Season 1, Episode 12
Date of airing: October 16, 2009 (Space)
Please buckle up now and prepare for the landing, as this plane is going down on Venus right now. When you look out the window, you can see it’s a stuffed and hot day on this planet. Clouds are forming above you that will constantly give you thunder and flashes, so beware of electrocution. Also watch out that you don’t fall to the surface, otherwise you will have it hard to get back up. Move as slowly as possible to preserve energy, and as soon as you walked your 20 minutes, please get back into the airlock immediately. Other than that, have a fantastic day on Venus, the planet from hell.
286 meters between the reality and a pre-recorded fake mission on Venus, just to keep the humans on Earth happy and not flipping out over God or the devil directing the Antares mission. And with Zoe now walking the distance between the reality and the created story, things should be getting pretty ugly in the season finale, especially since Paula, who is narrating the Venus mission, will have to juggle between looking at the screen of Zoe going for Gamma, and narrating the screen with the fake Venus rock collecting mission – which by itself is already hard for someone who believes she is dealing with something evil down on Venus. This almost is a story deserved of a two-hour finale, but it’s clear that you can’t just fill an entire hour with the Venus landing itself (although I would have loved to watch that), and there still needs to be a narrative. And honestly, there isn’t much of a narrative with only Zoe walking on Venus, Donner watching her and talking to her, the crew of Antares sitting there in panic mode, watching it all, while Paula is in the middle of being a news presenter here, trying to decide whether to tell the fake story, or just go with the truth. All that is quite a premise to work with for the season finale. Once more I am disappointed that the show never managed to pick up viewers, because I would have loved for the depiction of the other landings. Especially Mercury. According to James Parriott, Nadia was supposed to land on the terminator of the planet, and that by itself is a scientifically awesome premise. Put in one of the fractal objects, and the whole thing turns into a thriller.
Anyway, this was a great episode. Lots of emotion, lots of drama, and even a little bit of thrill, because you never knew where the story is about to go. Was the Venus landing enough of a finale premise for the writers, or did they think that revealing the objects to the world through Paula’s live presentation on the ship was also a potentially good final point to the season? Was the changing of the astronauts’ genomes good for more than just Evram and Claire connecting over a shared secret, or is it going to be the beginning of an entirely new storyline, two-folded (changing astronauts, and Claire revealing mission secrets to those who aren’t supposed to know)? Is the addition of the Gamma object on Antares going to change anything? After all, two fractal objects being neighbors on the ship should maybe mean something.
The emotional level of this episode was surprisingly high. There is this whole spiel of Zoe being ejected from the ISO program five years ago, obviously making you ask the question how she became part of the program again and who had to exit in her place (Arnel, most likely, as he lost a leg in-between). I never considered that a flashback story could still work in surprises like that, as Zoe’s eject from the program was unexpected, and added a great character arc to the show, even though you know where that character arc will end up. And as it turned out, Zoe’s eject from the program led to her relationship with Donner being levelled up as well. It seemed like they shared more emotions and love with each other while Zoe was post eagle, and maybe that’s exactly what is going to be important after Zoe and Donner come back from Venus. They shared their love five years ago, and maybe it’s this kind of love that will save them.
Besides that, the chemistry between Zoe and Donner was magnetic. I was already sobbing in my mind during Donner’s “It’s not gonna be the same around here without you,” and things got even worse from here, considering Zoe’s giving up on her constant rejection of Donner, and just inviting him to her bed, knowing that this will be the end of their story, according to her. That’s almost a cute romantic story, and it’s definitely an interesting way to tell a romantic storyline on a television drama. One loves the other, the other might not love the one, ut they keep themselves on a distance, because they know one wrong move might ruin everything. I don’t really know what makes the romance to captivating, but Ron Livingston and Laura Harris might be two of the more important reasons. Seeing them together gives me life.
The whole episode being mostly about Zoe and Donner’s relationship, you might almost forget that the former was cut from the program, and the latter is about to drive the former to the surface of Venus. You might also forget that they are there to pick up Gamma, which the writers had to nicely remind us of by constantly mentioning it, least alone having Paula in the story to remind us all that she is supposed to lie for ten minutes in front of the whole world. Well, I hope she knows how to do that, and she picked up some pointers from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, because I can’t imagine for religious people to easily start lying like that, even though it should be easier when the fate of the world is at stake. You can easily glance over the fact that this is still an ensemble drama show, and not just a big fat romance novel. I don’t quite know if that is good or bad writing though. I guess you’re allowed to bring that every once in a while, but the way DEFYING GRAVITY has been making the Zoe/Donner relationship a mainstay makes me wonder…
Best part of the episode: I am a space nerd, so everything around the Venus landing gave me spacegasms. If I ever get to see the real-life Mars landing on television (and I hope the crew will transmit every second of it), I will be so in, and hopefully so without all the narrating voices around it.
Worst part of the episode: There always is a bad thing about every episode, but this time I have it a little harder to come up with one. Maybe it’s Ted for not showing up to help Zoe move, even though his girlfriend asked him to (probably). Maybe it’s the fact that Zoe had five hours to kill before her train leaves, and she thinks that’s enough time to get a tattoo. Maybe it’s the inconsistency of the ascans’ names between the preliminary ranking from “Rubicon”, and the 20 names that are left on the first screencap, which weirdly have Donner and Ted’s names excluded.
Weirdest part of the episode: I guess the press room doesn’t have a live feed to the happenings on the mission control floor? Because if so, they immediately would have picked up on something going on, after all of the ground crew was disappointed and mad that Donner didn’t land closer to the specified target.
Players of the episode: Ron Livingston and Laura Harris can share their award for Most Working Chemistry Between Two Cast Members in a Television Show Cancelled After the First Season.