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FAN REVIEWS: 'Aftermath' (202)

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    FAN REVIEWS: 'Aftermath' (202)

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    Dr. Rush directs a shuttle to a planet inaccessible by Stargate -- but a crash landing threatens to strand those on board. Meanwhile, Rush makes a stunning discovery on Destiny, and Young must decide what to do with his prisoners.



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    The somewhat inaptly titled "Aftermath" does a good bit to foreshadow developments in the next few episodes, and some to develop a couple of characters, but as far as standalone plot or actually dealing with the aftermath of the Lucien Alliance incursion (far less explaining their motives), it falls regrettably short.

    The story, to begin, is primarily concerned with what's GOING to happen, rather than what IS happening. Though each individual part of the story is pretty effective, each distracts from the others (Riley's predicament, Rush's simultaneous location of the bridge and hallucinations, Young's dealing with Telford and the LA prisoners, not to mention the story elements with Johansen's "trip" and the so-called "Faith Planet"). Each is only peripherally concerned with the others, and, while any of them might have made an OK episode on its own, with a lighter B story, when they're all crammed together they are a mess. Basically, it's too much all at once.

    The acting, especially from Ferriera and Carlyle, who pretty much have to carry the episode in this department, is for the most part fine. The characters of Scott and Chloe, thank heavens, are virtually absent, while the character of Eli, whom the writers should really be focusing on more as the everyman/viewer-stand-in, is underused. The only reason he seems to have been on the flight was to deliver the only (somewhat) funny line in the episode. Everyone else basically does their part to advance either the story arc or what there is of the plot, depending on their function. Ho-hum.

    The dialogue is a mostly a bright spot, in that nothing really feels forced or artificial, and the scenes between Young and Riley are admirably free from sentimentality and on-the-nose lines. The scene between Riley and Johansen, on the other hand, wherein she tells him about the "Faith Planet," are not so good. Riley's lines are ok up to the point where he asks Johansen about her beliefs and whatnot. Sorry, one of the effects of the knowledge of one's impending death is the tendency to turn inwards and focus on oneself. Just try getting a senior citizen to stop talking about their ailments and aches if you doubt me. It was an opening to let her talk about the "Faith Planet" where Park could hear her.

    The real complaint, as always, is the exposition-heavy dialogue, especially between Rush and his dead wife, and the weak, really weak, reasoning behind the LA attack. "God-like powers?" Honestly?

    The guest cast is primarily that Lucian Alliance "good guy," whom I recall from other shows in the franchise and who is a workmanlike actor, unlikely to put a foot wrong acting-wise, and the red-headed girl, who is pretty but completely unconvincing. She belongs on a teen drama, not a "serious" sci-fi drama. Her "I was just following orders" explanation was, as Young rightly pointed out, the most hackneyed line in the book and was delivered with such stunning insipidity that I was surprised that Wray didn't laugh in her face. I would have.

    The overall production values (costuming, effects, sets, etc.) are, as usual, top-notch, worth every penny that was thrown at them.

    All in all, disappointing. Good individual moments couldn't salvage a basically poorly-constructed morass going in too many directions at once. If this is the last season of the Stargate franchise, episodes like this will be why.


      The Aftermath of Character

      Right from the recap we see that Aftermath is going to touch on many threads that the series has left hanging, even if it only uses them as devices, rather than explain them in detail. The writers continue to evolve this show, even if slowly, by grounding itself upon it's two lead stars: Rush and Young.

      Whether Rush's wife is a hallucination, a manifestation of the ship, or something else, she represents his conscience. She doesn't give him the clues he seeks, but only a commentary of the morales of what he does. In this episode, he keeps himself at a distance from his wife, yet she is a very strong ground upon which he can stand. Just as she was the music in his dream state in "Human", the bridge and Gloria are now his sanctuary of curiosity and confidence. That said, under the surface Rush is very fearful of his own actions and circumstances. Gloria is afraid for him, and Franklin doesn't believe that one man is enough to handle controlling Destiny. Whether Gloria and Franklin are independent entities or not, the bridge represents everything that Rush is or wants to be: in control. Rush would rather solve how to operate the ship by himself than with the assistance from others, proving his worth over everyone else, especially Eli, his only competition, who is yet to find his identity amongst the crew. Rush certainly trusts the Ancients more than himself, to an extent, as he relys on the autopilot even after he unlocks the master code and gains control of the ship. But this is where he falters: when he believes he is in control, he makes a move, even if it's the wrong move. Gloria is acting very neutral, warning him of the danger without dismissing his own perceptions: Rush has to learn how to become the man she wants him to be, the man he used to be - the man who can make decisions without trying to prove himself, his worth, or his power.

      Rush still views Young as a threat, he's very afraid of him, and of him being in control (or anyone being in control). He is afraid of losing control of "his" ship. Young sides with the military, Rush sides with himself and the ship, both of which are flawed without proper management or accountability. No one has the ability to control either of these characters and what they have done, and could do. They continue to exert control over the characters, whether through manipulation or intimidation. "People will say anything to save themselves", and yet both Rush and Young have said anything to save themselves from being brought to justice, to pay for their deeds in any way other than that which they already have: both losing loves, and both losing any moral stability that they once had.

      The flip side of the coin is for that of Young. He has no sanctuary or respite, does not seek, or chance upon one. In regards to TJs baby: it's interesting to note that while Young hasn't shown any response to the loss of his child, he must have some feeling in regards to the loss. Yet the writers don't allow him to dwell in it, nor did they allow him to dwell in the hope/redemption of a child for as long as he knew he had one. Maybe some of his actions throughout this episode are influenced by this loss. He has lost a part of him, a part of a family he could have had, but now it is all gone and he cannot use that as a ground to stand on, regardless of if he were to or not. The crew is very much a family to Young, maybe not in its entirety, but certainly here and there.

      Why can we say this is so? Well, take for example the Lucian riot scene: Young kills one of the prisoners with immense rage in his face, seeming very desensitized to what he's doing. That is until the man whose hands he has around his neck stops breathing, and his expression is one of vague doubt and fear, trying to compartmentalize emotion in a situation that requires his leadership. But when killing Riley, and the tears he sheds afterwards, he is clearly very sensitive to this and not able to hold this back. Riley is very much family to Young under the surface of pain that he holds, and the Lucians represent the greatest threat to his family (maybe not as cunning as the threat of Rush, but certainly not as restrained as Rush).

      Riley represents a moral high ground for this episode, stating that he believes the Lucians have human rights and that treating POWs says everything about humanity (or groups within it) as a moral and civil society. Young reluctantly kills Riley, and the morals Riley represents. Young continues to become hardened by the choices he has to make in order to survive, but this is very flawed, as he never has to make the choices that he makes, he simply feels pressured through various emotional, moral, or logistical reasons (as any human would be). These are some of the key aspects that drive both lead characters throughout this episode and the series.

      Rush puts all the pieces into place, and Young puts in the finishing touches, in this episode. The sacrifice that both Rush and Young continue to make is that of ethics, and they do it in order to "survive" amidst the conditions and competition of their environment, and that of each other - but they could very well avoid this. If the promise of the writers and producers is true, this season will see them giving up and letting go of certain aspects of these flaws that drive them head to head.
      Last edited by nesais; 06 October 2010, 11:53 PM. Reason: grammar, spelling, etc.


        It’s hard to describe exactly why I thought “Aftermath” so brilliant because it is brilliant on so many different levels that it’s hard to know where to begin; the very clever arc, a truly heartbreaking episodic plot, the tension, the effects, the cinematography and the acting all deserve recognition. There are few flaws but perhaps it is with the flaws that I’ll begin.

        The whole thing rather feels like we’ve gone back to the beginning; little food, dire straits, Rush and Young at odds with each other, a power struggle, and the small matter of who lives and who dies. There is a distinct feeling of “we’ve been here before” and that there is a lack of momentum, of the story moving forward. Actually, with respect to the power struggle arc, it feels like momentum but in the wrong direction: as though Young et al have taken two steps forward during the last season, only to slide three backwards at the beginning of this one. It’s incredibly frustrating and I’m sure for some fans too frustrating. I quite like the theme that sometimes when you’re climbing out of an abyss, you’ll fall and have to start over again; that it is frustrating, tiring and demoralizing. And I really wouldn’t like to say whether this is a hidden commentary from the producers on Universe overall and how they felt Season 1 was received.

        The other main flaw that hits me is one that was very prevalent in Season 1 and that is the pacing. The scenes where the fate of the Lucian Alliance force is discussed resemble slow-moving treacle. These scenes are mostly sitting around and talking; there’s no motion, no action, and despite what should be an interesting human interest question of how to deal with prisoners of war, nothing compelling in what is said. Perhaps the best moment is Riley (Haig Sutherland) pointing out that how a society treats prisoners of war is a measure of that society’s morality.

        The problem pacing means the episodic plot which on the face of it is standard Stargate trip-to-a-planet-goes-horribly-wrong concept is dragged down a little which is a real shame because it is brilliant. Simply put, Rush finds the code to unlock Destiny’s systems and gain control of the ship but tells no-one. He stops Destiny within shuttle distance of a planet to enable them to replenish their supplies but he misses key information and the shuttle crashes, fatally injuring Riley and resulting in the rest of the shuttle crew having to unbury the Stargate in order to gate back to Destiny before it gets out of reach.

        I just love this plot, although I hate that they killed Riley. His dry sense of humor has been a highlight of episodes in the past and he’s a very likeable character. But actually killing Riley makes this plot work in a way killing another red shirt would not have done. We’re invested in Riley; we like Riley. For most of the episode, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the Hail Mary, the wondrous solution that would appear and save Riley. It builds a fabulous amount of tension, and is completely compelling. When Riley asks Young to kill him rather than leave him to die alone and in pain; when Young kills him… the silence and the pain of both the request and decision seeps from the screen; kudos has to go to both Louis Ferriera and Haig Sutherland for outstanding performances. The grief of the crew that follows in the wake of his death is one to which we can relate. Killing Riley is a good, if totally evil, choice on the part of the producers.

        What is also fantastic is Rush’s part. Robert Carlyle is fabulous as Rush slides further into mad professor zone. There’s so much to love in this strand of the story, from the bridge design, the lights which light up the bridge (yay, lights!!), Rush talking to his dead wife (great guest appearance by Louise Lombard) and Franklin (Mark Burgess), the way Rush justifies every decision. What I mostly loved is the clever depiction of Rush as a madman not stable enough to lead the ship, through his own declaration of Young as such, and showing the evidence through Rush’s own actions, talking to dead people, suffering from nightmares of his torture, equally suggests very strongly that neither is he. It’s clever storytelling.

        I also have to give a shout-out to the special effects for the shuttle crash, which is just heart-stoppingly good and another shout-out for cinematography. The scene where TJ confides in Riley about her experience of travelling back to the planet and her hope that her baby is safe is so beautifully lit; just stunning. I also really enjoyed the scene with blowing up the debris burying the Stargate -- there was humor and a needed lightness in the banter that contrasted well with the rest of the episode.

        All in all, the strength of what is right about this episode eclipses what is wrong. If this is a reset to the beginning in story terms, it’s a good reset that hopefully will build a stronger path going forward. But Universe really does need to start moving forward. Heartbreaking angst may make for a good episode but it’s not exactly enjoyable, and if people don’t enjoy what they watch, they don’t keep watching.

        Previously published at GeekSpeak Magazine
        Women of the Gate LJ Community.
        My Stargate Fanfiction. My LiveJournal.



          So after the season premiere we get an episode mainly dealing with Rush and what appears to be one of the threads being introduced in Season 2, which is controlling the ship "Destiny". The Lucian Alliance people are still there and we're introduced to a small portion of their situation but this is all about what happens when Rush tries to control "Destiny".

          It seems like the producers are trying new things in relation to gaining an audience; one being the increased emphasis on action, visual effects shots and awesome moments. From the moment we're introduced to a situation, you have a feeling that this isn't going to be your ordinary SGU; no this is an SGU that's trying to win you, the sci-fi fan who loves action and special effects as a viewer. I have to say, the VFX is mostly impressive, there are some less then impressive shots but it really shows the trouble they're in and it knows when to bring out the big guns where required. Scenes like this show why VFX is essential, without it I don't think the scene where the shipped crashed wouldn't matter much. We can't forget about the scenes where they get trapped; wreckage and blood is all around them and It really shows the chaos well, giving the audience a chance to get engaged in the action and possibly get invested in the characters. It isn't definitive action per say but it excites the audience, gives them a few moments that help to break up the monotony between dramatic scenes.

          The moment where they're on the planet however is a different story, they're trapped with no way off and there is nothing to make you care for the characters here; well maybe except Riley who being trapped in a ship is given the perfect opportunity to act and he doesn't take that for granted as he provides what may be the best performance of his entire character. Eli and Greer are along for the ride and as such they will ensure that these moments are at least above average; Greer and his oddities/personality are sure to have people drawn to him (those small quirks are something which makes him stand out) and Eli (though impersonating other SG actors and being somewhat disappointing) provides the charm that makes these scenes feel more alive. The scenes surrounding the gate are natural and realistic, something which fits the mood well; while there may be some existence of bad writing here and there, the determination into digging out the gate, the conversations they have, the acting from the people involved really makes it worth it. For one second, we're watching actual people rather then people trying to be as dramatic as possible on a show which tries to be as edgy as possible.

          There isn't much that goes on in the planet which is to be somewhat expected but there's also nothing going on at the ship either; they are dealing with the aftermath of Lucian Alliance soldiers who boarded Destiny though I still feel that they're meant to be an enemy, they just happened to be there to be used. They change some of the aspects of them to fit SGU, changes which I dislike but it does help bring some character into the Lucian Alliance people; the girl who talked about her life and what she went through is really vivid, helped in part by her above average acting which is decent enough for her to project a character. It almost makes me feel for all those people locked up, the way she tells her story... Since SGU is about exploring the "grey" area, they obviously focus on the treatment of enemy vs. the treatment of humans; the exploration on this subject is disappointing, you expect SGU to go the extra mile but none of the argument is unique or even compelling, there are a few tidbits here and there about beliefs, morality, books, etc... (Young's line in particular) but this is nothing we haven't seen before. To be honest SGA did it slightly better; it didn't focus on the enemy most of the time but it did focus on the racial differences between common people and people of an unknown race and that gave it some compelling reasoning. SGU just focuses on the enemy and the whole "grey area" thing and doesn't do anything to make the argument compelling; they even have the enemy act violent to support the above. The lack of food is a unique addition that helps though.

          As said before, the main focus is Rush and his character is as good as ever, made better by the conversations he has with two people who I think are mostly unnecessary but to all his own. In his scenes, we see how determined, worry and focused he is (managing to keep it all together); even though the odds are against him, he still feels confident enough to work at it and prove himself superior and that is in play here, the sanity that works against him, the desperation that drives him... all of this is what we see in Rush and what drives his actions in the episode. I find it nice that they manage to tie some of his actions to his character, the planet, the shuttle, the subsequent crash, it shows that there isn't one person on this show who's actions doesn't have consequences (though forced); it also reminds us that not every chance we take is going to succeed and sometimes even sheer luck is needed to make it out. (though in SGU, sheer luck seems to be everywhere) I will say that the hints on unification did feel a bit forced though... Young is also good as his commanding skills are put into focus here, though his scenes are slightly less then Rush's, we can see how he deals with the situations given; from the prisoners to the ones on the planet. The moment where he punches someone is random, disjointed and only serves to showcase the edge this show has, I don't even know if this is a part of his character or not seeing as how I can't remember any moment where he suddenly did this.

          No matter, it's forgiven once Rush meets up with the trapped Riley who manages to blow TJ out of the water; you can just feel the emotion as he speaks with Riley, connects with him, tries to reason with his situation. There isn't any attempt to make it complex or even metaphorical as it is, he's just there; showing that he cares for his fellow crew members and is capable of emphasizing with them. Young's always had a thing for the crew so to show him in a situation with a downed crew member who isn't going to make it is both nice and something that really benefits his character and the euthanasia moment, the moment where he ends his life willingly after a brief pause; that is the example of a character in a powerful situation. I will admit that they did try to make it seem a bit too meaningful but the moment is good for his character regardless, it shows a certain unwillingness to his character; one we don't see much of often and one that adds to the humanness to his character.

          This was a surprisingly decent endeavor for SGU; it's got a good situation, some good character moments, good rush Moments, good Young moments and even powerful moments as well. However, it underutilizes the LA, tries a bit too hard to be metaphorical and clever, has almost nothing going on and doesn't do much in regards to the show. People will find some things to like but this is ultimately nothing special, it is decent though.

          Back from the grave.