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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Battlestar Galactica: Precipice (S3/E2)

by JASmius

Rating: **

Written by: Ron Moore
Directed by: Sergio Gezzan

When Commander (Lee) Adama, CO of the battlestar Pegasus, first appeared on my TV screen, I was impressed with how much more of him there was than the last time I saw him. It was almost like looking in my own mirror. This is a guy who has, shall we say, “let himself go” something awful. Which can’t be all that thrilling for Mrs. Adama, who thought she was marrying a stud warrior and ended up with a pudgy couch potato instead.

But then it’s not like the Galactica and Pegasus have had much to do these last four months. Why, I’m not sure. As I recall, there were three Cylon base ships that jumped into the New Caprica system. I would have expected at least one of them to be dispatched to pursue the fleeing “ragtag fleet” and eliminate any possibility of subsequent counterattack and rescue. That’s what the classic Cylons would have done; the idea apparently never occurred to their twenty-first century counterparts.

On the other hand, I’m not sure what the Adamas have been doing ever since other than, in #1 son’s case, sitting around working on his beer belly. It took them, or rather the admiral, that long to make up his mind to go back and attempt a rescue mission? (Which, come to think of it, is also a suicide mission, or should be, but obviously won’t) What’s the elder Adama been doing, feeling sorry for himself? Drinking his way through Tigh’s private reserve? Wanking furiously to the Tricia Helfer poster he keeps secreted in his quarters?

Well, okay, that’s probably not entirely fair. The thing that contrives the latest conflict between father and son is the repeated battle drills ordered by the former that irritate the frak out of the latter because, so Lee rationalizes, any attempt at rescuing New Caprica will be suicide. Which, of course, would be spot-on accurate in the real world, but here is just an excuse for the Pegasus CO not to get off his fat, and ever spreading, ass.

The real motivations are that Lee has “lost his edge,” and, let’s face it, has all his needs being met right where he is with food (and plenty of it, by the looks of him) and nookie (from a doubtless increasingly revolted Dualla) right at hand. Why endanger that on a fool’s errand that can’t possibly succeed? Whereas his father can’t live with the notion of leaving another Human colony behind again at the Cylons’ mercy.

This familial impasse leaves the admiral with nobody to turn to for commiseration except….Boomer v. 2.0, whose initial “misdirecting” of a Raptor to New Caprica in the first place seems to have been completely and conveniently forgotten. Except here, of course.

Enough with the table-setting. Let’s cut to the chase.

A “hidden” Raptor dispatched by Admiral Adama to “observe” New Caprica finally makes contact with the insurgent leaders. No, I don’t know why this would take four months, nor why the Cylons wouldn’t be perforce jamming every frequency to prevent just such a clandestine communication. Or where the insurgents got all that computer hardware including flat-screen monitors or where they’re getting their power from or how the Cylons wouldn’t detect it or…. Never mind. Point is, if Tigh and his two goofball lieutenants had had the presence of mind to build a failsafe into their “detonate me, Duck” device, a rescue mission might remotely, conceivably, possibly have been barely, infinitesimally possible. After the demolition of the NCP commencement, the Cylons start clamping down with a vengeance.

This, of course, is its own dramatic pretzel. We still have no idea how Caprica Six and Boomer v. 1.0 were able to flip the entire Cylon race over to their allegedly (and comparatively) pacifist way of thinking so quickly, nor how the notion of Human and Cylon going their separate ways in peace translated into the Cylons conquering New Caprica. Surely even the most starry-eyed idealist – Cylon, anyway – could not have seriously supposed that Humans would docilely submit to permanent captivity and inexorable cultural annihilation. Realization of such was the foundation of the Cylons’ original genocidal mission.

Only thing I can think is that Six and Boomer didn’t flip their fellow “skin jobs” but rather negotiated a compromise – conquest rather than annihilation in order to give the two “heroes of the Cylon” a chance to test their new philosophy of “peaceful coexistence” to a literally captive audience. That does make some sense; unfortunately we’re not given a hint of it in the dialogue, other than in the most implicit sense of growing dissension within the ranks of the Cylon leadership.

At any rate, the escalation begins, as the Cylons have their Human collaborators – oh, sorry, the NCP – round up hundreds of “suspected insurgents” at random as a message to the insurgent leadership who, naturally, all evade the dragnet. Included in this sweep is Cally, Tyrol’s wife, but not their newborn son, Nicholas, whom Tyrol finds bawling in his crib when he returns to their tent. I guess "now, it’s personal", right?

Not to Tigh, who refuses to stop the suicide bombing campaign even over the objections of Laura Roslin, who has no authority to dispute anything with the one-eyed sailor but doggedly tries to do so anyway. Like any civilian, she fears the escalation and believes that nothing will come of it except the eventual extermination of the remaining Human colonists. In the real world, she’d be right, but this is fiction, and the story demands that the Cylons keep their escalation gradual and piecemeal, so Tigh’s rejection of her objection carries the day.

Sure enough, after another suicide bomber blows up a power substation, the Cylons force President Baltar at gunpoint to sign a death warrant for the random execution of two hundred Humans. Interestingly, Baltar refuses at first – before the gun is put to his head – and hesitates even after it is while Imaginary Six gives him the “live to fight another day” speech, which is so lame even Baltar doesn’t buy it since he never has fought the Cylons to begin with.

I found it odd that the Doral model that was holding the gun resorted to high-decibel verbal badgering to bully Baltar rather than letting the gun do his talking – as it did when he shot Caprica Six (Baltar’s current bedmate, don’t forget) right between her baby blues when she tried to intercede on the prez’s behalf. But then Baltar looks down at the document and sees his signature there, almost as if it wrote itself without his knowledge. Clearly even Baltar’s self-serving nature is not, after all, bottomless, and some breaking point is approaching. Frankly it’s the only remotely interesting story track animating the current tired saga.

Speaking of squared circles, Leobin Conoy finally makes progress in his subversion of Starbuck via the most insidious gambit imaginable – a little hybrid girl named Kacey, born of Conoy’s and Starbuck’s “genetic material,” the latter of which was obtained back on Old Caprica in “The Farm”.  Or so Conoy tells her, anyway.

Conoy attempting to romantically win over Kara is creepy enough, but this is REALLY creepy. And at first the Galactica CAG doesn’t buy it. But Conoy doesn’t argue; he simply departs, leaving the little girl in Starbuck’s charge. Still Kara doesn’t soften, until, after having left the living room, she hears a thud. Looking around, she finds little Kacey face-down, unconscious, blood pooling around her head, apparently having fallen off the staircase.

As you might expect, Kara’s maternal instinct starts kicking in. Or at least her sense of decency. Whatever Conoy and his toaster cohorts have done to her and her people, little Kacey isn’t responsible for any of it. In many of the same ways she’s as much as victim of Cylon tyranny as Kara is. She certainly can’t help existing or being what she is, and Kara’s battle with Conoy has nothing to do with her.

Only, of course, it does. Little Kacey is as much a weapon as a gun or a cannon or a raider or a nuke or a base ship. But in order to fight that weapon Starbuck would have to treat Kacey just like a Cylon gun or cannon or nuke or raider or base ship. And this she cannot do, just as Conoy calculated.

By the end of the ep not only has Kara bonded with her unasked-for daughter, but she’s not even aware of Conoy starting to feel her up at Kacey’s bedside. Brrrr; made my skin crawl, it did.

It probably needs pointing out that Hera, the first Cylon-Human hybrid, is still being concealed from the Cylons as if she was still one-of-a-kind. Which, I guess, she is so far as the insurgents know. With the introduction of Kacey, that raises the question of what disposition will be made of both little half-breeds. Perhaps if this series runs long enough, they’ll both grow up to be the BG equivalent of Neo and Agent Smith, super-beings, one good, one evil, upon whose battle the fate of two entire races will turn.

Or maybe we’ll be flooded with star-children by the end of season three. Does Ron Moore even know at this point?

The ep’s ending crescendo builds as, at an undisclosed location in deep space, Admiral Adama bestows an officer’s commission on Boomer v. 2.0 and dispatches a team under her command to New Caprica to coordinate the rescue with the insurgents; compromises with his son by agreeing to let the Pegasus and the civilian fleet resume the search for Earth while he takes the Galactica back to try and rescue the New Caprica colony (guaranteeing that Lee will come to his pop’s rescue at the Last Possible Moment [tm] – Hey, maybe this will be how they get rid of the Pegasus); while, back on the ground, the Cylons prepare to execute their two hundred “insurgents,” including Cally Tyrol, Laura Roslin, and Tom Zarek.

The execution scene is vintage infamy and misdirection. Infamy in that a Cavil model orders the truck convoy halted so that the prisoners can “[compress] their legs,” only to have a line of centurions come clanking up the embankment, weapons at the ready. Misdirection in that one of the NCPers, having raging second thoughts about his collaboration, frees Cally and tells her to “run and don’t look back.” Which she doesn’t, as her ears catch the cavalcade of fire that we imagine is mowing down the Human prisoners, but which we never actually see.

There’s a reason for that, explained most explicitly by Mary McDonnell’s continued presence in the opening credits. Unless, of course, she’s actually a Cylon, too.

Oops, did I give away the next swerve? Gods, I hope not.

Next: The “Exodus” commences.

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