(Spoilers ahead for the main Legacy arc. Turn back now if you haven’t read the books and don’t want spoilers.)
After all these years of having read the main Stargate Atlantis Legacy arc, the Wraith character Ardent still comes to mind– quite often! It seems tragic for him to have been killed, because he was so young and relate-able.
Through the sheer accidents of birth every being faces, he was put in a place of privilege with his race’s technology and his being the younger brother to a powerful Queen. As his sister was, likely, the both of them were being constantly exposed to the bigotry of Ashes as well as unearned accolades and adoration from all the adults around them, reveling in their supposed superiority. Falling in the shadow of his older, but still young, sister, he seemed to ride on the coattails of her reputation and the reputation of his lineage, too sure of the power of their hive for him to properly do his job at watch. Was he afraid to report any less-than-good news to his sister? Was saying it was too trifling just an excuse to lay low, half-heartedly supporting the myth of their hive’s greatness?
His world view all came from his environment, from the adults around him. He was railroaded into his fate, a cog in the machine. Moving on from such prearranged life would be almost an unseen option. Who would mentor him to let him know there were other ways and to give him courage to try? Who would show him truth for him to be able to recognize it? He can’t do better until he knows better. Where would he go? What hive would trust him after what his sister did or how long to gain that trust? What hive would be thrilled with him if he didn’t have the best training? He would be going from superstar status to charity case and outcast, stranger in a new hive with little to offer. In his place, even if we were able to recognize the bad situation, how many of us have the courage to face such odds and go begging from hive to hive to be allowed to move in?
In his last scene, he was feeling conflicted about detaining Guide and Teyla-in-disguise and had let them pass, admiring Teyla-in-disguise’s strength. So, he knew that his sister’s hive and their orders might not always be honorable or correct. Also, previously, he had shown morality in disagreeing with Teyla-in-disguise’s starting a battle with the other hive in “The Queen”, incorrectly blaming Guide for it. She is the one with blood on her hands, but no one condemns Teyla to death. To leave him there like that, presumed dead in an explosion, is not satisfying.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s war,” some say, “and young people die all the time in war. That is part of the evil and tragedy of war.” But, the way Teyla-in-disguise had touched his face, leaving blood on him, it was like he was a marked man, foreshadowing his death and passing judgement on him, as if the blood of others were upon him. Nothing he did personally stands out as terrible other than continuing to live his sister’s city ship and bragging. I felt bad enough for Dust, as he only did what the Lanteans did to Michael (twice!) and no one condemns the Lanteans to death. Ronon was as uncooperative with Michael as Ardent was with Quicksilver, but Ronon gets a free pass. Plus, for crying out loud, Ashes survives it all, whose fault it was so many were lost on all sides and Ardent’s home was so messed up. Surely, Ardent was redeemable?
Because, doesn’t similar things happen to us all, as humans, every day?
What about our privileges, including ones we may not even be aware of? How many ways have we all been told by elders, corporations, governments, and religious figures, people we trusted, that our privilege over others was normal, natural, necessary, and nice? Over women, over undocumented workers, over nonhuman fellow animals… even if it is making life bad for us all and killing our planet?
Sometimes, I feel I am standing in Ardent’s boots, for any trespasses I have made to others, knowingly or unknowingly, just because of privileges derived from my birth place and lies handed down to me. We have all done dumb stuff. Sometimes, we were caught and sometimes not. Sometimes, others encouraged the mistakes. But, surely, none of us deserve to die for being lied to and for being born into such a system, such as to Ardent was?! Surely, we can all do better and a free internet and access to information and truth to enable us to make better choices and leave lies and privilege behind?
Condemning Ardent is condemning ourselves and our loved ones and not looking ahead for better. So, his fate has always bothered me, all these years. It bothered others, too, because there was at least one fanfic to rewrite him going to Guide’s hive to learn and to live his full potential. Maybe Ardent resonates because we all should have a chance to become better, and we should strive to be better, no matter how old we are or whatever mistakes we have made in the past. He is mirror to the mistakes of the Lanteans’ past and a symbol of us all.
If Furies had come out when petition sites were widely used, and I had had better skills in expressing observations about social constructs that I have been working to develop to advocate for others, I would have made one to ask for him to reappear in later book, starting a new life with better teachers, in Waterlight’s or Alabaster’s hives. He had submitted to Teyla-in-disguise, everyone was dead all around him, and he would have no reason to stay standing there, but to move, maybe even off the hive, to seek out Steelflower’s faction. Maybe he escaped the ship explosion…? Plot bunnies, anyone?
On that note, I would like to see more stories about characters who do get out from their birthplaces or past mistakes, when their illusions have been lifted, and to see them thrive as positive role models. Less of perfect Mary Sues and Gary Stus and more real people. More fanfics of Ardent getting away too.