Last season of Stargate Universe left us wanting. We wanted more risks, character growth, and Young. Thankfully, the second season opener seems to have raised the bar for SGU: it's finally delivering (some) of the gritty space opera it promised.
"Intervention" started right where SGU left off; Telford, Kiva, Chloe and TJ have all been shot, Scott and Greer are stuck outside on the ship desperately trying to hide from the radiation rays, and Young and his military men are being held at gun point. It's still bloody chaos aboard Destiny. Which is perfect, as it matches the rapid pace which ended this series last season.
Sadly, many of the life-threatening situations that the SGU characters face are quickly solved in a manner of minutes. Frustrating? You betcha. This has been a stumbling block for this series from the get-go. Just once I'd love to see a character face a lethal dilemma for more a quarter of an episode. Scott and Greer found a
shady spot on the Destiny, that protected them from getting fried. Chloe is miraculously healed (more on that later), and Young is no longer facing the barrel of a gun. Ba boom. Done. Moving forward. Thankfully, this is just one of two issues we had with this entire episode.
All in all, though, I enjoyed the hell out of "Intervention."
TJ, is one of the few characters whose dire circumstances remain for most of the episode. Kiva dies, but we all saw that coming. Rhona Mitra can't guest star for an entire second season, after all. TJ, seemingly not incapacitated by a stray bullet, wakes up in a cabin in the woods, with none other than sexy-widower-alien-cult-leader Dr. Caine! Happy to have you and your crazy back, sir. Sure, you annoyed us with your nonsensical religious obelisk babble, but I'm glad to have you back. Turns out, Young and friends DID leave Caine on the alien planet to
start a new life. And it looks like life has been good — what a delightful window treatment.
Channeling his best Leoben, Caine informs TJ that she's safe and so is her baby girl! What, what? But no more answers, for now — we're back on Destiny.
After solving most of the season-one problems in the intro, SGU is quick to pile on a whole bunch of new issues for the crew. Thankfully, just about every single problem and reaction actually works, and works well.
Young is told that TJ was shot, and in a delightfully violent moment, THROAT-punches the Angry Bald Lucian! A big moment for Young, who usually keeps his cool in front of his men, or unless stranded on a desert planet with Rush. But then again, even when he beat Rush and left him for dead last season, the entire plan was pretty calculated in the Col.'s head. Is this the beginning of the unraveling of Destiny's fearless leader?
Chloe reveals her new healing powers, and although I was previously annoyed that her bleeding-to-death dilemma was hastily fixed off screen and in a manner of seconds, I think we all know what this REALLY means: Chloe is an alien. Or becoming an alien, or something. Anyways it's a new spin on a character that I've desperately been wanting something more from. Also, I couldn't help but think of the Fred/Illiria storyline from Angel. Perhaps Chloe isn't really Chloe anymore? I'd be down for that. Either way, I'm much more invested in this character than I was last season, and she's only been on screen for a few minutes. I can't wait to see what will come of this development.
After much space marine finagling, in a power struggle between the Ruggedly Handsome Lucian and the Angry Bald Lucian; Young, James and Riley are gated to what looks like New Caprica. Shortly after they are kicked off Destiny, Ruggedly Handsome Lucian and his followers are also booted onto the blue-tinted planet. But not before Angry Bald Lucian strangles a hot new Red Headed Techie, who appears to be very gate-savvy, before being rudely attacked. Methinks we're going to see much more from this lady Lucian, hopefully.
More space fighting and gun firing and all of a sudden Rush takes control of the ship, and he uses that power beautifully. After isolating himself and a few other characters in the hydroponics lab, he lets the Angry Bald Lucian and the rest of his trigger happy followers know that he's directed all of the power on Destiny away from the shields. Which means the next deadly radiation blast, you remember that's a thing right, will kill off all organic matter aboard. Including TJ, Wray, Scott and Greer who are unfortunately stranded outside the hydroponics lab. The best thing about having Rush in charge at this point is you know he's going to do it. Sure Rush is a good guy, but his number one priority has always been staying in control of Destiny. Eli pleads with Rush to drop his ultimatum and save the doomed members of their crew, and Rush's only response is, "I'm sorry." And it brings the house down. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, it's such a joy whenever the morally ambiguous doctor takes the wheel.
Meanwhile, the audience flashes in and out of TJ's dream state. At least that's what we think it is. Caine and company have been living on the aliens planet, in a collection of cabins that magically popped up on their alien planet. Caine tells her it was because of the alien gods, or something, and that's why she's here as well. She was brought here, by the alien gods. TJ doesn't really seemed to concerned by this strange and exceptionally convenient cabin conundrum, because she's enraptured by her baby's all-too-precious baby yawns. As am I. My heart is not made out of stone, people! More baby yawns, please!
Caine takes TJ on a walk, after Dana and Peter stop by (should we remember these folks?) and tells her, that while her baby can stay on this alien planet with him, Dana and Peter (seriously who are these people?). TJ can not, because she chose to leave, even though she was pretty much forced by Young, sadly. Now we know this is a dream, and things can't be looking too great for the baby back on Destiny.
Back on Destiny, the Ruggedly Handsome Lucian somewhat gains Young's respect. And Red Headed Tech Lucian saves everyone's lives by emptying a handful of bullets into the back of crazed Angry Bald Lucian. Finally an ass-kickin lady aboard! We haven't seen this kind of female chutzpah since TJ tranquilized Young in the first few episodes. We like this lady, a lot.
TJ wakes up, and Wray tells her the bad news, that her baby didn't make it. It's crushing. Plus the fact that the normally cool and calm Wray lost it, before TJ wakes up, does worlds for this moment. I'm also deeply grateful for Alaina Huffman's acting choices during this whole scene. Wray's out-of-character crying was enough of a shocker, and when it's paralleled with TJ's devastated, yet almost tearless, stance, your heart just breaks for her. Sure, killing off a mother's child is an easy way to get the audience's tears, but SGU did not go for the easy cry. This moment, even though it happened half aboard a space ship and half in a dream world, ditched the Grey's Anatomy antics and just let it be what it was. Heartbreaking. And I thank Huffman for that.
I almost want to completely disregard all of the metaphysical hemming and hawing between Caine and TJ, only because a lot of the dialog didn't really connect, for me. But this scene was important. On one hand, you couldn't have offed TJ's baby without the Thoreau "Cabin in the Woods" moment. It provided an emotional buffer for the bigger, and crushingly sad, end reveal. Had there been no dream the finale would have been entirely too brutal. The dream sequence guided the viewer towards what was to come without ever saying, "The baby is dead." In fact, even though I think we all saw this coming when Caine offered up his baby ultimatum, it did offer up a bit of hope for the viewer here and there. Alas, it was not meant to be. TJ's child would die, but the silver lining from the dream sequence would be letting TJ (and the viewer) know that perhaps it was in a better place.
On the other hand, listening to Caine weave his tangled web of metaphysical cliches was suffocating. Especially when you try and suss it all out. Are the aliens angels [not this again]? Are Dana and Peter a splintered representation of Saint Peter holding open heavens gates for TJ's child? Is Caine a prophet? No, probably not. And when Caine does finally drop his bit of knowledge on TJ, "One thing I've learned out here on the edge of the universe is that who you are and what you believe is everything," I felt pretty short-changed. That's true Caine, but you also clearly needed cabins, curtains, furry pelt jackets (which was absolutely ridiculous) and coffee. Then there's the entire realization that the baby isn't really on the planet, the baby was clearly physically on the ship, or else how would they have known that it had died? So, was this a spiritual revelation beamed by a clan of alien deities into TJ's brain to help her cope with this terrible situation? Did TJ dream the entire thing? Or was this entire scene created because having a baby on ship threw a wrench in the plot plans for SGU's season 2? Also, just because alien gods may have put a sign in the sky to tell TJ that her baby is ok, that doesn't mean I believe them. All in all I think this was much needed emotional buffer in order to end the episode on such a drastic note. Plus it helps the director and writer save face from killing off a baby, "look it's heaven maybe heaven is real, cause TJ's dream is now a reality, MAYBE! See we're not total jerks!." But if SGU wants to explain the alien god baby beaming later on down the road, I'm all ears. But I'm not holding my breath.
So yes, I'm quite split over the dream sequence. But my issues with Caine's dialog didn't lessen the emotional impact of the final outcome. Losing the baby was incredibly sad. And even though we may never know exactly what SGU was trying to convey in their starry sky, the result was heard loud and clear. It was a tender moment, from either alien gods or the show producers to TJ. It pulled on my heart strings. In fact, I was wrapped up in this moment so tightly that it took me a few seconds to realize I was listening to yet another SGU end-of-episode sad song montage. But you know what, I didn't care. The emotional impact of what was going on outweighed the emo song, which usually eclipses these end moments. It was a giant step forward for this series.
In the end, I loved this episode. The death of the child was the first death that real emotional impact for the characters. Much more than Shooter's death did for Chloe, sadly. I've been saying from the get-go that someone needed to die to make this space opera achieve the gritty reality it's shooting for, someone who has been around for more than one episode. Now the risks aboard Destiny seem much more real. People can, and will, die. Who knows what this will do to TJ? It's pretty clear from Young hitting the moonshine that this might destroy him. Plus, we've got Chloe dealing with her alien changes (and how that will change her relationship with the rest of the crew) and new Lucians that kick plenty of ass to get excited about. One of which might be interested in TJ.
I even have to give Brody credit for perfectly encapsulating the new found sense of unease SGU is embarking upon in season 2. His final words "we're good" were saturated with hopelessness. The crew isn't good — everything is terrible, in fact. But for right now, they're "good," until next week. This is where this show needs to be, and I'm very happy SGU seems to have reached that emotional destination. Let's hope they can stay on this path.