Sunday, March 26, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: 2x04-2x07

These episodes resolve most of the plot strands from the first season cliffhangers, and more importantly, give us a bunch of new information on what the cylons are up to. After the slightly lackluster first couple of episodes, this chunk represents a return to form, with some of the best stuff the show's ever done.

My favorite stuff from the first two episodes was the happenings down on Caprica, as Starbuck and Helo encounter a new band of survivors. I was wondering what happened to all of the people who didn't make it off the planet, but survived the nuclear explosion and we find out here. All the humans on the planet are being mercilessly hunted, and the fact that cylons can look like humans mean that they're suspicious of everyone on the planet. This works in the cylons' favor because it means that the humans are likely to kill each other, not trusting any survivors.

In some ways, it was a bit cheesy to all of a sudden stumble across a whole bunch of survivors, but I think it worked, and Starbuck's relationship with Anders really went over for me. Lee is still something of a non-entity for me, even as Starbuck is becoming an increasingly developed and interesting character. In the two episodes that he appeared, Anders proved himself a worthy foil for Starbuck, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when Starbuck returns to Caprica to get him back.

"The Farm" saw the series again return to classic X-Files mythology territory, and it's the best episode other than the first season finale. I always love the prison that messes with your mind setup, and right from the beginning, I was thinking, and actually hoping, that Starbuck was at a cylon hospital. The first few episodes gave us no new information about the world of the cylons, but luckily this episode gives us a whole bunch.

The episode worked because it put Starbuck, a character who keeps her emotions closed and is dependent on always being in control of things, in a situation where she's got no control. She's physically weak, which means that even though she's suspicious there's nothing she can do to investigate. It's interesting that the cylons chose to attempt to break her down emotionally, creating the story about Anders' death. I'm not sure if it was an attempt to keep her weak, or rather a way to flatter her, saying that she's so strong that she survived where he died. Or it might just have been a ploy to keep her from asking to see him.

The birthing chamber wasn't as visually impressive as similar stuff from The X-Files, but I love the basic concept, and it confirms the idea that the cylons are trying to create hybrids. I love this kind of stuff, and I'm really interested in seeing more of the cylons' world and their plans as things progress. The end of this episode, where Sharon returns in one of the troop carriers and saves them was a great emotional moment, though there's still a lot of questions about where she went and why she chose now to return.

I suppose that ties into the overall cylon plan. I was under the impression that cylons could conceive children, the whole point of Helo's storyline in the first season seemed to be that they were using him to inseminate Sharon and create the hybrid. So, I'm not sure if the cylons had tried and failed to conceive before, and the success with Sharon was attributed to love because this was the first one that worked, or if this is some sort of miracle, that a being that shouldn't be capable of having children is having one.

Similarly, the events here raise a lot of issues about how the human cylons are grown in the first place. If they came up with twelve models, couldn't they just make more of those and populate the world that way? However, it seems that they're stuck at the twelve they've made and the only way to make new ones is to make cylon/human hybrids. If the cylon women are capable of having children, then I'm not sure why the cylon men wouldn't also have the necessary equipment to do so. If they did, then what's the need for the whole birthing room setup?

Regardless, this episode, and subsequent stuff with Six and Baltar, seems to make clear that the cylons' ultimate agenda is to make a human/cylon hybrid, to use the humans as hosts to help their own race grow. So, was the attack actually a ploy to throw the humans into chaos and then use that chaos as a way to capture subjects for their research testing? That would imply that they had gotten as far as they could building their own models and they needed to get some new raw material. I'm thinking it's possible that the birth of these twelve humanoid cylons may have been some kind of miracle. That would explain why they aren't able to just make new models on their own, and also why they have such strong religious faith. It's like these ones that now exist have been given a mission from God, and they will do whatever has to be done to let his will be done.

Back on Galactica, I really liked the Civil War arc. The arc with Thai's botched command worked really well because it played off the characters' basic insecurities. He's a classic second in command, adept at enforcing Adama's decisions, but not so good at making his own. He makes some bad choices, but considering it was Adama who chose to arrest the president in the first place, would he have done anything different if he had been in command at the time? When Adama wakes up, he sees his own flaws in the way Thai ran the ship, his own stubbornness and as a result, lets go of his pride and decides to reconcicle. Of course, a lot of this is motivated by the fact that his son had betrayed him, and if they were to let the other ships break, it could very well mean never seeing his son again. So, his speech at the end of "Home Part I" about bringing the family back together has a clear double meaning, the question is which family was the reason for his action.

"Home" was a reallly strong episode, notable for the fact that it brings nearly all the core characters together for the first time in a long while. I love the Sharon/Helo relationship because it gets to the core of the issue with the humanoid cylons, if they can be so well programmed as to completely believe that they are human, then what's the difference between us? Belief can be more powerful than actuality, as Adama makes clear when the chief says he thought he love Sharon, and Adama says that's all love is, a thought. Helo and Sharon clearly love each other, so why should it matter if she was born synthetically, is there that big a line between Sharon and something like in vitro fertilization? That's the lingering question, because we don't know how much the cylons are like humans. Other than the red glowing spine, they seem to be identical to humans.

Anyway, the episode also raises a lot of issues about the shared memories between cylons of the same model. This Sharon remembers the things that original Sharon went through, even if she hasn't experienced them herself. This sets us up for a bizarre love triangle with Helo, Sharon and the Chief. In so many ways, this Sharon is the exact same person as the Chief was in love with, but where does he fit in now that she's with Helo. Lot of issues, and I'm really looking forward to seeing them played out.

Other than this stuff, we get a lot of interesting developments on the religion front. Roslin is playing increasingly on these prophesies, and the experience at the Tomb of Athena would seem to give creedence to everything that she's been saying. They apparently have found the way to Earth, but the issue now is when the show is taking place in relation to our history. If they do eventually make it to Earth is it going to be in our present, which would probably be goofy, or is it going to be some kind of creation myth, where they land in the past and drop the information that will lead to the creation of our society. It would be interesting to see things go in a meta route and have them land in our world and find that their existence is being chronicled on a show called Battlestar Galactica.

That would play off the connection to the 70s show. With the emphasis on the cyclical nature of history, they seem to be acknowledging the existence of that show, and I'm not sure if it's that going to play into further developments.

The other major development on the religious front is getting the cylon perspective on humans. I didn't catch it before, but the cylons are monotheists, while the humans are polytheists. The humans are also closely tied to Greek and Roman polytheist culture, which would position the cylons as the next stage of development. If they are positioning the humans as polytheists, the arc of the show would eventually lead to all of them being converted to the cylons' faith, which is perhaps what the hybrid is about.

Concurrent with the stuff on the planet, we've got an interesting story for Baltar and Six. They haven't done that much this season, so seeing some actual change in Home was interesting. I loved how they played on the characters' image by having her all of a sudden dressed like a suburban mom, forcing Baltar to question everything that he's been believing.

Now, the x-ray doesn't necessarily mean that Baltar doesn't have a chip, but I'm assuming if they went to the trouble of doing the storyline, they're not going to all of a sudden say it's an x-ray proof chip. So, is Six really an angel of God? I'm not really sure, but it throws everything into question. Things have been manuvered to the situation where Baltar will deliver the first hybrid child, fulfilling God's will and ushering in a new age.

So, things are really interesting right now. I'm a little disappointed that the civil war storyline was resolved so quickly, there was a lot more potential there, but other than that, everything's great right now. I'm guessing that the new conflict will be whether to go off in search of Earth or to go back to Caprica and bring back survivors. Hopefully, the DVD set of the second half of season two will be out soon, I want to get caught up before I come across any big spoilers.

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