Spoilers for "Battlestar Galactica: Razor" coming up just as soon as I get on the treadmill...
In my column, I talked about how, while I really enjoyed a lot of the individual pieces of "Razor," the film as a whole frustrated me because the Fisk/Tigh scenes from "Pegasus" and "Resurrection Ship" spelled out virtually everything that happened in the Cain portion of the movie, while the Kara/Kendra Shaw suicide mission was undercut by the knowledge that Starbuck would live and Shaw would almost certainly die.
Your mileage may vary on both of those points. I think I would be more willing to go with the familiarity of the Cain story if it gave me a deeper understanding of the woman and why these terrible things happened on her watch, but again, I feel as if those earlier episodes did such a strong job of spelling out the why in addition to the what that there was very little for "Razor" to add. The revelation that Cain was having an affair with the Gina version of Number Six offers some new color to some of her actions -- it makes the institutionalized rape of Gina even sicker than before, and I didn't think such a thing was possible -- but she had already gone around the bend when she insisted on carrying out the attack on the staging ground over her XO's very rational objections, before she knew about Gina. Every bad decision after that was a matter of degree, not kind. (If she hadn't walked into that trap, for instance, she might have protected the civilian fleet instead of scavenging it.)
Still, I enjoyed the hell out of Michelle Forbes' performance, especially in those early moments before the Cylon attack, when you see a slightly softer side of Cain. The treadmill conversation with the XO established a strong rapport between the two (I laughed when the XO refused to leave and Cain had to say "Think about it" again to shut down the vacation talk), and even the hazing of Shaw suggested a woman who, under different circumstances, might not have become a walking atrocity.
The "present-day" scenes (if we can refer to a story that takes place more than a year ago in "Galactica" time) expanded on some things we didn't really know about the non-fat Lee's tenure on the Pegasus -- how he adjusted to the challenges of command, why Kara was assigned to Pegasus in "The Captain's Hand" and then not in the next episode -- but mostly it was an excuse for some incredibly kewl action: Kara getting into a shoot-out with the retro Raider in the middle of the Pegasus hangar deck, or the Raptor crew bailing out and flying the rest of the way using just their suit-thrusters. Stephanie Jacobsen did a solid enough job as Kendra, but I never felt invested in her redemption arc (or lack thereof) the way I did in the events involving characters I already knew. I kept wishing that Fisk hadn't been murdered by the black marketeers, but had just been humiliated and demoted; building this story around Graham Beckel might have given it more gravity, though it would have eliminated the more obvious parallels between Kara and Kendra.
(And speaking of which, whatever happened to the plot thread of Kara having been converted to Cain's way of thinking by the end of the Resurrection Ship story? Never came up again, and could have been really useful here, perhaps with Kara trying to bond with Kendra over their mutual respect of Cain and Kendra dismissing her as a poseur who knew Cain for all of five seconds. Maybe it's on the DVD for all I know.)
If the purpose of the parallel structure was to show how Lee was a very different commander for that ship, or for Lee and Bill to develop a greater understanding of how and why Cain did what she did, I don't think it came through. When Bill essentially excused Cain because she didn't have Roslin screaming in her ear the whole time, it seemed like he and the writers were letting Cain off easy. Yes, Adama wanted to keep fighting and had to be talked out of it by Roslin's speech about hiding and making babies, but I just don't see Adama under any circumstances shooting Tigh in the head for questioning the wisdom of walking into an obvious trap, or ordering the rape of a treasonous ex-lover, or the murders of innocent civilians. I understand the motives behind Cain's actions (and will probably understand them even more after seeing the flashback scenes on the DVD), but that last scene felt like the script in some way trying to justify the film's central character.
The Lee/Kara/Kendra story did offer up one huge hint -- or is it a red herring? -- about the direction of the final season, with The Hybrid warning Kendra that Kara will lead humanity to its own destruction. I don't want to spend too much time analyzing that now, simply because we don't know exactly who or what that person in the Viper cockpit was at the end of season three, nor about the nature of Kara's "death," nor the motives of The Hybrid, both in general and in terms of what he told Kendra. I really hope, though, that Ron Moore has an amazing idea to explain the series' running "All this has happened before, and it will happen again" theme, because it's come up so often that I'm expecting something very cool.
If it seems like I'm being a harsh critic, it's because I hold "Galactica," like "Friday Night Lights" and "The Wire" and a handful of other great series, to a higher standard. Did I enjoy "Razor"? Absolutely. Was I grateful to get a taste of the series during the long hiatus? You bet. But was it as great as it could have been, given the personnel involved and their track record? I don't think so.
Some other thoughts on "Razor":
-I got a review copy of the extended cut DVD yesterday but haven't had time to watch it yet. Hopefully, I can see it before the Dec. 4 release date and do a short supplemental post on the additional scenes.
-I have, however, seen all the Young Adama scenes that aired as interstitials on Sci Fi. As cool as Kara's hangar deck aerial combat was, it's not a patch on man vs. Cylon in freefall. What an incredible bit of action/FX. (The FX team throughout did an amazing job. The destruction of the Scorpion shipyards looked stunning.)
-Who else here had a kind of fanboy (or fangirl) seizure at the sight of a vintage three-man Cylon configuration from the old series? I don't even like the '70s "Galactica" and I whooped and cheered when the action cut to that scene. Sometimes, I'm easily amused.
-Have we seen Laird (the engineer whose family was massacred on the Scylla) in the present-day action since "Resurrection Ship, Pt. II"? I think it would have been really interesting to see some kind of interaction between Shaw and Laird, even if it was simply them passing each other in a corridor and simultaneously cringing. This movie put us inside the head of a Cain loyalist, but what must those months have been like for a poor conscripted bastard like Laird?
-So not only do the humans of the 12 colonies know "All Along the Watchtower," but they have their own version of "99 Bottles of Beer," as suggested (but not sung) by Starbuck and Showboat. Will we eventually meet the colonial equivalent of the Wiggles?
-I don't want to be reductive and suggest that any strong bond between women implies romantic feelings (I know Tigh and Adama don't want to have sex, at least outside of any "Battlestar" slash fiction). But I can't decide whether Kendra's uneasy initial reaction to seeing Gina and Cain kiss was just, as she told Gina, surprise that her fearless leader needed any romantic companionship, or if there was a twinge of jealousy in there. There were no other clues to Kendra's personal life, so that's probably a reach.
-Anyone want to analyze the thinking behind Young Adama's call sign being Husker?
-One thing I didn't quite grasp from the flashback to the first Cylon war: it appeared that the human prisoners were being kept in the building that Adama walked out of just as the base ship was taking off, which means the surviving prisoners could be freed later. Was that just some clumsy editing at the end, and we're meant to think that Adama was on the base ship and then wound up exiting through the concrete bunker?
-Was Starbuck's "Ain't it grand when a plan comes together?" supposed to be a tribute to Dirk Benedict's other old show? On "The A-Team," Hannibal's catchphrase was "I love it when a plan comes together." Also, it's hard to hear the phrase "We've all got it coming" in this context without thinking of the scene where Clint Eastwood says it in "Unforgiven."
What did everybody else think?