What happens if one tragedy can change everything that you once believed? Will you be able to go back to the way things were or will you have to embrace a whole new reality? That’s part of the premise behind Syfy’s three night event “Ascension,” which had a group of people part of an experiment gone horribly wrong. Sure, there were some parts of the premise that were familiar, but there were also a few twists that definitely weren’t expected either.
“Ascension” followed a covert space mission that started in 1963 and was destined to continue for 100 years that was meant to be the future of the human race. It just turned out that only a few people truly knew the truth about the mission. Information that was worth killing for if anyone willing to expose the program found out about it. In order to keep things in check for the mission, there was a lottery that controlled who was allowed to have children and who died to insure that the population didn’t grow too much. If you had a children on your own, you were forced to live on the lower decks with very little support from the high decks. Captain William Denninger (Brian Van Holt) and his wife Viondra (Tricia Helfer) were ultimate power couple who loved each other, but they liked their roles in the community a little more. Both of them had flings in order to gain information against their chief rival Councilman Rose (Al Sapienza). Meanwhile all of this was happening, the ship dealt with the shocking murder of a young woman that revealed some of the ship’s ugliest secrets. Her boyfriend James Toback (P.J. Boudousque) was an early suspect and he realized that he never knew his girlfriend. James started to move on with Nora Bryce (Jacqueline Bryce), even though their relationship was likely doomed as well due to their class differences on the ship. Denninger tasked Aaron Gault (Brandon P. Bell) with investigating the murder case, while he dealt with the fallout of his affair with the victim’s married sister (Tiffany Lonsdale). While all of this was happening, Christa Valis (Ellie O’Brien) was starting to have visions that the ship was more than it was. As she came to terms with the truth, Harris Enzmann (Gil Bellows) who was overseeing the experiment and was willing to protect it at all costs. Will one escapee ruin Harris’ plans or help them further along?
In terms of questions, the show left a lot of things unresolved, which was likely frustrating to viewers looking for a clear cut resolution rather than more questions on top of the ones that already exist. Luckily, the murder mystery storyline was solved. The only problem was that it felt more like an afterthought rather than the central plot that took over most of the first episode. It also felt like that there were so many plots going that the final episode needed another 15 minutes or so to wrap things a little more definitively. The show’s two main plots involved the life on the ship and the world outside of it. Both worlds had people vying for power and people getting killed when things were looking to go in the wrong direction. The strongest storylines in the whole series involved the Denninger’s constant scheming and social climbing to keep their status. One memorable involved Helfer’s Viondra and Van Holt’s William besting their main rival by exposing a secret that was willing one of their own to curb another power play. Another scene involved the couple coming together to save the ship from being killed by the ship’s air supply running out after an electrical explosion destroyed it. The series’ biggest story involved O’Brien’s Christa and how she was truly a gifted young girl that people would kill for. Let’s hope that if the show comes back that the writers will properly explain how she got her powers and what she was truly capable. It would be nice to see what happened to Bell’s Gault after Christa sent him to parts unknown. Only time will tell if that mystery will ever be solved.
As for breakout performances, Helfer, Van Holt and O’Brien led the pack for very different reasons. Helfer’s Viondra was the femme fatale who no man wanted to mess with. She had the brains and beauty to back up everything she did. She was able to seduce any man she came acrosss and could knock him out without him batting an eye. Helfer was able to make Viondra both strong and vulnerable at the same time by showing the character shine as much as she crashed and burned. A prime example would be the scene where Viondra was forced to watch a sex tape that the murder victim made with her husband in front of most of the ship, which she endured with a level of humiliation like no other. She also had a strong rapport with Van Holt’s William that proved that love lurked just underneath the surface of all the misery they caused one another. Van Holt’s William appeared to be the stereotypical playboy character type who let the power go to his head a little too often with the multitude of mistresses he had on the side. He was also a character that would get into a public fight with a councilman if his buttons were pushed too hard. Van Holt made William someone who appeared to be both a goofball and someone looking for something more than he already had. He had one brief scene with Helfer’s Viondra that allowed him to discuss the character’s regret that they weren’t allowed to have kids based on her choice. Van Holt showed the character’s anger and disappointment as he discussed the veiled sentiment before moving on. O’Brien, on the other hand, had the challenging task of portraying Christa as not just another gifted young girl who could cause great damage. She embodied Christa with a sense of curiosity and compassion for others that allowed her to go to extreme heights when she felt that they were in danger. Fingers crossed that she gets the opportunity to reprise the role in the near future.
“Ascension”aired from December 15th-17th at 9:00 PM on Syfy. The final episode appeared to be setting if future episodes as long as viewers were interested in watching.
Verdict: Helfer and Van Holt portrayed the most complex power couple who could scheme with the best of them. It also helped that the plots in and outside the ship kept things going as well.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)