Monday, January 22, 2007

Battlestar Galactica - 'Rapture' (3x12)

After a month long hiatus, Battlestar is back. It's a bit jarring for me to come back to this sci-fi universe after spending so long in the world of Babylon 5. I'd gotten so used to the 1997 era effects of B5 that the BSG shots had renewed dazzle. In the last few episodes, the BSG effects team has been outdoing themselves, this episode features a whole bunch of incredible shots, most notably the Supernova at the end of the episode.

The opening sequence did a good job of bringing me right back into the world after the layoff. The highlight is the Sharon/Helo scene, a really well done, wrenching moment. Coming off of this, we get a scene that really bothered me, where Roslin and Adama yell at Helo for killing Sharon. As the scene went on, I was baffled that Helo didn't yell at them for taking his child and then allowing her to fall into the hands of the cylons. He's the one with the right to be angry, and thankfully they got around to that after a little while. But still, I'd like to have seen him more on the offensive. I guess this is the President he's talking to, but I would have preferred the big outburst to the boiling under the surface rage.

One of my major issues with the show at this poitn is that Adama and Roslin have gotten too close. I don't have a problem with that per se, but in the early days, they were critical as representatives of two different viewpoints. If we got a third voice in there to counter them, it would be fine. But, now they're basically the same. In this case, they may have wanted to present a united front to Helo, but we're given no reason to believe that they're not in agreement on the issue. It's one of the problems with a long running show, the edges get worn down and rivalries turn into grudging respect, and eventually friendship. I'd like to see Zarek, or a new character, come back and provide some opposition to Adama and Roslin.

The military stuff on the planet was well done, with some great staging on the action sequences. It was refreshing to be back in a dynamic, handheld world. Even when Battlestar stumbles on story stuff, the show's look and production values remain unmatched.

For me, the core of the episode was, unsurprisingly, the stuff involving the cylons. D'Anna breaks with the council and goes to the planet in search of meaning. Once there, we return to the temple from 'Kobol's Last Gleaming,' at which point she finds out someone unexpected is a cylon, before dying. It's frustrating to be teased in this way, but the scene was staged nicely so I'll forgive it. Clearly, the issue is still in play, and in this case, the mystery is probably more interesting than any eventual revelation we'll get.

The end of the D'Anna model is a loss for the show, she was a great character, but it is a fitting end to her arc. She got too close to knowledge that should be secret, and had to be removed as a result. I'm guessing we'll see much less of the cylon ship in the next chunk of the season. With Hera, Baltar and Caprica Six on the Galactica, there's nothing tying us to the ship. Plus, critical reaction to the basestar stuff wasn't very positive. I loved it at first, but they basically just had this environment and some cryptic dialogue, there was no actual forward progress there. I still enjoyed that stuff every time it appeared, but I can see why it'd wear on others.

The best scene in the episode is Sharon Athena's confrontation with Sharon Boomer. The motivations are on the surface a bit cyrptic, why has Sharon Boomer turned on Athena, what makes her willing to kill Hera? I would argue it's jealousy. Boomer had the same feelings for the chief that Athena has for Helo, only her love is unrequited. She probably thought that she would be the one to make the hybrid child, and she has taken on Hera, being the closest thing to her mother. With Athena's return, Boomer is rendered irrelevant, and that's why she reacts so strongly. Athena is living the life she wanted, the life she once had.

Caprica leaves with Sharon for Galactica, a move that creates a lot of interesting potential storylines. The goal here was likely to reverse the dynamic they had with Baltar on the cylon ship for the first half of the season. By bringing Caprica over, they keep a cylon presence on the show, without having to always have them near the Basestar and in direct conflict. I'm guessing that Caprica will not wind up in prison and instead be able to wander the station in some kind of freedom. They already did a storyline with an imprisoned model six back in season two and I don't see the point of retreading that. I prefer the idea of Caprica being something of a cross cultural ambassador, trying to understand the humans.

But, they could also go the route of having her and Baltar imprisoned together. She still has Baltar's greatest secret, that he was the one who allowed Caprica to get attacked, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that factor in future proceedings. It'll be interesting to see Baltar and Caprica try to patch things up after the stuff with D'Anna. They, along with Sharon, are the best characters on the show and it'll be good to have them all in one place.

The Eye of Jupiter itself doesn't seem to have done much, since the only person who got its vision is now dead. So, in essence, the point of the whole two parter was to shift some people from the Cylon ship to the Galactica, and get another vague clue about Earth. Even though I was loving being back in the style and intensity of Galactica, they still ultimately don't have the same cohesiveness as Babylon 5. It's more like The X-Files, where they'll drop these phenomenal episodes every sweeps period, but when you look back, they're all basically the same, hinting at some great revelations, but not giving us anything.

Of course, the show actually does strong character development, so I'm not too concerned about the revelations. I'd rather see characters grow and change in the present than get secrets about the world's past. Bringing Caprica and Hera on to the Galactica opens up the possibility for some really interesting development.

Of course, if you just look at the promos, you'd have no idea any of this was taking place because the show is apparently about Lee and Kara's love quadrangle. That stuff entertaining enough, but not really what I'm watching the show for. I think my major problem is that Kara is such an interesting character, and Lee such a dull one, I'll forgive Kara anything she does, no matter how much it hurts the others. I am seeing the show from her perspective, so I'm going to be biased towards her. It's the same with the Cylons, because they're so much more interesting than most of the people on the Galactica, I'll be inclined to sympathize with them over the humans.

That can create interesting ambiguity, but I think it's also a reflection of the problem with having your characters trapped in the control room. They were more interesting on New Caprica because they were just people, not stuck in roles. Tigh back on New Caprica got a vast range of emotions to cover, here he gets a couple of lines. It's probably pointless to complain about this still, but it was a huge mistake to leave New Caprica.

I only complain because I love the show and it can be so great. This was a top notch episode and opens up a lot of possibilities for the future. I'm eager to see what's up next week.