Carter is absent. Again. Nor is she even mentioned. And Team Atlantis got on just fine without her. It amazes me how the Atlantis producers have developed a Jekyl and Hyde tendency to mix in questionable character, plot, and other creative faux pas into the show. IMHO, the series has been better in the past and it would be stellar now if it weren't for the producers' constant tinkering. This is the episode I've liked the most since "The Seer." This episode's focus is much stronger than "This Mortal Coil" and "Be All My Sins Remembered." One reason why I was dissatisfied with those two eps was because I felt they tried to juggle too many subplots at the same time. To use a hypothetical example, how satisfying would "Siege" Parts 2 & 3 have been if they'd been compressed into one episode?
Regarding "Spoils of War," we get to see what happened to Sheppard's Wraith "friend" after the Wraith went their separate way following the destruction of the Pegasus Replicator homeworld. We focus on Sheppard's Wraith "friend," who orders darts from his ship to go zipping about the Replicator city as the Replicator blob reaches critical mass. He keeps his ship in orbit till the last moment when the darts return and the Replicator homeworld goes boom. A Wraith then presents him with a ZPM.
In Atlantis after the battle, Rodney points out to Sheppard that the locater beacon they'd implanted into his "friend" a few episodes back is active in an isolated region of the galaxy. But it's broadcasting well away from any Wraith activity, which is stirring up now that the Pegasus Replicators (sans Weir's secret faction) are kaput. Sheppard goes "hmmm," then decides to check it out see what's up with his "friend," who he nicknames "Todd" after an old friend. This moniker will probably stick when and if this particular Wraith resurfaces. I'm on the fence about it m'self.
As Sheppard's and Lorne's teams equip for their mission in the armory, Teyla shows up and tells Sheppard she wants to get back on the active duty roster. Shep tells her "No" and he and his people take a puddle jumper out to the location of Todd's beacon.
Apparently, the Daedalus and Apollo are in the Milky Way or zooming in between galaxies. I felt this would've been a good opportunity for more development of either Caldwell or Ellis, but it didn't happen.
Anyhow, Sheppard and the rest track the beacon's signal to a drifting Wraith hive vessel. They board and find Wraith bodies sucked dry and lots of battle damage. On the bridge, they find the beacon--without Todd attached to it. Apparently, other Wraith have jumped Todd's ship and taken him away for unknown nefarious reasons.
Rodney does some repairs. And Ronon (apparently intent on doing something about his lament in Season 2 "First Strike" on not being able to contribute in science/high tech situations) fiddles with some bioorganic panels. Without knowing how, he reactivates some virtual displays that flash on in midair. After Rodney's spate of surprise peters out, he starts to read the status readouts (without a translator program?) to see how spaceworthy their new hive ship is.
Sheppard flies back to Atlantis to pick up Teyla to help fly the hive ship. When she steps onto the bridge, she's magically able to activate and use the systems to her heart's content like what Sheppard does with Atlantean tech. Thanks to her pregnancy? She wasn't able to interface so easily before. I also can't help but wonder how she can plot courses through the Pegasus galaxy without formal flight school training in subjects like navigation and piloting?
Rodney comes up dancing with glee over some data he uncovered about a "facility" that was instrumental in helping the Wraith win the war against the Atlanteans. Sheppard and gang decide to go check it out. Hiding behind the moon of a Class M world, they find a hive vessel in orbit over the "facility." Teyla stays behind against her protests on the hive ship with Lorne and his team. Sheppard takes Rodney and Ronon with him down to the facility on the planet.
They pass a Queen, who's hibernating in a web harness of some sort. Then witness a larval adult Wraith warrior being taken out of its sac. Appropriately freaked out, they press ahead. At this point, I'm theorizing that this is a breeding facility, which is all well and good. But it was established in Season 2 episode "Instinct" that the Wraith start out as children.
Meantime, an apparent Wraith commander with guards revives the Queen. He says that everything's gone well with the latest brood of warriors. When the Queen orders her commander to bring their "prisoner," he says they may need to keep the "prisoner" around longer for his knowledge of the facility's systems. When the Queen asks if he's ready to offer himself as food in the "prisoner"'s place, he orders the guards to go get him. We find Todd in a holding cell. When the guards unseal the cell to fetch him, they get taken out by Sheppard and gang. Talk about good timing. Todd leads Team Atlantis to where the ZPMs are powering up the facility. They pass a chamber stuffed to the gills with thousands of maturing Wraith. Rodney rightly points out that a single Queen can't possibly provide enough genetic material for so many Wraith.
Todd says she can for those who serve as cloning templates. Wicked awesome. So that's how the Wraith got the numbers, which helped them win the war against the Atlanteans all those millenia ago. So how did they outproduce the Ancients in warships and other military materiel?
When Sheppard gives Todd an accusing look, Todd says he'd planned to create an army to wipe out the other hives except a member of his crew betrayed him. Nice twist but what motivated this betrayal? It would've been nice if the commander was also the Wraith who betrayed Todd. And I believe Todd, too. Apparently, being a prisoner of the Genii for who knows how long has given him a certain empathy for humans. (Speaking of which, when will the Genii return?)
The haunting alarm shriek goes off (I like it. Very otherworldly. Brings me back to the pilot "Rising.") when the Wraith realize Todd is missing. Todd and company hurry along, but get waylaid by Wraith warriors. Todd escapes while Sheppard and the team get stunned.
Back on the hive ship, Teyla frets about the Team when she detects a dart flying inbound from the planet. She and Lorne consider blowing it to kingdom come, but Todd makes contact and they let him aboard.
Todd urges they fly to Atlantis and come back with reinforcements to destroy the facility. Teyla and Lorne want to help the team, but Todd rightly points out they can't fight their way past the other hive ship and reach the team in time.
But Teyla says she has a way...
Sheppard and the team're dragged up to the Queen. She asks Sheppard how he learned about the cloning facility. When he resists her mental coercion, she's intrigued and switches tacks. Spill your guts or one of your friends is dinner. She chooses Rodney, who moans over being picked first for the first time ever. The Queen's about to suck Rodney dry when she stops, stares around, and orders the other Wraith to put Sheppard and the team back into holding.
Teyla's doing mental handstands back on the hive ship, where she's apparently taken control of the Queen's body. Nice, but since when did she have that kind of power. Teyla doesn't know how long she can keep it up and the other hive ship locates them...
Sheppard and the team stare dumbfounded as the Queen comes to their cell, unlocks it, and gives them their gear. It all comes clear to them when the Queen says, "John, it's me."
Meantime, Teyla faces off with the Queen in her mind. The Queen is impressed, but knows Teyla can't keep it up. She then realizes and shares with us that Teyla is pregnant and being helped by her baby. Since when can a baby boost Teyla's sketchy mental powers. The father is obviously being revealed out of the blue as being other than normal, which makes his absence during the first half of Season 4 more annoying to me. Teyla and her baby match minds with the Queen. The other hive ship comes to close quarters then, and commences with the pounding. Todd proceeds to fight back as best he can with his ship being damaged and all.
Before Sheppard and the team head off for the puddle jumper, Teyla via the Queen asks for help. Sheppard fills the Queen with a few shots and goes for the exit. Again.
Teyla comes out of her mental torture session with relief to find the hive ship falling apart around her. Todd wants to cut off, but Teyla and Lorne insist they wait for the team to come back in the jumper.
But it getting real close...
Sheppard makes contact then. Teyla and Lorne're ready to cut out the second he enters the dart bay, but Sheppard has an idea.
The Wraith commander in the facility receives a message that the damaged hive ship is headed his way. We then get a cool shot of the hive ship flying and crashing into the facility. No shields and ground to space defenses?
Sheppard and gang (sans Todd) view the explosion on the surface from the safety of the puddle jumper. Todd got away on his own in a dart. Too bad we couldn't see everyone's departure from the hive.
It'll be interesting to see whether he comes back as a friend or foe.
We need more episodes like this: tight plot and good character interactions. The dialogue of the Wraith and Pegasus humans can be sharper and less stilted, though. Only the Earth humans talk naturalistically (but then that's been a characteristic of Stargate: SG-1 from the beginning). And it would be nice to have story developments properly foreshadowed and fleshed out.