Saturday, January 17, 2009

battlestar galactica, reflections on "sometimes a great notion"

I've been reading some of the comments left on Alan Sepinwall's "Sometimes a Great Notion" recap, and it really amazes me that there can be so many people out there who love this show as much as I do, and who can formulate connections and search for the meaning of what it means to be human in such deeply touching ways. So below, I've posted some of their comments. Most of them are reactions to Dualla's suicide, which, really, is one of the most heartbreaking moments of the show (see the last comment below).

One of the most interesting facets of the show that I don't feel is discussed enough, is this fluid, impermanent understanding of identity. And not just the ol' "am I human or am I machine" posthuman crisis, which has been prevalent ever since Baltar created a Cylon detector in the first season. But this question of who am I -- is it my actions or my thoughts who determine who I am? How much does my childhood determine my future adulthood? Thinking of Kara's childhood abuse and her mother's lack of love, or reflecting on the effect of Zak Adama's death, I can now add Dee into the mix. She looks at a photograph of her as a child and says she doesn't even remember her then. And when Dee holds Hera, she says softly, "You have no idea what's going on, do you?" It's a haunting portrayal of a character who has tried so hard to hold onto hope -- first through Billy, then through Lee, despite his affections for Kara -- and now she understands, she knows there's nothing left. And this is not entirely unlike D'Anna's wanting to stay behind on Earth to die. Everything that she knew about her species, about who she is -- her identity -- is false. Although at the moment I could predict Dee's death (there were signs pointing the way), I didn't realize how affective it would be in the long-run. Having just watched the episode again, I have to say -- in the history of the show -- she might be the most humanizing portrayal of any of the characters.

Dee's death comes with a great deal of symbolism for the series. I don't know if this is what the writers intended but it struck me that Billy and Dee's innocent love on the ship in the midst of complete devastation was what prompted Adama to choose to save humanity rather than fight to the death at the start of the series. It was that love that was the hope of the human race.

Now Billy and Dee are dead -- and Dee killed herself. It really has come full circle. The hope of humanity now the despair.

The only positive image now is Helo, Athena and Hera. Human, cylon, and a mix together.
(Although I disagree with this commenter, I do think it's a beautiful idea, deeply rooted in mythology) I am wondering right now if the Final Five are "angels" of sorts and that a "God" of some sort gives birth to civilizations across the galaxy. People are given free will to decide how they live. If their civilization should get troubled, the Final Five are sent to try and offer assistance of some sort. If all else fails, a harbinger of death is sent. All along, though, people have free will and the ability to change their destiny. Some societies don't, and they end up dying.
The suggestion that Saul and Ellen may have spent 2000 years in a series of dysfunctional marriages is pretty beautiful.

What happened to Dualla was perfect. It's not just that she was a case study in post-Earth fleet grief, it was the logical end for her character arc: she went through losing Billy to a bullet, and then Lee sporadically to whatever Lee and Starbuck had going on, and then Lee again to the Quorum. And she kept all of that inside. It gives that seemingly a little overplayed farewell ceremony where she and Lee said temporary goodbyes back in episode 2 (I think) of this season a lot more meaning in retrospect. Actually this episode makes virtually everything meaningful in retrospect. Even the love quadrangle tons of people didn't like in S3 now has some tragic resonance. The only things that come to mind that this episode doesn't excuse are Black Market and Romo's ghost-cat. (Haha!)
And then Dee took off her wedding ring, put a gun to her head, and pulled the trigger--my jaw hit the floor. The first feeling was shock, I think, and then almost a guilt...guilt for never understanding her character, guilt for blaming her and dismissing her without reason...

Just like you said, everything, EVERYTHING relating to Dee's character now carries a special resonance, speaks to the immense tragedy of a woman clinging to every vestige of happiness that she can, in order to not fall into the void of despair. Even her miniseries spontaneous kiss with Billy-a desperate attempt to grab onto a handhold of happiness in love in the face of unspeakable tragedy and loss.

And her love for Lee-dumb, yes, and weak, maybe, and also unwarranted. But why did I blame her for that? The same argument could be made for Lee and his feelings for Kara, and I love them together. Was I being sexist, or just irrevocably committed to my fervent love for Starbuck and Apollo as an entity...who knows. All I know is that I misunderstood Dee as a person, and that her death sheds light on a measure of hopelessness of which I was before unaware, a deep-rooted despair coupled with a desperate desire to cling to happiness that makes me feel for her character. And for the first time, I looked at Lee, grief-stricken with Dee's jacks, and blamed him-blamed him for marrying her, for trying so hard to be in love with her when he must have known he could never be, blamed him for cheating, blamed him for turning to her in the midst of an apocalypse when he needed a shoulder to lean on, relying on her and taking her support for granted when they both knew, deep down, that it was never going to be. And again, my blaming of Lee, in this situation, is not completely warranted (part of what makes BSG such an emotionally rich, thought-provoking show-but that's another discussion). All I know is that I always thought Dee's departure from the show would be a positive thing, and that tonight I am very, very sad, and deeply moved, by her tragic death.

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