The “chain reaction” of the title refers to this episode’s B-plot, which illustrates what happens without the command structure in place at the SGC. Not that our heroes don’t screw up often, but without General Hammond in place, other people make terrible decisions. People die and risky experiments threaten the planet again.
This was a good episode for this kind of B-plot, because it really held our son’s interest a lot more than the A-story. Back in season one, we skipped the first appearance of Ronny Cox as Senator Kinsey. He returns this time for the first of about a dozen appearances across seasons four through eight, trying to either shut the Stargate program down or misuse it. Also returning, it’s Tom McBeath’s slimy Colonel Maybourne, who has been tried for treason after the events of “Watergate” and is on death row. Jack gets him out of prison to work a black op against Kinsey and the Area 51 / NID people and get Hammond reinstated. The kid was much less interested in the conspiracy stuff. He hasn’t grumbled and pointed his finger guns at the villains on TV in ages, but he certainly did today while waiting for the action to go back to the SGC.
Some of the dialogue in the A-story doesn’t quite work for me. The episode tries to balance Jack and Maybourne working together as though Col. Jack Freaking O’Neill had never, ever “got his hands dirty” before now. Well, no, maybe he’d never pointed a gun at a US Senator before today, but the man’s had decades of deeply dirty missions in trouble spots around our planet and plenty of others. Hero, yes, angel, uh-uh. It’s told with TV simplicity, but it’s an interesting story, and it sets McBeath’s character up to have new opportunities to screw with things in future episodes.