Thursday, March 19, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: 'Daybreak' (4x19)

Things have been pretty crazy this past week, I’ve been shooting a big infomercial, so I haven’t gotten a chance to write up this key penultimate episode of BSG. After moving all the pieces into place last episode, this one is largely about providing some strong character moments before the finale proper hits us with a whole bunch of action. It’s a successful episode, though one that’s hard to assess on its own terms since it’s very much part one of three.

Even though part of me feels like it’s not the best use of screentime with three hours left, I still love the decision to go back to Caprica before the Fall and spend some time with these characters as they used to be. It reinforces the idea that life hasn’t always been like this for all these people, that they have normal lives not so different from our own before the attack on the colonies. For Roslin, it seemed like having her sisters and father die was the worst possible trauma she could ever experience. It’s likely that suffering so much back then made it easier for her to deal with everything that’s happened since. Sitting in the fountain, she seemed to come to terms with things, she let her old self die and was reborn tougher, and stronger. It was an incredibly striking image.

The other scenes were less significant, but still effective. I particularly liked the Baltar story, which reminded me just how effective the Caprica Six character used to be. I respect the attempt to give her increased depth, but I think all the Sixes have been stripped of everything that made the character effective this season. She was all about the glamour of evil, the serpent of the old testament made flesh, a being beyond our morality, beyond our rules. Now, she’s just sort of there, ironically, her character development has stripped her of personality. But, back in the pre-Fall days, she’s a force to be reckoned with.

The episode’s greatest strength was the feeling of apocalypse hanging about. Things are drawing rapidly towards some kind of conclusion, and after an episode of buildup, I’m eager to see what happens when the Galactica finally gets to the colony and they confront Cavil. The promise of something involving a blackhole is particularly interesting.

But, there’s not that much to say specifically here, so let me discuss a few general points about the season before moving on. One thing that’s been bugging me is the absence of D’Anna and Leoben from the end of the series. Particularly with all this talk about Kara’s destiny, where is Leoben? He’d been a huge part of her arc since the beginning, why doesn’t she turn to him now? In theory, both D’Anna and Leoben should be hanging around with the other rebel cylons, what happened to them? I’m guessing it’s an actor availability issue, but it’s a pretty big plot hole.

The other general issue I’ve got with these recent episodes is the problems surrounding the revelation of the final five. I loved the episode where we found out who they were because it was just so out there. But, since then, the story developments haven’t made much sense. It turns out that the five aren’t really cylons, they’re pretty much regular people, who’ve been alive for a really long time, but the people they are now are constructed by Cavil, not who they really used to be. So, even though Ellen and Tigh have been together for 2,000 years, they haven’t been the people they are now for 2,000 years. Anders said that Tyrol and Tory used to be together, so why does the Tighs’ love last 2,000 years, while Tyrol and Tory don’t remember each other? If they wanted to go with the irresistibly drawn together thing, why not say Anders and Tory were together, explaining why they slept together when they first started hearing the music.

The problem with the final five revelation is that it’s the kind of thing that needs to be developed a lot more than it has been. We need more time with the characters to process what’s going on, and see how it affects their identity. Their entire personalities are Cavil’s constructions, shouldn’t that really mess with their sense of identity? I think it opens so many doors of implausibility and convolution that they’ve basically chosen to ignore the revelations, and that’s effectively ended any character development with the five. It’s a bit of X-Files syndrome, where a lack of advance planning backfires and results in a story that’s spending so much time explaining itself, there’s no time for emotion.

But, the core of the show is still strong, and I’m really excited for the finale. Hopefully they’ll give us one final classic episode.


crossoverman said...

D'Anna stayed on Earth to die by herself, so obviously they knew they wouldn't have Lucy Lawless available for the rest of the season.

A lack of Leoben is more annoying though. I'll be very disappointed if he's not in the finale in some way.

However there is so much still to be answered, Leoben is sort of the least of my concern.

And as this episode was clearly part one of a three hour finale, it's hard to judge by itself.

Patrick said...

Ah yeah, I do remember about D'Anna now, that makes sense. As for Leoben, I'd agree he's not a top priority, but it'd still be nice to get some closure on him. They made such a big deal of this cylon alliance, it's unfortunate there's only two actual cylon models in the alliance.

But, I'm guessing it's a result of actor availability changes after the strike, making him unavailable for shooting.

Anonymous said...

The reason Tigh and Ellen are still in love is because for some reason Cavil programmed them that way. I also assumed that somehow because of resurrection Ellen remembers everything, but the rest of them don't (except for Anders because he was shot).

I agree about lack of time to process and explore the identity crises going on, and Leoben's absence is strange. He seemed to know everything, he freaked out when they found Kara's body, and then he's just gone? It doesn't add up...

Patrick said...

The thing that doesn't make sense to me is that Ellen has the same personality she had earlier after her resurrection, and after remembering everything. So, is that personality Cavil's construct, or is it more that Cavil put them into a situation on the colonies, erased their memories, but their intrinsic identity remains the same?

I wouldn't care so much about these details except for the fact that they seem critical to the character arcs, and with everything so unclear, it's impossible to emotionally relate to what those characters are going through.