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Review: Blockade

Blockade is the nineteenth episode in Season Two of Stargate Universe.

The penultimate episode of Stargate Universe (and potentially the penultimate episode of the entire Stargate franchise) delivers some good action as it gears up for the season finale. It’s not a classic but the storyline is tight, the women kick-ass, the soldiers do their thing while the scientists do theirs.

“Blockade” nicely glosses over leaving their descendants on another planet and moves straight into the problem for the day: the drones are still attacking them and are now strategically ambushing them at the stars that Destiny uses to refresh power supplies. Eli (David Blue) comes up with a plan to gas up using a different star but it’s going to get too hot for everyone so most of the crew save head off to a nearby planet which as they note looks a lot like Pittsburgh. Cue trouble back on Destiny when Park (Jennifer Spence) gets stuck and trouble on the planet when the drones find them.

There’s a nice interweaving of action and tension in the various plots that keeps the attention; the tensest scene planet-wise has to be them crouched in the abandoned buildings waiting for the drone in the street to spot them. But the scene where James (Julia Benson) baits a drone which Varro (Mike Dopud) shoots down is equally awesome. As is Young (Louis Ferriera) turning up to help his two best guys out as they shoot up the drone in a various awesome fashion. It’s great to see in this plotline that the soldiers are doing soldier-y things; protecting the civilians that are with them; doing their job. TJ (Alaina Huffman) even gets to play, directing her group into safety when they’re on the way back to the Stargate.

But if the soldiers are doing their thing down on the planet then back on Destiny it is definitely science central. This thread picks up on Eli’s story arc that has been running since Rush (Robert Carlyle) got himself trapped in a virtual environment with his virtual girlfriend and Eli had to quarantine both Rush’s virtual girlfriend and his virtual girlfriend in order to save him. (I hope everybody’s keeping up). Anyway, Eli has been chafing against Rush’s authority and realizing his own potential; here he comes up with the plan and executes it but with Rush providing tough love mentor support. David Blue and Robert Carlyle bounce off each other extremely well; they push and pull at each other in a very realistic way. The scene where Rush asks Eli for the plan and forces Eli to step up to taking responsibility for it is nicely contrasted with the moment that Rush steps in take control of the situation with Park and forces Eli back to the critical need to focus on what he’s doing.

The Park storyline -- she gets stuck in the burning arboretum and ends up blind -- provides an extra element of tension in this storyline which works really well. It’ll be interesting to see where they take that – or would have been interesting to see given there is only one episode left so there isn’t a lot of time to take it anywhere.

The scenes of the arboretum going up in flames, of Park being tossed about are absolutely fantastic. The special effects team outdo themselves because those scenes are simply mind-blowing – as are all the special effects from the drone attack on Destiny, to Destiny’s flight through a blue star to the drone getting blown up in the sky on the planet. All good.

What is also very good is the showcasing that Universe is now doing with its female cast. Actually I have to give them credit for doing this throughout this season and it is clear that they listened to complaints about the usage of female characters in the first season and have sought to mend their ways. Here we have James being awesome and kick-ass, breaking Morrison’s nose to save them, using herself as bait to bring a drone in for the kill. We have Park risking her life to save plants and riding out the place going up in flames. And the regular females are competent and doing their thing; from Wray (Ming-Na) being in charge at the Stargate, to TJ going for medicine at a local hospital, to Chloe (Elyse Levesque) simply tagging along to help scavenge. It’s all good.

That said, there isn’t quite enough tension, quite enough drama, quite enough spectacle to get this from good to great, in my opinion. It’s solid; it’s tight; it’s entertaining. It’s just not epic -- and that is its main failing.

Still, as an episode there’s not a lot to dislike and lots to enjoy. As Universe gears up for its series’ finale, it’s showing just what a classy product it has become; quality production and acting to deliver good television. If this is the way Stargate goes out, Universe is not letting the franchise go out with a whimper.

Originally posted at GeekSpeak Magazine

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