The surprising cohesiveness of Pandora Season 2 Episode 4 lies in a well-played juxtaposition of internal conflicts in both the mission crew and Ralen, left behind on Earth to deal with the loss of his wife.
No lie, I'm still pretty choked at Matta being served up as the sacrificial lamb to the mission on Pandora Season 2 Episode 3.
And I'm frankly outraged at how Ralen's closest supposed friends just left him to deal with his grief on his own.
But it made room for Jett and Zazie to step up and make their presence felt so I get the reasoning despite the fact it totally throws Jax and Xander under the bus as terrible people.
Ralen's pain at losing Matta (although the Ancients never actually said that she had to stay with them forever unless I missed something) is understandably extreme considering they clung to each other as they had both been banished from Zatar.
On Pandora Season 2 Episode 1, Matta had discussed finding a new home for the two of them. This is echoed in Ralen's farewell message to Jett.
Jett's sharing of his own grief over the death of his sister was an impressive dive into the character who has been more about smooth operating than sincere emotion.
We've all experienced loss, Ralen. It becomes a part of us. Never leaves. Reminds us of who and what we've lost. You can visit. Just can't live there.Jett
I was skeptical when the season began that actor Akshay Kumar would be able to land his character successfully on Team Good Guys. Jett came in so deep in the hole of prior bad acts that I viewed everything he did with suspicion.
That being said, I'm happy to be proven wrong. And it wasn't just sharing his personal loss that did the job, it was the fact that he made repeated attempts to reach Ralen and returned despite Ralen's clear intention to kill him if he interfered with the simulation.
Meanwhile, the task of tracking down the lost alien race was almost ridiculously easy.
Sure, Jax's DNA is a star map.
Sure, Zazie and Jett were able to solve it in mere hours.
Sure, Admiral Lucas has no problems with them taking the Dauntless off to who-knows-where to track down an alien race on the word of the Ancients that she doesn't believe exist.
Misdirection is often the most effective tool in war.Harlan Fried
I'd still like to believe that Lucas is more savvy than she appears, especially considering how much time she spends with Harlan Fried.
Their one scene was a master class in political double-talk with Fried's smarmy Osborn-baiting and Lucas simultaneously deflecting obligations and digging for intel.
I'll give the writers kudos for throwing in the Jasper Maskelyne reference since, by all accounts, Maskelyne was just as big a con-man as Harlan Fried. It's a superbly meta sort of finesse.
The scene is also a stand-out in that it is the one scene that doesn't deal in personal fears and insecurities. For all their posturing and parlays, Fried and Lucas are confident in their interactions and intents.
We all have our share of tragedy.Xander
Not so aboard the Dauntless.
Xander's backstory was (finally!) interesting with the reveal about his brother's death during the Earth-Zatarian War. That information casts some light on his distrust of Ralen throughout Season 1 and sort of explains some of his younger-sibling recklessness.
Although I'm reasonably sure Shral wasn't the officer who delivered the news of Zion's death -- oooh, so much to unpack in that name but I'm not even going to try -- it made the event far more intense in using him in the dream.
Shral's own deeply-buried fear of Jax finding out that his torture-driven intel led to the attack on New Portland was equally compelling.
As part of the Core Three along with Osborn and Pevney, Shral been the most involved with the team this season.
Xander: I remember that when we were sure that we would die, when we had lost all hope, you stood fast. You didn't flinch in the face of insurmountable odds.
Shral: The state of my knees made running away out of the question.
I've appreciated the ascerbic, old-man attitude Shral exudes (especially in contrast to Osborn's attempt at the I'm-still-cool persona).
And while finding out that he was a weak link is disappointing to some degree, it's not like we've come to expect classic heroism from anyone on this show.
Perhaps I specialize in first contact because no one invites me anywhere a second time.Shral
While Jax's dream played, I'll admit to being a bit distracted by some questions left hanging from her previous visit to the Ancients' motel dimension.
Who is the old man in the chair? Where did all the crows go? Were the crows the Ancients too or are they just guards?
Why was Jax sitting in Matta's chair? Did she know that Xander was behind her because it doesn't seem like she ever saw him?
How many times now has she dreamed that he kills her? How is she able to continue a romantic relationship with him with that fear ever-present?
Matta's presence is probably reflective of guilt but it's not like Jax tries to apologize of make amends in the dream.
Man, I miss Matta.
I mean, if she'd been with the team, don't you think she would've found some readings on the cloaked planet that would've allowed them a less assinine way of landing on the surface than just FALLING down to it?
Jax: Guess we're not going to die after all.
And granted, the Dauntless went looking for something at those coordinates versus those other vessels that probably just unluckily wandered into the range of the telepathic nightmare projections of the Lost Race.
That probably explains how they were prepared for some degree of weird and thus didn't blow themselves up.
Except Shral. Almost. (Anyone else notice his airlock was the same one Xander ejected himself out of to escape the anti-matter weapon?)
If anyone's got a good explanation why Shral's nightmare Pandora is dressed as a chorus line dancer, I'd love to hear it.
Regarding the shell on the string necklace, my initial thought is that the telepathic race gave Jax something that allows her to read thoughts.
I'm guessing this is to create a better form of communication between the races. Technically, this is them "working with" the others without leaving their planet.
Xander: I always seem to hurt you. Even when I try not to.
Jax: There's plenty of hurt to go around.
I also think, in Jax's hands, it could totally backfire.
But that's just based on history.
While you watch Pandora online, it's interesting to note that they do small stories a lot more authentically than the epic ones.
I'm still not interested in seeing Jaxander snogging and, admittedly, I may be in the minority.
However, I am interested in the promised arrival of the Sumi (and maybe Kronin too?) party. Why they're being met in the Academy's student lounge, is anyone's guess.
So guess and speculate away (in the comments!) because, as we know, anything can and usually does happen on this show.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.