Monday, October 23, 2006

Good Episode but still not out of the Woods

Some belated thoughts on Friday's episode of Battlestar Galactica.

This episode was fun to watch - a good "jailbreak." For the most part, everyone is back in character. They went easy on the sentimentality, considering.
Most importantly, we're back on track. The colonial fleet is back together, no more of this weird Cylon occupation stuff. Maybe we can finally put season 2.5 behind us.

Only...

It's just that, once a show is broken, I don't think it can ever truly be fixed - not completely. Battlestar is getting better - no doubt about it. But I don't see how we're ever going to be back to the amazing show that was Season 1 - and this "Exodus" episode is sort of a case in point.

Where is Cally? For one thing, where's Cally? In the cliffhanger leading into Exodus pt. 1 showed her rescued by Tyrol just as she was about to be caught in the crossfire of the Colonial rescue operation. (This, by the way, is in direct contradiction to what we saw of her at the end of Precipice, when she is running as the shots begin. In Exodus pt. 1 Tyrol throws her to the ground just as the shots begin.) It's weird that she's such an important character in Exodus pt. 1 and Precipice but is nowhere to be found during the rescue operation. Surely they could have paid the actress enough for a cameo?

How did Lee get off Pegasus? This was some annoying sleight of hand. We first see him going down with his ship on a suicide run into a Cylon Basestar, but then he appears at the celebration without so much as a scratch?

Mr. Gaeta is out of character again As I've said, Mr. Gaeta is my favorite character, and so discontinuities with him annoy me more than most. Gaeta was never a "believer" in Gaius Baltar. What Gaeta is is someone who sucks it up and follows orders. He's an extremely reliable officer - that's his MO. It was totally in character for him to do his job for the new president - regardless of who that president might be. But it's silly for him to pull a gun on Baltar for being a traitor when (a) it's out of character for him to do so in the first place and (b) it should be obvious to him of all people that Baltar is as much a victim as anyone else. In any case, Gaeta - or, at least Gaeta as shown up to this point - has more sense than to be taken in by someone like Baltar (especially when there is no evidence whatever that Baltar has any other fans anywhere in the universe - save Caprica Six, of course.)

Why is Tom Zarek willing to stand aside for Laura Roslin? Some people online have complained about this - but I personally think it makes sense. The colonials have just been through some tough times during the occupation. Zarek is power-hungry - but he's not a complete idiot. Making a cheap political ploy out of the rescue operation and asserting his right (as vice president) to succeed Baltar is beneath even him. However, I do think it's an interesting question why he's under arrest to begin with. After all, he is vice president, and not exactly the most noble person in the fleet. Doesn't strike me as the kind of person who would completely refuse to aid the Cylons.

So now we're back to square one The Cylon occupation is revealed to be a "reset button" after all. It lasted all of about three episodes, and now the series bumbles back to where it was, more or less, before they screwed things up in Season 2.5. This is a shame. If you're going to go to all the trouble to so something so drastic as have Baltar win the presidential election and then the Cylons show up to conquer, something may as well come out of it story-wise. One interesting suggestion I heard on the net was that the Cylon occupation should have been beneficent. We should have seen houses built, food provided, etc. - a "lotus-eaters" story. THAT would have been interesting psychologically and philosophically. There would have been good stories to tell from such a thing. (For example, the secret police story they told would have been more compelling if it hadn't been so obvious that the society was repressive. Then it would have been easy to believe in recruits who were also in the resistance and keeping their status as police secret, and there would have also been real drama when the police were asked to do brutal things, as opposed to the "DUH!" moment we got with Jammer. More importantly, they could have done the interesting plotline with Starbuck and "her" child and Loeben justice. Instead, well...)

Kara was taken in by Loeben's trick? Really? I dunno - I was kinda disappointed in that. I expected more fight from Kara. Certainly it's believable that she would bond with Kacey and want to rescue her, but it seems unlikely that she would simply take Loeben's word for it that Kacey was her child. Maybe they're building up to something, though. Kara's biological clock is ticking, perhaps, so she believed what she wanted to believe? They may yet be able to save this thread - but it seemed to me that it was ended too quickly, and with Kara looking a lot weaker than we're used to seeing her.

I don't want to say that this episode was all bad. It was definitely fun to watch, and it got rid of the Pegasus in a convincing way (and good riddance! It was getting annoying having two battlestars - though of course the writers will now forget that Pegasus ever existed and we'll get no more glimpses of animosity or integration problems between the two crews. Oh yeah - and no word on where everyone will live now that the biggest ship is blown to bits.). I also really liked the scene where Colonel Tigh kills his wife. That was believable and well-acted. And I appreciated that they brought it up again during the victory celebration. Point taken. But as a whole, this episode is just proof that something's gone wrong with the show, and that even relatively strong eps like this one aren't enough to convince us otherwise. Once your train derails, you can put it back on the tracks, but the passengers aren't going to feel as safe. I see about a hundred things they could do to screw this up, and very little they can do to keep things working right.

And just to reiterate - the biggest annoyance is that the Cylon occupation turns out to have had no story value. It was just a bandaid - only there to give them a plausible way to fix the mistakes of the last season. A giant distraction. Well, thanks but no thanks. In an important sense the same thing is wrong with this show that was always wrong with the X-Files. They start out by giving you the impression that it's all leading up to something - that there's a good story with an overall point to be told. But then you find out that it's nothing of the kind. The writers might have intended such a story, but they didn't plan it before the series started, and by the time they get around to telling it, they've painted themselves so deep into so many corners... The X-Files was a great show while the government conspiracy was still in the shadows and we just got small glimpses of it. It would have continued to be a great show if the writers had ever actually known what that conspiracy was and told a consistent story about it. Then revealing it, as they eventually did, wouldn't have been so problematic. But as it stands, once they start revealing things it's rapidly clear that no one is in charge of the story, and the whole thing just ended up really cheesy. Ditto Battlestar. There was a prescient comment on the web early in the year where someone wrote on a discussion board, mimicking the opening credits to the show, "The Cylons have a plan. And the writers don't know what it is." Right - the writers DON'T know what it is, and that's the whole problem. And now, I think, it's just too late. The Cylons have been so erratic at this point that there's really no easy way to tie it all together. Which is a shame - because this was once a really compelling show.

At least, though, after Friday's episode, we know that it will still be fun, even if it's never going to be perfect again. On the whole, things are looking up.

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