‘Ascension’ Finale Recap: “There’s a Cost for Failure”

Syfy’s much-hyped three-part miniseries event ‘Ascension’ drew to a close last night. As I feared, this premise was difficult to sustain and the show failed to stick its landing. However, I’m still glad I watched.

The finale opens with the “Ostara” ritual, where most of the upper-deckers await the results of the computer’s mating match-up assignments. Of the three couples selected to procreate, the last consists of Gault’s ex-girlfriend Emily and her current husband Duke. Gault is not pleased to hear this.

From her quarters, little psychic Christa hears mysterious laughing and has a vision of her dead sister Lorelei leading her to the party. In the midst of the celebration, a video clip starts playing on the wall of Captain Denninger having sex with Lorelei, which of course creates a commotion. Ghost Lorelei (who only Christa can see) yells at Christa to “Look away!” while her face goes all scary. Christa freaks out screaming. Outside the ship, Harris mutters some pseudoscience gibberish about “morphic resonance” and Christa being a “catalyst.”

Unfortunately for Harris, Krueger has filed her report with Director Warren, and it’s not flattering. Warren pays the facility a visit and informs Harris that the TC Group, which is apparently the organization they work for, has issued a vote of No Confidence and demanded his removal. Some goons arrive to drag him out to be “retired,” violently. Warren will take over until a replacement can be found.

Inside the ship, Robert Bryce puts Christa inside a fancy CAT scan machine he’s designed, so that he can monitor her brain’s electrical signals. Meanwhile, buoyed by the captain’s sex scandal and by information that Denninger may have an illegitimate love child on the lower decks, scheming Councilman Rose makes a power play to remove Denninger from command. Unfortunately for him, Denninger and his wife Viondra manipulated him. The child actually belongs to another councilman, who is required to step down, greatly weakening Rose’s position on the council.

Krueger, who still wants evidence that will allow her to publicly expose the Ascension project, steals an access card from the scientist Carillo and uses it to enter Stokes’ cell. Her timing is pretty bad, as Stokes has just overpowered an orderly to make an escape attempt. He grabs Krueger as a hostage. Luckily, security at this facility is incredibly lax. Even after his escape is discovered, Stokes is able to drag Krueger all through the place undetected. He believes he’s still on the ship and demands that she bring him to the captain. That plan falls to shit when they walk through the door to the catwalks and Stokes sees the Ascension in front of him. Krueger explains that the ship never left Earth. Stokes’ mind is blown.

Krueger drags Stokes outside to the parking lot, where they finally encounter a single security guard. Stokes attacks the guy, but he gets off a shot that hits Krueger in the abdomen. Still capable of driving, Krueger shoves Stokes in a car and hightails it out of there.

Christa has another vision of her sister, who this time leads her to the artificial lake, where she sees Duke beating up Gault over their love triangle soap opera nonsense. Christa gets all agitated and creates a giant psychic electrical blast that not only fries many of the important computer systems on the ship, but actually causes the facility outside to black out and lose surveillance abilities (the first time that has happened in 50 years). Harris, who’d been beaten up a little but not yet murdered, babbles something about “punctuated evolution.” Director Warren decides that maybe she should listen to him after all, and has Harris reinstated on the project.

It’s crisis time on the ship. Vital systems are failing, including the air scrubbers that convert carbon dioxide to breathable oxygen. On the bridge, Ensign Toback glances over at a monitor and sees an episode of ‘Alf’ playing. (Harris explains that the RF jammers that block the ship from receiving outside transmissions have failed.) Toback is greatly confused by what he sees, but strangely he’s more bothered by the modern (to his eyes) clothes and cars than by the freakin’ furry alien on screen. You’d think he might believe this to be a transmission from another planet. Anyway, he points this out to Robert Bryce, who dismisses it and sends him on a busy-work errand.

While Harris works to tap into the ship’s nuclear reactor to restore outside power, Director Warren decides that Christa is too valuable to let suffocate to death. Against Harris’ objections, she sends a goon named Medici into the ship to get the girl.

Stokes has trouble adjusting to the world outside the ship, but manages to rob a convenience store to steal some painkillers and supplies to patch up Krueger a little from her gunshot. Krueger calls her friend Eva the conspiracy theorist to help and makes plans for all of them to flee to Switzerland and “Go Full Snowden,” leaking the Ascension story to the world from abroad. Sadly, she realizes too late that Eva is a double agent working for the TC Group. Eva shoots Krueger in the head, saying “The Star Child must be born.” She then goes after Stokes, but he has already slipped away.

Gault and Captain Denninger can’t fix the air scrubbers, but come up with a solution to dump the lithium dioxide out of them directly into the ventilation system, where it will react with the carbon dioxide and create oxygen. The condensation this creates also effectively causes it to rain all through the ship.

Christa has figured out that the ship isn’t in space. She has more psychic visions that someone from outside is coming to get her. Robert Bryce calls Harris, who begs him to protect the girl. She tells Bryce that she knows he killed her sister to silence her.

Gault sees ghost Lorelei, who leads him to the beach just as Medici enters the ship and grabs Christa. Gault fights him in the rain and mud. Christa creates another big psychic blast that causes both of the men to simply vanish.

Director Warren announces that it’s time to shut down the Ascension project and kill everyone on board (except Christa). Harris pushes her off the catwalk to her own death. He proclaims, “You’re wrong. They are heroes, and they’re going to space!”

In a final mind-screw, Gault wakes up… on the surface of an alien planet! Christa has apparently teleported him there. This is what Harris’ eugenics project was trying to develop.

And that’s it. The finale ends on a cliffhanger, no doubt in the hopes that the program will be picked up for an ongoing series much as the ‘Battlestar Galactica’ reboot was. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen.

I can’t say that I’m very satisfied with the way this ended. The magical Star Child business reminds me uncomfortably of the worst parts of the 1980s ‘V: The Final Battle’ miniseries. The finale also leaves a lot of questions frustratingly unanswered, such as who the mysterious TC Group are, how they kept a structure larger than the Empire State Building hidden from the world, and how Harris ever recruited Bryce to be his inside man. The resolution to the central murder mystery also comes almost as an afterthought.

That said, if this show should get picked up for series, I’d probably give it a chance to address some of these issues. I like the idea of the program better than the execution, but it has the potential to lead to something interesting if given the time.

3 comments

  1. JSwanson

    I’m sorry,but this series was so disjointed & inchoate,as to border on insanity. I wouldn’t be interested in watching anything more related to it.

  2. agentalbert

    The kid is an awful actress. I hated every scene with her. Partly for her acting, and partly because I’m really tired of the “wise mystic child” type characters. Always referred to as “the one”, of course.

  3. Mr Mike

    Agree with the comments that the kid was annoying (and her storyline), and the whole thing was disjointed.

    It’s a shame because there was some good things in this. The first epsisode, I was (and I imagine most people were) thinking it’s a bit unbelievable to have a spaceship from the 60s that’s capable of transporting so many people and to another star…but the twist at the end of that episode was quite brilliant, and then it went from unbelievable, to ok, still not likely but at least now plausible that a project like this could happen.

    And later when Stokes looked up at the ship and was crying, and said ‘I don’t understand’, it was a really sad moment, the realisation of his whole life being a lie. It was such a moving scene, that I was feeling sorry for the most hateful character on the ship.

    But as for the little girl plot, it’s like the show went from almost impossible (interstellar travel in the 60s), to almost plausible (it was fake and covered up for over 50 years), to utterly stupid (girl’s mind transports someone to another planet. That was just dumb. That was worse than ‘Under The Dome’ dumb.

    There were some good ideas in this show, and yes, it didn’t seem like one that could have gone on for many seasons, but it shouldn’t have had that ridiculous girl plot, and it should have been wrapped up, with an ending, I guess with them coming off the ship. Maybe it just couldn’t have gotten more interesting after that….I guess with Stokes doing the whole ‘adapting to a futuristic world’ thing, there’s only so much they could have done with it, so they had to go batsh*t crazy with the girl.

    Some potentially great ideas, poorly executed. Stokes coming off the ship, and Stokes looking at the ship later, were two amazing moments, but two amazing moments don’t make a great story.

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