Review by Taylor Brown
"Now that was a Hail Mary!"
- John Sheppard
Poor Rodney McKay, he's a dead man talking ... and talking, and talking some more. Meanwhile a dark entity is threatening to take over Atlantis, and it looks mysteriously like a large version of Anubis.
The second episode of Stargate Atlantis lacks the excitement of the premiere because most of the episode is devoted to finding out just what's going on, and the stop-gap measures the Atlantis team pulls to prevent the entity from eventually killing them all. Especially lacking is a sense of suspense, because those whose lives seem to be in the most danger are the regulars in the series -- and they're not going anywhere in the second episode. When Lt. Ford is attacked by the entity, it's almost anti-climactic. It's silly to believe that even a casual viewer would hold their breath waiting for McKay to wake up in the last scene, especially after he's already fainted -- excuse me, passed out.
But what "Hide and Seek" lacks in suspense, it makes up for in character development. We get to see some of the better attributes of these characters, especially in their actions toward the Athosians. Ford convinces Jinto that his run-in with the entity is not the young boy's fault. Sheppard tells a bed time story to the Athosian children, and McKay redeems himself by saving Atlantis from the entity. In one episode, we've thankfully learned more about the Athosians (they have a healthy fear of the dark and pray in Ancient), and yet they've also become more mysterious. (What is it in Teyla's hand that allows her to light a candle from across the room?)
A slight digression: the opening credits, seen here for the first time, are absolutely made by the timing between the visuals and the theme. Much like the series itself, the music has elements of the Stargate theme, but in its own key.
What I liked most about the episode were the parallels. As Dr. Beckett researches the effects of gene therapy on McKay, we also learn that the Ancients were researching ascension. This is a big revelation, as all the Ancients that we've seen in Stargate act as if it was a natural step in their evolution. I like this idea a lot, because it moves away from the characterization of the Ancients as all-knowing and speaking in riddles because they're so wise. In another parallel, Sheppard's explanation of how the famous "hail Mary" play is a metaphor seems like just another side comment in the episode -- until we realize that McKay has pulled a hail Mary play himself.
Each member of the expedition got to bring one personal item, and in "Hide and Seek" we learn that Sheppard's item is a tape of a classic hail Mary football game. Hopefully, we'll get to see other character's items. (The question is, where did they get that popcorn?)
Many (especially Sam fans) may find McKay annoying, but it's that kind of sarcastic, self-involved humor that really amuses me. In an expedition full of brave Air Force personnel and seemingly fearless scientists, his self-preservation is actually refreshing. He spends most of the episode blabbering about how he's going to die -- but when the time comes, McKay does what is needed without comment.
It's good to see that the writers haven't dropped some of the great connections from the first episode (Robert C. Cooper had a hand in writing both of these episodes). I was particularly amused by another mention of Sheppard's love for Ferris Wheels, and the avoidance of naming things a la Star Trek (McKay: "It's a transporter!" Sheppard: "We'll name it later.") And while it's fun to use pop culture to ground these space travelers in the present ("We're going to need a bigger boat"), that could get old quick.
The best sequence in this episode is of McKay wading into the energy cloud and walking around in it. Instead of just being a dark swirly black cloud inside, we see that it is really pure energy, with reactions and over-sized electron charges. Atlantis proves that not all great visual effects shots have to be action-filled space flights.
By taking care of the little things and presenting a great two-fold story, "Hide and Seek" measures up to the high standards set by "Rising."
Rating: * * *