Saturday, March 11, 2006

A whole new world

So, "Battlestar Galactica." If you haven't seen the finale yet, go away and don't come back until you have. And if you don't watch the show at all, I am very, very disappointed in you.

Like I've been saying, Ron Moore put his money right where his mouth was. While I can see ways that the show could get back to the fleet-on-the-run premise sometime next season, Moore and company appear to have applied Gina's nuclear detonation to the entire structure of the show. Almost everyone's planetside, heavier and sporting unfortunate new hairstyles. And now humanity get to be the guests of the galaxy's swingingest resort/concentration camp, or, as Shannon from "Lost" would call it, Craphole Planet. This is not a dream, not an imaginary story, not something that Geordi and Data can reverse by switching some wires around in the warp drive and wrapping tin foil around the deflector dish.

That fucking rocked. When I saw the date stamp in Baltar's office, my jaw hit the floor and, much as I did when I got done with the new "Sopranos," I wandered around my house cursing up a storm for a good half hour.

I've seen other shows try to pull off this kind of massive time-jump, notably "Alias," and it never works. Either the whole thing is a cheat just designed to mess with the audience's mind, or a way to avoid dealing with the consequences of something the writers didn't think through all the way, or everything goes back to normal in about five seconds.

Not this time. There was a natural, logical reason to skip directly ahead: to make the settlement seem real, something that was tried, that changed both society and the characters down to their cores. I mean, they could have spent an episode or two showing the Chief supervising construction projects and somebody from Geminon officiating over Starbuck and Anders' wedding, and even Apollo scarfing down a lot of donuts, but after a few weeks, the absence of the Cylons would have been stifling.

Ditto the effects of Caprica Six and Boomer's peace movement among the Cylons. I'm sure at some point there will be explanations of how they pulled it off, and then what made them change their minds about the whole mutual non-agression thing, but I'm not sure I would've wanted to see a year's worth of episodes about this.

In the podcast, Moore mentioned that they're submitting Mary McDonnell for lead actress at the Emmys, which is the right category but the wrong year to be doing it in. Mary was amazing throughout, especially in the scene where she tried to talk Adama into letting her steal the election, but the combination of sci-fi's bad rep and presence of Edie Falco's JGHTDERN performance in "Sopranos" episode two will squelch any shot she would have of winning. (Assuming they can even get the Academy to nominate them; I wonder whether the retirees who will fill up the new blue-ribbon panels will take the show seriously.)

I think it's great that "Galacitica" is wrapping up its season just before "Sopranos" comes back, and when "Sopranos" goes, it'll be replaced by "Deadwood," which will be replaced by "The Wire." Those are the four best dramas on television by leaps and bounds, and it's great that I'll be able to see at least one of them in every week from now until the end of the year.

UPDATE: Since technical difficulties and time management problems kept me from posting until late yesterday afternoon, I rushed it a bit and left out commentary on some of my other favorite moments. So here goes...
  • I've seen some message board speculation on what happened to create this big rift between Apollo and Starbuck. I don't think we need to wonder. That scene where Kara did everything short of tying Apollo down, clipping his eyelids open and forcing him to watch her have wild, angry I Just Saved You From Extinction So Will You Please Help Make My Unrequited Lover Jealous sex with Anders. As with the vote tampering story, I love that the writers aren't afraid to make the heroes act very, very ugly.
  • Dean Stockwell, comic genius. Cavil's rapid gear shift from denial to resignation when he saw one of his duplicates was hilarious. And I've rarely seen an actor play two roles in the same scene so well. The timing between the two Cavils was so great I started to wonder if this was a Jill Hennessy/Linda Hamilton situation where Stockwell has an identical twin who's not in the business but shows up now and then to help out with scenes like this. (Linda and her sis obviously did that climactic scene in Terminator 2, and I remain convinced to this day that Jill didn't actually go to Baltimore for the Law & Order/Homicide cross-over.)
  • Traumatized, scarred, man-fearing Gina is so afraid of losing Baltar that she gives him the only thing he really wants out of her, in a scene as creepy as all the Caprica Six/Baltar sex scenes (both real and imagined) are hot and/or funny. And then, of course, she goes and not only kills herself but destroys the rag tag fleet's booze and hooker stockpile. Does this mean Lee's ho friend and her daughter bit it in the explosion? If she'd appeared in more than one episode, maybe I'd feel bad for him.
  • Speaking of Baltar, he was a large pile of blow from going full-on Tony Montana. I look forward to the moment when Gaius joins Kara and Tigh's resistance movement, whips out a machine gun and tells some Centurions (in a precise English accent) "Say hello to my little friend!"And does this mean that Laura is really Robert Loggia in drag? Not sure I want to contemplate that. So, to shake that image out of my head, I'll say that Baltar's realization that he had betrayed humanity again was perfectly played, and I can't wait for the scene next season when Caprica Six explains that she's the same woman he fell in love with way back in the miniseries -- preferably with the respective Six and Baltar hallucinations bantering with each other, like some kind of demented Al Calavicci/Zoey poetry slam. I mean, hell, they already have Dean Stockwell on board.
So, what did everybody else think? Great twist, or dumb cheat?


Jon said...

New to the party. Saw the last three episodes. No idea who that was who came into the tent and asked "Where is Kara Thrace?", but given television conventions, I'm guessing he's someone who had been presumed dead.

I notice that the newly redesigned (and frustrating) IMDb cast pages contain no mention of Gina, so I can't find out who played her there or where I've seen her before. Rats.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Gina is played by the same actress who plays Six; they're copies of each other, but Gina was so badly tortured and gang-raped by the crew of the Pegasus that she's essentially a different person. (Baltar wanted to sleep with her because he fell in love with another Six model back on Caprica before the world got destroyed; he was just happy to have a version he could touch again.) The fact that you didn't recognize her is a real testament to actress Tricia Helfer, who was a model with minimal acting experience before this show.

(Ron Moore, the producer will also be pleased. Six is a known Cylon model in the fleet, and Gina in particular is wanted for assassinating a military officer. In his weekly podcast commentaries, Moore has complained that they didn't do a good enough job Clark Kent-ing Gina enough that she could hide out among the fleet. But for at least one viewer, it worked.)

And the guy looking for Kara is Leoben, a Cylon whom she interrogated back in season one. They bonded, and he suggested she had some kind of great destiny ahead of her. Then President Roslin threw him out an airlock, but that's the advantage of being a Cylon; you die and get reborn as a new copy.

So, did you like it? The fact that you stuck around for three episodes suggests that you did, and that it was relatively accessible for a newbie. If you did, the good news is that the first season and half of the second are already out on DVD, and they're great.

Anonymous said...

Zoey? I think you mean Ziggy.

I've been a big fan of Dean Stockwell since _Quantum Leap_, so I was excited when he showed up a couple weeks ago.

I was blown away by the finale; in fact, I've been blown away by the whole series, the full swath of which I've watched in a mere matter of weeks. It's probably the most imaginative series on television right now. (Although I would add _The Shield_ to your list of the best shows on TV "by leaps and bounds.")

I don't consider the leap in time to be a cheap dodge at all--mostly because this change in time *has* to have consequences. Can Moore and his writing team successfully change the series from one rooted mainly in spaceships to one rooted mainly on terra firma? (I'm only speculating that most of the action next season will take place on this planet because the Adamas appear to have lit off until they come up with a plan to rescue everyone else. Of course there'll be scenes on the ships with the Adamas, but most of the characters are planetside and look to remain that way for the near future.) I think, since this show is so character-driven, Moore should be able to make this leap. For writers as good as these guys, maybe this will be a welcome opportunity to stave off writer's block.

Anonymous said...

No, I meant Zoey, as in the Evil Leaper's version of Al. (Older, red-headed British lady.) In the Evil Leaper episodes, there'd be scenes where Al and Zoey were both making snarky comments without being aware the other one was there.

At some point, Moore and company have to address once and for all what the phantom versions of Six and Baltar are. I don't think hallucinations quite cut it, since phantom Six has told real Baltar a bunch of things that he wouldn't possibly have known on his own, accurately predicted things to come (the baby), etc.

Anonymous said...

And, yeah, The Shield is amazing, too. I sometimes take that one for granted, because it's been so consistent for so long now, but Whitaker V. Chiklis is an acting duel for the ages.

Pete said...'re right. I completely forgot about Zoey. I bow to your superior _Quantum Leap_ knowledge.

By the's 2006, dammit. Shouldn't we all have a Ziggy by now? Or is that just what iPods are?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I mainly remember Zoey because, in one of the last Evil Leaper episodes, she suddenly had to be the one who leaped, and she wound up as the male warden of a women's prison where Sam was one of the inmates. Oddly enough, this may have been the only time they ever had Sam be a woman where they didn't force poor Scott Bakula to wear a skirt and heels, which ruined the possibility of a classic woman in a suit/guy in a dress gag.

I don't say those high-end phones that let you browse the web at top speed are as close to a personal Ziggy as we're gonna get. Frankly, the expansion of the Web has made Ziggy seem kinda lame. Is that really the best information technology there was available in the future?

Anonymous said...

First, just want to say that I love your blog and your column. I started watching BSG because you named it as your best show last year (thanks!) and it quickly edged out Veronica Mars to become my favorite show on tv (tho now that The Soprano's is back...). Anyway -- you seem convinced that the Six and Boomer who showed up at the end are HeroSix and HeroBoomer from Downloaded. To me that's one of the biggest open questions -- isn't it possible that they are in fact different versions? It would certainly explain the apparent Cylon about-face regarding the humans.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The way Six looked at Baltar, and the line about knowing him very well, sure as hell made me think that was Caprica Six and Boomer Eight in the room. That was a woman in looooooooove. But you never know with Cylons; we'll know in October, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the excellent job with the time shift...

However, I found it rather jarring to be tacked as an additional 30 minutes for the season finale.

Could the time jump not have been the first half of the opening episode in the third season?

Were they afraid viewers wouldn't come back if they didn't expressly show the Cylons coming back?

Well done, as virtually every episode has been. I just simply found the shift jarring in the context of a season finale and an extended epsiode.