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What to Remember from The Ark’s First Season Before the Big Season 2 Premiere

Need a crash course on SYFY’s hit space show? Here’s the story… so far.

By Benjamin Bullard

SYFY's hit sci-fi show The Ark is just days away from its big Season 2 premiere on July 17, a fateful date that’s sure to answer fans’ long-burning questions in the wake of the major events that brought the show’s first season to such an explosive (and we mean that literally!) cliffhanger conclusion.

How to Watch

Watch the Season 2 premiere of The Ark on Wednesday, July 17 at 10/9c on SYFY. Catch up on Season 1 on Peacock.

The creation of sci-fi masterminds Jonathan Glassner (Stargate SG-1) and Dean Devlin (Stargate, Independence Day), the SYFY original series swept up millions of viewers in its first-season story about a savior spacecraft ferrying the last remnants of humanity toward a fresh-start new planet to call home. With a big ensemble cast and enough plot twists to fill a whole solar system, every Season 1 episode of The Ark came front-loaded with oodles of suspense, as the ship’s underdog crew skirted constant disasters of both the natural and human-made kind.

Yep, a lot of wild stuff happened in Season 1 of The Ark, and if you’re just now boarding the series, then a cheat sheet to catch up with the show’s biggest story beats might be just what you need. There’s still plenty of time to stream the entire first season on Peacock (watch it here!), but it never hurts to be extra-prepared… which is where this handy-dandy Season 1 primer comes in.

For more on The Ark:
The Ark Is Back! First look at Season 2 of Hit SYFY Series; July Premiere Date Revealed
The Ark Season 2 Key Art Promises a "Brighter Future" as SYFY Hit Returns (EXCLUSIVE)
Everything to Know About The Ark Season 2 on SYFY

What Happened in The Ark Season 1?

A still image from The Ark Season 1 Episode 12

What’s The Ark's big mission?! Giving humanity a fresh start in space

For humanity’s home planet, things are as bad as bad can be in the not-so-distant future when The Ark takes place. Though the show doesn’t dwell too much on specifics, widespread disease and disaster have reached a tipping point on Earth, which compels the world’s still-functioning governments to harness all the brightest minds in an effort to  launch a massive, ambitious space campaign.

What do humans hope to find out in space? An entirely new inhabitable world — preferably one that’s got eons of environmental life left — that they can colonize and begin civilization anew. They train their sights on the exoplanet Proxima b, a trip that’ll take long enough that most of the highly-trained crew has to be placed into deep cryo-sleep. Episode 1 of The Ark drops in on their venture just as something big and nasty shakes the Ark One out of its peaceful and quiet space cruise… and that’s when things really get interesting.

The Ark One: A spaceship filled with ragtag survivors

A spacecraft from The Ark

Things all seemed so perfect before the Ark One ever actually blasted off from Earth. From the top commanding officer right down to the lowliest cleanup grunt, every person aboard the ship had been placed there for a purpose, each a specialist in some specific role that was sure to be vital to a years-long space voyage. After all, you really can’t be too thorough when your mission is nothing less than finding a new home for the entire human race.

That all changes, of course, in the very earliest Season 1 moments of the show, when a huge catastrophe nearly destroys the ship and kills off scores of high-ranking leaders in the process. Left to improvise a new chain of command — not to mention figure out how to keep the life support running, the water flowing, and all the remaining crew members fed — Lt. Sharon Garnet (Christie Burke) steps up to the plate and asserts control, reasoning that she’s one of the most experienced officers who’s still alive among the crippled Ark One’s decimated group of survivors.

Garnet’s claim on taking charge gets called into question early by fellow surviving Lt. Spencer Lane (Reece Ritchie), hatching a subplot that culminates in an attempt at a partial mutiny deeper into Season 1. Most of the rank-and-file ship’s crew remain loyal to Garnet (she’s fair-minded and likable!) and they continue going about their jobs, but there’s plenty of fallout after she stops the rebellion and dishes out consequences to Lane and his handful of supporters.

Sure, Garnet’s idea of justice isn’t nearly as punishing, given the ship’s desperate circumstances, as it might be in normal times back on good old terra firma. But hey, when you’re stranded in space and you might be the only humans left alive, it’s probably wise to keep as many people breathing as you can... even if they are mutineers.

Surprise! There are other Arks out there, too

Evelyn Maddox (Jelena Stupljanin) walks through a doorway on The Ark Season 2.

Thrown off course and grasping to establish a new plan, the surviving crew of the Ark One knows they might just be the last tattered remnants left of the human race. But one of The Ark’s biggest slowly-unfolding story surprises in Season 1 is the revelation that the Ark One isn’t the only ship of would-be colonists that’s actually managed to make it out into the far reaches of space. Heck, it’s probably not even the most advanced — a fact that Garnet and the crew discover firsthand after learning that a later ship, the Ark 3, has used faster-than-light technology to cover the same distance that it took the Ark One months and months to traverse.

The crew makes a sinister discovery about the fate of the Ark 3, though it turns out not to be the only human vessel they encounter as Season 1 unfolds. With no communication from Earth, the Ark One crew had reasonably assumed that their first-to-launch ship might’ve been the only one in the entire Ark program that successfully escaped their ravaged home planet. But that’s just the moment when William Trust (Paul Murray) — the demented genius inventor responsible for the entire program — is discovered safe and alive, hidden away in deep cryo-sleep in a secret section aboard the Ark One.

Waking Trust up has the ripple effect of answering a lot of big-picture questions about how the Ark program was developed… and what Trust’s big brain might contain that could give the ship’s beleaguered engineering team a helpful assist. But no one needs Trust’s giant IQ to grasp what’s at stake when yet another Earth ship — the Ark 15 — zooms in from nowhere late in Season 1, throwing a hugely hostile new wrinkle into the Ark One’s survival strategy.

Commanding the Ark 15 is one of Trust’s old-school Earth nemeses, an egomaniacal corporate raider named Evelyn Maddox (Jelena Stupljanin).  Maddox and her ship were among the last arks to leave Earth, and on the way out, she made sure to steal as much priceless art as the Ark 15 could carry (yes, she’s just that kind of selfish.) A meanie like Maddox has her own no-good reasons for wanting Garnet and the Ark One to simply vanish into the void… but thankfully, she can’t just blast her competition into space-bits. Why? Well, like the Ark One’s Lt. Lt. James Brice (Richard Fleeshman), she’s silently suffering from a stealthy and rare (and fatal!) disease known as Klampkins… and at least part of the cure — if there is one — happens to be tucked away aboard the Ark One.

The Ark Season 1 finale cliffhanger explained

A still image from The Ark Season 1 Episode 12

That bit of disease-curing bargaining power is what buys the crew of the Ark One time in the closing episodes of Season 1, even as Garnet slyly suspects that Maddox — who’s hell-bent on colonizing a planet without any pesky human competition — would leave the Ark One and its struggling crew for dead if only she could. If she did, it wouldn’t even qualify as her first space atrocity; to the horror of Garnet and the rest of the crew, Maddox is outed as the driving force behind the destructive assault on the lifeless Ark 3 that left no survivors except for a mysterious young woman named Kelly (played by Samantha Glassner, the real-life daughter of series co-creator Jonathan Glassner).

The mystery surrounding Kelly doesn’t last long: She’s revealed to be the devious daughter of Evelyn Maddox (the Ark 15’s commander). And as both ships close in on the Proxima b world that’s destined to serve as humanity’s savior planet, Maddox and Kelly scheme to accept the Ark One’s help just long enough to secure Maddox’s Klampkins cure and jump-start the planet’s rotation (it involves giant magnets!)… and then, of course, kill off William Trust, Garnet, and pretty much the entire Ark One crew so they can have the place all to themselves.

Proxima b supplies the big twist that wrecks Maddox’s evil scheme. In a huge science-y oversight, no one noticed that rotating the planet would expose its methane-soaked dark side directly to the heat of its nearest sun, and sure enough, the entire orb starts exploding once Proxima b begins spinning. The blast badly damages the Ark One and leaves viewers guessing about the fate of some of the show’s most important characters, with only Garnet, Alicia Nevins (Stacey Read), and Brice (who’s just been administered the first successful cure batch for Klampkins disease) shown to have definitely escaped unharmed.

Over on the Ark 15, the explosion barely rattles the ship, leaving the Ark One’s Lt. Lane (who’s been taken Maddox’s prisoner) safe and alive alongside everyone else on board. Along the way, Maddox sets aside her trust issues long enough to broker a key agreement with Garnet that assures Maddox will get the Klampkins treatment she needs in exchange for, y’know, actually cooperating with everyone else for a change. With the Ark One all but hobbled and the fate of its crew in the balance, Season 1 ends on a tensely-negotiated truce between Garnet and Maddox — but will Maddox remain true to her word in Season 2?

Who survived the Ark One’s explosive catastrophe… and what will the crew do next, now that their ship’s dead in the water and their hopes for a new home planet all but burnt to a fiery crisp? These are the cliffhanger questions that linger as The Ark powers up for its sophomore season on SYFY.

Tune in Wednesday, July 17 at 10/9c for the Season 2 premiere, and catch up on the story by streaming all Season 1 episodes of The Ark over on Peacock.

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