In the fourth episode of Crusade, the crew seeks a cure at a strange site that offers some members a surprise. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Crusade.
Trigger Warning: For talk of grief, trauma, nonconsensual drug use, and brief mention of suicide.
Okay, this show is really leaning in hard on the strange, isn’t it? This is not the kind of story I expected from this show and certainly not this early on in the run of episodes. I don’t think it’s perfect; the way the show still hasn’t introduced us fully to Dr. Sarah Chambers or to Dureena is becoming irritating, especially since this was the perfect opportunity to give us some insight into who they are! Plus, this is an ensemble cast, and I recognize you can’t cram everyone into everything all the time, but we’re over two hours into the show, and Dr. Chambers has had maybe five minutes on screen. Half the episode was spent in the Med Lab, and we didn’t see her once!
But when “The Path of Sorrows” works, it works. Part of that is because, as I said, it’s so fucking weird. We aren’t even given an introduction to the planet that the team is on; we don’t know how they found the structure that they’re trying to open. In this, the script assumes that we’re just along for the ride, that we know that each week, the crew’s journey will take them to another far-flung part of space. So, we’re there, we watch the crew infiltrate this bizarre place like they’re in an alternate version of Alien, and then they find an orb full of smoke and A THING. Let me first say: the creature design for the Feelings Vampire (THAT’S WHAT I’M CALLING THEM) is incredible. Believable and strange and gorgeous and horrifying and exactly what it needed to be. Yet there’s so much more here to love about this. I expected that the being would taunt and tease Gideon for the entire episode, since he apparently seemed to have some sort of special connection with the being.
Instead, this thing—we don’t even get their name or species!!!—is a vehicle for something else: the engrossing and traumatizing backstories of three of the main characters. And while these stories do wonders to build these characters into fuller versions of themselves, each of them contains a grain of mystery, something to keep me craving more. It’s brilliant, y’all, and I have so many things I want to know! LET’S DISCUSS THESE BACKSTORIES.
Holy shit, WHAT DID HIS CREW DO TO HIM? I am still reeling from how fucked up it was that the Cerberus seemingly was prepared to just leave Gideon and the others who were spacewalking. By all appearances, that was a Shadow vessel that attacked the Cerberus, and I feel like that is confirmed not just by the look, but by the response from President Clark’s military once Gideon is discovered alive. We know Clark wanted the existence of these ships kept a secret because of what Earth’s military was doing with them. Regardless, even though we knew that Gideon had been saved after being left behind, I wasn’t ready to see the full horror of what happened. Gary Cole does a fantastic job portraying that panic and then the quiet resignation that comes when he realizes the mysterious ships passing by aren’t going to stop for him.
But because the Feelings Vampire works the way it does, the people it affects must delve deep into their worst pain. And this moment was one of the most traumatizing in Gideon’s life, so much so that he now operates under a “Leave No One Behind” system because HE KNOWS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE LEFT BEHIND. However, unlike the other characters, Gideon experiences two flashbacks, and the second one is utterly mystifying. I have no idea what time period it occurs in, but at some point, Gideon won an apocalypse box during a game of poker. Y’all, the name alone should have warned him off of it? Or perhaps the nervous mutterings from its owner should have? Or maybe the fact that the man was OVERJOYED to finally lose possession of it? OR MAYBE THAT IT VERY MUCH APPEARED THAT THE BOX EITHER KILLED HIM OR HE KILLED HIMSELF TO AVOID CONTACT WITH IT AGAIN? Oh my god, this is such a white dude thing that Gideon took possession of that thing. What the fuck is it? What does it do besides tell the truth occasionally and also lie? About what? Is that thing on the Excalibur right fucking now???? Y’all, I need to know more RIGHT NOW.
HE WAS IN THE PSI CORPS. Oh my god??? OH MY GOD OF COURSE HE WAS. And while Matheson might not have gotten as much time in the script for his story to unfold, I still found it both powerful and meaningful. It’s so fascinating to have seen how loyal and hard-working he was. He was appreciated for that in the Psi Corps, and that sense of duty can be seen in his day-to-day workings with Captain Gideon. However, what we also get to see is his transformation. After he’s asked to drug a member of the Resistance during the Telepath War, his certainty begins to erode. He believed in what he was doing, and it wasn’t until that prisoner that he’d ever been challenged. His rebellion starts small: he checks files because he’s sure he’ll be able to prove her wrong. But when he discovers that all the Resistance leaders have been executed, he slips into a new world: one where he’s been lied to, where he is complicit in an atrocity.
And I love that this is explicitly framed that way. The prisoner tells Matheson that he’s an accomplice, even if he doesn’t think that’s the case. And so, with another act of rebellion—he does not give the prisoner the dosage that would keep her unconscious—he sets in motion a covert attack on the secret Psi Corps base. What’s so shocking about this is how fast it happens. And even if he knew what his superiors were doing was wrong, he’s also aware of the fact that his actions led to countless members of the Psi Corps dying in the attack. His greatest pain? I’d guess it’s guilt. And what does this bizarre creature grant Matheson and the others? The chance to forgive themselves. Because that’s what links all these stories: none of them can forgive themselves for what they’ve done, and they cling to their pain. Matheson and Galen more than any of the others, I should note!
I feel like even though I may like that Galen’s personal philosophy is rooted in his traumatic experience and his grief, I can’t ignore that this is a textbook example of fridging. Isabelle dies so that Galen can be motivated to develop his philosophy that there is no “design” in the universe. It’s a tragic character arc, at least as it stands, because Galen, unlike the others, is entirely unwilling to accept forgiveness. I believe he misinterprets the Feelings Vampire’s intent. Yes, that being probably does feed off emotions because it has none. But even if the after-effect is coincidental, it’s still forgiveness, and it still means a great deal to the people who experience.
Galen, however, is consumed by his anger over his betrayal by other Technomages. (For what? Was this before the Technomage exodus?) He’s furious that his love died. And from that, he directs that anger into the belief that the world is without purpose and without direction. How could it be otherwise? If this was true, that meant that someone or some thing decided that Isabelle needed to die. For me, Galen is a portrait of unresolved grief. Even when Matheson hands him a message at the end of the episode that highly suggests that Isabelle found a way to reach him, he still won’t accept it. So what will he accept? Will he be stuck in this endless loop forever?
This episode was fucking weird, but I really enjoyed it.
The video for “The Path of Sorrows” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– The paperback edition of my debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now up for pre-order! It comes out on May 7, 2019. If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.