Win, Lose, Draw
"Last Call at the Broken Hammer" Plot Summary:
Dylan, Beka, Tyr and Trance take the Maru in search of Isabella Ortiz, who once formed an alliance of more than twenty worlds but has been hiding as a fugitive for years. Captain Hunt believes she would make a powerful advocate for the Commonwealth if they can find her alive on the desert planet where she's reputed to be hiding. Her enemies -- the avian Kalderans -- are attacking planets all over the Greater Magellanic Cloud searching for her. The Maru lands in front of the Broken Hammer, a run-down bar in the middle of a wasteland, but their unfriendly welcome by suspicious saloon regulars is interrupted by an even nastier Kalderan attack.
Dylan identifies the tough but sensitive doctor called Cory as Isabel Ortiz, though she insists appearances can deceive. Bartender Sophia and local thug Gorejon are nonetheless very protective of Cory, who wants only to protect her friends and deliver widow Jadis' baby. While Tyr and Beka try to keep the bar patrons safe, a wounded Dylan tries to talk her into revealing her identity as Ortiz and helping the universe. Gorejon is killed in the fighting with the Kalderans and Trance loses her tail protecting Sophia, who gives Jadis a weapon so she can keep her baby safe. Learning that Dylan believes Cory is the reason the Kalderans have attacked them, a panicked Jadis shoots the doctor.
Sophia blames herself for having given Jadis a gun, but Dylan has bigger issues with the bartender: he now believes that she, not Cory, is Ortiz, which she reluctantly confirms. Though he hates the idea when Tyr proposes it, Dylan decides to stall for time by presenting the Kalderans with Cory's body. When the aliens attack again, a reluctant Sophia fights at Dylan's side, ultimately defeating the attacking horde. Though she does not believe she is the right person to negotiate a new constitution for the Commonwealth, she agrees to go with the Andromeda crew because she believes in Dylan Hunt.
A terrific action episode with interesting new aliens (and better prosthetics than we've seen yet on Andromeda), 'Last Call at the Broken Hammer' lets Dylan Hunt demonstrate his skills in the trenches while it gains emotional impact from the enigmatic figure of Isabella Ortiz and the tragic mess of Jadis. It's not hard to guess that someone other than Cory will turn out to be the real Isabella, so it's an interesting choice that the writers make Cory the strongest character in the show. She demonstrates all the skills and compassion for which Dylan claims to need Ortiz.
I hoped that she'd step into the role even though she wasn't the genuine article, and was disturbed by the casual dismissal of her death once the others learned that she wasn't Isabella. Cory was still the only doctor around, and seemed a lot more committed to helping people than the haunted Sophia. Dylan's reaction is particularly distressing; in his struggle to rescue a symbol of the Commonwealth, he seems oddly distant from the plight of the people for whom the republic is supposed to stand. Of course he can't save everyone, but the ease with which he disregards the bar's broken residents as he brings home his prize doesn't make him look like the hero Sophia calls him.
In other words, despite displaying his strengths as a siege commander, this is not a great Dylan outing. As episodic television, however, it may be Andromeda's finest episode, despite the absence of three major characters. The action sequences are superb, from the special effects to the direction -- the visual impact of the violence, the sense of carnage remind me of films about Vietnam.
Yet 'Last Call at the Broken Hammer' does a much better job recreating the tone and style of a western than 'A Heart For Falsehood Framed' did with film noir. We get plenty of shots of the swinging saloon doors, firepower behind the bar, bodies falling in the open corridor between them. Beka even manages her gallows humor, pitying the Kalderans faced with an angry Tyr, thanking Dylan again for the adventure as she prepares yet again to die at his side. All the requisite thug figures -- good and bad -- put in appearances, and the ending leaves no doubt that the good guys have triumphed. The bad guys with their advanced Ray Charles-style sunglasses can't defeat good old human ingenuity. All the corpses on the floor deserve to be there. The hero can ride off into the slipstream.
Cory and Sophia/Isabella both benefit from being played by superb performers with interesting chemistry -- a passionate, co-dependent relationship that defies the likelihood of one dying a violent death for the other, until the worst happens. Jadis, too, is played powerfully and intelligently by Gordon Michael Woolvett's wife Michele Morand, until the script makes it impossible to hold the character together. She's initially sympathetic -- a broken woman with nothing to live for besides her unborn child. But as she becomes increasingly hysterical, it's obvious that she's going to lead others into jeopardy. Then she murders Cory, for which Dylan and Trance instantly acquit her: not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.
The extent of their involvement from that point forward is to assure Jadis that her baby will be fine, and to recommend that she atone for her sins by raising her child to be a caring person. Obviously none of them have time to play social worker, but it should be obvious to everyone that unless this woman gets help, she's likely to remain a threat to herself, her child and possibly others. It's because we believe in her hysteria that we forgive her, but that's precisely the reason we should fear her, too.
Trance has her own devastating loss to cope with. How will she function without being able to use her tail to suspend her from ceilings and smack away prying hands? In one of the episode's funniest moments, double agent Hsigo calls her an overgrown grape! Too bad Cancer Man didn't think of that one. She says standing up to this thug the way she did to Logitch last week, telling him to guess for himself whether she's crazy or really dangerous. But the best she can do for Jadis is a wimpy speech about how she's done a terrible thing, and now she needs to make sure her daughter's life is a good one by becoming a healer like Cory. Dylan may be too busy to deal with Jadis' terrifying pregnancy hormones, but one would hope a purple super-being from a race that can start planetary wars could do better.
Tyr doesn't appear in many scenes but he makes the most of them, particularly when he insists to Dylan that he rather than the captain should fight the Kalderans because Dylan is wounded. "You do what you do best," Tyr suggests, sending his friend back to turn the rabble in the bar into a fighting force. Dylan says fine, but he makes Tyr promise to come back alive. The Nietzschean is the first to suspect Hsigo's trustworthiness, so it's not a complete surprise when the alien sneers that Cory was just another deluded sap who took a bullet for Ortiz and opens fire on the former leader.
Interestingly, Beka -- who helps kill Hsigo -- really seems to understand him, which makes him a more sympathetic character than one would expect. Like herself with Dylan, Beka knows nobody forced Hsigo to fight for the alliance...so he must have wanted it, and he should be thanking Ortiz rather than threatening her. The depth of his disappointment in Ortiz is palpable, and his frustration at never knowing her real identity seems very real even when his duplicity is revealed.
Unlike Ortiz, however, Dylan never surrenders, never retreats. His leadership is the rock on which the new Commonwealth rests. He can afford to be generous, telling Ortiz that if she made mistakes and let people down, that's just something she will have to live with and put aside. The former alliance leader insists that nobody wants a Commonwealth, but of course she doesn't yet know the stakes with the Magog. There's little doubt that Dylan Hunt will exert his considerable influence upon her to make her understand. Where does that leave the Broken Hammer? Well, broken. But all the people fighting inside seem to take that state for granted, as long as their symbols survive. Hope survives on Andromeda...if only we could be sure people like Hsigo and Jadis will remain the exception and not the rule.