Sunday, November 19, 2006

Battlestar Galactica - 'Hero' (3x08)

I read the basic description of this episode online a couple of days ago, and instantly my expectations declined. The long lost friend returns storyline is in the same family as the lost lost sibling returns bit I discussed yesterday in my review of Rescue Me. And it always feels off when they try to retroactively insert said character into the show's continuity. This episode wasn't as bad as I feared, but it didn't transcend the premise.

The weird thing about BSG is how it often feels like multiple different shows. During the dark times of season two, all we got was the Lee show, about a heroic soldier fighting to save people despite his personal issues. I'm not a fan of that show, nor am I a fan of the military procedural that many episodes fall into. Scenes in the CIC are rarely memorable and I really hope we never see another botched Viper training mission. I'm generally indifferent towards this stuff, but when the show focuses on the cylon ship, or Sharon's troubles aboard Galactica, it's riveting. The New Caprica storyline worked so well because it cut out the fat of the boring procedural stuff and made every single moment of each episode into something exciting. But, now we're back to the divided structure, and that means that each episode is less satisfying.

Now, I do think this standalone story was well done. I was caught up in what was happening and all the emotional beats worked. The best part was the glimpse at the fleet pre-cylon invasion. Because the Galactica is all we've seen, it's tough to get a feel for how retro this technology is. But, seeing the Valkyrie brought things into contrast, that was a much nicer ship. And it was interesting to explore the mindset of pre-invasion humanity, tiptoeing around the sleeping giant that is the cylon fleet.

However, these good bits don't make up for the fact that this isn't particularly unique or compelling subject matter. The show has done stuff that's so much better, it's a bit disappointing to resort to a tired cliche like this. And, the cylons' plan relies a lot on coincidence. It's one of those things that makes sense as it unfolds, but retroactively is pretty questionable. Maybe they just got tired of keeping him on board so they decided to give this a go.

I do like the comment the show made about military heroism, the fact that every soldier has to do awful things, but they must leave this behind and present a heroic front for the public to believe in. However, I take issue with Adama's resignation attempt, which was way too melodramatic. And, combined with last week, we're getting into a pattern where the show threatens to disrupt the status quo, then Roslin and Adama get together to make this problem go away and return everything to normal. Consequences are the stuff that serial drama is made of, we need some more on the show.

While this took up the vast majority of the episode, it was all eclipsed by the thoroughly bizarre and fantastic storyline on the cylon ship. D'Anna's first dream had me pondering "What the fuck?" and the wakeup into an apparent threesome with Baltar and Six did not stop that pondering. I'm unclear what exactly was real, but I take it that was and it's a fascinating development out of last week's stuff. I get the feeling there was more sex in there, but it was deleted. It's notable that she seeks Gaius's love, but he remains curled up with Six. She is still outside of that.

When she dies, I believe she returns to the space that Gaius and Six were at in the first season finale. IIRC, the music in that scene was the same as we hear here. If that is the same place, that would imply that head six hails from the place that exists between cylon life and death. This would further the idea that she is a messenger from God, or at least from the cylon God.

Beyond the plot stuff, these scenes were some of the most exciting filmmaking I've ever seen on television. The dissolves and disorienting subjectivity are near avant garde in their devotion to pure emotion and image over narrative comprehensibility. Inland Empire is the only thing I've seen this year that matches the craziness of the cylon ship sequences.

I really hope there's more of this storyline next episode. With no lines for Baltar, Six or Sharon this week, the show's definitely at a disadvantage. I just wish Ron Moore could better see where the show's strengths lie. Olmos may be a great actor, and maybe this was the attempt to give him an Emmy episode, but forget about that, this was a tired plot and even well done, it didn't feel fresh. I believe it's a week off next week, but I'm excited to see what the show will be up to when it returns, hopefully not more standalone.

No comments: