Ascension Review: “Night Two”

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An explosive second night of SyFy’s miniseries Ascension gives viewers a deeper glimpse into life on the ship, as well as motivations of the show’s various characters. Compared to a very competent first night, this second episode of Ascension feels a bit sloppy and stretched at parts. The big reveal of the episode was promising to “blow your mind” before the episode aired, but it didn’t quite hit the mark. That isn’t to say the entire night was a bust, but it is considerably rougher than part one of the three part series.

FULL EPISODE SPOILERS BELOW

An undisclosed amount of time has passed since the first episode and everyone seems to have completely forgotten about Lorelei’s murder. Apparently in the world of Ascension, having a funeral and ejecting the suspected murder victim into space means that closure is completed and life moves on. That’s perfectly fine by me, as the murder investigation wasn’t all that engaging, but it still felt a little weird how everyone seems to move on so quickly, outside of a couple forced sentimental scenes dealing with Lorelei’s old clothes.

Night two wastes no time establishing what the real threat of Ascension is – someone sabotaging the ship from the inside. It was hinted at last week that the man they found guilty of Lorelei’s murder wasn’t actually the stockyard master, Stokes, who is currently sitting in a containment cell outside of the ship losing his mind. It’s a little odd just how trusting everyone on the ship seems to be. Outside of the main characters who are investigating the giant explosion on a ship that everyone thinks is floating through space, the majority of the population just goes on life as normal despite this series of tragic events all happening in such a short time after 50 years of peace.

Fake Ryan Gosling also plays a larger part in the episode. Unfortunately.

Fake Ryan Gosling also plays a larger part in the episode. Unfortunately.

Most of the characters in part two are the same from the first, outside of one terribly developed governmental overseer meant to make sure everything at Ascension is up to code… or something. It’s never really explained fully why she is needed, other than the power of plot, and in general she is just a poorly written character. Not long into her second scene it is revealed that she is a lesbian, which is handled with the same amount of tact you’d expect from a SyFy original movie. There is absolutely no reason to point out the fact that she was a homosexual, and it probably would have made for a better story if they let the viewer figure it out on their own, but nope. In her very first conversation on screen she gets offended at a comment she assumes to be an insult towards homosexuals and blurts out that she is one. This fact was not at all vital to the story, and was never even mentioned after her conversation with Gil.

Like any professional overseer, she instantly takes to conspiracy blogs to gather all her information about project Ascension and what is truly going on. And, naturally, there just so happens to be a blog that revolves around uncovering the mystery of 70 scientists that disappeared in 1963 when Ascension “launched.”

Back to the big reveal of the episode, it was a complete dud. I honestly don’t know what the writers wanted you to believe, but it was obvious all along that the real point of Ascension was to harness new technologies, and one of those technologies is the psychic little girl, Christia. Whether it’s not meant to be so obvious that she was psychic, or we are supposed to believe the twist is something else up until the reveal, some elements clearly didn’t hit right within the writing. The two episodes of night two, the second in particular, just feels like re-hashing information that anyone paying attention would notice instantly. On a show basing all its tension and drama on the unexpected and big twists, this total dud of a twist a big misfire.

Guys, I

Guys, I’m not sure, but she might be onto us.

Maybe the only new important detailed revealed that deals with the overworld and not just the murder investigation on the ship, was the fact that Gil is more power hungry than previously imagined. He has followed the people on the ship since he himself was a kid, and this attatchment has lead to him doing anything he deems necessary to protect them and the project his father started. Which, in the end, may just be the thing that dooms them all.

Stokes, while only featured in a few minor scenes, was pretty great. Being (presumably) the only person ever to have escaped the ship and lived to tell the tale, he is clearly going insane. There were several hints throughout the episode that he may be a key part of the finale, and I can only hope so. As someone who couldn’t care less about the sex, drugs, and rock and roll going on in the ship itself, Stokes is my favorite member of the crew.

While the first half of night two has some genuinely interesting intrigue mixed in with it’s poorly revealed twist, the second half meandered along and tried once again to be Game of Thrones in space. There were hints of sex and sexual favors playing a big part in the goings on in the ship in previous episodes, but it was almost the entire focus of the second half of tonight’s. Once you realize the ship is no longer in space and these are just people acting as lab mice, their lives instantly become much less interesting, but they were focused on so much more tonight. Which is a real shame, because the actual events of the world are so much more interesting than the petty affairs of the people on the ship.

Overall, this second part of the Ascension series was quite the downer after a pretty great opening episode. Based on previews for the finale tomorrow night, it looks like the fact that Christa is a psychic is still the main driving force of the show’s plot which has me a little worried. If we are still meant to believe this is some mind-blowing event and the show treats it as such, the finale could be two solid hours of eye rolling. Hopefully it can get its mojo back and pull off something actually mind-blowing and get back to the intrigue that made the first episode so good.

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