I, uh…I don’t know what to say. Honestly, I don’t. And that speechlessness isn’t borne of a place of a place of awe, nor does it come from a sense of outrage or disgust. Usually, while watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica I can twig to a theme or two, a thread of what the hour is going to be about. That’s been one of the great joys of writing about a show like BSG: Every outing has been about something. Whether I’ve liked what it was about, or agree with the manner in which it went about conveying it, is immaterial — with Galactica, there’s always a there there.
My method for doing these TV Watches is, I imagine, like many other writers’ methods: I take notes while the episode airs, jotting down lines of dialogue, important events, and burgeoning themes. This week, I found myself typing things like ”the recalibration of expectations” and ”the center can not hold” and ”the wheel in the sky keeps on turning.” All of which can be applied to ”Islanded in a Stream of Stars,” but none of which are the rose line on which this episode charted its course. And I couldn’t find it.
It felt more like a collage of moments, rather than a cohesive piece of penultimate storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, some of those moments were lovely and heartbreaking and fantastic — and we’ll get into those in a bit — but at this point in Battlestar‘s run, I want to be going full-speed toward the finale, the wind of revelation blowing through my hair, without time for snapshots along the way, even if those snapshots are memorable. Like….
ADAMA, DONE WITH DESTINY
The minds of the fleet are gathered in Adama’s quarters to decide what to do about Hera, who Boomer likely brought to the Colony — the installation where, after the first Cylon War was cancelled, the Five brought the Centurions to give them resurrection tech. Kara explained that Hera might be the fulcrum upon which their entire journey pivots. ”I’ve had it up to here with destiny, prophecy, with God, or the gods, who’ve left us at the ass end of nowhere.”
HERA, BOOMER, AND THE RAPTOR RIDE OF HELL
Maybe it marks me as a bad parent, but I’ve been on the road trip where I wished I had a syringe full of something, anything that would stop the whiny crying. So I can relate to Boomer’s exasperation. I’m not saying it’s right, but I can empathize.
IS THAT A STARBUCK ON THE CRAPPER, OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE US?
Gods, I love Kara just sitting there in an open stall while Baltar shaved. Little things like that say so much about character — and they’re so true to hers. Even her conflicted feelings about Sam, the man she loved, cheated on, rejected, threatened to kill, stood by and, finally, tried to euthanize were perfectly in keeping with Kara’s conflicted nature.
THE HYBRID THEORY OF SAM T. ANDERS
Thanks to the Cylon goop-tech all through the ship — and the attempt to jump-start his brain by hard-wiring him into Galactica’s power grid — Sam is the old girl’s very own hybrid, spouting his version of the gobbledegook. Sure, he knows the favorites — ”You are the Harbinger of Death, Kara Thrace. You will lead them all to their end,” etc. — but he also tossed in a little something for the kiddies. ”There’s a hole in the bucket/Dear Liza, Dear Liza,” an infinite-loop German children’s ditty that conveniently ends right where it begins.
NEXT: A toke and a smile with Laura
SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM (AND IT’S ON PAGE 61)
As Bill and Laura share what’s left of an ancient joint buried in one of Adama’s novels, she deliberates the nature of home: What defines it, what nurtures it? The idea that her ideal is a cabin she never got to build on New Caprica is a sweet one. (And wouldn’t it be the sweetest thing ever if, when all is said and done, Adama goes back to New Caprica and builds that cabin, just so he can spread her ashes there?)
HELO, CAPTAIN OF THE GUILT SHIP LOLLYFRAK
I’ve always liked Tahmoh Penniket, but I think his plea for a raptor so he can find his kidnapped daughter and, if not, die trying, was perhaps the best performance he’s given in the entirety of the series. Heartbreaking stuff.
SLAPPING BALTAR ON THE DECK
For a second, I wanted Kara to crack him on the chin with a right cross, but that slap was even more demeaning. Leave it to Baltar to use Kara, and the trust she placed in him when she gave him her ”dead chick” dogtags, to grandstand at a funeral. I still don’t understand why, exactly, he launched into his diatribe, but it served to show how low Baltar has sunk.
DON’T YOU WISH YOUR GIRLFRIEND WAS DEAD LIKE ME?
As conflicted as Kara may be, it’s nice to see her find a modicum of peace by accepting what, if not who, she is. And it’s nice to see Lee Adama step up and be a pal. ”Listen to me. I don’t care…we’ve all been through some crazy, crazy stuff. I don’t care what you think you saw. I watched your viper explode. Don’t care. I’m here. You’re here. This is all that matters.” Just like that, another pic on the wall.
THE LAST BATTLESTAR
By the time we got to the end, when Adama took off his Admiral pips, it felt like ”Islanded” was a visit to Galactica’s death bed. A chance to make our peace, sit with the old girl while she’s still got some light in her eyes. ”This ship never let us down, so we’re gonna send her off in style,” Adama intoned, as he and Tigh sent a few down the hatch. ”To Galactica, the best ship in the fleet.”
There was nothing inherently wrong with this episode, aside from some histrionic directorial flourishes by Edward James Olmos — the Jackson Pollock splatter-cry scene, the super-literal Galactica is the apple of Adama’s eye” superimposition. It didn’t really accelerate us to the finish, but I’m okay with that. It reminds me a bit of the 58 endings to Return of the King: It was clear that Peter Jackson just didn’t want to say goodbye to the film he spent a huge part of his life making, and who am I to begrudge him that.
Saying goodbye to this show, and this cast, must have been an incredibly hard thing for everyone involved in Battlestar Galactica to do, so if they wanna linger a bit, that’s fine by me. I’d rather the lingering said something, but I’ll give them a pass.
That said we’d better hit the downhill stretch soon, because I wanna feel that wind on my face and we’re quickly running out of road.
What did you think? Was your ”whelm” of the under or over variety? Will Athena ever forgive Helo for A) schtupping the enemy and B) letting said enemy steal their spawn? What is it about Baltar that makes him seek forgiveness/validation from everyone he’s wronged — including Caprica Six — while scuttling the relationships with those he hasn’t? Is it me, or is the new ”ship-captains” Quorum even more annoying than the old one? Where’s Tyrol hiding? And did the Cylons ask ”Batdance”-era Prince to do their Colony decorating?