Monday, February 2, 2009

episode: battlestar galactica, "the oath" (4.15)

Some quick thoughts on Friday's episode...

First of all, this may be my favorite episode of season four. Compared to earlier seasons, this season has been uneven (by Battlestar standards because, as we all know, a bad episode of BSG is still better than the best episode of Friends). This episode stands out for many reasons, least of which is bringing back kick-ass Starbuck. (Seriously, how awesome was it when she shot the guard holding Lee? And how brilliant was Jamie Bamber's reaction shot, complete with blood splatter across the face?) This episode took things forward. It's about time that the civilians revolted against Adama/Roslin. It's about time Zarek put his revolutionary skills to good use. It's about time someone called Adama out on collaborating with the Cylons, just because he happens to know a few of them personally. And it's about time that one of the main characters -- in this case, the morally-solid Lee -- pointed out that Adama is wrong. If I were Joe Nobody in the fleet, hell no, I would not want the murderers of my race anywhere near me. And if I'm not on the Galactica and interacting with them personally, I'm certainly not going to see any way that would benefit me.

As Alan Sepinwall so eloquently wrote:
Of course soldiers from Pegasus would still hold grudges over Adama killing their commander. Of course Anders' ex-girlfriend (or, rather, never-quite-girlfriend) would be furious to realize that the man she was so hung up on isn't a man at all. Of course Lee would be resented for his role in Baltar's trial. Of course the civilian fleet would be fed up with all of Adama's high-hand tactics, and would eagerly greet any opportunity to rebel. Of course the other pilots would fear and distrust Starbuck after her miraculous return from the dead -- What is she? And if she's just Kara, what makes her so special when none of the dead people we actually liked could come back? -- and even moreso when they realized her husband was a Cylon. And, for that matter, of course Starbuck would use this fiasco as an excuse to compartmentalize all her recent angst over who and what she is and get back to being the best at what she does (and what she does isn't very nice).
This episode had a lot of action -- action which beautifully mirrors an episode from season one where some toasters attacked the Galactica, but now it's humans against humans -- but it was so meticulous in its execution that I never felt overwhelmed. The episode spent a lot of time showing just exactly how Gaeta was able to pull off the feat of removing Adama from command, and it was appreciated. You can't just have a bunch of people running around with guns. You need to show me how civilians got these guns. (On that note, one of my favorite minor moments in the episode involves Kara and Lee walking around the corridors, and then Lee points his gun at someone, who immediately puts his hand up and says, "Whoa, whoa." It just showed that everyone's fending for themselves, and you have no idea which side a stranger will be on.)

So even though this episode was action-packed, it still had a few tender, intimate moments that were that much more meaningful because of the nature of the narrative. When Roslin and Adama kiss before she leaves on the ship, everyone looks bewildered by their suddenly open romance. I don't think they were confused or surprised by the kiss -- they all saw it coming -- but that they took the time to observe this random moment of warmth and love. Tigh, Tyrol, Lee, Kara, Baltar... they're all just trying to survive, and here are these two loverbirds saying, what I think will be, their last goodbye. And when Adama stays behind to fight for his ship, Tigh stands by his captain. I don't know why, but romantic gestures make my eyes roll... but grand gestures of loyalty, well, they make my eyes tear up.

Also, this episode has my favorite exchange of (possibly) the entire series -- with the exchange between Apollo and Helo regarding a holocaust of the Cylons as a great contender -- because it summarizes both the themes of this episode as well as the whole series. On survival:
Adama: It's all we have.
Lee: It's all they left us.
Such desperation, such heart. A common theme in this show (and any show that mainly serves as an exploration of the human condition) is survival, as evidenced by the entire existence of Gaius Baltar, and now we're back to combat just like the episode of "33" from season one. But humans have turned against humans. A robot uprising has revealed the true nature of man... save a select few individuals who refuse to let this be the fate of their race.

Then an explosive is thrown at a trapped Adama and Tigh. Roslin and Baltar leave on their ship, which Gaeta plans to blast out of the sky. And all of the Cylons have been rounded up in the brig, ready to be raped and beaten. (This episode is not a particularly happy upbeat one, but then again, none of the episodes really are.) And then... To be continued... This is the only "to be continued" (outside of season finales) that has made my heart jump out of my chest.

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