'Battlestar Galactica' recap: A Just Cause
One of the reasons I love science fiction is because, when its done well, it shows me things I hadn’t seen before. And I’m not just talking spaceships and lasers and homicidal sex-bunny robots — though I’m all for a good laser. Good sci-fi can summon forth ideas, and ideals, never before committed to paper, or celluloid, or bytes.
My devotion to Battlestar Galactica was cemented early on in the miniseries, when Caprica Six leaned into that crib and snapped a baby’s neck. I’d never seen a show willing to do that before. I thought to myself, ”If these guys are starting here, where else are we going to go? What else are we gonna see?”
And as we come to the end, Battlestar Galactica shows me something new once again, something of which we’d really only seen glimpses and heard tell: Caprica City ”Before the Fall.” As the opening credits came to an end — and I’m gonna miss those credits, especially that haunting music — we pushed through the cosmos, into that gleaming metropolis, full of life…and cars.
Into a glimpse of William Adama, being coaxed to devote an hour of his time to…what? Into Gaius Baltar and Caprica Six, cruising in a limo like they’re off to prom. Or better yet, on their first date. Into Laura Roslin in full bloom, tittering with her baby sisters at a baby shower — the girliest we’ve ever seen her. Maybe even the happiest we’ve ever seen her. Into Kara Thrace fretting over cooking the perfect dinner over which she’ll meet Zak Adama’s brother, Lee, for the first time.
We push into the lives we never saw…lives that our characters were living years before the Cylon Holocaust. (Since the show established that Zak died two years prior to C-Day, we’re at least that far out…maybe more, as Laura hadn’t yet become a member of President Adar’s cabinet.) Some of those lives were happy, and filled with promise, while others — like Gaius Baltar’s — were more complicated. Turns out his pre-Galactica life wasn’t all talk shows and designer suits and wanton indulgence of his sexual appetites. All of that was an escape from the trappings of his childhood, from the clutches of his needy, rural, cantankerous father. ”This be the new one you be banging, eh?” says dear old dad when he gets a look at Caprica Six, and this wee look at Mr. Baltar speaks volumes as to why Gaius did everything in his power to remake himself in his own image.
For Gaius Baltar, Caprica City was like a well-appointed prison…until his platinum blonde savioress made all the badness go away. But more on that later.
Roslin’s bucolic familial idyll is shattered when the CapCity police inform her — while she’s sitting among the vestiges of the baby shower, that ceremony heralding a new life — that her sisters, and her father, were killed by a drunk driver. And as she somnambulates to a park fountain to baptize herself in pain, we bounce back to the world we know: Laura in a sick bed in sick bay, watching her life drip away.
NEXT: The Chief’s wisdom
Laura’s not the only waning lady dying a slow death: On Galactica‘s flight deck, Pseudo-President Lee Adama has to oversee the desecration of the old girl’s body as the captains of the fleet pounce on the corpse. As Lee deals with the dismantling of Galactica‘s limbs, Adama wrestles with her heart. ”Admiral’s Qrtrs, Cylon Baseship.” With every item he packs into those marked boxes, Adama’s gotta die a little inside.
It’s funny…as if the producers knew we don’t care about Baltar and his flock planning for their political power play, we bounced right back into the past, where Six works her way into Gaius’ good graces by getting the Elder Baltar out of his life. Finding him a nursing home, where the old farmer could till the soil once more. That’s how she works her way into his heart, and becomes first among bimbos: by removing the final obstacle that lay between him and the life he wanted.
There are only a handful of disciplines that children can be prodigies in, only a few pursuits that they can compete at an adult level in. Among them are music and math. Perhaps because they can both be reduced, at their core, to numbers. They don’t require life experience, or even manual dexterity, to do well. I bring this up because of Kara’s insistence on cracking Hera’s doodles by turning those notes into numbers, and then crunching those numbers. From one half-breed child to another, using a hybrid as the computer.
”I did what I did, because I’m a frakking idiot.” Man, I like Chief Tyrol. Sure, he’s screwed up a bunch of stuff over the years, but he’s always been one to accept the truth when confronted by it. Things are the way they are. He’s been played by the Eights since day one; he never learned from that particular mistake and now he’s reaping the consequences. I wonder if his warning to Helo — and the sight of Athena in such beyond-the-pale distress — is the herald of really awful things to come between Hera’s parents. Will Mommy get back at Daddy by doing something even worse? And if they don’t get Hera off the Colony before Cavil does something truly evil, will Daddy come out of it alive?
One of the things that has impressed me over the years is BSG‘s tendency to repeat motifs. And one of them has been Adama on the ghost ship. The last custodian of valor and might. We saw it in the miniseries, when people were mustering off Galactica as it was being relegated to a museum graveyard; later in orbit around New Caprica; and now here, with everyone and everything of value being displaced around the fleet. So the Old Man is left to literally clean the floor as Hot Dog drops some of the pictures he’s rescued from the Memorial Wall, leaving the ones no one wanted behind. (Nice to see father and son, Eddie and Bodie Olmos, have what could be their last BSG scene together.) As Adama comes across Hera’s picture, it stirs something in him…something he thought he forgot. Even for him, duty can be a fragile concept. Everyone is someone’s son, someone’s daughter. As the guardian of the fleet, everyone is his responsibility. Even if, like Kara, you’re not sure what you are anymore. Luckily for her, she’s got the Admiral to remind her: ”I know what you are. You’re my daughter. Don’t forget it.”
NEXT: The rally cry
Even as a battered pyramid champion back on Caprica, Anders was always on the path towards hybridity. ”I don’t really care about the stats,” he said to the sports reporter. ”What matters to me is the perfect throw…. Perfection, that’s what it’s about. It’s about those moments when you can feel the perfection of creation. The beauty of physics, of mathematics.” (This, incidentally, was my least favorite of the flashbacks, only inasmuch as it didn’t really reveal that much about Anders aside from a tendency for order. But given that I LOVED the flashbacks, this just means I merely liked this one a lot.)
I’m not gonna talk too much about the Lee/Baltar tête-à-tête. Religious Baltar continues to bore me. Suffice it to say, it went something like this:
LEE: Shut up.
BALTAR: But I want to be important again!
LEE: Shut the frak up.
(Okay: Drunk Lee waving a broom at pigeons was actually my least favorite flashback. What the hell was that about?)
Adama got on his horse about launching a rescue mission, and it excited everyone — pilots, nurses, the Five. Maybe they’ve been jonesing for a cause, for a reason to act, given that everything since Earth has been a downward spiral. Rescuing Hera is like a rally point for their souls. And I loved the silent act of drawing the proverbial line in the sand. Rather, a red line on the deck. A rose line. Roslin. (It all comes around, doesn’t it?)
Back on Caprica, personal tragedy left Laura a virtual shut in, a woman who needed to be coaxed out of her house for blind dates. But now, in the face of death itself, Laura finds the strength to gussy herself up and take her place on the right side of destiny. On the right side of the line. Hell, I’d join her if I had a leader like Adama at the head of the pack. When all is said and done, this is the Adama that I’m gonna miss. I like the father, and the friend, the taskmaster and the lover. But, in my mind’s eye, he’ll always be the man on the ladder, pointing the way.
With Racetrack locating the Colony — thanks to coordinates provided by Anders — we come to the end of this episode in a very familiar place: Adama, Tigh, Lee (in uniform!), and Kara planning an assault. Just like the good old days. Getting ready to ride into battle for one last time.
”All right. Let’s get to work.”
Hot damn. No, we didn’t get the blowing up of everything, or the resolution of anything, but the hops in the Wayback Machine added a depth and a texture we hadn’t had — a sense, truly, of everything that these people lost. And, as a result, everything that they gained. While I would’ve liked a little more action, I reminded myself that ”Daylight” is just the first act of the finale. Literally, the beginning of the end. And my hands and feet are inside the rollercoaster, ready to rumble.
What did you think? Was Lee the drunkard who wiped out Laura’s whole family? Was it Tigh? Would it piss you off if it was either? (Because it would infuriate me. I hate that kind of overly interconnected hokum.) Who’s running the civilian government now that Lee is, once again, Apollo? Does anyone else besides me wonder how D’Anna spends her time stranded on Earth? A whole lot of kick the can?
More Galactica from EW:
Galactica: Why It Almost Didn’t Fly (An Oral History)