Hey, everyone. Sorry this is late, but I literally forgot what day of the week it was. Had 4 doctor’s appointments this week alone, so my concentration is off. Anyway, rather than my normal gonzo meanderings let’s just jump into it:
Clarke and Fin just got done knocking boots in The Hatch. They, and everyone back at camp, see what’s obviously a spacecraft fall from orbit. Rather than head out at night and risk getting caught by Grounders, Bellamy insists they wait ‘til morning. He sneaks out to find the thing himself, though, intending to destroy the radio. Octavia follows him. Clarke and Fin get back to camp, quickly realize that he’s gone and try to get to the landing site before him.
Bellamy sends Octavia back to camp, and she grudgingly agrees, but gets chased by something, falls down a hill, and knocks herself unconscious. Bellamy, meanwhile, gets to the escape pod intending to kill Raven (She’s unconscious) but he can’t bring himself to do it. Instead he just cuts the radio out and chucks it in a stream.
Clarke finds Raven, then Fin shows up and it turns out that Raven and Fin were an item on the Ark and we’re into teen soap country. More important things are afoot, however, as Raven informs them they’re going to kill 300 people on the Ark if they don’t get word from the surface. Buuuuuut of course the radio’s gone.
They find Bellamy, and he comes clean about shooting the Chancellor and the radio. Raven points out that he’s a crappy shot and the Chancellor survived. He tells them where the radio is. They recover it, but it’s all wet and they don’t have time to fix it. Instead, Raven hits on the idea of salvaging bits of the drop pod to use as flares basically to let the Ark know they’re alive.
Octavia wakes up, face to face with a Grounder.
ON THE ARK
They let Clarke’s mom go on “Work Release.” Half the station is down with oxygen starvation, and they’ve passed the “Kill 300 plan.” The intention is to make it look like an accident, a section’s life support will just cut out killing 300 people – whup – but it’ll be painless. The Chancellor agrees to the plan, but insists he be in the section when it’s vented. He gives the old “What kind of leader would I be if I couldn’t do what I ask of others” saw, but in fact as is repeatedly pointed out, he’s a coward that simply wants someone else to take the burden from him.
Realizing what the Chancellor is going to do, and realizing that means Starke will be in charge, Clarke’s mom finds a recording of her dead husband explaining the whole situation, and she puts it on the internet or network or youtube or whatever they use on The Ark. Police arrest Clarke’s mom. The Council calls an emergency meeting, the station looks to be on the verge of riots that will kill them all, everyone is furious at Clarke’s mom and the angry mob outside sends in an emissary.
It’s a worker. He volunteers to die. Then another comes in and does it. Then another and another and another, an endless line of them offering to lay down their lives for everyone else. It’s genuinely moving. The Chancellor intends to die with them, but Starke talks him out of it. The air is shut off, everyone’s anesthetized and suffocates.
That night, in Clarke’s Mom’s quarters, the Chancellor comes in and says “We make the best decisions we can, and then trust in a forgiving God.” Clarke’s mom says, “Do you think we deserve to be forgiven?”
At just that moment they see the flares. Too little, too late.
There’s a very Babylon 5 quality to the Ark plot tonight. Back in B5 there was an episode about a plague killing the Markab. All the Markab go into a big warehouse to pray and wait. Dr. Franklin discovers a cure, but by the time he gets it there, the Markab are already dead, and pretty much extinct throughout the universe as well. Tonight’s genuinely moving self-sacrifice being so quickly undercut by its uselessness was, well, pretty impressive. Why? Because you think “They’re gonna’ save everyone, they’re gonna’ save everyone, they’re gonna’ save everyone – holy crap, they’re all dead!”
The Chancellor’s comment tonight is the first mention of God and faith in the series. There have been some ambiguous implications of a ‘return to earth’ cult, but nothing clear. This doesn’t seem to be a part of that, this seems to be your straight ahead Judeo/Christian/Islamic concept of God. We also get the old sailor’s funeral as a voiceover: “We commit these bodies to the deep…” I can’t find the exact wording, but it’s very similar to the old Catholic prayer, with only a word or two changed here and there. Though it doesn’t expressly mention God or Jesus, it does actually speak of a world without pain and suffering and a resurrection where the dead will be reunited with us. I’m not Catholic or anything, but: Snazzy!
“Do we deserve to be forgiven?” Well, duh, no. That’s what forgiveness is. Being given a pass that you don’t deserve.
I’ve compared this show to Galactica-meets-Lost several times, and the presence of Lt. Gaeda and the whole “Do we deserve forgiveness” thing really did feel like BSG. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing when reality adjusts itself to accommodate my facetious off-the-cuff jackass remarks.
BAD SCIENCE: The escape pod in no way acts like an escape pod. For starters, it noses in, and returns to earth head-down. Capsules come in butt-first for very obvious and safe reasons.
I actually like the Raven character. She’s quick on the draw, smart, resourceful, and brave. It’s a pity she’s played by such a bad actress, though.
Speaking of which: Quite a lot of bad acting tonight. I’d argue that the thing as a whole was poorly directed, but the ‘self sacrifice’ scenes made up for that, and the last half of the Ark plot was well done. The earthside stuff was all pretty bland, poorly written, artificial and it really was poorly directed. Strangely choppy editing, too. Like some scenes went on longer, and they just chopped out the middles.
Starke is officially the most interesting character on the show now. It seems he legitimately doesn’t want to be in charge, whereas up ‘til now we figured he was scheming for the throne. It also seems like he learned from this whole exercise. He appeared stunned that more people volunteered to die than the 310 they needed, and they ended up turning people away. He’s probably playing at something, but what is it? He talks the Chancellor out of killing himself. He positions people to keep an eye on groundside communications, which he’s utterly opposed up until now. Maybe his plans have changed? Maybe he just likes being the power behind the thrown? Maybe – shudder – he’s growing?
I’ve assumed since day one that he was the one who set it up so Bellamy would shoot the Chancellor. This may not be the case. When he admits what he did, Bellamy doesn’t actually say who put him up to it. Just “A guy.” So they’re deliberately playing that quiet, either because the answer is really obvious (Starke) or because it’s someone else we know.
Bellamy is somewhat less interesting than Starke, but still way more interesting than anyone on the ground. On the one hand, he’s drunk with power (Two girls, no waiting!) On the other hand he legitimately tried to save the little girl’s life last week, he can’t bring himself to kill Adam, he doesn’t WANT to kill Murphy, and when people openly defy him, he generally backs down. I’d swear that when they tell him the Chancellor is still alive, he seems relieved. Or at least he would if the episode were better acted and directed.
Ok, so we know for a fact that the Grounders exist. We’ve seen two of them now, and they are clearly perfectly normal humans. The fact that there are perfectly normal humans on the ground sort of undercuts the whole “Humanity is on the edge of extinction” plot, right? The plot that’s been driving the whole show thus far? Kinda’ shot themselves in the foot there, huh? The show is far less epic and dramatic if it turns out everyone coulda’ just moved to Cleveland and been ok. “What? You mean we weren’t the last? And we’ve been wearing century-old underwear for no reason? You had BEST be joking!”
I noticed an odd costume thing: Why are so many people on The Ark wearing coats. Not just like labcoats and stuff, but a couple guys had heavy knee-length dusters. What POSSIBLE use could those be in space? Apart from, you know, tying up much-needed fabric so people wouldn’t have to wear hundred-year-old underwear.
They keep handwaving the reason why they need to kill 320 people. I’ll accept “It’s broke and we can’t fix it” as an answer, but given what we SEE I can come up with a whole lot of ways they could extend their life support. There is a LOT of wasted space on that station. Depressurize sections you’re not using, and pump the air into sections you ARE using. Also, don’t dump 4 cubic meters of air into space every time you kill someone. Pump the air out of the airlock. That’s what it’s for. Doofus.
Finally, I guess, the real question presented by this show is that it makes us ask the really hard question: “Why the hell isn’t Babylon 5 on Netflix?”
Kevin Long is a well-reviewed Science Fiction author, who has written three full-length anthologies, and has a fourth one coming out any week now. He used to blog under the name “Republibot 3.0,” but now that his stalker is dead, and he can afford to be less paranoid, he uses his real name. His personal website is here and his Smashwords page here. Or, if you prefer Amazon, his books are here, here, and here. Check out his site, and buy one of his books. He’s got a wife and kids to support!