“A Better Earth” is a head-scratcher, undermining not only its characters but also its themes.
This recap of Another Life season 2, episode 5, “A Better Earth”, contains spoilers.
“A Better Earth” is something that most of us have longed for at one time or another, but I like to think that if we thought we’d found one, we wouldn’t be as eager to make ourselves at home there as Cas and company are in this episode. First impressions are good, at least. The atmosphere is breathable and free from pathogens. But as with anything, first impressions aren’t everything. The limits of what you can see aren’t necessarily the limits of what’s out there. The fact that nobody considers this is an odd flaw in the show’s writing that at this point I can’t say I’m surprised by.
Another Life season 2, episode 5 recap
A lot was made of Cas and co. being marooned at the tail end of the previous episode, but by factory resetting William and fixing the FTL drive, it’s an intriguing dilemma subverted pretty much instantly. The real issue becomes whether or not the planet can be colonized, whether or not it’s safe. There are some bizarre assumptions made here, such as that the entire planet only has one apex predator and it’s a pretty tame thing that humans could easily overpower. As I’ve stated before, picking at scientific accuracy really isn’t my thing, but this is such a preposterous view of basic ecology that it undermines all these characters, who’re ostensibly smart.
This is all building towards Paula launching the colony pods and heading down there to just… live, I guess, but she almost completely derails the entire mission in the meantime. And it’s such a terrible idea. Paula has already displayed she’s perfectly willing to open fire on a creature quite clearly trying to communicate. It’s very hard to see this whole thing as anything other than a cheap way to try and manufacture some drama, to drum up a conflict for Niko to preside over. As if there isn’t enough going on.
I can respect Another Life for really trying to hammer home the idea that humans shouldn’t implicitly be the most trustworthy species in the galaxy just because we recognize them. While Paula is messing about like this, the Achaia are once again proposing peace on Earth, gifting Erik a healing orb – further to Jana’s healed… everything – on the proviso that humanity doesn’t explore beyond their means again. It feels earnest, which makes the deliberation over whether the Achaia can be trusted feel like typical human arrogance. They’re different, and we don’t understand them, therefore they must be lying – if that sentiment isn’t integral to our nature, then I don’t know what is.
Paula and then Iara’s mutiny, resulting in Niko’s self-sacrifice in allowing the half of the Salvare that doesn’t include her to wormhole their way back to Earth, seems designed to illustrate this point. But the worthwhile theme is constantly undercut by wobbly execution.