- Joe Flanigan (John Sheppard)
- Jewel Staite (Dr. Jennifer Keller)
- David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney McKay)
- Neil Jackson (Wraith)
Written by: Robert Cooper. Directed by: Robert Cooper. Air date: Jan. 2, 2009.
Plot Synopsis (Contains Spoilers)
Police find a desiccated corpse on a desert road outside Las Vegas, Nevada, the seventh victim of a bizarre serial killer. Detective John Sheppard, called in to assist, is baffled by these murders. Then a clue, traces of radiation found on the bodies, leads him to a strange looking man with super human attributes who easily evades capture.
Some time later, Sheppard is detained and driven to Area 51. There he meets Dr. Rodney McKay who reveals that the suspect is, in fact, an alien -- a wraith -- who feeds on human energy. What's more, McKay and his team have traveled to Earth from the Pegasus Galaxy, by way of a stargate, to prevent this wraith from compromising the security of the planet. But so far, Sheppard is the only one who's been able to get close to him.
Out of the Ordinary
A special effort was clearly made with "Vegas," the last episode in production even though it's being aired next-to-last. From start to finish, "Vegas" feels less like a weekly installment of a sci-fi series being produced on tight schedules at the cost of rushed effects and occasionally compromised visions. Even the actual series finale, "Enemy at the Gate" (about which more later), feels more like a conventional Stargate landmark episode, hinging on huge space battles and seemingly unpreventable peril to the entire Earth.
But "Vegas" is something altogether different, an opportunity to reinvent Stargate Atlantis entirely as a glossy drama with the production values of a feature film and the leisure to indulge in atmosphere-reinforcing directoral flourishes. In fact "Vegas" plays almost like a pilot for an alternate-universe Stargate Atlantis, one produced by a Hollywood auteur like Steven Soderbergh with a mission to elevate the television drama.
"Vegas" is saturated with Stargate master Robert C. Cooper's love for the series and characters, and watching it finally made me feel the impact of Stargate Atlantis going off the air for good. As such it's an ideal send-off for the series and a nice counterpoint to the epic scope of the finale that "Vegas" helps set up.
Atmosphere and Action
The Las Vegas setting sets the tone for the episode, allowing resonance with films like Ocean's Eleven and Casino but with the action rearranged to connect with the Stargate universe. The extra effort put forward in Cooper's direction means you feel the stark desert heat and the dankness of the members-only lounge in a way that's rare for sci-fi dramas, where the attention is usually on the stunts and special effects. When this Las Vegas is plugged into the threats faced daily by the Atlantis team, it adds a new dimension of realism that feels like breath of hot, dry desert air.
The episode focuses heavily on John Sheppard, and Cooper and Flanigan are able to spend considerable time conveying the depth of pain and potential waywardness that the creators have spent the last five years hinting at. In the opposing orbit is Neil Jackson as the Wraith Sheppard is tracking; though he has hardly any lines Jackson creates a memorable character, probably one of the most resonant of all the Wraith that the Atlantis team has met.
If this really were a pilot, instead of a swan song, I'd be eagerly awaiting the series that would result from it. As it is, I can only be thankful to Cooper and company for giving us such a beautiful goodbye.