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.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Seven Soldiers #1

Morrison's grandest storytelling experiment culminates with an issue that, much like the series itself, is rather obscure on the surface, but is absolutely packed with connection and content underneath. It's one of the most insular issues of all time, neglecting traditional narrative structure, instead exploring the issue of the nature of heroism, which has driven all the minis. I'm pretty satisfied with the resolution that all the main characters received, and I think everyone got their moment to shine.

The first thing that stood out to me on the first read through was the sheer amount of formal experimentation that Morrison and Williams engage in. I think this issue confirms J.H. Williams' status as the greatest artist in comics today, his work is aesthetically wonderful and he's able to move through so many different styles, it's absolutely awe inspiring. Here he's tasked with mimicking the style of the seven minis, and also doing newspaper stuff, storybook stuff and a retelling of ancient myth. He handles everything wonderfully, and the clarity of his art helps keep the issue comprehenisble. I wish he had been around for the end of The Invisibles, he could have made the final three issue arc into an unqualified masterpiece. He and Quitely are working on a whole different level than anyone else in comics.

Our setup is a narration by one of the Seven Unknown Men, speaking to Zor/Cyrus Gold/The Terrible Time Tailor. The identity of the Seven Unknown Men is never revealed, but with his bald head and control over the continuity of this universe, it's pretty clear this is an analogue for Morrison himself. I love the DC pin on his tie, and his knock to the audience on the first page. That said, I was pretty confused by a lot of the Seven Unknown Men stuff, and I could use another read of the issue to really suss it out. It's largely about the reinvention of heroism, GM establishing the paradigm for a new age of comics, much like in Flex Mentallo, erasing the conservative, darkness of someone like Zor with wonder and bright.

There's a lot of meta commentary here, but in the context of the story itself, we see Zor weave an awful future for the Newsboy Army and cause them to combust against each other. Then we see him attack Zatanna and try to remake her into the sadistic heroine, Zorina. However, she overcomes that darkness and reclaims her own identity. He is a virus in the universe, trying to push people into this highly sexualized darkness, while the Seven Unknown Men are trying to allow magic to prevail.

A critical component of Morrison's work within the DCU is the idea that the New Gods are the mythological ancestors of contemporary superheroes. They are the role model for people like Superman, and Auracles is the first hero, the model for all who will follow. In his line is the potential for world changing heroism that is so needed in this world. The New Gods give people the capacity to control the world around them, to understand the nature of the world and better it. In these panels, we can see Aurakles bright red hair, tying him in with Alix, who is apparently the end of the line for Aurakles.

At the end of the issue, Alix is told that she's free. The Sheeda are a force that will always come to raze worlds, reset progress and stop man from moving towards better things. Through this confluence of actions, the Sheeda are stopped and a more benevolent Sheeda ruler is put in place. This means that Aurakles' great failure is atoned for and his role of shepherding humanity to this place is fulfilled. Alix never wanted to be a hero, but unconsciously she has fulfilled her role as the spear that was never thrown. Her whole miniseries was about people trying to force her into the role of hero, a role she didn't want. Here, her basic desire to help people, even Sally Sonic who had attacked her, leads to her fulfilling her destiny and saving the world from Sheeda invasion, making it safe for humanity to move forward. That's something critical that's touched on in Bulleteer #3, her weakness is that she listens and cares about people, not just advancing her own career. However, that is a form of heroism in itself, and it winds up being her great contribution to the destruction of Gloriana.

From there, we move into the newspaper parts. I think this was an interesting device, and worked well to convey a lot of information, but it wasn't my favorite part of the issue. The crossword puzzle is the most interesting piece, I got the answers off Barbelith and they raise some interesting questions. Apparently Suzi did give birth, and her children are Ed's assistants at the Guardian. The toher cool one is six down, where he points out that Lance is a synonym for spear. Also, Grant establishes himself as one of the seven unknown men. Very cool. Ed gets to acheive his dream of having a super gang working for him, the wonder of the Newsboy Army is reclaimed. Also great is Shelly's letter, with the quintessential GM line "Every day is mythology when you use your X-Ray vision to really, really LOOK." And when people put on their 'hero costumes,' the line between herovestite and real hero disappears. That's one of the major themes from SS#0, and it recurs here, with Ed essentially saying that all it takes to be a hero is trying to be one and acting like it.

On this Barbelith thread, someone mentioned that the difference between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison is that Morrison is messier, but provides you with more FUCK YEAH! moments, and this issue is the perfect example of that. You may not always be sure what's going on, but I was constantly thrilled by what was going on. In experiencing fiction, what I'm looking for is those moments that just make my jaw drop from the sheer coolness of what's happening. This issue delivered those in spades.

One easy one was the return of Zatanna. I loved her mini so much, just getting a bit more GM Zatanna was cause for celebration. More than ever, Zatanna reads like Lorelai Gilmore as a magician, full of self deprecating humor and even dropping a Scissor Sisters reference. I love the page where Misty reclaims her position with the Sheeda. We finally see the meeting of Misty and Klarion, a family reunion I'd been looking forward to. Misty is someone who feels the weight of responsibility of her role with the Sheeda. She fears becoming Gloriana because she cannot see the third path. She thinks that becoming Sheeda queen means keeping the ways of the past.

However, Klarion is utterly rebellious, just enjoying things as he goes. So when he claims power, he does not take responsibility. He takes control of the ship, and presumably the Sheeda armies, but we have no reason to believe he will be malicious. Rather he will use his power to have fun and create chaos. He turned on the soldiers by joining the Sheeda, but he was only a hero when it was fun for him. He is too mischeivious to be a real hero. I love the final page with him juggling the dice, Sheeda slaves licking his boots. The blend of Bianchi style and Irving style is seamless.

Throughout the whole series, Zatanna has been, as she says, crippled with self doubt. She fears the consequences of using her powers and believes that she is unable to live up to the legacy of her father. However, empowered by her meeting with him at the end of Zatanna #4, she comes to terms with her past. A nice Ali Ka Zoom cameo prompts her to cast a spell to empower the Seven Soldiers. This page is arguably the greatest page of any comic ever. The art is so uniquely beautiful, images from the series spilling out on tarot cards, along with an invitation for the reader to fight alongside Zatanna. Much like her reach out to the reader in issue #4, this is a moment where she looks right at you and beckons you to join her in her magical act, "Let's save the world, you and me, together." Maybe she's talking to Misty, but the way it's presented, there's only one person she's looking at.

Gwydion's words prompt Zatanna to deliver a critical manifesto. The 'third path' was established back in SS#0, beyond the strict choice between good and evil, the near oppressive allegiance to one side, there is the ability to choose one's own way and trump destiny. For Misty, this means not becoming Sheeda Queen and instead continuing her work with Zatanna. This also ties into Alix, who rejects her destiny to be a certain kind of hero. Similarly, Shilo is able to reject death. This ties into the very end of The Invisibles, when Dane rejects questions of choice vs. free will, claiming that it's all the same, we're here and we have choices that create our reality. Zatanna rejects the limits that our roles place on us and invites to do the impossible, to wake the universe.

What does waking the universe mean? It likely ties in to Morrison's idea of the DCU as sentient entity. But, in the context of the story she is awakening the forces of good within reality and compelling them to help the heroes. Her spell is cast to the Unknown Men, to Morrison, to begin the phase of the story in which good happens. This is the turning point in defeating the Sheeda, and it's an astonishing moment. We don't see Zatanna again after this point, her work is done, she has set in motion everything that follows. That said, if I want to see Morrison writing any of these characters again, it would be Zatanna. Esaelp od a atanna dna ytsim seires.

Following this, we get a nice resolution for Guardian. His arc was basically done in his own series, it was only left for him to get Carla back. He does that here, and it's a great moment. Another fantastic Guardian tie in moment is the closeup on Ed, rebuking the Time Tailor. I feel like Guardian #4 affected me more than the rest of the issues combined, and I love the fact that we get a bit of resolution for that crew here. The flies around TTT here give the page such a nasty feel.

From there it's over to Ystina, who is totally resilient in battling Gloriana. She is unwilling to back down, even when it will mean her death, she proves herself to be a worthy knight of Camelot. She gets the most developed resolution in a scene that feels like Mathilda at the end of Leon. She is taken away from adventure and put into normal society. However, she is meant to be a knight and one day will take up the sword again.

It's a testament to the power of SS#0 that Spyder's shot at Gloriana feels so fulfilling. This guy was in one issue, but his prominence in the opening announced his importance in the narrative. I love the throwback to what prey would Gods hunt. His kissoff line to Gloriana is solid cool, as is Gloriana's techno eyepatch. That page features some of my favorite art in the issue, particularly the striking panel of Gloriana falling towards the apple.

Frankenstein doesn't get much to do this issue, largely because he already played his part in the final issue of his own miniseries. That crippled Gloriana's fleet and set her up for the finale here. I'm really happy with Gloriana's death, no standard battle could live up to it, and that makes the semi-ridiculous car crash the perfect way to destroy her. I really like the captions here, particularly "Prophecy moves in for the kill."

This leaves us with the most complex segment of the issue, the stuff with Mister Miracle. As I mentioned in my previous post on the series, that mini was all about a descent into absolute darkness as a way to discover the heroism within. His experience erased his fear and guilt, leaving him free to move on to a higher form of heroism. As we saw earlier, The New Gods are all about giving humanity the tools to move to the next stage of evolution, and his experience has left Shilo with the vision of another dimension of reality, as he says in an absoultely kickass moment "I come with God-Sight now." In his exchange with Dark Side, we simultaneously experience their actual speech and their God speech.

Apparently the guy who was called Omega in MM4 is actually Aurakles, the first hero imprisoned. He seems to have been tortured so much that he's lost touch with the heroism at his core. This ties into the whole purpose of Shilo's black hole experience. Metron told him that he was sent there because the New Gods were lost, they were training him for this moment, when he would sacrifice himself so that Aurakles could be freed and the powers of the New Gods could be recovered. Then, humanity can move on to the next stage of its evolution.

Shilo is the avatar of the life equation, freedom, choice, escape from the restrictions of human society. By killing him, Dark Side thinks that he will remove the rebellious streak from the human world and crush the spirit of heroism. His quick death takes you out of the superhero reality, villains aren't supposed to use guns like this, and there's no escape for Mister Miracle from the bullet. At the end, Dark Side believes that the triumph over the Sheeda is a hiccup against the progression of darkness.

However, his words are rendered utterly false in the final page, as Shilo bursts triumphantly out of his grave, infused with the power of The New Gods, he is the avatar of freedom and he returns triumphant. The return of this avatar fits in perfectly with the other theme of the third path. As Zatanna said, one of the critical issues in the series was the possibility of personal choice. For the characters here, fate is a jacket sewn by the Time Tailor, designed to hold them to a bad destiny. That is the essence of Dark Side, to trap. However, he did not count on the ultimate escape artist.

In the end, all the characters get what they want, the freedom to choose their own path. Alix was forced into the role of hero, but finds herself absolved and free to move on with her life. Klarion hated the restrictive world he lived in, but now finds himself free to rule over others. Zatanna was unable to live up to the memory of her father, but he liberated her from his legacy and gave her the courage to choose her own path. Jake overcame his malaise and found a way to be a hero and still be with Carla. Ystina found a way to overturn the fall of Camelot and rediscover heroism in the modern world. And Shilo overcame the hollowness of his life as a celebrity to become a God. And Frankenstein was liberated from the legacy of Melmoth by helping to defeat the evil that created him.

Some become heroes, but more importantly everyone gets what they want. And when Miracle rises out of the grave, he heralds a new age of heroism, the universal awakening that Zatanna summoned is beginning. He has moved beyond all the shackles of humanity, faced death and came out ahead. We can view Dark Side as an avatar of Zor, an outdated concept who is trying to lower the world to his level. However, the intervention of the Unknown Man puts Zor away, literally sealing his darkness out of the world and replacing it with the shiny, wonder that Shilo's rebirth promises. As Zatanna tells us, magic is about doing the impossible, bringing the ideal world we want to life by choosing the third path, our own path.

This issue is one of the densest works ever done in comics. On every page there's a crazy concept, and amongst all this is a generally satisfying resolution for all the characters. I'd have loved a few more pages, a glimpse of what's up with Frankenstein or Zatanna, but I came out very satisfied. Seven Soldiers is a distillation of so many different ideas and storytelling modes, it's astonishing to see them all collide here, and that collision underscores the basic themes that drive all the miniseries. This is Grant's second greatest work, behind only The Invisibles. In the same way that The Invisibles functions as a deconstruction of our own reality and offers the reader a way to discover the wonder within their own world, Seven Soldiers breaks down the DC universe and provides a model for its heroes to reclaim the magic within their lives. Flex Mentallo is an overture to this work, and though SS lacks Flex's tight cohesion, it makes up for it in stunning ambition and the sheer amount of dazzling moments. This issue had so many panels that made me smile, in a way that only Grant can do. He's working on an entirely different level than anyone else out there today and after 25 years in comics, he's still creating fresh, startlingly innovative works. This is one of those works that makes me priveleged just to have the chance to experience something so powerful and thought provoking. Thank you Grant and all your art team for creating such an ambitious, powerful project.

My Complete Seven Soldiers Post Index

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle

Issue #1 is in house, and I'm almost through the reread, only two issues to go. I just finished reading Mister Miracle #4 and I wanted to discuss that series a bit. On the first read, I was very confused by it, and disappointed by the lack of connection to the rest of the series. It still feels a bit removed from the rest of the project, and might have been better received as a standalone piece. However, on this read I was able to understand what was going on a lot better, and I think I now get what Grant was doing with the series.

The work that Mister Miracle reminds me of most is David Lynch's Inland Empire. I won't go into too many specific spoilers for the film, but what both works do is basically take its hero on a harrowing journey through a variety of nightmare realities, bringing them to utter emotional collapse, before the reclamation of agency and a return to the world they left. It's difficult to follow Mister Miracle in pieces, partially because the nature of this project leads us to believe that the events must be 'real.' However, my reading of the series is that everything that occurs is a trial for Shilo, designed to help him overcome the loss of his brother and ascend to the role of hero. Metron sums this up when he says "The choice is simple. Free the bright ones or be slaves to the dark."

However, one cannot simply become a hero. In The Invisibles, Grant claimed that time is soil for us to grow in, and that we have to confront darkness because that's the only way that we can beocme stronger. If there is no dark, we would never evolve. Here, we see Shilo put through a series of increasingly awful realities, totally breaking him down so that he can finally overcome his guilt about his brother's death and become the hero the New Gods need him to be.

One thing that really helped me on this read was having the read the trade of Jack Kirby's New Gods run. So, I was familiar with all the basic concepts, this eternal struggle between light and dark. In the DCU, the New Gods serve as the spiritual ancestors of today's superheroes, and specially in Grant's JLA, they were role models, giving humanity a glimpse of what they could be. In reality, Shilo would likely be familiar with them, however in this alternate reality he's plunged into, he lacks knowledge of this heroic legacy. This is designed to show Shilo's complacency and uncertain position in the ongoing war between good and evil. He's a man who uses his power to acquire wealth and fame, he'd risk his life for money, but not to save people. He is not a hero.

All of the Seven Soldiers miniseries are about people who aren't heroes going through an emotional trial and are forced to choose between safety and heroism. In this respect, Mister Miracle fits in perfectly with the others, pushing the elements to the absolute extreme. Shilo is crippled, ages, and dies a number of times. This is a lot more than Zatanna's extistential angst or Guardian's separation from his girlfriend. That's because Shilo's story takes place in a purely mental existence. When he enters the black hole, he finds himself in an approximation of the life he's leading on the outside, then gradually slips into increasingly divergent realities.

All the events we see function as a trial, designed to break Shilo down to his essence, to overcome the restraints that are his life. The luxuries his fame afforded him no longer appeal, and he gradually loses all his real personal connections. His own belief in the New Gods, heroism, is tested when the homeless man won't respond as Metron. In issue three, he experiences all his greatest fears about his life, that someone will be a better escape artist than him, and this man will take his girlfriend and manager. This leaves Miracle alone and poor, facing the ultimate shame of buying some Depends.

Issue four presents more trials, all designed to wear Shilo down to his essence, to remove the guilt and pain he's carrying around with him. Omega is much like the guilt monster in Shining Knight, a physical manifestation of negative feeling. Omega's purpose is to hold Shilo back, to expose the hollowness of his life. However, Shilo turns this back on him and reveals the hollowness of Omega's own role. He owns his pain, and after that, he's ready to be a hero. Dezzard, Shilo's manifestation of his own negative feelings, is destroyed, and Metron effectively sums up the series' theme, "Forgive yourself and remove those chains you wear. Become what you were born to be." It's a message for all of us, that we can leave behind the negative emotions that hold us down, and once we relinquish those, we can ascend and be whatever we want to be.

As Shilo flies out of the black hole, Metron tells him to "Free the Gods. Free all of us." In this series, the New Gods are analagous with the capacity for heroism within all of humanity, they are the mythical incarnations of our best traits. So, Shilo is sent with the mission to hlep everyone escape their emotional shackles and evolve to the next level. It ties in nicely with Metron's message to the JLA at the end of World War III. And like other Morrison heroes, such as Dane, Shilo is given the mission of helping humanity evolve to the next level.

So, Mister Miracle has little narrative connection to the other miniseries, but it articulates the themes of the others perfectly. Those final words that Metron says apply to all the other soldiers, who are empowered with a mission to save humanity. And it's a classic Morrison theme, the idea that if we only move beyond human pettiness, we can evolve and become greater, more united beings.

The one issue that this interpretation raises is how to match the alternate reality nature of Mister Miracle with the series' crossover with Klarion's taxi. It's notable that in Klarison, we never actually see Shilo. Now, it's possible this was an art error, or Morrison just decided to put the Klarion taxi into Mister Miracle at some later point. However, I think that's evidence of the alternate reality. It was modeled on our own, right down to the random passersby, however, in the 'real' world, Klarion never saw Mister Miracle. And that would mean that yes, someone did pick up Jake's ring, and perhaps we'll find out who in issue #1.

I'm really excited to read that issue and I'll be on it later tonight. Look for a review then as well.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Weekend Update

The American Office

I finished watching the first season of the American Office, and it's better, but still nowhere near the British. The show's much broader, the UK characters did some ridiculous stuff, but it all felt plausible within the office environment. However, Michael Scott's out of the office in half the episodes, and in something like the basketball episode, it feels more like a club than an actual workplace. I love the awkwardness of office social gatherings in the quiz episode of the UK one, but at least that one happened after work, so it was plausible. I'm definitely laughing at the show, but it feels sort of like late season Seinfeld, to the UK's early Seinfeld. Early Seinfeld is painfully attuned to the way that real people interact, and the humor is mixed with pain at knowing that you're just like this. The American one is more just a well written wacky comedy. That said, I did really like the final scene in thep arking lot at the end of the first season, where all the characters go their seperate ways, each jealous of the others in some way.

The Box Office

This week saw the virtual death of Marie Antoinette at the box office, with only $2.5 million gross in it second week. I don't think it was going to be a blockbuster, but I know it's not playing near me here at Wesleyan, and I've talked to a bunch of people who wanted to see it, but couldn't. Same thing with The Science of Sleep. These are films that people want to see, and need to be released to more theaters. And the saddest thing is that an utterly hollow enterprise like Saw III winds up at the top of the box office. If I was running a studio, I would make these crappy horror films too, just because it's the only thing that people will reliably go to.

Media Censorship

I think it's really ridiculous that people will refuse to run ads for 'Death of a President' and the Dixie Chicks documentary. For DoaP, it's a piece of fiction! People aren't going to see this and all of a sudden to decide to assassinate George Bush. Did Elephant cause a rash of school shootings? I think considering the effect of an assassination is a very valid intellectual question, and the fact that people are unwilling to even ponder it is going against the principles on which the country was founded. It's not free speech for people you agree with. And that's where the Dixie Chicks issue comes in. Now, I lost respect for her when she apologized for making the comments about Bush. That was cowardly, but it's even more ridiculous to criticize someone for stating their opinion. Dissent is the very essence of what America was founded on, and saying that we can't debate a war while it's going on is a travesty.

This is the same logic that led people to say that we shouldn't "play the blame game" about Hurricane Katrina. When someone gets murdered, you don't call an investigation into who did it "the blame game," and Bush's actions led to hundreds of deaths. Why shouldn't we call him out on that so it doesn't happen again?

Battlestar Galactica: 'Collaborators' (3x05)

After last week's episode, I said:

"I feel like this episode marks the end of a fantastic run for the series, and, sadly, a return to the status quo. They seem to fluctuate between messing with the formula and returning to the basic everyone on the ship structure. Here we've got the ultimate return, and I'm just not sure that there's that many interesting stories to tell in that environment."

And while I'm not happy about, I was proven right, in an episode that's all about bringing people the show back to its early days, something that starts right from the opening credits, and continue through the "forget the past, let's get back to what we were doing" finale. That's not to say that there aren't lingering issues from the experience on New Caprica, but the bold new direction the series went in is pretty much gone and we're back to a generally underwhelming status quo.

I still think it was a massive mistake to spend so little time on New Caprica. Every one of those episodes was a masterpiece, one of the best things I've ever seen on TV, and a privelege to watch every week. The other era of the show that I felt that way about was the miniseries. After the miniseries, the show coasted on the concepts created there, eventually burning out in late season two. I assumed that the show's bold reinvention occurred because they'd recognized that doing a show about the goings on Galactica had run its course and there just weren't there stories left to tell. I thought that New Caprica was the new status quo, instead it's used as a stopover, to recharge the series and give it enough conflict to get going for a few more years.

Watching the New Caprica episodes brought back the feeling in the miniseries that this was a universe in total chaos, where everyone was expendable and people were forced to make awful choices. It was alive with chaos and slivers of humanity shining through the darkness. Because things were so bad, each small victory was a major emotional moment.

However, New Caprica never ended up going that far. We lost one semi-major character, Ellen, but most of the major changes introduced at the end of season two are already being revised, and I'm sure we'll soon have single, tough Kara in a rivalry with fit Lee for control of the vipers any episode now. Yes, Kara does have some underlying emotional damage, and her outburst to Gaeta was a great moment, but it was undermined by the fact that her cry for reckless vengeance ended up being what saved him. Jammer's death was a bit surprising, but I never really thought Gaeta was going to die, just because the show hasn't given evidence that it's willing to kill main characters. I can think of only two semi-regulars, Billy and Ellen, who died, and that drains the tension out of storylines. You have to believe that these characters are in real danger to make their world real.

There were some good episodes between the miniseries and New Caprica, but most of the time it wasn't about the gang on the ship, it was about the cylons, or the stuff on Caprica, and I think it's a mistake to return to this setting as a permanent status quo.

That said, I did really enjoy the Baltar stuff. I loved the weird design of the room he was in, though that centurion looked a bit artificial. In general, the effects suffered this week, I would assume because so much time was spent on last week's shots. The Baltar thread is what I'm most interested looking forward. However, I am curious to see how they establish the new direction of the fleet. Are the cylons still coming after them? Will they find Earth?

This episode was a necessity, to deal with the fallout of New Caprica, but it felt sort of perfunctory. I'm more curious to see what we get next week, when we'll presumably get a hint of the series' new focus.