with a weird, tacked-on cliffhanger ending. Despite its flaws, though, it is a very interesting episode to watch.
March 9th, 2008, 12:29 PM
Great, great writing!
Sure, the concept is hardly new.
Sure, time travel has been done quite a few times in Stargate (and I can speak only for Stargate, as it is the only SciFi show I've ever watched).
But I would say it has never been done quite like this.
Usually what you get on every TV show is your group of heroes who save the day against seemingly insurmountable odds due to their ingenuity, their bravery and a lot of sheer dumb luck. And while that just has to be how serial TV works (otherwise there would be no show) it gets a tad repetitive. Sure, they may speculate and fear what will happen if one day their luck runs out and the enemy wins. But every viewer knows perfectly well that it never will and all those dreaded events will never come to pass.
In "The Last Man" they did - and we got to actually see them! See Teyla, Sam, Ronon and Keller die. See Michael take over the galaxy and Atlantis become the sort of institution that would make Elizabeth Weir turn over in her grave.
THAT is a completely original thing in Stargate! Even in the similar "2010", we only had an abstract, basically unseen evil in the future that was in fact a side effect of achieving the victory over the Goaul'd. The other comparable episode that comes to mind is "There but for the grace of God" - but again, a parallel universe is different, as the characters are not really our heroes and therefore the emotional impact is lessened.
No such thing in TLM. It was OUR Atlantis, OUR people to whom the worst case scenario happened and how easily it could happen, too!
The writers didn't even give in to the temptation (read: terrible cliché) to make only Sheppard's disappearance the deciding thing that set this chain of events in motion! It was just one of many things that went wrong, as their chances of finding Teyla in time would probably not have improved that much with Sheppard there. Not his return, but his return with the proper intelligence might have the power to change things.
So the actual cliffhanger is that even THAT could not be enough. We all know that they will get out of that building and the writers know that we know - but what is infinitely worse is that the deciding event - Michael getting hold of Teyla's child - could still take place! The future as old McKay has told it to Sheppard is still a very real possibility.
So for the beginning of next season, we do not only have some sketchy bad outcome of a dire situation to fear, no - we know exactly what we're fighting to avoid! If that's not a cliffhanger, I don't know what is...
The frame story (is that the correct term? Sorry, not a native speaker) of Sheppard and McKay in the future was also very well filmed (red Atlantis and the sanddunes - great visuals!) and acted, especially by David Hewlett. The look on his face before he starts recounting the individual events is heartbreaking at times.
But again, great writing too - it would have been so easy to make old McKay a somewhat nutty professor, whose flaws have only hightened with age. But no, this McKay has matured by the things he's seen and been through, the development of his character that we've seen in the past seasons has continued, so now he can show true compassion and knows what is important - devoting his entire life to an attempt to save those he loves and set things right, even if the chances of success are small and the plan involves by definition no credit that goes to him. That is greatness of character! Way to go, Rodney!
All in all, I am amazed. And really looking forward to season five!
March 9th, 2008, 02:21 PM
Excellent acting, camera shots, and writers' supposition [that SGA fans are always curious about how their favorite characters' lives could play out] are key factors in the success of this entertaining episode that can almost stand alone.
The only thread of this episode is the ending that leaves the rescuers needing to be rescued. Michael will certainly notice his trap has been sprung, thus nullifying the valuable intell of where to find Teyla. Therefore, it almost stands alone as a story.
Rodney and Sheppard's rapport is seamless even with unanticipated problems.
David Hewlett plays the most convincing senior citizen of any Stargate actor to date, who is attempting to show his own character as being aged. The make-up job was superior also.
The sets look good, aerial views revealing, and dialogues have their usual excellence. However, I give a zero out of a top rating of ten to the department responsible for shining Sheppard's flashlight directly into the camera lens several times. This special effect or directing or production detail causes me to miss entire scenes as I shield my eyes. This makes more of a disconnect from the story and characters than commercial breaks do.
It is unreal to think Sheppard can walk a straight line for a quarter of a mile in a gusting sandstorm without a compass, light at the end, or something to guide him.
Commander Woolsey's attitude may be acceptable since Sam and John are gone, but it stretches the limit of this viewer's patience. With all he has been through with Gen. Hammond, SG-1 team members, and recently Sam's command in particular, the attitude presented here does not track with other growth that character has shown. He is not new to Atlantis or her personnel.
Tapping's portrayal of Sam's final farewell, to a not quite in tune to this finality Rodney, is superb, as is Hewlett's part.
Two aspects hinder the story from being superb: (1) The ending that leaves no way for anyone to survive the implosion unless they are beamed out. Conventional survival, escape, or rescue from the scenes of entrapment shown are either unbelievable or unacceptable--like the ticking bomb always deactivated with one second remaining. This is not a cliff hanger for me. This type of ending is disappointing as is (2) the very tired use of McKay rushing to activate alien technology and propelling the team into calamity. Kindred 2 is more of a cliff hanger.
The stories of our heroes' demise are okay and entertaining, though nothing creatively noteworthy, unless it is Ronon and Todd going out together. There is the inevitable romance among regulars that is oh so safe when it is going to be eradicated before the show's end. How trite, convenient, and redundant this is. Let's have some creativity--romance, marriage, and kids between two regulars that last out the series and dvd movies that follow.
Despite the aforementioned negatives, this is an enjoyable show worth multiple viewings.
March 11th, 2008, 05:46 PM
OK, here we go. I'm just going to say it. This was not a very good episode.
Now, if you're still with me, I'll try and do my best to explain that statement. I'm also under the assumption that you've seen the episode.
The reason I feel this way isn't because the episode derives its themes directly from other Stargate episodes (many of which were themselves derived from other sci-fi TV). I believe that a commonly-used theme, when explored with new characters and new circumstances, can still feel fresh. Not always, but sometimes.
The main problem I had was that the episode never felt "real". It's very similar to the SG-1 finale "Unending" in that respect. In that episode, the team becomes trapped on their ship for decades; living their lives, forming relationships, etc....until the problem is solved. Then everything you've watched transpire for the last hour is washed away. Sure Teal'c still remembers the years spent on the ship but, other than a bit of gray in his hair, his character is completely unaltered either physically or behaviorally. In the grand scheme of the show, it meant nothing. Largely the same case with "The Last Man".
I like a good alternate reality/timeline story as much as anyone; good characters going bad, bad characters becoming good, death, darkness. All good stuff....if it has a point! Stargate has a nasty habit of diving into some very deep creative waters and then immediately doggy-paddling back to the shallow end. If a canon character travels to the future or an alternate reality, they'll be returned unharmed with a valuable piece of intel crucial to current events and that's that. If they introduce a clone/double/alternate version of a character, you know they're going to either be killed by the bad guys, suffer a fatal medical condition, or disappear into thin air before the episode is over. Thus, McKay's dark retelling of his companions' fate may mean something to Sheppard, but not the audience. Barring all that, which is more about the series as a whole than this one episode, I still have issues with "The Last Man".
That element of "unreality" continues to creep in. Sheppard's disappearance seems to send the universe on the express train to hell. As another reviewer mentioned, Sheppard is an important character who would be missed, but the others would be able to go on as they had been, without being picked off soon afterward.
The episode liked to make excuses in order for bad things to happen. For example, the team couldn't find Teyla in time because of a "lack of resources". What resources were missing except Sheppard? If he was there, they would have come across some clue or informant that would allow them to save her. Why is that impossible with Sheppard gone? Even Sheppard's unexpected jaunt into the future was laughed off as a glitch McKay caused by dicking around with the gate OS. You'd think Sam would have tore him a new one for potentially endangering personnel or at least halted gate activity until it was checked out for other, potentially more dangerous, glitches. Nope, she okays a mission right away (even if it was time-critical, they still should have checked out the gate).
I probably wouldn't be so harsh on "The Last Man" if it wasn't a season finale. They're supposed to be grand, epic things that use half the budget. This one featured static sets, poor special effects (the space battles were ok but the factory explosion was unimpressive and the composite shot of the crowd outside Michael's tent was one of the worst I've seen in the last decade or so) and a distinct lack of cameos. There's that "unreality" again. Are we really supposed to believe Sam would have to fight on her own just because the IOA pulled out? Where's SG-1? Where's Jack? They would just stand by and leave Sam to her fate? What about their space-faring allies like the Jaffa or Larrin's people (if you want to stick in Pegasus)? Did the Milky Way learn nothing from the conflict with the Orii? Other galaxy's problems become yours eventually.
Despite the episode's many, many problems, it did have some highlights. I admit to doing a mental double take when McKay mention Sheppard was a whopping 48,000 years in the future. The possible directions the episode might take began to flood my brain. But, alas, with the exception of providing some nice shots of Atlantis being swept under by a desert, they were never really explored.
Of all the "death" scenes of this episode, the only one that rang true was Ronon's. If he was cut off from Atlantis and didn't have access to the level-headed support of the other cast members, I can see him going out just like that. The fact that he gets to share a "comrades in arms" moment with Todd before going down makes it that much better.
The character work by the principle cast was also well done. Too bad they had so little to work with.
If "The Last Man" took place in-season I would have simply marked it as a wasted opportunity, but as a season finale it is unacceptable. Micheal is just not a credible take-over-the-galaxy villain, nor do I see his hybrids enabling that for him. I would have been much more interested to see what Weir is up to.
2 wormholes out of 5
March 12th, 2008, 04:34 AM
The Last Man, for me, was the biggest let down of the season. As a season finale, it wasn’t even a patch on a) some of the episodes in season 4 or b) season 3’s finale, The First Strike. In good Stargate tradition, season 3 ended with a bang. We saw our team submerge the vulnerable city, fly it away, Elizabeth being blown away by the Replicators energy beam and the city dropping out of hyperspace light years from anywhere and unable to calibrate the Stargate because they had no idea where they were, as the power slowly dwindled away. This season, we get a thrown together reality where everyone dies heroically - that isn’t even going to happen anyway because Johdney have messed with the timeline and instead of dying heroically, they’re about to be crushed to death as one of Michael’s buildings collapses on top of them on a search for the still missing Teyla.
Aside from knowing that there is a season 5, the title of the first few episodes, who wrote them and who’s lined up to direct them, I’ve stayed spoiler free. Still, I feel none of the jeopardy that Joseph Mallozzi promised me I’d feel. My roll of the eyes was a far cry from the tossing of things at the TV that was predicted. The fact there is a season 5 takes a lot of that sense of imminent death away because even though the powers that be have been on a roll with killing off main characters of late, even this is too dramatic for our Stargate crew.
The episode as a whole left me wanting more; more of what we saw in This Mortal Coil and Be All My Sins Remember’d – huge honking space battles and witty banter, with a dish of Shepp-whump on the side.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Joe Flannigan did – as usual – a wonderful job on the acting front. It is at the feet of the writers, the producers and anyone else who haunts the Bridge Studios during the hiatus that my disappointment lies. Even for me, a huge John Sheppard fan, I found it more than a little difficult to believe that because Sheppard went missing all humanity in Pegasus went to pot. I just can’t buy that.
Ronon’s storyline was the only one that was remotely plausible to me. I can see him leaving Atlantis if John and Teyla weren’t about because, despite the fact that Rodney and Ronon have a friendship, they are just too different; Ronon is a warrior, Rodney is not. They don’t ‘get’ one another on the same level as Ronon/Teyla and Ronon/John. And yes, I can see Ronon giving a little smirk as he pressed the button and waved bye-bye to one the biggest mistakes he let Atlantis make.
Rodney’s storyline was a bit of a miss with me as well. What we saw Rodney doing is what Rodney of season 1 and 2 would do; turning tail and run. The Rodney of late season 3 and season 4, I feel, wouldn’t have. We’ve seen him change a lot in the past two seasons and I don’t believe he would give up his place in Atlantis; he would have stayed behind and tried to fix what I’m sure he feels somewhat responsible for. And his story-telling left a lot to be desired as well; too many of the phrases were too un-Rodney and it leant even more to the sense of disbelief this episode filled me with. However, the fact that Rodney came up with a solution doesn’t surprise me and I’m glad he did – I don’t think Rodney would have stopped for anyone and he didn’t. That’s the Rodney I know and love.
This episode firmly eradicated any good feelings I had in regards to Keller. Firstly, she was the first to turn tail and run, despite the fact that there was still a lot she could do regardless of the IOA’s interference. If soldiers of Atlantis were still going off world to garner ZPM’s, they would be at risk of contracting the Hoffan virus and she could have continued her work into finding a cure. But did she? No. At the first sign of trouble she was off. Then that thing that really got me was her trying to convince Rodney to give up. Not only is it the epitome of pessimism and exactly what Keller is about, it also shows how little she knows Rodney. On her death bed, she asked him to promise not to continue to try and save his friends, when there was a possibility he could. That showed me just what kind of character Keller is. If she was so willing to give up in Atlantis and give up on Rodney, then I’m not looking forward to seeing her in season 5.
Another gripe. Wasn’t Carson in the stasis chamber the last time we saw him in Kindred pt 2? Why was there no mention of him? For John, putting Carson in the stasis chamber was only a matter of days beforehand, surely he’d ask if they’d managed to find a way to help him, or if the IOA had ordered they turn to pod off. I think especially after the whole dramatic “Carson’s back!” that was Kindred pt2, the least he deserved was a wee mention. He was, after all, Rodney’s best friend.
And what is with Stargate and their main characters’ babies being the key to the destruction of the universe as we know it? First Vala, now Teyla. The Teyla story arc of season 4 was a disappointment to many Teyla fans and her lack of appearance in the finale only served to prove these points of views right. She deserved better.
I agree with Mayhemm, if it wasn't the finale I'm not sure I'd be quite as harsh. But it was. And I am.
March 12th, 2008, 03:51 PM
Stargate has produced some fantastic alternative timeline and universe stories and The Last Man is the latest engaging tale to fall into that category. It focuses on the ‘what if’ scenario of it all going horribly wrong for the expedition in Atlantis and for the Pegasus Galaxy but focusing primarily on character stories rather than simply the overarching result. There is much to recommend it but the final act feels rushed and tagged on in comparison to the rest as though simply done for shock factor and to provide the requisite cliff-hanger of a season finale than to contribute in a meaningful way to the story.
I admit that I’ve always loved the stories examining the ‘what ifs’ from There but for the Grace of God from SG1, and Before I Sleep from the SGA back-catalogue remains a personal favourite episode. As a ‘what if’ story the majority of The Last Man delivers as holographic McKay relates to Sheppard the sad events in the timeline that he is seeking to change; Teyla’s death, Sam’s and Ronon’s sacrifices, and McKay’s own fleeting personal happiness with Keller after some interesting IOA politics drive them both from Atlantis, cut short by tragedy. Success comes from the focus on the individual character stories that provide action and emotion.
Ronon in particular gets a great story; one that emphasises his own leadership qualities and his growth not only in working with Todd (fabulous moment of them both freezing weapons inches away from each other) but in finally stopping running to achieve his mission. Equally Keller’s dedication to her humanitarian efforts makes her character shine and fully form as a ‘hero’ in a way she has perhaps failed to do in previous episodes; her interaction as McKay’s romantic interest is believable and actually makes her much more personable. It was also great to see Sam utilised as the technical whiz-kid, never-say-die soldier leading again as opposed to a leader with those traits kept in the background. While I understand the balance had to change given the position within the overall SGA character set, here is a more recognisable Sam, and as an SG1 fan it did feel like welcoming an old friend home.
More than just engaging the audience though through the characters, the focus on their fates imbues the story with emotion as McKay’s own love and respect for his former team-mates seeps out in the flashbacks. His dismay and regret on finding Teyla; the respect for Ronon; the grief yet pride in talking about Sam. Only Michael gets short-changed, painted as a comic book villain which perhaps is a true reflection of how geeky Batman-loving McKay sees him in the end. The raw emotion in the previous episode of having to tell Clone Carson the fate of the original and Weir is muted here but evident nevertheless – a wonderful piece of acting by David Hewlett. Joe Flanigan provides a wonderful foil as Sheppard listens and prompts with his own increasing desperation to get back to his past and prevent the events from happening evident. However, Hewlett steals the show as he delivers an older, and entirely believable McKay who has been battered by events if not completely broken; his arrogance muted by loss after loss. There is real heartache behind his obsession to change the past to find a different future for himself and his friends.
That whole segment of Sheppard and hologram McKay simply walking the empty corridors of Atlantis and talking has a wonderfully haunting quality; Sheppard’s footsteps echo, there is an eeriness in the quiet and the shadows. The red and orange tinged future contrasts sharply with the flashbacks which seem darker and more forbidding because of that. My only main complaint with this whole segment is the special effects when Sheppard first sees Atlantis under sand dunes before the camera pans out – for that moment it lacks believability. After that, with the wider shots, the difference is startling and ‘wow.’
Unfortunately, the problem for me begins with the sudden arrival of Sheppard back in the past. The audience sees nothing of the difficulties McKay suddenly worried about with the sun dying, the shields having to maintain atmosphere, the wormhole engaging at the right moment to send Sheppard back. There seems to have been a set-up for a different ending. Maybe it was felt there wasn’t enough punch in that cliff-hanger for a finale…I think I would have preferred something else to the one we got. It is true that the exploding building is dramatic; it’s also a little cliché. Less will they survive as how will they survive to continue their adventures? It reminded me too much of the old camp Batman and Robin TV series from the Sixties where the heroes are left in dire straits only to implausibly get free in the first few minutes of the following episode. The note was jarring given the emotional resonance of the rest.
Overall, the episode has many great qualities and definitely engages the audience through excellent focus on the characters through McKay’s eyes, and a tour de force performance by David Hewlett backed up by the rest of cast and crew.
It is perhaps indicative of this fourth season as a whole: the cast and crew delivering good work with the occasional glitch around production; excellent attention in the main to the characters and providing stories which invite the audience to care for them, yet some missteps in story-telling here and there. The planning, pacing and executing of character and story arcs definitely needs to improve although the idea of less stand alone and more arcs is a welcomed approach. Overall this has been a good season, and The Last Man keeps up the standard. Bring on Season 5!
March 12th, 2008, 05:28 PM
This year was something of a year of reconstruction for “Stargate: Atlantis”. The demise of “SG-1” meant an overall in the production staff across the board and more than a few cast changes. There were promises of less focus on Sheppard and McKay and stronger character arcs as a whole. Meanwhile, the plot arcs were taken in unexpected directions. The Wraith became more complicated with the brilliant introduction of “Todd”, the Asurans were dealt with definitively (for this season, anyway), and Michael returned in a nice bit of continuity.
That said, the major season arc seemed to end in the previous episode with Michael’s abduction of Teyla. The writers had an early pickup for the fifth season, so bringing the season to a strong conclusion wasn’t necessarily a given. Instead of the huge cliffhangers of previous seasons, the writers went with something closer to the classic “Buffy” episode “Restless”.
In short, Sheppard is launched in a continuity-driven manner about 48,000 years into the future, where a holographic McKay has been waiting for him. McKay has a plan for getting Sheppard back to his rightful time, but it will take a little maintenance of the now-defunct Atlantis to make it happen. In the meantime, McKay runs down a list of ever-more depressing fates for the rest of Team Atlantis, all stemming from Michael’s success in creating a true Wraith/Human hybrid race.
Most of the stories work within the established continuity, and in some cases, presage events that may very well come to pass. In that respect, the episode is very much like the “Star Trek: Voyager” episode “Year of Hell”, in which the audience gets to see how bad it could really be, if things don’t change. To a certain extent, I’m tempted to think that the fifth season would far exceed my expectations if the producers had the guts to spool out even half of the future as depicted by McKay.
Unfortunately, what the episode gains in the depiction of a bleak galactic and personal future is mitigated by the implications of the final act. Sheppard returns, as one would expect, to his own time (more or less). If that had been the end of the episode and the season, it would have been an effective cliffhanger. Instead, Sheppard gathers a team together to storm Teyla’s probable location, based on the holographic McKay’s descriptions.
It turns out to be a trap set by Michael, which implies that Sheppard’s experience might have been an elaborate illusion. I initially found this to be a clever twist, but after some reflection, I was disappointed. Michael is certainly intelligent and a glorious example of the self-inflicted wound, the Mordred to Team Atlantis, but the man should have limits.
Despite that, the fate of the team is left in doubt, and while it’s a far more conventional cliffhanger than the psychological dread that McKay’s recitation of the future might have granted the audience, it works well enough. A little more insight into the changes coming to the status quo might have been nice, but perhaps that explains the ending. With so many changes and fireworks to come in the fifth season premiere, perhaps the writers wanted to give themselves a relatively easy situation to resolve.
Reprinted with permission
Original source: c. Critical Myth, 2008
All rights reserved
April 13th, 2008, 08:25 PM
“The Last Man” exceeded expectations on some levels and fell short on others. However, even if one is not a fan of Alternate Time (AT) stories, one could find “The Last Man” quite intriguing and very enjoyable. For both a season finale and AT story it was different and well done. It was heartbreaking yet heartwarming; discouraging yet hopeful; profoundly sad at times yet at other times it could make you smile.
After Sheppard goes through the Stargate, after another futile search for Teyla, we see him return to an empty, deserted Atlantis. Sheppard’s reaction - one of confusion and concern - was appropriate, in character and well played by Joe Flanagan. It was somewhat reminiscent of “Epiphany” when Sheppard had felt left behind and abandoned. Then we see his relief at hearing Rodney’s voice, his run to the hologram room and then his shocked and confused reaction at seeing an aged Rodney. Again, great acting by Joe F as he brought to life the subtle, controlled desperation Sheppard was feeling. .
The story carefully and skillfully unfolded the past events. Sheppard asking about each of the members of his team (family) provided a bit of angst – for both Sheppard and the viewer. His inquiries to each of their fates seemed to grow more and more tentative as he found out that each of them had died and in Rodney’s case found that for one brief moment he had a life and love he dreamed of only to lose it all; then became a virtual recluse as he worked on a solution to save Sheppard and change the time line. Great acting by David Hewlitt.
The interplay of the increasing desperate attempts and need to get Sheppard into stasis - first the sand blocking the corridor, the storm, the sun dying and of course the fact he had no food or water- and the increasing sadness and desperation one felt as each of the character’s stories were told was brilliantly intertwined. The scene between Sheppard and HoloRodney in front of the stasis chamber was particularly telling. There appeared to be a subtle bit of trepidation on Sheppard’s part about entering the chamber with the possibility of never waking up – perhaps reminiscent of Carson going in the previous episode. His questions to HoloRodney about who won the super bowl, world series etc. seemed to be his way of dealing with it; it lets him be positive and not allow himself to consider all the dire possibilities. It is very much in character as Sheppard has used this defensive mechanism a lot – sort of jokes/talks about something in the future as if there is no doubt it will happen. It lets him deal with the uncertainty of the present situation.
Rodney and Keller was an interesting pairing in the AT. Under any other circumstances it would have been difficult to see these two together, but in this context it worked. How they “came” together was plausible enough. They had both shared a very wondrous, unique, exciting experience on Atlantis and in the end left under very tragic circumstances – they had lost all their friends, they were under IOA control with a mandate they were not comfortable with and Michael was poised to take control of the Galaxy by killing or turning all the humans into hybrids. There was no one else on Earth they could talk to about this. It just seems natural that they would be drawn to each other. It is a very human turn of events.
Ronan and Todd, it is ironic, yet touching, that they would die together, fighting side by side. Two sworn enemies, who under the circumstances found themselves fighting together with the same goal – to destroy the cloning facility – and then realizing to ensure the desired outcome they would need to die. An excellent example of how in battle, sometimes the lines of who is the enemy and who is your friend is not exactly black and white. It is also an excellent example of how Ronon’s character has evolved over the last 3 seasons.
Sam dying the hero was a sad but fitting end for this beloved character. It was a scene one could both love and hate. Love it because she was very much the leader, doing what she believed to be right, fighting till the end and sacrificing her life for the good of all and hate it because she did die. HoloRodney saying, “And we buried another empty coffin” struck a very profound and sad note.
Michael is a great villain and Conner does a superb acting job. This episode really emphasized the fact how ruthless and cruel Michael’s plan for the Pegasus Galaxy are. The writers have done a good job of making him a multi layered villain. One can hate him on one level and then almost feel sorry for him on another. Michael’s line sums it up well, “You know what is ironic, I didn’t ask for any of this.” Very well written and very well delivered by the actor.
Woolsey appearance was short but contemptuous. He was a bit obnoxious but he was towing the IOA line and probably under considerable pressure from them. Actually, whether or not it had been planned, his appearance in this episode sets up an interesting and compelling introduction for him in season 5.
An appearance, by Kavan Smith as General Lorne, was also short but memorable as it gave the viewer the foreboding sense that much was wrong on Earth and the Universe. This seemed to be the driving force for Lorne to help McKay change the timeline, and thus his own future. With all the effort Rodney puts into changing the timeline we see little consideration of what that will mean to the rest of the planet/universe. At least in this scene the subject is touched upon – it would have added more depth/conflict to the story if they had explored this issue a bit more.
The ending was good but fell short of expectations for season finale. After seeing a story that was so very different and more character centric than previous finales, then at the end to revert back to the same old big explosion and the familiar scenario of; “Trapped again. OH NO! Will they survive? Of course they will!” was a bit disappointing.
“The Last Man” was a strong episode that was engaging, well written and well acted. It provided a glimpse as to the fate of the characters in a future without each other and it was both revealing and bittersweet. And while the ending may not have been as strong as it should be for a season finale, it is still one of the top episodes of the season.
May 3rd, 2008, 01:43 AM
The episodes that involve some sort of time travel and "reset button" can be a hit or a miss. Overall I think the last man was a hit.
I think that the main purpose of a story like this has to be about possibillities. What could have happened. You need to focus on this, and not stray, which I think that the episode did. I also think that avoiding big special effects is also a must, which for the most part I think was o.k. And the key to making it all work is your character interaction. Which I have to say, that I can't understand why every episode is not written so brilliantly.
From the beggining, a quick start, hi how ya doing, this is where we are at and boom, here is the problem. When you have so much story to tell, it was really great work jumping right into the perdicament. As the story unfolds, the character interaction is fantastic between Rodney and Sheppard. Exceptionally great writing and great acting, this is what kept the story interesting, not the special effects. The pace was great throughout the backstory, along with some humerous moments, "indeed". Then I got thrown for a small twist with Sheppard getting back before the episode, which was where I was sure the cliff hanger was going to be. And then to wrap it up with the team in trouble, even with some reliable intel from the future.
My one quip about this episode is the fact that Atlantis, after 50,000 years is still around? I guess it was needed to make the story work, but the way that the city survives to me is just insanely convenient. Especially in a show where you push the big button.
September 29th, 2012, 12:11 PM
The Last Man
At last, we reached the end of Season 4 and as expected it's going to be a big budget affair that push the limit of what sci-fi can do; I was fearing that this episode would be disappointing seeing as how we went through a middling season but after watching it all the way through, I found myself surprised.
The idea of arriving 48,000 years in a deserted Atlantis is an interesting idea; arriving to see everything in a derelict state; abandoned, deactivated, empty and it's something which the episode executes flawlessly. They really went all out to establish this setting, you truly get the feeling that this is Atlantis 48,000 years in the future, the camera shots which emphasize the bare empty feeling of the rooms, the orange lighting which emphasize high blooms and dark colors, the dunes which establish the time that has passed. You can't help but to be taken back by the eery, unsettling looks of what Atlantis could of been like; it's like a horror film except in this case, there's no monsters, there's no music and there's a sense of eeriness that doesn't settle well with anybody and this environment is perfect for the person who roams it, Sheppard. He's the perfect fit for this type of situation, he's heroic, he's determined and he's almost relatable when in serious sources of trouble; you can easily sense how it's going to go down, Sheppard being friendly, saying his catch phrases, being annoyed at the whole situation but what you don't expect is the character traits they revive during the situation. Many people know him as the action hero but what many people don't know was that he actually had smartness and emotion at one time and to see these traits be brought back to the forefront is nice because it shows that Sheppard is more than just an action hero such as when we hear him come up with a theory regarding solar panels; these scenes enforce that there is a character with depth and complexion underneath that rugged exterior and as he progresses through this episode, he provides a exceptional performance that's both serious and light; proving himself as he moves from obstacle to obstacle.
48,000 years later...
Of course, he isn't alone and that's where a holographic representation of McKay comes in; while initially feeling like something from "Red Dwarf", he quickly proves to be a near essential part of the episode with a sense of experience and wiseness that can only come from age, of course he doesn't make as many jokes here but he doesn't have to because he serves his role as a guiding force well. Because his only purpose is to get Sheppard home, he's a lot more focused, giving off scientific information and important plot details like it was nothing; McKay knows exactly the right amount of emotion and sternness to put into a scene while knowing when to do his bit to satisfy the requirements of his character and he feels almost confident with himself as he does this, never managing to break a sweat within the 44 minutes of the episode's runtime. It's as much of a character as it is a story device and it manages to feel authentic through and through. McKay and Sheppard only take up a couple of scenes of the episode but the rest are filled with stories to the distant past where a future is played out before our own eyes (narrated by McKay who does his best King Babar impersonation.); every one of these stories manages to paint out a world of bleakness, one where Sheppard doesn't exist and the SG team is unable to save the day; it kind of like "The Siege", except multiplied by 10. It's almost morbid watching these stories unfold, the peaceful world that slowly gets turned into a death zone, the number of known characters dieing before your eyes, the sickening reasons for why everything is happening; It constantly leads you on a false trail with every story, whenever you think you're going to get a happy ending, whenever you think that the particular character is going to come through, a brick hits you in the face and messes everything up. It's sad yet it makes you think, it makes you feel and never throughout the episode are the stakes/mood ever diluted, it's all taken seriously.
Every character who's featured in those stories shines in the best possible way. The character of Michael gets his best possible redemption after seeming like a generic villain in the previous episode; thanks to the return of his dynamics, he gives off an amazingly powerful performance that showcases the depth and complexion unique to him while also having you at the edge of your seat in regards to pure awesomeness. Sam finally proves herself as we see what she could of been, a heroic, determined leader who doesn't take anything yet still has an intellectual caring side. Her tone is clear and concise managing to sound like her own character and her actions are honorable and noble, watching her care for her crew and go down with her ship will really bring a tear to anybodies eye. Our Dr. McKay shows off his more reserved sensible side in a story which puts him through pain and tribulations; with Keller as a love interest, it digs up stuff unseen in McKay, in fact it makes McKay look like a pretty nice guy; the scenes with Keller show just how sweet McKay can be while the scenes where he cooped up in his room show just how disparaging it can feel even though he's working towards a greater good; this is an example of what McKay can be if he dropped his jokes and worrisome antics, a character that's as human as possible. The weakest for me would have to be Ronan but even he's strong because of his heroism, determination and leadership skills; when the tough gets tough, Ronan gets going and he can really show that he's more than just the run and gun guy, even honorably sacrificing himself in order to serve the cause and then there's the addition of Todd which provides for some nice action and some nice focus.
A lack of hope.
Through the determination, though the hard times, through the light jokes, this episode engages us from the beginning when Sheppard steps through the gate to the end where Sheppard has tantalizing information. It's almost breathtaking to see how determined Sheppard can be, against all adversity, against all hope; it's like our eyes are glued to the tribulation of his struggles. The future that we witness is nothing like we've expected and that's the point, that our expectations can be dashed at any moment; when you have Richard Woosley taking over Atlantis (with a good performance I might add.), when you have Michael taking over the universe with his sinister plan, it makes you doubt what you know and even as we connect with the characters in the stories, we can't help but to feel for them. This could of been an episode which existed to give Sheppard information but instead it was a fine masterpiece that showcased our characters, showcased Sheppard and proved to be an exceptional season finale, even one of the best of Season 4. The only noticeable weakness was the cliffhanger in the end which felt tacked on, cliche and had poor CGI, I don't get why they needed to end the season like that but it doesn't hinder the overall quality, which is what matters. A must see!
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