First, there was the “SGA” version of “Flowers for Algernon”. That was quickly followed by the “SGA” version of “Ender’s Game” meets “Civilization”. Now, we have this series’ version of “The Abyss”. Even Sheppard points that out early in the episode! Thankfully, that’s not an automatic negative, since the purpose of the episode is exploration of the Wraith. Or, at the very least, a reminder of how creepifying the Wraith can be, even after being sidelined for what seems like ages.
At the end of the day, this is a “bottle show”, which means the order of the day should be psychological character exploration, brought out by the insanity of the situation. Previous “bottle shows” in the Stargate franchise have been hit or miss. This episode seems to fall somewhere in the middle. It gives the writers a chance to focus on Teyla for once, but in the end, there’s the unfortunate feeling that an opportunity has been wasted.
Teyla ultimately gets to vanquish an enemy that is otherwise nearly impossible to beat, all based on her connection to the Wraith hivemind, granted to her in a first season episode by an infusion of Wraith DNA. The struggle of wills is the highlight of her plot thread, revealing her inner strength in a way that hasn’t been evident in quite some time. That makes the resolution of the episode too simple and pat in comparison; it also serves to put Sheppard and McKay in position, once again, to save the day.
Speaking of McKay, after the previous episode, it’s hard to imagine him displaying his trademark sarcasm in quite the same way. This has become an ongoing concern, because it’s another sign that the writers struggle with the concept of letting characters grow and evolve. If the movements are too subtle, then they easily fall into the range of variation from writer to writer, and seem less like planned character evolution than planned stagnation.
As entertaining as the episode is as an underwater struggle against the most powerful Wraith yet, it fails to deliver as a solid Teyla episode, which is what I had hoped it would be. The character has massive potential, but for it to be realized, she needs a strong and non-relationship-driven arc. Perhaps something that emphasizes her role as the leader of her people in contrast to her role with Team Atlantis, as a follow-up to her arc in the first season, would be the right direction.