Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Avalon, Part II"

“Avalon, Part II” is the bridging episode of a trilogy introducing the Ori. It is a strange, but often compelling animal. The story switches from a goofy swordfight between cam and a holographic night to Vala literally being burnt to a cinder on a altar to purge her “possession.” In between, there is plenty of exposition explaining the Ori which sounds uncreative similar to the Goa’uld. Regardless of the here we go again similarities between the Ori and the Goa’uld, it is difficult to find much disappointing.

Even the cliffhanger is resolved well. Stargate SG-1 has a frequent habit of a bait and switch in such resolutions. Remember the last season premiere when a Goa’uld ship was headed to earth at the to be continued mark, then nothing happened? Ouch. Here, Daniel and cam figure out the puzzles before the lowering ceiling turns them into pancakes. I could be nitpicker here and point out the heavy stone blocks upon which the puzzles are situated are high and sturdy enough to brace the falling ceiling and that cam’s puzzle--arranging mirror images of Arabic numbers--would have been set up four hundred years before those numbers arrived in England, but what the heck. They would still be trapped even if becoming grease stains and who else but a major history nerd would know about the number system’s age?

The end of the discovery of the hidden treasure involves cam playing action hero by crossing swords with a holographic knight. You just have to roll with something so odd. Among the treasure is a book that explains some ascended beings built a home for themselves on a planet called Avalon. Using a device that works with the communication stones taken from Joe spencer, Daniel and vala inhabit the bodies of two people on Avalon in order to explore the place.

There we learn about the Ori. Their story is pretty much the Goa’uld’s. The Ori set themselves up as gods to be worshiped. They forbid any of their subjects from researching true history. Every now and then, they perform a “miracle” to prove their divinity. In this case, it is returning Vala rom the dead in the public square after she has been burned at the stake for demon possession.

Speaking of Vala burned at the stake, it is the most gruesome scene in the series since daniel died from radiation poisoning. In many ways, it is worse. We see the whole deal, from the lighting of the fire to the flames consuming Vala to daniel cradling her charred corpse afterwards. I am a jaded soul nearly impervious to shock from anthing in popular entertainment, but Vala’s excruciating graphic death pushes the envelop for a relatively family friendly show. It is also a stark contrast to the beginning high adventure and Cam’s swordsmanship.

A few scenes cut away to Dakara where the Jaffa are creating a new government not as open to their hard fought freedom as Teal’c would like. Teal’c is given some really good, highly emotional scenes in an episode in which he would otherwise play very little part if history is any indication. Is the series finally going to step up and make him a major player after all this time? Except for episodes written by Christopher judge himself, Teal’c blends in with the scenery except for the moments in which he speaks irrelevant dialogue that could have come from anyone.

‘Avalon, Part II” runs the gamut from funny and weird to cringingly painful. I am a bit disappointed by the unoriginality of the ori and their similarity to stereotypically oppressive medieval Christianity. Avaon and its people are right out of the European Dark Ages. It is also strange to split the team up in the second episode when the working dynamic ought to be established instead. It is not a big distraction, however, from an otherwise entertaining episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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