Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Chain Reaction"

Stargate SG-1 has no problem experimenting with its stories. What other series would have a huge outer space battle in one episode and then immerse itself in political cloak and dagger intrigue on the mean streets of Washington Dc the next? With subtle references to The Silence of the Lambs thrown in for good measure. There are some plausibility issues involved, but “Chain Reaction” is a nifty change of pace.

After the SG-1 team narrowly escapes a Jaffa ambush, Hammond decides he has had enough of sending good people out on highly dangerous missions and abruptly retires. Jack senses there is another reason, and he is correct. The NID has been putting the pressure on Hammond to be more aggressive in acquiring alien technology. A couple weeks ago, some agents picked up his granddaughters from school. The less than subtle threat was enough to force him into retirement.

Jack recruits Maybourne, whom we finally learn is in prison for his treasonous actions with the Russian stargate, to tracj down the power people behind the NID. It is with Maybourne The Silence of the Lambs homage comes in. He plays Hannibal Lector to Jack’s Clarice Starling in both cutting the deal in prison to help Jack and the phone call from a tropical vacation spot at the end. They wind up threatening a senator (Kinsey) rather than rescuing one’s daughter from a serial killer, so the similarities only go so far. The two blackmail Kinsey into getting Hammond his job back.

Meanwhile, the SGC adjusts to Gen. Henry Bauer. Bauer’s tenure is the weakest link of the episode. He comes across as the stereotypical my way or the highway guy who refuses to listen to anyone else’s advice even when it is obvious they know best. It is not clear whether he is in on the NID take or a patsy they believe can be pushed around. On the one hand, he is adamant about sam building and testing a new bomb on another planet without concern or safety precautions. On the other, he does not listen to reason, so how easily can he be controlled? I did not dwell on the question much. Bauer has all the air of a one off, never mentioned again character, so who cares? I spent more time thinking he looks ten minutes older than dirt. Far older than the man he replaced. He reminds me of a freakishly aged Tobin Bell.

Richard Dean Anderson’s dog, Oscar, makes an appearance as Kinsey’s dog. He spends an unusually long time playing with the critter onscreen. Anderson is an animal rights supporter who caused a mini-bruhaha with tweets criticizing mitt Romney over strapping his dog carrier on the roof of a station wagon for a long car trip. I am a cat person, but I have trepidations about Romney’s lack of empathy in the matter, so I cannot fault Anderson for his concern. Who thinks torturing a dog like that is a good idea?

I remarked earlier “Chain Reaction” has plausibility problems. They start coming right out the gate. (Literally.) If the SG-1 team is under desperate barrage, who do they coming charging through the stargate while standing tall? Laser are still blasting behind them into the SGC! Threatening Hammond’s grandchildren is the technique of mustache twirling stereotypes. Come on. If the NID is that ruthless, it seems strange they will just let Hammond return and allow Jack to keep the blackmail info on them without taking any action. There are a lot of elements in “Chain Reaction” one has to overlook to wnjoy it.

There are a couple saving graces. Jack’s darker sense of “chaotic good” is put to fine use with him blackmailing the bad guys. Judging by his and maybourne’s method of escaping Kinsey’s mansion, does Jack inadvertently lead to knisey’s rise to the vice presidency/ It would appear so. The other pint is the bomb story does not end with sam making an heroic act to save everyone as you would expect. The only way the radiation from the bomb does not eventually infect the Sgc and Colorado springs in general is dumb luck--the stargate on the bombed planet automatically closes after 38 minutes. It is a nice touch to see our heroes cannot always pull off a miracle to save the day.

“Chain Reaction” is an odd duck with some flaws, but not bad viewing.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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