Thursday, October 14, 2021

REVIEW: 'Another Life' - Peaceful Negotiations Quickly Turn Into Emotional Manipulation for Niko in 'Smoke and Mirrors'

Netflix's Another Life - Episode 2.02 "Smoke and Mirrors"

Venturing into the ring to negotiate with the Achaia, Niko sees the unimaginable. Cas risks everything by sending Iara on a mission. Jana stuns Erik.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's Another Life.

"Smoke and Mirrors" was written by Lauren Gosnell and directed by Kevin Dowling

The Achaian want to negotiate with humanity. They want to have a conversation with Niko. She has no other choice but to enter the ring and go on that journey. And yet, it's just fully emotional manipulation. It's not a negotiation done in good faith. It starts just like every other entry into Achaian technology. It's pitch black. It's a fierce and stunning visual. It highlights the absence of everything. Only the human stands out. They only get to see what the aliens think they need. Of course, Niko witnesses the beauty of electrical surges on the ring as well. The crew of Salvare see it on the live feed for a moment. It's only once Niko steps into this new world that communication is cut off entirely. That's different than how contact worked on Earth. The moment someone stepped into the Artifact they could no longer transmit back to Erik and the rest of the research station. Here, Cas and the crew are given a reason not to panic. But tension quickly escalates. The choices Cas makes are validated by the conclusion of this episode given the threat that ultimately comes for Niko. However, it also plays as her immediately assuming the worst. She has to go finish the job that August and Oliver started. The Salvare needs the opportunity to jump away should everything go sideways. She just assumes that is going to happen. She needs to activate Iara in order to better understand what's happening on the other ship. In doing so, they collect a lot of information. Humans can't exactly read it. It may still be useful down the road. That wasn't the intention of this mission. Cas is annoyed for a moment because she follows Niko's lead in always placing the mission first. She is persuaded by Richard about the benefit of Iara's actions. She doesn't go undetected though. The Achaian are still powerful and all-seeing. They can bring people together despite being lightyears apart. Niko is naturally skeptical of everything that she sees upon entering the ring. And yet, Jana truly was sick and needed the Achaian to heal her. In doing so, mother and daughter got to be together for a moment. Niko could see this as nothing but manipulation to coerce her cooperation. But she also chooses to send a message back to Earth. That's one of the few moments of contact the crew has had since leaving for this mission. The government on Earth doesn't know all that's happening out in space. The technology is vast and impressive. They are still operating with numerous blindspots. They can't control everything. The Achaian may be looking to exploit that just like they have done on many planets. They want to blame everything that happened on Zakir as the result of a civil war built on distrust and Niko not being informed about the geopolitics on the ground. She constantly operates from a position of strength despite not knowing anything she's talking about. The Achaian seek to prey upon her by twisting her emotions. They only choose to appear to her in interfaces of her family members. They proclaim peace. That immediately comes across as this alien species knowing exactly what humanity needs to hear in order to allow them access for whatever their true ambitions are. Niko wants these negotiations to be more open and honest. Instead, it just diverges into threats. When Niko doesn't make the right choice, she is attacked. She has to defeat the foe in the simulation before realizing the scope of the threat in reality. The Achaian want to infect her with the same technology that doomed Sasha. Cas coming in for the rescue helps Niko. But it's also just the show wanting to isolate these two characters for a moment. It's a premise that needs to be the focus for some reason for another episode. And so, Cas makes the journey becomes she's afraid of what is happening. She trusts Richard to make the right decisions. He jumps away knowing more Achaian ships are coming. He is protecting the crew. That comes at the expense of Niko and Cas. It's the sacrifice he deems necessary. It just may leave these two at the complete mercy of an alien species that isn't as peaceful as they want to proclaim. This threat persists and will chase the Salvare across the galaxy. Erik may receive a clue about what all is possible. However, that may not dramatically change the stakes of this conflict in a way for humanity to gain an upper hand against those with the intent to control as many minds as they can.