Monday, January 29, 2007

TV: Battlestar Galactica (3.13) - 'Taking a Break From All Your Worries'

bsg 3.13

(Air date: 1/28/07)
Battlestar Galactica returned to form on Sunday with one of the best, rawest and most compelling episodes of the season.

Episode writer Michael Taylor -- who penned the great "In the Pale Moonlight" ep of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- crafted a tense, edgy story worthy of the series that some say has faltered in its third season. Edward James Olmos' urgent direction only drew me in further as Baltar and Apollo were tortured in very different ways.

The dark-sounding nursery rhyme that opened the first scene was a nice choice. "This ep is something different, and it's not for everybody," the rhyme seemed to whisper. This episode was different, fiercely different, than anything else on prime time TV. It reminded me of why I love this series. At its best, Galactica goes for the mind and the gut, ditching most superficial notions of sci-fi to focus on conflict and character. This time aboard the Galactica, we focused on Dr. Baltar, one of the series' richest and most captivating characters.

It was a smart move to follow up all the Final Five and Eye of Jupiter junk with an economic ep mostly about Balter. It's always fun getting in side Baltar's head, whether we're given privy to his lurid fantasies-turned-nightmares about a slew of Sixes, or diving into even darker territory. It's been obvious for months now that Baltar wanted to be a Cylon so that he could absolve himself of his guilt. It turned out he's probably not a Cylon, but his conscious got a nice rubdown anyway thanks to Roslin and Adama's brutal, mind-altering interrogation method.

Watching Baltar spill his secrets and confront his demons made for great TV. Lost in a drug-induced black sea, he claimed his innocence, questioned the loyalty and existence of Imaginary Six and came up feeling his soul was absolved.

Did Baltar betray humanity? The answer remains ambiguous, and we were given the chance to consider both perspectives. From Baltar's point of view, As Adama pointed out, he's the victim. He was forced to aid the Cylon occupation of New Caprica and was deceived into abetting the destruction of his home world. He never intended to hurt anyone and, in his mind, he did not conspire with the Cylons. From Roslin and Adama's points of view, Baltar is a traitor. He contributed to the attempted genocide and lacked the strength, character and humanity to stand up to the Cylons, allowing many humans to be murdered on New Caprica. He spent months on a Cylon base ship possibly helping the Cylons find Earth. Also, they really really hate the guy and want to see him suffer. At least Roslin did, but she eventually felt sympathy for the man. Adama stayed militaristic throughout. His objective was only to retrieve information that would help the fleet.

It was intense watching an incensed Roslin drag Baltar out of his cell and to the Caprica memorial. The treatment of Baltar was ugly and extreme in this ep, but it was also fascinating to watch. I was glad to see the Starbuck-Apollo arc take a backseat, since the Baltar arc is what's really driving the series right now, but both stories complimented each other well.

Apollo is now in a world of pain. He's in love with Starbuck, but he loves and respects Dee. His marriage is crumbling and he's resigned to drinking with Tyrol and spinning his wedding ring on the wet bar. Sure, having to choose between Katee Sackhoff and Kandyse McClure might not sound like a tragic situation, but Jamie Bamber really sold Apollo's torture and self-pity. I felt sorry for the dude, especially in that tail-end scene where he's trying to patch things up with Dee.

And what about Starbuck? Why did Sam bring up points that will eventually lead to the big question: Is Starbuck a Cylon? I'm not sure about that, but I will agree with Starbuck in that she's a "two-timing bitch of a wife."

Is Gaeta a Cylon? It makes sense. In another searing scene, Gaeta attempted to kill our man Baltar after Baltar whispered something in his ear. He only succeeded in stabbing Baltar in the neck (thank the gods), but ot looks like he's still out for blood. Baltar's definitely on to something here, especially if he's accusing Gaeta of being a bigger traitor than he is. Also, it was interesting to find out that Baltar allowed Gaeta to feed information to the resistance on New Caprica.

In the end Baltar is hauled off to sick bay, again, and Roslin visits Caprica Six in an extended bonus scene that is streaming in its entirety here. It seems Six will only talk if Baltar is given a trial. Roslin seems pleased with that response, since she was already planning to give him a trial anyway.

With Baltar back on the Galactica and major suspicion cast on major characters, Galactica is showing signs of a late season rally.

Memorable quote:
Starbuck: Kara Thrace and her special destiny? That sounds like a bad cover band.

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