Recap: ‘Ascension’ Part 3
With the final part of its three-day event, Syfy has taken a page out of Ron Moore’s book and rounded out its proof of concept for Ascension with a dramatic, exciting ending that leaves us with more questions unanswered and a desire for more. Part 3 of the Ascension mini series brought everything to critical breaking point both on the surface and within the ship itself as the population dances with death and their overseers try to prevent any accidental gain of dangerous knowledge. It is a really climactic point to end the mini series on, and it leaves us exactly as it should have: interested, intrigued, and wanting to know what happens next despite a few character turns and plot devices that are not as clear cut as they should have been.
The most important day of everyone’s lives is a normal day of celebration as the upper decks prepare to select those couples that will be allowed to have children, an essential part of the Ascension’s livelihood. Everything seems to go according to plan, even with the gossip, and three couples are named to the list, including Duke (Ryan Robbins) and Emily Vanderhaus (Tiffany Lousdale). Their naming is a blow for Emily and Gault (Brandon P. Bell), effectively ending their affair for now. In her cabin, away from the ceremony, Christa Valis (Ellie O’Brien) is awoken by the sound of ghostly laughter, and she follows the sound. She turns a corner to find the apparition of Lorelei Wright (Amanda Thomson) leading her away, and eventually, Christa follows her to the party. As the ghost of Lorelei turns, she is not the beautiful girl Christa remembers, but a decaying shadow of her, and the ghost tells her to look away. Suddenly, the screen behind Captain Denninger (Brian Van Holt) and Viondra (Tricia Helfer) changes to play a tape, a tape showing Denninger and Lorelei together. Christa is still focused on the apparition of her friend that begins to transform, sending the girl into hysterics. On the other side, Harris (Gil Bellows) and his second, Martin Carillo (Mark Camacho) watch, realizing that whatever they have done to the little girl has finally manifested itself. Before they can gloat further, however, their boss, Director Warren (Wendy Crewson) calls Harris away and proceeds to fire him based on a damning report by Samantha Krueger (Lauren Lee Smith).
On board the Ascension, Viondra and her husband try to keep what dignity and power they have left, especially with the conniving Councilman Rose (Al Sapienza) out for their blood and the Captain’s chair. They know the only way to stop the oncoming rip tide down to the lower decks is to beat Rose at his own game, and they use his mole, Jackie (Jessica Sipos) as their tool. After she visits Denninger for one more romp, he gives her a package to take down to the lowest of the low decks, inferring that he cannot do it himself. Jackie does as he asks and delivers the package of food rations to a woman and a small blonde boy – a boy she deduces is the Captain’s unclaimed son. She takes this information to Rose who calls the Denningers into a meeting of the Council. He reveals the woman and her child to the Captain, reminding him that anyone with an unclaimed child cannot hold rank, to which Denninger reveals the child’s true parentage: Councilman Davis (Carlo Mestroni). The councilman is stripped of his rank and Rose acknowledges defeat for the time being.
In the medical center, Robert Bryce (John Ralston) begins testing Christa’s brain patterns to determine how she sees what she sees. Nothing extraordinary happens, however, until everyone is gone and the girl is inexplicably left alone. Christa again sees the apparition of Lorelei that turns off the monitors and tells Christa that she wants to show her something. Christa follows the ghost through the ship and onto the beach, where she finds Gault and Duke fighting, the fall out of Duke’s confrontation with the XO over the affair. As Christa begins to fear for her friend Gault’s safety, something happens, and Duke is knocked unconscious by an electrical surge. Gault looks to the water and sees a globe of electricity floating above the water before systems all over the ship spark and die and he falls unconscious.
Meanwhile, Stokes (Brad Cooper) manages to over power his captors, and when Krueger comes to see him, he takes her prisoner. He continues to believe that he is somehow still on Ascension, until while evading security and against Krueger’s urgings, Stokes manages to open the one door he shouldn’t, the one revealing the exterior of the ship. Krueger decides that it is imperative to get him out alive, and even with a broken and confused Stokes slowing her down, they escape into the wide world. Wounded during their escape, Krueger calls on the conspiracy theorist, Eva Marceau (Aliyah O’Brien) for help getting her and Stokes out of the country, going “full Snowden”. Unfortunately, Eva isn’t all she seems to be, and one slip lets Krueger know that she’s been had by those she is trying to hide from. Eva kills her, and upon hearing the gunshots, Stokes escapes.
The action moves very quickly as Part 3 comes to an end. As the crippled ship’s population, as well as her overseers, is faced with a crisis of power that they have never experienced before, Warren relaxes allows Harris temporary control under watchful eye until the situation is fixed, after which he will be replaced. After much damage assessment, Harris manages to gain access to the ship once more, and what he sees frightens him. The CO2 scrubbers on the ship are broken, and the population will die within a matter of minutes, and the overseers can do nothing but hope the crew can fix it.
Facing the problem at hand, Captain Denninger and XO Gault head down to the scrubbers and ventilation system as Gault’s lower deck past comes in handy. The bridge is in full crisis mode, but other than the total melt down everything seems normal until James Toback (P.J. Boudousqué) sees something on the monitor he shouldn’t: an episode of Alf from the 1980’s. He tells Robert, who sends him away and pulls the plug on the system before going to check on Christa. In the medical center, Viondra brings extra medical supplies to Juliet (Andrea Roth) and her team as people begin to drop like flies from CO2 exposure. Before she can help any further, James informs her that her husband, the XO, and all of the councilors are unreachable, putting her in command. She initiates a radiation drill to conserve oxygen and takes up position on the bridge.
Viondra’s order gives Director Warren an opening to send a man inside to extract Christa for her department with Harris arguing against it. On board, Robert finds the girl and urges her to come with him to safety, but Christa tells him that she has to run because she knows the truth about Ascension and that someone is coming for her. Robert covertly makes contact with Harris, who tells him to keep Christa safe. Below decks, Denninger and Gault reach the scrubbers and are able to counteract the CO2 before anyone dies. Before he can help the Captain finish the job, Gault suddenly sees the apparition of Lorelei, and he follows her as she leads him away. She leads Gault to Christa just as Warren’s man tries to take her away. Warren and Harris watch as a struggle ensues between the two men. Wanting to protect Gault and herself, Christa unleashes her power, and as the globe of energy rises from the pool several decks away, electricity surrounds Christa and the fighters. Suddenly, both Gault and Warren’s man disappear in a flash of light. With confusion setting in, Warren attempts to call her man and fails to notice Harris behind her as he pushes her to her death. Harris watches the footage of the incident once more, exclaiming, “It works.” Gault wakes up in a puddle of water on a desolate and unknown world.
Part 3 of Ascension is the fastest paced and also the most interesting one to watch as quite a few things came to fruition. Viondra’s character has become much more than she seems as some of her lower deck past is hinted at, and Christa’s power became a very important part of everything inside the ship and out without becoming silly. The political power struggle is very much still alive, though round one goes to the Denningers, and life aboard the ship is taking form, displaying the many things taken from the people in the name of survival. It will be interesting – if it continues – to see how the story will progress.
Besides those questions and issues dealt with in Part 3, so many more were raised in this finale of the mini series, the main ones revolving around Christa’s power and where Gault ends up. Her power and the energy orb are clearly connected, and at the moment it appears to have something to do with teleportation. But where has Gault been transported? Could it be the fabled Proxima everyone references? Is it really as dead as it seems? Christa did mention that Proxima shouldn’t be their destination because everything was dead, but whether that referred to the nature of the illusion or the place in space itself is as yet unclear. If it is teleportation to make space travel irrelevant, was that the whole point of the Ascension project, and what does Director Warren’s TC Department have to do with it? It’s a very intriguing conundrum.
The strength of this final part and the further character development brought out some equally strong performances from all the cast members, the standouts remaining Tricia Helfer and Gil Bellows. Their characters were given a bit more under the skin to play with, and they were very entertaining to watch. Brian Van Holt also started to come out of his rigid shell as Captain Denninger, seen best in his barely concealed smug smile when he finally got the opportunity to show Rose that he had outwitted him. The ensemble cast grew much stronger as a whole in the final part of the mini series, and it was a good watch because of it.
There were a few aspects of the story that didn’t add up at the end of the mini series, unfortunately, and all of them involved Krueger’s storyline. From where her character started in Part 2 to where her story leaves her, there is a lot of conflicting notions that she is displaying and dealing with as she appears to have pulled a complete 180 turn as her conscience takes over in Part 3. But in Part 2, though she was the moral voice for the present day people, her job and her conscience were much more at war with each other, and it really didn’t seem like there was enough time between Parts 2 and 3 for her complete turn around. Her relationship with conspiracy theorist Eva was also out of whack again because of a time jump between parts that was never referenced nor made clear. Not only is their relationship sketchy, but Eva’s true purpose also is. It looks like Krueger is the one to get in touch with her, yet Eva is meant to be keeping tabs on her because she actually works for the mysterious TC Department, a good twist and one we didn’t see coming, but we didn’t see it coming because there wasn’t nearly enough established for it to happen. Eva will definitely crop up again if Ascension continues, and maybe her role will become more fleshed out and clear later on, but until then, their storyline was the weakest in Part 3.
Since Battlestar left them with very little material of the same caliber, Syfy have struggled, but it looks like their shift in direction is going to pay off. Ascension Part 3 has left us wanting more, wondering what comes next and what fate has in store for our characters. They have done this by expertly creating more questions while only really answering a few of those already standing. As a proof of concept, Ascension has achieved a lot, moving forward quickly from expository, slightly boring storytelling into the realm of gripping sci-fi drama, action, and interesting character and plot developments that we want to continue. The show has become one we hope to see on our screens again as long as the creators keep doing what they are doing.(4 / 5)
(Photos copyright: Syfy)