Battlestar Galactica: Revelations (S4/E11)

Battlestar Galactica: Revelations (S4/E11)

Rating: ***

Written by: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed By: Michael Rymer

 

Only one Three remains. Not only is D’Anna Byers now mortal, she’s the last of her model, the remainder having been left behind to be, well, “toasted” on the now destroyed resurrection hub. Whatever purpose the Cavils and Boomer had for unboxing her, they’d better hope that a single DB can do the job.

If sabotaging the fragile alliance between the Colonials and the Conoy/Six/Sharon Cylon faction was that purposed, I’d say it was fulfilled quite nicely:

After the rebel Cylon baseship rejoins the Human fleet, D’Anna sparks a standoff by seizing Roslin, Baltar, and their entourage as hostages. She announces that she will hold these hostages aboard the baseship until the four Cylons hidden in the human fleet return safely to their own people. Tory Foster defects immediately, but the other hidden Cylons keep quiet.

Back in command aboard the Galactica, William Adama consults with Lee, who is still acting as President in Roslin’s absence. According to prophecy, the hidden Cylons will reveal the route to Earth, and Roslin has secretly ordered Adama to destroy the baseship — even with her aboard — if that’s the only way keep the Cylons from claiming Earth for themselves. The Human leaders thus face two grim alternatives: if the hidden Cylons defect, the Humans must destroy the baseship to prevent the Cylons from finding Earth, but if the hidden Cylons stay underground, the hostages will suffer. As if to prove this point, D’Anna executes a hostage and threatens to kill more unless the three remaining Cylons join her. In response, Lee orders Kara Thrace to plan a hostage rescue mission.

It’s been a while, but now we remember what set the Threes apart from the other Cylonoid models: her blend of the Twos, Sixes, and Eights’ obsession with the “final five,” and the ruthlessness of the Cavils, Dorals, and Simons. D’Anna doesn’t pass judgment on or even opine about her siblings’ actions in triggering the Cylon civil war or joining the Colonials on their Earth quest; she simply wants the final five – or, rather, the four of the five she says are in the ragtag fleet – and recognizes that with a large handful of Human hostages, she has the ready-made means of obtaining them once and for all.

Which, since they didn’t actually do the D’Anna unboxing, gets Roslin and Adama off the hook for what would otherwise be their latest strategic debacle, as when the base ship returns to the ragtag fleet, it isn’t just the Humans aboard it who are hostages, but the fleet itself as well.

I would call this a needless return to already over-plowed Cylon-Human conflict ground, but for, I have to admit, the genius of how the motivations underlying this scenario have been constructed. D’Anna is simply the catalyst. It is Tigh, Tyrol, Anders, and Tory Foster who now hold the fate of the Human remnant – and perhaps Earth itself – in their hands.   And all they have to do is give up the secret they’ve been trying to keep all season long. Only thing that surprised me was that it wasn’t Tory who ultimately spilled the identities of the other three.

One other thing is implicitly revealed in Act II about the identity of the twelfth Cylonoid model. See if you can figure it out by the end of this review.

Genius, however, does have its limits. The expression on Tigh’s face when D’Anna spaces one of her hostages conveys all too effectively the pressure that he and Tyrol and Anders are now under. But where is the logic for D’Anna in turning the screws so precipitously? Yes, Tory revealed herself, but she was right there on the flight deck when D’Anna gave her ultimatum. Has the Three really not considered the possibility that the Colonials don’t know the identities of the other three, and that perhaps her “siblings” aren’t nearly as eager to “go home” as Tory was? What if the Humans aren’t refusing to comply, but are unable to?   And what if they get pushed to the extremity where they gamble on a counter-strike of their own?

As preparations for the dangerous mission get underway, a Cylon musical signal summons Tigh, Tyrol and Anders to the mysterious Viper that Kara flew back to the fleet after her mystical journey to Earth. Intrigued, Tyrol and Anders ask Kara to help them examine the Viper. Tigh, meanwhile, resolves to stop the impending bloodshed at any cost: he finally tells Adama that he is a Cylon. Adama breaks down in fury and grief, incapacitated by this unimaginable betrayal. Lee takes charge and orders Tigh marched to an airlock to await execution. There, Tigh reveals the identities of Tyrol and Anders, who are arrested before Kara’s horrified eyes. As Anders is dragged away, he begs his wife to study the Viper. Stunned, she retreats into its cockpit and starts flipping switches.

Lee radios D’Anna that if she doesn’t release the hostages, he will execute Tigh, Tyrol and Anders. His resolve is steely despite the painful shock of seeing such well-known faces awaiting death at his hands. D’Anna similarly refuses to back down, targeting the civilian ships with the baseship’s weapons. If the three Cylons die, so will thousands of Humans.

Convenient how the final four of the final five start hearing that staticky music again, huh? And that it draws them (minus Tory, of course) to the mysterious Starbuck’s mysterious Viper that she mysteriously flew to and back from the mysterious Earth. And that it prompts them to seek out the mysterious Starbuck to see if she can tell them why their artificial craniums are trying to dial in a 10,000 watt radio station from just over the horizon that only her mysterious Viper’s car stereo seems to be picking up. And that it drives Tigh to confess his true identity to none other than his best friend “Husker”.

Can’t knock the tactical, um, genius of Tigh recognizing his value as a counter-hostage against the Cylons. I don’t know that hiding his true nature was a bad idea as he claims; other than Tory, who got inured to it, he and Tyrol and Anders never lost their souls or their allegiance. Fear of precisely that is what’s been driving them nuts ever since the Ionian Nebula, but that very fear also seemed to provide its own answer. Tigh’s offer to sacrifice himself confirms it.

On the other hand, who knew what their buried programming imperatives really were? Boomer didn’t, after all, until she had put two bullets into Adama. Perhaps it was that delay in confessing what he is that Adama took as a “betrayal,” Tigh and the others having left open the possibility of being witting Cylon tools in the fleet’s midst. Because otherwise I can’t see how the term really applies, seeing as how being “Cylon” has long since reached the point of equivalency to being “Lithuanian” for all the taxonomical difference it makes. A fact completely lost on the Admiral, who spends the remainder of the scene howling in anguish, trashing his office, and punching mirrors in a display of contrived overacting that would leave William Shatner agape.

Ironic, though, that it sends Adama on a drinking binge that looks like it’ll out-pickle Tigh before the end of the series.

And how ludicrously place-trading it is to see none other than Mr. Idealist himself, His Accidency, the Acting President of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, Lee Adama, turn back into a ruthless SOB brinksman willing to space Tigh and his two companions and blow up the entire base ship with President Roslin on it if D’Anna doesn’t back down. Did you buy that? I sure as frak didn’t. I guess this is another one of those “terrible things” he was talking about on the witness stand back at the Baltar trial. Another product of the permanent state of emergency the Human Diaspora has been in going all the way back to episode #1.

But with the Admiral having been reduced to a weepy, blubbering old woman, I suppose there simply wasn’t anybody else to fill that role, and the story would have expired right then and there without it.

So what do the writers do when they’ve twisted characters’ personalities into pretzels in a frantic attempt to build a forced confrontation whose foundation is only partially there? What they’ve always done – stomp on the accelerator. Tory assures D’Anna that Lee is bluffing; Baltar shows up to assure D’Anna that he’s serious as a heart attack. D’Anna orders the base ship’s nuclear weapons targeted on the ragtag fleet. Lee prepares to space Tigh first. Baltar makes a religious appeal for peace. D’Anna replies that God will never forgive the Cylons for wiping out the Twelve Colonies. Baltar replies that force has never worked for D’Anna before, so why will it now?   Lee inserts the “open launch tube” key.   An Eight tells D’Anna their nukes are ready to fire. Tigh, like the man he’s always been, looks at Lee and tells him to do it. Lee starts turning the key.

And at the Last Possible Moment [tm], the mysterious Starbuck bursts into the launch tube control room, stops his Accidency, and tells him about the scratchy Viper signal: it’s a signal from Earth. Only I thought Roslin had ordered Adama to blow up the base ship with her on it if necessary in order to keep the Cylons from finding Earth themselves.

Oh, by the way, Roslin can’t be the final Cylon. But then D’Anna told her that last week. So yes, that was a trick tease. But then, who is it? If it isn’t in the fleet and not with the Cylons, then where could it be?   Hmmm….

But never mind. The contrived conflict now over (for the moment), we arrive at the reason why we sat through it all in the first place:

Seconds before an apocalyptic battle erupts, Kara discovers that her Viper is receiving a locator signal that no other ship in the fleet can detect. If it’s from Earth, then Anders and Tyrol have fulfilled the prophecy by giving her a crucial clue to the planet’s location. Faced with this awesome possibility, Lee and D’Anna hesitantly make peace. Lee offers amnesty to Tigh, Tyrol, Anders and Foster, and D’Anna releases her hostages. Then, with Lee and Roslin’s help, William Adama pulls himself together and orders preparations for a jump.

Jump they do. And sell the hell out of it as well. It’s the climax Voyager’s “Endgame” should have had. Galactica and the ragtag, fugitive fleet have made it to Earth. There’s wild celebrating amongst all the different groups and factions.   The CIC erupts in joy. The Adamas and Roslin embrace. So do Fundamentally Oral Gaius and his flock.   Ditto the flight deck crew and the tyllium ship workers and the pilots, the Agathons, and the final four of the final five (along with Starbuck informing “Cat,” all in their own solitary, reflective ways).   The triumphant music swells to a crescendo. It’s a massive, cast-wide group hug. Heck, Roslin was so choked up she could barely give the order to jump in the first place.

And what they find brings the entire concept of hope into the ultimate disrepute.

The original Battlestar Galactica only lasted one season. I don’t know how many seasons Glen Larson had in mind, but the sequel series Galactica 1980 cut straight to the end to answer the question of what the Colonials found when they ultimaty located Earth. And that answer was OUR Earth circa, as the show title witlessly suggested, 1980.   An Earth that obviously wasn’t ready, socially or technologically, to offer a haven for the ragtag fleet or to even be made aware of extraterrestrial Humanity. If there had been both the creative inspiration and the budget for it, this concept could have made for very interesting storytelling possibilities, examining our own current events through the prism of both Kobolian and Cylon outsiders and perhaps exploring the effects subsequent disclosure would have had on Earth civilization.

In a fanfic sense, every scifi geek dreams of seeing what would happen if Galactica had arrived at the Earth of the Star Trek universe in either Kirk’s time or Picard’s. What direction would they have come from? Would they have run into the Romulans or the Klingons first? Would they have avoided encountering the Borg? Would the Federation have taken them in? The inter-franchise “smashup” scenarios are endless.

But that isn’t what the Colonials and the rebel Cylons find.   What they find is what, realistically, should always have been kept in mind as a possibility, but which nobody wanted to even consider, lest it lay waste to their last remaining shred of purpose for continuing to live.

Earth, the goal toward which all parties have been struggling for four subjective years, is a lifeless wasteland, a burned-out cinder, the site of an all-out nuclear holocaust sometime in the past. And the cast, all of them having been so recently in joyous, raucous celebration, wonder around in contrasting states of shocked disbelief, Humans and Cylons alike united in the psychological devastation of the physical devastation all around them, perhaps realizing that the demons that brought about the Twelve Colonies’ destruction were far older than any of them imagined, and just as inescapable.

It is a stunning climax. Or, rather, anti-climax, since Earth was to be the end of the journey.   With no salvation to be found there, and the planet uninhabitable, where do they all go from here? And what of the questions this outcome raises? Who nuked Earth? Did the Cavils, Dorals, and Simons jump ahead and destroy it first?   If the devastation was self-inflicted and the final five were from Earth, does this explain why the other seven models are not to even speak of them? Was the thirteenth tribe actually Cylonoid, and Earth the birthplace of the skinjobs in the first place?

But…is this planet really Earth? We never do get a full-on look at it to identify continents and such. We, the viewers, only know that THEY, the characters, think it’s Earth. And could the fact that it was Starbuck’s Viper that picked up the signal be part of the hybrid’s prophecy that she would lead her people to their end?

The “final episodes” begin in January. I really hope Ron Moore answers these questions before it’s all over. But I suspect that in the meantime, the metastasizing insanity has only just begun.

 

Next: The triumph of despair.

Battlestar Galactica: The Hub (S4/E10)

Battlestar Galactica: The Hub (S4/E10)

Rating: ***

Written by: Jan Espenson
Directed By: Paul Edwards

  

Well, we know that those who were left behind didn’t handle things so well; how about those who were “snatched up”?

Having just arrived aboard the rebel Cylon baseship, Roslin and Baltar are shocked when the ship’s hybrid abruptly begins making jump after jump away from the Human fleet. The hybrid is panicking because she senses that Natalie has died. Eventually, however, her jumps regain focus. She begins searching for the resurrection hub so that the allied Human-Cylon forces can complete their original mission: to rescue the boxed Three/D’Anna model and destroy the hub, which is defended by Cylon forces belonging to Cavil’s faction.

During all of these jumps, Roslin experiences visions in which Elosha, her priestess who perished on Kobol, shows her a hospital bed where she — Roslin — lies dying. William Adama keeps a loving, grief-stricken vigil by her bedside. Lee and Kara stand sorrowfully nearby. Observing this scene, Elosha urges Roslin to relax her self-inflicted Presidential isolation and allow herself to love — both for her own sake and for her people’s.

Interestingly, Roslin only experiences the visions during each FTL jump. Which is odd given that these jumps are supposed to be subjectively instantaneous.

Sooooo, from where, and whom, are these visions coming?   Is it her own subconscious lambasting her as a cold, aloof, hostile, well, “barracuda,” or her Cylon programming masquerading as her better nature? And, for that matter, since when has Laura Roslin been “isolated” and “unloving”?   She’s let in Bill Adama, and though it’s never been shown on-screen (yet, mercifully), it’s quite likely that they got to know their respective bodies a little better back on New Caprica.   But there are limits to how many a president can allow to get close, just as there is a valid purpose to “self-inflicted presidential isolation” – particularly in times of crisis. Good presidents know this. Which helps explain why the late Elosha was a pagan priestess and not a political consultant.

Between jumps, however, Roslin resolutely acts like her normal self. She and Baltar try and fail to converse with the enigmatic hybrid. Meanwhile, Helo and an Eight develop a bond as they work together to plan and prepare their uneasy crews for the coming battle. Helo is thus especially upset when Roslin gives him a secret order: he must transport D’Anna directly to Roslin, who will interrogate her with no Cylons present. Helo warns Roslin that the Cylons, who expect mutual cooperation, will see this as a betrayal of the alliance. Roslin coolly insists that Helo follow her orders.

In other words, Baltar was the ep’s comic relief.   Something, indeed, that has not been seen on this show for quite some time. Nice change of pace, if only for a few moments.

“Meanwhile,” Helo and the Eight do a bit more than just “develop a bond,” if you know what I mean. Or at least the Eight tries to light Karl’s pilot light by giving him his favorite back massage he always gets from Athena, one memory amongst all of Athena’s memories that the Eight helped herself to after Mrs. Agathon’s last download.

Helo is a little creeped out by it, but I don’t buy that he would be. Fact is, a lack of true intimacy would be the legacy of any Human who married a Cylonoid. Your Cylon spouse would not be a unique individual, but rather one copy amongst millions of that particular model. You could have nothing with her/him that was just between the two of you. Even if s/he remained faithful, one or more of his/her “siblings” could always tap into those sweet nothings and steamy encounters for whatever reason.   You marry one, you marry ‘em all.

It also doesn’t appear that Helo grasps the positive side of that particular coin: He could bugger as many Eights as he wanted and it wouldn’t be cheating! After all, they aren’t “siblings,” or even “identicals” – they’re duplicates. The Eight that was rubbing Karl’s shoulders and several minutes from then could have been on her knees in front of him rubbing somewhere else is Athena, just like Athena is Boomer and Boomer is this Eight. Something I’m sure Mrs. Agathon can’t not be aware of, even if her doofus hubbie can’t wrap his mind around it.

“Open” marriage by design. Plus the eventual, inevitable sorrow that would come with any functional immortal giving their heart to a mortal whose limited lifespan will be over all too soon. Makes you wonder if Athena thought through marrying Helo after all. No wonder she supported the mission to destroy the resurrection hub.

As for Roslin’s secret order to Helo for a private interrogation of the unboxed Three, the words “plausible deniability” come to mind.   She has her own personal agenda for that Q&A session and a perfectly reasonable cover justification. But then I have no problem with self-inflicted presidential isolation; I suppose the late Elosha would have Laura give Karl a shoulder rub instead.

The baseship reaches the hub and a chaotic fight begins against Cavil’s Cylon forces. Helo and the Eight sneak aboard the hub, where they find D’Anna already awake. Cavil and Boomer have resurrected her, but she has killed Cavil, and Boomer has fled. Helo, the Eight and D’Anna escape from the hub in a Raptor. Then the Human pilots unleash a barrage of nuclear missiles. The hub — the Cylons’ wellspring of immortality — vanishes in a blaze of light.

Alright, this makes no sense whatsoever. Cavil and his Simon and Doral allies know damn good and well that the D’Annas were the first model to go against the programming imperative forbidding any seeking out of the “Final Five”. Their “boxing” is what removed the Conoys, Sixes, and Sharons from majority control in the first place. The Cavils, most of all, are supposed to be the “voice of reason” model. So what possibly deluded them into believing that the D’Annas could be persuaded to take the side of the Ones, Twos, and Fours in a Cylon civil war that the Threes did more than any other model to ignite? Even desperation doesn’t explain it, and up until now the Cavils, Dorals, and Simons have had the upper hand in this intraspecies conflict.

The plot-driving answer is that Helo and his wannabe Eight “mistress” wouldn’t have had time to sneak aboard the resurrection hub to revive the D’Annas AND get any of them out before either their base ship or the hub or both were destroyed. Helo was right about that. But the story demanded that they bring back a Three, so Cavil has to pay the price in character credibility. No wonder Espenson booked his side to do the job in this battle.

Back aboard the baseship, an explosion during the fight has injured Baltar. Roslin gives him morpha and staunches his bleeding as best she can. Then, under the drug’s influence, Baltar confesses what she has long suspected: that his actions helped enable the genocidal Cylon attack against the Twelve Colonies. After he complacently explains that his faith in God frees him from all guilt, Roslin strips away the dressing she has put on his wound. He guesses what she’s doing and begs her to stop, but she steps away. Laura Roslin is about to let Gaius Baltar bleed to death before her eyes — but it’s not just his life on the line. It’s her soul, too.

NOW we’re talking. This is a polemical payoff four seasons in the making, and almost pulls Battlestar Galactica back over the shark “Sine Qua Non” jumped it a week ago.

I’m at a loss to explain why Gaius, after all this time, feels free to confess his sins, especially since Roslin told him he wasn’t going to die, so it wasn’t a deathbed confession. And I don’t buy the “under the drug’s influence” excuse, since you’ll recall from “Taking A Break From All Your Worries” that Roslin and Adama had Baltar pumped full of a sodium pentathol-like interrogation drug and the latter didn’t spill his guts, so why would a hit of morphine loosen up that double-tongue?

Perhaps a clue is to be found in the tone and tenor of the confession itself. For starters, confessing that he was the patsy that Caprica Six used to sabotage Colonial defenses in the face of the Cylons’ genocidal attack is only the prologue for yet another “evangelical” sermon from Fundamentally Oral Gaius.   He speaks of his notorious role in his civilization’s eradication as a good, a positive, a blessing that showed him “the path to God,” and, naturally, revealed to him the “messianic” role “God” had planned for him.   Including, of course, persuading Roslin to end her “self-inflicted presidential isolation” and “teaching her to love”. It was downright creepy in its self-satisfied, dare I say self-righteous smugness. Kind of like a Barack Obama stump speech.

As a witnessing gambit, I’d say this one left a great deal to be desired. Judging by Roslin’s reaction, atheistic hatred never looked so good. She doesn’t display glee or anger or cathartic satisfaction at getting to be the person who carries out the sentence she knows Baltar deserves for the crime against humanity she has always known in her heart he committed. At this point, after all that’s happened, and with her own life inexorably winding down, she’s beyond such petty emotions. Indeed, it almost seems to be a burden to her, but one she knows she must bear if some measure of belated justice is to be done.

It certainly doesn’t help the condemned that he begs her “don’t do this to me” over and over again. If Gaius were truly “born again,” his soul truly saved, he’d have acknowledged his guilt even knowing that it had been forgiven by God. He’d have realized that he deserved far worse punishment for his grievous sins from which God had spared him, and accepted this comparatively minor act of penance knowing that he was soon going home to his reward. And it would have been a far better witness to Roslin than his trademark begging for his life, which suggests that if anything, he has morally regressed (if that’s even possible) since he “got religion”.

But no. The base ship jumps away from the destroyed resurrection hub, Laura has one more Elosha vision, and when she comes to she replaces the bandage and saves the Worthless Piece ‘o Garbage’s life. Hence the “almost” inserted into the shark-jumping comment above. But what the heck, we still need the comic relief, right?

Still, the President’s new-found lack of presidential isolation doesn’t extend to letting the Three off the hook, which guarantees that the Eight won’t be Helo’s pussy-away-from-home on this mission.   Nothing much else, though, as D’Anna, mistrustful of everybody (and who can blame her?), clams up until the base ship makes it back to the ragtag fleet.

I bet Helo still doesn’t realize the opportunity Roslin cost him.

I’m also betting the Admiral recognized his, though.   Hope that Raptor has a big enough back seat.

 

Next: One more helping of metastasizing insanity before journey’s end.

Battlestar Galactica: Sine Qua Non (S4/E9)

Battlestar Galactica: Sine Qua Non (S4/E9)

Rating: *

Written by: Michael Taylor
Directed By: Rod Hardy
 

From the SciFi.com synopsis:

As Natalie dies amid a haze of visions, Admiral Adama banishes her murderer, Sharon Agathon, to the brig. Meanwhile, the rebel Cylon baseship has jumped away inexplicably, carrying Roslin, Baltar and many of Galactica‘s pilots. Have Roslin and the others have been kidnapped? That’s the consensus.

Eh; reasonable, as far as it goes. Though when the ragtag fleet eventually locates the Cylon rebels and their hostages, how is the rebuilt trust prerequisite to the inevitable resolution of this ill-conceived plot line to be plausibly depicted?

I was impressed with the scene where Adama confronts Athena – again, though, only to a certain point. His barely restrained rage at her betrayal of his trust and the jeopardy into which it has placed the ragtag fleet, as well as the pilots, including her husband Helo, all over a Hera-napping vision that kinda-sorta resembled the scene she beheld before she blew away the Natalie Six (and we all know how Adama feels about metaphysics) is classic Olmos Adama. It definitely has a powerful impact upon Athena – though not to the point of causing her to regret her actions.

But again, that dramatic power is mitigated by the transparency of what is really troubling the Admiral: that his girlfriend, Rosie the Cylon, was on the base ship. One gets the feeling that he’d sacrifice the entire fleet just to get her back – as, come to remember it, he admitted way back in season #1 he would to save Apollo’s life. Is this where that dialogual piper gets paid?

The President’s absence creates an especially chaotic leadership vacuum because Adama doesn’t trust Vice President Tom Zarek. With Zarek’s grudging permission, Lee Adama recruits eccentric lawyer Romo Lampkin to seek an interim president that the Admiral and the Quorum of Twelve will follow.

Er, didn’t we already go through this once before back on Kobol? Or New Caprica, for that matter? I certainly don’t blame the Admiral for not trusting Vice President Zarek, but how he feels about the individual who’s next in line is irrelevant, right? Like it or not, Zarek would become at least acting president until such time as Laura Roslin’s fate was ascertained. That is, if the democratic façade of their civilizational remnant is still worth the parchment on which it is festooned. A fact with Zarek himself, ironically, points out to Lee.

But then, if Adama didn’t trust Tom Zarek, why in all the worlds would he trust Romo Lampkin to play king-maker? I don’t care if he was ultimately persuaded by the ambulance-chaser to spring Gaius “worthless piece ‘o garbage” Baltar, it’s just not believable. Which makes Lampkin’s ultimate choice of Adama The Younger all the more day-glo obvious.

Hell, maybe it’s Lee who’s been working everybody all along with this whole “reluctant hero” gimmick.

Adama is quietly agonizing over Roslin’s fate, but he has no idea where to start searching for her until a battered Raptor jumps into view. It’s the same one that carried Roslin to the baseship, but pilot Eammon “Gonzo” Pike is the only one aboard, and he’s dead. Adama angers the Quorum by jumping the Galactica to where Pike’s Raptor came from, leaving the fleet undefended.

Remember Adama’s reaction when Starbuck was seemingly lost on that gas giant planet and he sank into a sentimentality & guilt-fueled obsession to find and rescue her, no matter what the cost? Remember his answer when Lee asked him what he’d do if it were #1 son missing instead of his surrogate daughter? Remember what I wrote about it?:

Well, frak me and frak the Human race if this is the mindset of the co-leader of surviving non-terrestrial humanity. He’d never leave? He’d defy the President of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol herself? He’d let the remaining fifty thousand survivors of his civilization’s destruction be massacred? All in an insanely futile quest to find his son’s corpse? This is a suicide complex. At the very least it raises questions about Adama’s command fitness. I don’t know if Galactica‘s CMO is authorized to relieve him on medical grounds, but if I were Colonel Tigh I’d keep this incident in mind and perhaps make some contingency plans with the President to take Adama out should another such set of circumstances ever recur.

Welcome to the recurrence. Only now, of course, Tigh is a Cylon, bringing his own motivations for such a contingency into serious question. And, of course, he has his own embarrassing, soap opera-esque problems just straining at the leash to splatter into public view.

There, the Galactica discovers wreckage from Human and Cylon ships, and possibly from the elusive Cylon resurrection hub itself. Tigh speculates that the hub was destroyed and the Humans lost in a battle, but Adama refuses to accept that Roslin is dead. Although Adama returns to the fleet, he leaves Raptors behind to continue the search, straining resources and risking lives.

Last time Adama went off on such a soft & sloppy emotional bender, if you’ll recall (or follow the above link), it was President Roslin who read him the riot act and yanked him back into proper command perspective. Thus lending a thick layer of irony to this teeth-grindingly malevolent assault on what had been a pillar character of this series.

Note, though, the self-serving undercurrent of Tigh’s speculation. The last thing he wants is to be anywhere near any situation that might expose his, Tyrol’s, Anders’, and Tory’s secret.

Which doesn’t remotely prepare him for the aforementioned splatter surprise, nor the viewers for the appalling spectacle it led to:

Next, Doc Cottle drops a bombshell on the overburdened Admiral: Caprica Six is pregnant. Knowing of Tigh’s interrogation sessions with the Cylon prisoner, Adama guesses who the father is and furiously confronts Tigh. Tigh — shocked by the news that he may be a parent — fires back, accusing Adama of letting his emotions rule his decisions regarding Roslin. The fight escalates and the two men come to blows before wryly reconciling.

Oh. Good.  Lord.  I suppose in retrospect this is something we all should have seen coming, but speaking for myself, I think my subconscious was protecting me from the malignant “EWWWWWWWW” factor that would have otherwise sent me into paroxysms of gagging. Or giggling. Or both.

This is a shark-jumping moment if ever I saw one.   Just consider all the questions it gives, um, “rise” to. Like how is it that Baltar never managed to knock up Caprica Six in the two-plus years they were frakking each other like rabid rabbits? Or how is it that ol’ man Saul never sired any offspring with his late wife Ellen (that we know of)? Was it a monumental case of blue balls that overpowered the Six’s contraceptive subroutines? Or did she deliberately engineer the conception? And if so, for what conceivable purpose? Pity? An age fetish? Charlie Chaplin syndrome?

We already had at least two Human-Cylon hybrids toddling around (Hera Agathon and Nicholos Tyrol). Now we have an entirely Cylon child to go with them. And doesn’t that speak to how day-glo obvious it is that Cylon “skinjobs” are not machines but Human clones with psychological conditioning and perhaps some minor degree of cybernetic implantation?

And that doesn’t even get into Adama and Tigh getting into a junior high school slap fight over their respective groan-inducing romantic dalliances, and ending up with Tigh evading Adama’s question and Adama admitting he doesn’t know what he’ll do if they do find Roslin. Which undermines the entire premise of the episode.

And, come on, the Admiral can’t understand why Tigh would frak Caprica Six? Sheesh, I thought it was Tigh who was half blind.

With voices on all sides warning him that he is too emotionally involved in the search for Roslin, Adama eventually decides to relinquish his command until the President is found.

….to a Cylon! So he can venture out alone and search for the new love of his life who is….a Cylon! All together now: “I’m a Cylon, you’re a Cylon, he’s a Cylon, she’s a Cylon, wouldn’t you like to be a Cylon, too? Be a Cylon, EVERYONE’s a Cylon….”

Soon afterward, Romo Lampkin tells Lee that his hunt for an interim President is over: He has decided that Lee himself would be the best candidate.

Well, OF COURSE he would! And to think that Adama once told Lee he was giving him command of the late battlestar Pegasus because “I need someone I can trust.” Talk about a “ShaZAM!” way of engineering your own coup de tat! And, of course, Lee is far too dedicated to serving “the people” to disagree.

Then Lampkin, an unstable man filled with grief and guilt, pulls a gun. He demands to know why the Human race, imperfect and doomed, deserves to have hope. At gunpoint, Lee defends his idealism, insisting that he can help lead humanity to a better future. Lampkin spares Lee’s life, and the younger Adama is sworn in as the interim president of the Twelve Colonies.

Suuuuure he does. C’mon, that’s BS only a sap like….well, Lee Adama would buy.   Lampkin is about as unstable as….well, Admiral Adama used to not be. About what has he got to be aggrieved or guilty? He’s a lawyer, for frak’s sake; if he ever had a conscience, he carved it out like a tumor years ago.

No, he just wanted to make sure that Lee knew why he was usurping the presidency before he formally usurped it. Or to make sure he implanted within Lee’s subconscious the reason Lampkin wanted him to think was the reason he was usurping the presidency before he formally usurped it. My only regret is that the springer of Gaius Baltar didn’t stick the gun in his mouth and blow his twisted head off. You know, perform a public service and christen the Adama Accidency with a complimentary murder scandal.

After the ceremony, Admiral Adama formally turns command of the Galactica over to Tigh. Adama isn’t going to stop searching for Roslin, but he will no longer endanger the fleet to find her. Instead, he has a new plan that will risk only one life — his own.

Awwwww; it’s that sweet?

So let’s tally this up: President Roslin and half the Galactica’s pilots and interceptors are still missing; Admiral Adama has gone completely off his nut and is about to go AWOL himself; the Galactica is under the command of a Cylon; and the fleet is under the control of the most dangerous man alive.

Would just letting Vice President Zarek take over for now really have been that much worse?
Next: the other side of the “JUMP!” May it be even slightly less excruciating than this one.   So say we all.

Battlestar Galactica: Guess What’s Coming To Dinner? (S4/E8)

Battlestar Galactica: Guess What’s Coming To Dinner? (S4/E8)

Rating: **1/2

Written by: Michael Angeli
Directed By: Wayne Rose

  

I really can’t stand Caprican Representative Lee Adama.

I guess it’s no secret from these reviews that I’ve never been a fan of him or his self-righteousness or his self-centered petulance or his hapless lameitude where women are concerned or his all-around puerile punkiness. When he was still Apollo, when he was still the CAG, when he still had real, adult responsibilities, when the lives of every man, woman, and child in the paltry remnant of what’s left of the non-Terran Human race depended on his decisions in the cockpit and that of those under his command, those gaping faults were marginalized in some cases, constructively channeled in others.   When he derelicted those responsibilities in the pursuit of political power, he became officially and unbearably despicable.

As a politician, Gaius Baltar was Bill Clinton: openly corrupt and self-indulgent, yet with the almost supernatural ability to fool and manipulate people into believing his appalling lack of character and integrity either didn’t matter, or was actually a virtue, as long as he remained out in front of where his uncanny political sense (i.e. Imaginary Six) told him the people wanted to go (i.e. at the time, New Caprica). Lee Adama is Donald Trump: an unsufferably arrogant petaQ who clothes his hauteur and his Zarekian agenda in the transparently phony populism of claiming to speak “for the people”. Put more succinctly, Baltar was a diddler; Adama the Younger is a crusader.

Both breeds of demagogue are dangerous. But as frustrating as the former can be, the latter is the one that infuriates even the gentlest of souls to violence with sufficiently sustained exposure.

The opening scene of “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner?” – three measly minutes – was all it took to make me want to strangle the smarmy SOB.

Fundamentally Oral Gaius mischievously decides to mix politics with religion by outing President Roslin’s Cylon-shared opera house vision to the fleet. Representative Adama brings the recording to Roslin, barely feigning great reluctance before demanding “in the name of the people” that she respond to Baltar’s charges.   She looks at him with the “Who the hell do you think YOU are?” askanceness of a decades-long political pro beholding the mewlings of a political naif. Really, it was like they were both back at the Baltar trial with Lee browbeating her on the stand about whether she was back on the chamalla again.   As then, so this time she silences him with the truth: yes, she is having shared visions with Sharan Agathon and Caprica Six. And as then, so this time he’s left slack-jawed, as though some discarded sliver of his conscience still lingers and is trying to remind him of what a complete prick he’s become.

So what’s he going to do with this little nugget of information? Call a presser and confirm what, in PR terms, are the demented ramblings of the worthless piece of garbage the entire fleet outside of his little cult considers a traitor and mass murderer? Destroy the political legacy of a leader he once admired and even committed mutiny to defend? On whose behalf? To what end? Here’s a hint: it won’t benefit Vice President Zarek.

Starbuck is still nuts. Wanna know how nuts? She’s about to jump the Demetrius and a Cylon base ship right on top of the Galactica.

At least that was what was supposed to happen. What did happen is that the Cylon base ship jumped first by accident. You can probably fill in the rest, as well as what kind of reception Captain Thrace is going to receive when she reports to the Admiral for debriefing.

Unfortunately, that debriefing took place off-screen.   What we got instead was one of the Sixes – this one named Natalie – negotiating with Roslin and Adama. Her offer? The Sixes, Conoys, and Sharons will escort the Galactica to the Cylon resurrection hub – the central plexus of all their resurrection ships – and unbox the D’Anna Biers line so that she can identify the final five, who are supposedly from Earth and supposedly know the way back. In exchange, the last battlestar will help what’s left of the “rebel” Cylon forces defeat their orthodox enemies and can then destroy the hub itself. The Cylon rebels will take the final five with them, and the Humans will be off to Earth. What a deal, right?

C’mon, you didn’t miss the gaping hole in Natalie’s spiel, did you? The wily Admiral certainly didn’t. He asks Natalie for the hub’s coordinates – a reasonable precaution since she could very easily be leading Adama’s ship into an ambush. Really, even if Natalie’s offer is on the level, the chances of a damaged base ship and a decrepit battlestar surviving, much less triumphing over an entire fleet of full-strength base ships is laughably negligible.   Treachery or no treachery, it’d be a suicide mission, and by any measure, Roslin and Adama should blow Natalie out the nearest airlock and jump the fleet the hell away from the there while the still can.

Oh, but they can’t take the slightest chance on missing out on learning the way to Earth, can they? Seems to me that the Admiral’s “giving the people something to live for” has become the quickest way of getting them all killed.

Given the unceremonious fashion in which her base ship popped right into the middle of the Coloniel fleet, I’d have thought Natalie might at least have expected a little skittishness on the Human leaders’ part. It evidently didn’t occur to her, as she balks at Adama’s request. Adama gives the order to take Natalie to the nearest airlock. Natalie caves. Waaaaay too easily.

Or does she? She asks for the Admiral’s word in return that if the joint mission is successful, the “rebels” can take the final five with them – never considering that maybe they might not want to go. “Yes,” Natalie reveals, “the final five are in your fleet.” Two of them – Tigh and Tory – are in that very room, and their sudden cases of understated nervous complaint are palpable. And if Adama breaks his word? Well, the Galactica will be even more outnumbered than it is already, I guess.

One can reasonably expect that four of the final five – assuming they still want to keep their Cylon identities secret – will not be enthusiastic about this mission. Tigh, true to that view, argues (unsuccessfully, of course) for double-crossing the Cylon rebels by blowing up the resurrection hub without unboxing the D’Annas in a subsequent strategy session. But what of the fifth, President Roslin, she of the shared Cylon visions? That resurrection hub could be the difference between life and death for her – once she finds out what she really is. If only she knew….kind of like if the rest of the fleet knew what Lee Adama now knows. Thought I forgot about him, didn’t ya?

What the President DOES know is that her chief of staff has been boinking “Pastor” Baltar, and she decides to use that little nugget of intel by confronting her with it and turning her, without realizing it, into a double-agent – or triple agent in light of her being one of the final five – by tasking her with finding out who leaked the shared Cylon vision scandal to Fundamentally Oral Gaius. Interestingly, Roslin casts it as a “lie,” or Tory would REALLY have some pillow talk for later that evening.

As it is, she doesn’t have to do anything more to get the truth out of Baltar than deny him sex. So he tells her that he heard about the President’s, Caprica Six’s, and Athena’s opera house vision from Romo Lampkin at the end of his trial several months back. And of course, Roslin’s opinion of the theatrical ambulance-chaser is just as high as is her esteem for Rev’rund Gaius. Will Tory now jump into Lampkin’s bed, or go straight to the source and join Caprica Six and Colonel Tigh in a menage a toi?

Meanwhile, while the lobbying for a Human double-cross of the Cylon rebels fails, the Cylon rebels decide on a – well, not so much a double-cross of their reluctant Human allies, as acquiring some leverage by taking the Humans on their base ship hostage after the completion of the mission to ensure delivery of the final five. A bit of perfidy that the Humans ought to be able to see coming – but then if they were that perspicacious, they’d never have agreed to this crazy mission in the first place.

Nor would they have invited Natalie, the Six who leads the Cylon “rebels,” to address a joint session of the Quorum.

Or, rather, President Roslin did at Representative Adama’s standard self-righteous urging. The thing is, in this case, the former CAG’s lobbying actually made some sense in its senselessness. If anybody could have been trusted to not get sucked into this ludicrous suicide quest, it was Laura Roslin. Now that she’s been swindled, and if she truly believes taking active sides in the civil war of their enemy instead of making tracks while the toasters commit self-genocide is a good idea, why keep it a secret? And why would the Quorum be a harder sell than she was?

Natalie gives a tour de force, if also exceedingly brief, address, this time extolling the virtues of mortality in a presumable effort to ingratiate herself with her audience, further lulling the Human leadership into a false complacency of which the destruction of their civilization by this “woman’s” people should have permanently cured them.

There are no applause lines or standing ovations.   Just a stony silence that won’t last.   Interestingly, the only audience member to have any reaction to the Cylon speech was Starbuck, who suddenly remembered for the first time since it happened the hybrid’s prophecy about her being the “harbinger of death” for her people. Will Captain Thrace now suddenly start getting cold feet after having sealed the deal?

And/or will Roslin? She and her Cylon “sisters” have the dream again, only this time, standing in the room full of light is none other than Fundamentally Oral Gaius himself. And when Athena awakens with a start, she finds daughter Hera looking right at her, who chooses that moment to say, “Bye-bye”. As every one of Harrison Ford’s characters have said at one time or another, “I’ve got a baaaaaad feeling about this.”

Later, another circle closes when Captain Thrace pays the President a visit, asks whether she really is having the visions “Pastor” Baltar claims, and then discloses the Cylon hybrid’s opera house prophecy.   The implication of THAT hits Roslin like a hammerblow, her mask drops, and the same sneering cancerous woman of mere moments before now beseeches Starbuck to help her figure out what’s happening to her.

Remember, when this series began, that one of its best selling points was realism? Boy, but that seems like a long time ago, on the other side of a whole mountain of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. When all of this started a tiny remnant of non-Terran Humanity was simply trying to survive in order to escape their mechanized (and cybernetic) enemy, find another world, and try to rebuild their destroyed civilization. Now it’s been transformed into a frakking vision quest – and, from the looks of things, an everybody-for-themselves religious war as well.

Maybe that realization hits Natalie, because she starts getting cold feet about the planned hostage-taking and entreats the Conoys and Sharons to relent and truly trust the Colonials. Which must have been quite an annoyance to her sibling models since she’s the one that suggested the double-cross in the first place.

No sooner do second thoughts hit the “rebel” leader than President Roslin decides to journey to the base ship and, as I prophesied last week, consult the hybrid like she was the Oracle from the Matrix. And she brings Baltar with her, because of his introduction to her most recent astral opera house adventure. If the Cylon rebels thought they had valuable hostages before, now they’ve REALLY hit the jackpot.

Then Mrs. Agathon discovers Hera filling page after page of a notebook with childlike drawings of a hot blonde Victoria’s Secret model with the number “six” written next to it. And then the child disappears – just like in the opera house vision.

The two scenes – Athena’s frantic search for Hera, culminating in her pulling her sidearm on Natalie on the Galactica, while Roslin and an armed escort traverse the passages of the base ship to find the hybrid – switch back and forth at an escalating pace until both climax at the same instant. Athena shoots Natalie deader than a smelt, and the hybrid bellows, “JUMP!” and the base ship complies, taking the President and half the Galactica’s air group “God, the Voice of Reason” knows where.

Metastasizing insanity. It’s a familiar and effective pacing device on this show, but here it just stirs the pot of disjointed, implausible plot fragments faster. It’s hand-waving meant to distract the viewer from the corner into which the writers have written themselves. Senseless hand-waving at that; Athena had no reason to blow away the Six, and the hybrid had no reason to panic and bolt. But it sure does guarantee that, if there was any chance Admiral Adama wasn’t committed to this harebrained scheme before, he has no choice but to pursue it – and the woman he loves – now.

Okay, I threw in that last part. But I fear it will be prophetic as well.

 

Next: From metastasizing insanity to tawdry soap opera – somebody pass me the Drammamine.

Battlestar Galactica: Faith (S4/E7)

Battlestar Galactica: Faith (S4/E7)

Rating: **1/2

Written by: Seamus Kevin Fahey
Directed By: Michael Nankin
And, just as quick as Sam Cylon’s hidden programming kicking in causing him to shoot Lieutenant Gaeda through the shin, shattering it, the intrigue went away. Suddenly everyone is calm and reasonable again (except for Gaeda, who’s bellowing his head off in agony, which is the only thing in that moment that actually makes sense). Even Starbuck, who pirouettes from “Helo, you son of a bitch, by mutinying you’re stopping me from taking the Demetrius on a suicide mission to a Cylon base ship that will get us all killed based on nothing but the empty Earth promises of the Cylon who tortured me for six months on New Caprica,” to, “Yes, Captain Agathon, you are correct; I will just take a Raptor and go to the base ship with Leobin.” Besides, I didn’t know they brought along any Raptors, and I really don’t want to know where on that sewage barge they were stashing them.

Okay, Kara’s still a couple Vipers short of a full squadron, but at least she made SOME sort of concession. But she still sticks it to Helo by ordering his Cylon wife to accompany them. After Anders invites himself along, ‘bucko will be outnumbered three to one just on the way to the base ship. Assuming she isn’t a Cylon duplicate of Kara herself. Just don’t mention that part to her; she might just go postal on your ass.

That possibility – or at least some sort of psychological conditioning – grows considerably when the Raptor arrives at the Conoy’s designated jump coordinates. They find the aftermath of the ambush of the Six/Sharon/Conoy half of the Cylon fleet by the Cavils/Dorals/Simons. It looks eerily similar to the aftermath of the Battle of Wolf 359; nothing is left except smoldering, drifting debris. It’s a sight that ought to have plastered a sneer of satisfaction on Kara’s face; indeed, it’s a dream come true. The Cylons have done – are doing – to themselves what the Humans never had the chance to do: lay waste to the Cylon fleet. Now that this stunning turn of events has been confirmed, the prudent thing to do would be to jump back to the Demetrius, and jump the Demetrius back to the Galactica, and put as much distance between the fleet and the warring toasters as possible.

But nooooo; Starbuck is determined to find a Cylon hybrid amidst all that flotsam, like some sort of slot-machine fortune-teller, that will spit out a AAA Kobol-to-Earth road map along with a receipt and a fortune cookie. So she insists on sifting through the mess until they find one. But unlike Captain Riker and the Enterprise, ‘bucko is only in a tiny, deflector shieldless shuttlecraft, and some of that wreckage isn’t quite done exploding.

Right as an explosion is ordered up on cue, she sees it – the Jupiter-like planet being passed by a comet that she painted on the wall of her cabin on the Demetrius. If there were any chance of talking her out of this obsession, it’s more gone than a Baltar monogamy promise now.

It ought to scare the hell out of Anders and Athena, though.   Because this little revelation really has nothing at all to do with Earth, and everything to do with the Cylons.   And that leads back to why the Conoy is so interested in Starbuck. Just exactly what are they after? And whatever it is, isn’t it metastasizingly clear that she’s playing right into their hands?

It ought also to be unnerving to Kara that the next thing she knows the Raptor is sitting in the landing bay of an at least mostly intact base ship that they never saw before.   It certainly is for Athena, who is confronted by her sister Eights with a supplication to lead them against the Sixes.   So now this “civil war” is to become a triple-threat match? How long before it becomes a battle royal? Or is this what happens when sentient machines start “evolving” beyond their programming?

It looks like the Conoys and Sixes aren’t getting along very well, either. The latter appear to have allowed the Leobin to seek out Starbuck and the Demetrius only as a last resort in the hopes of trading access to their (injured) hybrid in exchange for utilizing one of the Humans’ FTL drives. The Six’s reference to the Conoys’ “obsession with this woman” sounds awfully similar to the reasoning behind the D’Anna Biers line being “boxed” (her own “obsession” with Human spirituality) – which is odd considering that it was the Sixes who demanded that the Cavils, Simons, and Dorals have that model unboxed.

When the Six moves to renege on her agreement with the Leobin and simply take the Raptor and liquidate Starbuck and her flight crew, Kara calls her bluff: “You don’t have time to figure out our FTL drive before your friends return, so kindly take me to your hybrid, or kiss your asses goodbye.” As loopy as she’s become – and as frankly intimidating as her zombie-like glare towards the Six is – you gotta admit, that is vintage Starbuck.

While the others are bickering over the details, Anders quietly moves to one of the interface terminals into which Cylons directly tap.   Is it curiosity? Or his programming? He seemed almost mesmerized, very reminiscent of Boomer back in the first season, like he was in a trance. He’s just about to touch the interface when Kara gives him an order – which breaks the trance and probably saves him from a bullet through his head. Nice little foreshadowing nuance, and probably not the last.

No sooner does Anders pull his hand away than another Six recognizes one of the Humans – a woman who had been an insurgent on New Caprica and had sadistically killed her – and snaps, beating her to death. This causes Anders to snap, pistol whip the Six, and threaten to blow her head off. Suddenly everybody’s gun is drawn on everybody in a flash-frozen Mexican standoff like the one back on the Demetrius that got Gaeda’s leg blown off. But this time it’s Starbuck playing peacemaker.

But Anders won’t listen. He’s determined to retaliate. So the lead Six, after comforting her sister, which includes a full-scale, lesbo-auto-tonsil-incestectomy (geez, are ALL the Sixes queer besides Caprica?), beats him to it by grabbing his gun and pulling the trigger. And since there’s no resurrection ship handy, the Six is deader than Judas Iscariot.

Thus is this preposterous “alliance” maintained.   Kind of like the alliance between Captain Janeway and the Borg in “Scorpion” – one of convenience that will last only as until one side or the other has what it wants and no longer needs the other.   Hope that hybrid has a Tom Tom in her.

Well, not quite. Cylon hybrids – in essence, living “ship minds” – recline in goo baths spouting a never-ending stream of gibberish (no matter how the Conoy tries to gussy it up). After standing there for an indeterminate quantity of time trying to pick out any wheat, even a single kernel, from the mounds of verbal chaff, Kara – ever the patient one – gives up and gives the order to pull the plug so that the base ship can jump….to the Demetrius, I guess (a visual that is well worth the wait). The plug-pulling causes the hybrid to emit a sustained (and I DO mean sustained) bellow, like the auditory equivalent of a computer crash, which causes a nearby centurion to start firing at one of the Sharons, whose dying blood pours into the goo bath, which seems to finally give the hybrid some focus.

Sorry, my fingers forgot to breathe again.

She looks straight into Starbuck’s eyes, caresses her cheek, and says:

The children of the one reborn shall find their own country. The dying leader will know the truth of the opera house. The missing three will give you the five who have come from the home of the thirteenth. You are the harbinger of death, Kara Thrace. You will lead them all to their end.

My best translation? Either Starbuck (“the one reborn”) will lead the fleet to a planet other than Earth on which they can finally settle, or she will somehow get them all killed. Which isn’t necessarily a contradiction, as that is pretty close to what happened on New Caprica under President Baltar’s “leadership”. President Roslin (“the dying leader”) will figure out her dream – probably by consulting the hybrid as Starbuck did (oops, there goes my perspicacity again….) – but then we knew that. And the unboxed D’Annas will expose Tigh, Tory, Tyrol, Anders, and Roslin for some reason or other – hopefully to explain how any Cylon models could possibly have come FROM Earth when the Cylons were created BY the Humans of the Twelve Colonies.

Regardless, I’m pretty sure, judging by the gaffed fish expression on her face, that that was not what Kara wanted or expected to hear.

So what does ‘bucko do now? Is she Humanity’s savior or destroyer? Does she blow her own head off before she can fulfill either side of the hybrid’s prophecy? And since when has Kara Thrace taken the word of a Cylon as gospel?

Since her “resurrection,” that’s when. Which reminds me why I dislike this angle so much.   A sentiment resoundingly reinforced when this inter-species brainstorming points Starbuck to the next windmill on her tilting expedition: go with the Cylons to the resurrection hub to which the Conoys, Sharons, and Sixes were going when the Cavils, Simons, and Dorals ambushed them, and where they’re undoubtedly still lying in wait. Gone that quickly is the little detail of Kara leading her people to their doom. Like she’d ever let a little prudence and sanity get in the way of a perfectly good obsession.

~ ~ ~

Lastly, but not leastly, President Roslin meets a fellow cancer patient (Nana Visitor, DS9’s Kira Nireys) who penetrates her presidential mask because she’s in precisely the same predicament, only a little farther gone. She has the Fundamentally Oral Gaius Show vamping in the background as they have several heartfelt, intimately empathetic conversations on the subject of what it’s really like to be on death’s doorstep.   Visitor’s character, Emily, was never a fan of “that religious crap,” but now she’s taking a fresh look at Baltar’s golden calf. It shakes Roslin to her core as she recalls her own mother’s struggle as her cancer consumed her and now sees it replay again in this new – and destined to soon be late – friend.

Seeing is believing, as the old saying goes.   Roslin has a dream – the same one Emily described to her – metaphorically depicting Emily’s death.   Then she sees her own mother on the shore, and tells her she’s not ready to “cross over”. But she’s weakening – not so much under the physical assault of the cancer, but the spiritual assault of where her own impending death will take her. It even has her wondering if her archenemy might not be on to something after all.

Don’t worry, Adama is still a Rock of Atheism. He’s just coming to grips with the reality that he may never see Kara again – again – and she may have taken Helo, Gaeda, and the rest back to purgatory with her. That he now really does believe in Earth.

And that he’s finally fallen in love with the president.

Ugh. Isn’t it the chemo patients that are supposed to hurl?

  

Next: The ins, outs, foibles, and perils of the ultimate “uneasy alliance”.

Battlestar Galactica: The Road Less Traveled (S4/E6)

Battlestar Galactica: The Road Less Traveled (S4/E6)

Rating: **1/2

Written by: Mark Verheiden
Directed By: Michael Rymer

 

Two tracks, two stories. One intriguing despite itself, the other…well not.

~ ~ ~

Tyrol is a different man – er, machine – this week. Not unlike Starbuck, his inward preoccupation with adjusting to – or trying to figure out the meaning of – his newfound “Cylonness” has been superceded by an outward tunnel vision: figuring out how his late wife, Cally, really died.

No longer in command of the flight deck, Galen finds himself with a great deal of free time on his hands. Now he exercises constantly, if for no other reason than to bleed off the excess nervous energy. He’s shaved his head. And when he’s not jumping rope, he’s down in the launch tube out of which Tory Foster blew Cally, turning everything over endlessly in his head. That’s where Tory finds him in Act II.

You remember how I predicted a collision course between these two when the ex-Chief finally figures out that it was Tory who spaced his wife? She’s obviously concerned about that. She unobtrusively questions him about his theorizing and sees that the details don’t gibe with the idea of a suicide. The fact that Cally was taking anti-depressant medication; that she left their son, Nicholas, behind. It just isn’t adding up.

So Tory makes a bold feint by floating a hypothesis of her own – part, but not all, of the truth. “Maybe she knew,” Tory suggests. “How would she have known?” Tyrol replies. “Maybe she sensed it. She was your wife. Maybe she was afraid of you.”

Tigh and Tyrol are examining their Cylon natures through the prism of their very Human pain. But I swear, Tory is making the centurions look warm-blooded. On the one hand, dancing up to the edge of the truth and then jiu-jitsuing Galen’s burgeoning suspicions back into self-doubt is a sublimely simple yet brilliant piece of psychology and logic. Yet she does it with such a Vulcan-like calm, almost in a monotone, that you can almost hear the circuits and servos whirring and churning and firing. Indeed, she may be the most dangerous Cylon model of all. And with that poker face, she could make a killing in card games in her spare time.

Tory is, of course, also frakking Fundamentally Oral Gaius, whose “ministry” of self-indulgence is growing into a fleet-wide empire in his conceited imagination. But it is also, slowly, reluctantly, reeling in one more acolyte: Galen Tyrol.

Where do you go when you have no place left? To whomever will take you in. Tyrol doesn’t want to be a Cylon, because it destroyed his marriage and his wife and his career. But that’s what he is, whether he likes it or not. And what is “Pastor” Baltar’s message? “You’re perfect just the way you are.” Sounds like a perfect fit, doesn’t it? And also, less than coincidentally, with Tory’s “plan” as well.

Oh, Galen doesn’t succumb easily. And Baltar doesn’t make it easy for him, either. Showing up quietly on the fringes of the congregation at one of his “sermons,” Gaius goes all televangelist on the ex-Chief’s ass, showing him up in front of all his cultists and triggering a verbal tirade (and a brief throttling) that fell deep within the “Methinks thou dost protest too much” category.

Retreating to his quarters, he is still “snapped” and grabs a gun to blow his own brains out, but of course his Cylon programming stops him.   Just like it did Boomer all those months and years ago. When Baltar comes a-calling some time later, all the fire and rage have burned themselves to ashes.

And when I say all, I do mean all. Tyrol doesn’t utter a peep. He doesn’t get up off of his bed. He doesn’t move. He doesn’t change expression. Baltar, as is his want, does all the talking.

But this isn’t the Fundamentally Oral Gaius of his cult and its pirate radio broadcasts. This is a Baltar that appears – you always have to qualify outwardly selfless, humble gestures where this worthless piece of garbage is concerned – contrite. He evinces regret for having embarrassed Tyrol in front of his followers, and rather than preaching forgiveness, he asks for it instead. He gives every indication of ministering to Tyrol instead of using him as a religious prop. He confesses his past sins (in a VERY generalized way) and speaks of his current religious gimmick as “acceptance of his fate” after fighting it for so long. And that, of course, is what Galen has come to believe he’s been doing: fighting the acceptance of what he has learned he is. A Cylon.

Sure, Baltar really doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and Tyrol’s almost creepy quiescence suggests either that he had already come to acceptance of his true alien nature or that he was in the penultimate stage of the suicide process between looking over the ledge and making the final leap.   But Gaius projected – or faked – enough sincerity that Tyrol accepted his words. Or, at the very least, didn’t kick his ass out of his quarters like a football.

Instead, he extends his hand – just as Gaius had asked him to do back in “church”.

Has Rev’rund Baltar made another convert? And has Tory neutralized her biggest threat?

~ ~ ~

Starbuck is frakking nuts.

In all honesty, I am at the same time profoundly grateful and somewhat disappointed that the past few episodes have left the twisted Earthquest of Captain Kara Thrace and her borrowed sewage scow, the good ship Demetrius. Grateful because I do not like the Starbuck resurrection angle at all, and not a great deal of exposition is necessary to get across the idea that Starbuck has cobwebs in the windmills of her mind where the booze-deadened brain cells used to be. Disappointed because there has been so much rich character and plot material to analyze so far this fourth and final season that I could use more focus on a plot thread that isn’t shallower than the kiddie pool at Munchkin Land.

This week, my luck ran out.

But it’s still not difficult to figure out. Consider: Admiral Adama gave Kara that ship, a skeleton crew, two Vipers, and sixty days to follow her fading homing beacon/signal/instinct/hypnotically-implanted deception/whatever it is to Earth.   Maybe if he’d done so earlier, and her instinct was genuine, she might have found it, or at least confirmed the route. But either way, ask yourself this: Did he turn her loose in the hopes that she could find the planet of their dreams, or did he do so to get a crazy woman who pulled a gun on President Roslin out of his fleet for two months? Maybe even in the implicit hope that the skeleton crew would mutiny and perhaps even “disappear” her?

Predicting a mutiny doesn’t exactly take clairvoyance.   Everybody on that barge can see ‘bucko has lost it – her Earth sense and her sanity. She stays locked in her cabin, painting the walls with mental snapshots of the Sol system. Star charts are scattered all over her desk and the floor. She frenetically switches back and forth between the painting and the star charts until she collapses into a shallow, fitful sleep.   Upon awakening she goes right back to the same maniacal restlessness. On the rare occasions when Kara does emerge from her lair, she orders repetitive recon missions into the same handful of sectors, even though they keep coming up empty.

The crew – Anders, Athena, Gaeta, a few others, and XO Karl “Helo” Agathon – has had it with the whole quixotic misadventure.   To make matters worse, Starbuck is delaying their jump back to the fleet to the very last moment, risking getting left behind altogether. Helo continues to stand behind Captain Ahab – um, Thrace – out of duty and respect for the chain of command. But he’s steadily weakening, and it seems as if one more big push will send him over the edge along with the others.

And so, the sixty-four cubit question: if Kara’s not going to go home humiliated, what else can happen out there – At The Last Possible Moment – to keep that plot thread going?

That’s right: another rendezvous with her old Cylon friend and creepy jailer, Leobin Conoy!

For a convenient but PURELY RANDOM change of pace, Captain Thrace opts to fly the next redundant recon patrol. Only, PURELY BY COINCIDENCE, she and Hot Dog find something.   And, ABSOLUTELY AND COMPLETELY BY RANDOM COINCIDENCE, that something just happens to be a damaged Cylon heavy raider aboard which is one of the Conoys. Which one appears to matter little, since they all seem to know Starbuck like they were inside her skin.

So what does Kara do? Blows the raider out of the sky and Leobin along with it, right? C’mon, she can’t get enough of killing Conoys, and she certainly has shot, stabbed, and strangled her way through enough of them to be a connoisseur, hasn’t she? Except, of course, for the “imaginary” one that lured her to her “death” and took her to Earth and back before resurrecting her, and she doesn’t remember him.

But she must remember something, because she escorts the raider back to the Demetrius and lets it dock with her ship. A call which only further endears her to her disgruntled crew.

Once the Conoy is aboard, he jumps right back into his mind games like they were back in that upholstered cell on New Caprica. Only now he tells Kara that “God has taken your hand” and “purged you of your doubts” and “you’re ready to begin your journey.” Journey where? Why, to Earth of course. Because he knows. He knows that she went (or thinks she went) to Earth and is desperate to get back, and he dangles a way in front of her: join the side of the Conoys, Sixes, and Sharons in the Cylon civil war and talk to one of their “hybrids,” which, of course, they believe are the “voice of God” or something.

Really though, Starbuck hasn’t changed all that much.   She’s still as driven, intense, and obsessive as she always was. It’s just no longer focused inward. And that makes her even easier to manipulate, a fact which is as obvious to everyone else as it is lost on her. Which is the only conceivable reason why she would have had Conoy taken to her quarters.

And which treats Anders to a “caught the wife with the milkman” moment when he drops in on his (technically still) wife and finds her “painting” with Conoy’s arm around her, and effortlessly stealing “second base”.

Sam Cylon does what any husband would do in that circumstance: he belts Leobin and has his fellow “skinjob” taken to the brig, while Helo tries to (1) believe what he’s seeing and (2) figure out what in the galaxy he can do about it.

There are obsessions, and there are obsessions.   Locking yourself in your cabin for days at a time and painting the walls and pouring over the same star charts incessantly and sending recon patrols flying around in circles is eccentric, and borderline – okay, more than borderline – obsessive, but it’s not off the deep end. But rescuing your worst enemy, a creature that psychologically (and who knows, maybe even sexually) tortured you, and coming within what looked like mere minutes of letting him have you, because he claims to have some knowledge, some insight, somebody that can help you regain the Earth map in your head that you were so sure of and have now forgotten – That’s, well, frakking nuts. And very soon Karl Agathon is going to have to make a decision before Conoy succeeds in screwing up Anders as badly as he has the Captain.

An explosion of the Cylon heavy raider that, you’ll recall, they knew was damaged and yet docked with the Demetrius, and which kills one of the crew during an EVA, provides a brief moment of clarity, which Starbuck uses to beat the bejesus out of Conoy for old time’s sake. But as he himself remarks between spitting out mouthfuls of blood, it doesn’t help. And she quickly realizes that he’s right. “What are you doing to me?” she asks forlornly. And the Conoy keeps up with the same “journey”/”angel of God leading her people home” rap. The mechanized bastard is relentless as…well, as a machine. And yet the one meaningful question she asks him – “What happened to me during those two months I was gone?” – is the one he cannot – or will not – answer. Because, of course, to answer that question would be to let her off his hook. And that, no Leobin Conoy can ever allow.

So Kara makes her decision: they’re not returning to the fleet, but are jumping instead to rendezvous with the Conoy/Sharon/Six Cylon faction. One of the crew freaks out into open mutiny after she departs the memorial service for the deceased crewman, and Helo has to pistol-whip him into unconsciousness to retain control of the situation, even though he’s as incredulous as the rest.

One of the roles of a first officer is to speak for the crew.   Helo has now reached the point where the need for respecting and maintaining the chain of command has been superseded by the imperative of protecting the lives of the crew from an unequivocally and suicidally dangerous command decision.

When the time comes to make the jump to the Cylon base ship, Captain Agathon refuses Starbuck’s order, and relieves her of command.

Okay, NOW this thread has gotten intriguing.
Next: Gaeta breaks a leg – he wishes.

Battlestar Galactica: Escape Velocity (S4/E5)

Battlestar Galactica: Escape Velocity (S4/E5)

Rating: ***

Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed By: Edward James Olmos

Well. Callandra Henderson Tyrol wasn’t forgotten by a long shot, was she? Not exactly a full military funeral with full honors, but all the brass was there, up to and including Admiral Adama and a President Roslin who has either gotten a jet-black dye job or a new wig to cover a rather garish side-effect of her looming “die job”.

Also present were three of the four in-fleet Cylon models, which would be expected. I’m not sure what expression I’d have thought Cally’s murderess, Tory Foster, to be wearing for the occasion. But I somehow wasn’t surprised to see an expression of heartfelt sadness and sympathy on her face. A person who could so effortlessly deceive a manic woman at the end of her rope into handing over her only child and then so cold-bloodedly space her is someone who has a lot more faces to wear than just the poker variety. Put Tory in a blond wig and a few strategically placed strips of red cloth and she could be Six’s understudy.

But was that face completely effective? When the mourners are filing out, Tory briefly touches the Chief’s hand, and Tyrol’s eyes get as big around as hubcaps. As though vague but accurate intuition about the actual cause of his wife’s death flowed through that touch like an electrical current.   And then, just seconds later, Tory whispers to Tigh that “He’s going to get us all killed”. Yes, indeed, I do see a collision course shaping up in the near future.

One that is about more than just the destruction of one woman’s life. The unity of these four “hidden” Cylons has already philosophically diverged. Tyrol is sinking deeper and deeper into his identity crisis, while Tory has over-embraced her newly discovered nature to the point of believing that she, Tyrol, Tigh, and Anders are “perfect”.   She speaks of “shutting down” her conscience like it was….well, a computer subroutine. Of “what we can do”. I don’t know if megalomania is programmed into any of the Cylon models, but Tory’s got a heaping dose of it, if I’m any judge.

Oddly, it falls to Tigh to commiserate with Tyrol’s loss.   After all, he, too, knows firsthand what it’s like to lose a spouse – by his own hand. He’s never gotten over having to execute Ellen for betraying the Human resistance back on New Caprica. It’s gotten so bad that, like just about every other character on this show (Cylon and Human), he’s begun hallucinating. Specifically, seeing Caprica Six in his mind’s eye as Ellen. Which isn’t exactly a step up aesthetically, as Kate Vernon doesn’t do that plunging neckline anywhere near the justice that Tricia Helfer does. But it is his Achilles heel, and it doesn’t take the Six long to figure that out.

Well, that and his “un-switch-off-able” guilt over having had to kill her. Ellen, I mean.

I don’t know if it’s his feelings or his programming causing him to see a wrinkled old crone instead of a Victoria’s Secret model, but when he asks her how she can live with the blood of billions of Human deaths on her hands, if she “shuts it down,” and she recoils in revulsion at the very thought, this hard-bitten, spit & polish hardass – who already has the look of a man sufficiently desperate to try anything to escape his crushing pain – decides to roll the dice.

Oh, Tigh doesn’t get there all at once. He’s been visiting Six for days now, inching closer and closer to the edge of what, for him, is the unthinkable, like a little kid taking forever to get into the water instead of just jumping in and getting it over with.

So Six, finally, shoves him in. The result is creepy beyond belief – and that’s apart from the age difference. Finger-frakking his empty eye socket, tonsil hockey, beating him until he’s bleeding all over the place, then more tonsil hockey.   Ewwwww. Almost makes me wish he’d go back to the bottle.

Did I mention that Tory is frakking Baltar? Oh, golly, I meant to get to that two weeks ago, but it didn’t seem particularly relevant at the time, and besides, that review was windy enough as it was. Only things we learned then were that Gaius appears to have an affinity for the missionary position, and Tory likes to do it with her bra on. Beats me why, with Six’s knobs hanging out all the time.

That encounter must have triggered the aforementioned megalomania, because whereas she came – ACROSS! – like a weepy virgin then, she has definitely become the “dom” in their relationship. A psychological dynamic with which Gaius is, of course, “intimately” familiar.

He’s in a state of naked repose, with Tory introducing masochism into the bondage, when a polytheocratic terrorist group – the “Sons of Aries” – bursts into Baltar’s cult’s quarters and trashes the place.   The only noteworthy detail is that as the terrorists withdraw, Tory spots Baltar – cowering behind a bulkhead support. Yep, that’s quite a messiah, alright.

Until, of course, Imaginary Six bucks him up for the umpteenth time. Amazing, isn’t it, how she’s been his guide throughout this entire, meandering personal adventure.   She’s the one that talked him into leaving Caprica after the Cylon holocaust; she’s the one that “persuaded” him to use his scientific credentials to slither his way into a top advisory post; then into politics as first representative from Caprica, then vice president, and finally president. Then as an underground pamphleteer, and finally this stint as Kobol’s David Koresh.   For all his balleyhooed brilliance, he never seems to stop to ask himself – or her, if there’s a difference – just exactly what the purpose of this “path” is. He just rides the harrowing current, bouncing from one rock in the rapids to the next. Heck, he’s even easier to manipulate than is….

….Lee Adama. No wonder Apollo couldn’t resist joining Baltar’s legal defense. He sensed a kindred patsy.

Now, though, it’s Baltar who attempts to emulate Apollo’s courage, and fails miserably by basically retaliating in kind by disrupting a Kobolian religious service that had nothing to do with the Sons of Aries.   To make himself into a living martyr?   And before the hour was out, a would-be dead one? Well, you can see how it would appeal to his undiminished ego – except for the dying part.

Speaking of which, Baltar’s latest little stunt has stuck squarely in the necrotizing craw of President Roslin. You’ll recall that she hasn’t been a fan of his going all the way back to “Epiphanies,” the last time she was on death’s doorstep and remembered seeing him with Caprica Six during one of her deliriums.   His acquittal at the recent trial (thanks to the Admiral) didn’t help matters. She appears to have forgiven “Husker” for that indiscretion, but she can NEVER forgive Baltar for what she knows is his ultimate complicity in this entire disastrous saga but has been completely stymied from proving – and punishing.

It is in that context that the prez takes a stroll down to the brig to have a little conversation with her former veep and successor. And what a monologue it is.

You wouldn’t think anybody could keep Gaius Baltar from getting a word in edgewise, but here the neomonotheist is doing almost all of the listening, in an escalating state of aghastness. She tells him that she’s dying; he knew, of course, that her cancer had returned, but just how close she is to departing this mortal coil is a closely guarded secret. She tells him this to explain – or perhaps justify – the other thing she tells him.   Call it a piece of well-meaning but ruthless advice, or a fair warning. She doesn’t waste time re-hashing the past – she knows she doesn’t have the time for it. Literally.   Instead, she cuts right to the chase: “Live a quiet life, I’ll die a quiet death, and everybody will be happy.”   Continue “stirring up the crap,” in Adama’s blunt phrasing, by igniting a religious civil war in the fleet, and, well, you know how people on their deathbeds “stop caring about rules and conventional morality.” The undercurrent of threat couldn’t have been clearer if she’d been holding his nuts between a pair of pliers when she said it. Doubtless something with which Tory has made him intimately familiar as well.

Gaius needn’t have worried, though. Roslin issues an Executive Order cracking down on Baltar’s cult under the guise of protecting them from further violence, and the Democrat-controlled, um, Quorum, led by what appears for all the worlds to be Majority Leader Lee Adama, immediately overrides it. Looks like Apollo wasn’t finished running interference for the “worthless piece of garbage” and his Imaginary Six-instilled power ambitions after all – at least as long as it furthers his own. Roslin is not happy; what stands out here is that she doesn’t hide her displeasure, or the bitterness that inspires it, behind the smiling mask she can no longer maintain.

Her Executive Order lasts long enough to get Baltar rifle-whipped to a pulp, at least. Which is noteworthy only in that his beating was intermixed with Colonel Tigh’s at the hands of Caprica Six. And as you probably also observed, Tigh’s was the more noble, as once Six started whaling on him, he begged her to continue, like he recognized it as a chance at some semblance of penance.   Whereas Gaius used his as a publicity stunt.

Imaginary Six literally picking him up and making him look like he was levitating didn’t hurt, either. Which means, I guess, that she isn’t imaginary. What she is has yet to be….er, “revealed”.

Remember Tyrol’s downward spiral? It reaches the breaking point when a maintenance brain fart of his causes Racetrack’s Raptor to tumble out of control and crash on the flight deck. For the Chief, who has already lost his Humanity and then his wife, losing his professional competence – in which he was immersing himself to escape his identity crisis, remember – is the last straw.   He says it himself earlier in the ep: “I don’t know who or what I am anymore.” As I commented last week, his plight is eerily, and perhaps tellingly, similar to that of his ex-lover Boomer (aka Number Eight), in that he feels like a man trapped in an alien body, a walking time bomb that can be turned against his friends and shipmates at any time, and he’s utterly helpless to stop it.

I’m not sure why he doesn’t just quit. Maybe he figures Adama wouldn’t accept his resignation again. Maybe he’s afraid that he couldn’t make himself do it. Whichever, he approaches the problem with trademark Galen Tyrol cleverness: he makes Adama do it for him by cussing the Admiral out when the latter approaches him in the ship’s bar to try and cheer him up again after the Raptor mishap. Guess we won’t be calling him the Chief anymore, unless Aaron Douglas is moonlighting as Alan Arkin’s understudy.

But therein lies the doubt: was that Tyrol’s idea, or was he acting according to his buried programming? You can see that question tattooed all over his face as the scene ends.

Finding as little room for escape as Tigh did, the ex-Chief – a lifelong agnostic – is driven to attend Baltar’s post-beating impromptu sermon, which meanders from monotheism all the way over to pantheism, through the mists of New Age Humanism and finally arrives at the altar of a strange philosophical hybrid of Stewart Smalley and the Borg, but remains Gaius-centric at its core. In that sense, ironically, it is true to its promulgator.

Leave it to Gaius Baltar to take raw self-centeredness and turn it into righteous piety. And by telling his followers exactly what any unrepentant sinner wants to hear, he was rebuilding his political popularity, and “outreach” to the fleet, at the same time.

Maybe he has found his calling after all.

 

Next: Captain Ahab update with a Leobin Conoy twist.