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Battlestar Galactica Newbie Recap: Razor Webseries, Movie
by Rebecca Pahle | 2:00 pm, October 16th, 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, Admiral Cain. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed you.
This movie introduces us to (and kills off) a new character: Lt. Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen), who was Admiral Cain’s assistant and managed to royally piss off both of the Pegasus’ subsequent Captains with her insubordinate behavior. But Lee—who during Razor has just been promoted to Captain—decides to make her his XO as a show of respect for Admiral Cain and the Pegasus’ crew.
But first let’s flash even further back to right before the Cylon attack on Caprica. Shaw’s famous politician mother died of cancer, but before she passed she managed to get her daughter a sweet gig as Cain’s assistant. Shaw starts off on the wrong foot by getting lost on the way to the CIC, and within a minute of meeting her Cain calls her out for not knowing her way around a Battlestar and for being a nepotism hire who views her job as a stepping-stone to better things. It’s sad that your mom died, she says, but do not try and use that to elicit my sympathies.
She’s not the only familiar face we see. There’s also Six, aka Gina, who’s been helping upgrade the Pegasus’ computer network. Oooooh, secret Cylon.
As Shaw is going back to her quarters the Cylons attack the shipyards where the Pegasus is being repaired. We know, but the characters don’t, that the Cylons are attacking the colonies as well. Shaw gets knocked to the ground, and it takes a slap from Cain to get her back into soldier mode. Back on the CIC everyone’s been caught completely off-guard, and Cain orders the ship to jump away lest they get nuked. With the network down there’s no way to calculate their destination—Shaw protests that they could end up in the middle of a star—but a blind jump is the only option they have left.
Back in the present day (well, the Razor version of the present day) Lee and Adama watch Shaw, now the XO, teach some newbies about assembling guns. She’s a hard taskmaster; Adama says he didn’t think it possible to find an XO meaner than Tigh, but Lee managed it. Shaw and Starbuck, who’s been appointed as the Pegasus’ CAG, aren’t getting along. Show of hands as to who’s actually surprised here?
Adama has a mission for Adama Jr.: A search and rescue op to retrieve five people, two Raptor pilots and three civilian scientists, who went out to examine the remnants of a supernova and haven’t come back. Should Lee run into Cylons engaging with them isn’t part of the mission, but it’s his call as to whether he wants to anyway.
Flashback: It’s right after the Cylon attack on Caprica, and the Pegasus has suffered heavy losses to the tune of almost a quarter of the crew. Shaw’s been working for two days straight to restore systems and figure out how the Cylons brought down their defense systems, and Cain orders her to go get some sleep. For all that Cain’s presented as a villain (kind of—I don’t believe she really is), she’s a wonderful Captain, reassuring her crewmembers, tirelessly working to protect her ship, even mourning over the bodies of her dead subordinates. She takes the time to commend Shaw for her hard work and give her some Captain-ly advice, and even if the compliment’s backhanded (“You’re not as useless as I thought.”) and the advice is just plain bad (“Always hold onto your anger.”), well, that’s just who Cain is.
By this point the Raptors that Cain sent to find out what happened on the Colonies have returned, and Cain has to break the news to her crew that the Cylons kiiiind of committed genocide against humanity and everyone they know is dead. It may seem like they have no options, Cain says, but they’re soldiers, so they’re going to do what soldiers do: War. It’ll be their lifelong duty to avenge humanity. As long as the Pegasus survives, the war the Cylons started won’t be over.
Oof. Feels. For all that Cain’s militaristic bent came off as awful during season two, she started off after the Cylon attack having literally nothing else she could do. For all she knows the couple thousand people on the Pegasus are literally the only people left. She doesn’t have civilians to protect. She doesn’t even think there are any civilians.
Cain assembles a meeting where she explains to Shaw, Fisk, Gina, and the Pegasus’ XO (I didn’t catch his name, but I’ll just call him DMW for Dead Man Walking) that, while she told the crew what they needed to hear with her graaarrrrgh, war! speech, in actuality she’s not going to risk lives or resources on a quest for revenge. The plan is a guerrilla war campaign: Hitting specific Cylon targets and then darting away into the blackness of space. Shaw and Gina (wuh-oh) worked together to find their first target: A Cylon comms relay.
Also: Admiral Cain and Gina-the-secret-Cylon are a wee bit lovey-dovey during the meeting, and Gina later confirms to Shaw that they’re together. As in together-together. Romantically. Oh my God. I love it, but this will not end well. Shaw, encouraged by the way Cain trusts Gina so much, gives her a super-secret authorization code so they can finish fixing the ship’s network in half the time.
It’s the present-day, and the rescue mission is underway. Except when Starbuck and fellow Viper pilot Showboat get to the place where the Raptors disappeared a slew of weird-looking Raiders show up. Against the advice of his XO Lee orders that the Pegasus jump back to the fleet. Shaw takes the initiative anyway and orders that the Pegasus’ guns fire on the Cylons. Problem is Starbuck’s right in the line of fire.
It all works out OK: Starbuck and Showboat make it back to the ship, and one of the Raiders Starbuck shot down ends up coming with them. Starbuck complains to Lee about Shaw being a loose cannon—oh, like you’re one to talk—and Lee tells her that Shaw probably saved her life. So Starbuck goes to yell at Shaw instead and is told not to question her orders. You won’t like me when you question my orders.
Back in flashback-land we see the dire consequences of insubordination back when Cain was in charge. The attack on the comms station is underway, and the Cylons knew the Pegasus was coming, because there are a ton more Raiders there than there should be. All the same Cain orders the attack to go ahead, even though it’ll likely result in heavy losses. DMW reminds her that engaging in a hopeless fight for the sake of revenge is exactly what she said they wouldn’t be doing and then refuses to follow her orders. So she shoots him in the head.
We heard about this story secondhand before, but it’s still shocking to see it. The transition from reasonable Captain to a revenge-hungry killer seems a bit quick. She was talking about how she didn’t want to waste people’s lives like five scenes ago. Put Admiral Cain under pressure and she’s liable to boil.
Cylons board the ship, and Shaw runs off to do… something. Whatever. The important thing is that she sees another Six walking with the Centurions and without hesitation shoots her dead and makes sure there’s a security camera pointing at the corpse. And for that I compose her a Haiku:
Kendra frakking Shaw
Badass, really knows her stuff
Shame she’s going to die
Shaw hightails it back to the CIC where Gina’s helping Cain do computer stuff. Shaw knows that Cain won’t believe her when she says Gina’s a Cylon—they didn’t even know that Cylons can look like humans before—so she asks Hoshi to pull up the security feed of the other!Six’s corpse. The jig well and firmly up, Cain orders the guards to take Gina away, but she fights back and gets a gun trained on her (now former) lover. But it’s Shaw to the rescue as she clocks Gina with the butt of her gun.
Side note: Why did the Cylons send a Six with the boarding party? Send a D’anna! Or a Boomer! Or any model that’s not already on the ship. I guess they assumed that they’d defeat the Pegasus no problem, so if Gina was discovered it didn’t matter. But the Pegasus does end up getting away safely, and because the Centurions who boarded the ship don’t get mentioned again I assume they get killed. I’m tempted to say that that the Cylons, for all they’re supposed to be geniuses, are so filled with hubris that being defeated just didn’t occur to them. I still think that’s part of it, as it definitely meshes with their characterization. But why even send Centurions to board the ship in the first place before the battle’s even over? Unless they wanted Gina to get found out, but why would they? She’s still on the inside! She can get more valuable information! Hell, if you want to expose her have her pull a Boomer and assassinate Cain.
It heartens me that this show it’s perfect, though.
Back in the present-day Adama, Lee, Tigh, and Roslin are puzzling over the wrecked Raider now chilling on the Pegasus hangar bay. It’s old. Really old. Like from-the-first-Cylon-War old. Baltar and Head Six have a completely pointless cameo, and Athena gets things back on track by recounting the Cylon legend of the Guardians, a group of obsolete Centurious who avoided being scrapped and set off to protect the first hybrid. Nowadays hybrids control the baseships, Athena explains, but the first one was just a failed attempt to make a skinjob. Some people think it’s still alive and looking for its own way to evolve.
The next part of Razor is pretty much just a shortened version of the Razor webseries, which is about Adama during the first Cylon War. So let’s take a break for that.
Young Adama is Batman. Pass it on.
Seriously. Combine young Adama actor Nico Cortez‘s looks with the gravelly Edward James Olmos voice he’s got going on, and he’s Batman.
Young Adama, call sign Husker, gets his sexy on with a Raptor pilot named Jaycie before going out on his first mission, which involves some sort of superweapon the Cylons are developing out in the arctic. He’s nervous, but Jaycie reassures him and tells him that all his training will kick in.
So when Jaycie gets half her face blown off in a Cylon ambush, well, it’s a bit unsettling for Adama. But he and his wingman Banazi go out to kick some toaster ass all the same. A Battlestar gets blown up and Adama takes off after a few rogue Raiders.
Side note: The Vipers are all bright and shiny, unlike in the show, when they’re beaten-up and grimy. Help. I’m having feels over ship paint jobs.
Adama’s Viper is hit by a Raider, so he ejects and lands in the Cylons’ super-secret lab… after a mid-air fight with a falling Centurion, that is. Aw yiss. When he lands he beats the Centurion to death with a pole and goes off exploring.
Where are the Cylons? WHERE ARE THEY?!
Adama finds a lab filled with surgical equipment and, ew, dismembered limbs, plus an early version of the Cylon resurrection tank. Adama dips his hands in the resurrection goo and looks around to see screaming humans being operated on by Cylons. A hand reaches out from the tank and grabs him—and all at once the Cylons and humans in the gruesome scene before him disappear. It was all a hallucination.
Adama finds a room of humans kidnapped by the Cylons from a trading vessel. Through a crack in the door one of them says the Cylons are picking them off one by one, experimenting on them. The ship starts to take off, and the prisoner tells Adama, who’s unable to get the door open, that he has to leave them behind so someone can tell people what happened to them.
Adama gets safely outside and radios back to the Galactica… only to be told that the war’s over. Just like that. A sudden armistice has been signed.
We flash to two days before the Cylon attack on Caprica, when the Galactica is preparing to be decommissioned. Doral—at this point just a squirrelly PR agent as far as anyone knows—tells Adama that his son will be leading the ceremony. It’s a shame about the Galactica, he says, but it’s about time—her war is long over. Adama, gazing at an old Centurion in a display case, says he guesses so.
I prefer this webseries to the last one, if only because Razor adds some intriguing information to BSG‘s overall mythology. Like how the Cylons have been able to induce hallucinations in humans for a long damn time, since even before they were skinjobs. I really hope they explain what the deal is with all these hallucinations people keep having (Leoben, Head Six, Head Baltar), because I’m on tenterhooks here.
And speaking of the skinjobs: Even when the Cylons signed an armistice, they never wanted peace! They just wanted to invent skinjobs, and when Adama happened upon their experiments they noped right out of there and continued to work in private using the tools (read: people) they’d already gathered. Knowing the Cylons never intended on playing nice is a pretty irrelevant detail in the scheme of things—they sure don’t intend to play nice now—but I really love that it was included.
And now, back to the movie:
So, basically, the first hybrid was the thing the Centurions got away with at the end of the webseries, and now they’ve captured some more humans to experiment on. Seeing as Adama’s personally invested and all he’ll set up camp on the Pegasus while Lee, who’s still in charge, tries the rescue mission again. Only this time they have to send a team into an actual Cylon Basestar to rescue the captured humans while the Pegasus is off to the side drawing enemy fire. It’s a plan that Shaw came up with, but there’s some question as to whether she’s trustworthy ’cause of a little thing that happened on a ship called the Scylla. Shaw says she’ll resign if Lee asks her to, but he doesn’t, because quitting would be the easy way out.
Flashback: It’s the aftermath of the attack on the comms station and the Pegasus has taken heavy losses. Cain clearly regrets wasting so much life on a tactically insignificant victory, but Shaw argues that it’s not insignificant because it put the Cylons on notice. Anyway, she says, it’s my fault we lost so many people, since I gave Gina my access codes.
Far from blowing up at her, Cain tells Shaw that she trusted the Cylon, too. Lieutenant Thorne comes in all ready to interrogate their prisoner, and Cain tells him to be as “creative”—read: sadistic—as he needs to be.
It’s then that a civilian fleet shows up. Far from being happy that they’re not all that’s left of humanity, Cain orders Fisk, Shaw, and a group of marines to board the ships and take whatever people and supplies they need, leaving everyone else behind to be picked off by the Cylons. Fisk clearly isn’t OK with the plan, but after what happened to his predecessor he’s not willing to say anything, and neither is anyone else on the CIC. The civilians refuse to cooperate, and when Fisk calls Cain to ask what to do she says to shoot the families of the people who won’t go with them.
Like Cain shooting her XO, what happens on the Scylla is something we heard about in season two: Fisk and the marines do end up shooting everyone who’s not of military value. Actually seeing how things go down, though, we get a better idea of what drove Cain to give the order. She just found out that there was a Cylon agent on the Pegasus. Who’s to say there aren’t more of them on the civilian ships? And Gina wasn’t some random co-worker: Gain trusted her, maybe even loved her. They’d been romantically involved for months. Cain clearly has personal feelings of anger and betrayal mixed in with the part of her brain that makes tactical decisions. That isn’t to say she made the right call with the Scylla, but it’s much more complicated than “this person is evil and doesn’t value human life.”
Shaw’s been affected by what went down on the Scylla ever since. Earlier in the episode we saw her inject herself with some drug, and now she goes to do it again. But Starbuck, who’s snuck into the kitchen for a few sips of forbidden alcohol, catches her at it. They agree to keep each other’s secrets, which works out for Shaw, since her secret’s way worse than the CAG stealing some booze. What Shaw also gets out the deal is the begrudging… not respect of, but interest of Starbuck, who now knows that Shaw has some issues of her own and isn’t some perfect soldier.
We flash back to Cain promoting Shaw to the rank of Captain in the aftermath of the Scylla. Shaw doesn’t think she deserves it, but Cain gives her a pep-talk… well, the Cain version of one, saying that sometimes you have to leave people behind so you can continue to fight.
And then we get a glimpse of Cain’s backstory: During the first Cylon war she, her father, and her little sister were in a city being attacked by Cylons. Papa Cain got injured and told his older daughter, the Cain we know, to leave him behind and protect her younger sister. But then the younger sister got injured, too, and instead of staying behind to help her Cain ran away to save herself. A Centurion found her hiding place, and she was all ready to take that toaster down with a razor she found on the ground… but then the war ended and all the Centurions left, taking Cain’s little sister with them. That’s brutal, man.
Cain explains to Shaw that sometimes people have to do things they don’t think they’re capable of. They have to make themselves into a razor with no fear or regrets. In the present day Shaw gives that same advice to Starbuck, who shoots it down with a Nah. My mom was all about anger too, but she held onto it for so long that she drove everyone away and died alone. Fear and anger are two sides of the same coin. You have to let go of both.
I love the interaction between Shaw and Starbuck, because they’re so similar. They’re headstrong and no-BS, even when it gets them in trouble with their higher-ups. Heck, Cain was even shaping Starbuck to be a new protégé, and the ‘buck really seemed to admire Cain in that small amount of time that they knew each other. Shaw’s a bit like what Starbuck could have been had things gone differently.
Starbuck, Shaw, and some other Pegasus peeps pile into a Raptor with a nuclear weapon go embark on their rescue mission. Shaw actually utters the words “Maybe this’ll be easier than we thought.” She actually says that. Way to jinx things for yourself, lady.
And sure enough, after the rescue team gets onto the Cylon Basestar everything goes to hell. They find two humans who’re being experimented on, but then Centurions show up and one of the rescue team is killed and two more, including Shaw, get wounded. Plus the nuclear bomb, which they were going to detonate remotely on the Basestar once they got out, is FUBAR.
To make matters worse, communications have been jammed. Lee assumes the entire rescue team is dead and is all ready to nuke the Basestar with one of his own missiles. The rescue mission is over, he says, but we still have to destroy the ship, because it might be heading to Earth. Gods only know what’ll happen to any prisoners the Centurions have managed to capture..
I do know, Adama responds. I was there.
Lee orders a nuclear strike, but Adama belays the order and says that if he’s wrong about the rescue team being alive, if they’ve missed their chance to destroy this Cylon Basestar, then he’ll live with that himself, thank you very much. It’s right then that the communications come back and Starbuck calls the Pegasus to ask, hey, you’re coming to rescue us, right? I love the momentary shame on Lee’s face when she calls. “No one tell my best friend I almost blew her up, OK? Pinky swear?”
The problem with the rescue team’s broken nuke is solved by Shaw saying she’ll stay behind and detonate it manually. Well, it’s less her saying she will than Lee giving Starbuck the order to sacrifice herself only for Shaw to hold a gun on her and say that she’ll be the one to do it. After the rest of the team is safely away Shaw goes to see the first hybrid, which we’ve seen a few times spouting cryptic nonsense that’s still a bit less nonsensical than what comes from the other hybrid we’ve seen.
The hybrid tells Shaw that he’s been waiting for her a long time and asks if she wants to be forgiven. In a flashback we see exactly what she wants to be forgiven for: On the Scylla she fired the first shot, shooting an unarmed civilian straight through the forehead and setting off the massacre. Having lured Shaw in with the promise of redemption, the hybrid grabs her wrist and tells her that Starbuck is a harbinger of death and will lead the human race to its end.
And then—oh, I love this moment so much—Shaw gets on the radio and tries to warn Lee about what the hybrid said. She’s seconds from death. She’s wounded and scared and emotionally frakked up. She’s young and she’s been through so much, and still in her final moments she gets a piece of intel and thinks, hey, maybe my commanding officer should know about this. She doesn’t give up or think she can just relax even though she has every excuse to do either of those things. She’s a soldier ’til the end.
Only the communications choose that exact moment to conveniently cut out and Shaw can’t deliver her message. With nothing left to do, she blows up the hybrid, the ship, and herself.
Back on the Pegasus Lee is summoned by Adama, who tells his son that Starbuck recommended Shaw for a posthumous commendation. Lee’s a bit iffy because of what Shaw’s done in the past, but for Adama that’s not relevant. Cain—and Shaw—did some awful things, but from a tactical point of view there was nothing wrong with any of them. Cain didn’t have her own Roslin to balance out her decision-making and fight on behalf of the civilians. She didn’t have a Tigh to keep her honest, or a kid to make her want to be a better person. In the absence of a higher power—which Adama doesn’t believe in—history will decide if Cain and her followers were monsters.
Afterwards Lee goes to talk to Starbuck, who’s appropriated Shaw’s old razor, and asks her why she thinks Shaw stayed behind. Starbuck doesn’t know but says that maybe Shaw thought she had a lot to answer for. She then says that she’s asked to be reassigned to the Galactica, because the commanding officer of the Pegasus keeps trying to get her killed. I was expecting this to turn into some big dramatic thing, and it didn’t—they just laugh and jokingly insult each other. Lee seems to completely understand Starbuck wanting to serve under a different Captain. I miss this friendship. I miss it so much. I hope we get it back in season four. I’m sorry I ever shipped these two.
The episode ends with Starbuck sarcastically reminding Lee that she has a destiny and he’ll be stuck with her to the end.
Which, if Starbuck brings about the end, he very well may be.
Next week: The season four premiere.
In an effort to avoid spoilers, comments on this post have been locked. However, Jill and Susana will be reading comments over at our Facebook page, so if there’s anything you’d like to say in response to this post head on over that way. Former Battlestar Galactica Newbie Recaps can be found here, and next week’s recap is here. Have a (non-spoilery, for the love of God) comment? Hit me up on Twitter.