You!  You dirty bird. You killed Atlantis Misery!

Last night, Akemi and I watched Misery.  It was her first time, my…what is it now…twelfth?  It’s my favorite Stephen King movie and last night’s screening further cemented it as one of my top ten favorite films of all time. Brilliant performances, a tightly plotted script, and some of the most excruciatingly suspenseful sequences ever committed to celluloid.  Nowadays, most horror movies are simply excuses for extended visceral sequences that, after awhile, border on the cartoonish in order to satiate the appetite of an increasingly jaded audience.  Misery, in comparison, makes masterful use of the “the build”, crafting unnerving, edge-of-your seat sequences that build in intensity, leaving the audience wondering what…when…where?  And when the answer comes, it’s horrific and, best of all, unexpected.  The race back to the room from the kitchen search, the vengeance denied by the hallway hesitation, the startled late night awakening to the looming beside visitor, the frustration of the spilled wine, the shocking shotgun blast, and the hobbling.  Oh, the hobbling.  We only really catch a glimpse of it, a fraction of a second when Annie swings her hammer and connects, but it’s damn effective.  And I would argue that seeing her heft up the hammer and swing for the other foot, even though we don’t see it connect this time, is even more disturbing.  The sequence is so unsettling that it has remained with me after so many other far gorier moments in horror filmdom have faded.  Just a perfect movie.

This is just some of the action you’ll miss if you don’t come seem me at Comic Con.

Thanks to everyone who has weighed in with their concerns regarding my planned trip to Comic Con.  Fear not, I won’t be sleeping on the streets of San Diego.  Dark Horse Comic’s New Events and Community Manager, the super-lovely Kari Yadro, has assured me she’ll be able to swing my accommodations.  Whether it’s staying at the hotel that Dark Horse has already booked or napping in Kari’s winnebago while she’s working, I think I’m covered.

Returning to my ruminations on Stargate: Atantis’s first season…


This was my favorite episode since the two-hour opener.  It offered a difficult moral and ethical dilemma with no easy answers and a wonderful emotional arc in Carson Beckett’s working relationship with Perna, the Hoffan scientist.  I like my endings like I like my chocolate, bittersweet, so the conclusion to this one really resonated with me. The episode also delivers one of the most unwieldy, difficult to deliver lines in Stargate history with “One hundred percent cellular penetration in all five test inoculations”!  Try saying that five times fast.

The captive wraith gets a name, Steve, only to die before we get a chance to know him.  C’est la vie.  Given the circumstances and his push to experiment on the prisoner, I found Sheppard’s “We’re gonna help you” assurance as Steve succumbs to the effects of the Hoffan drug altogether bizarre.  If anyone would have adopted this conciliatory stance, it should have been civilian Commander Weir and yet even she sees the logic in Sheppard’s arguments, acceding to his demands for experimentation.  When he first mentions it, she brings up the Geneva Convention to which Sheppard counters that if the wraith were at the Geneva Convention, they would have no doubt fed on the other participants.  Good point.  Ultimately, this enemy is not one that can be reasoned with.  Short of discovering a way for them to gain sustenance without feeding on humans (and we’ll come to that later in the series’ run), it’s kill or be killed.

There are, of course, those pro-wraithers who point out that the wraith’s actions are dictated by survival instincts.  They’re not evil. And, while that may seem true (although the obvious joy they take in torturing their prey suggests otherwise), I would point out that the Atlantis expedition and the rest of the humans in the Pegasus galaxy are simply fighting back, the result of their own survival instincts.


Given the fact the wraith target technologically advanced societies, it would make sense that certain civilizations would seek to disguise their accomplishments from the enemy.  Enter the Genii.  I liked them as a wildcard, a military society that could prove both friend and foe, depending on the circumstances.  I also liked the continued clash between the civilian and military approaches on Atlantis, something we touch on in the previous episode but really comes to the fore here in the discussions between Weir and Sheppard.  Again, Sheppard  makes sense and Weir inevitably acquiesces to his game plan on the strength of his argument, but what is particularly interesting about this ethical clash is not the debate itself but the fact that Sheppard makes a unilateral decision on dealing with the Genii BEFORE discussing it with his defacto Commander.  Not once, but twice!

Later in the episode, the Atlantis team comes clean about the wraith and warns the Genii that they were awakned as a result of their failed rescue op and subsequent murder of a queen.  Well, yes and no. Certainly yes in their minds but one could make a very strong argument that the wraith would have been awakened regardless, not because of Sheppard’s actions on the failed rescue op, but because of the information the queen draws out of Sumner: the existence of Earth and the billions of humans just waiting to be fed upon.  Of course, Sheppard wasn’t privy to the conversation and has no way of knowing that, while he may blame himself for the wraith’s early awakening, it’s likely that the wraith would have awakened anyway.

Cookie Monster would like to remind everyone that our Supermovie of the Week Club reconvenes tomorrow.  Monster will be offering up his thoughts on Batman Forever, so make sure you watch it so that you can provide an informed opinion on his review.

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular Debra.

31 thoughts on “June 10, 2012: Misery! Comic Con! Days of Stargate Past – Atlantis! Poisoning the Well and Underground!

  1. I LOVE Misery! Er, I mean the movie, of course. I agree – I think it’s one of the best movies ever. Practically note perfect.

    Just got back from my fly-fishing weekend in Maine, which was great! Lots to catch up on with your blog, though. I’m really enjoying the Atlantis retrospective.

    @Debra – my thoughts are with you. Hope you’re getting along okay.

  2. Misery is one of my favorite books-because Stephen King proves he KNOWS a reader from a casual fan. He writes, if I remember correctly, about the Gottas. You have to get up early but because you’re a Reader, you Gotta know what happens next. You know you’re going to pay for it tomorrow & you know you can pick up the book again in the morning but you Gotta keep reading. Readers don’t just Have to read; there’s just no way on earth we can ever Not read. I’m convinced Readers are like those with a sense of humor. You either Get it or you don’t. Can’t be taught. There are plenty of people who enjoy casual reading but a Reader will read the ingredients on a cereal box, pulling it out of the grocery sack. At a stoplight. Under a streetlight. Because that’s the only light. And THAT’S the relationship between the Author and his Greatest Fan!

  3. There are, of course, those pro-wraithers who point out that the wraith’s actions are dictated by survival instincts. They’re not evil. And, while that may seem true (although the obvious joy they take in torturing their prey suggests otherwise), I would point out that the Atlantis expedition and the rest of the humans in the Pegasus galaxy are simply fighting back, the result of their own survival instincts.

    Oh, Joey…you are so not going there, are you? You are? Okie dokie, you asked for it! 😀 I can’t type much ’cause of my crappy tunnel problem, but no way in hell am I gonna let you vilify my lovely pallid fellas! 😉

    Firstly, anyone who has ever owned a cat knows that animals find great joy in tortu playing with their food. The Wraith are no different. They just enjoy the hunt, the pounce, and the occasional toothy taunt as much as any other cool cat. It is instictive, and it’s how they learn to feed themselves, even if it seems cruel to us.

    Secondly, I will suggest that the Atlantean squatters, from the time they arrived, were alone responsible for the decimation of the human population in the Pegasus. Before their arrival there was a balance in the food chain, with the Wraith hibernating for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years while human populations were allowed to grow and to thrive. But along come the Colonists from Earth, and bam! Everything is thrown out of whack. Firstly (yes, were’re back to firstlies!), they awaken the Wraith prematurely, before human populations had been able to fully bounce back from previous cullings. Secondly, they woke them all at once (suggesting in the past some Wraith were awake while others hibernated, but this was different, with all rising from slumber at the same time). Thirdly, the Nu-Lanteans helped create the Hoffan drug, which was later used against human populations by…well, by another fubared experiment of the Lanteans. Fourthly, the Lanteans again meddled with something they ought not, and as a result the Asurans began annihilating human worlds. Fifthly, Michael. Don’t even get me started on what was done to him. But worse than what was done to him was the fact that the Lanteans never acknowledged that they created him. Instead, they put all the blame on Michael, as if he made the choice to be experimented upon, stripped of his identity, and majorly screwed in the brain. Yeah, don’t get me started. And lastly, activating the Attero Device which – although deadly to Wraith – was equally deadly to humans.

    The Lanteans created the problem, and then they exacerbated it. The Wraith had no choice, but the Lanteans did. They could have chosen not interfere with the blance of nature in the Pegasus. Had Sheppard and his Mystery Puddle Jumper full of meddlers kept their fingers out of things, it’s very possible that the Wraith would have naturally thinned their own numbers through in-fighting, easing the stress on human populations. Eventually the Wraith survivors would have had their fill, gone back into hibernation, and the humans would once again have had a chance to thrive.

    Amazing what I can type with numb hands! 😉


  4. I loved Misery too. But the hobbling was my least favorite part. Unimaginable pain, I just can’t take it. So mean. Kathy Bates was awesome. I’ve been a fan of hers for quite some time. The dialogue in the movie was great.

  5. Now aren’t you glad someone left your gate unlocked and your door open? You got to experience creeping around hallways yourself.

  6. Personally I think the Wraiths lack of caring about life other than their own is much like how humans kill other animals for food, be it cows, chickens, pigs and other assorted species. Because we simply see ourselves as the species at the top of the food chain.

    You could see the Wraith as just the self proclaimed alpha species of the Galaxy, they don’t care about other life as it doesn’t matter to their own, they simply see the inhabitants of the Pegasus Galaxy as nothing but food, lowly lifeforms that aren’t worth their time.

    The Wraith however, despite the fact they destroy other worlds for their own personal gains are nothing but evil.

    Readlng that I guess I’m not making much sense, but putting that opinion out there anyway 🙂

  7. Wow. Days is on a roll. Though almost totally wrong. First off, the Wraith, reacting to the activation of the amulet, initiated hostilities. But for that, the expedition would have had time to get the lay of the land and avoid setting off the chain of destruction. Second, it was the Wraith who activated all the hives, probably, as Mr. m. Suggested, because of the intel on new feeding grounds. Third, the Hoffan drug was not a bad idea(except to the Wraith) the problem there were the Hoffans, who ignored warnings and insisted on rushing the drug. Head they listened, the Hoffans might well have developed a safer version, without alerting the Wraith until a safe drug could be distributed galaxy wide. The only fault was in abandoning the research, in my mind. That set up the situation for Michael to get hold of it. Dittos the Asurans.with nothing in the database to warn them the conflict was inevitable. Michael is the one thing they were truly guilty of, and their treatment of him was unforgivable. But he elected to take the path he did, and as a sentient being has to live and die by his choices.The expedition did help trigger a war, but without them the Pegasus humans were doomed anyways. For how much lonGer would the Wraith continue to resort to a starvation diet before doing what happened anyways? So sorry, cute they may be, even honorable in some cases, but so long as they viewed humans as animals and food, things could go no other way.
    Underground was a great episode, though I’m biased. I love Colman Meaney as a actor, and was thrilled to see him on Atlantis. And later appearances by the Genii did not disappoint.
    Wow, didn’t realize how much I missed talking about At,antis. Thanks for providing the opportunity and venue to do so.

  8. Bravo das… I’m impressed, you do know your SGA story lines.

    But, wasn’t there a scene with Beckett agonizing about the ethics of what he was doing to Michael?

    good night,

  9. I thought Poisoning the Well was a little surprising. Surprising was the donation of a still living human being for Wraith food and to test an experiment. It did make you think if this was right or not. And in Underground, Sheppard continues delivering the bad news to get ready because the Wraith are coming. I thought it was scarey in that Wraith hive or colony or whatever it was. Spooky with all those dead/dying people hanging in webs. Both interesting episodes. The Wraith are maybe the best space alien villians ever. Who came up with their “look”? Scary spooky, yet attractive…

  10. @Joe: What das said. Agree 100%.

    Very eloquent in explaining our sympathy for the Wraith is our das.

    Too tired to type much – rode my bike 39 miles today in a benefit for the American Diabetes Association. I raised $500 for the cause. G’night.

  11. Hey Joe! I must crumble and admit that I read your blog frequently, but never post! I’d plead anonymity on the Internet but that would just be fibbing.

    Thanks for the detailed commentary on Misery! You’ve piqued my interest, given the repetitive and mundane products often coming out of Hollywood! I’ve gotta get my hand on it!!

    Was terribly saddened to hear about dear pooch Maximus, but great to see you enjoying life and all it’s delicious offerings!! Keep the Stargate memoirs coming. I’ll bet it’s old news for you, but your audience is pretty tenacious and nostalgic! BRILLIANT STUFF xxx

  12. @Debra:

    Sending prayers you’re way and hoping for the best.

    I have seen some incredible recoveries with strokes including a friend of mine who lost some minor memories but otherwise made a pretty full recovery. Still every case is different, so we’re praying for you all.

    @Joe on Misery:

    I haven’t taken in this film since I’m not generally interested in horror, but I may have to try it just this once. I’ve enjoyed some other works of King’s such as Cujo, and Christine, but “crazy” has never really been a draw for me (it’s for that reason I’ve avoided the “Friday the 13th” and Hannibal Lector type films).

    BTW, how did Akemi like Misery?

  13. As much as I loved Todd and the Wraith as characters, the Wraith as a species brought untold horror to and terrorized the human population of Pegasus long before our guys showed up. If they couldn’t find a way to survive without torturing and killing fellow sentient beings (us), they gave up any ethical highground and deserved to be eliminated as a threat in some fashion, however that could be achieved. I felt for the Hoffans, and perhaps would have voted the same way they did.

    I loved the Genii as villains, I wish Kolya would have stuck around as a thorn in the expedition’s (and Sheppard’s) side for much longer than he did.

  14. I think I’ve said this before, while reading Misery I had to actually stop reading for a few days when I got to the hobbling scene. I put the book down in mid sentence and just had to walk away. It’s the first and only time I’ve ever had to do that. So, naturally, when I went to see the movie I was waiting with trepidation to see the scene played out in front of me. While the scene in the movie is horrific it didn’t affect me the same way. Mostly, I think, was because in the movie Kathy Bates uses a hammer while in the book her character uses an axe! Much more horrific!

  15. So glad to hear you won’t be on the streets of San Diego, Joe. I hear they’re pretty crowded in July. 😉 I liked the introduction of the Genii. They proved to be formidable through the series.

    Have a great day!!!!
    Lisa R

  16. @ Deni – 😆 With all the Wraith talk, now I’m imagining Todd with Crappy Tunnel AND puffy PMS hands. 😛 (My brain goes strange places sometimes.)

    @ Sparrowhawk – I can always rely on you having my back when it comes to all things Wraith. 🙂 I no longer argue with the naysayers over the difference between choice and instinct, or the difference between evil intent and biological need. Either you get it, or you don’t. But I will speak up when the Wraith are being unjustly maligned.

    It reminds me of how people started hating sharks after Jaws came out, considering them evil, calculating eating machines. Between those bastards killing sharks for their fins, and knuckleheads thinking they’re doing the world a favor by killing sharks for sport, several species of these magnificent creatures may soon face extinction.

    Thing is, I love me a good shark steak – it’s one of the few fish I actually enjoy eating. But I will gladly give it up if shark numbers continue to decline (I only have shark maybe once a year, so it’s not like it would be a huge sacrifice, but more of a ecological statement).

    Keep in mind that I have my own fears about going in the water and becoming shark food, but instead of thinking it’s my duty to protect the world by killing them first, I just avoid taking unnecessary risks when enjoying a day at the beach.

    And congrats on your ride! Yesterday while you were peddling your little heart out, I was taking a nap. 😀


  17. Das: Had Sheppard and his Mystery Puddle Jumper full of meddlers kept their fingers out of things, it’s very possible that the Wraith would have naturally thinned their own numbers through in-fighting, That was just priceless!
    One of my friend’s was telling me about her carpal tunnel surgery. I didn’t get into specifics with her but she did say something troubling. She said that you had to have the surgery before nerve damage set in. I’m sure your dr has discussed it you but …..

    Mr. M: Some of you have suggested signed photos of my dogs but, to be honest, it’s hard enough getting them outside to do their business. Signing stuff would be almost impossible. 😆
    After reading Misery , I couldn’t watch the movie. All that suspense does me in. I’m cringing just thinking about the events in the book. D
    I’m loving the SGA memories and it does bring up some ethical questions. I would say that the Wraith aren’t a product of natural evolution and should be considered targets (sorry Das). Do you have any good remembrances of the actors you can share?
    Is Akemi going with you to comic con? Did you find a dog sitter?

    Debra: I’ll join the others and pray for your sister. Do you live near her?

  18. I can’t do horror films. I’m waaay too chicken and get nightmares. I have an overactive imagination, and I won’t be able to sleep for weeks. Not my thing.

    Poisoning the Well was a great episode. It had such depth and meaning. I love that it went as dark as it did. It was kind of refreshing to see such deep and richness in a story. I love Carson Beckett in this one.

  19. Thanks to everyone for the good wishes and for the dedication.

    I have to admit I WANT to watch Misery but have only managed in small segments. Stressful movies well, stress me.

    I agree on the Wraiths. I am sorry, but SG1 got stupid Ori and Atlantis got the coolest foes ever! I just found the story utterly believable because faced with that level of threat, there would be plenty more than willing to send in test subjects. Hell, there would be some ready to volunteer. I am a Jew. And when I hear people put down Germans who did “nothing” I am quick to say they have NO IDEA. No one knows how brave or stupid you would be in such a situation where you could almost decidedly do very little or nothing, and almost certainly bring death to yourself and your entire family. Those that did stand up were marvels and miracles, but it doesn’t make those who did nothing into monsters. Faced with being Wraith food, I might well choose the vaccine too.

  20. Misery is very watchable, but as usual, I prefer the book. Ah, the book. Kathy Bates does an incredible Annie Wilkes, but the Annie in the book is far, far scarier. Who needs more than one thumb anyway?

  21. Regarding Shep: That’s what I didn’t like about the series. Shep unilaterally making decisions without consulting the leader of the expedition.Yes, she’s a civilian and he is over military. That does not mean – barring an emergency where there is no time – he can override/ignore her leadership at will. It’s part of the reason I couldn’t stand the character, barring some pop culture references he and McKay did later in the series. Weir 1.0 from Lost City Pt 1 was awesome. What happened to that character? (And I don’t necessarily mean the change in actresses though that didn’t help matters.)

  22. @ 2cats – I know my SGA storylines when they involve the Wraith. 😀

    As far as Beckett is concerned, yeah, I believe early on he had reservations about the experiment on Michael, but then after he created his little Frankenstein monster, he – and everyone – seemed to blame Michael for what he had become instead of blaming themselves for creating him.

    @ Tam Dixon – Yeah, I know about the nerve damage thing. I’ve only been to the doctor once for this a couple years ago, so not sure what they’d tell me now. Procrastination will be the death of me, I just know it. 😛


  23. Personally I think the Michael problem was entirely the fault of the Atlantis crew, had they just left him alone and not done any experiments on him, he wouldn’t of done any of the bad things done these past few seasons.

    He became warped because he had no where to call home, he couldnt fit in with the humans, nor could he fit in with the Wraith. He was an outcast, who literally created his own followers, obviously to try and ‘belong’.

    It’s a basic human trait in my opinion, the fact no one wants to be alone. Michael obviously reacted badly to his aloneness.

  24. Ah, Poisoning the Well, I always tear up when seeing it. Carson Beckett meets an intellectual equal in Perna, develops a strong connection with her, and then loses her. Just heart-breaking… Paul McGillion has said this is one of his favorite episodes.

    I can see why. Early in the series it established the depth of the character, as even more than the lovable, humorous buddy in Rising 1. It shows the responsible man of science conscientiously objecting to short cuts in developing the Hoffan drug, though he is sympathetic and has a heart. He is torn in several different directions. There are some successes, but it is punctuated by loss. 🙁 I wish more strong, Beckett-centered episodes like this had been written between Season 1 and Season 5 ( without having to kill him off in Season 3).

    Incidentally, Poisoning the Well is a good example of a “satisfying conclusion.” To clarify, a satisfying conclusion doesn’t have to have anything to do with emotions or a romantic payoff. The ending can leave readers/viewers stunned, with an outcome they did not expect or wish for.

    As long as the writer has laid the groundwork for the conclusion throughout the story, the ending will be plausible, and make sense. The reader may mentally review previous events in the story, weigh all the factors, and decide that yes, though it isn’t what I wanted, it could have happened that way. So if the ending is acceptable, believable, and not forced, then it is a satisfying conclusion.

    I bet many of us Beckett fans were hoping Perna would live, and remain one of his trusted colleagues, often called in to confer on medical dilemmas in future episodes. So much the better! 😀 Alas, it did not happen that way. Given the circumstances, it was possible and believable for Perna to have lost her life, as many others did. Thank goodness it was only a story, with drama necessitated by television ratings. (Pesky things!) 🙂 If it were to happen in real life, positive person that I am, I’d like to think the outcome would be different.

  25. I don’t read King too often, but Misery blew me away. I saw the movie, read the book, saw the movie again and then read the book again. Both captivated me. It’s been some years, but I should at least watch the movie again. Kathy Bates slays me.

    About the Wraith…yes, they are about survival and are looking at ways to survive, but the issues I have is the fact that they are technologically advanced enough (far more than those pesky Earthers) to find a way to deal with their feeding issues without having to take down the native population of Pegasus. They are capable of morality. We’ve seen that with a few Wraith.

    The thing is, Joe, logic would dictate that their feeding pool is limited. The Wraith know this. They didn’t become Wraith overnight. Their evolution took thousands of years at the very least. They are capable of intelligence and logic. It seems to me that they would see the limited human population and realize that if it were to diminish enough, that would put their own species at risk.

    The Wraith chose not to find alternatives or other ways to feed. They chose to feed upon a weaker species rather than share the galaxy. They are a sentient species who know who and what they are. They are capable of understanding science and being considerate of other sentient species. They make the conscious choice not to.

    At best, the Wraith are parasitic with unlimited moral failings every step of the way. They’ve proven this time and time again.

  26. One of the things I pondered about were the armaments of the Geni. They seemed to be rather single shot unwielding bang sticks and bulky pistols that had a lot of odd hardware hanging around them. Joe you touched on one subject that I will go into further question later on.

    Yes, The wraith were doing only what they were meant to do. But that could be said about a crocodile, tiger, or bear. Steve, I like the name Steve. Just his vicious threats of unmerciless agony were in were enough to cause a lack of sympathy but that was somehow forth coming.

    I enjoyed the moral play in Poisoning the Well. The Hoffan suffered generations under the Wraith. How could someone from contemporary bourgeois earth understand them? The Geneva Convention comment was telling.

    Personally, watching Continuum again would bring me greater pleasure than watching Misery. It was a well done movie, as you explained Joe, just not my choice. I guess action is the type I like action more than suspense.

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