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Stargate Universe: Gauntlet

... in which the omnipresent drones block all avenues of resupply, forcing Destiny’s crew to attempt a desperate, “off road” plan to escape the galaxy.

I went into this final episode expecting everything to ramp up to some dire “last stand” battle that left us hanging on the brink of imminent disaster. I fully expected to walk away angry and bitter; not only that we were left hanging on a tense cliffhanger never to be resolved, but that we were denied the resonant and deeply satisfying sense of closure provided by ‘Epilogue.’

But, much to my surprise, the writers completely defied my expectations and managed to deliver a season-ending episode that also provided enough closure and emotional resonance to serve as a gratifying series finale. Sure, we’ll never know if Eli was able to fix the stasis pod and join his crewmates or if they all awoke safe and sound three years later in another galaxy, but I can still close the book on Stargate: Universe relatively content, knowing that their journey and Destiny’s mission continues.

‘Gauntlet’ didn’t come close to emotionally wrecking me the way that ‘Epilogue’ did, but those final few moments left me surprisingly teary. I blame Joel Goldsmith’s beautiful score. The delicate and bubbly piano --- evoking images of water tumbling over stones in a stream, flowing ever onward to grander horizons --- could not have been a more perfect accompaniment to the montage of Destiny’s systems progressively shutting down, the small smile on Eli’s face as he looked out at yet another incredible sight, and the final shot of the ship disappearing off into distance. Such a quiet and lovely note of hope on which to end the series.

I was immensely pleased that the hour provided countless little moments of closure for our characters; or at least numerous satisfying “goodbye for now” beats that could serve as closure in the event they never wake up. T.J. resolving to play the hand she’s been dealt and exchanging a brief “see you soon” with Varro. Eli saying goodbye to his mom and giving her the peace of knowing he’s happy. Camille and Scott coming to terms with letting go of their loved ones on Earth (painful as it was). Chloe hugging and comforting her mother. Young acknowledging that he’s to blame for the end of his marriage and giving a sleeping T.J. a final longing gaze. Telford and Young exchanging a handshake as Telford reassures him that Homeworld Command will be there when they awake. Matt and Chloe parting with a sweet goodnight kiss. And, of course, the wonderful dinner scene with our main cast and Young’s lovely toast. “We’re a family now, whether we like it or not. […] You are the smartest, bravest, most compassionate people that I have ever had the honor to serve with. To family.”

We also got the pleasure of seeing Eli finally step out of Rush’s shadow to embrace and start living up to his potential. “I’m not afraid to say it anymore. I’m smarter than him, and all three of us know it.” I really enjoyed Rush and Eli’s last conversation, in which Rush makes it plain that he sees tremendous potential in Eli and that he’d “hate to see [him] throw it all away.” Even better was their final exchange, capped with grudging smiles.

Rush: “You’ve come a long way from the video game slacker I discovered a year ago.”
Eli: “You’ve been pretty consistent.”

It felt very fitting that it should come down to Rush, Young, and Eli in the end. I appreciated the nod to the uneasy truce between Rush and Young, and the final reminder that those two will never truly “be done.” That said, I was very glad that the last man standing was sweet and hopeful Eli, who’s always been our window into this world and the true heart and soul of the show.

Other Thoughts

I'm glad that Park’s flash blindness wasn’t so easily resolved. It's terrible that she may be blind forever, but I'm pleased that last week’s events continued to have a lasting impact. That said, it was nice to see that her condition didn’t stop her from being an important member of the B Team. I was also quite moved by the brief glimpse of her on Earth enjoying a last moment of sight, and by the way they framed the shot of Volker and Greer watching her as she prepared for stasis.

Chloe: “You’re right, if we go into the pods, we’re taking a chance. We might miss something. Or we might sleep a lot longer than we planned, and never see our loved ones again. Or we might never wake up at all. But Destiny will keep going. If we stay, and we don’t find a way to defeat the drones, we’ll all be killed. And this ship will be destroyed. And then this really will have all been for nothing.”

The two confrontations with the drones were very tense, especially the second one. After the first fight went awry with the kamikaze attacks, I kept expecting the shuttle decoy plan to go completely off the rails. I was pleasantly surprised when it went off relatively smoothly.

It amuses me that every time they have two functioning shuttles, they quickly manage to damage or destroy one. Hopefully the next galaxy miraculously has another replacement waiting for them.

Young (re: Rush): “I can’t trust him. I can’t be sure he’s gonna do the right thing when the time comes.”

Rush (re: Young): “I knew he wouldn’t trust me enough to let me stay… in case you haven’t noticed, we do have a history.”

Final Analysis: A surprisingly strong final hour for the series, resting on a quietly hopeful moment, which effectively captured the “journey is the mission” spirit of the series and allowed us to say goodnight and goodbye to Destiny and her crew.

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

6 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I thought it was wonderful. It worked as a finale for the series, and I also teared up at the end -- and I wasn't expecting to feel that way. They gave us some lovely closure, especially with Eli.

Although I'm still mad that we're not going to get more. Most of the hardcore Stargate fans may not have loved SGU, but I most certainly did. I watched all three Stargate series, but SGU was my favorite; it never sat unwatched on my DVR like Atlantis did.

Thank you so much for reviewing this show for us, Jess. You did a wonderful job, and every review you wrote enhanced the viewing experience for me.

Jess Lynde said...

You're quite welcome, Billie. Thank you for the compliment, and for letting me be a bit non-committal about the reviews at first. I really wasn't sure this was a series I would want to cover, but I found myself slowly but surely getting drawn in.

A lot more than I think I truly realized until I was sitting on my couch, unable to stop crying after it was all over. My husband was staring at me and I kept saying, "I don't know why this is upsetting me so much!" SGU is never a series I've loved passionately, like a Farscape, a Lost, or even a Babylon 5. And yet, the characters must have collectively worked themselves into my heart, because it was strangely hard to accept that I was done with their adventures, trials, and triumphs. I even got repeatedly choked up while working on the review. It's strange the way some shows sneak up on you. I'm eternally grateful that this one went out on a strong note.

Paul Kelly said...

Jess, if you loved Babylon 5, I dread to think what state you must have been in after that series finale. I was inconsolable afterwards.

Jess Lynde said...

Oh, it was bad. So many tears. And when I watched it years later with my husband, it was still bad (I got him into it after it came out on DVD --- a friend of ours actually gave us two seasons as a wedding gift!). The two of us were in quite the state when we finished watching and were depressed for several days.

Trousers said...

This was about as good an ending as we could have hoped for, and I'm so glad of that, because I can see myself re-watching this in the future, and I couldn't do that knowing that we were never going to get a decent resolution for these characters.

Still fuming that it's been cancelled though. Of all of wrestlings many crimes, shunting SGU from Friday nights is the worst.

Tim said...

Jess is bang on about the show sneaking into your heart. I too was uncertain about it for most of the first season but the emotional impact this episode and Epilogue had on me caught me totally by surprise. I've grown to know and love these characters, especially the B team, and feel I have much invested in them.
The way the show closed on notes of uncertainty but optimism seemed perfect and wholly appropriate. Not the end of the story, just of a chapter.
Thanks for all your reviews, Jess. They've certainly helped in giving me a greater appreciation of the show. I'll miss it.