Defying Gravity (“Threshold”)

Season 1, Episode 3
Date of airing: August 9, 2009 (ABC)
Nielsen ratings information: 2.81 million viewers, 1.0/2 with Adults 18-49, 1.8/3 in Households

Ever since I watched this episode for the first time, the opening line “Doors are there for a reason” seems to be part of my regular vocabulary, even though there is never an opportunity for me to say this. It’s an episode that made me look a little different at doors and what they stand for, and how they both bring you personal space, but also prevent anyone from protecting you, when you are unable to open the door. And the thing is, this episode’s theme wasn’t even about doors, even if it happened to be the metaphor Donner was trying to mangle through in his voiceovers. Secrets are behind closed doors, but as soon as you open them, your world changes. Paula’s health was also a secret in this episode, as she didn’t let anyone in to check up on her, which also means secrets behind closed doors can be dangerous for you, when you never ever going to find out about them. In a way, this episode is quite contradictory when it comes to opening doors or keeping them closed. I guess it’s up to the viewers to decide what they will take away from this.

It was an intriguing hour of television though, as the writers continued to focus on the characters, which is surprising considering the genre of the show, and the fact that it’s three episodes strong right now. Not unlike the previous episode, there was more character depth than story to the episode, and the writers knew how not to quickly advance the science-fiction and mystery plot and instead focus on the characters first, since this is the beginning of the show, and James Parriott and his writers room knew that the viewers were supposed to connect with the characters first, before they were about to be assaulted by narrative visuals and twists. Then again, maybe the show flopped from the beginning, because it was more of a character study than a mysterious and twisted science-fiction show?

Space cookies on the loose!

The episode continued establishing character pairings. Zoe and Donner continue to grow closer to each other, both in the flashbacks (the very distant, but close talk at the bus stop) and in the present storyline (arguing over the Venus lander, and connecting over the notion that mission control is recoding the lander behind their backs); the flashbacks also had the first instance of Jen and Ted hooking up, creating an entirely new premise during the resent narrative, which has Ted and Jen sharing emotions on the Antares, while their spouses back on Earth can only look and are unable to do anything (except you’re Rollie, and you put emphasis on “my wife”, when you calmly yell at Ted that there are seven astronauts under his wing, one of them being Rollie’s wife), and Wassenfelder continues to create a field for himself in which he converses, or is at least around, a couple of the women characters.

The previous episode did have a moment between him and Nadia that could have led to something resembling a unique friendship, while this episode went into the notion that Wassenfelder and Paula could deal with each other, although in this case it’s only because I believe they are neighbors, and Paula only seems to be around Wassenfelder for her more important screen moments. There is this theoretical physician, who might not have a place on the Antares for obvious reasons, so the only thing the writers can do with him is connect him with a few of the other characters, essentially forcing Wassenfelder to be in a storyline that is defined by the journey of his character, and not the story itself. I mean, Zoe and Jen are the scientists, Paula is the documentarian and the Venus lander pilot, Ted is the commander, Donner is kind of the all-around guy, Evram is the doctor and shrink, and Nadia has been depicted as the co-pilot so far. Three episodes in and the show hasn’t managed to tell us what Wassenfelder’s job on the Antares actually is, when you exclude him trying to figure out dark matter and stuff – but none of it has to do with what is happening on the ship.

In the 2050s, no one cares about homoerotic moments among friends, you’re living on this rampaged Earth to have some fun

Meanwhile, the writers prepared to advance the ongoing mystery surrounding Beta, and how its effect on the mission seems to be growing. Changing the genome of and mindfucking the astronauts might be one thing, but now that the writers also alluded to Beta changing the genome of a person back home on Earth means its affections are more than wide-ranging, and almost galaxy-wide. That makes one wonder whether Beta can be more than just a physical subject, and could be considered a godly being, whenever the show is going to reveal who or what Beta is. Or maybe this whole genome thing Claire uncovered is part of evolution and what she really found out is that this universe is coming up shortly on their very own X-Men timeline, only are almost all the potential X-Men in outer space and therefore can’t save the world back home, if a supernatural war happened to break out or something.

However, be reminded how the writers used Beta as part of the character narrative. Ted’s trip to Mars in pod 4 was obviously not real, and maybe just a hallucination or a dream, but what it did was screwing up Ted royally – so far that he couldn’t even act out his role as the Antares commander, essentially risking crew safety. Beta only needs to give visions to one person like this, and suddenly the entire mission might be at stake. Considering how Beta is seemingly directing the entire mission from the off, it seems almost weird that it would risk the mission by mindfucking Ted into locking himself into his quarters.

Between the future and the past, Ajay considers losing himself.

Best part of the episode: The HALO plot happened to be intriguing. You’ve heard about the HALO in the previous episode, might have even noticed the green dots behind the astronauts’ ears, but the writers waited another hour to explain what it actually is. That by itself is quite courageous writing-wise, but it also happened to be an enjoyable story, when the flashback happenings turned into a frathouse-sorta party, in which PG-rated sex and no-nudity nudity was involved. “Naughtia!” Also, did Rollie really say “Big tits, little Ted?”
Worst part of the episode: And while the HALO plot was funny, it also had a deeply unnerving moment, when Wassenfelder revealed Ajay’s boner, and every single one of the guys (minus Donner, who already exited the bar) celebrated for Ajay to have pitched a tent. Holy fuck, the sexual nature of that story was off the charts, and it reminded me that men are fucking horrible. Even with hormone activated libido inhibitors.
Weirdest part of the episode: It looked pretty easy for Claire to figure out that the astronauts’ genoms were changing, which means she had quick access to the mystery. Considering the way the Beta mystery is being treated by those ISO guys and gals who keep it, it almost seems irresponsible to have nobody of their own work at least the medical aspect of the Antares mission. Especially when the secretive ISO people were expecting for the astronauts to undergo certain changes. Or maybe they didn’t, and it was even a surprise to Eve?
Player of the episode: All the people who did not put their stock into the HALOs. When Ajay was able to rise to the occasion, just by looking at Nadia and listening to her rejection of him, maybe the money really was wasted on the production of those green little dots. Although the general idea of them is kind of good, but so was Elizabeth Homes’ idea of blood tests with a single drop of blood in a small portable box, and we know how that turned out.

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