After a season premiere that capped off a three-part action-driven epic, I think the writers were right to focus more on character. Two themes were evident as the episode marched on: “you can’t go home again” and “threats can come from unexpected directions”. A lot of the focus is on Weir and her struggles to keep control of the expedition, now that the political landscape on Earth has changed a bit and there’s more of an SGC presence.
The plot revolves around the potent threat posed by a Wraith virus left dormant in the Daedalus computer network during the previous episode and the efforts to eradicate it. As usual, it takes a while for everyone to recognize the scope of the danger and get a complete picture as to the solution. If there’s one thing that’s predictable in this episode, it’s the fact that if something can go horribly wrong, it will do so without fail and with a few choice snide comments from McKay!
As many have already noted (including the producers!), this is really just a variation on the “Stargate SG-1” episode “Entity”. Thankfully, this wasn’t a case of the writers cribbing old episodes without acknowledging the past. There’s something to be said when the characters recognize that it’s a familiar situation and respond accordingly!
This episode could have easily been centered on the return to Earth and the experiences of the characters. But the writers wisely recognized that this wouldn’t have served the story as well. Switching between the two themes, along with some action scenes to keep the episode moving, kept things from being too pedestrian.
The most obvious “intruder” in this episode is the Wraith virus itself, but that’s only in terms of the big picture. Taken from Weir’s perspective, there’s another, more personal threat: Caldwell. Caldwell has very clear ideas about how the operation should be run from a military perspective, and that’s a battle that Weir thought she had won. Now she’s dealing with someone with a lot less reason to follow her lead, since Caldwell is only weeks away from Earth and his command structure at any given time.
Many feel that the presence of Daedalus will detract from one of the primary elements of the series: the fact that the team has been isolated by the inability to return home to Earth. On the other hand, it’s still not a Sunday drive, and the past two episodes have provided a keen reminder that human technology, even mixed with Asgard enhancements, still doesn’t hold all the answers. Supplies and personnel might be more readily available, but for the most part, it’s just an ongoing source of dramatic conflict, since Weir can no longer assume that her authority remains as strong as it was.
More importantly, this episode makes the case that the team on Atlantis has lost some connection to the world they used to inhabit. Weir’s struggle with Simon and his new life says it all. The team on Atlantis was not unlike a division deployed to foreign front lines, with survival and return far from certain. They held a vision of the world they left behind in their minds, but it was an image of what was. In the meantime, people had to move on, assuming the worst. Weir learns that the hard way with Simon.
Along with getting him his promotion, Weir seems to be recognizing just how important Sheppard has become to her sense of control. Most importantly, Sheppard is part of her team; he’s experienced the same level of adversity, and he understands how the team must interact. He brings his military experience to the table, but he’s not some outside, inexperienced authority. Sheppard is going to be even more important to Weir in the episodes to come, and with Simon out of the picture, who can say what will happen?
There were the usual bits of humor, centered on McKay and Hermiod, which gave the episode its distinctly “Stargate” flavor. Sheppard continues to drop the O'Neill-esque one-liners, and while one continues to wonder if the man has ever owned a comb, he’s still one of the best parts of the series. Thankfully, it looks like Teyla is going to get some screen time in the next episode, since the few moments with her this season have been less than impressive.