Look, I'm shallow. I admit it. This episode could have had plot holes big enough to sink hive ships in. It could have involved an invasion of tiny pink fairies riding on mice, and I would still have loved this episode. Some people are already familiar with my oft-expressed fondness for "heroic staggering." My absolute favourite h/c scenario involves my hero carrying on despite injuries, saving others while their life's blood seeps through the hand that they have clutched to their seeping side. From that you can just how much this episode was my wildest dreams made flesh. Yup, shallow. So sue me. ;-)
One thing that really stands out for me is how this episode actually did things that I thought I didn't want. Months ago, Joe Mallozzi posted concept art of Sheppard apparently injured in the wreckage. Speculating over that, I knew that that I definitely didn't want Sheppard and co. to get magically beamed out by the Daedalus, and I also hoped that Sheppard would be badly injured enough to be in peril of his life. In the event, of course, Sheppard and Ronon were beamed out… and, oh, how glad I am that they were, since that gave us the lovely last stand moment, when they were all alone with approaching enemies, and no friends to hand. Also, if Sheppard had been more seriously injured, he'd have had to languish in the infirmary for the second half of the episode, so bye-bye to heroic staggering. I sometimes criticise the writers and wish they'd done things differently, but in this case, they definitely knew best.
I don't really need to detail the moments that made my Shep-whumpers' heart go pitter-patter with delight, but, hey, I'll do so anyway, since then I can go all dreamy as I remember them. The blood on the white shirt in the dream. The wonderful way Joe Flanigan played Sheppard's pain in the infirmary scene with Sheppard. His weak, pain-filled voice in the ruins. Urging Ronon to leave. Confessing that he's feeling weak, and then asking Keller if he's really going to be okay. (Some people claim that Sheppard never feels fear, but I think he most definitely does, just doesn't show it in expansive gestures, but in small, subtle ways. I really saw fear there.) The blood on his hand just after they find Teyla. In fact, the only bit my whumpers' heart wanted differently was the final infirmary scene, when he just looked so healthy.
And the team…! On my initial viewing, I was a bit disappointed that McKay didn't show more concern over the fact that Sheppard and Ronon were (as far as he knew) very probably dead, but I saw that concern on a second viewing. It was there in his reaction when they were identified, just as Sheppard's concern was shown in his relief when Keller told him McKay was alive. Even if such things aren't explicitly put into the script, it's there in the way that scenes are played, and the episode was too packed with other things to allow room for "Oh no, I'm so worried!" scenes. I also loved the bit in the jumper when Sheppard's looking pained, and McKay, nudged by Ronon, suggests that he stays behind. And, of course, the lovely understated relationship between Sheppard and Ronon in the wreckage, conveyed with so few words. Oh, and Sheppard's rare moment of heartfelt sincerity when he tells Keller that he refuses to contemplate losing a team-mate again – so much more poignant given the appearance of Ford in his dream. He doesn't often wear his heart on his sleeve, but when he does... Oh wow!
One thing I'd almost forgotten on my first viewing was that this followed on from The Last Man. I mean, I knew this intellectually, but kept forgetting that, for Sheppard, this is still the same day as his awful adventure in the future, and that Rodney and Ronon are coming to this after enduring 12 days with Teyla and Sheppard missing. It really added to the emotional resonance when I remembered that.
I loved the birthing scene, both Rodney's hilarious panic, and the way Teyla talked to him. That's the essence of Rodney, I think. He'll panic and panic, but when it comes to the crunch, he steps up and does what he needs to. I liked his exchanges with Lorne, too.
Sam I also liked a lot in this episode. I've never watched SG-1, and I spent the whole of season four thinking that I really hadn't worked out what Sam was all about. However, in Search and Rescue, I felt she performed really well in all fields. It was probably the first time I really felt fond of her. I'll miss her – though I'm actually looking forward to having Woolsey in charge, since I think it offers a lot more potential for interesting stories and character development all round.
I'm still not sure about Keller. I don't dislike her, but I don't really get her. I really wouldn't miss her if we never saw her again, which is a regrettable thing to think after a whole season. Did she give Sheppard her blessing to go back on duty, despite his injuries? If so, well… *shakes head*. Yup, I'm shallow, and I love the heroic staggering that ensued, but it requires some creative fanfic writerly intervention to justify that medical decision.
Caldwell, however, I felt had some of the best lines. I loved his "make that ship go away," and the way he delivered the line about trying to keep daring rescues down to one a day. I'm almost beginning to think of him as Caldwell, not as Skinner.
I know nothing about technical matters, but there were times in this episode when I felt I was watching a movie rather than a TV show. There was just something about it – music, images etc. I really liked the slow zoom across the water in the first shot of Atlantis. The journey through space near the start I also thought was rather cool, but far too long.
Things I didn't like? Well, the whole Michael storyline doesn't interest me that much, but I could more than live with it, as the trigger for all the heroic staggering and daring rescues. I thought the Michael storyline was interesting at first, when it raised moral issues, but I now I find him a rather tedious and stereotypical evil overlord type who wants to rule the galaxy just because. I'm not fond of the whole super-important baby issue, or of Teyla getting kidnapped, but, again, I can more than live with it since I loved the episode that came out of it. (Scully got kidnapped when Gillian Anderson was pregnant, so it seems to be the fate that female characters can expect when their actresses get pregnant. Well, it's true in two cases, and that's more than enough for statistical significance. ;-P)
I'm rather unsure about Teyla naming her baby after Sheppard, which, yes, I can accept as a gesture of friendship and respect and gratitude, though I do wish we'd seen her express similar gratitude to Rodney and Ronon about rescuing her. However, that, and the dream at the start, can be taken as hints of a burgeoning romantic relationship between them. Personally, I don't ship anyone, and I prefer it when the show totally avoids any hints along any of these lines, because that way lies shipping wars and heartbroken shippers of different persuasions. I prefer the show to sit on the fence and let everyone happily ship anyone they like to their hearts' content. (Which is not to say that I think that these scenes were conclusive in any way, but they were stronger hints that I'm happy with. Though I still love the dream scene. So there! ;-P)
I was a little disappointed that the episode didn't bring up the moral issues of risking many lives to save one. Should they have lowered the shields to save two lives, potentially risking the loss of everyone on the Daedalus? It was always taken for granted that Teyla had to be rescued, even if it was potentially at the cost of many lives. Yes, we've seen the awful results of Michael getting his hands on Teyla's baby, but that could have been averted had Caldwell been allowed to fire on Michael's ship as soon as he saw it. Michael dead; threat over. Yes, Teyla dead, too, but the whole future of the galaxy secured. No, I'm not arguing that it would have been right to give up Teyla, Sheppard and Ronon as lost, but I think there is at least a proper moral issue there, with arguments on both sides.
All in all, though, I loved the episode. It took over my brain for several days since I watched it – more than any episode of any show has done since a certain long-ago X-Files episode over ten years ago. Ah, what it is to be shallow, and to have your dearest wishes granted.