Saturday, January 17, 2009

episode: battlestar galactica, "sometimes a great notion" (4.13)

Holy crap. So here's what we learned in last night's mid-season premiere of Battlestar Galactica (warning, obviously there'll be some spoilers):
1. Kara Thrace died (see episode "Maelstrom") when her plane crashed on Earth. (I think of lot of us were expecting this revelation.) But more importantly, she burned herself at her own funeral pyre and didn't tell anyone about it. Other than her, Leoben's the only one who knows the truth about the "harbinger of death." So if Starbuck died, who is the crazy chick in front of us?

2. The 13th Tribe of Kobol, originally assumed to be human, were actually all Cylons. As the mythology goes, humans and the gods lived together on Kobol until a mass exodus when twelve tribes went to what would eventually be called the Twelve Colonies and one tribe went their separate way to settle/colonize on Earth. So if the 13th Tribe were all Cylons, surely the skinjob models were created on Earth... yes?

3. Tigh, Tory, Tyrol (all T names, interesting...) and Anders all have recollections of their lives on Earth. (Perhaps the 13th Tribe Cylons were hybrids, like Athena and Helo's daughter Hera.) Earth was attacked and destroyed over 2,000 years before Galactica set down on the planet, and it seems like the attacks were just as unforeseeable as the attacks on the Twelve Colonies. On Earth, Tyrol was looking at fruit when Earth was attacked (and apparently Anders sang "All Along the Watchtower" to a woman he loved), whereas Tigh was helping...

4. ...his beloved wife, Ellen, who turns out to be the fifth Cylon. (I, for one, am glad it was her and not Baltar or Kara. If the fifth Cylon were Baltar, it would have excused his inner anguish and multiple identity crises and varying allegiances by stripping away his humanity. And if you rewatch the series from the miniseries, you will find that Ellen's existence has been very suspicious from the beginning.)

5. Dualla, rather than living without hope, kills herself after having drinks and sharing a goodnight kiss with her husband, Lee.

6. And, as it turns out, Leoben does get scared. He certainly backed away from Kara when he realized she died in the crashed viper. But, for someone who so boldly acted on the notion that "all of this has already happened and will happen again," why is he suddenly running the other way?
What was... not good about the episode: I don't know, but Edward James Olmos just wasn't on top of his game tonight. I unexpectedly laughed at some of his deliveries (such as giving the response "I don't frakkin' know" when Lee asks why Dualla killed herself), and although I think Michael Hogan (who plays Tigh) played off Olmos so wonderfully in the scene of suicidal desperation, Olmos just doesn't play drunk very well. Also, I predicted Dualla's fate as soon as she sat with Hera, and I think the script could have been more subtle about where it was going with her storyline. But this is a very minor thing to harp on.

What was phenomenal about the episode: Mary McDonnell. Roslin is ready to give up, to wallow in self-pity and self-doubt, and she sets the text of Pythia on fire... page by page. She slowly tortures herself for bringing her people to a barren wasteland, for leading her people to a place that held no future. Her entire existence, her reason for being, was to bring these people to Earth, and now that she has, where does she go from here? She has no guiding influence anymore. I also enjoyed the Earth flashbacks of Tyrol and Tigh because the visual offered a solid comparison to the attacks on the Twelve Colonies in the miniseries.

But best of all, and what makes this the best show on television, this episode wasn't about politics or where to go next or how to keep going forward. It was about all the leaders hitting the biggest obstacle and then hitting rock bottom. Adama turns to alcohol. Roslin locks herself in her room. D'Anna is ready to stay behind on Earth to die. Lee loses Dualla and finally feels the loss and hopelessness everyone else feels. It's about despair, one of the most basic human emotions. What do you do when you feel like there's nothing left?

Really, a strong episode. Some of the dialogue was obviously tweaked by the network for new viewers (like Lee and Dualla awkwardly reflecting on old times), but it didn't detract from the main focus of the show, which was, as scribbled on the walls of the Galactica, "frak Earth."

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