It’s time to put this miniseries to bed as Syfy’s Ascension comes to a close.
Let’s bitch it out…
Well that was certainly…something. If part one of Ascension is the slow introduction with the killer twist and part two is the lead-up to the climax, then part three is where the wheels come off the cart. As events – aboard the ship and off – spin out of control, so too does the show, collapsing under the weight of too many storylines, poor plotting and a desperate attempt to justify the continuation of the miniseries as a series.
I’d love to give Ascension credit for being daring and audacious in its execution of a grand vision, but honestly I found part three completely exhausting and simultaneously underwhelming. While this final part felt like more of a cohesive whole (as opposed to the two episode mash-up issue that I struggled with in part two), dividing screentime between so many various subplots without resolving the majority of them doesn’t make for the greatest viewing experience. I understand the intention to leave dangling plot threads in the hopes of going to series, but this felt undercooked.
We start off the night with the annual celebration for the four couples who can procreate. Considering how much it was built up, Ostara proves to be a rather sedate affair…at least until Lorelei (Amanda Thomson) shows up (in both ghost form and on video boinking Brian Van Holt’s William). The video becomes the latest weapon for Councilman Rose (Al Sapienza) to wrest control from the Denningers, but the plot is disappointing considering how easily Viondra (Tricia Helfer) and William best him. Even Jackie’s (Jessica Sipos) predicted comeuppance feels hollow: in the aftermath of Christa’s (Ellie O’Brien) EMP burst the ship goes into “disaster movie” mode and the Councilman abandons the teen tart to fend for herself. The end. It’s definitely lackluster.
The descent into madness that occupies most of the two hours ended up being a big problem. Not only does it hinge, once again, on Christa’s (still unexplained) magical powers, but the results are incredibly confusing. There’s enough power in the blast to kill several of Warren’s men outside of the ship and to knock-out the CO2 converters, but neither Gault (Brandon P. Bell) or Duke (Ryan Robbins) are severely injured, despite being only feet away? I know that Harris (Gil Bellows) had some kind of cockamamie explanation, but it just didn’t work for me.
There’s also an issue of narrative convenience that irks. Christa’s outburst occurs at the exact moment that Harris (Gil Bellows) needs it most, enabling him to shift from dead man walking to man in control with minimal fuss. While I didn’t expect Harris to eat a bullet (the organization never seemed that dangerous or nefarious to me), Harris’ simplistic return to power waters down the drama occurring outside of the ship. I can only imagine how I was supposed to react to Warren’s eventual demise, but I was so worn down by all of the silliness that I just laughed.
More effective was Krueger’s death, although everything else in her storyline felt like it was from a completely different show. While part two proved that the investigator was obviously interested in the welfare of the Ascension habitants, I found it really difficult to believe that Krueger would throw everything away to run away with Stokes (Brad Carter) in order to expose the company. Their scenes on the outside were filled with outlandish and cliché moments, including her groan worthy gunshot, Stock’s violent behaviour in the drug store and the implied but unconfirmed lesbian relationship with whistleblower Eva (Aliyah O’Brien). Only the sudden revelation that Eva is a mole and Krueger’s unexpected death justified this storyline (although Krueger’s death means Ascension loses one of its most interesting characters).
For the most part I felt ambivalent about all of the drama aboard the ship. I didn’t care whether Nora (Jacqueline Byers) and James (P.J. Boudousqué) reconciled, or whether Robert (John Ralston) redeemed himself. I also found it hysterical that so many characters were entirely absent: Ophelia (Rachael Crawford) and Presley (Michelle Mylett) are both MIA throughout the entire final part. Meanwhile Dr. Bryce (Andrea Roth) and Duke each get a few minutes of screen time early on, then disappear as soon as the chaos begins. With a cast this large, it’s not surprising that some people figure more heavily than others, but it does seem unusual that the miniseries has such an open-ended approach that fails to address the fate of so many of its core cast.
So how about that ending? After a second surge by Christa, Gault finds himself magically transplanted to an alien planet as Harris proclaims that the crew really will see space. This is clearly the show’s attempt to go out with a bang and justify an expansion to series. It’s definitely a promising hook (“Wait! So they actually do go into space?!”) – it’s just too bad it makes absolutely no sense and depends on a wunderkid’s magical EMP blast.
- Random crew member (after Viondra smashes him in the head with a bottle): “Bitch – that hurt!”
- Krueger: “I’m going full-Snowden. The world is going to know about Ascension!” Ohhh – so topical!
Your turn: what do you think now that you’ve seen all three parts? Was it worth the six hours? Do you hope that Ascension goes to series? Are you satisfied with the lack of resolution in so many storylines? Sad that Warren and Krueger died? And where is Gault? Sound off below.
Ascension has finished airing its six commissioned episodes. Syfy has yet to release information about the possibility of a series. Thanks for reading and be sure to come back Friday for the start of the Bitch Awards as we discuss the best music of the year followed by the Film awards on Monday, Dec 22. See you then!