Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Within the Serpent's Grasp"

“Within the Serpent’s Grasp” serves as the first season finale. It is a direct continuation of the previous two episodes and ends with a cliffhanger. As such, its main purpose is to build up enough tension to convince us to come back next year. As far as I am concerned, it does its job.

Stargate command is only the verge of being shut down by order of Sen. Kinsey. The Sg-1 team, while desperately trying to find some way to convince Kinsey the value of keeping SGC going, finally decide to try out the coordinates of the alleged attack fleet daniel discovered in the alternate universe. They will be AWOl once they make the unauthorized trip through the stargate, but they are willing to risk court martial. Assuming they survive, that is.

The coordinates take them to the lead attack vessel of the Goa’uld known as a Death Glider. (Seriously/ Death Glider? Is that the best name the writers could brainstorm?) The death Glider is leading a fleet towards Earth. Apophis has placed his son, who turns out to be Skaara possessed by a Goa’uld symbiote. He is now called Klorel and looks even more like Lenny Kravitz than before. What is up with that? Death to all humans--except Lisa Bonet!

Upon seeing Skaara/Klorel and learning of the attack plan, jack split’s the team up. Sam and Daniel are to set explosives all over the ship while he and Yeal’c capture Skaara/Klorel. The plan to capture him is rationalized weakly with the claim they can force him to call off the attack if Skaara can regain control over the symbiote. It is mostly Jack’s vain hope he can recover his friend.

Sam and Daniel are successful, but Jack and Teal’c are captured when the attempt to recover Skaara fails. Still, he does seem to reassert some control over the symbiote, as he refuses to carry out the execution of Jack and Teal’c when ordered by Apophis. The two are rescued by Sam and Daniel, but when Daniel is about to be killed by Skaara/Klorel, Jack is forced to fatally shoot him. I am aware the shooting is extremely unpopular with fans made all the more tragic because skaara had reasserted himself before, but not when it would have counted to save Daniel and himself.

The cliffhanger features the US military mobilizing its forces after the fleet is spotted by NASA flying passed Saturn and the SG-1 team looking on as the fleet descends towards Earth.

I think it is exciting to end the first season on a huge cliffhanger. The story is executed well by showing a massive invasion force from the perspective a small group of men (and one woman) on a mission. It is tough to do a massive alien invasion on a cable television budget. Some corners were definitely cut. In scenes in which SH-1 is sneaking around the ship while hiding from Jaffa, the same group of Jaffa passes by them every time in the same hallway, it is just that SG-1 switches sides to designate they have moved to another part of the ship. Hey, I am amused by it.

Maybe I am being cold here, but I think Jack being forced to kill Skaara/Klorel is a good piece of drama. Perhaps it should have come earlier in the episode instead of right before the attack on Earth so that we would have had time to better absorb it before being hit with something else, but it still works. I have no emotional attachments to the character. His death does not mean as much to me as Jack’s agony over the decision to pull the trigger. He had to kill a lost friend in order to save another who could recover. That is powerful. Whether Skaara got a good send off matters naught to me. That is my two cents worth for any fans upset over Skaara’s death.

“Within the Serpent’s Grasp’ successfully builds up tension. I am definitely eager to see the conclusion. I am not certain the dramatic moments all hit the proper mark, but I have no large complaints, either. Perhaps not as many future episodes will be, but a worthy end to a more solid first season than I expected after listening to fan buzz over it.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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