Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NEW!: SGU 2:20 - Gauntlet

Overall Rating: 9.0

This ending felt very appropriate - the show is in stasis along with Destiny's crew...waiting for a day when it gets the respect it's due from a network run better than Sy Fy and a fan base more patient than a three year old.

Plot Synopsis:

The final summary can be found at the Stargate Wiki.

The Skinny:

I'll admit that I didn't see their vision during the arduous first season. I regret many of the things I said about this franchise and wish I'd have been more patient. I fear that the show's creators had a brilliant idea that challenged too strongly the optimistic, cooperative spirit that populates the two other Gate franchises. People had a certain expectation for a Stargate series...its' loyal fans wanted to like the characters right away...wanted to see a healthy mix of humor and drama right away...wanted stories that revealed the better parts of human nature immediately, rather than the worst in us. The SGU launch got about as many viewers as the SGA finale...they had a healthy enough starting point to survive much longer than they did. Their demise can be attributed to two problems:

1) Their initial premise was considerably darker than most Gate fans prefer and they spent an entire season setting up a more stable status quo for the major characters. We saw them doing a whole lot of unsavory things (except for Eli) and we saw some truly unpleasant interpersonal squabbles break out amongst the crew. Was this unrealistic? Not even remotely - absolutely, I'd expect people under as much pressure as Destiny's crew to react badly sometimes. Did it require more trust from reviewers like me (and the fans in general) than we had to give? Perhaps. We were warned that this franchise was going to be dark...but we weren't at all prepared for the change in mood.

2) Sy Fy is a crappy fly by night network that has, as its' core market share, science fiction nerds, and its' core mission...to do everything but science fiction. There's a reason they changed their name from sci-fi to sy-fy. They are trying to distance themselves from science fiction, and as a result, they treated SGU *very* poorly. It was on later than most Gates (9 or 10 PM)...it spent more than half its' life getting kicked around to Tuesday and Monday night showtimes rather than its' customary Friday slot - and lord knows it's not because Sy Fy had better shows to put in the Friday at 8 window. And Sy Fy made no effort to promote the show. In fact, they abandoned their contract with Hulu and prevented fans from seeing the show a day or two after it aired, meaning they lost a bunch of viewers after they missed a few episodes and couldn't catch up.

I should have been more patient with SGU...I should have given Wood/Wright/Cooper et al. more credit than I did in my first season reviews. They were building toward something wonderful and that something was only just beginning to be realized in the second season. This was the story of how the better part of human nature can bring together disparate, troubled people in the common cause of their mutual survival and happiness. The ugliness of the first season was necessary...we needed to see how difficult life was for our castaways, and how different they were when they arrived. We needed conflict or all of the wonderful - almost saccharine - chemistry and family spirit that pervaded the final episodes would have meant far less.

In this final episode, the writers managed to pay tribute to both the sacrifices/hardships Destiny's crew has had to make and the deep, familial bonds they've formed with each other and with their loved ones on Earth. We've seen Eli go from a lost, albeit genuine, slacker to a capable, confident grown man. We've seen Rush go from a selfish, depressed, hopeless loner to a mentor and even to a friend for some among the crew. We've seen Chloe go from a shallow, spoiled little girl to a commitment-minded and passionate woman. There was real character growth here...and they were just beginning.

But the show ended, not with a half-hearted conclusion or a cliff-hanger never to be resolved, but with the persistent whisper of hope and joy and love that now fills the enormous heart of Eli Wallace. In the darkened halls of Destiny, our heroes - and these ones truly have earned that title, given all they've been through - wait for the day when their stories can be told again and the currently dwindling crowd of onlookers can be reborn. This epic tale is not over with an incomplete "thud", nor out with a whimper...it's in the air of our baited breath...and the echoes of hyperspace on the horizon.

Writing: 8.5

The action plot was nothing that hasn't been done before in Gate...they did manage to take out two command ships, which was fun to watch...and get one more trip through the Stargate, which seems fitting...but beyond that, the strength of this script was in the crew's discussions over who might have to sacrifice themselves to save the rest...in the strength of Young's final toast...and in the honest little character vignettes that filled the gaps between the battles.

Acting: 10.0

A final nod to an outstanding cast. Even Ming-Na, who has never impressed me on this show, was starting to win me over before the end. This truly was an ensemble show with a very deep bench, to use a baseball aphorism.

Message: 8.5

Everyone, from Rush to Young to Eli to Chloe...took the time to emphasize that their lives weren't about a destination anymore (home to Earth, or to some unknown final point of knowledge), but about the journey. That is what this franchise has come to symbolize for me...I have a feeling it's going to spawn a ton of fan fiction...I just hope the authors keep that in mind.

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