“Here’s the thing about the truth, Harper. It has an annoying way of getting lost in the shuffle.”
As the focus shifts to Erik and his team’s work to communicate with the Artifact, the Salvare is infiltrated by an entity that looks and sounds like Sasha, but whose agenda will threaten the entire crew.
It’s no secret that, even with the mystery of the Artifact, the weakest segments of Another Life have taken place on Earth. Some of the blame lies on the primary players lacking the necessary intensity and charisma, though unimaginative writing has also played a hand. “Living the Dream” turns these patterns around to take the most interesting story arc for a change. A good portion of this success lies in the unfolding narrative focusing on the Artifact and the motivations behind its creators. After finally making the contact deeper than the initial mimicking of symphonies, a door into the massive structure opens. After a drone catches a glimpse of Sasha before losing contact, Sasha’s father, the Secretary of Defense, Egan Harrison (Martin Donovan, Big Little Lies, Inherent Vice) authorizes Erik to explore the Artifact and discover the secrets hidden in its darkened interior. What follows is discovery worthy of Arrival and Contact, where the aliens speak to Erik through a twenty year old memory of Niko. The entity answers his questions on their motivations with, as aliens are wont to do, an obscure and reflective response. At one point, past-Niko asks Erik the same thing and, upon his answer, offers him an opportunity of a lifetime; chiefly, the solutions to equations that have, by human minds, been deemed impossible to solve. But Erik becomes distracted by another vision, this time of Jana. It’s enough to pull him from following that tempting the path of discovery, and instead finds himself outside the Artifact and back into the real world.
While it’s not revealed, one can’t help but wonder the sacrifice Erik would have had to make in order to realize a scientific Shangra La. Would he have lost himself in the Artifact? Would he have become something like not-Sasha? Or is his rejection of the key to knowledge a mistake that could bring about humanity’s destruction? Some of the negative consequences are found towards the end when, unsatisfied with Erik’s answers, Secretary Harrison readies his own team to enter the structure but those plans are thrown out when he peers into the Artifact and spots Sasha attacking Javier. Startled by the interruption, not-Sasha triggers a pulse of sound and fury that knocks everyone on the other side to the ground. If that wasn’t bad enough, Harper is sucked into the opening and as Erik notices his unresponsive child, the door to the Artifact disappears, leaving Harper to an unknown fate.
Untold light years away on the Salvare, not-Sasha works his way through the crew, clumsily probing them on the mission’s detail and any possible countermeasures in store should the aliens be hostile. Considering his position as persona non grata with zero clearance, it’s unbelievable how easily some crewmembers share classified information with him. It’s a primary example of where Another Life has failed; namely, establishing a professional environment that would be necessary to achieve any ounce of success on a mission of this significance. After honing in on William being the key to erasing the Salvare as a threat, not-Sasha tracks down Javier. When the young tech finally exhibits discomfort at the line of questioning, not-Sasha attacks, holding him down before releasing pencil-like tentacles from his eyes and into Javier’s, seemingly to extract the necessary information from his brain. It’s a B-movie moment, both in execution and visuals, derailing the serious nature of the scene, injecting an eye-rolling bit of unintentional comedy.
Another Life will never be seen as a masterpiece, the overt nature of scenes, concepts, and story beats borrowed from other movies aside, but “Living the Dream” does close up some of the narrative gaps that has plagued the series from the start. The two alien presences seem to have diverging agendas; the one on Earth seemingly a benevolent source, ready to share the secrets of the universe (and assuring Erik on the fate of his wife) while the latter comes across as more militaristic; not quite malevolent but focused on eliminating any potential threats. With their appearance, the aliens do not offer any real answers and, instead, drum up even more questions as to the manner of their endgame.
- Though it may have offered an emotional punch to cap the episode, Jana’s inclusion on the Artifact’s defensive blast was a bit too convenient. It makes little sense that a child would be able to navigate her way through to such a vital landmark, and her injury seems like a Macguffin of sorts, to further the story and possibly affect Erik’s interactions with the alien presence.
- The biggest surprise had to be Niko’s minimal involvement. When she was on screen, she was coming in hot (her dress-down of not-Sasha was epic…too bad it was wasted on his ‘not’ self) and the Artifact version offered a cleaner version of her, less steeped in guilt. Thanks to a more compelling Artifact narrative, the lack of screen time didn’t impact the episode quality in the least.