Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stargate SG-1--'Heroes, Part II"

I noted just yesterday how unaware of spoilers I am when watching Stargate SG-1. It has been a rare experience in the Internet Era when one cannot go anywhere near online fandoms without knowing every jot and tittle for every television show, movie, novel, comic book, or whatever else floats your boat. The main reason it has been refreshing is because stories like “Heroes, Part II” can be the heart-wrenching shock they were meant to be. The episode is a masterfully done mystery for the audience which is as painfully dramatic as part one is frivolously funny.

“Heroes, part Ii’ bounces around in time as events occur. The heart of the lot is that someone on the mission to rescue the SG-13 team is killed in action. The audience is not immediately made aware, but hints are laid out along the way with Jack taking a brutal hit and Airman Wells fearful his wounds are mortal. They will prevent him from seeing the birth of his daughter. Emmett Bregman catches glimpses of a lifeless body hauled back to SGC on a stretcher and Sam in tears, but we are not privy to who is dead.

I knew it would not have been jack KIA even if I was not aware Richard Dean Anderson is a fulltime character next season and recurring thereafter, but the powers that be do a compelling job making you think he is the one. He suffers a staff weapon shot to the chest in slow motion in which he is flung to the ground and the screen goes silent even though two large explosions occur near him. Such is an action movie cliché, but still highly effective when done well.

But the writers also do a fine job of making Wells an important character we care about. In the previous episode, he showed a sonogram of his unborn son or daughter to Dixon. It is often cliché for a soldier to show his buddies a photo of his girl back home, then die. One suspects that might be the case here, particularly when he urges daniel, who is helping tend to his wound, to get a message to his wife and daniel decides to use the camera Bregman gave him to record it.

Neither Jack nor Wells is the one to die, but I am getting ahead of myself.

There is an investigation into the entire rescue mission conducted by NID Agent Rbert Woolsey. Woolsey conducts interviews with our heroes, sans Jack, but finds they are unwilling to talk about what happened because Woolsey is less interested in the human factor than he is the financial bottom line. In other words, risking men and materiel to rescue Wells was a bad idea. Woolsey’s attitude infuriates everyone at SGC. Hammond, who is on edge over the loss of life, loses his cool with both Woolsey and Bregman, but relents with the latter. He now believes a record of events at SGC beyond the official records should be kept. His intial fears his men will be judged unfairly gives way to the honesty of the camera. Hammond allows Bregman--and us--to see the footage daniel shot which features his colleague being killed

I have to offer up praise for how the death is handled. There is no gratuitous violence for the sake of shock value. The death is actually a quiet, nearly off screen incident that proves tragedy can happen unexpectedly to goos people in the line of duty. Just as wells is saying goodbye to his wife on camera, a blast from a Jaffa staff weapon hits Frasier as she stabilizes him to move. All we see is the laser blast and Daniel dropping the camera. From the voices and sounds all around, we know that Frasier has been fatally wounded. We never even see her again. All we see from then on is the mournful reactions of her friends in action, under Woolsey’s scrutiny, and at her memorial service. Frasier’s death is wisely done in a less is more style, and it is bitter sweet sadness. Frasier is gone, but she died quietly doing her job of saving lives.

The sorrow of her friends compels the audience to mourn more than seeing Frasier’s actual death or lifeless body ever could. Sam cries silent tears writing her eulogy and leans on jack for support the first time we learn he is still alive. Daniel is the best, as he keeps vigil in the darkened infirmary. There was a time back in the fourth season when Michael Shanks and Teryl Rothery played Daniel and Frasier as potential love interests in the hopes the writers might run with the idea. I am glad now they did not. Mourning over what might have been is often more powerful than crying over what was. Daniel is an empathic guy, but there is a strong sense here that maybe he really did love Frasier, but now she is gone forever. Just to prove how moved I am, I not only do not complain about the cliché of Frasier dying as wells’ daughter is being born, but I nearly teared up when he named her Janet. Here I thought I was darn near dead inside, too.

Bregman must be given his due. He was an annoying and manipulative character in the first part, but redeems himself fully here as a champion for the truth who is able to win over even harsh skeptics like Hammond and Jack. It is rare to make guest stars pivotal, important characters, but it is wonderful when the near impossible task is pulled off. you can literally see his heart break when he watches the video Daniel shot. Bregman had developed a crush on Frasier in the previous episode. seeing her die is a personal loss for him, and one that changes his attitude about recording the truth about SGC.

Robert Woolsey is almost certainly based on Richard James Woolsey, the first CIA Director under Bill Clinton. Woolsey’s tenure at the CIA is largely considered a disaster. It was during this time Aldrich Ames was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia. Considering Robert Woolsey’s connections to private firms and penny pinching SGC operations, I would imagine the connection to the real Woolsey is accusations he promoted the invasion of Iraq on behalf of defense contractors to whom he had become financially attached in his post government career. Admittedly, searches within fandom have turned up nothing, so the connection could just be one heck of a coincidence. But honestly, Robert Picardo even physically resembles Richard Woolsey. It was not originally intended for Woolsey to become a recurring character, but as VOY fans know, Picardo has a way of winning over fans even with a generally unappealing character.

“Heroes, Part Ii’ was nominated for a 2005 Hugo Award in the category of Best Dramatic Presentation--short Form. It lost to Battlestar Galactica “33,” the episode I considered my favorite of that series. It is a tough call how I feel about the award that year. “Heroes, Part II” is plenty deserving.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment