Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sundays through the Stargate - The 'Ship Addendum

Sundays through the Stargate is a weekly series that I am doing on Stargate SG1 which you can learn more about in The Beginning post. It is mostly for my own dorky edification but if there are any other fans out there I'd love to hear your thoughts!
The season long Stargate posts get very long and I know not everyone is obsessed with Sam and Jack's love life as I am.  In order to spare any readers, I am creating this addendum post to Season 8 to talk exclusively about my feels about the 'ship.  Hopefully it doesn't get out of hand.
One thing to say off the bat is all this relationship stuff happens very below the radar and in the background for the most part.  A post like this may make it seem like its a huge part of the show, and while it is crucial to making this a show I love rather than just like, it takes up very little screen time.
To recap, here is how I think the trajectory of Sam and Jack's relationship followed across the whole show.  

SEASON 1 - Some immediate attraction but Sam is too worried about proving herself and impressing Jack as her commanding officer to really get too caught up in feelings and Jack is still dealing with the break-up of his marriage.  The Military regulations against fraternization are enough to keep either from indulging any deeper relationship thoughts and things stay pretty formal between them until they are trapped in Antarctica together and the experience bonds them.
SEASON 2 -  Somewhere along the line in this season Jack realizes he's fallen for Sam.  A lot of people point to Episode 2, In the Line of Duty when Sam is taken over by Jolinar and almost dies.  I'm not sure that I agree that this is the episode but it may at least serve as a trigger for the Colonel's feelings and by the end of season 2 he's pretty smitten though hiding it (mostly) well.  See the last episode of Season 2 and episode 1 of Season 3 for evidence of his smittenness.  Sam also seems to have relaxed a little around him and conspicuously finds all his jokes hilarious.  I think she's fighting/denying her feelings harder than Jack though because falling for her CO is not something she would be happy with herself about.
SEASON 3 -  The first two overtly shippy episodes occur.  Jack explores what it might be like to be with Sam by smooching the  AU Doctor Carter which gives our Sam a lot of food for thought. Also to Kawalsky, Jack does not deny an interest in being with our Sam but just holds up the regulations as a barrier.  In A Hundred Days, Sam has her cathartic moment where she finally realizes or at least gives in to the idea that she, in fact, has fallen for her CO.  The stage is set for...
SEASON 4 -  A week of hanging out casually while being stranded after the season 3 finale serves to relax Sam and Jack around each other enough that they are now openly flirty.  Their feelings are very close to the surface and they are only just keeping them tamped down.  Numerous situations during the season force those feelings to bubble to the surface and they actually admit there feelings, in a vague sort of way, to one another for the first time (under duress).  It's a revelation for both of them as clearly they both thought the feelings were one-sided.  A devastating incident towards the end of the season causes another shift in how they interact.  By far the 'shippiest season.
SEASON 5 - Nothing. Nada. Zip.  The 'ship is essentially non-existent in this season but its very non-existence is actually a thing.  Jack is pretty traumatized by his belief that his feelings for Sam put her, and in fact the SGC and the world in danger from an alien entity and that in order to correct the situation he had to essentially shoot and kill Sam.  As a result their relationship is nothing but professional in season 5 as he buries his feelings and establishes distance.  Sam follows his lead.  
SEASON 6 -  Jack seems to have found some balance in his relationship with Sam and coupled with Daniel going away, things are a good bit warmer and relaxed between them.  Jack scrupulously keeps it on this footing but Sam starts to reach out a little bit more.  Jack is lost a couple times during the season which drives Sam's feelings back to the surface and she is probably unsure at this point if Jack even still has feelings for her after he has so effectively pulled away.  Towards the end of the season she starts to prod him a little bit to see where he if he still has feelings for her. He does his best to stay neutral though he doesn't always succeed especially when she is in distress.
SEASON 7 - This season seems to be all about Sam struggling with her feelings for Jack and with her life as a whole.  Grace is at the center of this and we get to see where her inner thoughts on things.  She is at a point where she would be willing to quit the Air Force if she was certain of his feelings but she suspects she is the only one with feelings anymore and that she is hanging on to them because it is safer.  This spurs her to put herself out there and she starts dating Stalker Pete.  Despite her apparent feelings for Pete it does not stop her obvious need for Jack and she even appears to be trying to tell him of her feelings in The Lost City eps. 
SEASON 8 - The 'ship is mostly under wraps this season until Threads.  There are definitely some moments before this but nothing substantial.  Threads is meant to "wrap up" the Sam and Jack storyline and it is hinted VERY vaguely that they will be addressing their feelings and making arrangements so that they can be together.  We see none of this and instead get a coy scene of them fishing (with Daniel and Teal'c) which can be taken as symbolic.  If you want. 

As you can probably tell I am not thrilled at how they attempted to wrap everything up.  I understand that Sam and Jack's relationship has always been in the background  - it was very rarely a major plot point and most of the feelings have been conveyed in short cryptic scenes or meaningful glances.  I LOVE this and quite frankly probably would not be as obsessed with the 'ship or the show if it had been a more overt component.

I love shows, books, movies, basically any story that has an element of romance but I am actually  pretty specific about how I like it.  While I will happily, when I am in the mood, devour a romance novel, or romantic comedy film, my favorite TV shows keep the romance as a long simmering backdrop for the rest of the action.  I don’t want or need the romance front and center but I like for it to be there, simmering, revealing itself in subtle acting choices and expressions and then perhaps occasionally bubbling to the top every fifth or tenth episode for fleeting moments before retreating back into suppression.  I love the understated angst and I love analyzing the bejesus out of these relationships.   

At this point though I have something I want to say to all those TV writers and creators that either embrace or get unwillingingly saddled with a ‘ship.  There is one key thing to writing a good love story and that is the moment it all finally comes together.  The climax if you will (hee, hee).  I’m not talking about the wild monkey sex here, I am talking about the moment when the characters in question finally acquiesce to their, in many cases long-suppressed, feelings and bring it out into the open to each other and share a first kiss.  It is an absolutely key moment and there will be no satisfaction without it.  It's like a mystery story without the solution.  Screw up this ending and it kind of makes the whole thing not work. 

The timing is tricky of course.  You play that card too early and it can be difficult to maintain the interest and excitement level but the card must be played at some point for the story of these two people’s relationship to have even remotely had a point.  This is why The X Files was so darn frustrating.  With Scully and Mulder we at least get the satisfaction of knowing they do in fact enter into a romantic relationship. We even get some smooches which is nice.  I guess.  However, we have no idea, at all when all this begins.  All the sudden Mulder and Scully are just at a point where they are smooching and it’s not the first time and it could be the 700th time for all we know.  So even though we at least get the satisfaction of knowing that these two lovebirds do find each other, the story of their relationship still remains largely unsatisfying. 

Now, SG-1 deserves a special place in the ‘shipper hell.  SG-1 actually does a really great job of plotting the trajectory of Sam and Jack’s relationship (see above).  I have no idea if they planned it out from the beginning but regardless it follows a very believable trajectory. It drags things out for 8 years which in most ‘ship situations would be stretching credulity but here it makes perfect sense.  Also with RDA/Jack essentially leaving the show after season 8, coming back for a couple small cameos afterwards, it actually has a very clear end point, the perfect placeholder for when things need to come together.  

So what went horribly wrong?  They never give us the scene, the coming together.  The scene where all the angst and story of the last many seasons of television is brought to a satisfying conclusion.  They instead leave us with coy, vague scenes that could be interpreted in many ways both romantic or not and little easter eggs of hints that maybe something has happened between Sam and Jack.  We don’t get the scene, the one that makes the story have a point and worse than that we never even get straightforward confirmation that at the very least, things have been resolved off screen.  WHY?  What was the point of all the ‘ship development over the years?  Was it just so dorks like me would write lengthy posts about it?  If so, shame on them.  As storytellers they should not have been happy leaving their story incomplete.  But Stephanie, you say, many great novels and films etc… don’t end with things tied up in a neat bow?  True enough but how many romances end that way?  And while SG1 is a great show it has no pretensions to high art or philosophical discovery.  

And just to rub the salt in the wound and add to the annoyance is the fact is that we get more overt relationship stuff and confirmation in this universe between Daniel and Vala and between McKay and Doctor Kaylee (Jennifer Keller) on Stargate Atlantis.  Seriously?? Mckay??  Who gives a crap about McKay’s love life??  He’s a great character but is a horrible annoying person – I don’t need or want to see him being romantic.   So how come TPTB have no trouble pulling the trigger with these couples but not Jack and Sam?? 

Enough with the excessive questions marks of frustration.  Lets try and address why TPTB did things the way they did them.  It seems clear to me that TPTB wanted to honor the story and give the 'shippers an ending they had been waiting for through 8 years of angst.  At least half of Threads is about Sam and Jack though they steer clear of anything concrete and instead try to further appease 'shippers by having alternate versions of Sam and Jack make out in Moebius.   So why didn't they just pull the trigger in Threads?  One reason may be that the show really tried to honor the U.S. Air Force and be as true to the realities of the military as possible.  Having Sam and Jack have an overt scene of feelings being bared and smooches would have gone against this policy.  To which I say P-shaw.  At the very least if they really didn't feel like they could give it here, they could have at the very least given straight forward evidence of their relationships in Seasons 9 and 10, or SG Atlantis or Continuum.  All we get are more coy hints. 

Another reason may have been a strong dichotomy in the fan base between Shippers and Anti-shippers.  This show, I think, had/has a pretty divisive fan base, perhaps more so than other shows and TPTB may not have wanted to alienate the Anti-shippers?  To which I also say P-shaw.  It's one flippin' episode, one flippin' scene for goodness sake.  

Some other reasons that flit through my mind?  The other stuff going on in the episode made it feel like not the right time (Sam's Dad dying, Daniel lost, Sam still being with Pete for the majority of episode etc...), a vague feeling like they wanted to deal with it later, they thought it would be better to leave the details up to the imagination of the viewer, they didn't feel they could do it properly in the time they had.  I say P-shaw to all of them as well :0).

To wrap up, I'll end on a positive note.  I do enjoy the scenes in Threads and watching them with my 'ship glasses firmly in place I think it is clear that what goes down in the episode represents a shift will be happening in Sam and Jack's relationship.  I also have to admire how cleverly the scene's can be interpreted either way as two friends being friendly or two long-suppressed lovers finally saying screw it, let's make this thing happen, Earth and duty be damned.  The actors do a good job of conveying what needs to be conveyed.  And even if it is two alternative versions of themselves Moebius is a lot of fun.  I like the thought that if Sam and Jack had met without the restrictions, Jack would have started their relationship pretty quickly by just bluntly telling Sam she's hot.  Because, I am betting that is how it would've gone down.  And Sam, being flummoxed but strangely attracted to this man who on the surface she seems to have nothing in common with.  

Anyway, hopefully they are somewhere in northern Minnesota right now ice fishing and laughing without a care in the world.

So what are your thoughts on how things ended? Are you happy with it or would you have like a more concrete resolution to their story?  Why do you think that is not what we got and why it was continually left vague even in future season, shows and follow up movies?  So MANY questions that I'd love to hear your thoughts on.

Thanks so much to anyone who managed to get all the way through this post, lol!  You're troopers and I appreciate you reading my rambling and venting.

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