We’re now at the midseason hiatus for Battlestar Galactica, so it seems like a good time to write up my thoughts on the episodes since “Collaborators”.
More below the “Read More” link for the spoiler-unwary.There have been six shows since, and unfortunately none has measured up to the season’s early episodes. Partly that is due to the “reset scenario” that’s taken place aboard Galactica since the wrapup of the occupation storyline. In many ways, we could be back in season 1 for all the change there’s ultimately been in the show’s plotline, and that leads to a sense of repetition. The other part might just be me: I don’t like the Cylon baseship material. I find it slow, senseless, and derivative, and it’s taken up way too much screen time since episode 6, “Torn”.
That pretty much explains why I disliked “Torn“. Most of its time was spent with Baltar, D’Anna and Caprica Six in a trippy haze of crossfades and piano music that did not fit at all with the style of the Galactica scenes. I can understand the impulse to delve into the Cylon milieu — to leave them as mysterious, threatening Others indefinitely just wouldn’t wash morally or aesthetically — but the writers and producers have done almost nothing interesting on the basestar. I would like to know how the Cylons navigate social relations when there are hundreds or thousands of the same model walking around. How do they recognize one another as individuals? Do they socialize? How do they divide labor? What the hell IS their plan?! There hasn’t been any worthwhile delving into these questions. Instead we get a titillating threesome and occasional placement of bodies or dialogue to remind us that there are other characters around, too, doing… who knows what. Posing, I guess. Oh, except for the hybrid, who is impersonating a character out of Minority Report. Come on guys — geez!
On the other hand, the scenes on Galactica concerning Starbuck and Tigh’s sowing of discontent among the crew were quite effective. I would have liked the episode to spend a lot more time on this story. Oh well.
“A Measure of Salvation” had similar problems. Once again, too much time with Baltar and friends, even if his stint in the Aurora Chair… ahem, the torture throne… brought back some humorous Farscape memories. The genocide storyline was painful, not because it honestly dealt with the issues and made me hurt with the implications, but because it was presented in a thoughtless and shoddy way. Apollo proposing the idea? Helo sabotaging it? Adama letting Helo get away with it? None of this made any sense!
The following episode, “Hero“, was a similar waste of time. Much of its length focused on a character we had never heard of, let alone seen, and who we haven’t seen since. The idea that a seasoned military commander like Adama would blame himself for the Cylon attack because of a single spy mission was not very plausible, and the Cylon plan to assassinate Adama by letting Bulldog escape did not pass the straight face test either.
With “Unfinished Business“, the show finally returned to form, even if it was uneven form. The idea of people lighting into one another in a boxing ring to release shipboard tensions makes total sense to me, and I was tremendously relieved that this gave Starbuck and Apollo the opportunity to interact for the first time (not counting one brief hostile scene earlier on) since the season began. When at the end of the episode Apollo spilled blood from his battered mouth onto Starbuck’s shoulder, said “I missed you, too”, and the screen went to black, I thought, “Damn! That is some sick shit! And it’s SO GOOD!” I can forgive the bizarre grandstanding by Adama in the ring earlier. It was over the top, it didn’t seem plausible… but it didn’t matter when the real heart of the episode was with the other two. Good stuff.
I had high hopes for “The Passage” because I knew it was written by Jane Espenson, a longtime writer for Joss Whedon who scripted some of the more humorous episodes of Buffy, Angel and Firefly. Battlestar Galactica has been sorely lacking in the laughter department this season, and I had hopes that at least this episode would be light on its feet. To my dismay, it wasn’t. It started with another dire shortage in the fleet (food this time) and created a strange and unpleasant backstory for Kat only to kill her at the end. I could have dealt with more depressing events if they had been done well, but the tone of this episode really felt off to me. Some scenes were maintained too long, others just felt off-kilter; at the end I felt a bit embarrassed for Jane Espenson. I’ve read elsewhere that she’s collaborating on another episode this season. I can only hope that it turns out better.
“The Eye of Jupiter” was a big improvement and made a decent cliffhanger. I can’t say I’m happy about the return to the woo-woo mystical stuff, but the pacing was good and the interpersonal tensions were interesting and done well. The Starbuck/Apollo clandestine romance continues to be twisted, and not in a fun taboo way; they both seem lost. I was reading the Television Without Pity discussion boards after this episode and was struck by the opinion of a number of posters that Starbuck’s distinction between “bending the rules” and betraying her marriage was ridiculous. I understand their point, but at the same time there IS a big difference between adultery and getting a divorce. Given the fact that Anders knew about her having sex with other guys, I don’t think her point of view is ridiculous.
I do enjoy the fact that BSG makes you think about this kind of thing as well as the politics, economics, and military encounters. I’m looking forward to the second half of the season, though not to the new time slot — 10PM on a Sunday isn’t going to work too well as a group gathering time. We’ll see how it goes.