Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

Galactica spoilers follow. Big ones. Huge ones. Mutant spoilers created in labs by psychotic scientists to take over the world and force everyone to find out Bruce Willis is already dead. You have been warned...


Right then, that's the contractual warning out of the way. Let's get to business. Today's burning question: how do you make the reveal of the Final Cylon the least interesting part of an episode?

I guess some of last night's installment can be forgiven due to the writers' strike forcing them to film the first script written. I choose to believe that's why so much of it was stupidly heavy-handed (the fist-fight Adama ignores as he walks the halls was particularly ridiculous). The somewhat unpolished dialogue can be swallowed for the same reason.

But, still, c'mon: Ellen? Who the Hell cares about Ellen? She's been dead for more than a year, and aside from her actions on New Caprica, she did nothing of any interest whatsoever for all the time she was still alive. The way she got under Tigh's skin was cool, but that's because Tigh is cool. He was interesting when he was addicted to booze, and interesting when he was addicted to a screeching harridan of a woman. Making Ellen the last Cylon model, at this point at least, is no more interesting than it turning out to have been a bottle of Jim Bean.

Having said all that, I suspect the problem isn't in the specific reveal, so much as that the writers had painted themselves into a corner. I can't think of a single character in the series that could have turned out to be a skin-job and it not be a case of "Huh, whatever." The only possible exception I can think of would be Starbuck, but the same qualities that make her a plausible choice totally rob it of any dramatic impact (finding your own dead body; now that's dramatic).

So, yeah, colour me underwhelmed at the reveal we've been waiting for all this time. On the other hand, there was a lot of awesome stuff in the rest of the episode. It was both the right choice and a very, very brave one to have an entire episode dedicated to watching everyone fall to pieces because Earth turns out to be an irradiated Cylon summer camp (a far more interesting development than the Ellen reveal). It was particularly gut-wrenching following Dee around in her final hours. Moore has stated that her raptor flight from Earth back to the fleet was the exact moment at which she decided to kill herself. What shines through all the tragedy is that she spent what she knew were her last hours making sure Lee could carry on, making sure he could bring hope to the Quorum, even though she'd completely run out of it herself. I suspected something was up when she was so heavily featured in the episode (the writers seemed to entirely forget about her this season), but I sort of love the idea that the most optimistic and steady member of the extended cast was slowly bleeding out hope all this time, and no-one noticed. It's horrible, but it makes a twisted sense.

Speaking of making twisted sense, a lot of people have commented that they didn't buy Adama's attempt to have Tigh shoot him, arguing that it was against character. These people are wrong, for three reasons. Firstly, Adama is traditionally a man who responds to a hopeless situation by getting himself killed right in the middle of it. This is a man who was prepared to fight to the death to defend the Twelve Colonies after they'd been nuked, and the entire fleet was lost. This is a man who took a single Battlestar to liberate a planet under massive Cylon guard. When things look bleak, and the only option is to give up and slink away, Adama tends to want to just go in guns blazing until either hope returns, or he's dead.

Secondly, it's pretty easy to make the argument that Adama doesn't know what he's doing in Tigh's quarters. He's drunk, he's miserable, and both the woman he loves and his only surviving family member are wrapped up in their own grief, for Earth and prophecy and for a wife, respectively. All he has left is Tigh, his oldest friend, who is also a machine built by the enemy. He needs someone to vent to, someone who can take the pain away one way or another, and Saul is his only choice. It's just as possible that Adama's arrival a the XO's quarters is just a desperate, drunken cry for help. Bill is a deeply proud man, and it's not at all surprising that such an attempt to seek solace would come out as a vitriolic attack and demand to be shot.

Finally, and most importantly, let's go back to Roslin for a moment. Back in Sine Qua Non, Adama stepped into and launched a raptor whilst the rest of the fleet headed on. He made it very clear that there were only two resolutions to having lost Roslin (and half the air wing) that he would entertain. Either Roslin would return alive, or he would asphyxiate and die. The whole point of that episode (as revealed by the title) was that Adama wasn't prepared to live having lost Roslin.

The best line from The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the central premise to that entire trilogy, is this: "How do you hurt a man who has lost everything? You give him back something broken." That's where Adama is now. His only reason for living was Roslin and hope she represented. And now, she's broken. She won't talk to him, or let him touch her. She's lost the hope that Adama relied upon. She made him believe in Earth, and believe in her, and the first turned out to be a lie and the second she's now rescinded. Meanwhile one daughter-figure may or may not be a Cylon, the other has just blown her brains out, and his oldest friend and confidant turns out to have been the enemy all along (and the last time that happened, he got two bullets in the chest and ended up with a scar the size of a baguette).

He finally confessed to his sine qua non, got her back, and then lost her again, along with his hope for the future. This time, a Raptor isn't going to cut it. That gave him an out, a condition under which he could survive, and want to survive. This time, it's pretty much going to have to be a bullet.


Kim said...

I too was underwhelmed with the Ellen reveal. But then who else could it be and not look lame (The main cylon cast outnumbers the main human?). Also the Dee thing was pretty obvious; she said the 'previously on BSG' line. If you aren't a main cast member this tends to mean something interesting is about to happen to you, like dying. (Also if your name moves from supporting cast to 'special guest star').

Starbuck going all Luke/Vader on her own body was pretty damn cool. Now all I'm looking forward to is poor little Gaeta going mad and doing something mutinous/murderous/idealistic/vengeful.

jamie said...

I actually didn't see Dee killing herself coming at all, but exactly because of the myriad reasons Kim has mentioned. I instead feared the writers might have actually gone completely insane and that Dee would turn out to be the Final Cylon, which would of course be an explanation for her featuring so heavily all of a sudden. Thus the suicide, when it happened, blew me away. The way it was done was almost exactly the same trick they pulled with Cally (lost all hope, then Tory offered her hand and we thought everything was all right, then *BAM* - right in the gut...), but it's to the writers' and director's credit that it fooled me a second time.

I agree that the Ellen revelation was somewhat of an anticlimax, but it makes sense in a twisted sort of BSG way; that this abusive love/hate relationship between two monumentally f*cked up individuals being an (presumably) eternally recurring cycle of lust and bile. And I, for one, am very glad they got it out of the way as quickly as possible so we can just sit back and concentrate on the far more interesting questions that beg, nay, demand answers.

And Squid is right; the choice of direction for this episode was incredibly brave and followed through to its logical conclusion; this was probably the darkest chapter we've ever witnessed on the show, and seeing the absolute evaporation of hope amongst so many of the characters who have come through so much was deeply affecting.

One thing that annoyed me, after the fact really, was the perfunctory way that Number 3 has left the show; apparently this really was Lawless' step off the merry-go-round, with barely a couple of lines to justify it. I think her character deserved somewhat more.

Kim said...

I agree on the number 3 thing too. I understand busy episodes mean parts get cut, but c'mon, 3 lines for 3? The cylon who spent the last year or so obsessed with the final 5 doesn't want to stick around and find out a few more answers?

Or maybe she wants to wait for cavill to get to Earth, join his team and go back to guiltlessly killing herself/other people.

Gooder said...

I actually liked how they handlled the reveal of Ellen as the fifth. It was understated which I thought was great after all the hype around it. I also think it would have been worse had it been another of the major characters, Ellen I think fits well.

It should also make for some interesting stuff later down the road (in particular with Cavil and Tigh's history)

As for the Adama thing, I do think it was slightly out of character. Yes he did try to take the battlestar to certain destruction at the beginging but that's about fighting not giving up.

Yes he did wait for Roslin, but I'd argue that was different again. He'd realeasied he was risking the fleet for her and so decided so he could let go he'd wait only and put the risk only on himself.

Both of those I'd argue are very different to giving up to the extent you are suicidal. The man is a leader and we constantly see and hear how much a part of him that is. How much he won't abandon others.

Nor would accept him being unaware of it, of it being an impluse thing. Off all the ways and people he choose his best friend. Still even it was a bit out of characer he did pull it together and start briging people together then again at the end.

Gooder said...

Please be advised Our Front Room is also once again alive with BSG updates with Lost, Sarah Conner, Supernatural etc to follow.

jamie said...

But Gooder, surely the point is that it wasn't as simple as Adama 'giving up' - he didn't just shoot himself, he actively tried to goad Tigh into a fight. He never makes it easy for himself, he always 'rolls the hard six', how is that just giving up?

I think it was perfectly in character, considering the loss of his sine qua non, as Squid pointed out. Roslin was his rock, but his rock had crumbled; where else was there to go but out? Again, combined with the amount he had apparently drunk, I think this exemplifies his character perfectly.

You've contradicted yourself by saying that he won't abandon others; what else was he doing when he took the raptor to wait for Roslin, but abandoning his entire fleet? Yes, he was trying not to give up on Roslin and give her a chance to get back, which paid off, but ultimately there was a very good chance that he would never see or lead Galactica again. I'd say that was a prime case of abandonment. Yes, he was showing an immense amount of loyalty to one individual, but surely a greater leader would, objectively, realise that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few; in this case, the one (with apologies to Leonard Nimoy).

You could argue, with perfect validity, that in that case he was actually objectively removing himself from command having realised he had become a liability and was unwilling to risk the fleet because of that; but then you could say exactly the same about his state of mind in 'Sometimes a Great Notion' - I'd say loss of all hope to be a pretty powerful reason to consider oneself unfit for command, and to consider the course of action that he did.

Of course, Tigh pulled him back to his feet and made him realise that such a loss would be even more detrimental to the fleet's well-being, which I believe is probably the only reason that he's carrying on.

SpaceSquid said...

Trying to fight at the Colonies: suicide by Cylon. Trying to fight at New Caprica: suicide by Cylon. Handing Tigh a gun and telling him how he could smell the guy's dead slut-wife in heat? Not as different as all that.

Gooder said...

Well at he colonies he didn't know until told that it was over before it began. Plus I still argue there's a world of difference between wanting to fight and activily being suicidal.

I don't see how the new Caprica thing was suicidal. It was risky, but there was a plan and intel on enemy strength from the resistence. Not suicidal at all.

Giving someone a loaded gun and goading them until they snap is suicidal.

I just didn't think he would be the type to seriously consider suicide. I know a lot of things were pretty sh**ty at the time but if anything with him I'd think that Roslin's state of mind would make him want to be by her side to help her through rather than just giving up and abandoning her.

It just seemed wrong to me.

jamie said...

Even when Roslin had essentially rejected that help? And bear in mind he was also having to deal himself with the destruction of the dream that Roslin had made him believe, not to mention Dee's death. How many more deeply traumatic events do you want to hit Adama with before you accept that he might consider suicide? Dee topping herself came as far more of a surprise to me than Adama trying to do the same.

As for the wrongness of it; it is wrong. People considering suicide (and/or carrying it out) is not a good thing, generally speaking. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen with a horrible regularity, usually to the shock and surprise of many close friends and relatives.

Gooder said...

Jamie, I'm referring to Adama's cohice as that character when I say it seemed wrong not suicide the act itself.

Nor do I think he would give up on Roslin after one attempt.

jamie said...

But that's my point - just because it seems wrong to you for Adama to make this attempt, doesn't make it unrealistic or out-of-character. Many people who have committed suicide have been seen as acting out of character by people who have known them intimately.

In this case the combination of circumstances makes it eminently believable IMO. Especially as the actual attempt takes place whilst he is thoroughly inebriated and very recently bereaved, quite apart from all the other stress and trauma that has recently been suffered by Adama and those he loves (including finding out that his best friend is a cylon).

I don't think he has given up on Roslin after one attempt. Other events have overtaken that situation, and the despair he feels at Dee's death has pushed him to the edge. Roslin's current status is a factor in his state of mind, but I don't think it's the trigger for the act he tries to carry out.

Senior Spielbergo said...

So is it just me who thinks Earth is some kind of Resurrection planet? So far everyone know who has dies on it (either through flashbacks or through crashing there) has come back to life. All but one as a Cylon (and hell she could be as well you know). Some kind of immortality thing gone horribly wrong? Maybe Dee will return...