“Sateda” is well known for having the largest budget of any SGA episode outside of the pilot. I was expecting something epic, but I still had misgivings. It is a Ronon-centric episode. Ronon is not one of the more compelling characters on the show. But my misgivings were put to rest almost immediately. “Sateda” turns out to be one of the best episodes of the series. It manages to make ronon a sympathetic character, even for me.
The AR-1 team is exploring a remote planet when they come across s village which Ronon visted while he was a Runner. The villagers immediately recognize him as someone who brought the Wraith upon them, so they capture AR-1, minus the wounded Rodney, who manages to escape, in order to offer Ronon to the Wraith in exchange for no further cullings. Ronon eventually convinces them he will surrender freely to the Wraith in atonement for the last culling if they let the rest of the team go. They agree. By the time AR-1 returns with reinforcements, the village has been wiped out and ronon taken by the Wraith.
Ronon becomes a runner yet again. He is dropped off on Sateda to be hunted by the best an orbiting hive ship has to offer. Being on Sateda again brings flashback memories of the population’s destruction, including a nurse named Merena with whom ronon had a romantic relationship. The memories fire up ronon to take on any and all Wraith in spite of being outmanned, outgunned, and eventually wounded. Even when AR-1 tracks him down through his runner homing beacon, Ronon refuses their help until he kills the hive King personally. He is outclassed in the match up, but Beckett saves him by killing the Hive king himself with a drone.
“Sateda” is definitely a spectacle. The first thing I notice is the awful Vancouver weather. There are some digital effects making the atmosphere far more dark and dreary than normal, but geez. The weather in that city in Biblical. More importantly are the massive sets and special effects. The setting is well depicted as a bombed out derelict of a city with flashbacks matching up perfectly in the city’s better days. The battle between Ronon and the Wraith is full of impressive explosions for a cable television series, and the action sequences are exciting without resorting to The Matrix style gravity defying moves so many shows and movies have copied these days. Kudos for avoiding them. “Sateda’ has all the action movie clichés, such as the hero walking away in slow motion from explosions and performing an extreme medical procedure on himself sans anesthetic, but I do not feel like any of is stereotypical.
The main reason I do not think “Sateda” is a typical action piece is because it has humor and heart. Naturally, the humor comes at Rodney’s expense. He is shot in the rear end by an arrow during the teaser. But Rodney shows his human side, too. He is as adamant to go along on the rescue mission as anyone because he considers ronon family, although he does not verbalize his feelings about their relationship like Sheppard does. Ronon is far more humanized in “Sateda” than ever before, too. I have agree with Rodney prior to ’Sateda”--Ronon is practically a caveman--but he demonstrates a sense of honor in his willingness to sacrifice for others and a softer side in his romance with the doomed Merena.
Merena is show exclusively in flashbacks for obvious reasons. I like the unusual touch of the flashbacks being in bright color while the present action takes place during the miserable Biblical weather I joked about above. It is a contrast which shows the past was brighter for Ronon than the present, though he does come to realize the Atlantis crew are his family now.
“Sateda” is almost certainly going to go down as one of my most favorite episodes when it is all said and done. It is one of the most well-crafted episodes yet, with both the script and technical aspects being of the highest quality. Writer Robert C. Cooper only penned eight scripts for SGA, but he had a firm grasp on how to deal with the characters. Too often, they are written not as characters with flaws, but with flaws as their characterizations. (Weir is indecisive, Sheppard is reckless, Rodney is arrogant, Ronon is angry, etc.0 It is great to see them all as people working together without these exaggerated traits at the forefront. “Saeda” earns high marks all around.
Rating: **** (out of 5)