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Battlestar Galactica Newbie Recap: Maelstrom, The Son Also Rises
by Rebecca Pahle | 2:00 pm, October 2nd, 2013
I’m a sci-fi geek who has never seen Battlestar Galactica. Yes, I know, I know. 2013 is the year I change that, and I’m blogging as I go.
Oh my God, Starbuck. Oh my God, Baltar. Oh my God, Mark Sheppard! We are back on track!
Deep breaths, Rebecca. Now that I have reigned in my emotions somewhat, let’s start the recap.
Starbuck’s been dreaming every night about her favorite art subject, which we now know is also the Eye of Jupiter. Also appearing in her dreams—sometimes, we see in the first scene of the episode, in a sexy capacity—is Leoben. Helo suggests that she see a psychiatrist, but she refuses.
She does, however, consent to see an oracle who’s living in Dogsville. The oracle is known to interpret dreams, and interpret dreams she does, though it’s not the interpretation Starbuck wants to hear. The oracle tells her that Leoben was right, that Starbuck does have a special destiny. She then proceeds to recite verbatim the creepy speech Leoben had in his very first episode about how Starbuck’s mother hurt her because she believed suffering was good for the soul.
The oracle adds that Starbuck’s mother was trying to teach her a message through abusing her, but Starbuck’s gotten the message wrong. Leoben knows what the true message is, and he’s coming to show her the way. Starbuck, frightened and pissed off, leaves, carrying with her a small statue of Aurora, goddess of the dawn, that the oracle gave to her.
Later Anders and Starbuck, who are ostensibly still together even though Starbuck doesn’t seem to want to spend much time with him, talk about Starbuck’s mother. She told her daughter that she was different from the other kids, that she needed to be a warrior, that anger would keep her alive. Starbuck tells Anders about a prank she played on her mother—putting plastic bugs in her shoes—and how her mother retaliated by slamming her hand in a door. Throughout the entire episode Starbuck keeps flashing back to that moment in her childhood. She even hallucinates seeing her younger self.
The fleet is parked above a planet so they can refuel, and Hot Dog and Starbuck are on patrol in case the Cylons show up. Then one does… but only Starbuck can see it. She flies after the Raider down into a storm system that looks exactly like the Eye of Jupiter. As if that’s not creepy enough, she keeps seeing Leoben. She loses the Raider and has to turn around, since if she gets too close to the planet’s surface the pressure will crush her Viper like a tin can.
When she gets back to the Galactica Tyrol tells her that her Viper wasn’t damaged in the chase, which is weird, because she distinctly felt the Raider hit her. Furthermore, when reviewing her Viper’s dashcam she doesn’t see the Raider. Racetrack says what everyone’s thinking: Maybe it wasn’t there at all. But she doesn’t say it in a malicious way, like Kat would’ve. It’s very matter-of-fact. “Hey, maybe you’ve started losing your marbles. It happens.” I’ve started to love her. I hope she doesn’t die.
Starbuck’s, er, lapses in sanity have made their way to up to the Old Man, who asks Lee whether he’s going to ground her. Lee’s not sure; she’s an emotional basketcase, but her identity is all wrapped up in being a Viper pilot. Who knows what it would do to her if she weren’t one anymore? Adama tells him that it all comes down to whether she can do the job.
Turns out she can, or at least Lee thinks so. He tells her he trusts her eyes over the DRADIS any day and that if she said the Raider was there, then it was there. You’re no more of a raving lunatic than you’ve always been, he says. What happened with Leoben on New Caprica just stressed you out. Take it easy or you will start seeing things.
At exactly that moment, as it happens, she does see something: Liquid dripping onto a floor in the shape of the Eye of Jupiter. Later, while looking over her Viper with Tyrol, she sees her younger self, bruised and bloody, sitting in the cockpit. It majorly freaks her out, like hallucinating tends to do, and Lee comes to talk to her about it. She tells him she’s voluntarily stepping down as a pilot, as she can’t trust herself behind the wheel (joystick?). So trust me, Lee says. I’ll fly your wing.
It’s a great scene between them. I love how Starbuck, knowing how bad she’s gotten, refuses to fly. She’s always been a hot-shot pilot more than willing to take insane risks with her life, but here she’s deciding to give up what she loves because she won’t take risks with her fellow pilots’ lives. And Lee’s giving his emotionally frakked up, traumatized friend exactly the sort of support she needs.
And then it’s ruined with relationship talk. Starbuck asks him how things are going with Dee, and he says they’re better than they’ve ever been. So we’re back to where we started, Starbuck says, and that’s probably where we’re going to stay. Neither of them look altogether pleased with that. Dammit, show! You teased me with a possible lack of relationship drama and then you bring it all back up again. How did I ever ship this?! It has brought me nothing but pain!
Starbuck and Lee go out on patrol, and Starbuck yet again sees the mysterious Raider. She takes off after it, and everyone watching from the Galactica has a look on their face like they think that she’s finally snapped. Lee goes after her, but he’s too far behind and there’s too much cloud coverage to keep visual contact.
Starbuck’s Viper is hit by something and she gets knocked out. She wakes up in her old apartment in New Caprica, where Leoben is there waiting for her. She accuses him of playing mind games, but he says he’s not. This is about her destiny. Starbuck says she doesn’t have one, but Leoben reminds her of the Eye of Jupiter symbol, how she’s always been drawn to it. She wants to fly into it and “cross over,” he says, but she’s afraid of the unknown. Of death. She’s been afraid ever since the last day she saw her mother.
Then Leoben whisks her, and us, away to observe the last conversation Starbuck and her mother had. It’s six years ago, and Starbuck has just become an officer. She’s the first person in her family achieve that honor, in fact. But her mother’s far from impressed and berates her for being 16th in her class and getting so many demerits. You’re special, she says, and I’m not going to let you piss that away. Starbuck responds that she’s not special, and she’s sorry her mother never made anything of her own life but she refuses to make up for that. Mama ‘Buck tells her daughter that she’s a quitter and always has been.
Then, to pour some salt in the wound, past-Starbuck sees a letter saying her mother has terminal cancer. She tries hold her mother’s hand, reaching out with the same hand that was smashed in the door all those years ago, which you can tell takes some real emotional effort on Starbuck’s part. But her mother rejects even that small gesture and tells her off for being sad. So Starbuck leaves, never to see her mother again.
Starbuck explains to Leoben that she didn’t come back, not because she hated her mother, but because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to watch her die. Leoben tells her it’s not too late and shows her through a door where Mama ‘Buck is laying in bed surrounded by her daughter’s old school papers and drawings, including one of the Eye of Jupiter. Something’s about to happen, Starbuck tells her mom, the thing you were always trying to prepare me for. But I don’t know if I can do it. Mama ‘Buck reassures her that she can because she’s her daughter—becaus every abuse she threw Starbuck’s way was to prepare her—and then dies.
See?, Leoben says. There’s nothing so terrible about death after all. Now that you’ve faced it you’re free to become who you really are. She tells him he’s not Leoben, and he responds that he never said he was. He’s just there to help her discover what’s in the space between life and death.
But… “the space between life and death.” That’s what D’anna was exploring! Who is this guy if not Leoben? And is it just this mental Leoben who has some mysterious other identity, or is it the real Leoben, too? After all, they both have this fixation on Starbuck’s destiny. And speaking of Starbuck’s destiny: Does she know the thing her mom was trying to prepare her for, whatever it is? What is it? Why does this show torture me so?!
Starbuck regains consciousness and Lee finds her again. They have just enough time to turn their ships around before they both die… but Starbuck doesn’t. She sees a brightness that looks like what D’anna saw in the Temple of the Five, tells Lee to “let me go” and that “they’re waiting for me,” and flies into the light. Her ship blows up and she (supposedly) dies.
I say “supposedly” because there’s no way in hell Starbuck’s actually dead, if only because if Starbuck dies I’m pretty sure I would’ve heard about it. I may be a BSG newbie, but I fly in geek circles, and cultural osmosis is still a thing. Plus her hand was resting on something that I’m pretty sure was an eject lever before her ship exploded.
But even if Starbuck’s not dead, it’s still an incredibly sad scene. Everyone thinks she lost it and killed herself. And there’s no way anyone could know differently, because all she ever told anyone was that she was seeing things. No one else knows about the stuff that happened that means she’s not just nuts, like the oracle knowing what Leoben said to her.
No one except Helo, that is, who at least knew about Starbuck’s connection to the Eye of Jupiter. But will he think it’s significant enough to look into? Will he think Starbuck’s “death” is anything other than an open-and-shut case of a soldier with a history of emotional issues going through trauma and finally snapping?
C’mon, Helo. Follow through on this for me.
Adama insists that they’ll send a rescue crew out to get her, but Lee say there’s no point: Her ship blew up, and there was no parachute. She’s dead, Jim.
Earlier in the episode Starbuck gave Adama the golden Aurora statuette she got from the oracle. She told him that Aurora symbolizes fresh starts and maybe he could use it as the figurehead for his model ship. After finding out about her death he does put the figure on his ship… and then he smashes the whole thing to pieces and starts sobbing.
What the everloving heck? What did Starbuck see? Where did she go?
Where did she come from, Cotton-Eye Joe? The oracle gave Starbuck the Aurora figure like it has some significance, but she gave it away. So what does it do? What’s Starbuck’s destiny? How will she get back to the fleet? What’s happening?!
The Son Also Rises
After Starbuck’s not-death (I’m convinced) last episode, everybody’s having a pretty rough time. We see Adama crying while he looks through her file, which includes this adorkable birthday card. Anders is perpetually drunk and unwilling to accept the fact that his wife is dead. And Lee’s grief is starting to affect his work performance. But everyone still has to do their jobs, and for the military folk that includes preparing for Baltar’s trial.
Adama is randomly selected as one of the five judges, but Racetrack has landed a less fun job: Shuttling Baltar’s lawyer Mr. Hughes around the fleet. She doesn’t have to do it for long, though, since someone plants a bomb in her Raptor that ends up killing Hughes and leaving her wounded.
At a press conference Roslin is asked whether maybe, since the trial has led to a bombing and all, it should be cancelled. Her response is an excellent, more eloquent version of “What the frak did I just hear? Get it through your thick reporter noggins. We are not going to change our legal system because of terrorists. Roslin out. *mic drop*”
But she still has to find a new defense attorney, and what’s rest of humanity isn’t exactly teeming with them. Luckily, there’s a relatively inexperienced lawyer by the name of Romo Lampkin who’s chomping a the bit to get his hands on the fame and glory that’ll come with representing the most hated man alive and
Of course he plays the skeezy lawyer. Of course.
Meanwhile Lee’s been moved from CAG duties to running Romo’s security detail. Adama explains to Lee—who sees it as a less of a transfer and more of a demotion—that he’s in no shape to fly and that he’ll remain on the Galactica until he “works this [his grief about Starbuck's death] out.” Lee has a snit fit, big surprise, like Adama isn’t hurting, too.
Romo slowly warms Lee up with his no-BS attitude. He insists that he be allowed to see Baltar without anybody listening in and name-checks Lee’s granddad, who was apparently Romo’s mentor. What is it with Grandpa Adama all of a sudden? He’s everywhere! They reach a compromise where Lee can sit in if he signs a confidentiality agreement, and Romo—his little duckling Lee trailing behind him—goes to see his client for the first time.
Baltar is, shall we say, less than impressed by his Matrix glasses-wearing savior, though it’s less to do with Romo than the fact that the whole trial is a charade. Something tells me Romo’ll have a shot at swinging things his way, though. Baltar tells Romo that the key is Caprica Six, that the prosecution can use her to destroy him and that he needs to talk to her and tell her how much he loves her. Normally I’d say that’s solely a self-serving move on his part, but Baltar’s really started to lose it. He’s all twitchy and out-of-sorts. His defenses are starting to come down, and it’s becoming less and less easy to see what’s an affectation and what’s real.
Romo, quite the smooth operator, quotes Baltar’s book, and Baltar smiles like he’s a kid on Christmas. And suddenly: Baltar feels. He’s always thrived on people thinking well of him, people thinking he’s a genius, and now everyone hates him. All his smarts don’t matter if he’s a traitor. Before there were people praising his brilliance left and right, but now little crumbs of praise are all he has to live on.
It’s like Tigh recedes into the background plot-wise and Baltar swoops in to take his place. But don’t worry, my bald Grumpy Cat. You will always be my number one.
After interviewing Baltar Romo asks Lee to take him to the Colonial One to pick up some papers. Technically Lee’s not supposed to go, because he’s been grounded. In the “You’re a pilot and you’re not allowed to fly right now” sense, not the “Go to your room!” sense. Though it kind of goes seem like the latter. Romo rightfully points out that if Lee’s going to be his bodyguard he really should be there to guard his body, and Lee agrees to go with.
And then, what ho! Another assassination attempt. Someone planted a bomb in the Raptor Lee and Romo were set to fly in, but luckily for both of them Romo’s cat—which he even takes to meetings with the President, because he’s Mark Sheppard and he’ll do what he wants—is an escape artist who bolted out of his carrier and hid under the ship. While Tyrol tries to get the cat he finds the explosive. But who set us up the bomb?
The fact that Lee almost got blown to itty-bitty pieces makes Adama less than pleased, and he tears his son a new one for letting Romo lead him around by the nose. I’m not exactly sure how else he’s supposed to do the job you told him to do, but whatever. Adama is right in pointing out to Lee that letting Romo get on a ship that was rigged to explode is kind of a big goof on his part. It turns into this whole thing where Adama judges Lee for not getting his shit together after Starbuck’s death and Lee judges Adama for supposedly not grieving as much as him.
Back to Romo: Roslin explains to him that he can interview Six, but it has to be under the same conditions the prosecutor had, meaning Adama’s going to be looking in. Romo points out that that’s unfair because Adama’s one of the judges, but a small thing like illegality isn’t enough to make Adama sit the interview out. Roslin’s a bit more cooperative, ordering Tory to get Romo the papers she was dragging her heels getting to him.
And now: The interview. Earlier in this episode we saw a mentally unhinged Baltar frantically searching for something he’d misplaced, and now we know what that is: His pen. It may seem like a small thing, but without it he can’t write his book and get his thoughts out to the people. It’s the only thing that gives him some agency in his own life and makes him anything other than a prisoner. It turns out Romo stole the pen so he could give it to Caprica Six and say it’s a gift from Baltar. See, Caprica’s all ready to say to hell with the narcissistic jerk and throw him under the bus. They didn’t have a particularly good breakup, remember. Romo tells her a story about his ex, about how living with her was hell but he loved her so much that living without her was exponentially worse. He tells Caprica that Baltar asked about her and said he loves her—which is true—and that he wanted to give her his pen because he’d do anything to be with her again. Which is a big ol’ lie.
But it absolutely works. It warms Caprica up to Baltar and sets her against Roslin. Baltar wasn’t technically allowed to keep the pen, and now Caprica won’t be either. The common tribulations of pen ownership bring them together. Romo, you slick bastard, you. Roslin sees it, too: Watching him win Caprica over, she says it feels like “part of our world just fell down.”
Romo and Lee have a talk about lawyer-ing, specifically about Grandpa Adama and how he dedicated his life to defending “the worst of the worst” so he could understand what it is that makes humanity so flawed. Romo’s followed in his foosteps, working with the fallen and the corrupt, which is a really noble way for Romo to say “Yeeeah, I’m not so big on morals m’self.” He makes the whole thing sound really appealing to Lee, who looks ready to say screw you to his father’s expectations and go to the Romo Lampkin side of the Force.
And then it’s time for assassination attempt number three: A bomb is hidden in a box of files delivered to Romo, and the only reason he ends up injured and not dead is that a guard sees what’s about to happen and pushes him out of the way. Lee visits Romo in the hospital and brings with him a bag of tidbits that Romo’s stolen, because he’s evidently a bit of a klepto. There’s Roslin’s eyeglasses, because without them she’ll look less serious in the courtroom. There’s a button from Adama’s jacket and a flip-flop owned by the prosecutor. Romo explains that his parents were murdered when he was really young, so he grew up stealing to survive. He won’t steal anything from Lee, though, since he’s lost enough already. He also managed to steal back Baltar’s pen from the guards and asks Lee to get it back to him.
But there’s one other thing Romo stole: A metal disc that Lee recognizes right away as a bomb component. He lifted it from Kelly, aka Benny from Supernatural, who earlier in the episode was having a crisis of conscience about how he sends pilots off to die all the time and can’t bear to see them risking their lives to shuttle Baltar’s attorneys around, too. Even though he’s the one who’s putting the pilots in danger by rigging their ships to explode. Kelly, you yutz.
Adama’s decided to reinstate Lee as the CAG, since once Kelly’s arrested Romo’s not in as much immediate danger. But Lee asks if he can stay on, not as Romo’s bodyguard, but as his assistant. Adama disapproves and points out that Lee’s a pilot, not a lawyer. But that argument doesn’t work so well when Adama, an Admiral, is doing double-duty as a judge. Lee goes all daddy issues and accuses Adama of wanting to keep him from being a lawyer because of his desire to have his legacy as a pilot secured now that Zak and Starbuck are dead. Adama says he refuses to see his son working against him during the trial (he’s supposed to be an impartial judge, but who’re we kidding?), but when it comes right down to it he’s not willing to outright order Lee not to help Romo.
On the one hand: Lee, you already have a job! You can’t just quit the military!
On the other: But Adama already offered to let him try out his lawyering in a way that would have suited him. This isn’t about Lee wanting to do something else. It’s about him doing something that his father doesn’t want him to do.
On all hands: Get over yourself, the both of you. Adama: Lee’s not going to do whatever you want. Lee: Stop being a whiner and just accept that Adama’s not the supportive father type. Let it go. You are grown-ass men. I don’t know if I can handle another season of Adama Drama. (Click, darnit. I spent a good five minutes making that stupid gif, and you are going to see it.)
Lee goes to the memorial wall and pins Starbuck’s picture up, a visual symbol of how he’s accepted her death, even if he’s still grieving from it. Anders shows up as well, and the two of them have a bit of a shy, friendly bro moment before Lee leaves Anders alone with the picture of his late wife.
The episode ends with Baltar being delivered the pen that Romo had stolen from him. With it is a note. It reads: “There is no greater ally, no force more powerful, no enemy more resolved, than a son who chooses to step from his father’s shadow.”
I can think of nothing I’ve liked more in the last few episodes of Battlestar Galactica than Romo blatantly manipulating an oblivious Lee. Lee’s all ready to ~stand up to his father~ and ~defend the people no one else will defend~, and in the meantime Romo’s just giggling his tuchus off about the schism he’s caused among his enemies.
Hey, Lee, you think maybe you want to whet your lawyering teeth by defending, say, an accused thief? A murderer? Hell, a serial killer? Anything other than the man who’s accused of betraying humanity and causing a near-genocide? He’s in so over his head. It’s glorious.
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