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Review: Malice

Malice is the eighth episode in Season Two of Stargate Universe.

“Malice” effectively is the continuation of “The Greater Good” in so many ways that it really should have just been called “The Greater Good Part II” and have been done with it. The plot deals with the aftermath of both Simeon’s trip into Ginn’s quarters and the discovery of Rush’s secret. It’s not a bad plot but it’s not a particularly believable plot either for me, and ultimately it makes what is an accomplished episode on all other respects fail.

The main reason for the lack of believability is that the plot calls for Rush in a fit of vengeance to go all John Wayne-esque and to hunt down Simeon for killing Amanda Perry. While Rush’s character to date has been scrappy – girly fighting with Colonel Young, a bit of push and shove with Greer – there’s been nothing to indicate that he’s quick to rage and inclined to physical violence unless defending himself. Up until this point, I would have said Rush prefers long term strategy, plotting his enemy’s demise in a very systematic way and agrees with the Klingons that revenge is a dish best served cold. In fact, this is ultimately what happens: Rush devises a plan to get Simeon trampled by a pack of wild beasties and calmly delivers the fatal shot.

But the run-up to that moment…nope, can’t see Rush running through the Stargate on a wave of righteous anger; can’t see him risking his place on Destiny to kill someone who likely will die in the wilds of whatever galaxy they’re currently travelling through; can’t see him simply reacting and not thinking. So, the whole plot doesn’t gel with me.

That’s not to say the final showdown with Simeon isn’t filled with great acting from both Robert Knepper and Robert Carlyle. They sell the Wild West shoot-out motif as much as they can. But equally, this episode is the first time I haven’t believed Carlyle’s acting – the scene where Rush apparently crumbles and stops to have a crying session just doesn’t ring true to me at all.

What I did enjoy though is the combination of Scott, Greer and Rush as characters. There was a nice call-back to “Air III” in that respect: Scott playing peacemaker, Greer not trusting Rush, Greer and Rush yanking each other’s pigtails, Greer shooting someone on Rush’s say so. Here the roles are flipped though with Scott and Greer headed back to the Stargate and Rush continuing alone with his mission. I love seeing the military characters act like military characters; orders are given, a strategy is formed and carried out.

I loved the cinematography of the planet scenes; the light; the acting for the most part beyond the crying scene. The bomb on Park’s back was an original touch, the trap for James and crew a good twist, and both explosions nicely done -- great effects. The direction of that last scene where Rush approaches the Stargate and there’s a moment where he and the audience thinks he’s alone, that the others have abandoned him again, is beautifully shot and well-played by Brian J Smith and Carlyle.

More believable than the main plot is the sub-plot of Eli, who having also lost Ginn in Simeon’s attack, wants to go running after Simeon in a fit of vengeance but is prevented from doing so. David Blue gives a great performance as the distraught Eli. The scene where Young consoles him but chides him too because Eli isn’t the only one who’s lost someone on the ship is great.

The episode also allows the fallout of Rush’s big secret; there’s scenes covering whether to trust him with Young showing willing to work with Rush. The scenes between Rush and Young, the scientists, between Greer and Scott, between Rush and Scott are all good snippets that show us everyone is dealing with it in their own way but without putting it centre stage again.

It’s also good to see other arc elements are also moved forward even if they’re kept in the background mostly: the Lucian Alliance plot to invade Earth, Chloe’s ongoing changes, T.J and Young’s somewhat ambiguous relationship in the wake of the baby’s death, and the rest of the Alliance people relocked up on Destiny after Simeon’s little rampage.

I also have to give a big shout-out to Universe’s recurring cast who get a good amount to do in this episode and who excel. Special mention has to go to Jennifer Spence as Park -- the scene where she has a bomb on her back is brilliant -- and Patrick Gilmore as Dale Volker who has to deal with Simeon taking Park and not being able to help her. All of the Stargate TV series’ have been very fortunate with quality of their recurring casts, and Universe is no exception.

Universe delivers another well-produced hour of entertainment with “Malice;” it’s polished, well-acted and directed. But for me none of it is enough to overcome the sense that plot triumphed over characterization in this storyline and I can’t say I enjoyed it.

Previously published at Geek Speak Magazine

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