Stargate Universe season 2 episode 8 review: Malice

Stargate Universe delivers one of its best episodes yet. Carl checks out Malice...

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

2.8 Malice

Robert Carlyle dubbed this as one of “the best things (they’ve) done so far”, and from the opening, it may well be true. The ending of The Greater Good left us with Simeon alone with Ginn, who was body-swapped with Dr Amanda Perry, and it doesn’t pan out in either of the two ladies’ favour, as both are killed in an attack by him.

Simeon then proceeds to take out a few guards and head through the gate with Dr Park taken hostage. Dr Rush follows and the usual suspects aren’t far behind, and soon enough, the team has split off into groups. Lt Scott and Sgt Greer accompany Dr Rush as they attempt to find the snaky bastard and capture him, although that may not be everyone’s agenda.

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Robert Knepper finally gets some proper screen time here to show off his evil routine, and it works pretty damn well, I’d say. When he tells Rush that he will kill him, you can hear the intent and purpose in his voice, and you wonder for a moment whether he will actually succeed. Of course, you then dismiss it, as they aren’t going to let Carlyle slip through their fingers just yet, because he is truly showing a masterclass in acting here, displaying everything you would expect of a smart man out for revenge.

Just watch him. The horror on his face when he finds Ginn dead, the anger he expresses as he searches the hall for Simeon, the stubbornness you can see when he goes charging after him, the pure heartfelt emotion when it all hits him, the resolution and blank determination on his face in the final showdown.

The direction here is hands down the best the show has seen. Robert C Cooper has so far directed the two best episodes of Stargate Universe, Time and Human, and has clearly honed his skills since then. For this is a truly fantastic example of just how good the direction of a cable show like this can be. What comes out best though are the scenes in which the slow down effect is used during explosions. In what seems like a direct nod to The Hurt Locker, it’s used to create some of the most impressive scenes like this I’ve ever seen, Cooper capitalises on this effect and creates some incredible sequences.

What’s also great is the choice of location, the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico, which is truly a stunning mass of land to be filming on. It looks superb on screen and never has the area had a better tourism film than this. With the sun making shadows look the complex landscape becomes even better looking as filming progressed. However, it brings up some continuity errors, but it’s easy to overlook by the simple fact that this episode looks gorgeous.

The performances of Carlyle and Knepper may be superb and the look and direction may be nearly flawless, but the structure of the episode got me a little annoyed. Every time the episode switches from the planet back to Destiny, the tone changes entirely and the soundtrack feels completely separated from the western edge they have tried to create.

When Col Young is trying to rally his troops into finding Simeon, the musical touches seem to speed up and get a momentum going that wasn’t previously in place. It would probably be fine in any other episode of Stargate Universe, but here, where they have clearly tried very hard to have a particular tone on the planet, it seems unnecessary and almost cuts the tension of the episode in half.

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The final showdown is perfectly executed however, and makes the whole episode worthwhile, as Rush is given a superb chance to show of not only his smarts, but also his cold hearted rage that is stored up inside him. The final shot of the showdown is especially wonderful and creates puts the whole ordeal in perspective, while the shots immediately after put Carlyle’s character in focus, showing him in a brilliant series of shots.

While this episode may not be perfect, or exactly what I wanted when I heard this was going to be a western episode, it looks a whole lot better than I could ever have dreamed of, and places this flawed yet brilliant experiment high on a list of episodes brimming with quality.

Read our review of episode 7, The Greater Good, here.

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