theemdash: (Daniel Intention)
On the off-chance someone new to SG-1 wants to read this post, this contains pretty heavy spoilers for the end of Season 5 and beginning of Season 6.

I watched "Meridian," "Revelations," and the beginning of Season 6 earlier this week and I have to say, this is how you handle character death. It's pretty remarkable that "Meridian" handles Daniel's death, "Revelations" handles SG-1's grief, and then even through the first episodes of Season 6, Daniel's name is not only still being uttered, but SG-1 hasn't moved forward. Through the entirety of "Redemption," Jack still hasn't filled Daniel's position, and it's really only when he's pushed to make a decision or be assigned a Russian that he finally admits he'd rather have Jonas. And while sometimes the writers forget they're writing for a new character, the other characters never forget that Jonas isn't Daniel. They hold Daniel's positive traits up as a measuring stick that Jonas can never meet and they completely ignore all of Daniel's negative traits (like ignoring orders, being argumentative if he thinks he's right, his self-righteousness, sarcasm...). Because he's gone, Daniel becomes defied (okay, maybe rightfully so since he Ascended), and that is so like humans in their grief. Those negative traits lose their edges and often become fond memories, "that's just how he was," or "wasn't that so like him?" But that acceptance comes at a cost for Jonas since he now not only has to be the best Jonas Quinn, but he's also expected to be the best Daniel Jackson. And, well, as much as I love Jonas, he's never going to be Daniel. (Thankfully SG-1 stops treating him as "Daniel's Replacement," and starts approaching Jonas on his on terms. It really starts with Teal'c, which is a different thing I admire and adore.)

But, back to "Meridian," which is actually the whole reason I started this post.

One of the things that is stunning about "Meridian" is that the entire episode is devoted to Daniel's death. Often when characters die it's a sudden moment sandwiched in at the climax or the end of an episode (I'm looking at you, Joss Whedon). But Daniel's death isn't meant to shock the audience. His death is "long" (in canon time he's given about a day to go through radiation sickness vs say, the immediateness of a harpoon to the chest), and the writers make use of the time by intercutting flashbacks to what happened on the planet, giving the viewers a full SG-1 story. But the real craft here is in starting the episode with the culminating event having already happened; it focuses the entire episode on Daniel dying. It is remarkably effective and gut-wrenching to watch each member of SG-1 come to Daniel's bedside to say goodbye. (I mean, Sam gets me weepy every time, but when Teal'c builds up to "And I will have lost one of my greatest friends"? *SOB*)

The very fact that we've spent the last 40 minutes building up to Daniel leaving is part of what makes his farewell with Jack so emotional—and of course Jack is the one he gets to stop the others. The direct route would have been to tap Jacob into the psychic landscape and explain why he should stop, but making Jack understand and agree is key to helping them all heal. It also eases Jack's grief in some way. From that moment on, Jack knows that even though Daniel's gone, this is what he wanted. Compare Jack with the others in "Revelations" and "Redemption." He's taking it much easier than either Sam or Teal'c (even if he doesn't want to replace Daniel on SG-1—anyone suspect maybe that's because he assumes Daniel will be back?). The last time the team buried Daniel, back in "Fire and Water" (whew, that was a long time ago), Jack was a wreck. And then when they assumed him dead in "The Serpent's Lair," they were in mission mode, but you could see Jack was waiting for the moment to fall apart. By the end of "Revelations" when Ascended!Daniel ruffles their hair, Jack's smiling because he knows that whatever else, Daniel's all right.

I often complain about some of the writing in SG-1—and Janet isn't treated as well in "Heroes"—but I have to give "Meridian" and "Revelations" credit for getting major character death right. There's a farewell, there's grief, and there's remembering that this character existed for these people and that they wouldn't quickly forget him—that they'd bring him up, reference his work, and he wouldn't just be gone. It's details and care like this that makes SG-1 feel real and keeps it ranked as one of my favorite shows.

PS There is a reason that no matter what, I will ALWAYS have an icon related to Daniel's self-sacrificing moment in "Meridian." May we all remember our convictions and how to stand by them.

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