October 6, 2013

Starhunter, episode 22 "Resurrection"

We open on a video of Rudolpho, actually summing up where we are in the plot for once instead of just thinking out loud.

At a karaoke bar on Mars, a pale Eccleston (still half-dressed from when we saw him last in The Divinity Cluster) stumbles up to the stage and growls out "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star". The maitre d' sneaks away to contact Navarre, but Eccleston is suddenly next to him. With a touch of Eccleston's glowing hand, the man vaporizes. In her office on a battle cruiser, Tosca listens to the intercepted call.

The Tulip is racing through space, swarmed by attacking Raider fighters. When the larger vessel is left crippled and defenseless, the Raiders withdraw. Back at the Raider station, Senaca tells an unseen contact that Travis is ready for extraction. The Raiders then veer towards Earth, Travis and the crew of the Tulip determining that Senaca intends to use the seeds as soon as he can, despite the terraforming event condemning to death the millions of people still living on the surface of the polluted world.

While the Tulip limps along, some personal stuff is vented. Luc tries to reach out to Percy, but the girl still distrusts and dismisses her. Dante settles Travis into quarters, with the boy surprised at how much his father still cares for them and wondering if things will ever feel normal. Dante tenderly tries to motivate Percy, but she says the ship has been damaged beyond what she can repair. Luc tells Dante she's worried about how Percy blew her off, then Luc blows him off. Travis angrily challenges Dante about Penny and the pursuit of the Raiders, ending with "I'm sick of fathers." Travis tries to rekindle his childhood bond with Percy, but she still distrusts and dismisses him. Percy confronts Dante about Travis, and he admits things are tough, but that they need to push on, and maybe it's time for her to start thinking about her own future. Travis apologizes to Dante and reminisces on his memories from childhood.

Luc is able to get communications up and running to send a transmission to Navarre, who sends a shuttle to pick her up so she can join in the resistance trying to regain control of the orchard. Luc is doubtful, but Dante warmly tells her to go and they exchange farewells. Percy wants to see her off, too, but arrives too late after the shuttle is gone. Luc arrives at a bar on Mars, where she starts making plans with Navarre, but then Tusca and a squadron of soldiers enter. Navarre is given an injection and drops to the floor. Luc accuses Tosca of killing her father, but Tosca denies it. She does, however, reveal that a deal has been struck with the Raiders, allowing them to seed Earth as long as the Orchard gets to keep Travis.

Percy starts seeing flashes of Eccleston, who then fully materializes on her floor. He's in pretty bad shape, barely holding himself together in this dimension. He can't remember how he managed to return, but he brought with him a warning that the Divinity Cluster was inserted into our DNA so that we would one day serve as vessels for those on the other side when they return en masse. He uses his powers to allow Dante and Travis to see what he's seen to they'll know it's the truth.

Tusca's cruiser closes in on the Tulip, so Eccleston links hands with Dante and Travis, telling them to think of Earth. The ship suddenly jumps and is now just beyond the Moon. Tosca is pissed, and contacts Senaca with a warning as his forces near Earth. The Raiders veer past the Tulip, further disabling it with a pulse that shorts out Caravaggio. Tosca then contacts them, threatening to kill Luc if they don't turn over Travis. When Dante refuses and cuts the signal, Tosca puts a gun to Luc's head and pulls the trigger (we cut away just before knowing for certain if it goes off).

Eccleston tells Travis he's their only hope, that the boy must visualize the seeds and use the Cluster to teleport them away from Earth. Travis doesn't know if he can do it, but goes with Dante in a shuttle to pursue the Raiders. They take fire and their crippled shuttle plunges into the atmosphere, tumbling towards Earth. Travis keeps trying and trying to use his powers. He and his father say they love each other and clasp hands... which start to glow.

Percy refused to abandon the Tulip, and diligently sets about getting Caravaggio back on line. As Raiders close in and launch missiles, Eccleston grabs her hand and starts to glow. The Tulip vanishes.

Somewhere, Caravaggio reactivates on the bridge, but there's nobody there. After asking around, he finally opens a message from Rudolpho which Dante ignored throughout the episode, wherein the man reveals a business deal has left him rolling in cash, so he's retiring from the bounty business, cutting Dante loose and giving him full ownership of the Tulip as a parting gift.

Dante wakes up in his farmhouse, Penny working at a desk and Travis as a little boy running around. As Dante takes in the return of his family, he hears Raider ships moving in.


When we do these recaps, we approach them as if we are coming in cold. And we try our best to actually avoid spoiling ourselves. But it was hard to avoid the fact that I knew the season was going to end on a cliffhanger. I found out about that when I was researching Starhunter, months before Noel invited me to join him in covering the show.

So I expected a cliffhanger. And yet, somehow, when the episode ended, I still found myself thinking - "wait, that's it?"

Here's the thing about cliffhangers... They are supposed to draw you in. They are supposed to put our heroes in a tough spot, pose some kind of problem/conflict/issue, and cut away before it can be resolved. If done right, the viewers will be on the edge of their seats, and when the episode ends, they'd want to see more.

But that's not quite what happens in "Resurrection". As best as we can tell, Travis fails. He can't teleport the seeds away and the Earth is doomed. Our heroes lose. Not in the sense of "everything seems hopeless, but maybe heroes will pull the victory out of the jaws of defeat" The seeds have been deployed. There seems to be no other way to stop them. And because we know there's no way to stop them, a lot of oomph from the cliffhanger is gone.

I expected there to be another scene, maybe a shot of Travis teleporting somewhere with the seeds. And I was honestly surprised when it didn't happen.

Not that the cliffhanger is a complete failure. It left all of our heroes in pretty tight spots. Luc is a captive of a now very pissed-off Tosca. Percy, Eccleston, Caravaggio, and the Tulip are... somewhere. And Travis is completely unaccounted for. I mean, it doesn't look like he jumped into the past with Dante, so where did he go?

Heroes being scattered to the four winds and trying to reconvene is classic cliffhanger territory. And then there's the fact that Dante now has a chance to change the past. Instead of being a simple farmer, he now has several years worth of combat experience which could potentially make a difference. I'm not sure how much of a difference, since it would still be one man who may not even have any weapons on hand vs a whole army of well-trained invaders, but maybe it might.

And, if Travis or Percy do somehow find him, will he want to go back to their present? Or will he try to stay behind and change the future?

But other than the cliffhanger, does the episode live up to my hopes?

Yes and no. There are parts that I like. The revelation that the Divinity Cluster isn't supposed to uplift humanity, that it's all part of DCAs' long-term plan to escape extinction, is a genuinely surprising twist. In retrospect, we probably should have seen this coming. The Miranda aliens were a sentient virus which used human DNA to create bodies, and we know that they are connected to DCAs.

This is something Starhunter rarely manages to pull off - building on a backstory to set up clues that we only realize were clues in retrospect. I admit - I'm impressed.

And, on a more personal level, I just like that twist in general. For reasons too long to get into within the confines of this post, I've never been too keen on the "humans ascending to higher plane of existence" plots, so it's nice to see it subverted.

I like Percy in this episode. Her standoffishness is understandable - though I question the part where she seems to think that, now that Travis is on board, she'll be kicked off the ship. Where exactly does that come from? That said, it's always fun to see Percy's calm reactions to the weirdness around her. Yes, Eccleston teleporting in creeps her out, but once she knows he isn't going to harm her, she handles his arrival with welcome calm and practicality. I like her quintessentially Percy way of saying goodbye to Luc. The fact that she's perfectly willing to risk her life to help the crew just reaffirmed an aspect of her character that makes her interesting - just because she doesn't act like things bother her doesn't mean she doesn't care. And her last scene with Dante is genuinely touching.

Luc comes off pretty well, too, remaining proud and defiant to the end. She never begs, never pleads, and while she does lose composure at one point, it's for a pretty good reason. Given what happened in this episode, Tosca will probably have her shot out of pure frustration and spite, but I'm sure she'll go out like a badass.

I can't say I like David Fournier's performance in this episode, but it kind of grew on me. I like Travis a bit more in this episode. He goes from being uncomfortable and weary of forming bonds with father figures, to genuinely trying to reach out to Dante. I'm not entirely sure if he means it when he says he loves his father at the end, but even if he just says it to make Dante feel better, it's still a nice touch.

Eccleston is an interesting case. In many ways, he's a different character from what we saw in "Divinity Cluster", but the changes make sense given what he's been through. Plus, we do get hints of the old Eccleston, like the part where he basically tells Percy that, in the older days, he probably would've tried to add her to his harem of followers (not in those words, exactly, but that seems to be the implication). And the random karaoke bit seems like the sort of thing Eccleston would do. One part that puzzles me a bit is why he seems to care about Percy's safety, to the point where he's willing to risk his life to keep her out of harm's way. Is it because she's willing to listen to him and tried to help him? Perhaps. I'm not entirely sure.

Overall, I thought the character works pretty well within the context of the episode, and Mark Powley does a pretty good job portraying a man who's trying to keep it together, physically and mentally. Aside from some over-the-top moments, the performance rings true.

As for our intrepid captain... You knew this was coming. There are parts I like - his efforts to connect with Travis, the nice, awkward moment where he hesitates before petting his son on the shoulder, his conversations with Luc, the final scene with Percy... I appreciate the fact that, after all his anger at Luc's betrayal of trust, he's able to forgive her.

But there are also parts that make me grit my teeth in frustration. The way he snaps at Travis after he talks back makes Dante look bad. Given that he just got his son back, one would think that he wouldn't be so quick to snap. And I certainly don't think he should expect Travis, who grew up with a different father figure, to do as he says just because of their blood ties.

Then there's the scene where Percy tells Dante that she saw Eccleston... One would think that, after all the Divinity Cluster Shenanigans he's experienced, he wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it out of hand. But no - Dante has to be dismissive about it, because God forbid he actually learn anything from his past experience.

(In fairness, Dante does learn occasionally - see the scene with Luc - but if I had a quarter for every time he failed to learn from past experiences, I'd be able to buy a full-price movie ticket.)

As before, the antagonists are the weakest links of the show. Tosca remains a bag of villain cliches, and the awful lines the writers settle her with really don't help. Senaca comes off a bit better, but he still gets some awful, awful lines that detract from what little subtlety and nuance James Gaddas is able to bring to the character. And I never did quite understand why Senaca and Tosca teamed up. What did Tosca's Faction of the Orchard have to gain from wiping out all life on Earth? It seems like it's something the writers threw together at the last moment to further the plot and didn't think much beyond that.

I do like how Tosca's plans kept crashing down around her. Again and again and again. The fact that it's largely due to Divinity Cluster powers she's worshiped so much only adds a layer of delicious irony to the karma cake.

As for Navarre.. there's not much to say here. Ray Lonnen seems like a good actor, but he isn't given any good material to work with. He tries his best, God bless him, but there's only so much he can do.

In the end... I can't say I'm disappointed, exactly. To borrow my mom's saying, I hoped for the best, and prepared for the worst. And it wasn't the worst. In the end, the episode had some good character interactions, a few surprises, and genuine suspense. But the cliches and hammy acting made the villains less menacing than they could be, and, as it was often the case in other episode, Dante was the weakest link among the main cast. All that made the episode decent. Not good - decent. The way it handled the cliffhanger cost it a lot of points in my book.

I have some thoughts about how the season finale fits into the rest of the show, but I think I'll better save it for next week's post, when Noel and I offer our final thoughts. For now, I'll turn the post over to my intrepid co-host.


*flips a table* Dammit, Starhunter! You and I are DONE!

Yes, technically I know we've reached the end of the season so we actually are already done, but let me make my point for the sake of making it! I am beyond let down by this episode. I'm actually livid, which is a strong emotion, something this series has failed to elicit up to this point. So kudos to the show for doing something right in entirely the wrong way.

I was rooting for you, Starhunter. You've been a bland mess up to this point, but you suddenly seemed like you were getting your act together and driving up a good momentum and pulling together threads in a clever way. While Igor continued picking you apart these last two weeks (and not without valid reasoning), I was brushing off your confused narrative and going with the swell as things started happening and all of the pieces started taking their places as it all pulled together for an inevitable conflict. I didn't love it, but it was good, and I appreciated how you were rising above what you had been as you took those first toddler steps to become something more.

So I gave you the benefit of the doubt, and actually raised my expectations. And you not only shat upon them, but in your toddler way, you fell back down on your butt and started finger painting on the walls with the poo that sprung out of a poorly secured section of your diaper.

We took an episode setting up the threat of the Orchard. Then we took an episode setting up the threat of the Raiders. Then we had the promise of the two sides running head on into a massive conflict with our heroes caught in the middle. What do we actually get? Nothing. The two sides never meet, never face off, and in fact, it's revealed they struck a mutual bargain and are suddenly working together, a deal which happened entirely off screen as we go a full half hour out of this 45 minute show without anyone directly threatening our heroes. Which leaves us, in the final episode of this freakin' season, just sitting there staring at people sitting around a ship.

And, yes, that's what our heroes do for the majority of our time. They sit around. Then occasionally get up and talk to one another. Then leave and talk to someone else. Then go back and talk to who they talked to before. Then poke at something. Then sit around. And none of it means anything. They try to get into character conflicts, having everybody lay their thoughts and feelings on the table so as to sort out their dynamics, but it's so shoddily written that, instead of gradually flowing our characters through their range of emotions, they just suddenly are one thing when we see them, then something completely different when we see them next, then something again different the next time. He's despondent. Then he's angry. Then he's warm. Then she's angry. Then she's curious. Then she's guilty. We don't see the transitions, we don't feel the shifts. They just jump to whatever mood is needed for the scene, leaving all of the interactions feeling hollow and forced. And nothing is really resolved. Dante is still tired and slumped and barely in control of a ship his niece has programmed. Percy still distrusts everyone but Dante, and is still pissed at him most the time. Luc is still dedicated, but bound to a mission. And now Travis is thrown in there. And that's what he is, just there. He has none of the impact, none of the influence we heard he was capable of when he rose to Raider prominence. He just looks gloomy and stares at people, while complaining he's not strong enough to do anything.

I mean, instead of Travis and his Divinity Cluster powers, which he was born with as is supposed to be uber-powerful with, being the ultimate deciding force that drives the episode's story, they decides to fart Eccleston out of the crack between realities. I thought his first appearance was great, but when he gets to the Tulip, all he's doing is hand-holding the crew through everything instead of them being allowed to be capable of doing anything worth a damn. And instead of giving us any answer about what all of these episodes of conflict have ultimately meant, he hits us with a pair of infuriating twists which are there for no stupid reason. First, that the seeds are going to kill everybody on Earth instead of fixing the planet. Why? Why do we need to go there? There's way more story potential in cleansing the Earth, as suddenly you'll have everybody fighting over it for ownership claims. But no, it's just another doomsday device. And in order to make more threatening this threat on a world which is supposed to be abandoned, we learn there's still millions of people living on Earth in the form of scientists and technicians hoping to fix it. No, you do NOT get to have a world be both abandoned AND widely inhabited. And if there's that many people there, how do they sustain themselves in a way which allows them to reverse Earth's decay instead of furthering it? Do they not consume, expel, and use material for heat and transportation? This is absolute bullshit.

Secondly, the Divinity Cluster, this evolutionary state everyone is fighting to control before it becomes more widespread, is suddenly ALSO revealed to be a doomsday device which will stagnate evolution and lead to human's extinction. I didn't understand all of it except that those who have crossed over plan to come back and possess living host bodies or somesuch other nonsense, but no. Just, no. You do not get to wait this late in the game to say this hope for further human development is instantly flipped to being a curse, especially without letting it play out over future seasons. Sure, have there be complications, have it be something that isn't universally beneficial, but don't just say "was good, now bad". You aren't a caveman, and this isn't the fire that just burned your dick when the boar you were roasting gradually formed an enticing glaze on its hiney.

In the words of Sigourney Weaver, "This episode was badly written!"

This is crap. They set themselves up with a promising string of lead in episodes, but when they actually had to deliver on a resolution, they flailed about and sputtered their talentless desperation right on the page. The dragged out and poorly staged character exchanges. The immediate threat of Raider attack that just suddenly turns away and leaves them be. The Raiders reaching Earth... then are still just reaching it a few minutes later... then dear god they still aren't there yet despite the F/X shots showing them right over the planet... and they've been in the atmosphere for an entire act by now and still haven't launched their attack... and are they circling this globe or something to find the best place to shoot something into an atmosphere it's supposed to fully spread through? And much is made about Luc leaving and joining the resistance and nope, she's caught, Navarre's dead. And you can do it Travis, no I can't, yes you can, no I can't, I believe in you, no I can't, jesus you really can't can you, oh look I guess I can. And everybody just keep doing nothing as Eccleston does it all for you.

I hate this episode. I hate it with a burning passion. You gave me hope, Starhunter, and then reapply earlier metaphor I already used about shat. The acting is on par with where it usually is, with Allen and Roche being the highlights. There is a great moment where Percy realizes the last thing she said to the departing Luc was an angry dismissal, so she goes down to see Luc off, only to find out the shuttle is already flying away. That was a shining coin amidst the expelled digestion of everything else this toddler had to eat.

I hate this episode, and with it, have now come to hate Starhunter.

*turns table back in its feet so I can flip it again*

We'll be back next weekend with our final thoughts on this season of Starhunter.

No comments: