View Full Version : FAN REVIEWS: 'Broken Ties'

July 9th, 2008, 01:09 PM
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<FONT SIZE="4"><A HREF="http://www.gateworld.net/atlantis/s5/503.shtml" STYLE="text-decoration: none">BROKEN TIES</A></FONT>
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Ronon once again comes face-to-face with Tyre, one of his people who became a Wraith worshiper -- but who now claims he has broken free of their influence.

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July 28th, 2008, 04:25 PM
If it’s a character-based episode early in a season of “Stargate Atlantis”, then it’s a good guess that it’s a Ronon-centric episode. Looking back on the past few seasons, this is practically a matter of inevitability. I recall a similar thing happening to the character of B’Elanna on “Star Trek: Voyager”. The writers would incrementally advance her personal character arc in an early episode of every season, and once that was out of the way, she basically fulfilled her function within the ensemble without much variation.

Ronon fills a very comfortable niche on Team Atlantis, playing the requisite tough with consummate warrior skill and a gruff good nature. He’s essentially the Teal’c of the series, and as such, episodes devoted to Ronon inevitably pertain to others of his kind. The Satedans have never been my favorites (and that includes the infamous episode “Sateda” itself), so I was wary, to say the least.

Fortunately, the writers took a slightly different approach with the Ronon-centric episode this season. Normally, when a main character is subjected to the kind of experience seen in this episode, the character manages to resist against all odds, demonstrating his endlessly heroic nature. So it was a bit rewarding to see Ronon, perhaps the strongest member of the team, succumb to the Wraith brainwashing.

The brainwashing itself helped to explain why some humans would choose to align with the Wraith in the first place. It may have been alluded to in the past, but I certainly don’t remember anything about the addictive qualities of Wraith life restoration. I don’t think it applies to every Wraith worshipper, since simple self-interest is enough of an explanation and this seemed to be more of an experimental approach, but it does flesh out a grey area.

Otherwise, I found the story to be rather predictable. I was basically waiting for Tyre to rescue the team after his supposed betrayal, and Tyre’s sacrifice was completely telegraphed. Considering how much of the episode’s power hinged on Tyre’s redemptive arc, it was a bit disappointing for the story to be so “cookie cutter”. If Ronon’s part of the story could take a daring turn, why should Tyre’s part of the story fall into predictability?

Speaking of which, this episode was also devoted to exploration of Teyla’s position on Team Atlantis. I’ve been concerned since the moment the pregnancy was written into the series, and especially since the baby was saved. Pregnancy seems to be the easy road for drama when it comes to female characters in the genre, but “baby plots” slip into annoying cliché all too often for my taste. For better or worse, Teyla is not one of the headliner characters, so the impact is lessened.

Even so, if Teyla’s character development this season is largely devoted to the struggles of motherhood, I’ll be disappointed. I would like to think that the character deserves better than the never-inventive “working mother” plot thread, mixed with the “aren’t babies cute?” scenes. We had one such scene with Woolsey in this episode, and I think it was quite enough. Unfortunately, the writers seem to have no intentions of sidelining the baby, so it remains to be seen how it will be handled. (I’m waiting, of course, for the inevitable kidnapping episode.)

John Keegan
Reprinted with permission
Original source: c. Critical Myth, 2008
All rights reserved
Link: http://www.criticalmyth.com

July 31st, 2008, 08:33 PM
“Broken Ties” was an intense episode that had a lot of good character and team moments. The focus of the story was not on the action but rather on friendship, loyalty and betrayal; and this was portrayed very well on different levels through several concurrent story lines.

The main premise was Ronon being kidnapped by his old friend Tyre, now a Wraith worshipper, with the goal to present Ronon to the Wraith as a bribe to return to their good graces. Jason Momoa as Ronan and Mark Dacascos as Tyre both did a great job in the scene where the two of them are talking in the warehouse just before the Wraith’s arrival. It was an emotional and intense scene between two former, loyal friends now facing the ultimate betrayal.

The scene when Tyre gave Ronon to the Wraith and then being so desperate to please the Wraith was a bit unsettling. Then watching the Wraith feed off Ronon to the point of near death and then return life just to do it again were quite brutal and tense. Having the scenes of Ronon’s transformation into an addicted Wraith worshipper cut back and forth with those of Tyre’s withdrawal emphasized the pain and anguish each was going through. In the end Tyre redeems himself by helping with the mission to rescue Ronon and then performs the ultimate act of friendship by sacrificing himself to allow Ronon and the others to successfully escape.

The friendship and loyalty between SGA team members is illustrated in several scenes and was a strong undercurrent through the entire episode. We see this friendship in the very beginning of the episode with the friendly banter and discussion of personal matters between Teyla and Ronon; we see friendship and loyalty in Sheppard’s resolve and steadfast belief that they would find and rescue Ronon, we see Teyla torn between her loyalty to and desire to help find Ronon as she struggles to make the decision of whether or not to return to active duty and we see the teams friendship and loyalty to Ronon as they never leave him alone through his withdrawal.

One of the B stories that was well played was between Teyla and Sheppard and her indecision on whether or not to return to active duty. This story also drove the themes of friendship, loyalty and perhaps even betrayal. One might see a sense of betrayal on Sheppard’s part with Teyla’s indecision to return. Not sure if the writers meant to invoke a feeling of betrayal or just tension between the two, if they had it certainly would have been interesting to see this played up a little more. One thing that was lacking in the episode was the resolution of this tension between the two of them. After seeing Teyla struggle with this decision over several episodes, Sheppard’s assumption she will return to the team then the exchange in this episode where Sheppard stressed the need for a decision from her, the scene where she told him she was returning was not played on screen. This was an unfortunate choice as again this has been an ongoing issue between the two of them over several episodes and needed to be addressed on screen.

The writers also touched on the theme of betrayal between Ronon and Sheppard when we see a brainwashed Ronon help the Wraith to capture the team and then strike Sheppard. Loyalty is played out with Sheppard’s commitment not only to rescue Ronon but to be their for him through the withdrawal process. The end scene with a silent Sheppard handing Ronon the sword was a great example of a scene that said a great deal, without either actor uttering a word. Well done by the writers and actors.

The scenes with Woolsey adjusting to life on Atlantis as well as being leader were refreshingly different from what one might expect, but in actuality very much in SG tradition. There was some humor, in the scene where the doors would not open and when Teyla handed him the baby. Some poignant scenes such as when Teyla was explaining to him her indecision about returning and he in turn shared a bit of his personal life about his divorce and losing his beloved dog. It is always satisfying as a viewer when writers - and an actor - can stretch a character like this in a single episode. Robert Picardo did a great job.

The writers pulled off a bit of a surprise with how they have handled the baby and Kanaan story. Instead of the cliché scifi treatment we have a happy family.

The musical score was wonderful, especially the last piece at the end during the montage scenes. Joel Goldsmith is a treasure.

While “Broken Ties” did have a plot was a bit predictable, as one would be fairly confident that Ronon would survive and recover, this was not a story that emphasized action or even one character. This episode was more of a team episode. It was about friendship, loyalty and betrayal presented on different levels that intertwined and played off of each other, and this is what made the episode good.

September 2nd, 2008, 02:43 PM
Stargate occasionally tackles material which is dark and disturbing in nature, and Broken Ties is the latest attempt focusing on our favourite Satedan. Unfortunately, Ronon’s trauma suffers from being squished into the hour long format and a distracting subplot as Teyla questions her return to Team Atlantis. The result is that while the whole is an accomplished piece of work, the main story never quite gets told to the depth or extent that the material justifies despite great acting and direction.

It has become a tradition since Ronon’s arrival that there will be a story focusing on everyone’s favourite Satedan within the first few episodes within a new season. With successes such as Runner, Sateda and Reunion, Broken Ties had quite a tradition to uphold; angst, drama and revelations about Ronon’s past were expected. Certainly, Broken Ties delivers on angst and drama while not really adding anything new in terms of Ronon’s past.

The material is dark and disturbing, touching on torture, addiction, withdrawal, broken loyalties and friendships. It is presented seriously; Tyre’s decline, his addicted personality leading him to betraying Ronon in order to get his fix, his withdrawal, his sacrifice to rescue Ronon, the brutal fight between the two during the rescue, Ronon’s agony during the initial torture, his decline, his withdrawl…all of these elements are told with serious straightness in dialogue and acted tremendously well by Mark Dacascos and Jason Momoa. The direction, photography and lighting in these segments is just superb; the dark, claustrophobic nature of the torture and addiction scenes; harsh and uncompromising light in the infirmary withdrawal scenes. Ronon’s withdrawal scenes are particularly very well done and gut-wrenching when Ronon cries out for them to kill him (although I was almost distracted by the wig).

It’s also great to see his team to battle their own discomfort at seeing him to support him through it (loved him waking up to McKay babbling on beside him) – superb acting by all the cast. Indeed, friendship and loyalty are the underlying themes; between Ronon and his team, Ronon and Tyre. It’s a well woven thread; Tyre betrays Ronon; Ronon betrays his team; a restored Tyre sacrifices himself to save Ronon and the team help him through his withdrawal, re-establishing their bond with him. Through Ronon’s experience the audience is shown Tyre’s own journey and Tyre’s redemption. The early scene with Ronon and Tyre in the abandoned building where Ronon realises what his friend has come to; as Tyre acts like any addict with screwed up thinking; it's so powerful. Yet the friendship moments between Ronon and Teyla (at the beginning), Ronon and Sheppard (in the infirmary) and Ronon and McKay (as before) just nicely underscore their friendship with him. This entire piece is played wonderfully and it would have been good to see more of it.

For me, the main problem with Broken Ties is that it’s such a huge topic to cover in an hour, that there is only so much that can be shown and additionally, the subplot almost overpowers this main plot. Clearly, the main plot had to be distilled because of the hour long format but crucially there is no evident timeline for these events beyond a mention that it may be days before Tyre is lucid…did it take days and therefore that’s why Ronon succumbs? Because it feels like it happens very quickly (within a day) casting doubt on the believability of Ronon succumbing and recovering so fast. Equally, while the audience catches glimpses of Ronon being tortured, his entire experience of being taken to the edge and returned to life is really not shown – only some superb effects as an older Ronon morphs back to his youthful self. Whether this was a direction cut or a network cut, the main plot ends up feeling like it is told with a broad brush rather than fine detail, and as a result, it loses impact.

Unfortunately, the subplot does not help. The return to Teyla’s motherhood making her question her choices is a bit startling given Quarantine seemed to provide a justification for Teyla’s return. In fact I was as startled as Sheppard was that there seemed to be a question over her return (and again Sheppard’s reaction to Teyla seems more mission commander than friend just as in the initial episodes surrounding Teyla’s pregnancy). It’s not that I don’t appreciate the attempt to show the characters as rounded individuals (the montage at the end to the classical music is well done), as characters rather than caricatures, but too much time was given over even if Rachel Luttrell does a marvellous job at displaying Teyla’s uncertainty. Here the subplot is told in fine detail rather than a broad brush and the result is that it comes close to overwhelming the main plot.

What is a joy within the subplot – and what Stargate does so well – is the gentle humour that is woven throughout in regards to Woolsey; from his inability to leave the conference room, his comment over his ex-wife getting custody of the dog, his reaction to the baby, taking the wrong direction, his wearing a suit in downtime – it’s all very nicely played by Robert Picardo – and it does continue to bring Woolsey to life as a person. While I think it was too soon to have him consoling Teyla over Ronon or for Teyla to be confiding her uncertainties (and certainly too soon to have Woolsey sympathetic), the ongoing hint of pull and push with him and Sheppard is good. The scene in the conference room where Woolsey brings Sheppard up short like a father with an over-eager child was very well done.

Overall, this is a very good episode which delivered on several fronts. The imbalance between the main and subplot mean that it never quite achieves the impact of Sateda or Common Ground, but there is a compelling story buried in the episode, one that is told with gravitas and drama, and which despite the imbalance leaves a lasting impression regardless of its broad brush strokes.

October 5th, 2012, 08:52 AM
Broken Ties

This sounds interesting: one of Ronan's fellow wraith worshippers have broken free of his bonds on this, the third episode of the season which is exactly the position as it's predecessor "Reunion". The idea of reuniting with a former friend should prove to do probably good to Ronan's character, especially since Ronan with any other Sateda proves to form magic most of the time but alas, I don't know if the probable good can even be done.

The initial reunion proves decent though; there's something inside Ronan's character whenever he speaks out to former allies, the anger of disappointment, the sense of regret and shame. The Satedans have always been kind of a pride race so it's nice to see they kept some of that pride in Ronan. The other character however proves to be as weak as his first appearance; there is the added dimension of him being "free" from the Wraith, struggling to keep himself stable, forced to hide and be on the run but despite that, he doesn't show much beyond being menacing and a religious nut. As the episode progresses it gets both characters into deeper detail. The scenes with Ronan the victim of a Wraith converting are almost incredible; as he gets the life sucked out of him, the life brought back to him and repeatedly, he exerts a realistic sense of pain and resilience, one that fits nicely within his character as he's being pushed to the brink which allows for a certain amount of emotion to come out of Ronan's character. It's almost like a war movie as he goes feels the sheer unnerving pain of it all, the sight of a guy previously strong being bended to his whim. The other guy however remains weak despite the deeper detail and the only time where he shows something of character is when he sacrifices himself in order to give his team the chance to escape, giving himself an honorable way of redemption. In comparison to Satedan tradition, it's a nice way to provide a fitting end but in comparison to the episode itself, it seems like kind of a cheap way to add depth to a character who barely had any in the first place.

Pain and tribulations.

The capturing of Ronan should do something for the characters who inhabit Atlantis but alas, nothing major is shown; the characters love and desire for Ronan is there, Sheppard & McKay trying all that he can to find him. The chase for Ronan that spans various planets does help to switch it up somewhat, the various people that we meet, the various perspectives they give and the sudden lead that comes up but it doesn't really do much to help negate the genericy. A grey area is also found within the guy as there is a certain sense of mistrust that is felt by everyone, Woosley shows one side with his common sense perceptions and the crew with their desire to save Ronan but they grey area itself feels narrow (like it is in the future) and it makes the Satedean character into a plot point, one which does referencing an enzyme addition from previous episodes (which shows the need to serve some sort of obedience and break through that obedience) but is still a plot point nonetheless. Teyla isn't involved in the main plot as much as she is involved in a dilemma whether or not to go on missions or stay behind with her child, this should prove interesting for her character since there's a newfound motherhood desire there unfortunately, it isn't. Much of the time is spent with her visibly flip-flopping back and forwarth between the two options with barely anything in the way of conversations; while those she does get into are insightful (Woosley for example, who manages to give his unique perspective on taking care of something while growing as a leader) and her interactions with Sheppard bring more to her dilemma, they don't bring much to her plot and ultimately, her plot ends up almost pointless.

Since it's a sequel to "Reunion" there has to be some action involved and there is when it takes place in a hive in mostly the same way as that episode; with bad camera shots, jarring confusing focus on action and a sense of ADD-like disjointness. The action does seem to have potential this time around, having a brainwashed Ronan should open up doors like the characters trying to emphasize with Ronan and vice versa, a digging down of what Ronan means to the team and a focus on Ronan himself and his hesitance as he tries to break free of the brainwashing. The first shots of him establishes the potential that lies within these scenes but just as the action starts, that potential is gone. Ronan's realization is sudden and unexpected and the immediate change in mood gives off mixed messages about what was going on... These characters do well in the action as usual but really; the episode itself has worked up to this, the point in time where everything that has been shown at this point is supposed to payoff and it just tosses away the torture of Ronan, the moral questionability of conversion and the troubles of the other guy in exchange for mindless action? An episode with those types of things are supposed to satisfy those types of things, not take the easy way out in action; they think that the various explosions and shots of our characters shooting guns at the enemy will wipe away those feelings but that just only enforces them. When an episode can't effectively pay off what it has built up, you know there has to be something majorly wrong with the writers. At least the episode somewhat redeems itself at the end showing Ronan in detox mode as it allows for natural expression.

Confusion Part 2

This episode has good intentions from the onset but it mostly ends up a muddled mush of wasted potential; through the 44 minutes this episode airs we're treated to generic plotting and generic acting which somehow progresses into confused action that isn't capably presented; the only notable thing here is Ronan who's conversion is by far the most interesting part of the episode but even that is wasted by the end as it too falls victim to the same decline as the episode. I was hoping they were leading up to something brilliant but unfortunately, it's just another day in Atlantis, which seems to be the norm in Season 5. Still, Ronan was particularly good and dynamic in this and that has to count for something right?