EPISODE REVIEW: Stargate Universe: “Lost” (Season 1, Episode 15)

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I was literally on the edge of my seat through this whole episode, and not just because of my chronic back pain. I’m a pretty jaded guy. I’ve seen everything TV can throw at me at least half a dozen times by now, so it’s really hard to engage me in something, but this was genuinely tense, and I was really expecting an ending that I didn’t get, which makes the differences between this show and the previous SG series all the more striking and interesting.

When last we saw the unwilling crew of the Destiny, Scott, Greer, Chloe, and Eli were trapped in an alien labyrinth while the Destiny jumps away. They eventually figure their way out, but not before Greer gets buried in a cave-in. Assuming him dead - he doesn’t respond to their several attempts at contact - Scott and the others move on.

Eli’s come up with a plan to get them back to Destiny by using the stargates to hop from planet to planet in an attempt to find one that will give them an address to Destiny. In theory, it should work: the Destiny has to move through FTL hyperspace, while the Gates are effectively instantaneous. They can outrun a starship going faster than light. On foot! They realize that Rush or someone else will eventually think of this and come back for them, but not knowing how long the next layover for the ship will be, they decide not to wait around, and to go and find ‘em. They hop from planet to planet to planet, losing the Kino again in the process, and nearly getting eaten by “A big crazy dinosaur.”

Meanwhile, Greer - still buried in the rubble and claustrophobic - wakes up, focuses, and starts to dig his way out. We get to see extended flashbacks of his childhood - his father evidently locking him in the crawl space or a tiny closet or something as a punishment, a somewhat older Greer - 12 or so - trying to talk his mom into leaving his dad. His dad deliberately abandoning him in a bad part of town. Greer walks home to find his house on fire, and he saves his mom and dad, though his dad gets badly burned and later says “You should have let me die.” Later on, as his dad is dying in the hospital (After having attacked another patient), Greer tells his mom he’s enlisted because he didn’t get the scholarship he wanted, and he wants to make a difference. Extricating himself from the rocks and the maze, he hauls as fast as he can run to the gate, but Scott et al have already gone through. He camps out for the night.

Meanwhile, on the Destiny, they’ve only got a three hour layover, but they’ve had the same idea Eli had. Rush and Lt. James go out to look for them, but they’re not making good time, so they split up to try more planets. Eventually James’ team finds Greer, and they take him back to the ship.

Eli, Scott, and Chloe realize they’ve been traveling in the wrong direction, and eventually end up on the same planet where Rush found that alien derelict. They go onboard and Eli is able to find some info about the Destiny’s course from it (Because the aliens had been tracking Destiny) and realizes that the ship is about to leave the galaxy, and if they don’t get to it before it does, they’re screwed and screwed and screwed gain. They race like crazy back towards the ship through gate after gate after gate, and try to dial Destiny, but it doesn’t work because Rush’s team is gating back in at that exact moment. They try to dial again, but the ship has gone FTL, and they’ve been left behind again.

Which is what I really like about this show. And what I’ve always liked about the Stargate franchise in general: Things go wrong. Things go horribly wrong. Yeah, granted, SG1 was, for the most part, fairly happy-go-lucky, but things seldom went exactly as planned, and frequently they went really badly, particularly as the series progressed. It wasn’t uncommon for them to get sidelined, or spend half a season chasing a fool’s errand or false lead, particularly in the Fargate years.

Atlantis eventually found its comfort zone in the fact that nearly every action the heroes took had unanticipated consequences that made things immeasurably worse, and started a new arc. Still pretty happy-go-lucky for a show about fighting goth vampire aliens, but I’ve never seen another show that has worked so many different variations of “We’re screwed” into a season.

Universe is similar, but different, in that Scott’s mad dash - or the equivalent - would have ultimately succeeded. Leaving ‘em behind once? Well, yeah, that’s fine. Set up a two-parter. No one was really put on edge by that. Strand them *twice?* Well, that was unforeseen, and the crazy race back to the ship just got tenser and tenser and tenser until, well, they failed.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know they’re coming back. I know some way will be found, but I still didn’t see it coming, and now that they’re off on a Helo plot, I really don’t know what they’re going to do next. They might be lost until the season finale five episodes from now. I wonder if we’ll be seeing the guys who abandoned the mission and jumped through the gate to some other random planet back in Episode Three. Remember that one? I figure they wouldn’t show ‘em running away like that unless we were going to see them again later.

Obviously, the Destiny can’t go to interstellar space like we’ve seen it doing within whatever galaxy they’ve been cruising through. Either they’ll figure out a way to turn the ship around, or else they’ve got some super-duper hyper-mega FTL drive for use to allow it to cross those kinds of distances. That’s not too unlikely, really. Rodney McKay was able to re-jigger Atlantis’ engines enough to have the ship cross three MILLION light years in about a day.

TJ told Young she was pregnant, and had evidently told lt. James earlier, and Chloe knows, too. This is yet another of Young’s increasingly numerous mistakes and increasingly visible mistakes that he won’t be able to keep secret. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. It was a nice warm-yet-guarded moment between the two of them. I’m assuming this means Young’s marriage is basically over at this point, though being Young he’s try really hard to salvage both situations.

People we haven’t seen in a while: Young’s Wife, Colonel Telford, that new Doctor Handsome Guy, who’s name escapes me, that they introduced in Episode 11.

Finding Rush’s glasses in the derelict was a nice touch. Rush himself seems quite a bit more functional and amenable than he usually does.

Finding out Greer’s backstory was interesting, and quite a bit more compelling than Rush’s last week. What I took from it was that despite everything that had been done to him, Greer still wants to rise above it, still wants to become something better than he is, though he’s got quite a few issues. I can see why Young likes him so much, and the line “I know you’re a good man” when they thought they were going to die makes much more sense now. I am curious to know what was up with his dad. His mom says he was a good man once, but Greer is too young to remember. He was obviously in a VA hospital in the end, so I wondered if it was Post Traumatic Stress, or Gulf War Syndrome or whatever. The crazy guy in the VA was yelling about Gulf War syndrome, so I guess we’re supposed to take it to mean that, but what was up with the bricks? The infection in the brain? Why did he kick Greer out of the car? Was he trying to kill himself and his wife? I guess it doesn’t really matter, he was nuts and abusive, but it’s interestingly unsettled just the same.

Say, Chloe’s good at spotting patterns! Better than Eli, actually. How did she know where the map was in the derelict? Lingering effects of being a prisoner of the aliens?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: a lot of people hated the long, slow burn at the start of this series, but it’s really paid off, I’m loving it.

Thematically, I thought it was interesting that this episode revolved around two themes, the first being the maze. They escape from the physical underground maze into the larger, metaphorical maze of the stargates, trying to find their way back to the ship, but taking the same kinds of wrong turns and side-trails that they took in the physical maze. It’s also interesting that Eli kept complaining about needing a map with a “you are here” sign, which, it turned out, had been staring them in the face all along. They blunder through the maze of stargates until Eli essentially finds another of these in in the derelict, and then they race against time to get to the ship much as they raced against time to get out of the physical labyrinth.
As above, so below.