Friday, June 15, 2012

Classics: SG1 7:16 - Death Knell

Overall Rating: 9.4

They were on quite a roll in here with some outstanding episodes running back to back to back.  This one does a great service to the running plots on many fronts and gives Amanda Tapping a chance to shine as a survivor, now that we've seen her as a lover.

Plot Synopsis:

A good summary of this episode can be found in the thumbnail picture associated with this article at the Stargate Wiki.  Yeah...Carter looking on the verge of tears for forty-five minutes while she struggles to stay alive, constantly hunted by the Warrior.  That tells the story.

The Skinny:

While it sucks to be the Tauri after the events of this episode unfold - our Alpha Site is compromised, we lost like 60 people, and the rebel Jaffa and Tok'ra have decided to end their direct cooperation with us!  All of those things make sense, create a scarier Anubis, and make the established powers in this galaxy more believable.  It's a sad day, but it's been coming for a long time.  Not because of hatred, as depicted in "Divide and Conquer" and not because of annihilation as the title might imply, but because the Tok'ra, Jaffa and Tauri, while sharing a common enemy, do not share common interests.  When M'Zel insists, in the end, that his people cannot work with people who won't let them stand on their own and understand freedom in their own ways, I nod in absolute agreement.  When Delek and even Jacob argue that the Tok'ra/Tauri alliances forces the Tok'ra to reveal too much about their covert operations and risks undermining their entire society, I agree again.  And when Daniel practically pulls his hair out, insisting that it's crazy for people with the same enemy who are just now making progress toward their shared goals can't work together, I sadly agree a final time.

Here are some hard facts:

  • The rebel Jaffa love freedom as much as any American and have the right to seek it on their own terms - terms that must necessarily be different than our own.
  • The Tok'ra have indeed taken many deep losses as a direct result of having to work with humans who want to go on the offensive (I think the humans are right to do that, but the Tok'ra aren't used to fighting that kind of war).
  • Anubis is a different kind of threat than Apophis.  Fighting a war on three separate fronts might be harder for him than blowing up the whole resistance at one Alpha Site.  An end to the formal alliance does not mean an end to cooperation.
  • We Americans are coming to understand that freedom cannot be mastered by reporting to even the most benevolent of rulers.  We had good intentions in Iraq and Afghanistan but they won't master freedom until they take responsibility for defending it themselves.  The same is true of the Jaffa.
This episode represents a very mature and very realistic view of modern diplomacy and presents all parties in a reasonable light.  Gotta hand it to them, they seem to have a firm grip on human (or quasi-human alien) nature.  Sam's story of survival and the seemingly unstoppable enemy she must elude is gripping mostly because Amanda Tapping puts on her best performance of the year to date (and is about to put on another great one in the next uber-feature episode, "Heroes"....she was really in the zone this season!).  And it was a great decision on the part of the production team to interlace the stories and thus give us a comparison between Sam's resourcefulness and will to live and Jacob Carter's resourcefulness and will to hold together the alliance he worked so hard to build.  This could have been the strongest episode of the seventh season if not for what is about to come next.

Writing: 9.5

The construction of the plot carries the day for the's not super heavy on characterization other than for Jacob Carter...but it's a great script nonetheless.

Acting: 10.0

Amanda Tapping should consider this one of her finest works.  Carmen Argenziano and Sebastian Spence filled out the guest ensemble nicely, and Don Davis really was on his game in the interrogation scenes.

Message: 9.2

Sometimes, conflicts don't arise because one side is being unreasonable or your goals are completely incompatible or you need to work harder to understand the other person...those things often help, but it's childish to assume that if you do everything right at the negotiating table, you'll always get a good result.  This episode makes no pretense of that, revealing that reasonable men CAN disagree and in ways that are lethal to an alliance.

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