Stargate Universe: Cloverdale

... in which we take a strange detour into the mind of Lt. Matthew Scott, while his friends and shipmates attempt to save him from a deadly contagion.

I’m anticipating disagreement this week, but I thought ‘Cloverdale’ was another solid episode. The direction they took the planet-bound story was rather predictable --- as soon as they indicated the infection wouldn’t respond to any agent T.J. attempted to use, it seemed pretty clear that altered Chloe would provide the miracle cure --- however, I loved how this turn of events forced Chloe to reveal that she’s still under the alien influence, and now Scott may be infected, too. She just traded certain death for Scott for a far more uncertain and possibly worse fate, and even though Rush seems to think that’s a bargain Scott would be willing to make, I’m not at all sure that she made the right call. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Much to my surprise, I also found the journey into the mind of Matthew Scott to be fairly engaging. Usually I don’t much care about Scott, but I was really fascinated by which crew members appeared in his hallucinated world and their roles and relationships with him. It gave us some interesting perspective on how he sees himself and everyone in his life. I was particularly intrigued by a much more relaxed and happy Young as his father, Telford as town sheriff, and Rush as a cagey justice of the peace who’s rather critical of Young. Eli as Chloe’s brother and wedding videographer was fitting, but I thought it was strange that T.J. only appeared as a random EMT, given that she and Scott seem to be close in real life. I would have expected her to play a more prominent role in his fever dream. Brody running the bar, on the other hand, was hilarious!

I think my favorite aspect of Scott’s hallucination was how the wedding scenario gave us some wonderful insight into his hopes, dreams, and fears. He’s clearly very conflicted about his feelings for Chloe. He loves her, and he wants to be with her, but he’s not sure he’s the guy she deserves or can build a life with. At the very least, he’s got serious doubts that building a life together is what’s in the cards for them as a couple, whether because of his own “not a one-girl guy” nature or because of what’s happening to her. You could easily read the entire end sequence at the wedding as Scott trying to come to terms with his fears about what Chloe is becoming. From his concerns about hurting her (if she turns into something he has to kill, for instance), to his “dad” telling him to “Wake up!” to the wonderfully terrifying reveal of Chloe’s alien face during the ceremony. Even the wedding vows in the voiceover could be viewed as him deciding whether to commit to Chloe no matter what she turns into.

I will say that, while I found the episode to be an engaging hour, it left me with lots of questions regarding the overall story. How long has it been since the last episode? Why were they on that planet in the first place? Did Rush direct them there? For what purpose? And what’s going on with the Alliance integration with the crew? Also, I’m kind of bummed that we didn’t get some extended story time with Rush secretly using Chloe for his own ends. I really thought they’d play that out a bit longer.

Other Thoughts

Loved the school photo of young Brian J. Smith on the table behind Scott in his dad’s living room!

I liked the way they used the hallucinated movie to tell the audience what had happened to Scott in the first place. Unique.

Telford: “But, I’m sorry to tell you, when you wake up, you’re gonna feel guilty for things you’ve done or said. Some of it you won’t even remember. It’ll just be a blur. And you’re gonna wonder if you’re ever gonna feel like the person you used to be again.”
I really loved the subtext about Telford’s brainwashing experience in this scene.

Chloe: “So that’s why you do things? Because you’re supposed to?”
Scott: “Sometimes.”

It was pretty obvious they weren’t going to cut off Scott’s arm, but the way they got out of it was surprisingly organic. I was preparing from some ridiculous last minute intervention, but his changed blood color revealing that the infection had already spread seemed reasonably realistic.

Rush: “You are going to die, Matthew. We all will, eventually.”
I think more a reflection on Scott’s fears about everyone aboard the Destiny, rather than his predicament in the moment.

I really liked the beats between Chloe and Eli after she infected herself. David Blue did a great job conveying the absolute shock and betrayal that Eli felt by Chloe choosing to give up on life and everyone else just to “keep a dying boy company.” I think this may irrevocably change their relationship. It should be interesting to see where they go from here.

After this latest, more introspective episode, my husband confessed his interest in SGU is starting to waver. Given how bad the ratings have been getting, I can see that he’s not alone. Apparently, even the folks who like darker, character-focused sci-fi still want some action and story progression. (I remember similar complaints during the second season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.) For me, SGU is still pretty engaging. I guess I like a good character study --- to a point. I remember reaching my limit with the slow burn on T:SCC, and I’m rapidly losing my patience and interest with the sloooow build on Caprica. I’m not yet at my limit with this show, but hopefully they pick up the pace soon and stop the hemorrhaging viewership. If it's not already too late.

Final Analysis: A surprisingly fascinating hour that gives us new perspective on Scott and leaves us in an interesting jumping off point for the next episode.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved this episode. The Matthew Scott head space was intriguing. So he's afraid of commitment, doesn't think much of himself, and has a "king sized" death wish. Another fantastic week on SGU.

Billie Doux said...

I loved this episode, too. I thought it was the best so far this season. Like you, Jess, I really enjoyed seeing the cast members as Scott's family and friends. And for some reason, I really loved the classical music and flamethrowers in that final scene on the planet. It just worked for me.

And I really do hope SGU isn't losing its audience and on its way to cancellation. It's just hitting its stride.

Anonymous said...

It is losing audience. BSG fans doesn't watch the show because it is an obvious hack of BSG. Stargate fans stopped watching it because it is not a stargate show anymore. Reason, Rush. "SGU" became "SG: Adventures of Rush".

This episode he out-doctored TJ, couple of episodes before he out-soldiered soldiers (in seeder ship).

Apart from that (and too much rush for my taste) this episode was somewhat decent.

Mark Greig said...

Scott and Chloe are both far from my favourite characters but nevertheless I did enjoy this episode.

Now that Caprica has been cancelled (disappointing but not unexpected) I am starting to worry that SGU might be next. The ratings were back up this week but not by much sadly.

Jess Lynde said...

I'm glad to see others enjoyed this episode, too! I was sure I'd be on my own little island for this one.

Anon @ 12:12, I'm a BSG fan and a Stargate fan and I not only watch SGU, I really enjoy it. I don't agree that it is an "obvious hack" of BSG. It has a similar dark/gritty tone and it is largely set in space, but the overall series is very different from BSG, and I feel they've done a good job making it its own thing.

I do agree that many of the fans that really enjoyed the lighter and more "heroic" feel of SG-1 and SGA don't care for the direction the franchise has taken, but I hardly think one character is the sole reason people have stopped watching.

Whatever the reasons, it is clear that fewer people are watching SGU "Live + Same Day" since the shift to Tuesday, and I'm definitely concerned about the show's future in the wake of the Caprica cancellation. Roughly 1.0 million L+SD viewers is not going to be enough for renewal, and I doubt the DVR numbers matter much to the advertisers since most DVR users don't watch commercials. Rumor has it that we won't hear about renewal until after the mid-season break. Hopefully viewership improves before then. I'm not feeling overly optimistic at the moment.

Trousers said...

I'm very bothered about the risk of cancellation for this show. I wasn't thrilled by Caprica, giving up on it after 4 eps, but the fact its been cancelled worries me. Sci-fi aren't one to drop a show without burning off the remaining episodes, so the fact they've done this with Caprica is making me stress about SGU. However, there are other things to think about than the Live numbers these days, with DVR and international numbers making a lot more difference that they used to. And I've read that SGU is more healthy in both these markets than Caprica, so I'm holding out hope.

As an aside, I'm finding it hlarious that Syfy is the only channel where a move from the Friday night death slot to Tuesdays is a step down. Makes me wish Firefly and Dollhouse had been on Scifi.

To talk about the episode itself, I love the way this show constantly disrupts my expectations. Scott is my least favourite character, so to have such a strong episode focusing on him was a huge surprise, as was an episode focusing on the stones last week. Overall, this season has not had a bad ep so far, it's just a shame that that isn;t important when it comes to renewal!

zob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jess Lynde said...

Anon, we'll have to agree to disagree on Rush v. Baltar. :) I certainly see similarities in the two characters, but Baltar always struck me as manic, petulant, and impulsive, whereas Rush seems more coldly calculating.

I do get where you are coming from overall. My husband has expressed similar feelings about not feeling engaged by several SGU characters, particularly Chloe, Scott, and Wray. He didn't really like this last episode much.

Tim said...

I'm with Billie - thought this was the best episode of the season so far.
The exposition-via-movie was genius.
Loved the Chloe-alien moment at the end especially.
Really hoping that the show makes it through this ratings dip.