Friday, September 28, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Return, Part II"

“The Return, Part II” is the first episode of the third season’s back half. It is also the conclusion for the story begun the midseason finale. Chalk it up as an odd duck that is strangely satisfying in spite of time spent on questionable elements and a hurried, but happy ending.

The beginning of the episode finds Jack and Woolsey hiding in a part of Atlantis where the sensors are not working, so they are safe from the Asurans. Safe until Jack informs Woolsey Daedalus has orders to nuke the city in order to prevent a potential invasion of earth. It is just then that our heroes arrive to radio jack and Woolsey to sit tight while they put a plan to reprogram the Asurans to disintegrate into action, punctuated by a large explosion to cover the Puddle Jumper’s getaway.

Sounds pretty cool, no? a few things are strange. First, part of the plan is to find Niam floating out in space in order to use him to spread the new programming. The plan to use him fails early on, so it is peculiar so much time is spent on the plot element. Second, the Puddle Jumper return to Atlantis bia a submerged jumper bay. They need Jack to swim into the flooded control room in order to open the hanger bay door. This takes up half an act of Jack swimming around in a set underwater. The scene reminded me of the long sequence in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only in which Bond and his Bond Beauty are dragged through underwater ruins for far longer than reasonable because the set was expensive, so the producers needed to get their money’s worth out of it. I do not know how much of the scene was done by Richard Dean Anderson, but the guy put himself through the ringer for one who wanted a lighter filming schedule. Finally, with the Niam plot having failed, our heroes run a con job to trick the asurans into thinking they are going to use C$ to blow up the shields protecting the city when in fact they have booby trapped the shields to emit the new programming which destroys all the Asurans at once. With the villains disposed of, our heroes move back in as if nothing ever happened.

Do not get me wrong. I enjoy “The Return, Part II.” it essential took the same plot as the first season’s take over of Atlantis by the Genii and made it different. That time around, the action was a straightforward, men on a mission shoot all the bad guys to save the day. The powers that be could not do the same here, and I am curious if some of the more awkward elements were rewrites in order to avoid a repeat. The underwater sequence with Jack, while nifty and quietly laden with humor as he takes three tries to get the door open, goes on way too long. The final plot, too, involves rolling back tp revious scenes and replaying them the way things actually went instead of the con job we thought was the true plan. Sure, it is cool to see we have been as hoodwinked as the Asurans, but reusing the same scenes we just saw with only a bit more elaboration gives the impression the powers that be ran out of material and just decided to repeat what they had already filmed with some stuff from the cutting room floor added in. The bottom line is I get the impression, right or wrong, the first part was written without a conclusion in mind, so the final product is struggling to resolve the cliffhanger.

What is the point of having the Genii show up to recruit Ronon and Teyla when they do not appear in this episode. The meeting is pointless filler since nothing comes out of it. Perhaps it is foreshadowing of something later, but still…a head scratching point to say the least. I was expecting the Genii to show up as backup against the Asurans. The whole affair reminds me of Anton Chekhov’s adage that if a gun is introduced in the first act, someone needs to have fired it by the end of the second or the writers has failed his task.

Anyone else find it bitterly funny the Lanteans are wiped out because of Rodney rewriting the Asuran program, but no one cares? They are all just glad to have Atlantis back. So glad, no one is going to becourtmartialedl or disobeying orders. Or arming Weir with a gun one assumes she has no ability to use. At the very least, some one should pay for the sorry fashion sense of the Asurans. They are wearing tan jump suit with red, ribbed padding on the abdomen that looks like they got off the operating table before a gastro-intestinal surgeon could so them back up. Like the Daleks, the Asurans have no concept of elegance.

The final verdict is “The Return, Part Ii” falls short of high expectations, but it still entertaining. It has peculiar elements that defy logic and padded scenes that elicit suspicions the powers that be were not sure where they were going with the story. Maybe they were hoping featuring Jack prominently would make up for it. They are right, in a lot of ways. The conclusion does not quite measure up to the first part, but I like it enough.

Rating; *** (out of 5)

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