‘Pandora’ Season 2 Episode 1 titled ‘Things Have Changed’ but have they? The show is still just as bad

‘Pandora’ does not fit the 'so bad that it’s good' category of ironic viewing. This exercise has to be labeled as 'hate-watching'


                            ‘Pandora’ Season 2 Episode 1 titled ‘Things Have Changed’ but have they? The show is still just as bad
Priscilla Quintana (The CW)
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Spoilers for ‘Pandora’ Season 2 Episode 1 ‘Things Have Changed’

It’s always difficult to decide what is worse in The CW’s sci-fi series ‘Pandora’ -- the janky visuals or the hamfisted storytelling. But one of the two always wins in that contest. Lucky for viewers of the show, season 2’s first episode ‘Things Have Changed’ saw both winning. 

The episode saw Jax (Priscilla Quintana) and Xander (Oliver Dench) follow Tierney (Tina Casciani) as she tries to procure some kind of plasma energy source from a smuggler. As the deal goes wrong (thanks to Jax), she makes for a run. While Xander loses Tierney, Jax follows the smuggler. But she is distracted. She keeps seeing her mother, who died when the New Portland colony was attacked. 

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Jax keeps getting haunted by her mother’s memories, sometimes in low-octane chase sequences, sometimes after definitely inappropriate sex with her captain/boyfriend Xander (is that even allowed? How is that a healthy power dynamic?) in their ship. Apropos of this, why does no one less senior than the Admiral have to tell them that dating is a wrong idea, much less in a casual chat over tea? For a show that deals with colonization of space, things sure are rather British.

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Out of nowhere, after a nightmare, Jax, who is not really a human -- a “mutt” in her own words -- suffers through an existential crisis in the episode. And Xander offers clichéd pop-deep lines in consolation. It's hard to sympathize with characters that are this shoddily written. Oftentimes while watching ‘Pandora’, one has to ask was this endeavor is undertaken, not just by the creators of the show, but also by viewers. The movement of the plot feels unnecessarily terse. The show is unappealing to the eye -- sometimes it feels like The CW just makes these shows to kill time because they appear to cost very little in terms of a production budget. The dialogues are wooden. Ralen (Ben Radcliffe), the terrible Spock-archetype in the show says things like, “This sounds, how do you humans put it, ‘Juicy’,” is the absolute pits of screenwriting.

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And the characters offer nothing in terms of likeability. Even ‘Riverdale’ has characters who reel you in. But ‘Pandora’ just does not fit the “so bad that it’s good” category of ironic viewing. This exercise has to be labeled as “hate-watching”.

As the episode continues, we see professor Osborn moan to his student (Ralen) at a bar, while drinking neon-colored beverages (because hey! It’s sci-fi, right?), about the Admiral has revoked his security clearance because of a personal grudge. One has to wonder how hierarchy is uncharacteristically not an issue in this utterly-British “Earth” force. We also see the seemingly nefarious relationship between the Admiral and Harlan Fried Jr. (Luke Fetherston) of Parallax. 

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Showrunner Mark A. Altman recently said that "Last season was sort of ‘Harry Potter’ in the future. We realized that we wanted to go full-on ‘Star Trek’ and embrace the space adventure." But that promise is not to be taken seriously. This season, it seems, has a bit of both -- bad ‘Star Trek’ imitation, and really bad ‘Harry Potter’ imitation (the comparison is made only because the showrunner did. It has no legitimacy otherwise) as we see Jax and Ralen return to Earth and fraternize with classmates. 

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Fast-forward to later in the episode where we see Xander trying to pull off a bad Michael Fassbender impression (you can’t unsee it) while interrogating the smuggler, we find out that he really works for Berman Livingston (Jeffrey Combs). Livingston is a terrorist/freedom fighter (depending on what side of the colonizers you stand). And he had procured the plasma energy source from an alien ship. Tierney had supposedly paid him to do her bidding. 

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The real twist in the episode arrives when Xander goes to an unmanned freighter to retrieve the consignment of the plasma energy source thing. There he and his men are ambushed by a group. Here’s the kicker. The group is led by Jax’s supposedly-dead mother, Eve (Charisma Carpenter). As things get heated, and the two groups fire at each other, a canister falls and breaks. 

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From it, gushes out a green fluid that seems to eat everything. While Eve and her crew escape through a portal, Xander’s men die. The whole freight is consumed by the substance. Only Xander escapes alive. But things get predictably complicated because he loses communication with the Admiral. And she, because of the radio silence, decides that there is no one left to rescue; hence, no rescue mission. 

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Yeah, the show’s protagonist is not going to die in the first episode of season 2. This is not HBO. So, again, not at all as high-stakes as the show wants it to look. But that kind of mediocrity is on-brand for ‘Pandora’.

New episodes of ‘Pandora’ season 2 arrive every Sunday, 8 pm ET, only on The CW.

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