"Jolinar's Memories" is an outstanding episode that combines action, suspense, and character and plot development. Tying together threads from multiple episodes of both personal and galactic importance, the episode builds a plot worthy of the drama and intensity of emotion it exacts from the characters and the viewers. It lives up to the call of an episode where major plot points will turn.
The confluence of plot threads in "Jolinar's Memories" melds perfectly. Information we are given in the previous Jolinar and Tok'ra episodes is built on. Past episodes that gave us information on the Goa'uld and the state of galactic politics -- such as "Serpent's Song" and "Fair Game" -- are tied in and expanded on. The prevention of the unification of Goa'uld power under Sokar is a goal that justifies the risk involved in the mission -- an important factor if the events of the episode are to be believable, rather than a flimsy mechanism for giving the team a chance to be heroic.
Even Apophis' reemergence (after having "died") and the portrayal of Sokar matches what we know of Sokar's personality from "Serpent's Song:" that he prefers to torture his enemies and watch them suffer, rather than kill them.
And while Apophis' reappearance is a surprise, it's not one that stretches the bounds of believability. (Though, given the number of times he's come back now, perhaps he ought to change his name to the Energizer Goa'uld).
In addition to wonderful plot developments, "Jolinar's Memories" takes the time to tell us more about the members of SG-1 and some of the show's secondary characters. The episode gives us much to chew on regarding the character of Sam Carter, especially how she deals with the remnants of an alien presence in her mind. With introduction of the Tok'ra in Season Two's "In the Line of Duty," we see a new side of the Goa'uld -- rogue, rebel Goa'uld who claim to be willfully joined with humans.
Though Jolinar is presented as a creature of benign intent, who took Sam only because it was necessary, we see in the closing scene of "In the Line of Duty" that, regardless, Sam is emotionally ravaged by the experience. Although Sam makes use of the gifts of her experience in later episodes, it's usually only with a small show of concern (as in the last moments of "Seth" when Sam looks somewhat bothered by her use of the hand device) or detached interest (as in "The Tok'ra" when Sam is interested to hear about Jolinar from Martouf and kindly handles his advances).
In "Jolinar's Memories," we're shown just how painful it can be to experience these memories. In spite of the pain, Sam is determined help her father, and even to shield Martouf, if she can -- still more evidence of her strength of character.
Amanda Tapping is wonderful in "Jolinar's Memories." She takes beautiful advantage of a script that shows the many roles Sam plays: brave and determined officer, efficient and equal team member, loving daughter, and unwilling host to the memories of a Tok'ra rebel. She shows that, when given the chance to spread her wings beyond her role as the team's science encyclopedia, she can ably deliver.
Through the response of the team to Sam's pain, we see the bond between them. Each provides protection and comfort to their friend in their own manner. Daniel attempts to give comfort by giving her a chance to discuss her experience, away from Martouf's demands and the pressure of not appearing vulnerable in front of her commanding officer. Jack comes to Sam's defense when she is pressed by Martouf, in an attempt to alleviate the stress. (No matter how much Jack himself may demand of SG-1, woe betide the outsider who comes after one of his "kids.")
Jack also comforts in his own way by being confident of their ability to rescue Jacob, such as when General Hammond says, "You will bring your father back safely," and Jack replies for her, most assuredly: "Yes, Sir, we will." Jack consoles by lending his confidence to Sam.
Jack's increasing discomfort in working with Tok'ra is also in evidence. He views them as both arrogant and patronizing, which has some foundation given the team's experience with them in last season's two-parter, "The Tok'ra." Throughout "Jolinar's Memories," Jack lets fly several barbs about the Tok'ra's penchant for keeping them uninformed that are designed to let "Marty" and anyone else in the vicinity know that he's not pleased with the dynamics of the Tau'ri-Tok'ra relationship.
The production quality of the episode was excellent. The surface shots of Ne'tu in particular had my mouth agape. Told that they were going to have to create the set dressing for Hell, I'm sure the staff was a bit daunted by the task -- but the result is quite scary and convincing.
"Jolinar's Memories" kept me on the edge of my seat and drew me into the story. Normally, stories are either plot-driven or character-driven. "Jolinar's Memories" shows that you can have the best of both worlds.
Rating: * * * *