“I feel like I am stepping outside of myself and looking back at me.”
When efforts to re-initialize William strands Niko in space as system malfunctions wrack the Salvare, one bold crew member makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the ship, the mission, and quite possibly humanity as we know it.
If there was ever a better title to encapsulate the driving narrative of this episode than “I Think We’re Alone Now”, I don’t know what it could be. At every turn, a character is forced to evaluate his or her circumstances. As with the previous episode, it begins with Niko, only this time, her predicament—floating alone in space with little hope of rescue—is not a dream. Flung into space after reconnecting the ship’s two halves (courtesy of a William glitch), Niko finds herself alone in the great emptiness as the Salvare performs an FTL jump. The feelings of being lost in the middle of nowhere—whether it’s on the ocean or on land—is about as stressful and scary a situation as one can experience. The helplessness of floating alone in space where, from a human’s perspective, is infinite ratchets up all those emotions by a factor of ten. Niko has no recourse but to pray Cas and the others return and can find a particular needle in a solar system full of haystacks. Her narrative travels back in time to when she first met Cas eight years ago in very different circumstances. It’s ironic to see that the two at that time (considering Cas helps spring the trap to kidnap Niko and hold her for ransom) have an easier time conversing than they do in the present. Granted, their past selves shared no history, good or bad, and watching Niko see the potential in Cas adds depth to their already complex relationship. Seeing these two fight to work through their issues while Cas exhibits the leadership potential Niko has seen in her all along is by far the most important piece of this episode.
Focusing a bit more on Cas, the glimpse into her backstory get helps to better understand her tendency to second-guess herself. Even after 8 years, surrounded by the best training and mentors, it’s tough to shake off a lifetime of habits and uncertainties. “I Think We’re Alone Now” leaves Cas’s future in a purgatory of sorts, despite her exhibiting the confidence to lead, as she experiences the heartache of command when Michelle gives her life to save her comrades. Towards the end, when it’s clear to Niko that Cas can’t deal with the responsibilities of her station and they are forced to wake another crew member to be the second, Niko tries to explain to William the pain Cas feels in losing Michelle. “She was in command,” Niko tells him, trailing off when words to express that guilt fail her. It’s sad that it takes such a tragedy for Niko and Cas to fight through the weeds of past actions and be on solid ground with one another, but therein is life.
Finally, the Salvare loses two of its own—though Michelle’s death is the only one that is technically gone. Her sacrifice can’t be understated; her death is every bit as painfully brutal as Petra’s but it wasn’t a product of crappy luck or a random roll of the dice. And then there’s her lover, Sasha. Though there’s still no concrete explanation on his other more confident and scheming self, based on that last shot of him erasing the records of his CT scan, it seems as if the Sasha we know is no more, replaced by an alien facsimile, whose motivation has yet to be discovered.
“I Think We’re Alone Now” deftly places the spotlight on four characters—Niko, Cas, Michelle, and Sasha—with each one of them being forced to confront their own fears, doubts, and ambitions. From the way things ended, it seems that Cas and Sasha were the ones overcome by their circumstances, with Niko’s own revelations somewhat stagnant. That leaves Michelle as the biggest winner who, despite dying, beats back her own personal deficiencies to do what needed to be done. After the disappointment of “A Mind of Its Own”, it was imperative for this episode to put Another Life back on track and, as we’re heading into the back half of the season, some of the lost momentum has been regained at just the right time.
- From day one, I was a major critic of Michelle’s character. Obnoxiously loud, self-centered, and with a fascinating inability to read the room, she was the perfect example of a character that, were this a slasher film, you cheer when the killer catches up to her. But as much flack as I gave Michelle for these annoying foibles, she deserves just as much credit for braving a certain and horrific death to save everyone. While the sacrifice doesn’t absolve my issues with how the character played out onscreen, it does offer a modicum of redemption.
- The more I watch Another Life, the more I see the influences of other science fiction properties in its creation. I’ve already mentioned some of the similarities, from Arrival to Alien to Sasha’s transformation—or whatever it is—brings about another, more recent entry into the sci-fi world, last year’s extremely underrated Annihilation (though, depending on who/what this ‘new Sasha’ turns out to be, Invasion of the Body Snatchers may be just as accurate). Similar to Michelle, I was never a fan of his character and, despite only having a few short scenes with ‘new Sasha’, it’s already an improvement over the original.