‘Ascension’ Night Two Recap: “Setbacks Are to Be Expected”

After the first episode ended on such a crazy plot twist, Part 2 of Syfy’s ‘Ascension’ miniseries naturally spends a lot of time trying to justify what that means and how it works. Perhaps unavoidably, this episode is not quite as good as good as the premiere, but I’m still interested enough to see this thing through.

After falling through the airlock into what he thought was outer space but turns out to be an air mattress in a giant hangar, the presumptive murderer Stokes is locked away and put in a straightjacket. He believes he’s in Hell, and has basically gone completely crazypants. He spends most of the episode flailing around violently and threatening to kill anyone who comes near him. (If he were really dead in Hell, how could he kill someone, huh?)

Harris (Gil Bellows) may be in charge of this project, whatever it is, but he still has to report to a superior, Director Warren, who mandates that he work with an investigator named Samantha Krueger to look into the matter of the murder. Harris resists, claiming that the murderer is already in custody, and what could Krueger really do from outside the ship anyway? Nevertheless, he’s stuck with a woman he refers to as a “watchdog” who he believes is really there to keep tabs on him.

In explaining the purpose of Ascension to Krueger, Harris describes it as a “sociological experiment” to determine whether human beings could really survive a multi-generational trip to outer space. He also calls it “the most important endeavor in human history.” That’s kind of a grand proclamation for something that essentially seems to be a private Reality show for his personal entertainment.

Sure enough, Krueger does have ulterior motives. Director Warren suspects that Harris is lying to her about what he’s doing with and to the ship crew. She wants Krueger to snoop around and report back – and if she happens to learn the identity of the murderer too, well that might be interesting.

Krueger’s digging leads her to a conspiracy theorist who insists that 70 prominent scientists all reportedly died of suspicious causes (car accidents, plane crashes, train derailments, etc.) in 1963. She calls them “the 63/70.” Additionally, numerous children went missing around the same time. She believes that all of these people were kidnapped by the government. Krueger is skeptical, but wonders whether the original crew of the Ascension was forced onto the ship against their wills.

Back aboard the Ascension in the current day, someone sets off a bomb that damages the ship’s cooling system. Captain Denninger explains this away as being a methane gas build-up, but Gault has to find the bomber before he strikes again and does more serious damage. Meanwhile, the rising temperature inside the ship makes people really irritable. Denninger’s wife Viondra (Tricia Helfer) suggests that a distraction is needed. Denninger opens up the ship’s stores to let alcohol flow freely, while Viondra orders her crew of “stewardesses” (really high-class call girls) to work overtime.

Gault traces the bomb to a lower-decks crewman named Dwight Crouch, who turns out to be Stokes’ illegitimate (or “unclaimed”) son. Gault tracks him to the unused Deck 23, which was damaged in the big fire 20 years earlier. This causes the experimenters outside the ship to work quickly to suck all the air out of the deck in order to maintain the illusion. Gault walks in wearing a space suit.

Crouch sets a timer on a second bomb. If it goes off, it could blow a hole in the hull and expose the ship to the outside world. He and Gault struggle. Gault manages to disable the bomb, and also knocks an air house out of Crouch’s suit. He tries to help, but Crouch continues to fight. The visor on his own suit cracked, Gault is forced to leave the deck while Crouch suffocates to death.

In the Medical Bay, little Christa refuses to take her required inoculation shot. The librarian Ophelia offers to take it first in order to show her that it’s safe, but promptly collapses and falls into a coma. Outside the ship, Harris claims that she must have had an allergic reaction to the formula that was designed specifically for Christa. He’s obviously covering up something. Later, Harris tries to secretly deliver the formula to Christa via a glass of milk, but she senses that something is wrong with it, stares directly into one of the hidden cameras that she couldn’t possibly know about, and defiantly pours the milk on the floor.

Harris says that it’s time to take a “direct approach,” and reveals that he somehow has a man on the inside. That night, a mysterious figure wearing a hazmat suit with white gloves enters Christa’s room carrying a syringe. The girl runs away. He chases her. They struggle. He gets a cut on his arm and bleeds on her clothes. She attacks him with some sort of telekinetic power, but the man overpowers her and injects her.

Outside, Harris looks extremely pleased. This little girl could be what he’s been working toward.

The next day, Christa reports the attack. Gault launches a manhunt. The blood on Christa’s dress points to Dr. Bryce’s young assistant Ike, who has conveniently hung himself in his quarters. However, we in the audience learn that the real culprit is Bryce’s husband, Robert, who presumably murdered Ike and staged the suicide.

This of course raises the question: If everyone currently on board the ship was born there, how could Harris have recruited Robert? Even if we accept that the character is supposed to be in his mid-50s (the actor is currently exactly 50), he still would have been a very young child when the ship launched. Did Harris make contact with Robert as an adult? Does Robert know the truth about the ship?

In a separate revelation, we learn that Harris has been watching and studying the inhabitants of the ship ever since he was a young boy himself, and has developed an obsession with Bryce’s wife, Juliet (Andrea Roth). It was Harris that we saw in the last episode skulking through Christa’s room and stealing Juliet’s seahorse necklace. He eventually presents that necklace as a gift to his own wife, who has more than a little resemblance to Juliet. Creepy!

At this point, it seems pretty clear that Harris’ real objective here is the genetic manipulation of the ship’s crew in order to produce an individual with psychic powers and force the evolution of our species forward. With Christa, he appears to have been successful.

Honestly, I’m disappointed that this is where the show is going. This psychic business is too much superhero fantasy in what I’d assumed was a science fiction story. However, I still find the show interesting and am eager to see how the miniseries ends.

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