Last Friday my friends Sarah and Matt hosted a Battlestar Galactica premiere gathering. Even though they had just moved into their new house the day before, they provided an amazing viewing experience for their visitors, complete with a huge widescreen projection TV that had been bought earlier that day!
The show lived up to the setting. Maybe it was the seven month wait, but I could barely remember my objections to the ending of season 2. I was just looking forward to seeing familiar faces and sinking back into the drama. There were a few developments that seemed off to me, but overall I was impressed. Spoilery details are below the “Read More” link.The first episode, “Occupation”, started with a masterfully edited impressionistic sequence set to a haunting song. It alternated footage of: a prisoner in a cell; two people having sex; someone lighting a candle; the assembly of a bomb; a hand holding a model Raptor, and a dinner plate being placed carefully on a table. As the footage cycled to a second round the camera pulled back to show us who was involved in each distinct scene: Colonel Tigh (in the cell), Ellen Tigh (having sex), Laura Roslin (praying), Chief Tyrol (putting a bomb together), Admiral Adama (throwing the Raptor on the battle simulation table in frustration), and Starbuck (holding up a fork in a strangely domestic scene).
This was a great introduction to the circumstances our characters find themselves in these days. Not only are most of them doing things we’ve never seen them do before, they LOOK different. Tigh has an eye patch (he later reveals that his eye is gone, taken by the torturers), Adama and Starbuck have unusually long hair, Tyrol has a beard. They’ve changed, or been changed, by events.
The nature of those events soon became obvious, even for those who never saw the webisodes. The Cylons have set up an occupation government, nominally led by Baltar, but actually controlled by the increasingly fractious inner circle of humanoid Cylon models who can’t agree about how to bring humanity to an acceptance of the singular Cylon god. Brother Cavil, a model revealed in late season two, has a particularly nasty approach. (Turns out one of him — or alternating copies? — is the horndog with Ellen Tigh.) Boomer and Caprica Six, the two who have experienced love, are in the peace camp. Doral and D’Anna Biers are more middle of the road. Meanwhile, Leoben is as much of a whackjob as ever, and appears to have abandoned other responsibilities to pursue an independent project: forcing Starbuck to fall in love with him. Good luck, dude!
On the other side of the conflict, the humans have split into factions as well. Some just try to get by attracting as little attention as possible, while others take part in a resistance movement (tellingly called an “insurgency” by multiple characters in the course of the first episode). Yet another subset joins the New Caprica Police, a human-staffed militia that does the Cylon government’s bidding. They are so hated that they have to wear masks to keep their fellow citizens from finding out who they are.
The upshot of all this is that New Caprica is a shitstorm. People compromise their most deeply held ideals just to survive another day. Others blow themselves up, taking dozens with them. Torture, execution, imprisonment without charge… it all seems so familiar…
I’ve read a few reviews of the season opener online. I was surprised how many bloggers objected to the Iraq parallels on the grounds that the situations didn’t correlate. Waitaminnit… a brutal occupation force is a brutal occupation force, no matter what regime it supplanted. The parallel is perfectly appropriate, and I give Moore and Eick huge props for making it so clearly.
Not that I want them to hammer away at it indefinitely. I want to see what they do with the character arcs. Specifically:
- What’s with PudgeLee? What could possibly have happened to him to bring him to this state?
- Starbuck has to be faking it at the end of episode 2, right? No way she would give in that quickly just because a child appeared.
- Can Sharon stay loyal to humanity? Is she going to be blamed for the Cylon attack?
- Can Baltar ever in a million years hope to redeem himself?
- Is Gaeta going to be recognized as the hero he is? Or will he forever be consigned to the unappreciated ranks of IT professionals everywhere?
I need to know!!
Thanks for hiding the spoilers, even though I’m tempted to read them as I type this. (… keeping eyes focused away from top half of screen…)
I posted my response to this fine review at Candleblog. Here:
Below is my response that I also posted on Candleblog (with better formatting because I noticed how I screwed it up over there).
Hey, Bill — thanks for the response. Below are my thoughts on each of your points.
1) After last week’s episode, I found myself thinking something similar. Specifically, I remembered the 1st season episodes "Six Degrees of Separation" and "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" and wondered how the show could ever again achieve that sort of humor. There have been so few moments this season that could be called positive in any way, let alone humorous! The creators may think the subject matter calls for utter gravity, but if it goes on too long the show’s just going to sink into the earth’s crust and disappear. Ha. That was a lame joke. That’s how bad it’s gotten.
2) I read some spoilers about flashbacks to what happened in the interim, so I was confused that none showed up in the first 3 eps. Maybe they were unfounded rumors? I hope not. Most of what happened appears to have been bad, but I was really interested by the scene last episode where the Galactica and Pegasus crews had their bonding ritual. That spoke of a huge change for the better since the end of last season, and I’d like to know more about how they did it. Oh, and a lot of other things too.
3) Breaking up the party can certainly be a bad idea if it goes on too long, but in shorter stretches it can really work. And it’s not like this is a new thing for BSG. There were stretches in the first two seasons when people you were used to seeing together were separated, and it brought some interesting variety to the character interactions. Of course it helps when you have certain characters who can be used in multiple settings because they’re clones — something Farscape also did in season 3 when Crichton was "twinned". Sure, it’s cheating, but so what! This is science fiction!
In short: it’s early yet. I think things will be changing up soon.
Concerning two and three, according to spoiler sites, there is going to be a future episode that is dedicated exclusively to what happened in the interim. I really liked the bonding ritual too. It’s about time that the writers starting showing that this is another culture with a pantheon of Gods instead of just "us with spaceships."
I think breaking characters up can work well. It lets you concentrate on certain characters without having to make sure every cast member gets their two minutes of dialogue every episode.