On ''Battlestar Galactica,'' Kara Thrace finally confronts her early demons before causing her own death

By Marc Bernardin
Updated March 05, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

Battlestar Galactica

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”Battlestar Galactica”: Life and death decisions

Frak me, I didn’t see that coming.

I mean, I’d heard the Internet chatter saying that something major was coming that had to deal with Kara Thrace, but I didn’t quite expect, you know, death. (More later about whether I really believe she’s dead.)

After indulging in some dream-time hanky-panky fit for an episode of HBO’s Real Sex — and some refreshingly precise psychic action — the show put us back in the cockpit, somewhere we really haven’t been too often in the second half of season 3. And we’re in there with Kara, which just feels right. Before anything else, she’s a pilot.

For me, the big moral point this whole episode spins upon is the idea that we are what our experiences make us, good or bad. Would Kara have been both the abject screw-up and the best pilot ever if she hadn’t had the childhood she did? Not that I’m defending crippling child abuse — and that shot of her hand almost getting slammed in the door was one of the creepiest things I’ve seen in a while — but that hell helped craft the person that Kara is. Just as being the son of a military man and the grandson of a lawyer — and the son of an alcoholic mother — has left Lee with something of an identity crisis. (Executive producer Ronald D. Moore has said, on more than one podcast commentary, that Lee is one of the hardest characters to give shades to.) And I think my favorite part of the episode — maybe of the last three episodes — was when Kara and Lee were sitting on the landing gear of Kara’s viper, just talking. Like old friends with a metric ton of history.

Looking back on this hour, it now seems clear that Kara did get to say goodbye to all the people who meant anything to her, in appropriate degrees. She got her moment with Helo, in the head. With Anders, who did his best to derail her crazy train. She got to give Admiral Adama a farewell present and to give a little adios to President Roslin. And then her Lee moment, with that great line about how after everything they’ve been through, here he is, once again, as the CAG with a hotshot problem pilot on his hands.

It also seems clear that Kara was the pilot she was — reckless, inspired, dangerous — out of some desire to prove to everyone (including herself) that she didn’t fear death, that it held no sway over her. And in getting Kara to realize that she had never really confronted death, not in a really personal way…well, that’s where the episode started to lose me.

It’s always nice to see Leoben again. As a Cylon, he never seemed quite as bloodthirsty as some of the other models, and his actions toward Kara seemed to be coming from a place of truth. (A twisted truth, to be sure, but I think he thinks he was acting in her best interest.) For all of that, though, it was weird seeing him in the Clarence role in Kara Thrace’s It’s (Not) a Wonderful Life, showing Starbuck what her life was and what could’ve been if only she’d sat by her mother’s side as she passed away. (Can I just say that I am so done with adventures inside our characters’ heads? These strolls though the mental tulips are getting boring and repetitive.)

I’m all for Kara’s having a destiny (and I love the way the producers tied that mandala painting in her old apartment into the Temple of the Five and now into that storm system). I just don’t understand what her destiny is, other than to disregard orders and commit suicide by flying into a storm. I’m all for heroic sacrifice, provided I understand what the sacrifice is for. And here, I don’t.

I will say, though, that I’m not terribly worried about never seeing Kara Thrace again. This is science fiction, where no one ever truly dies. Especially in a world where they can download.

What do you think? Was Kara brave or weak for surrendering to the pull of destiny? What is Leoben’s true motive? Do you really think Starbuck’s dead? (I suppose the opening credits of next week’s episode — whether or not Katee Sackhoff’s name is in them — will tell us for sure.)

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