September 15, 2013

Starhunter, episode 19 "Bad Girls"

Dante and Luc receive a message from Rudolpho that they've been hired to transport Stephen Hamilton, an engineer and financier, to his summer home on the moon. Along for the ride are his two daughters, Ayla and Cordula, who introduce Percy to all the latest fashions, as well as a designer drug named Crash.

It turns out Stephen is actually on the run from the Orchard for embezzling money, and a faction is willing to call off the debt if he'll spy on Luc and find out what information her father may have passed along. The debt is still out, though, and a repo agent catches up and invades the ship. On the down side, Percy is stoned and the agent mistakes her for one of Stephen's daughter, taking her hostage. On the plus, Percy's experimental internal security system, wherein Caravaggio is armed with machine gun turrets, is fully operational, as it takes out a covert Orchard strike force which invades the ship with orders to kill everyone on board.


My main problem with this week's episode is that I don't really know when in the continuity it takes place. Rudolpho passes along condolences to Luc regarding her father's death, but that happened three episodes ago, and the episode immediately following that explosion (the ep where he sells the ship) had them directly communicate several times. There's also indications that Luc is on the outs with the Orchard, but didn't she contact the Orchard for assistance during that episode? And didn't they pull through? Maybe the episodes are all out of order, but given discussions Luc and Dante had during at least one of the three episode between this and Darius-Go-Boom, those were in their proper place, too. So I honestly don't have a clue as to the order of events.

That said, I do like that we finally get a clarification of where she stands with the Orchard. Not everyone is against her, but those gunning for a leadership position are, and taking her out has now becomes a top priority on their to-do list. I thought it was a little weird at first that they were using a simple pawn, a non-professional to do their dirty work, but that's likely due to him being in the right place at the right time. And he may even have just been intended as a distraction given the covert strike force which suddenly comes in out of nowhere for a great surprise twist at the end (and an excuse for Chekov's Caravaggio to shoot something).

The main plot is kind of muddled and uninteresting. We've already seen the story of a parent and their child(ren), who crossed into dealing with the wrong people and are now just looking to get out. There's potentially interesting character stuff in Stephen being pressured to spy and kill when both are skills completely outside his wheelhouse, and I like that there's an attempt to set up some feelings for Luc (which she gloriously responds to with her typical stink eye), but Gary Cady isn't all that captivating of an actor, so everything mostly falls flat. His two daughters aren't a whole lot better. They're adequate, but don't ever really make the material come alive and grab my attention. They're the 1% forced into hiding aboard a rusted out old ship run by bounty hunters, but aside from a few snide asides, this is never really sold, especially as the story gets further in and they're forced outside their comfort zone.

The two sisters are typical rich girl stereotypes, one is posh and snobby and looking to follow in daddy's footsteps (though, again, never actually does anything plot wise to explore that) and the other is a junky party girl who gets Percy high on poppers. There's a lot of potential in thrusting the socially awkward (but snarkily confident) Percy in amongst her peers, but while Tanya Allen plays things well on her end - from the inability to fully connect, to the escape of the high, to the plunge as, while still stoned, she realizes she's screwed up and is just waiting for the effects to fade - the other two are largely dull presences and, once the popper has been popped, serve no further purpose to the story.

I think that's the main problem, that the guest cast is just so flat that it's hard to care about their predicament. This makes half the episode dull to watch, yet the other half is still quite nice and engaging. This is the side involving our main cast, with Percy going through her issues, Luc finally being open and trusting with Dante while cold and restrained with the others (unless she's yelling, justly, at them with a gun in their face). Dante even steps up well, not only as the beleaguered captain who's been forced into taking on passengers he doesn't want and isn't equipped for, but in the great moments between he and Percy. He's genuinely pissed early on at how she's ignoring him and doing potentially lethal experiments without his permission, and his yelling makes her react the typical teenager way by continuing to do what she's being yelled at for. But when she ends up shaking off a high, he's firm, confining her to her quarters, but he's also compassionate, talking quietly with concern in his eyes, and telling Caravaggio to check her every 20 minutes. It's a nice moment between the two, and when Percy is later taken hostage and Dante just wants to get his niece back, his desperation feels real.

So it's not a bad episode. The Dante/Percy stuff is great, Luc gets in some nice glares, I love how Caravaggio complains about how put upon he is, the gun turrets make for a nice final note, and even the idea of Stephen and his kin isn't bad, it's just that the guest cast is so flat as to make it unengaging, and even a lot of the setups don't really lead to much in the way of payoffs.

And as a final note, I like how it's been confirmed that Dante and Luc haven't told Percy about everything that's going on with the Orchard and the Divinity Cluster. It'll be interesting to see how this builds as it's the primary source of her growing conflict with her uncle and distrust of Luc.


This episode isn't nearly as tedious as the episodes that precedes it - but that's not saying much. And even if you don't compare it to "A Twist in Time"/"Eat Sin", it's still not a good episode.

First, there's a conflict between Percy and Dante. I just don't think it makes any sense. I get Dante being upset when something starts shooting at him when he walks into the shuttle bay, but why is he against having Percy's Internal Defense System there in the first place? The shuttle bay has been stormed several times before, and, as Percy points out, worrying about Caravaggio controlling the guns is silly. The fact that the PIDS does come in handy in the climax of the episode, and Dante still wants to take it down, only makes him look even more unreasonably stubborn, just because the writers want conflict, damn it.

It doesn't help that Dante spends much of the episode being frustrated that Percy doesn't listen to him, acts sarcastic, and goes behind his back to do what she wants, like it's somehow a new development, even though that's the way Percy has been acting throughout the entire show. I get him worrying about Ayla and Cordulla being a bad influence on his niece, but when Dante complains about Percy talking back to him, I literally said at the screen, "As opposed to what?"

If I were Dante, I would be worried if Percy was nice and respectful.

The episode also suffers from something I've complained about many, many times before - plot points not living up to potential. This episode is the first time since "Siren's Song" that Percy gets a chance to interact with girls her own age. It should be, by all rights, a source of interesting character interactions, maybe some character development. But we don't really get that. Ayla and Cordulla don't really have any personality beyond "spoiled rich party girls" stock traits. It's hard to care about how Percy interacts with them when there's practically nothing to interact with.

I think the writers want us to think the girls' influence corrupts Percy and increases a wedge between between her and Dante. But since we don't really see Percy acting all that much different from the way she usually acts, it doesn't really work. Even when she takes Futuristic Ecstasy, it comes off as less "good girl tricked into going down a dark path" and more of Percy being curious about what drugs are and just trying so as see what it's like.

And then there's Hamilton. There's a potential to draw some parallels between him and Dante. They are both raising teenage daughters, both doing jobs they didn't necessarily want to do but feel they have to so as to achieve their goals, and both are willing to go to great lengths to protect their loved ones. I kept waiting for the episode to do something with it, and it never really does.

The fact that the actor who plays Hamilton isn't good doesn't help.

The episode does move the Orchard plot forward, but I don't particularly like how it's executed, either. We finally get to see some fallout from Darius's death - the faction that opposed him seems to have taken over and now they want Luc interrogated and/or dead. That does raise a question of why we are only getting this now, as opposed to back in "Super Max", when the Orchard seemed quite willing to share information with her. And why does the Orchard now want to kill her, anyway? I don't think that's ever explained.

I do like that we finally get Luc showing exactly how she feels about the shadowy conspiracy. This scene is about three episodes overdue, but better late than never - and I think it's fairly effective.

If nothing else, I am curious to see what's going to happen now that the Orchard is actively hostile against our heroes. And I am interested to see more of Orchard's terraforming project. Up until now, we haven't seen them do anything other than try to unlock the Divinity Cluster, so it's interesting to find out that they have another project. A project that happens to be something the Raiders are interested in. Somehow, I don't think that's a coincidence.

All and all, "Bad Girls" isn't necessarily bad... but it isn't good, either. As I often find myself saying in these recaps, it's just underwhelming and under-developed.

We'll be back next Saturday with another Starhunter adventure: "Bad Seed".

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