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    FAN REVIEWS: Talion

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    When a terrorist attack decimates a Jaffa summit Teal'c strikes out on a quest for revenge, believing that the perpetrator is one of his own pupils.



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    Last edited by GateWorld; 06 February 2021, 08:48 PM.

    An old school Jaffa episode, Talion resonates with echoes of the show’s past as Teal’c’s history and character are explored in depth. It is all at once a homage to the Jaffa storyline and a fascinating insight into Teal’c. The issues with the episode are not minor though; it fails in the examination of Teal’c’s relationship with the rest of SG1, with the characterisations of General Landry and guest Jaffa villain, and with a small plotting/pacing issue right up front.

    The opening of the story at night to a devastated Jaffa planet is atmospheric and intriguing; it captures the attention and sets-up the reason why Teal’c goes into Jaffa revenge mode very well. Unfortunately, the initial attack jumps to a severely injured Teal’c waking up to his sitting with a gravely ill Bra’tac to his request to Landry to go after Arkad. All of this action is meant to have taken place over a significant period of time given the severity of Teal’c’s injuries yet it is crammed into the first act and the result is that it feels jumpy and awkward.

    With such a bad start, the episode doesn’t begin its recovery very well in the second act either as SG1 watch Teal’c depart on his Jaffa revenge. While it was good to see the team discuss stopping him or even leaving with him, it would have been ten times better for the audience to have seen them express those feelings to Teal’c directly. Additionally, the placement of the team in the control room and Teal’c in the gate room gives the impression that they are uncaring about his departure.

    The reactions of the team also seem muted when ordered to stop Teal’c from killing Arkad at all costs, and when they are trying to prevent him from getting to Arkad. Although the team look mildly disgusted with the order and in carrying it out, there is no immediate protest from his team-mates nor any real attempt to appeal to Teal’c as a team-mate, a friend or a brother even when at Arkad’s base. Equally, Teal’c’s shock beating of Mitchell sits oddly with Mitchell then apparently happy to forget it and fabricate an official report to rewrite Teal’c’s actions into something acceptable later. The team and how they react to Teal’c, how Teal’c reacts to them, just seems vaguely off the whole way through with only the early scene of them with Teal’c when he awakes in the infirmary offering any real sense of how much they care for him.

    If the team’s relationship with Teal’c doesn’t seem portrayed well neither is General Landry. The character comes across as unsympathetic in early scenes before Teal’c’s departure and later, appears weak as he springs up like a demented chicken and hides behind his chair when he gets a little heated with Arkad; I presume this wasn’t the intention but that’s the overall impression. His character is also weakened by so many of the orders and actions being mandated by the IOA. The characterisation seems at odds with the general who hates politicians, fights for his people and was calling Teal’c part of the family back in S9’s Stronghold.

    The guest villain of the week is also badly portrayed. Previously unknown and unheard of, the sudden appearance of Teal’c’s arch-nemesis is a little jolting. Further, there seems to be a schism between how the character is written and portrayed through the dialogue and plot, and how the character is acted. The former suggests an intelligent, cunning if cowardly strategist, the latter that he is no more than a thug in a Jaffa uniform. Craig Fairbrass does give a good performance in the beautifully choreographed fight, and he has a real physical presence that adds credibility to the idea that he is a match for Teal’c, but he really doesn’t sell the idea of an intelligent Arkad to me at all.

    The main saving grace of the entire episode is Teal’c himself. The story provides a wonderful focus on the character, taking him back to his roots as First Prime, as a Jaffa warrior, and as an avenging Jaffa with the full gamut of character nuances that evokes. His dark past surfaces in his torture and sadistic killing of the terrorist and weapons trader directly responsible for the initial attack; a reminder that Teal’c once held the position of a Goa’uld’s most trusted Jaffa and had to do a lot of nasty stuff to get that position. His past pain at his mother’s murder is revealed and the established character trait of his determination for revenge cancelling out all reason revisited. Teal’c’s character gets put under the spotlight revealing the uneasy mix of ugly violence and noble honour that make up this complex Jaffa warrior. Chris Judge pulls out all the stops and delivers an outstanding performance.

    The story itself is a wonderful revisit to the Jaffa; the staff weapons, the uniforms, the rich culture of the fragmented Jaffa nation and of course, the much loved Bra’tac (kudos for the originality in not killing him off). As the series draws to a close, there is a sentimental nostalgia in seeing what has been an integral element of the show’s history and storyline for so many years. The musical underscore tugs at the heart-strings at every opportunity as does the direction but especially in the final scene with Teal’c and Bra’tac where one outstanding character moment between the two Jaffa sweeps all the episode flaws aside as Bra’tac tells Teal’c he is the son he never had.

    Talion has its fair share of issues and flaws yet it also delivers a fantastic examination of one of SG1’s most loved characters. Chris Judge deserves praise for carrying the episode and for selling this look at the darker, murkier side of Teal’c so well. Jaffa episodes are an acquired taste and this is no exception; I can’t in all honesty say I loved it but that last scene was pure gold.
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      It is a staple of action films for the lone maverick hero to go rogue in order to exact vengeance, working on the wrong side of the Law but on the right side of, well, Right. In this genre, anything the Hero does is justified. Anyone who gets hurt by the Hero is, by definition, deserving of their fate, and any of the Hero's friends who suggest that he stop and think about his path is automatically a hidebound jobsworth.

      Such themes are all very well within the action films that host them. They can be a catharsis for the viewer, who might enjoy the juxtaposition of the modern setting with the morality of the ancient world, of feudal justice and of legendary champions.

      In Talion, the tale of what happens when a Jaffa's gotta do what a Jaffa's gotta do follows the formula. Teal'c is driven by righteous anger to kill Arkad, the person he holds responsible for various crimes (crimes that Teal'c took personally, of course); and in the process kill a few nameless extras, look very hard and cool, do minor violence to his obstructive colleagues and recover from various injuries in an unfeasibly short timeframe.

      What a contrast this Teal'c is from the Teal'c of previous years. In Cor'Ai he was contrite for the atrocities he had committed as a First Prime, but here when that long period of his life is referenced penitence is decidedly absent. And his speeches to dissenting Jaffa luminaries about how they should work in partnership with the Tauri are going to sound somewhat hollow from now on.

      If this were to lead to an epiphany on Teal'c's part, or if there were unexpected drastic consequences this might have been a worthwhile use of Teal'c's character. But Tallion fails to add anything to the basic vengeance meme. Arkad may have proved interesting had he been in earnest about aiding Earth, but this possiblity was not countenanced by the episode. The pertinent question of what to do about people who willingly chose to follow Origin peacefully was swept aside. In the end it didn't matter that Teal'c rendered three friends unconscious, beat his CO or set himself up as a vigilante because he did it to get Arkad and Arkad was bad. We knew Arkad was bad because Teal'c said so. And then Arkad helpfully corroborated this, in his dying scene.

      But what if Akad had forgotten to gloat in this manner - would Teal'c have declined to kill him? Hardly. And yet, it was necessary for Arkad to announce his guilt in order for Teal'c to still be in the right. In following the formula so closely, Talion firmly discourages any questions of morality. Teal'c good, Arkad bad, what else is to know?

      There are moments of black humour, as Teal'c relates to one victim the sick way he is about to die, or as Daniel apprises Arkad of Bra'tac's disposition. Andy Mikita's direction suits the dark and violent mood of the episode and the action scenes are slick, if ugly and grim.

      Christopher Judge clearly relishes the chance to portray Teal'c as more than the calm deliverer of smart one-line scene-stealers, and brings a commanding physical presence to the role. Ben Browder is convincing as a top class human fighter meeting his match in an unrivalled Jaffa, and Lexa Doig makes a welcome return. The seemingly immortal Bra'tac lives on, to the satisfaction of fans everywhere; and better still he finally vocalises what everyone has long known: that he thinks of Teal'c as a son.

      Craig Fairbrass's Sarf Lann'on accent seems out of place on Stargate, but more unfortunately his Arkad evokes mindless thuggery more than machiavellian grand schemes for galactic domination. Little wonder that SG-1 were not terribly convinced by him.

      But then, in SG-1's failure to ask the big questions of Teal'c lies Talion's failure to go beyond its roots as a revenge fantasy. A minor disappointment with the otherwise excellent s10 episode The Shroud was that there was no need for the team to battle for Daniel's soul because he never lost or risked it. Talion disappoints to a far greater extent, because it never even occurs to Teal'c or his team that he might be hurting his soul.




        With the season and series rapidly drawing to a close, each and every stand-alone episode becomes a new source of frustration. The battle against the Ori must inevitably continue, yet since “The Shroud”, very little movement has been evident. This episode, at first, seemed to be the perfect opportunity to meld character exploration with plot progression. In the end, however, neither aspect was meaningfully explored.

        Ever since the liberation of the Jaffa Nation, the Jaffa have struggled with the concept of freedom. As is often the case historically, those brought together against a common oppressor in the name of revolution will ultimately turn on each other within the resulting power vacuum. And as already seen in the ninth season, other powers will inevitably attempt to support one or more factions in the hope of taking control, or at the very least, destabilizing a weakened people.

        Enter Arkad, a previously unseen figure among the Jaffa, who seems to be allying with the Ori and opposing a supposed violent and self-enslaving Jaffa Council. Arkad claims to be battling these violent factions, including one planning to attack Earth. It’s fairly obvious that Arkad is the one planning the attack, and his attempts to sound reasonable and legitimate are ridiculous.

        This is meant to complicate what is a fairly conventional revenge tale, and one that feels tacked on to Teal’c’s character. Granted, Teal’c and Bra’tac have a fairly intricate past, so it’s not unreasonable to suspect that vendettas exist with other Jaffa, but this seems to come out of nowhere, given its importance. It’s far more likely that the writers wanted to turn back to the tensions among the Jaffa and felt the need to personalize the situation for Teal’c, thus prompting this story about Arkad as the man who engineered his mother’s death.

        This is unnecessary for the purpose of complication. If Arkad’s actions had simply resulted in IOA orders to stay out of Arkad’s ways, yet Teal’c was willing to go after the enemy because of Bra’tac’s near-death, it would have been sufficient and consistent with previous episodes. The sentimental ending between Teal’c and Bra’tac would have still made sense (even it it does feel incredibly redundant), and the writers would still have the rationale for Teal’c and the rest of the team to face off against each other.

        While this situation continues to set up Teal’c and Bra’tac as the de facto leaders of the Jaffa, that wasn’t really necessary at this point. That concept has been on the table for quite some time, as has the idea of Teal’c leading the charge to clean out the Jaffa of traitors. It would have been better if the episode had been centered on that process rather than yet another reason for its initiation.