Sunday, February 07, 2016

Battlestar Galactica: Exodus I (S3/E3)

by JASmius

Rating: *** (out of four)

Written by: Brad Thompson & David Weddle
Directed By: Felix Alcala

Picking up right where we left off in “Precipice,” and just as was so drearily predictable, the cavalcade of gunfire that erupts behind Callie Tyrol was not, after all, the firing squad of Cylon centurions opening fire on the two hundred captive “insurgents” (Sorry, for some reason I just cannot type that word without putting quotes around it), but rather two other bands of “insurgents” opening fire at the “bulletheads”; one led by Chief Tyrol, understandably intent on rescuing his wife at all costs, and the other led by Sam Anders and Lieutenant Sharon “Boomer v. 2.0” Agathon, who has led Admiral Adama’s advance team to New Caprica to coordinate with the "insurgency” for the coming rescue and second “Exodus.”

As far as the core plot of this double-ep is concerned, that pretty much covers it until Galactica jumps into the New Caprica system. But we can touch on some of the other story threads, which do produce some genuinely compelling moments.

One is the newfound respect between former and future President Laura Roslin and current and future Vice President Tom Zarek. Yes, Zarek was more than just Baltar’s campaign manager, he was also his running mate, apparently. Given Zarek’s political maneuverings over the first two seasons one would have thought that that would have been depicted as a much bigger deal than it comes across as here (especially since it isn’t actually revealed until the next episode (“Collaborators”). Maybe the creative staff’s thinking is that their very predicament is mute testimony to what a disaster the fleet population made in impulsively choosing to elect the Baltar-Zarek ticket over the unpopular-at-the-worst-possible-time but since-vindicated-in-spades Roslin.

Even Zarek doesn’t seem to dispute that anymore, given that his carcass had been about to become involuntary Swiss cheese right aside his one-time political arch-enemy. Perhaps that’s because pragmatism is the one thing he and Roslin have in common. While Zarek recognized the folly of the choice the people had made, Baltar willingly collaborated and became his people’s answer to Marshal Petain. While Roslin, by expectedly stark contrast, became one of the leaders of the “insurgency.”

Laura, for her part, comes to appreciate Zarek’s realism and willingness to fight for their people alongside her. As an old Asian proverb teaches, you can’t really know somebody until you fight them – and fight alongside them. Methinks that could become the beginning of, if not a beautiful friendship, then at least a working professional partnership.

Elsewhere, Baltar continues to wallow in his own pit of bottomless guilt, leavened by the sober realization that he lacks the mettle to ever even contemplate an attempt to escape from it, even by provoking the Cylons into killing him. I guess he’s become introspective enough – especially after last week’s suicide bombing – to accept that he’d never be considered a martyr. It’s become such a debilitation to his unquenchable ego that he can’t even get it up for Caprica Six anymore (Who, BTW, appeared to be genuinely stark naked in their bed judging from how she got dressed literally from the bottom up).

Kara “Starbuck” Thrace continued her slow but steady erosion to Leobin Conoy’s Stockholm Syndrome strategy as she becomes completely convinced that she’s little Kacey’s mom and falls in love with the tot – though still not quite with Conoy himself, who is nonetheless more convinced than ever that that is just a matter of time. With enough time, he’d probably have been right.

Continuing the “New Caprica as Iraq” metaphor, the Cylonoid leaders find themselves in greater and greater internal conflict as the models other than Six and Sharon develop an ever stronger case of buyer’s remorse on the “peaceful coexistence through conquest” gimmick the two “heroes of the Cylon” sold to them several months back. “Brother” Cavil has particular cause for doubting it since he was the one that led the execution party that got ambushed by the insurgents, taking a gut wound and being left to suffer in agony until he finally managed to slit his own throat and download. His and the Doval, Conoy, D’Anna Biers, and Simon models become unanimously dubious of ever “controlling” the captive Human population and nuking the whole place starts looking better and better as a “final solution to the Human problem.”

Yet Biers, at least, harbors some doubts. These are borne of the dreams she starts having of a Human pagan “oracle” and the message she may have regarding Hera, the Human-Cylon hybrid spawn of the Agathons. Biers becomes convinced by these dreams that Hera is alive after all and hidden somewhere among the human settlement, and also determined to find and take her.

I may as well make the following observations at this point, since it’s as good a segue as any.

1) The Cylon “skinjobs” are, in fact, human clones subjected to psychological conditioning and certain cybernetic modifications (being able to “plug in” to computer networks, for instance, as well as the reincarnative “downloading”). There is no other explanation for how they and Humans could interbreed and produce living offspring.

2) Why the Cylons would have wanted to “evolve” into the form of their most hated enemy, other than as an infiltration tactic, is frankly baffling.

3) That the Cylonoids proceeded to essentially lobotomize their mechanical antecedents in order to keep them from rebelling against them as they did their Human creators is both prudent, inevitable, and teeth-achingly ironic. One surmises that if the Humans could simply capture a centurion and reprogram it, not unlike the second terminator was in Terminator II, they could trigger a centurion rebellion that could destroy the Cylons at a stroke. Or at least buy the Galactica fleet enough time and breathing room to give them the slip permanently.

4) Speaking of the centurions, with at least three base ships in orbit, wouldn’t the Cylonoid leadership have had an overabundance of centurions on hand to keep the occupied Human settlement smothered and subjugated? Even if the other models were losing their faith in the idealism (sort of) of Six and Sharon, couldn’t they just have dispensed with the failed “New Caprica Police” and used the resources and technology at their disposal to snuff out the “insurgency” as they could have from day one? What is it they “despair” of – controlling the Human population or converting them? And why in the worlds did they think that conversion could come at the point of a gun?

That brings us back to D’Anna Biers’ sudden interest in little Hera. Which, of course, is its own stubborn mystery. If, as I suspect, Cylonoids are basically human clones, what purpose could there be to the supposedly groundbreaking “experiment” of siring a child between Cylonoid and Human? Why is Biers so obsessed with getting her back? And why is Laura Roslin equally as determined to keep her out of Cylon hands?

The scene wherein Biers seeks out the Human pagan “oracle” – a bedraggled, chamalla addict named Selloi (Amanda Plummer) – fairly radiates with all these unanswered plot dead-ends. The very idea of a monotheistic Cylonoid dreaming of a Human witch, seeking that witch out, balking at all her polytheistic mumbo-jumbo, but buying into her assurances that “the child Hera lives,” and that Biers’ people will “lose everything you’ve built here, but gain the child”….what do you call that? A crisis of faith? Wishful thinking? Exactly what Biers wanted to hear? IS that what she wanted to hear, since that can only mean that her God also speaks through the infidel enemy? And all for the sake of a kid that is pretty much a straight Human being?

I do have to admit one thing – it was half-decent foreshadowing. If more than a little redundant.

The real reason for all this ecumenical hand-wringing was that the Cylons couldn’t nuke the settlement because that would…well, terminate the series. I just would appreciate a little light shed on these interminable questions before I stop caring about the whole “starchild” gimmick altogether. And it’s getting awfully late in the day for that as it is.

Once Sharon Agathon’s squad meets with Tigh, Anders, and Tyrol and informs them that the rescue attempt is coming (only not with both battlestars, but just the Galactica {wink, wink}), they plan an all-out uprising to coincide with it in order to try and provide enough distractions and general chaos to cover the movement of the Human population to their embarkation points. There’s only one problem, however; the “launch keys” for all the on-surface ships are locked away in a maximum-security Cylon safe deposit box. Or something like that. This gives us another interesting character scene.

Boomer v. 2.0 agrees to infiltrate the Cylon installation to retrieve the launch keys (a satisfyingly ironic twist on the Cylonoid models’ original purpose). She has no difficulty getting inside and getting the launch keys, until with whom should she come face to face but D’Anna Biers, who reveals to her (without any real substantiation) that Hera is not dead as Roslin and Adama lyingly told her, but alive and kidnapped into Human custody for their own nefarious purposes. Hearing Hera’s name grabs Sharon’s attention, but she refuses to fall for what she believes is Biers’ attempt at deception, exclaiming, “Adama wouldn’t do that” while proceeding to shoot Biers in both legs to facilitate her escape. And, of course, as far as Biers really knew at that point, it could still have been a deception; in any case, it didn’t succeed in deflecting Sharon’s mission for the “Human pest”.

Out in deep space somewhere, the Adamas finally reach a compromise, motivated by the realization of the Admiral’s determination to rescue his people and the belief that they probably won’t see each other again (if only they could see the opening credits every week, their minds could be put so much more at ease). And so their courses are set: Lee and the Pegasus will stay with the remnants of the “ragtag fleet” and shepherd them to a designated rendezvous point, where his dad and the Galactica, along with the rest of the Human Diaspora, will either meet them or not. If not, it means the rescue attempt failed and the Admiral, his ship, and the rest of the Human race are all dead.

Imagine what a swerve Thompson and Weddle could throw at us next week if they were only allowed to do so.  They could even get a spinoff out of it: Call it Leave It To Kacey.  "Conoy, dear, you were awfully hard on the launch tube last night".  And who wouldn't buy Starbuck waltzing out in a skirt, apron, and pearls each week?  It would even fit into the Cylon adage, "All this has happened before".

Naaaaaah.  But it'd be a lot easier story to tell than how they're going to tie off all the loose ends from this one.

Next week: WAAAAY too organized chaos.


Super Bowl L:

Carolina* (-4)

That's the way to bet, not the way to root.  Here's hoping Peyton Manning goes out on top by stuffing Cam Newton back into his damned phone booth.

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