“Chimes of Freedom” focuses on the show’s most interesting character, but the sloppiness of its writing, pacing, and worldbuilding are still major obstacles, despite a couple of decent ideas.
This recap of Pandora Season 1, Episode 2, “Chimes of Freedom”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thought on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Pandora Episode 2 opens with everything that is wrong with the CW’s played-out grab-bag of sci-fi tropes, as Ralen, the main cast’s requisite alien, ponders a plate of chili cheese fries before deciding, “I don’t understand”. Neither do I, mate, but it’s nothing to do with the chips. What I’m confused about is why anyone, let alone the show’s creator and writer Mark A. Altman, thinks this kind of tired fish-out-of-water claptrap is what we want from a new spacefaring property. “Chimes of Freedom” proves there’s more to the show than this; the frustration I have with it is that it can’t get out of its own way to let us enjoy the good stuff.
An alarm announces the destruction of an Earth vessel, the Tereshkova, which forms a background storyline while the bulk of Pandora Season 1, Episode 2 concentrates on the show’s most interesting character, Atria. Once we’ve soldiered through a go-nowhere scene in which Delaney enjoys a holo-date with a creepy dude only interested in the sexual applications of her cybernetic implants (men!) we get into the real meat of “Chimes of Freedom”: Atria is appalled that a religious representative of her homeworld, Adari, is being allowed to speak on campus. As is typical of the CW, this is laced with spicy topicality, with Professor Pevney (Tommie Earl Jenkins) idly parroting the merits of free speech while Atria hysterically demands he be no-platformed. Anyone who preaches the possession of cloned humans as property devoid of any rights cannot possibly be allowed equal validity in their speech, she argues, and Pandora Episode 2 seemingly agrees with her; the Adari religious leader, Seeker Hubbell (Jonathan Kerrigan), is a cartoon villain wearing copious eyeliner.
Despite Jax leading a successful protest against Hubbell, there’s more to this whole thing. One of Hubbell’s retinue is a friend of Atria’s, the fellow clone Atria Three (Karina Banno), who claims to be a member of the Adari Resistance and needs our Atria’s help to liberate the clones, rally the resistance and inspire a revolution. Unbeknownst to everyone — including the audience, at first — they switch places, with our Atria, Atria Nine, heading back to Adari with Seeker Hubbell, while Atria Three tries to blend in with the usual gang and miserably fails in the endeavor.
On Adari, “Chimes of Freedom” makes Hubbell’s villainy clear and uncomplicated by revealing he’s just a garden-variety nutcase zealot who uses religiosity to justify his own prejudice and excess — he also keeps the various Atrias around as sex slaves. But he’s evidently not a stupid man, and quickly rumbles Atria Nine as an imposter, which it turns out was all part of his plan anyway. The owner who emancipated her was his estranged son, Lenar (Louie Threlfall), who married one of the Atrias and is technically Atria Nine’s brother-in-law, and he believes that by luring her back to Adari he can entice his boy out of hiding.
Meanwhile in Pandora Episode 2, Professor Osborn tasks Xander with investigating Ralen, who was aboard the Tereshkova two days prior to it exploding. In a meeting between the three, I think we’re supposed to buy into the idea that Ralen is a potential villain, but it never really sticks. Earth’s conflict with the Zatarians is potentially interesting but painfully unexplored at present, to the extent that whenever Ralen or anyone else mentions it or Zatarian culture, in general, we have absolutely no context for what they’re talking about. If Pandora hopes to really cement a longstanding audience, it needs to tighten up its worldbuilding.
Anyway, Professor Pevney reveals he’s a low-key member of the Adari Resistance, and helps Jax, Thomas and Delaney steal a ship to get there and rescue Atria Nine. It’s an extended sequence that includes some improvisation, some fisticuffs, and the seemingly mandated bit of pew-pew laser gunfighting, and eventually also includes both Xander, who arrives to help, and Ralen, who has a relationship with Lenar since the Zatarians gave Lenar asylum when he fled Adari. It all ends relatively well, though Atria Nine laments the fact that it probably won’t make much difference either way.
Pandora Season 1, Episode 2 ends with the promise of further mysteries to unravel: Jax knows that Xander was spying on Ralen, and that he suspects him of sabotaging the Tereshkova, while in a meeting with a mysterious woman Professor Osborn confesses knowledge of “what really happened” to the vessel. We also get a very brief mention of Pandora, which I suppose is mandatory at this point. But I can’t be the only one wishing this was all landing with a bit more impact. I’m unconcerned with the show’s budget — there are some tell-tale flashes of inexpensive visual effects here and there, but the show doesn’t lean on them the way, say, The Outpost does — but I’m very concerned with its writing; I’m concerned I know little about the show’s world even though it’s all anyone seems to talk about, and that I don’t care at all about its various characters beyond whatever obvious role they’re designed to occupy. But “Chimes of Freedom” did, I think, show some promise, and I’m interested enough in whether Pandora will do anything with its potential to keep watching for now.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.