Saturday, June 14, 2008

Battlestar Galactica: 'Revelations' (4x10)

Typically, my reaction to a Battlestar season is major enthusiasm at the start, which wanes as they go through a lean period in the middle, only to be salvaged by an amazing cliffhanger at the end. So, maybe it’s appropriate that in a season where nearly every episode was really strong that the midseason cliffhanger should underwhelm a bit. Don’t get me wrong, this is a really solid episode, but I wanted something a bit more at the ending, some kind of twist or layer that would blow my mind, in the way the cylon revelation last year or the New Caprica stuff did. They’ve built up such high expectations, this cliffhanger just didn’t grab me that much.

Now, on some level it’s ridiculous to say reaching Earth, the goal of the entire series, is underwhelming, but it’s a perfect example of the journey being more interesting than the destination. Once I realized they were really going to reach Earth, when we saw it there and people started celebrating, I knew there were about ten minutes left in the episode, so I was waiting for that next twist to come. And it did, when we found out that Earth wasn’t the paradise they had been promised, it’s just another broken planet, not unlike New Caprica. I really liked that tracking shot from an aesthetic point of view, but by its very nature, I was waiting for what we were tracking to, the crazy revelation that would top everything off, but we didn’t really get any twist beyond the planet being broken.

It’s a bit hypocritical to criticize the show for not having enough of a twist. Really, I’m watching for the characters more than the narrative, but I wanted something exciting and mind blowing, and I don’t think we really got that. Admittedly, it’s near impossible to come up with an Earth that would satisfy everyone, but I think this is in a lot of ways the most predictable option. I’m guessing next season will be about trying to build a civilization with the cylons and humans, New Caprica redux. I loved New Caprica, it’s my favorite episodes of the entire series, and I’d rather see stories in that milieu than more space travel, but at the same time, that story was already told.

On a show like this, plot developments aren’t important solely on their own terms, they also have to create a viable future. Last season, I loved the cylon reveal, but wasn’t sure how it would play in the next season. It worked out really well, and I’m sure the crew behind the show will make this work in an interesting way. Still, I have that uncertainty about what it will be. It seems like so much was resolved, will the rest of the show be about the cylons and humans trying to rebuild Earth? Does the fifth cylon even matter anymore? There’s a lot of interesting questions left, but they don’t seem like questions that will open up new narrative avenues. At this point, I’ve just accepted Tigh and his gang as cylons, I don’t necessarily need a flashback to tell me how he is a cylon. I’m assuming it will be addressed, but we’ve almost moved beyond it. And, if they’re on Earth, what will the fifth cylon do?

For the fifth cylon, I’d like to see them do something different than with the others. We’ve already seen the person we thought was human revealed as cylon a bunch of times. D’Anna says the fifth wasn’t in the fleet, people are speculating that means he/she was on the basestar. I hope not, I hope it’s someone who’s just on Earth, a mysterious new character who is closest to their God. So much was made of the fifth having special knowledge and power, it’d be cool if they meet someone who actually is aware of this power, a person who is beyond the Manichean human/cylon conflict. I’m thinking of someone along the lines of Kaworu from Evangelion, a guy who takes what would be a copout appearance in the series’ third to last episode and creates a fully realized character who is key to the series’ mythology in twenty minutes.

So, I do like that they reached Earth, but I felt like this was the most obvious path for the series to take regarding Earth. It’s a dark, dank and dreary series, wouldn’t an interesting twist have been to given us a utopia and see if they could live up to it?

Tracking back, there were some brilliant moments in the episode. My favorite scenes were Tory’s change of allegiances, and embrace of D’Anna’s cylon command. D’Anna is owning the screen at all times, with a cutting competence that puts the humans to shame. Before she came back, the humans seemed in control of the alliance, now it’s the cylons leading the way, and I don’t think the humans will double cross them soon. And, Tory’s inspired by that, she’s not going to serve Roslin anymore, she’s going to take control of her own destiny. No moment in the episode was as full of foreboding and promise as Tory deciding to take the medicine to Roslin, what D’Anna had prophesized would come to pass through no action of her own.

One of my major disappointments with the last two episodes of the season is the treatment of Kara. Once she got past screaming about Earth, I really liked her committed visionary phase. I’d have loved to see more of her with Leoben, and explored what it means that she was able to rise from the dead. But, she seems to have reverted to the more stable Kara of yore. Admittedly, this is an issue of focus, her personal life wasn’t much in play, but I hope next year we return to figuring out what’s going on at her core.

The big emotional punch of the episode was Adama’s disbelief that Tigh could be a cylon. More than ever before, Adama feels old in this episode. But, at least he’s got Roslin and his son to help him out. There’s a lot of relief and emotion in his voice when he address the fleet about reaching Earth.

It’s a really good episode, but at the end, I just felt like I needed something more. There’s none of the stylistic flourishes we typically see in a season finale, none of the hypnotic impressionistic sequences the series does so well, and nothing so crazy you’re just left in disbelief. I’d rather see the show honor its characters and narrative than just throw crazy stuff out there, but still, just a little something, please?

Either way, I’m excited to see what they do in the last run of episodes. I hope they don’t all go back to Galactica again. Let’s see this new world being built, let’s see if Earth can be the promised land they all hoped for. And let’s get to it before March 2009, please,


Anonymous said...

It wasn't just a "broken" planet. It was nuked to hell.

Who nuked it? When? Why?
Interesting questions.

Bas said...

It seems to me that the line “All this has happened before and will happen again” will be very important. I guess this Earth is the result of an earlier Human/Cylon conflict, where they couldn't live together. Maybe that's where the final 5 come from? Survivors from a previous life?

Patrick said...

Indeed, they did reference that line again just a few scenes before they got to Earth. It would make some kind of sense if the Final Five were from Earth originally, maybe they're actually human, hence the aging. There's got to be some explanation for why Tigh could be there for thirty years and not know he was a cylon.

Adam said...

Let's not forget Starbuck's shiney new Viper. Something is definitely screwy with that.