***This review contains spoilers throughout***
The A Plot of episode 4.04, “Monsoon”, begins very similarly to Amanda Tapping’s “Samantha Carter gets a love life” Stargate SG-1 episode, “Chimera”, where an annoying man approaches Sam Carter in a coffee shop with a terrible pick-up line only to turn out to be her new boyfriend. Here, we learn from Will and Henry’s expository opening (and the screen label), Magnus has traveled to an airport in Africa to meet a new associate, and when a man offers a cringe-worthy come on, the viewer wonders, “Is this really the new associate?” Magnus has barely rebuffed him when another fellow proffers cage match tickets as compensation for his rude cell phone behavior, and we again speculate. The one other woman present introduces herself to Magnus as a scientist studying lemurs. Before we can consider that perhaps *she* is really Helen’s contact, a crew of bad guys interrupts and orders everyone to hand over their bank access numbers. So…not your average pick-up scene after all.
The rest of the episode views as a cross between a “Die Hard” movie and “Ghostbusters”. Magnus deals with abnormal bandits Bruce Willis style: complete with flying glass and taking them out one by one using their own equipment and weaknesses. Newly minted “Special Agent” Abby’s promotion (and moronic new partner) threatens to submarine her progressing relationship with Will Zimmerman when they butt heads over nabbing a Stenopelohabilis (Steno, for short) on the loose. Henry’s just along for the ride on this one, and we see neither his supposedly in-residence girlfriend Erika nor Biggie.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Fandom exploded post-episode over “the kiss” – girl on girl – at the end of the episode, with passionate responses from fans of opposing viewpoints. Amanda Tapping had announced at San Diego ComicCon that Helen would have a kiss this season. From her refusal to identify the smoocher/ee as male or female, I deduced without benefit of James Watson’s abnormal intellect the osculation involved another woman. When fans have asked, Amanda has stated before that she didn’t care whether Helen had a relationship with a man or a woman and that in a life as long as Helen’s one would suspect she had had dalliances with a variety of lovers. This perspective plays well with many of Amanda’s fan base of varied sexual orientations, but not as well with more conservative viewers; that she and the writers chose this does not surprise, though regrettably, these things serve only to divide.
Amanda and many other genre actors tout the intelligence of fans. I hope that we can find a way to discuss our differences of opinion intelligently and respectfully. I find suggestions of pulling viewership over show runners’ choices virtually as ineffective as Will’s threats over pet names – unless people put their viewership where their vows are. A mass exodus of broadcast viewers could imperil a season five of Sanctuary, however, a sad prospect for true fans.
As for the remaining forty-four minutes of Monsoon, the action and acting on the Africa A Plot did not disappoint; however, I might have enjoyed a rerun of Ghostbusters equally as well as the B Plot. After ten years of Mulder and Scully, plus Profiler, Criminal Minds and Bones, I do not expect to see moronic FBI agent caricatures on a serious show. We also have another episode of Will threatening people who call him a pet name, never to follow up on his pledge. Rather than developing into a believable partner for Helen, Will seems even less capable than earlier seasons – emasculated even (but for the implied congratulatory sex with Abby on the couch in his office). The episode completely underutilizes Henry as Will’s ineffectual Tonto. The writers throw away the one aspect of the B Plot I most enjoyed – that Abby’s promotion would bring conflict between her and Will.
The guest cast included John Novak (Colonel Ronson from Stargate SG-1), who chews up the scenery as the bullet-proof bandit boss. Carlo Rota of La Femme Nikita, Queer as Folk, Little Mosque on the Prairie and 24 had fun with the cage fight promoter revealed in the end as Feliz, Helens’ associate. Both Charlie Carrick (xray-visioned Tyler) and Martin Cummins (Abby’s partner, Brad Sylvester) have genre credits including the V remake with Morena Baccarin; Cummins also played Aden Corso (another guy who came on to Sam Carter) on Stargate SG-1’s “Forsaken”, which introduced us to Warrick (Sam’s “Space Race” partner). Helen’s snogging partner, Sandrine Holt has worked on genre and other film projects and had regular roles in TV shows The L Word, Runaway and 24 – some with her Asian heritage emphasized; some, not. They all served creditably with the material given them.
My bottom line – Helen’s story line drives the show (in large part but not exclusively because of Amanda Tapping); deviation from it often as not lets me down. I prefer a focus on action and real conflict and tension in dealing with abnormals over following the characters’ sexual exploits. I find myself really missing (and looking forward to seeing) Nicola Tesla. As irritating as fun, no one gets under Helen’s skin as well as he.