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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Battlestar Galactica: Exodus II (S3/E4)

by JASmius



Rating: *** (out of four)

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


As you can no doubt tell from my review to this point, I have not been on board with this whole New Caprica angle since the beginning. As a student (admittedly amateur, but dedicated nonetheless) of history, I have learned a number of things, not least of which is that mass stupidity is rarely excused, much less rewarded. The rash, emotional, and profoundly foolish (one might even say "populist") decision of the fleet to throw out Roslin and follow after Baltar into yet another Cylon trap frankly deserved to end the brief coda that followed the genocide of humanity. And surely one would not expect the Cylons to simply let go of their idiot conquest so easily and in such incompetent disarray.

Yet that is precisely what happens in the conclusion.

At the sound of the first explosions, the Cylon leaders rush to the windows of Colonial One and look out on a city that is bursting into flame. Outside, human civilians race for their designated evacuation points as Anders, Tyrol and Tigh lead the insurgents into battle. Anders assaults the detention center while Tyrol and Tigh fight toward the shipyard. For her part, Laura Roslin guides a small group to reclaim her old home, Colonial One.

What is left out of that account is that Cylon raiders are incessantly flying overhead in every which direction without so much as firing at shot. And where are the frakking centurions, for gods’ sake? How can a handful of “insurgents” break into the detention center and other prison installations without getting overwhelmed by superior enemy firepower? It’s like a few explosions send the Cylons into complete confusion and paralysis – even demoralization. And yet, even at a moment in which Caprica Six and Sharon are completely discredited and the impetus for wiping out New Caprica is never stronger, mankind’s synthetic overlords continued to dawdle.

As did Starbuck after her hubby, Anders, was in the process of saving her. Seems she wakes up while in his fireman’s carry (perhaps from the fond memory of a similar configuration from their honeymoon), escapes and flees back to Conoy’s apartment to retrieve Kacey, only to fall back into his hands again – and this time his romantic spell.

Realizing that time is no longer on his side, Conoy – who beat her unconscious earlier – demands that she tell him the magic words he wants to hear: “I love you.” To be followed, no doubt, by a physical demonstration. And indeed, a long, pointy object is inserted into flesh as the couple’s lips grind steamily together; it just happens to be Kara’s trusty steak knife, jammed gratingly between Conoy’s ribs. And then, and only then, does Anders reappear again from wherever it was he’d disappeared to to escort his wife and ostensible step-daughter to the safety that for some really unlikely reason is still accessible.

If all the Great Escape nonsense had been confined to the planet’s surface, I’d have balked at the entire under-scripted, mis-written, impossible mess. Fortunately and blessedly for this story, the battle that took place above the clouds of New Caprica provided “Exodus” all the drama, realism, and gravitas that was so grievously missing elsewhere.

As previously discussed, though Admiral Adama was determined to do everything in his power to rescue his people, #1 son was right – this was almost certainly a one-way trip. One obsolete, decrepit battlestar couldn’t hope to hold off two or three Cylon base ships long enough for the civilian ships on the surface to escape, even if by some miracle they all had their launch keys and were ready to lift off. Wave after wave of Cylon raiders would tear them apart before they even got off the ground, and the Galactica would quickly join them in oblivion. The mission was suicide. Could. Not. Work.

Not that Adama didn’t have a maximally clever strategy. Jumping into the cover of the surrounding nebula, Galactica launched drones that mimiced the sensor signature of two battlestars, convincing the Cylons in orbit that both Galactica and Pegasus had jumped into orbit on the opposite side of New Caprica and drawing away all their raider squadrons. The Admiral followed up this misdirection with a jump into the planet’s lower atmosphere, where the battlestar plummeted toward the surface like an anchor but had time to launch its Viper squadrons in order to provide air support for the civilian ships’ escape. The sight of the flaming Galactica hurtling toward the ground right over the “insurgents’” heads and then jumping again mere seconds before impact was an awesome special effect and a tremendous act of daring and legerdemain that, in Klingon terms, is definitely worthy of story and song.

Unfortunately even exceedingly clever strategy and intrepidity of execution have their limits when swamped by sheer numbers. Though the civilian ships were getting away, the damage to Galactica was too much to avoid the four base ships that, doubtless in some degree of rage, quickly find and surround her and proceed to blast her to pieces.

After temporary XO Karl “Helo” Agathon provides the Admiral a damage report, Adama asks him about the FTL drive. Helo slowly and wordlessly shakes his head and looks down. The look on Adama’s face and the accompanying musical score say it all and sell it better than any dialogue: the sinking realization that, as he then simply intones, “Then that’s it.” They can’t fight and they can’t escape. They’re done for.

The Galactica hangs dead in space, burning, wracked by explosions, pounded by the base ships and swarmed by raiders, as the camera pans slowly back and the mournful music builds to a crescendo….

….until devastating salvos streak into the frame and smash into the nearest base ship, blowing it apart violently. Commander Lee Adama and the battlestar Pegasus have arrived to save the day!

His dad’s reaction is so in character it had me cheering: first, “Damn you, Lee!” (for disobeying orders) quickly followed by, “Thank you, Lee” (for saving Galactica’s ass).

It does come at the cost of that of his own ship, though. As I predicted last week Apollo did indeed come to his pop’s rescue at the Last Possible Moment [tm] and this was, indeed, how they got rid of the Pegasus. Lee, knowing that this was going to be a one-way mission for one of the battlestars, sacrifices his own ship to save his dad’s and clinch the “second Exodus.”

Even expecting this, knowing it was coming, the Pegasus’ end was still spectacular and haunting. Swarmed and besieged and aflame as the Galactica was just moments earlier, Pegasus hangs in the fight until her sister battlestar can jump away. Evidently her own FTL drive was offline and irreparable, and Apollo couldn’t expect a rescue like he’d just given his father. So he sets a collision course and he and his skeleton crew abandon ship and jump away in several Raptors, but not before stopping, looking around the bridge, and with a taciturn profundity very similar to his dad’s, says simply, “Thank you.”

Pegasus slowly, even gracefully, and with a poignant nobility, plows into one of the remaining trio of Cylon base ships, blowing apart both of them. And in a neat bit of aim, the starboard launch bay sails by the camera, with the scarred and pitted name “PEGASUS” front & center, and smashes into the third of the four base ships, destroying it as well. Not a bad haul for the cost.

But there still was a cost, and I think that was profoundly important for the story to show. On the surface there didn’t seem to be much cost at all to a fight that should literally never have been able to get off the ground. In orbit we saw the material cost.

The episode’s epilogue showed some of the Human cost that had heretofore been ignored.

As the rescued Galactica crew disembark, and the Agethons are joyously reunited, Starbuck emerges with little Kacey on her hip, only to have a sobbing woman run up to her, take the little girl out of her hands, and tearfully thank the CAG for saving her little girl. Yes, that’s right, Conoy lied to her. Kacey was not the laboratory offspring of Kara and her Cylon tormentor, but simply a human child that the Cylons had seized in order for Conoy to pull off the ultimate mind game. My visceral reaction? “That shit sonofabitch.” Starbuck’s face radiated that and so much more – confusion, humiliation, loss, grief, frustration. This one’s going to take a looooong time to get over for the one-time hot-shot, bravado-drenched, top gun pilot.

Her soul-mate in misery was, ironically enough, Colonel Tigh. We’ve seen the physical toll that the Cylon occupation took on the hard-bitten Galactica XO. But there never seemed to be a psychological impact, other perhaps than escalating callousness and viciousness as the insurgency was forced to resort to ever more heinous tactics to survive and hold on until rescue could come.

That changed forever when Anders discovers that the Cylon ambush that almost took out himself and Sharon’s team from the Galactica came from Ellen Tigh’s passing of a map Anders had provided the Colonel to the Cylons, which is found on a dead “skinjob”. In order to save her husband from further torture or worse (as the Cavil model had warned her), Ellen had betrayed her own people – and, ultimately, Saul as well.

Tigh’s wife had become a deadly liability to the insurgency – one they could no longer tolerate. That liability had to be eliminated – permanently. And it fell to Tigh himself to carry it out.

All the gruff, embittered rhetoric about “doing whatever it takes” came home to Saul Tigh in that moment. And to his credit, he wasn’t a hypocrite; he did what had to be done, and wept disconsolately over Ellen’s corpse after it was over.

When Tigh stepped onto the Galactica’s flight deck and into Adama’s heartfelt salute, his old friend says, “You did it. You brought ‘em home, Saul.” Tigh replies with ill-repressed sorrow, “Not all of them,” and Adama knows he means Ellen.

A chant of “Adama, Adama” rises up, and the rescued lift their deliverer on their shoulders like a conquering hero, while in the background his shattered subordinates – Starbuck, Tigh, and Lee and Anastasia Adama – are left on the proverbial shore, as the Admiral looks back at them with concern at the knowledge that while the second Exodus suffered impossibly few deaths, there is much damage that will not be amenable to any cure speedier than the passage of time.

Meanwhile, back on New Caprica, D’Anna Biers finds Hera Agathon beneath the corpse of her foster mother. The prophecy of the Human pagan “oracle” having been literally fulfilled, she abandons her task to nuke the remains of the Human settlement.

And then there’s President Baltar, still the prisoner of the Cylons that he’s really been ever since the original Armageddon, who is “invited” to join them. His might be the most classically tragic fate of them all. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving fellow.

So…has the “reset button” been pressed? Superficially, perhaps. The fleet is back together and once again searching for Earth; it’s under the protection of just the Galactica once more; and the Cylons have resumed shadowing them across the cosmos.

But there are plenty of unresolved issues; what does Apollo do now that he’s a Commander without a ship? Will Starbuck ever be in a frame of mind to get back in the cockpit? How will her traumatic experience affect her marriage to Sam Anders? If Tigh thought he had reason to drink like a fish before, what on, well, Earth will he do now? And what will happen to the “ragtag fleet” now that they’re led by President Tom Zarek?


Next: The inevitable score-settling with collaborators – with an official seal of approval.

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