Saturday, November 04, 2006

Torn was a Good Episode

Battlestar Galactica keeps getting better. I have very few complaints about last night's episode, in fact. Let me just get them off my chest, and then on to what was right about it.


  • "Fat Lee" never had a purpose after all. So Lee is fit and cut again. SHAZAM! Great. So what the hell was up exactly with him being fat for 4 spisodes? Is he even still an Admiral, by the way? Looked like a flight commander to me. So that promotion came to nothing too - after Pegasus went up in smoke. Wonderful.

  • Pacing. I really like what they're doing with Baltar, but I wish they had backed off a bit in explaining what's creepy about his ability to imagine scenes on the Cylon ship the way Six did. That was a clumsy transition. It's introducing a really interesting (and probably overdue) theme, though, so I'll say more about this in the "positives" section.

  • Cheesy "Adama is a badass" posturing. I thought that scene with Adama dressing down Tigh and Starbuck for causing morale problems was a bit much. Don't get me wrong - I really miss the days when Adama was a terse and stubborn badass. I have no objection whatever to seeing more of that. But c'mon, putting a loaded gun on the table and telling them to shoot him? Straight out of the pulps. What Starbuck and Tigh are doing is bad, granted. Drinking all day and complaining about the Galactica crew that missed out on the occupation is not officer behavior. But neither is it so bad that it requires anyone to put a loaded gun on a table. What was cool about Adama in the old days (the first season) was that there were no wasted words and no emotional indulgences. he did what had to be done - and sure, that sometimes involved playing the shame card, but never gratuitiously. He was certainly never melodramatic about it, and I've never seen him play the martyr till now. It's nice to see Starbuck back in line, and it's nice to get some ellaboration on Tigh's recent behavior. But overall I could have done without this scene.

Other than that, this episode rocked. Here's what was so good about it:

  • Overdue development on Baltar handled well. One popular bit of speculation on the internet since the outset of the series has been that Baltar might be a Cylon. It has sometimes seemed odd that Baltar himself never wonders about this, but never too odd. After all, Baltar is something of an egomaniac - sees himself as above and to some degree apart from the rest. But the subject was bound to come up eventually - and no better way than this. Baltar discovers that he has abilities (imaginative abilities) that he has just been told are Cylon. That's eerie because - well, what if he is one? They do a really good job of making this actualy plausible (let's not forget he's on a Basestar with the Cylons, who would presumably recognize him if he were one of their own...) by tying it to the fact that we've only ever seen 7 Cylons onscreen. As it turns out, the Cylons themselves have only ever seen these 7; the other 5 are mysterious, and a touchy subject at that. Now this was a skillful tying up of a loose end! Hats off. With the Cylons playing ever larger roles in the story, it was getting harder and harder to suspend disbelief when we were only ever shown the same 7. So we get a nice explanation for that together with a (probably overdue) raising of the "Am I a Cylon?" question on Baltar's part. Not to mention, it ties in nicely with the visions of Number Six he's been having since the series started. And, as usual, James Callis plays the part beautifully.

  • The "Hybrid" is cool, if maybe overdone in scifi. It's true that semi-organic ships with an insane consciousness at the core are old hat in scifi (dating back to at least Dune) - but I don't mind it showing up here. It fits. The Hybrid was cool - and I appreciate that the Cylons have divided opinions on it (some think it is completely insane, others - the Loebens - think it is the voice of God, etc. On the whole, the radical differences of opinions among the Cylons have made for interesting TV.)

  • Clarification on Tigh. Even though I really hated the dumb scene with Adama slapping Starbuck's gun on the table and daring Tigh and Starbuck to kill him, I'm glad we got some clarification of what's going on with Tigh. He is indeed angry at Adama, angry at everyone, really, about what happened with his wife, and to him in general on the planet. It's not the plot turn I would have chosen, but it is completely plausible. No one is stepping out of character here. We know from earlier just how devoted to his wife Tigh is, and there's definitely truth to his bone of contention: that the Colonials' sacrifices on the planet are underappreciated.

  • Clarification on Gaeta. Again, not the route I would have chosen, exactly, but we get some (random?) clarification on Gaeta's "I believed in you" speech to Baltar as he held a gun to his head in Exodus, Part II. Baltar was doing something that would have impressed someone like Gaeta after all - he was looking for Earth. Not that I like the way this is conveniently brought up only now, mind you, but since it buys us some consistency with my favorite character (Gaeta) and gets the show back on track (they're looking for Earth again), I'm not going to gripe about it. It was also nice to see Gaeta trip over the words "President Baltar." Minor, but an effective sop to what seemed like inconsistencies in Gaeta to a lot of us in earlier episodes. For my part, I interpreted that as a peace offering with the Gaeta fans in the audience.

  • Looking for Earth again. Finally, we're back to some of the (scarce) themes that make this show scifi. Though the writing and character development on the show are, in their best moments anyway, the best in television history, there's very little about the show that "needs" to be scifi, when you think about it. Battlestar is mostly a character-driven military show - Tour of Duty with better writers. But I like science fiction, and I love this show as much for the fantasy elements as for the character development. It's nice to see them playing more of a role again. Battlestar is finally getting back to what Straczynski says is the key ingredient in scifi (and I wholeheartedly agree): the sense of wonder. (The revelation that the other 5 Cylons are mysterious "others" helps a lot here too, it should be added.)

So I'm very pleased with the way this episode went. Would've been nice to see some interaction between Dee (who is where, exactly?) and Apollo (now that he's back to his buff old self), and they certainly could've given more time over to Starbuck's return to normalcy (and how this affects Anders, maybe? Hmmm?). I also wouldn't have minded a scene or two with Tom Zarek and some clarification of just how smoothly the power transition actually went over with the public, but hey, an episode can only be so long, right?

On balance, this is as much as we can hope for. Things are definitely on the right track, and I no longer feel like I have to keep watching like a hawk for signs of failure. I admit - I'm still not to where I was when the show debuted. I used to have absolute faith in the writers: that no matter how inconsistent something seemed as it happened, it would turn out to be exactly in character for all involved - exactly how such-and-such a person would behave if all this were real. I no longer have that faith - and I'm not sure it'll ever be back, really. But for the first time since Season 2.5, I feel like I can stop scruitinizing and just sit back and enjoy again - and that's a nice place to be.


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