Saturday, November 04, 2006

Battlestar Galactica - 'Torn' (3x06)

I was definitely premature in claiming that it was all going to be downhill from New Caprica. I still think last week's episode was underwhelming, but this week, Galactica dropped another phenomenal hour, one that came pretty close to matching the heights of New Caprica, but in a totally different way. If nothing else, this episode demonstrates the show's versatility. After the brutally real world New Caprica stuff, we move back into sci-fi territory, and the creation of an entirely other social system on the cylon ship.

The most unique thing about this show is the cylons, and it was great to see them get the spotlight more than ever before in this episode. Downloaded gave us some insight into cylon culture, but was primarily from the perspective of outsiders, malcontents within the system. Now, we are experiencing total immersion in their culture and it's fascinating to watch. Baltar's always been an outsider within the human fleet and I think it was a great choice to put him over with the cylons.

Visually, those sequences were fantastic. The dissolves and dreamlogic cutting created an immersive mood, conveying Baltar's difficulty in comprehending what's going on around him. I love the design of the ship, those colored lights are gorgeous. The hybrid was another visual highlight, a mix of technology and organic material, perfectly encapsulating the essence of the cylons. I like the idea that they can build their own reality on the blank slate of the basestar walls. So, when Sharon was doing Tai Chi, she wasn't in a blank room, she was probably in a vast forest, totally at peace. The scene may still have been a bit gratuitous, but I'm not complaining.

I'm wondering how this vision of the basestar matches with what we saw back in the first season finale, when Sharon went to a very organic looking port and saw many naked clones of herself. I'm assuming there's a more organic part of the ship, and the part we're seeing in this episode is the command center. The port that Baltar went into on the diseased baseship seemed to have more in common with the ship that Sharon went to. But, that's still ambiguous. Maybe Sharon went to some kind of birthing ship.

That scene where Baltar went to the diseased ship was a fantastic bit of horror. The device there may be some kind of mythological weapon, and if the humans find it, that would be their ultimate way to defeat the cylons. If they did acquire it, it would radically alter the power dynamic of the series to date. I feel like the series should eventually build to peace between the cylons and the humans, but with no strict endpoint set, we're not likely to get there soon.

And back on Galactica, stuff has picked up too. The training accident has happened way too many times, but after that we get some more interesting character stuff. Tigh has really lost it, and I'm curious to see how his arc resolves itself. Right now it looks like he can only spin further out of control into total meltdown. I don't know of anything that would bring him back, as he says when he leaves Adama.

However, Starbuck is trying to resolve her issues and return to her old self. The first scene with her and Kasey is pretty harsh. At the end, it's clear that she's still not totally back. However, unlike Tigh, she's going to make an attempt.

The ending here sets us up for the presumed confrontation between the humans and the disabled cylons. Will this only wind up messing up Baltar's status in the cylon world even more? Again, in this episode, the fact that the cylons and Baltar are such interesting characters screws with the human good/cylon bad dichotomy. I think part of that's intentional, but I find my reactions more slanted towards the cylons than I think was intended. They're just such great characters, I want to see more. Much like Spike in Buffy, the fact that they're so good makes it easy to gloss over their more morally objectable actions. As a viewer, I have a disconnect between my anger that Tigh and Kara were so abused and my total support for the cylons whenever they're on.

This issue was most prominent in season two, where the show was clearly saying Baltar would be a bad president and his plan to settle on New Caprica will lead to catastrophe, but the fact that he's a more compelling character than Roslin meant I was really mad when she tried to steal the election, and happy that Baltar won. It bothers me that Roslin and Adama never have to face up to their misdeeds, a bigger deal could be made of the fact that they claim to stand for democracy, yet disregard it whenever it suits them. Why should Roslin just become president, she just uses the military threat to back up what's essentially a coup against the peoples' vote.

So, this episode gets things going on the right track. This season has raised the bar for visual possiblities on television, and the exploration of cylon culture is phenomenal. I wasn't so sure about things last week, but I'm totally confident in the series' future now, and really excited to see the next episode.

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