Sunday, March 13, 2016

Battlestar Galactica: Hero (S3/E8)

by JASmius

Rating: * (out of four)

Written by: David Eick
Directed By: Michael Rymer

There haven’t been many “filler” episodes of Battlestar Galactica. That’s most of why it is considered one of the hottest dramas on television and a cross-genre phenomenon. But “Hero” was definitely one of the few, if not also the proud.

The gist of what there is of the plot is that a former pilot of Adama’s on the battlestar he commanded before Galactica – Lieutenant Daniel “Bulldog” Novacek - who was lost on a covert mission suddenly shows up right in the middle of the fleet in a captured Cylon raider. The catch is how this pilot was lost on that covert mission – a deep dark secret of Adama’s that he never thought would ever surface and which he is desperate to keep from surfacing now, for fear of what this pilot might do.

Sounds like a good character piece on the admiral at least, right? Well, not nearly as much as you might have been expecting. Unfortunately, the problems with the story began considerably before we arrived at that disheartening realization.

Such as his arrival in the first scene in the captured Cylon raider. His craft was being pursued by two other raiders who had abysmal aim, even at point-blank range, something it takes two-thirds of the hour for anybody – Starbuck, as it turned out – to notice. The conclusion is drawn that the Cylons wanted Bulldog to find the ragtag fleet.

A puzzlement the plot doesn’t bother addressing is how Novacek knew where the fleet was. How did he find it? Did the Cylons shepherd him there in the process of pretending to try to blow him out of the stars?

The question of why the Cylons wanted to send Bulldog “home” is ostensibly answered, after a tediously laborious process, by Adama’s tearful confession of his greatest “sin.”

It doesn’t come out all at once. From the SciFi synopsis:

Novacek and Adama tell [President] Roslin that they conducted a mission together about a year before the Cylons attacked the Colonies. While investigating illegal mining near the Cylon armistice line, Novacek was shot down by the miners. Adama gave him up for dead, but Novacek ejected and was picked up by the Cylons. For three years, they held him in a cell aboard a baseship, but he finally escaped, stole a Raider, and fled to the human fleet.

Roslin doesn’t buy it. Adama assures her it’s the truth and tells her to “trust him.” Kind of like the way that Roslin once told him to trust her with his other little secret about there being no Earth. Serves him right for trying to BS a politician.

#1 son Lee turns out to be the confidant the admiral suddenly needs for his guilty conscience and out-of-character tears:

The admiralty actually ordered Adama to spy on the Cylons, not on renegade miners. While he observed aboard the battlestar Valkyrie, Novacek, his best pilot, flew a small stealth ship over the armistice line to hunt for evidence of Cylon military preparations. There, an unknown vessel attacked Novacek. As more mystery spacecraft circled in for the kill, Adama ordered Novacek's ship destroyed by a missile to cover up the spy mission. Having endured guilt about that decision for years, now he must face the additional fact that, despite his actions, the Cylons discovered and captured Novacek. Indeed, Adama now believes that this failed spy mission provoked the Cylons' massive attack on the Colonies.

Well. Mayhap it did and mayhap it didn’t. Hell, maybe “Bulldog” is one of the five Cylon humanoid models we haven’t seen yet. Maybe the “mystery” ships were alien in origin. Hard to understand why the Valkryie couldn’t have identified Cylon vessels from that close of a range. Harder still to believe that the Cylon’s massive ambush, into which decades of planning and “evolving” and covert infiltration obviously went, could have been triggered by one border incursion only three years before. But hardest of all to believe is that the Cylons would have known that it was Adama who would end up leading the human survivors of the attack they hadn’t yet launched, and therefore kept Novacek alive all that time to send him back to his CO in the hopes that he might find out what Adama did to him – something the Cylons themselves couldn’t have known - and take his revenge.

I don’t mean to be, well, mean, but isn’t this an awfully thin, cooked-spaghetti-strength reed on which to lean a Cylon attack angle? Didn’t they already try an assassination plot against Adama with Boomer a season and a half ago? And, for the umpteenth time, if they knew where the fleet was to send Bulldog back to it, why didn’t they just jump in half a dozen base ships and finish the whole kit & kaboodle off and be done with it?

Speaking of out-of-character behavior, while Adama the father is confessing to Adama the son, Colonel Tigh – you know, the admiral’s best friend, his comrade-in-arms, his bosom companion for all these years, but who also happens to have been present on the Valkrie when Adama ordered Bulldog “splashed” and still has a bug up his ass from his New Caprica experience and Adama’s rebuking him for it – helpfully, almost gleefully spills the whole thing to Novacek. Who has the reaction that you might expect, and perhaps for which the Cylons subliminally conditioned him: he finds Adama and beats the holy frak out of him.

Probably would have killed him, too, but for the ludicrously timely, and howlingly implausible, intervention of that same one-eyed jack, who launches into an incoherent lecture about how Novacek isn’t the only one to be betrayed by Adama and yet Tigh hasn’t gone after the miserable bastard with a wrench, and if Tigh can refrain from killing the old man then so can he.

Would have been funny if Novacek had thoughtfully considered Tigh’s words for a few moments, then turned and beat the crap out of him as well, since he was right there with Adama and didn’t try to stop him from blasting Bulldog to hell with that missile. Or at the very least went back to Tigh’s quarters and gotten hammered with him. So what does Adama do? Puts Bulldog back on flight status.

I don’t know who that should make more nervous – Novacek or the old man. It’s a mark of how empty this ep was that I doubt either of them, or any of us, will remember the question even to the mid-season hiatus.

Next: Blood, semen, Apollo, and Starbuck – just the four things we didn’t need.

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