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FAN REVIEWS: Vengeance

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    FAN REVIEWS: Vengeance

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    The Atlantis team investigates the disappearance of one of their allies, only to find an old enemy engineering a race of powerful monsters.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; February 6, 2021, 09:14 PM.

    I thought this was an excellent episode for two main reasons. Firstly, it highlights one of the main reasons I prefer Atlantis to SG1 and love the show in general: mistakes with consequences. Secondly it is a classic sci-fi episode in both the look and content.

    This episode focuses on mistakes made in the past, chiefly by Elizabeth Weir as leader of the expedition, but also by the whole of the senior staff that backed the Wraith experiments. There was much to be gained if successful so the mistake was not one of negligence, although perhaps overconfidence could be argued, it was simply a gamble that did not pay off. Having consequences for that mistake however is less usual in a TV show. Whilst making mistakes is a common occurrence in everyday life all too often a show makes their heroes invincible not only to enemies but to their own faults as well. This does not happen in Atlantis; from John awakening the Wraith, Rodney blowing up three-quarters of a solar system, Beckett enabling the development of a drug which ultimately kills a large portion of a planets population, to all of the Genii interactions, and much more. All actions were done with the best intentions but ultimately cause catastrophe for others. The Michael story line is the best example yet of the ongoing consequences; trying to fix the mistake of waking the Wraith, they make another mistake in creating Michael and each subsequent time make it worse when they continue to attempt to fix and make the best of it.

    This episode was also highly enjoyable as a classic sci-fi / horror. The lighting, the atmosphere, the monsters, getting separated and surrounded, being captured and tied up. The way the monster was shot only in glimpses was very good, after all, the human imagination still far outstrips any SFX department. In a way it is an homage to the genre as so many parts reminded me of other great shows, films and books. The X-Files (Tooms), Alien, Predator, Starship Troopers, Dawn of the Dead, even Farscape (Irreversibly Contaminated) and 1984 (Room 101) and many many more. This for me is why the episode stands out from the other “Team” based episodes we’ve had recently.

    Where the episode was let down is I think partly due to scheduling. Why have one episode in the dark followed by another?

    The capturing of Teyla is another issue although on further reflection may just be the perceptions of the audience. After all, John was captured in Common Ground and Ronon in Sateda and nobody was complaining that they needed rescuing. Why is it that when a woman is in trouble people think that she’s just a plot devise to show our heroes in action? Not only that but by having Teyla in trouble it ties in with my earlier point of a ‘classic’ sci-fi type episode. She is also the character that has the closest ties to Michael and as actors have the best chemistry together.

    The other issue I have with this episode is its name. To my interpretation vengeance is a deliberate act and I would therefore have liked to see Michael orchestrate their appearance on the planet rather than just attack them because they turned up. I guess it could also be argued that he knew they would turn up eventually given that he found the planet through details from their database but still, I’m not sure the title quite fits. His experiments were perhaps the act of vengeance but this was not really elaborated upon.

    It is also a great shame that this episode could not have been used to kill off Carson.
    His death in Sunday was pointless and completely accidental whereas if he had been killed by Michael then he, and others, would have been partly responsible for his death which would make for a much more interesting and darker storyline.

    Overall I thought this episode stood out for it’s sci-fi content and the continuing Michael story arc. It did however have the potential to be more if Carson had been included so I give it 8/10.
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      I should say upfront that I’m not a fan of horror films. On the rare occasion my sister drags me to see one, I usually end up with my hand over my eyes or resolutely staring at the exit sign wondering how much longer the torture will last. Neither am I a huge fan of the Wraith retro-virus arc SGA has experimented with so it is with some surprise then that I found myself loving Vengeance. Wonderfully directed and well-written, Vengeance is filled with intrigue, tension and drama as it resurrects one of SGAs best villains, Michael.

      Michael is a fabulous creation and the only good thing to come out of the whole Wraith retro-virus arc nonsense. Connor Trinneer has mastered his superb portrayal of the character, still managing to make Michael sympathetic and three-dimensional. The make-up and costuming is fantastic as Michael continues to be a strange mix of Wraith and human while he becomes less ambiguous from a character perspective as a villain. Just how dangerous Michael has become is well demonstrated in Vengeance; he’s building an army of bug people.

      As always it is in a scene with Teyla that Michael’s emotions and thoughts are best revealed. There is a visible connection between the two characters that neither it seems wants but which exists. Trinneer and Luttrell have great chemistry and their scene is fraught with tension with Luttrell conveying an extremely frightened Teyla perfectly. There is a sense of disbelief that Michael will kill Teyla even as he releases the iratus bug yet that he does so drives home perhaps more than anything how Michael has changed; he will kill her not to feed on her but to experiment on her. Perhaps there is an underlying message that in picking up human ways of doing things, Michael is even more dangerous than as a simple Wraith.

      What is extremely well done within the story is the whole sense of chickens coming home to roost for the Atlantis team; over their actions in going down the route of biological warfare and over their treatment of Michael. Here truly is the sense of karmic justice and Torri Higginson excels at the end of the episode in her scenes with Teyla and Sheppard as Weir acknowledges how the decisions the team made have led to Michael’s bug army and the deaths of their allies – her stunned shock with Teyla in particular is performed well and the scene is yet another wonderful demonstration of the friendship between the two women.

      For me, this story provides a real sense of addressing the morality of what the team did with Michael, their mistake of experimenting with the Wraith retro-virus and in allying with the Wraith that has been missing in the arc to date. Another stand out scene is one between Ronan and Sheppard when Ronan questions Sheppard’s order to stun Michael not kill him, expressing how the time has come for Sheppard to face the fact that the retro-virus was a mistake. Joe Flanigan is in good form but Jason Momoa excels.

      The story also gives Ronan an opportunity to spend time with McKay. The opening scene with Ronan trying to teach McKay some fighting skills is wonderfully done and very humorous. In fact despite the brilliant tension and drama, there is a nice sense of humour interweaving throughout the story from that opening scene to Ronan’s constant disappearance to the exchange over Weir sending back up (‘if you feel the need’; ‘I feel the need’) to the use of C4 and Sheppard and Ronan’s discussion on the plan to use the Wraith dart (‘I was going to suggest blowing it up but your plan is better’). It makes the character moments sparkle and helps lighten what is otherwise a very dark story.

      The story is incredibly well-written by Carl Binder; it is well-structured and builds the tension throughout. The initial intriguing mystery of why their friends have not responded, the deserted settlement, the tunnels and the mysterious life-form, all help to engage the viewer. The revelation of Michael and his plan is well done; each scene between the characters extremely carefully crafted in terms of dialogue. The pacing is great. If the story and the episode feel a little like a homage to the Aliens film mentioned, it is a loving homage which attempts to emulate the strengths of the film rather than repeat the clichés.

      Andy Mikita deserves a mention as director for creating such a tense, dramatic piece. The tension in the episode largely comes from the visual shots which focus tight on the characters’ reactions and the action pieces where visual effects of smoke and lighting are used to create the sense of confusion and panic, to obscure the view of the bug creatures which makes them all the more scary. The set design helps invoke the creepy atmosphere as does the musical underscore. It’s all very well done and I definitely jumped in places.

      If I have one criticism with the story, it is with the sending of the Marine team as back-up. While necessary to allay Weir’s fears via the transmission from the hapless Lieutenant to prevent a rescue and create more of a sense of danger for the team, the plot device screams ‘red shirts’. Indeed when Weir uttered the great words, ‘I feel the need’, I happily tagged on the end of it ‘to send red shirts to be killed so the main cast is kept untouched.’ It was perhaps a tad too obvious that the brave Marines would die but it is a minor quibble in what is a great episode.

      Every aspect of the show excels itself from make-up and costume to lighting and effects, to acting, directing and writing. It lacks the character development of a Sateda or a Common Ground but it deserves to be considered in the same category of excellence. This is accomplished story-telling at its best and I definitely wasn’t looking for an exit sign.
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        The second half of this season of “SGA” has been riddled with apparent homages to well-known science fiction staples. This is at least the fourth such episode, and the second in which Sheppard actually points out the film that the show is emulating. This does have a lot of similarities to “Alien”, but the nice touch here is that the episode actually has long-term implications. That has been rare, especially in terms of McKay’s character development.

        This time, it’s the return of Michael, who has somehow survived after being blown to all hell in “Misbegotten”, a turn of events that is never explained. In the end, it doesn’t really matter: this is a story about consequences. Everything Michael does in this episode, and will do in the future, is the consequence of the decision to experiment on him at the end of the second season. When it comes to the list of questionable decisions under Weir’s tenure, that has to be near the top of the list.

        Michael is now creating Super-Wraith, which is a major problem. Just about the only good thing about them, at this point, is their somewhat mindless state. They attack and follow Michael’s orders, but they don’t seem to coordinate very well. Ronon and the others discovered at least two basic methods of killing the Super-Wraiths, and that was under less-than-ideal conditions. The real problem was a question of numerical superiority; there were too many to kill.

        If the Super-Wraith were to act like the more familiar version of Wraith, complete with intelligence and the desire to feed rather than kill, the situation would be a lot more terrifying for Team Atlantis. As it is, they’re dealing with their own version of “Alien”, which is bad enough. The tension made this a good episode to watch, but for me, it all came down to the confrontations with Michael and Weir’s recognition that this is largely her responsibility.

        It highlights what had been a major undercurrent of the series and what may finally be coming into the forefront: the question of whether or not Team Atlantis has been a good thing for the Pegasus Galaxy and, for that matter, the Milky Way. The awakening of the Wraith, the issues with the Genii, the unleashing of the Asurans, Michael and his new legion of Super-Wraith, the list goes on. Sooner or later, authorities on Earth are going to hold someone accountable.

        This episode introduces an element that could bring a sense of cohesion to the fourth season, if it’s utilized well. Michael and his legion can now be added to the list of Pegasus Galaxy enemies: Wraith, Asurans, and the Genii. With so many enemies, the writers have more than enough opportunity to choose a couple of them and develop an arc that will be satisfying. After all, “SGA” will soon be the only series on the air, and the stakes will be raised.



          Guess who's back... With a "Vengance", yeah you know who it is and this episode returns him in full force while also introducing a new threat into the series.

          Now this isn't exactly an episode focusing on that particular character, no this is an episode which has the teeming qualities of a horror movie. You know... dead bodies, eggs, dark lighting, a sense of fear, mass numbers? and the way they make it look like a horror movie is really good; the underground complex where we unfortunately spend much of their time is good providing small details to help it from being sterile and while it is mostly derivative some of the time, the engaging quality of the episode prevents that from being a problem most of the time, plus the eery qualities and details they add without having to resort to darker lighting or even obvious gimmicks (most of the time) help to add. Just look at the settlement; they managed to make it look creepy without even as much as adding a cobweb plus you can't forget about those creatures, those wraith-like creatures who's strength and endurance proves itself to be the best horror movie creature; the way it crawls around, strikes unexpectedly, looks alien and creepy at the same time, though they ruin it somewhat by comparing the situation to Alien, the creatures remain admittingly cool and could be considered Atlantis's versions of the replicators. (the Asuran's don't count.) It's like a full realization of those creatures seen in episodes like "Instinct" and "Condemned", speed, looks, power, durability, but with none of the human looking stuff... Just looking at it you can almost tell that it's not a foe to be dealt with and the best result, it really gives our crew a workout as they try to kill it, shoot it and prevent our heroes from escaping... I really hope to see future episodes about these bugs, now this is what an enemy should be like.

          Mysterious, check. Forebrodding, check. Deadly, triple check.

          And that guy who returns, the guy you know all so well. Well his return isn't a full-blown return but it is big enough that fans will be clamoring over him; his character is just so unique and it's surprising to see him in a more human state then before, therefore furthering the consequences of Earth's experiments. His snarkyness, sheer cunningness and disjointedness make him a villain that's both powerful and human at the same time; the ambitions he holds yet the feelings he feels and the emotions he shows in his performance, it really makes him into a character you can feel regardless of whether or not you know his history, it does hurt a bit if you don't know his history but they do manage to fill in some of the gaps with some of the dialog throughout the episode. Regardless... You can't help but to feel just a little bit for him and what he's been through watching this episode. That's not to say our characters do well, in fact that do pretty good in this horror movie setup of theirs; part of that is that while they do their usual quips and jokes, they don't go overboard with it; they just let their natural personalities take over. McKay with his step by step worry and well, helpfulness. Sheppard with his always alert mentality, Ronan without the fear and Teyla with a sense of caution. They don't change their personalities to fit this episode, their personalities fit perfectly within this episode. It seems like business for them but as they roam the concrete halls and as they look for that sole lifesign, you can see the sense of worry and fear in them even though it's not evidently there and when the unexpected does come, when the horror scenes do happen, the actors themselves act as if they're unaware of it; thus adding to the immersion. Simply put these characters are built for any role.

          The horror movie stuff is especially exciting to watch but there are some flaws that come with this, mostly the fact that much of it is buildup rather then straight action. I appreciate what these writers are trying to do, get people excited but they focus so much on that that it leads much of the scenes in the beginning feeling kind of flat; sure, they reveal the shocking stuff and they manage to get us engaged in the situation but for the most part you'll be waiting until the moment when the episode reaches 22 minutes, which is a shame since some of those scenes in the beginning are good. If they had something going on, maybe some sort of running gag or dialog scenes detailing the situation then maybe I might be more interested but as it stands these scenes serve to derail the momentum of what is a pretty good episode; then there is the stuff like the behavior of the marines that is really questionable despite being an important plot point (shooting at a Dart, really? could of just shown them dead.) and the moment in the beginning where McKay is ninja training which is an okayish moment for his fanbase but I could of done without it. That stuff is awkward even for SGA standards but it isn't enough to majorly effect this episode; still, one has to wonder when watching this episode how the good intentions of Earth can lead to something like this. A creature that is the opposite of what we imagined, just because we tried to cure a threat of it's problems; thousands of worlds threatened, millions of these creatures out there, a consequence. All because we tried to do what we thought was the right thing.

          The consequence.

          I don't think there is anything more that needs to be said; the return of our friend manages to be good, the horror-movie stylings manage to be entertaining and the characters manage to be in good shape. There are some flaws and this episode isn't as good as it can be but regardless, this is a pretty good episode.

          Back from the grave.