Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: 'Lay Down Your Burdens' (2x19 & 2x20)

In my last review, I talked about how the show had never really developed any new plots after it resolved the stuff from season one in the big two parter, Home. This is a large part of the problems in the second chunk of season two, there was no direction to the show and most of the characters didn't have much to do. Now, it would have been possible to reinvigorate things by creating new character complications, however there was a sense that the premise as was had basically exhausted itself. It's telling that the only great episode in the season so far was the cylon episode, which had barely anything aboard the Galactica.

The season finale's first part opens with an overture sequence that recalls that fantastic start of Kobol's Last Gleaming. Talking about the first 100 minutes of this 135 minute two parter is a bit weird at this point, what you take away from it has very little to do with the vast majority of the events that occur.

I did like Sharon going on the mission to get the soldiers back from Caprica. For me, Sharon is by far the most sympathetic character on the series, this is someone who's constantly helping these people and still getting no respect. What more can she do to make them trust her? At this point, if she does betray them, it's not going to be because of some hidden cylon agenda, it's going to be because they treated her like shit for so long. If the storyline was done in reverse and a human prisoner was treated this way by the cylons, we'd be waiting for her to betray them.

At this point in the series, I feel like there's no inherent good and evil in the human/cylon relationship. As we've seen more the cylon world, it's become clear that there is division in their ranks, and they're recognizing that what they did to the humans was misguided. Plus, I just find the cylon world to be fascinating and on the whole, they're much more interesting characters.

The supposed moral authorities of the series are Laura and Adama, however the election plot just makes me like Laura even less. It's ridiculous for her to put the two Dean Stockwells out the airlock, even if he is working against the humans, this isn't a machine, it's a person with a unique personality, and killing him is just as bad as the cylons. Her constant opposition to Sharon, particularly the cruel taking of her child makes her an easily dislikable character, and attempting to steal the election only reinforces that. This is someone who's become corrupt in her power and awfully misguided.

This is a case where I feel like my emotional reading of the piece is not what the creators intended. Listening to the commentary, they indicated that the dilemma was supposed to be whether Laura does the honest thing or the thing that will ultimately help people. However, I don't see it like that at all. For one, considering these people have been trapped on their ships, on the run for a long time, it's perfectly logical to suggest settling on a planet, particularly when their ultimate destination is something that's only mentioned in ancient scriptures. They could be going for years and still not find Earth, so is it so absurd for Baltar to suggest moving to the planet?

I find Baltar's brand of moral ambiguity much more interesting than Laura's because the show treats him as a roguish character, while Laura is still held up as a paragon of virtue. Yes, he may inadvertantly lead to the destruction of Cloud Nine, and he may not be an ideal president, but your average person probably has a better life on New Caprica than they would if they were stuck on the ship still.

There were two really great scenes in the first chunk of part two. One was Lee's awkward walk in on Cara and Anders. This scene was a lot of fun for the fact that Cara was so oblivious to Lee's feelings, she was just totally lost in her moment. I also liked the gender reversal here, having her so possessive of a guy who is just on the show to be her boyfriend. You usually don't get to see relationships where the female character is both our point of view character and the one totally in control of the relationship.

The other great scene was the intercutting of Baltar and Gina's sex with his swearing in as president. It was really well shot, with a nice music cue and a great build to the nuclear explosion. I would have loved to have seen some more scenes with Gina during the weak part of the season, there was a ton of issues they could have covered with her, and considering her major role in the climax of the season, it would have been a wise choice to give her a bit more screen time.

So, from there we go to the great leap forward. I had heard there was some kind of shocking revelation that would change everything, and this was pretty surprising and certainly a smart creative choice for the next season. I love the initial jump forward, revealing Baltar's portrait and his harem of female admirers.

This time shift opens up a lot of creative possibilities and most of the rest of the episode is about revealing how things have changed for the main characters. The whole thing, from the meteor hitting the camera on, is full of throwbacks to the miniseries.

I guess the biggest issue I have with the end is the way the cylons are portrayed. In Downloaded, we're led to believe that the 'cylon heroes' will be changing cylon society and possibly seeking peace with the humans. Here, we find out that the cylons have abandoned Caprica and aren't going to fight anymore, so what is it that prompts them to return to go after the humans again? And what is it that prompts the 'cylon heroes' to decide to conquer New Caprica? I hope this is actually dealt with and not just written off as the cylons being bad.

There's a lot of potential with the new setup, the most interesting interactions on the show are those that takes place in the border between cylon and human society, and we'll be getting a lot more of that with everyone on one planet now. I think one of the big problems with the second chunk of season two was the fact that we no longer had the Caprica story, so we lost track of the cylons plan. Now, cylons and humans are inextricably linked.

What I hope we'll get is Six and Baltar reuninted, and Baltar working with her to try to find peace between the two races. Plus, we could get a bit of a love triangle with Sharon, the Chief and Callie. Plus, the cylon baby is still in play.

On the whole, I'd say it was a very smart choice, but not one that guarantees success. Alias did a similar jump at the end of season two and totally botched the follow up, leading to the series' decline. However, I feel like Battlestar has a stronger hand behind it, and we should get a strong rebirth with the third season.

Related Posts
Battlestar Galactica (2x04-2x07) (3/26/2006)
Battlestar Galactica (2x08-2x10) (5/19/2006)
Battlestar Galactica: 'Downloaded' (2x18) (6/7/2006)


Anonymous said...

Hi! In S02E19 from 1:40 there's a soft guitar music in the bacground. What's the name of this track?

Anonymous said...

It's called "Something Dark Is Coming" by Bear McReary off of the season 2 soundtrack

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