Sunday, May 04, 2008

Battlestar Galactica: 'The Road Less Traveled' (4x05)

A lot of people seem to be frustrated by this episode, and I’ll admit I was not happy to see that ‘To Be Continued’ up on screen, but, I thought it was a fantastic piece of television, and entirely satisfying in what we got. I love the way this season is developing, the precision thematic development and overarching serial narrative in place of standalone stories. It’s by far the most consistent season of the show to date, and will hopefully get even better as it goes on.

The major thing I liked about this episode was the return of the Kara Thrace I love. The character felt a bit off in the first couple of episodes of the season, her constant screams of “We’re going the wrong way” didn’t feel like the character we’ve come to know over the course of the series, the character who sat calmly and rationally while Leoben imprisoned her, then abruptly stabbed him with a fork.

Kara’s definitely changed by whatever happened to her in the nebula, but I think the steely focus and efficiency has returned. She knows that people don’t believe her, but she doesn’t care. I love how twitchy she is throughout the episode, her eyes alone tell the story in a lot of scenes. Kara’s not one to start a fight, she’d just provoke the guy until he attacks her, but that psychological approach might not work so well as the captain of a ship. She’s lost touch with her crew, and is only able to feel connected when she’s with Leoben.

The Kara/Leoben relationship has been a source of mystery since the show’s earliest days, as we saw in ‘Maelstrom,’ he is her spiritual guide, the only one who knows about her destiny, in many ways he is to her what the Head Six is to Baltar, a voice that promises she’ll be something special if she can only actualize her destiny. But, at the same time, he abused her horribly on New Caprica. This brings us back to one of the central themes of Kara’s character arc, and the series as a whole, the thin line between pain and love. For so many of these characters, the only way to express their feelings is through violence. Because of Kara’s abuse as a child, it’s quite possible she only considers it real love if she’s being hurt. That’s why she’s so drawn to Leoben, he’s the only one who can make her feel like her mother did, and maybe if she can win his approval, it’ll be like getting the approval her mother never gave her.

And, Leoben provides a fine vessel for her to express her own physicality, she can kill him as many times as she wants, but he’ll always be back. Here, she attacks him again, it’s the only way to show she cares. Anders’ newfound cylon status has him on that same violence/love slippery slope, he attacks Leoben both to react against his own nature, and to show Kara that he still cares. But, he can never get through to her in the way that Leoben does.

The episode sets up the tantalizing prospect of a human/cylon alliance. I’m assuming this will happen in some way. It would seem to be the perfect opportunity to set up a schism in the fleet, and make Baltar an even bigger splinter group. He could take his one god crew over to the cylon ship and set out for Earth with Kara. I really like the splinter cylon plot, and I feel like a détente between cylon and human is an essential part of the series’ arc. We’ve seen again and again how similar the two groups are, it’s only language and culture that separate them. Those differences can be bridged.

One thing that bothers me about the Demetrius arc so far is that we have no insight into Sharon’s feelings on the situation. You’d think people would at least question her loyalties, she is a cylon. But, it’s not played that way, and we also get very little feel for her and Helo’s relationship. They seem like co-workers only, not a couple. Sharon was one of my favorite characters in the first couple years of the show, but they’ve given her very little to do last season and this season.

Elsewhere, we get some more good stuff with Baltar and his gang. The major new development is the cementing of the connection between the new cylons and Baltar. I love the way they shot the scene with Baltar and Tori in bed, it feels very intimate, and real in a way most TV sex scenes don’t. It didn’t feel like the staging existed only to cover up the naughty bits.

I love the questions these stories are raising, and I love the in depth character investigation we’ve been getting this season. Kara and Baltar are the two most complex and interesting to watch characters on the show, any episode that spotlights them is going to be a good one.


Anonymous said...

I think the thing with Sharon (Athena) is that she has made it clear that she is loyal to the humans, beyond her Cylon heritage. She can't be seen to be having any loyalty to the Cylons or sympathising with them in any way or else there would be a direct backlash against her. So Helo again wears his "Cylon love" on his sleeve and the crew argue with him for that reason, while Sharon remains unchallenged; she was going to let Galactica kill the Cylons last season and it was Helo that put a stop to the genocide.

As to their relationship, I can see why they acted professional in most of this episode because that's what it was about - the chain of command. If there had been a hint of Sharon and Helo siding together because of their marriage it might have undermined him for a moment - he at least was loyal to Kara because they have been best friends forever. But then realised she had gone too far, hence the mutiny at the end.

Otherwise I agree completely with your assessment of this episode and the season so far. I get the feeling that the whole final year will be tightly plotted like this, just to fit everything in. I am very impressed with the level of detail and how well they are drawing the differences in faith and loyalty amongst all factions.

Patrick said...

I can see that, but I feel like it's been a long time since we saw any sort of personal/emotional moments with Helo and Sharon, and it would be nice to find out how they're feeling at this point. Or, say, what's going on with Hera while they're on this mission? She was such an interesting character early on, and even though I can understand why they're playing her this way, I feel like they're passing up the chance for some really interesting stories.