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July 1, 2015

Stargate Atlantis: The Last Man (season finale)

by Brett Love, posted Mar 8th 2008 9:54AM

David Hewlett and Joe Flanigan - Stargate Atlantis
(S04E20) "This is the most elaborate practical joke of all time, or I'm in serious trouble." -- John Sheppard

And there you have it. Atlantis wraps up its fourth season, its first out on its own, with a little time travel and a big cliffhanger ending. It was a finale that I had heard described as "different." Having now seen it, it's hard to argue with the description. Having 56 minutes of your finale be things that didn't actually happen is certainly not the norm. While we can probably all agree on the different label, the bigger question is, "Was it good?"

First up, Sheppard's trip 48,000 years into the future and the fates of the team. Fates that didn't ultimately happen that is. McKay references the SG-1 episode "1969" as he explains things to Sheppard, but for me the whole endeavor called to mind "Unending." Generally, I'm not a fan of these "what if" or "alternate reality" stories. I'm not really that big on time travel in general. It's just asking for trouble. Dr. Who is the only show that has ever consistently done it in a way that I didn't ultimately find lacking.

With that in mind, I wasn't all that enthused as McKay kicked off his tales of woe for the team's post-Sheppard adventures. The McKay/Sheppard banter was good, but we all new that none of this was going to actually happen. Each of the stories did have their moments, but I couldn't help thinking that the first 56 minutes of the hour were taken up by things that didn't actually happen. All while Michael was running about, hatching evil super-villain plans. Given a choice, I would have preferred an hour spent on that.

What I did get out of the future that never happens (or did happen but is now erased, or exists in another dimension with monkeys and typewriters... Time travel, asking for trouble.) was a couple hints at what might be coming in the futures of some of the characters. Carter, for instance. I like the idea that she'll leave her post at Atlantis to take command of her own ship much more than the IOC forcing her out so they can gain more control.

And that McKay/Keller romance... Or maybe that should be Rodney/Jennifer romance, because McKay/Keller calls up visions of TV Squad's Rich Keller smooching McKay, and none of us want to see that. Either way, I think it looks like we'll be getting more of that as we move into season five.

Ronon and Teyla didn't offer up a lot in their flash forwards. In fact, I thought Ronon's was the one that didn't quite fit. Sure, the loss of Sheppard and Teyla would weigh heavy on our old pal Mr. Dex, and that could certainly cause some behavioral changes. But he sure seemed awfully quick to partnering up with Todd back at the base, as opposed to just shooting him on sight. I suppose we can give that one a pass though because future Rodney was making the story up without any of the actual facts, as both of them died in the explosion and there was nobody to tell the tale.

Now, the worrisome bit of the whole shootin' match for me was Woolsey. Our first little look at what it might look like with him in charge at Atlantis really didn't do much for me. It's certainly not fair to judge the whole idea based on this brief little bit that didn't even happen, or did, and then... We'll have to wait and see what season five Woolsey brings to the table. For now though, my expectations meter has swung to the pessimistic side where he is concerned.

As to the four minutes of real time story we got, there's really not much to say. Galaxy going to hell, our heroes in peril, freeze frame and give 'em the to be continued graphic. Pretty standard stuff for a season finale. More from that part of the story would have been better, but it is what it is. On the positive side, with the return of Michael and the disappearance of Teyla, they have set up a great story that should get season five off to a running start.

And finally, given that this was the season finale, we should probably hammer out a grade for the Atlantis report card before we send them off on summer vacation to do something cool, like surf big waves at Waimea. It was an important season for the show, being the first without the protection that came from being paired with SG-1.

It wasn't all smooth sailing. With the whole season now in the rear view, I'd call the Carter move less than successful. I don't think it was a bad idea so much as it was just poorly executed. The limited episodes made it tough, but what they did with those limited episodes didn't measure up to being all that it could have been. On a similar note, the handling of Weir, or I suppose it's better put as the handling of Torri Higginson, really didn't work out very well. And that's unfortunate, because I think the repli-Weir story that they teased had some legs.

My only other complaint with the season would have been one of balance. I would have preferred that balance to swing a little more toward the team and greater mythology side of the scale. I'd call that one a minor gripe though, as many of those episodes that did leave members of the team waiting in the wings played very well. At the end of the day the season had a good amount of progress on the greater Atlantis story, and a nice bit of character growth for all of our main players, except Zelenka. It had more character assassination for him, but that is his lot in life it would appear.

All things considered, for me season four gets a solid B. And that will do it for a little while. We'll pick things back up in the fall, or possibly summer, with a new commander, more Beckett, and a visit from Daniel Jackson. Until then, we'll have to make due with Battlestar.

That's a wrap. What grade do you give season four?
A - Top notch all around.164 (22.4%)
B - Room for improvement, but solid.355 (48.6%)
C - Average, but I'm still watching.147 (20.1%)
D - Why the hell am I still watching again?38 (5.2%)
F - You bastards!27 (3.7%)

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