EPISODE REVIEW: Stargate Universe: “Gauntlet” (Season 2, Episode 20, Series Finale)

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…and just like that, it ends. Not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a profound silence that speaks off all that might have been, but never will. It’s a sad ending, a needless ending, but I see now what the producers meant: it’s a solid ending, and almost - if not quite - satisfying. This isn’t an ending, nor is it a cliffhanger in the way ‘Gate usually does ‘em, this is not a conclusion, but….but the story can rest here. As likely as not, it’ll never be revisited, as likely as not this is the end of Stargate forever, but we end with hope and silence.

PLAY BY PLAY

It’s a week or two after the last episode. Dr. Park is still blind. They attempt to attack one of the drone command ships by pulling a TNG and tuning their shields to more effectively cut the alien weapons. This works, mostly, but as usual there are some problems, including a collision, damage to the ship, and whatnot. On the bright side, though, Greer does manage to take it out with The Big Gun. They don’t get much to show for it, however.

Eli suggests that they simply put everyone in stasis, and program the ship to head to the galactic due north, then fly directly to the next galaxy on their flight plan. This will, alas, take three years, and the’ll be cutting it pretty close. They could run out of power entirely, and drift for a thousand years, they could die from some unknown peril between there and here, they could be found by the aliens from the previous galaxy, they could never wake up at all. Lacking any better suggestions from anyone else, however, they go for it.

They start cycling people back to earth with the communication stones to say goodby, and putting people in the Stasis Tubes once they return. Then, predictably, a problem arises: eight of the tubes aren’t working. Eight people will have to stay out. This means suicide, since life support will have to be shut down or else they won’t make the jump successfully. Brody and Volker decide they need a certain rare element to fix the pods, so they find a non-habitable planet in the database they think is likely to have some and use a shuttle as a decoy to lure a command ship away, and then sneak in and grab the elements by gate. This works without much of a hitch, they destroy another command ship in the process, and scoot away.

Everyone goes in to stasis excepting Young, Rush, and Eli. There are three remaining tubes, but one is broken. Rush volunteers to stay out and try to fix the remaining tube, but Young doesn’t trust him and decides to stay out and kill himself. He talks this over with Eli, and Eli *finally* comes of age and stands up for himself. He insists that Rush and Young both go in, and that he’ll figure a way to get the last one working, “I’m not afraid to say it anymore: I’m smarter than him, and all three of us know it.” Eli and Rush agree, reluctantly.

The ship starts shutting down and going dark, the opposite of it coming to life when we first saw it. The final scene is Eli, all alone on the observation deck, an expression that shows fear, triumph, and a kind of beatified acceptance.

To Be Continued….

OBSERVATIONS

I toyed with the idea of not doing any observations, since nothing we saw here will ever be resolved, but, eh, here we go.

This episode was VERY well done, the direction was spot on, the acting was great, the story and the solution made sense, the complications felt real rather than just padding it for another act, and the ’who lives, who dies’ drama was effective. Particularly in the last act.

Young looks more ragged here than we’ve ever seen him. He’s not sleeping, his hair is a mess, he’s overworked, and though he hasn’t mentioned it in a while, they keep showing that “I killed Riley” scene in the opening of every episode, so we know he’s still eaten up with guilt over that. He’s got nothing for him back on earth. The woman he loves is living under a death sentence, and the happily-ever-after sideways life we saw just three weeks ago is never going to come to pass. When the option of a heroic suicide comes along, I think he sees it as a relief.

Rush, who’s much more personable lately, is still a bastard. He knew this, and knew that Young would never trust him, nor risk his survival. He presented the option knowing that Young would do the opposite. He admits as much to Eli, later.

In leaving the galaxy, TJ is basically doomed. As long as they remained in it, there was at least some hope they could find some more Desendants who might know the cure. But now? Not gonna’ happen.

We revisit a lot of dangling threads:
- Camille gay marriage
- Eli’s mom
- Scott’s babymama and child are
- Chloe’s mom
- Young’s ex-wife.
There’s also a great scene of Dr. Park in a host body on earth, looking through borrowed eyes, and being almost overwhelmed.

Resupplying the Destiny is theoretically possible, but the only planet capable of doing so still refuses, for obvious reasons.

I really liked the music in this ep, far more than the rest of the series thus far. The elegy at the end was very pretty.

I wondered why they put Varo in stasis before the principle cast, then, at the dinner table/toast scene I realized it was because the show needed to end with the people it started out with. This is the emotional conclusion of their arc, and while I could have done without the hokey obvious “We’re a family now” stuff, it was still pretty effective - “Sons, daughters, sisters, and even the crazy old uncle who somehow manages to pull you out of the fire” or words to that effect.

Really nice shots of the Destiny coming out of FTL just feet from a command ship. Was it just me, or did the command ship look a bit like the front end of the RDM Battlestar Galactica? I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps the producers weren’t metaphorically taking a shot at the show that put the franchise in this spot. I’ll explain that in the comments below, if anyone doesn’t get it.

Also: A really nice shot of Volker across the stasis chamber from Park, looking at her forlornly as they both get iced up. Greer pretty obviously knows Volker’s in love with his girlfriend, but he still tries to look out for the guy, and reassure him. You want to know my biggest beef about this cancellation? That we’ll never get to know more about Greer. He’s just a great character, played so darn well. Nice parallelism, too: The first time we meet Greer, he’s in a tiny cell on Icarus, being let out by Young. This time out, his last scene is him going into another tiny cell of sorts, being put there by Young. In all things there is symmetry.

They make it clear yet again that this episode takes place about a year after the series premier. Forty episodes, two three-parters, and four two-parters factored in, means that each episode of this series took place about two weeks apart. This is the only Stargate series that *hasn’t* taken place in more-or-less real time, with one year in our world equaling one year on the show. I have no idea why they did this, and I find it a little disconcerting.

OPEN QUESTIONS

- Was Eli even planning on fixing the pod? I got a strong suicide vibe. I really totally expected him to pull out a gun and shoot himself.
- Will they make it?
- Rush suggests that the rout is part of the solution to the mystery. Is he right or wrong?
- What becomes of the Descendants? With Drones everywhere, their chances of survival are pretty poor.
- Will Eli survive?
- What would have happened next had the show not been cancelled?
- What of Gin and Rush’s girlfriend? They’re not *quite* dead…
- What is the message from the beginning of time?
- What about the Lucien war?
- What is the status of Atlantis? Is it still parked off San Francisco, or did they move it back to the Pegasus galaxy, or what?
- What’s the status of the Wraith war?
- What is SG1 doing?
- Who’s even in SG1 these days, since Carter’s got her own ship?
- Will there be any more Stargate ever, or is this the end of the line for the franchise?

FINAL THOUGHTS

Back when SG1 was cancelled, Sci-Fi gave them ten episodes to wrap it all up. The producers refused, and just told their story as plotted. The same thing happened when SGA was cancelled. I’m told the same thing happened here, and that they once again refused to be rushed, but in this case I wonder. Was this episode written after they got word they were dead? It feels very much unlike any other Gate season finale. It feels very much like they’re putting their toys on the shelf knowing they may never come back to ‘em. It does not feel like they were just setting up a plot device they intended to revisit in three months. Telford’s last line also makes me suspect this ep was purpose-written after cancellation: “We’re not going to forget about you, Everett, some of us may have a few more grey hairs when you get out, but we’ll get you home.”

I hope to God they do. I’ve grown to really like these people, I want to see them again.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Yes, I think so. Brave military folk thinking their way out of problems, making the hard decisions, behaving honorably, and putting themselves in harms’ way to save the people who depend on them? Both Young and Greer contemplate suicide to save others in this episode. And on top of all that, Eli finally comes of age.

What’s not to like?

Excepting the premature death of a series that got off to a rough start, had some troubles, but was ultimately a great series, the most ambitious one the franchise ever did. I'll miss it greatly.

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