This has been a difficult week for fans of "Stargate Atlantis". Despite all the various conspiracy theories, it appears that it was business as usual. The show is getting older and more expensive, and the ratings (still the measure of success for most network endeavors) have been low. With the show on the cusp of traditional syndication, it's cheaper for a network to commission the studio for a new series than foot the bill for a beloved but barely successful show.
For some time, I've been less than impressed with "Stargate Atlantis". I thought the first season was quite good, with the perfect mix of plot and character, stand-alone and serialized elements. Quite frankly, I think it began to fall apart when the producers realized that certain characters were more beloved than others, and began tailoring their storytelling accordingly. I'm not sure the writers have ever been able to find that initial balance again.
That doesn't mean that the writers have been incapable of producing powerful episodes. This episode is a perfect example of how good the series can be. It's hobbled a bit by the realization that McKay will obviously survive and the status quo will barely change, but the dreaded "reset button" doesn't always have to ruin a story.
The story works because it's not really about McKay and his fate. Hewlett pulls off one hell of a powerful performance, and he deserves some serious awards for it, but his situation reveals more about those around him. In particular, I felt that this episode was all about McKay's relationship with Keller. Every decision she makes is based on her desire to save his life within the bounds of her ability. It makes her seem intractable, but she's simply desperate.
The same desperation takes Ronon out of his usual comfort zone. Ronon seems just a bit out of character throughout the episode, but I think it's intentional. Ronon is struggling to find a way to save his friend, and once he considers a solution, any delay is unfounded. It makes sense, though, that Rodney's teammates on Sheppard's squad would be the first to take that leap of faith.
I could continue to rave about this episode, but it speaks best for itself. If there is one episode this season that has lived up to the promise of "Stargate Atlantis". Fans will no doubt find it ironic that such an episode would air just after the cancellation announcement, as they need only point to the most recently aired episode as evidence that the show is still capable of powerful storytelling! If nothing else, it proves that the show has no intention of going down quietly.