Sunday, July 29, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Talion"

“Talion,” which is a word derived from latin and means eye for an eye justice, is another in a fairly long strong of Teal’c seeking revenge episodes. In this case, he is hunting down a Jaffa named Arkad whom had Teal’c’s mother killed after Apophis’ army defeated his in battle. The subject matter is extremely unpleasant, as is the larger plot which puts Earth in potential jeopardy and the rest of the SG-1 team pitted against teal’c. all of this occurs within heavy handed post-9/11 allegory. In other words, pretty much everything Stargate SG-1 does badly.

The Illac Renin, a rebel faction of Jaffa devoted to Origin, plant several bombs at a Jaffa peace conference. The bombs kill 32 men, women, and children. Teal’c and Bra’tac are among the wounded. Teal’c suspects his old enemy Arkad, who has become a devout follower of origin, is behind the attack. He now has the perfect excuse to hunt down and murder Arkad. Teal’c has always suspecting Arkad of having his mother killed, but could never prove it. When Landry refuses to get SGC involved in the hunt without solid proof of Arkad’s responsibility, Teal’c goes off on his own.

His efforts to locate Arkad involve the gruesome torture and killing of various associates. Meanwhile, Arkad requests a meeting with SGC to discuss the matter of Illac Re nin stockpiling weapons fro a planned attack on Earth. Arkad says he can use his influence to stop the Illac Renin, but he wants SGC to stay out of Jaffa affairs, particularly when it comes to origin. It is well known Arkad is in charge of Illac Renin and is planning the attack on earth himself, but without proof, the SGC has to play along. Worse, the SG-1 team is ordered to retrieve teal’c before he can kill Arkad to avoid Earth being blamed for the murder.

The above plot outline may not be very clear in terms of post 9/11 allegory. Try this: The bombing of the summit is 9/11. The Illac Renin is the radical Islamic Taliban. Teal’c is using the attack by the Illac Renin to pursue a personal vendetta again Arkad without solid proof he is associated with the Illac renin. It is much like the assertion by Iraq War critics Bush 43 used 9/11 as an excuse to settle the ’family” vendetta” against Saddam Hussein. Hussein was even behind a plot to assassinate Bush 41 back in 1993 in similarity to Teal’c’s mother being killed. Teal’c abandons his general principles to torture and kill allies of arkad in the same way water boarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques are used against terror suspects at Gitmo. Mercy, at one point, cam even quips about planting WMD on Arkad to justify killing him before he and the Ullac Renin can attack Earth. The allegory to post-9/11 American foreign policy is glaring.

I am not certain that is even the worst of it. Seeing Teal’c battle his teammates when they block him from getting to Arkad is unsettling. I understand Teal’c is fired up about his mother, but he crossed the line way too far. The writers know it, too. The episode ends not only with cam lying to Landry about what really happened in order to make talc’s killing of Arkad heroic, but Bra’tac calls Teal’c the son he never had. The former is a way of burying the mess the episode made of Teal’c’s character and his relationhip with his friends. The latter let the episode end on a warm note in the hope we will forget all the unpleasant business we have just witnessed.

Neither does the trick. No one really gets off looking good here, but teal’c fares the worse. Not only does he murder in cold blood, he assaults his friends to whom he has loyally fought beside for a decade. You cannot just fix that by the next episode as though nothing happened. I do not care if cam is willing to lie to protect his friend. The emotional bonds have to be at least cracked. There is also the matter of Arkad killing Teal’c’s mother because a planetary bombardment lead by Teal’c killed his entire family. Teal’c was a military commander following orders when he committed the act while Arkad sent an assassin to murder his mother in cold blooded revenge, but neither has a good excuse for their actions and every reason to hate the other. All things considered, “Talion” is promoting the adage that an eye for an eye leaves us all blind. What a disturbing way to prove it true.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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