Syfy's “Sanctuary” returns from its midseason hiatus Friday at 11 p.m. with a new episode, “Pax Romana.” It will finish out its third season with new episodes every following Friday, including “Hangover” on April 22.
The show stars Amanda Tapping, best known for creating the Samantha Carter role in “Stargate SG-1.” As the “Stargate” franchise, previously a Syfy powerhouse, has slowly faded out, Tapping has taken on the role of Helen Magnus in “Sanctuary.” Magnus is a scientist who has lived more than 150 years thanks to an experiment involving vampire blood that she participated in along with her colleagues, all of whom are now of notable repute. These associates included the invisible man, Dr. James Watson, Nikola Tesla and the man who would become known as Jack the Ripper.
Magnus now runs a sanctuary for “abnormals,” creatures of myth, humans with special abilities and beings who are otherwise strange in nature. In most episodes, Magnus and her new team track down, capture, defend or try to defend themselves from these “abnormals” and bring them into the safety of the sanctuary.
The show does not always follow this simple formula, however. It also has overarching plot lines, and viewers must carefully keep track of characters from episode to episode in order to know what is happening and who will be in the next episode.
The episode before last fall’s midseason break ended with the arrest of the Magnus team in a vast and highly advanced city inside “hollow earth.” Following orders from the city leader, played by guest star Polly Walker, they are suspended in some sort of electrical forcefield and then killed.
A truly suspenseful cliffhanger? Not really. Is there anyone who actually believes that a show would kill off its main character who is played by its biggest star, along with all the characters who could potentially replace her, in the middle of the season? Hopefully not.
At the beginning of “Pax Romana,” Magnus is revived, of course, and later her team. They spend the rest of the episode going through a series of scenarios where it just so happens that they have exactly the right information, equipment or know-how to help the super-advanced society. Characterization in the show is very poor, and at times it is difficult to grasp what is going on or why they're doing what they're doing. But one thing is certain: If they ever find themselves in a tight spot, there's sure to be some piece of technology or bit of information that hasn't been introduced yet that will get them out of it.
The “Hangover” episode is a little better. Magnus arrives at the sanctuary to find the remains of a battle within its walls. She must then find her team scattered throughout the building and piece together what transpired while she was away.
“Sanctuary” does include a few scary images and disturbing scenes, but largely avoids crude humor and inappropriate material. However, it would be a stretch to call it quality family entertainment.