Ascension Review: “Night Three”

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What a disaster. I’m not mincing words here – the finale of SyFy’s Ascension miniseries is a complete and total atrocity. Seeing just how this turned out, it becomes obvious why the network opted to make it into a quick miniseries instead of stretching it out over the course of a full season. In the series premiere two nights ago, and even night two on Tuesday, there were a lot of positives points and a generally interesting world being created. Acting wasn’t perfect, and the writing had some holes, but it was a genuinely positive experience to sit down and watch it. Night three could not have been anymore the opposite.

Ascension’s curious over world filled with questionable science and a shady organization that once created some intriguing ideas gets smashed to bits and replaced with daytime TV levels of melodrama. Writers either forgot they were making a science fiction story, or ran out of ideas – I’m leaning towards the latter. Part three lacks any sort of direction or any hint that there is an actual story to be told. Absolutely everything that happens is circumstantial or revolves around the love lives of the people on-board the ship. On all accounts, Ascension went off the rails from its promising beginnings and devolved into the same SyFy original shlock that they are so desperately trying to escape from.

For starters, a lot of the events in tonight’s episode revolved around Samantha and Stokes travelling around the facility that houses the Ascension ship. Keep in mind that one of them is an escaped convict who knows much more than he should and could easily ruin the whole project. The two make their way around the facility, which is loaded with cameras, and not a single person is able to spot or stop them. All of the main characters eventually just stop caring altogether that the company overseer who has gone rogue and wishes to bring down the project (Samantha) and the man who threatened to kill them all (Stokes) are just roaming the facility. They eventually make their way out and not a single character mentions it or seems to care.

As I feared in my review of “Night Two,” the show clings tightly to the fact that Christa is a psychic and does nothing with it. Viewers are told at least a dozen times, point blank, that project Ascension all lead to the special powers that Christa has. Despite this, the show treats the revelation as if it is supposed to be shocking or mind-blowing every single time a character mentions it. After maybe the third time of Enzmann stating that Christa is a special person that is the culmination of all of Ascension’s work, it becomes unbearably annoying to hear. That was within the first half hour of the two hour long episode, and it was reiterated time and time again. Ascension had one good twist in it’s story and it blew it in the first episode. After that, the show just had no idea what do anymore.

The head of the company that Project Ascension (and Enzmann) are indebted to, Director Warren, seems to be angry at how Enzmann has been handling the project, but he has literally just let it continue progressing as it should. It is treated as if he is committing some crime against humanity, but he has done nothing but let the project run its course. There is never any explanation as to why whatever he is doing is considered so bad, it’s just assumed that the viewer will accept the bogus position Director Warren takes as she decides to fire Enzmann – which of course since he knows so much, entails taking him out and killing him.

At one point during the episode, Christa has a meltdown on the ship and sends a shockwave through the facility. Without any kind of confirmation as to whether he’s right or wrong, Enzmann says it was Christa, the company believes it, and he’s suddenly allowed to live. The writing of the entire episode was just this incomprehensible level of not having any ideas how to connect events or character actions and just assuming that the audience will follow whatever level of insane logic is thrown at it.

Any and all idea that something interesting might be causing Christa’s psychic powers or other character’s strange visions are instantly destroyed when Lorelei’s ghost mysteriously starts roaming the halls of Ascension. There is no connection, set up, or payoff to this roaming ghost other than the fact that it gives writers a convenient way to explain away why Christa has her visions.

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There is no context or reason for Lorelei’s ghost to be wandering the ship.

Part three also dumped all of Ascension’s interesting visuals out of the docking port. Mostly ditching any attempt to make the show look like a futuristic version of the ’60s, and instead the episode was loaded with current-day visuals, even on the ship. For one, while at the ceremony to decide which married couples on the ship are allowed to have kids, the Captain and his wife are standing in front of a projector screen showing a a graphic loop that very clearly would need to be made in modern day – not some technology they would have had in the ’60s to bring on board.

Overall, part three of Ascension was two hours of visual torture. Trying to follow these poorly developed characters and their inane logic becomes taxing after the first half hour, and from then on out it’s a marathon just trying to get all the way through it. There are no big reveals, nothing has any kind of depth, and it features an impressive amount of terrible writing.

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