Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Disquiet Follows My Soul—Hard to Rate, Hard to Hate

Battlestar Galactica probably reached an all-time emotional low last week with Sometimes a Great Notion and they continue to wallow in that emotional trough this week as well. Despite its darkness, this week's episode is surprisingly quotable. I don't know how much of the dark humor in this episode was intentional—Ron Moore's podcast this week suggests that at least some of it was—but I found myself strangely amused by everyone's pain in this episode.

"Try looking with your eyes...eye."
Doc Cottle to the one-eyed Saul Tigh

Unlike last week's episode with its many revelations, this episode was a more slow-paced mood piece. And while the mood is largely foul, little things tended to stand out; little things like Bill Adama stooping over to pick up trash—quick trivia bit, in the podcast for this episode Ron Moore says that he had the wardrobe department fit Adama's costume with pockets so he'd have someplace to put the trash he was picking up and Edward James Olmos loved lording the fact that he finally had pockets over the other actors whose uniforms lack them (military uniforms without pockets, talk about unrealistic)—a sign that he's finally back after descending into despair last week. Cottle and Tigh smoking in front of a pregnant Caprica Six was particularly hilarious.

This brings us to Felix Gaeta who is about as bitter and angry as a one-legged man who has been systematically robbed of all his hopes and dreams and seen his die one by one can get. His increasing distrust of the Cylons builds gradually through this episode leading to a pretty impressive conclusion. His verbal brawl with Kara was hard to watch but helps to prepare us for the reveal where we see Gaeta cooperating with Tom Zarek. Zarek's return as a political antagonist is exciting both because of his history with both Bill and Lee Adama and because he is played by Richard Hatch who played Apollo in the original BSG. Hatch has grown a lot as an actor in the thirty years since the original series and it really shows in his performance this week.

"Their technology—our technology—is way ahead of ours. Yours."
"Maybe you'd like a chart to keep it all straight."
Tyrol and Tigh

Galen Tyrol has been on a pretty rocky road since discovering that he is a Cylon and has only become more and more isolated from his human crew mates as is seen by his pronoun troubles. This only continues as Tyrol advocates for citizenship for the Cylons in exchange for using Cylon technology to upgrade the fleet. It's interesting how as his arc has progressed, Tyrol has remained an advocate and an activist. When we first meet him in the pilot, he stands up to Tigh and is outraged when his plan to save the ship costs the lives of eighty-five of his Tyrol's own deck hands. On New Caprica he is a union leader as well a leader in the resistance against the Cylon occupation. Back in the fleet, he leads the Tylium ship when they form a union to fight for better working conditions. And here he is again this week fighting for the Cylons to be included in the colonial fleet. While the circumstances of the character have changed drastically since the pilot, the man remains the same. His trust and respect for Admiral Adama also remains the same.

Tyrol's discovery that Nikki isn't his son serves two purposes, it helps to further isolate him and push him into the Cylon camp and it keeps Helo and Athena's daughter Hera as the only Cylon-human hybrid.

Laura Roslin is still pretty low but as she stops taking her cancer drugs she finds that she has more energy and slowly begins to climb out of her pit of despair with a little help from Bill. She's basically neglecting her duties as president to jog, work out, and be happy and Bill is letting that happen. It's an interesting look at how the "old man" thinks. He's very sentimental and is willing to let the rest of the fleet suffer a little for the sake of his loved ones. Even from the first season, he deployed the entire fleet to look for Starbuck when her Viper was shot down. Now he is letting the situation in the fleet get worse to give Laura time to feel better. Even Tyrol trusts that he'll sacrifice the fleet to keep his oath as an officer.

"So I guess a pity frak is out of the question then?"
Felix Gaeta

If there is someone more bitter and angry than Gaeta, it's Kara Thrace. Starbuck is also perhaps the one person whose life is in greater turmoil than anyone else on the ship. She's angry and mean and bitter and it's not a pretty sight.

Zarek uses Roslin's absence to manipulate the Quorum into passing an anti-Cylon resolution which allows ship captains to resist Cylon upgrades. There is a lot of emotional appeal to his argument and not one bit of reason to it. But it works and Lee as the lone dissenter on the Quorum is outvoted. It's precisely this chaos which makes Laura's unwillingness to return to duty so critical. And while Adama tries to make her face this reality, he ultimately relents and lets her go on ignoring her duty a little longer.

"What manner of forgiveness are you seeking? Is it that of disobedient children? Are you children? Obviously you're a child. We have some children here. But to the rest of you..."
Gaius Baltar

Baltar and his cult are back and with the recent setbacks, his hedonistic message is growing more popular. It also makes a fine backdrop for Tyrol to confront Hotdog, Nikki's real father. Emotions are already running high and Tyrol and Hotdog's fight triggers a near riot. Baltar just sits back and smiles at the chaos—a subtly masterful bit of gallows humor.

"I don't know anything about being a father."
"It sucks, except for the parts that don't."
Hotdog and Tyrol

Tyrol introduces Hotdog to his son. They will take turns watching him in the hospital. Hotdog gets the first shift which Tyrol informs him will last until he sobers up. Ah, alcoholism and child neglect—it's comedy gold!

"You know there are days when I really hate this job."
Bill Adama

Zarek's resolution triggers a crisis as ships start refusing Cylon help. The Tylium ship mutinees, killing a Cylon and two marines. The Tylium ship jumps away with Zarek's support. Adama has Zarek arrested. In the brig, a game of chicken ensues. Adama tells Zarek that he has enough dirt on him to ruin his reputation. His logic is that Zarek will happily die or go to prison as a martyr but is terrified of being outed as a corrupt politician. He wants the location of the Tylium ship and Zarek gives it to him. Again a serious scene ends with a comedic beat as Tigh takes a peak at the Zarek's crime file. "Laundry reports?"

But Zarek has one last card to play as it is revealed that Gaeta is planning a mutiny with him. But again the seriousness gives way to a moment of levity or at least relief. As the news of the Tylium ship's surrender arrives, Adama and Roslin are in bed to together it's both sweet and weird at the same time. Usually depicting sexuality among older people is used a joke on television. And the depiction of a cancer victim in bed with a lover is pretty unheard of. It's a remarkable end to a difficult episode. After having hit bottom last week, the crew of Galactica is slowly coming back.

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