Review by Sharon Fetter
Epiphanies come in all sizes. This episode, with its several epiphanies, should have showcased the most intimate and most important one -- Sheppard's -- by contrasting it with the overshadowing epiphany leading to ascension, a transition Sheppard is instrumental in causing.
While not the backstory many fans longed for, "Epiphany" did reveal clearly the man Sheppard is. More fully than most, he has presented himself as a man who lives in the present. If his background is full of unforgiving and unexamined memories, he seems to prefer it that way. Living in the moment affords him the courage to explore and react to what is before him; it allows him to keep an open mind about whatever is new.
His actions and his relationships with the people he has come to know since he joined the Atlantis team bear this out. He is loyal, but not to the point of loving. He lives life more intensely wherever and whenever he is, simply because it may be his last chance. Sheppard enunciates this quite clearly near the end of the episode. First, when he and Ronon prepare to face the beast, Sheppard says. "Let's just fight it and see what happens. Then, when Teer wants him to accompany them, Sheppard admits he isn't ready to ascend ... and may never be.
It is this man, a denizen of the present, who meets the inhabitants of the sanctuary, people who transcend the past and present as they prepare themselves for ascension. The descendants of people who came to the sanctuary generations ago, they have lived in this paradise without experiencing the harsh realities of everyday life, without knowing the myriad joys and heartbreaks that come with living fully -- things from which Sheppard is never far. Indeed, he never settles in, never truly does more than bide his time. He forms no real emotional attachments (neither does the audience) to anyone in the episode.
As the outsider, he is thus the perfect catalyst, "the One" as Teer proclaims, who finally sets these people on the path to ascension. Sheppard does this with his seemingly odd question about thunderstorms. He's trying to tell them that life, with all of its messy, joyful, painful, beautiful and ugly moments, is what has to be faced.
The story would have been better served if he had simply galvanized them into living with passion, rather than the blandness that characterizes their existence. As Sheppard later shouts, "That's it? That's all it took?" for an epiphany as significant as banishing the beast and ascending?
Since it is the rescue, not the ascension, which brings about Sheppard's nearly-missed epiphany, when he admits that he ... kind of ... sort of ... well ... actually missed the people he's grown closest to in Atlantis, the rushed resolution of the storyline was not needed, except perhaps as a trigger for Rodney's comment: "What is it with you and ascended women?"
The team storyline is better written and clearly underscores what the main characters of Stargate Atlantis have come to mean to one another. Their concern and the resultant flurry of activity in mounting a rescue, against the odds, is precisely what Sheppard identifies as missing in the lives of those in the sanctuary. Every aspect of the team storyline is full of life.
Rodney complains about too much walking as the team searches for the source of an energy spike seen from the Puddle Jumper. This leads to the first of the destined-to-be-a-classic one-liners, namely, "M.A.L.P. on a stick" -- a camera taped to a tree branch. And once again, Rodney's typically blithe overconfidence in the accuracy of his observations lead Sheppard (who really should know better by now) to volunteer as guinea pig. Rodney, with a mini-epiphany of his own about Sheppard's possible fate, dials it down, accepts responsibility and buckles down to solve the crisis. He even manages to refrain from out and out histrionics -- although once back in Atlantis, in a fit of piqué, he refers to Ronon and Teyla as "Conan and Xena," another destined-to-be-a-classic one-liner.
There are other nice touches in the team storyline. Beckett reveals he has a date with Cadman (the woman who we found had a crush on him earlier this season in "Duet"). Teyla's Wraith sense seems to have mutated into a general sense of menacing creatures. Ronon seems to be moving along in his journey from lone wolf to team player. And Weir again reveals her strong moral compass when she agrees to preserve the sanctuary. Whether she can force others who might want the Z.P.M.s which power the protective shielding to honor her commitment remains to be seen.
The positives -- good teamwork, an interesting and potentially useful place in the reality of the sanctuary, Sheppard's epiphany (a little character growth is always good for an on-going series), and the fabulous one-liners -- are good reasons to re-watch this episode.
Rating: * * 1/2