Ever since Mitchell’s first appearance this season, I’ve been waiting for the writers to give us an episode devoted to the new commander of SG-1. A lot of the earlier episodes were devoted to Daniel and his motivations, with Mitchell being little more than the one applying pressure to get the team back together. His reactions have been muted during the rise of the Ori, giving Daniel room to maneuver. This time, though, it’s all about him.
I, for one, enjoyed it. I was getting worried that the writers were turning Mitchell into a John Crichton clone. This episode clarified the situation. While both characters use humor and pop-culture references to alleviate tension, Mitchell is a capable military officer. He’s not some fish out of water trying to survive, forced to lead despite himself. Mitchell is, at the core, the kind of man that O’Neill might have been before his life took that downward spiral after Charlie’s death.
Some elements of the story were a little predictable. Particularly, I was able to identify Jolan as Volnak’s brother (I think that was the name of the injured Warrior of Sodan) even before Jolan mentioned that the nearest relative would fight Mitchell to the death. Actually, I’m still not entirely clear on what the tradition was. OK, if a non-Warrior kills a Warrior, and the non-Warrior is captured, the non-Warrior is taught the ways of the Warriors so that he can die at the hands of a Warrior in a battle to the death…how does that make sense again?
That really doesn’t matter, though, since it’s all an excuse to have Mitchell there to deal with the invasion of a Prior among some of the most respected of legendary Jaffa. The situation is such that he’s the only one in the position to do something about it. For all their efforts with Volnak, the rest of the team makes very little progress. So it gives the writers a chance to show something of Mitchell’s character.
Mitchell recognizes that the Sodan leader, Haikon, has bought into the propaganda of the Prior. The Sodan tend to do whatever Haikon says they should do, and that means bowing down to “gods” that are just too hard to resist, especially when they are close enough to the Ancients that they already worship. Mitchell determines that the one way to get his message across to other Sodan is by gaining their respect. Thus, he trains harder than any non-Warrior ever has, hoping that it will be enough.
The resolution is stolen right out of the “Amok Time” handbook, and a possible revolution is sparked for good measure. I expect the Sodan to make another appearance relatively soon (and yes, I’m still avoiding spoilers, so I’m not going by that). The writers acknowledge it, at least!
One aspect I really liked were the hints about the politics of searching for Mitchell; apparently, the whole issue with the international committee is going to be an ongoing one. In past seasons, the political aspects of the show were sometimes less balanced, taking over too much or not enough of the story. This season, with the return to gate travel as the norm, the politics are still present but more integrated. Along with the positive focus on Mitchell as a distinct character and a vivid Sodan portrayal, that balance is what makes this episode work so well.