Battlestar Galactica Newbie Recap: No Exit, Deadlock
by Rebecca Pahle | 12:30 pm, December 18th, 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.
I’m starting to see why people hate this half of season four.
How is an episode when Ellen comes back so boring?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to see her. But the main reason I wanted her to come back is that I assumed she’d mix things up. But no. Things just go back to the way they were before, even if there are some hints of non-dull-as-heck things yet to come.
BSG has a real problem with pacing. It’s all “boring set-up episode HOLY FRAK HOLY FRAK HOLY FRAK! boring set-up episode HOLY FRAK!” It’s not very fluid. That’s the main problem I have with the back half of season four so far: There have been some great episodes (Gaeta! *sob*), but all in all I feel like everyone’s just kind of… meandering around. There’s no real quest—sure, they’re looking for a habitable planet, but even Adama seems kind of like “Sure, we’ll look for one ’til we run out of food and then we’ll die, whatever. Pour me some algae booze.” There’s no Big Bad. There’s no momentum now that Earth has been weighed, measured, and found wanting. I wouldn’t mind so much if this were a middle season, but it’s the last one. There are only five episodes left after these two. Things should be coming together by now, but instead they’re losing coherency.
Anyway. The recap. We start with Ellen coming back in a new body after Tigh killed her on New Caprica. She has a few seconds of freaking out—surprise, you’re a Cylon!—but then things settle in her brain and she remember who she is. She’s calm and put together. She’s polite to the Centurions. Not so much to Brother Cavil, whom we find out kept her prisoner ever since.
Back on the Galactica Anders—not dead after being shot in the head, yaaaay!—has discovered an unexpected side effect of having a bullet in his brain: He can remember Earth and what happened to him and the rest of the Final Five. Between him explaining the sitch to the other Cylons (plus Starbuck) and Brother Cavil interrogating Ellen, we find out what went down on Ye Olde Nuked Planet.
As we already knew, Soylent Green is people the thirteenth tribe was Cylons. But these Cylons could have babies, so they didn’t need resurrection technology. The Final Five were part of a group, led by Ellen, that reinvented resurrection, which came in awful handy when the planet went kablooey. But only the Final Five were able to regenerate onto a ship hanging out above Earth. They decided to go warn the other twelve colonies about the dangers of nuclear war or inventing robots or something, but because of ~space travel reasons~ it took them several thousand years to get there. When they did it was too late: The first human/Cylon war was already underway.
The Final Five made a deal with the Cylons: They’d make skinjobs for them in exchange for stopping the war. Yeah, I see no possible way helping the Cylons, bent on revenge against humans, to make Cylons who could infiltrate humanity could go wrong. Why would the Centurions even want there to be skinjobs if not to assist their war efforts? How did humans just happen to invent their own version of the 13th colony, anyway? That’s awfully convenient. I don’t like the Cylon mythology we have going. It’s stupid.
The first skinjob created was Cavil, whom Ellen modeled after some kid she grew up with named John. Ellen intentionally gave him and all the other skinjobs something akin to humanity—emotions, limited physical capabilities, limited mental capacity (compared to pure robots), etc.. Not to be mean or anything—Mama Cylon Ellen genuinely didn’t set out to make pure machines. But Cavil didn’t like those limitations, so he and the other second-generation skinjobs killed the Final Five and kept them boxed up ’til he was ready to deploy them into humanity minus their Cylon memories. The point was to make the Final Five feel human suffering, thus making them sympathetic to Cavil’s quest to expunge all the Cylons’ human BS. Cavil’s a whiny little baby about it, by the way. “Boo hoo hoo, I wanna see a supernova without being limited by human eyes. Boo hoo hoo, you gave us emotion, and I don’t like that so I’m going to be emotional at you about it. I hate you, Mom! I hate you I hate you I hate you!”
A few months down the line Brother Cavil wants Ellen to figure out how to re-reinvent resurrection. She tells him she can’t. Fine, Cavil says. I’ll just cut your brain open and pluck the knowledge out.
I’m pretty sure that’s not how the brain works, you bitter little twerp. You’re a bad guy and you’re not even interesting about it.
Cavil tries to get Boomer, who at this point seems like his protégé/maid/sidekick/lover (ewwww), all riled up about how Ellen gave her stupidface emotions, waaaah. Ellen tries to sway her to the side of human things like love and compassion. There’s a moment when Boomer has an angry angst fit over “But who is out there for me to love?!” and there’s a cut to Tyrol on the Galactica. Subtle. Also subtle: Ellen, Mama Cylon, taking a big ol’ conspicuous bite of apple. Don’t hog all the religious symbolism, BSG. Other shows need some. Boomer eventually comes around to Ellen’s side and smuggles her off Cavil’s Basestar.
By now we’re to the present day. Since last episode Tyrol’s found a bunch of other cracks in the Galactica, which makes Adama promote him back to Chief so he can deal with it. After some more investigation Tyrol returns to his tried-and-true position of telling the Old Man things he doesn’t want to hear: The ship’s basically FUBAR. It won’t last much longer. The only way to fix it is to use Cylon tech that will effectively turn the Galactica into a quasi-Cylon itself. Adama doesn’t want to do it. He’s OK with allying with the Cylons, but the idea of merging humanity and Cylonitude is a bit much. And coating the Galactica, his baby, with the same stuff the Basestars are made of? Thanks but no thanks.
But in the end he doesn’t have a choice, so he OKs Tyrol’s project. It’s partially that he accepts it as the only option the fleet has. But he also seems not to give a frak anymore about leadership. He’s boozing it up, popping pills. It’s not like him.
There’s a short scene between Lee and Roslin where the former suggests that when they rebuild the Quorum the members should represent different ships, not different colonies. It’s a good idea, and one he’ll get to enact himself, since Roslin’s effectively making him President. Oh, she’ll still have the title, but he’ll have the power. I understand that—due to her health she has to step back, and actually delegating her responsibilities to someone else first is better than what she did a few episodes ago.
But Presidents shouldn’t be able to appoint their successors. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Dictator.
(Lee has a full-on case of the lip wibbles when Roslin tells him he’s the man for the job, BTW. I can’t decide whether it’s adorable or annoying.)
Back to Anders. While he’s in Cylon prophet mode there are a few more things he tells his Cylon buddies (plus Starbuck): Tory and Tyrol were an item back on Earth. Fine, I don’t care. The Final Five actually made eight Cylon models. The missing Sevens, we learn from Anders and Ellen, was an artsy, sensitive soul named Daniel. Brother Cavil, jealous of the way Mama Cylon Ellen preferred him to all the other “children,” contaminated his genetic code, basically murdering him.
Not much attention is paid to this particular revelation—Starbuck’s worried about there being an extra Cylon until she finds out it’s not her, after which she doesn’t give a frak—but all the same it has the earmarkings of one of BSG‘s “HOMG PLOT TWIST” moments. I’m going to go ahead and theorize that Daniel is Starbuck’s dad. I don’t remember if we ever find out anything about her father, but he never seemed to be in the picture. It’s implied that Cavil killed Daniel before bringing the Final Five back, but he could’ve tortured him with some human suffering first. Starbuck’s something weird, but she can’t be a full-on Cylon, since all those are accounted for (at least based on what we know now, which could easily change). Starbuck has that weird destiny thing going on, plus she’s artistic, and it’s explicitly mentioned that Daniel was, too. At one point Anders, hopped up on Cylon revelations, sees everyone gathered around his bed glowing. That would be a metric ton of Cylons… and Starbuck, the lone (supposed) human.
Anders still has one more surgery to go through, and he wants to postpone it, because when that pesky bullet leaves his brain it might take his new memories with it. Doc Cottle insists that he get the surgery done ASAP, because… well, because there’s a bullet in his brain and they should probably try to get it out. It’s already messing with his cognitive functions, giving him seizures and aphasia, which makes him say one word when he means to say another. He’s trying so hard to tell his fellow Cylons what he knows, and it’s horribly difficult and risky for him at every turn, and it makes me love him all the more because he refuses to quit. He begs Starbuck to postpone the surgery, because when you went all crazycakes on the Demetrius I supported you, didn’t I? But Starbuck, less of a puppy dog in her loyalty than Anders, gives permission to go ahead with the surgery.
The surgeon is John Hodgman, by the way. What in the holy hell? I have no problem with him, but this random cameo is unnecessarily distracting and weird. Plus it’s a funny cameo. It’s completely out of place.
This episode is structured in such a way that Ellen’s story runs parallel to Anders’. They’re both delivering backstory. They’re both about to be subjected to brain surgery. They both might die. I’m convinced they both will die until Boomer helps Ellen escape. And that bodes well for Anders, right? Especially after Doc Cottle tells Starbuck that the surgery went well and Anders will be fine. Parallel structure. Boom.
Except this is BSG, so something awful’s going to happen at the last minute. Starbuck goes to talk to an unconscious Anders but is told by a nurse that it’s pointless, because he has almost no brain activity. He’s basically a vegetable.
I want to something-lock this episode.
I mean airlock.
OK, no, I don’t hate it that much, but it was a chance for a stupid joke and I took it.
But it’s still bad.
We start with Caprica being attacked when she goes to Dogsville to get some food rations. Why is she even there? She practically has to put a bag over her head so people won’t notice she’s a Cylon, and then they do anyway, and she gets harassed. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying it’s her fault. But there’s no indication that the Cylons onboard the Galactica interact with the civilians, because it’s well-known that the civvies hate them. Granted, Caprica does kick her wannabe attackers’ asses. Go go pregnant robot lady. But her being in Dogsville makes no sense within the context of the show. The writers just had her do this completely out of character thing because they needed something to happen.
That’s becoming a trend.
It’s downhill from there. There’s a schmoopy scene of Caprica and Tigh in the sickbay looking at an ultrasound of their unborn child, and I hate it I hate it I hate it. I refuse to accept that the Tigh I know from seasons one through three could have a functional, romantic relationship with anyone. I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. And his relationship with Caprica started on the psychologically frakked-up premise that when he looked at her he literally saw his dead wife. And they’re all hearts and rainbows as a couple now?
Nope. I refuse.
Ellen’s here to bust things up anyway. She and Boomer get to the Galactica on their stolen Raptor, and Boomer’s immediately taken to the brig. Ellen, however, has a very—ahem—affectionate reunion with Tigh. In the last episode Ellen was very different from how we knew her before she died. She was calm, collected, authoritative, still a bit snarky, but on the whole almost maternal, in an “I’m very disappointed in my children” sort of way. But once she gets back to the Galactica she’s her old self: Flashing some leg, coming on to people, immediately starting up her drunk/angry/passionate relationship with Tigh, who goes right along with it even though he’s with Caprica now.
I understand his reaction to having Ellen back, honestly I do. But it’s like he completely forgets that he has a pregnant girlfriend. Tigh has a lot of flaws, but he’s a pretty straight-up dude. This is weird for him. It’s like this episode tried so hard to parallel the one where we first saw Ellen (it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but if memory serves the situation between the two of them is basically identical, at least at first) that it just ignores keeping its characters consistent.
There was one thing I loved, though. Hot Dog’s reaction to seeing Ellen is “How many dead chicks are out there?”
Ellen explains to Adama, Roslin, and Tigh about Brother Cavil wanting to resurrect resurrection. There’s a moment where she asks for booze and Tigh sneaks a look at Adama, since the Old Man’s the one who carries a flask around now. (Tigh ditched booze because the smell upset Caprica’s stomach. Gag me with a spoon.) The judgey look Roslin shoots Adama’s way is a thing of splendor:
Ellen asks to be allowed to see the other Cylons, and you can tell Roslin’s not OK with it, but Adama caves because his ship has Cylon goop on it now, what the hell does he care about anything? Hell, the Cylons can hold a Sadie Hawkins dance in the CIC for all he cares. Adama and Roslin leave, and Tigh and Ellen get bizzay right there on the table. As they do (the do), Caprica over in the quarters she shares with Tigh experiences some fetus-related pain.
Ellen finds out that Tigh *cough* got with Caprica, and she’s none too pleased. Sure, she said she didn’t care if Tigh found someone to be with after she died, but Caprica? She’s like their child! Lay it on thick, Ellen. You’re not the Tighs if you’re not guilt tripping one another and engaging in psychological warfare 24/7. Tigh tells Ellen that he always thought of her when he was with Six, which is partially true, at least. He doesn’t tell her that Six is pregnant.
When did I start watching a soap opera?
Ellen shows up in Anders’ hospital room, where he’s surrounded by his fellow Cylons. She tells them that they made a good go of things with the humans, but they should all go back to the Baseship and live with their fellow Cylons. That’s the exact opposite of something a prophetic/psychic/completely out of it Anders told Tigh last episode: Stuff’s starting to go down, and you need to stay with the fleet.
So obviously Tigh senses something fishy and doesn’t want to go. Athena’s on Ellen’s side and argues that, what with Caprica’s attack, they’re not safe on the Galactica. And they really have to keep Tigh and Caprica’s baby safe, since as the first pure Cylon child he’s what the entire future of the species will be built upon.
Ellen: “Caprica Six… is… pregnant?”
Everyone stands around awkwardly while Tigh and Ellen bicker, and Caprica breaks it up by calling for a vote. Stay with the humans or go with the Cylons: Whatever the majority of the Final Five want is what they’ll do. Tigh and Anders vote for staying (well, Anders doesn’t really vote, but everyone knows what he’d say), and Tory and Tyrol vote for going. What the hell, Tyrol? I feel like there’s no rhyme or reason to what side he’s on at any given time. One episode he’s risking life and limb to save the Galactica. The next day he’s all “LOL nope, I’m leaving.” Those two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but all the same, his character feels really fractured right now.
So the decision comes down to Ellen, but she won’t vote, because she
isn’t done letting Tigh dangle in the wind hasn’t decided yet.
Side note: Athena’s A-OK with leaving the human fleet? Really? Even though we’ve seen her loyalty to the fleet time and time again. Even though her husband, the father of her child, is also in that human fleet. Did Helo did and I just didn’t notice? Because if the Cylons and humans split apart either she has to leave Helo or he and Hera have to go with the Cylons. Either way, it’s the sort of thing you discuss before outright saying “Yeah, sure, I’ll go.” I’m half-convinced this is supposed to be a random Eight, because it makes no sense that Athena would be on Ellen’s side.
After that disastrous meeting Roslin intercepts Caprica in the hallway to congratulate her on her pregnancy and apologize on behalf of the fleet for the Dogsville attack. Caprica, understandably, is suspicious. The two of them, plus Athena, had a semi-quasi-partnership when they were dreamwalking together, but there’ve been no shared visions since Caprica got pregnant. Turns out that’s Roslin’s motivation for being so friendly: She wants to know if the baby is “important.”
Yes, of course he is, says Caprica. He’s the most important baby in the history of creation……. to me, because he’s my baby and I love him. Problem?
It’s her day for uncomfortable meetings. Ellen comes to see her as well, and she’s all He loves you so much. You’re the mother of his child! You have nothing to worry about, even though we had sex as soon as he got back and you’re naming your baby Liam, which was the name we chose for our son, not that I’m saying you’re a consolation prize, even though you are, by the way in case you didn’t hear me before we had sex, kay thaaaaanks!
That cuts Caprica deep. But when Ellen starts making threats about how very, very much the Bad Cylons will want to get their hands on Caprica’s son she steps up and warns Ellen that she needs to check herself before she wrecks herself. Ellen says that she doesn’t want to torture Tigh, so she won’t make him choose between them.
Ellen and Tigh have their confrontation, wherein Tigh says he knows Ellen hates him right now, but the Galactica needs the Baseship so he’d thank her very much not to take out her frustrations with him on the rest of the fleet. After some Tigh-style bickering Ellen reveals to the rest of the Cylons that she’s voting in favor of packing up shop and leaving the humans to their own devices. Technically that should be that, since she’s the swing vote, but Tigh refuses to go. Ellen accuses him of loving Adama, the ship, and the fleet more than anything else, including her and Caprica.
…also including his unborn child. Ellen’s argument is that the baby would be safer among Cylons. Tigh disagrees, but it’s a moot point, because that’s when Caprica miscarries.
What the holy hell is up with Ellen? Did she cause that? If so, was it intentional? She apologizes to Tigh and Caprica in sick bay, saying of course humans and Cylons should stay together. She was just angry. But she’s not sincere. Or if she is sincere, she’s sincere in that moment, but when the opportunity to do the same thing rolls around again she’ll take it without reservations. It’s Gaius Baltar Syndrome. Right before the baby dies Ellen makes it seem like she’s taking the high road, telling Caprica that Tigh loves her and they should be a family together. But it looks to me like Ellen knew the baby would die. Please tell me she’s an evil mastermind. Or at least that this isn’t the same “God! God did it! Mysteries!” routine. It’s been four seasons. I’m sick of it. If that’s the endgame, it’s a copout.
Tigh and Adama have a cry, and it’s revealed that the name of the now-dead baby, Liam, was short for William. Tigh was going to name his son after Adama. Well rip my heart out, why don’t you?
This was boring as hell. Occasionally feels-inducing, but dull.
You know who you can tend to rely on to mix things up? Baltar. And this episode gives us HIPPIE CULT WITH GUNS!
During the mutiny Baltar had a grand revelation that he should go back to the Galactica and protect his worshippers. He does the first part—see: the Baltar/Gaeta scene that broke my soul—but at some point he forgot about his pet hippies, because he’s just now decided to drop in on them and make sure they’re not dead. He must be a little ashamed that it took him so long, because he hides behind a chair and spies on them for a while.
Since Baltar ditched the hippie cult Paula, the one who never drank his Kool-Aid, has become the leader. Under her command they got some guns and were able to keep people from stealing their supplies, and now they have a huge stockpile. Needless to say, Baltar’s not as popular as he used to be. He spins some line of BS about how he stayed away so his devotees could learn to take care of themselves, but they don’t seem to buy it.
Clearly something has to be done. Baltar tags along on one the hippie cult’s trips to Dogsville and runs into a woman he used to know in the Biblical sense. She has a young son. He’s named Gaius, after his father.
Battlestar Galactica, did you just pull a Forrest Gump on me?
Baltar wants to give some of the hippie cult’s food to Li’l Gaius and his mom, not because of any philanthropic instincts, but because the mom’s right there with their starving kid and, well, it’s awkward. When the hippie cult suggests he not give their hard-earned food away to random love babies he goes into speechifying mode, framing the whole thing as WE MUST SAVE THE CHILDREN and I’M GOING TO FEED ALL OF YOU, LOOK HOW AWESOME I AM. The look he shoots Paula is two parts “You hate children and puppies, for shame” and one part “This is how you do it. Watch and learn.”
Baltar and the hippie cult return to hand out food to appreciative civilians, but things go wrong when the Sons of Ares show up and steal everything. There’s a fun moment where Baltar tells Paula and Jeanne (Baltar’s #1 devotee) to unholster their guns and defend the food, and… well, let’s just say the world’s best bodyguards they are not.
Baltar, thoroughly disgraced, hangs around around the periphery of the hippie cult headquarters watching everyone else fawn over Paula. Head Six—she’s back, yeeeeah!—prompts Baltar to give a great speech about giving and humanity and justice and WE NEED GUNS!
*cue raucous cheering from me and the hippie cult*
You go, Head Six.
Baltar visits Adama and explains that Dogsville is filled with people who have neither food nor representation. They’re also pissed and scared at the way the Cylon and human fleets are merging. If something doesn’t change there’ll be a revolution. Luckily, Baltar knows just what to do.
A few scenes later marines are giving the hippie cult guns.
I would give my left boob to know what went down in the rest of that conversation. How exactly was Adama convinced that it’d be a good idea for Baltar—Baltar, of all people!—to have an armed militia at his command. Adama gives less of a frack than it should be humanly possible to give at this point.
Let’s get this plotline started!
(Oh, and Anders’ brain waves come back and start doing la cucaracha. Tweedle deedle tweedle deedle…)
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