Sunday, May 18, 2008

Battlestar Galactica, "Guess What's Coming to Dinner?": Bang, bang, bang, on the door, baby

"Battlestar Galactica" spoilers coming up just as soon as I go through the Go/No-Go checklist with my launch team...

"Jump!"

Well, frak me. Didn't see that one coming.

"Guess What's Coming to Dinner?" concludes on a couple of shocking developments that should blow the shaky human/Cylon alliance all to hell, as Athena empties her gun into Natalie just for looking at Hera funny while the Hybrid is reactivated and immediately jumps the baseship away with Roslin, Baltar, half of Galactica's fighter strength, and a whole bunch of pissed-off Centurions aboard.

I feel like I come to the end of every episode this season thinking, "Oh, this is not going to end well," but this one seemed particularly doomsday-ish. If this were a mid-season or season-ending cliffhanger in the earlier days of the series, I could imagine a way in which the pieces are eventually put back together, but we're close enough to the end, and have had way too many hints about what's coming, to think that any good can come from this.

Like a lot of "Galactica" fans, I tend to rag on the Michael Angeli-written episodes as being as subtle as a blowtorch, but this one seemed less on the nose than most of his efforts. That, or director Wayne Rose and the editing team did such a masterful job of creating suspense throughout the hour that I was too busy sweating to notice each character delivering a monologue explaining who they are and which literary archetype they represent.

From the poorly-timed arrival of the baseship, sans Demetrius, in the opening to the sequence of Sharon chasing after Hera on Galactica, Sharon doing the same in the opera house, and Helo escorting Roslin and Baltar onto the baseship, this was as masterfully-cut an episode of the show as I can remember. (It was also one of the best-looking. Gary Hutzel and his team are really outdoing themselves this season: the fleet jumping away from the scary baseship and the baseship hangar deck were works of art.)

Over at The House Next Door, Todd Van Der Werff had some issues with Athena's willingness to give Natalie a fatal case of lead poisoning, given that the Six in the opera house visions was clearly the platinum-blonde Caprica Six and not the dirty-blonde Natalie Six, and since Sharon the mutinous Cylon would be one of the only people in the fleet to actually know or care about variations within each Cylon model. But I bought it, for a couple of reasons. First, Natalie explicitly mentions Hera to Sharon right before they jump back to the fleet, and in a way that Sharon perceived to be predatory. Second, Sharon's already had her baby stolen twice from her (first by Roslin, then by the Cylons), and now she's plagued by these shared visions (which she knows are more than just dreams) of a Six stealing her a third time, and Hera is doing ominous horror movie things like saying "Bye-bye" and drawing endless pictures of Six in her sketch pad (for her age, the kid's a good artist), and here Sharon finds her runaway daughter in the arms of a Six, and I don't think at that point she cared whether it was the Six. Ordinary moms don't play when it comes to the safety of their children, let alone trained warrior alien robot moms. Ironically, I suspect that in killing Natalie, Sharon is going to only increase the chance of Hera being taken away by Caprica and Baltar, either because she'll be locked away in the brig for it (though, given what happened to Cally for killing Boomer, probably not), or because this will only inflame tensions between the human and rebel Cylon fleets.

(Speaking of which, I can't be the only one to get "Star Wars" original trilogy flashbacks whenever Adama or someone else referred to "the rebel baseship" or "the rebel leader." Help me, Gaius Baltar. You're my only hope.)

The mortality theme continues, as the Cylons have suddenly (in between episodes, really) decided that they don't really want to resurrect anymore. It was interesting to watch the reactions of Tigh and Tory as all of this was discussed. Tigh, of course, is a self-loathing Final Fiver and doesn't want to hear any further talk of how he's different from humans, but you could see Tory realizing for the first time that he could conceivably have an eternal life, and then just as quickly realizing that the proposed mission could snatch that immortality away from her. All of the Final Four performers got to do some great silent acting in this one, whether it was Tory contemplating resurrection, or Anders listening to Gaeta sing (hell of a voice on Alessandro Juliani), or Tyrol being the only person in the corridor stand-off to know that Sharon, in trying to protect her child from a Cylon, handed it off to another Cylon.

(And gods, I hope that both those characters survive until Tyrol is outed -- or, at least, that Tyrol and Boomer do. The conversation he could have with either Sharon about their relationship, sudden Cylon self-knowledge, etc., should be one of the best scenes of the series.)

This is later than I wanted to post this, so I'll hit a few bullet points and open things up to comments:
  • Given that the Final Four discovered their identities through song, is Gaeta's singing (which composer Bear McCreary discusses in detail at his blog) supposed to be a clue to him as the Final Fifth, or just a stylistic flourish?
  • Loved the utter contempt Zarek showed for the plan, with his "blah blah blah" over the important detail that if they did this, they might no longer be dealing with an unbeatable enemy. Lee's been whinier than usual since joining the Quorum, but he has a point when he tells Laura she'd be better served with a little transparency.
  • Actually, now that I think on it, Lee's speech about what it was like to be a civilian during an emergency jump was very Angeli-esque in its "tell, don't show" qualities.
  • Does the fact that Laura has Searider Falcon with her for this trip suggest she'll be reading the final chapter (and then dying) before she'll make it back to the fleet?
What did everybody else think?

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Alan,

No comment on the "harbinger of death" revelations in the episode? The destruction of the ressurection hub would bring death to the cyclons, but would this also hint at kara being the final cylon, or is this misdirection.

Also, any ideas when we will see the last 10 episodes, since we are 3 episodes away from a (undetermined length, but realistically at least 9 month) wait for the last 10.

Mattt said...

I don't think that Gaeta's song mean that he's a cylon, as it's a new song written for the show, rather than a song from Earth. As I recall, part of why "All Along the Watchtower" was chosen as the song for the four was because it was a song from Earth.

My money is still on Baltar being the final cylon, given his psychic connection to Six and the existence of a mental/psychic Baltar that Six can see. As well, since Baltar has already been an uber-scientist, President of the human race, and Jesus, why not have him be the final cylon as well?

Andrew said...

I suspect that the final Cylon has to be someone who was not aboard Galactica at the nebula when the Four heard the song. Unless the Final cylon is different from the rest of the Five, so it's really 7 + 4 +1...

Damn you, Sepinwall, for pointing out the tell, don't show nature of an Angelli-penned episode. This was better than most of his and the ending overshadowed any weaknesses in the episode.

Mrglass said...

After the last few contemplative episodes, this one had so much going on that it felt almost rushed. But it was probably necessary to bring all the different storylines together.

A lot of time was also spent revealing what we viewers already know, to the characters in the show: opera visions, Cylon civil war, Final Five in the fleet... The biggest revelation is of course yet to come, one can only imagine how Adama and Roslin will react when they learn the truth about their respective right-hands.

For them and the rest, an happy ending is very unlikely now. Midway through the episode I was starting to think the writers were making the human-Cylon alliance way too smooth after all that happened, but of course it all went to hell in the last minutes.

Two weeks to wait, a long time. Once again, I must say this is the best season of BSG so far.

Mrglass said...

And my bet for the last Cylon is still Doctor Cottle. He was always one the coolest secondary character, and did you notice how he appears in almost every episode lately?

I also think the last Cylon, whoever he is, has been aware of his nature from the start and didn't need to be "activated", and perhaps even does know the way to Earth.

Brian said...

Roslyn's take-down of Tori was pretty epic. "I don't care if you spend time on your knees praying, or just on your knees..."

Nicole said...

The Roslin-Tory scene also incorporated 'nymph squad'.. Roslin is so great at smacking people down.

I change my mind every week about the Final Cylon. This week I did think Gaeta might be it because of the singing, and he has now been mutilated like Tigh. But then Roslin and Baltar are still contenders.

I think next week will eliminate a few of the contenders because if Roslin and Baltar are on the Cylon ship and the hybrid can't identify them, they will go out of the running for me.

Eve said...

mrglass,

Doctor Cottle is an interesting and funny choice for the final cylon. I thought about it as well. Of all the humans, half-cylons and cylons Doctor Cottle has always been the most neutral and rational character.

Plus: He is such a heavy chain-smoker, it is a miracle that he is still alive;)

All in all great episode. I hope Natalie won´t die, she´s my favourite Six.

Alanna said...

I think next week will eliminate a few of the contenders because if Roslin and Baltar are on the Cylon ship and the hybrid can't identify them, they will go out of the running for me.

Though she didn't see him directly, the Hybrid had no apparent reaction to Sam being on the ship.

I've never liked the idea of Baltar as the last Cylon, because I think RDM wants to show him as a flawed, corruptible human rather than giving him an excuse. Plus, he and Kara are so clearly (to me) red herrings right now. I do think the last one will be a woman, in part for the gender parity, and it would need to be someone big to really make an impact. I'm leaning toward Roslin, though I personally prefer Cain for reasons I can't really explain.

Some friends have had concerns about the gender issues this season. I haven't really minded so far -- the subtext is there if you want to see it, but I doubt it means anything; however, Roslin's "on your knees" and "nymph squad" lines bothered me, even if they are technically true about Tory.

And, like Alan, I bought Athena's choice to shoot Natalie. While she would argue for herself that all Cylons models are NOT alike, she's already 2-3 years removed from being part of that world, and she doesn't have the same confidence in Model #6. Natalie didn't help matters, though I wish she had because I quite like the character. Right now, though, I would love to see more about just why Athena has placed her allegiances with humanity, beyond simply her husband and child. I don't doubt her loyalty, but it's such a huge thing that I'd like to see more of her in situations where she goes against the other Cylons because she wants to, regardless of her husband and child. And how would she react to the test if, say, Helo were to die?

Incidentally, Hera drew Six in the red dress, which -- up to now -- has only existed in Baltar's head. Hmm!

R.A. Porter said...

As I have since season one, I believe Gaeta is a Cylon. This week's episode did nothing to dissuade me from that belief. Now I just think he's a Cylon with a fantastic voice.

The editing of that sequence - Athena chasing Hera, Roslin walking briskly, cuts to the opera house vision - was possibly the best editing I've ever seen on *any* TV show. Each moment was carefully choreographed to maximize the buildup of tension until the first, false release, immediately followed by the JUMP, and finally tagged by Gaeta resolving his lament's harmonic progression.

This season has been so incredible, that right now I simultaneously want it to rapidly come to an end and *never* end. I want to consume it all in one massive burst, knowing that it will leave me both depressed and exhilarated.

Bobman said...

The editing of that sequence - Athena chasing Hera, Roslin walking briskly, cuts to the opera house vision - was possibly the best editing I've ever seen on *any* TV show. Each moment was carefully choreographed to maximize the buildup of tension until the first, false release, immediately followed by the JUMP, and finally tagged by Gaeta resolving his lament's harmonic progression.

I was literally awed by this sequence, and had to watch it several times.

I also loved the scene, despite it being a bit expository, when Natalie is explaining about the fragility of life and they briefly cut to a VERY sickly-looking Roslin standing next to her. A bit obvious, but still powerful.

Kristin said...

I think the final cylon is a woman, too....and considering where the base ship just took her, it may be Roslin after all. I could see the temptation in finding out she could resurrect herself being a very intriguing one. She is afraid to die...and if she finds out she doesn't have to...would she take that bait?

I'm guessing no...and then her death would really be interesting....how it plays out, what she says to people around her, how that changes everything.

But I still don't know what Kara is. Is she some other type of hybrid?? Another child of a cylon/human? Kara never knew her father, right? She was raised by only an abusive mother.

This was a fantastic episode! Can't WAIT for next week, once again.

K.C. said...

It'd be kind of a letdown if the final fiver turns out to be Baltar, Roslin or Kara. Too obvious. I was rather hoping it would be Dualla. And though Alan makes some good points on why Athena would shoot Natalie, I still didn't buy it. Athena's too cool a cucumber, and Hera was already "safe" with Tyrol. It smacked of plot contrivance to me. Still, one of the better Angeli scripts.

Anonymous said...

A quick thought on the 'harbinger of death' prophecy. It occurred to me, as Kara stood in front of Laura and agreed to help her find the meaning in her dreams, that perhaps the 'death' of which she is a 'harbinger' is Laura's.

"You are the harbinger of death, Kara Thrace. You will lead them all to their end."

As Kara and Laura lead them all to Earth, so Laura moves closer to her death - according to the ancient scrolls, the dying leader does not make it to the promised land, I think.

kshen said...

Athena's too cool a cucumber.

Really? I've always thought that the eights were distinguished by the strength of their emotions and their impulsiveness. It can't be a coincidence that both Athena and Boomer went rogue for love.

Anonymous said...

I still don't know what Kara is. Is she some other type of hybrid?? Another child of a cylon/human? Kara never knew her father, right? She was raised by only an abusive mother.

I have thought for quite some time that Kara's father is Saul. Her mother was in the fleet if I recall so it's possible the he is the father that she has never known, thus making her a hybrid. Which would be rather interesting considering their dislike of one another and the fact that she was tossed in the brig for striking him in the mini-series.

I also think that it was Kara and Leoben behind the door in Razor when young Adama crashed.

As for the final cylon; I think it's Tom Zarek. Doesn't make sense, no reason why aside from being an actor from the original series. But....he wasn't in the last supper picture???

R.A. Porter said...

@anon, I *love* your theory about Saul being Kara's father. The twisted dynamic between the two of them would be that much more twisted by that.

k.c. said...

That's good point about the Eights, kshen. Still, something about Athena going all Cally on Natalie struck me as a bit off. In other news, Zarek as the final fiver would be pretty neat, but I'm kind of hoping it will be another woman.

Sam said...

Just to add to the kudos for this episode as well. With only a few minor complaints and to throw out an idea and see what others think.
1. I am glad Alan mentioned Helo's extended count down to jump-they have done this the past two weeks w/ the demetrios and the show is tense enough w/out the artificial tension of that (I find myself saying oh just jump already).
2. Alan asked if anyone had any Star Wars flashbacks w/ reference to the rebel leader-i had a different one in response to this episode and was wondering if anyone else groaned at the notion that the resurrection hub was a single point of failure for something as vital to the cylons as resurrection. (I was thinking of course of the new star wars movies in which the droid ships all had one point of failure and no redudancy systems built in)-which is just bad systems engineering and computer programming-and was bad enough in star wars which was essentially a kids movie but is just ridiculous here. Granted I am over analyzing and I am willing to suspend disbelief on a number of items w/ the show (like the lack of cameras in vital places of the ship (airlock, the brig), but in random corridors when the plot needs them) but having a bit of trouble w/ this one.

I also think the last cylon is a female and I wondering if it is someone already dead, and will add that aura of mystery of "the return" of the last model to unify all the models and bring peace and harmony (akin to the messiah, the 12th Imam, other religious figures). I thought Natalie hinted at this when she asked why the final five hadn't revealed themselves to the cylon rebels, and were their actions being judged. I was thinking possibly Callie or Ellen as the final model. If the final explanation is that "they are all cylons" then Callie and Tyrol being cylons removes the issue of cylons not being able to procreate w/ each other.

Like anonymous, I also think leoben and kara (def. kara) are behind that door in "razor."

Kristin said...

Oooh, I do like the idea of Saul being Kara's father. They are strikingly similar in personality, if you think about it. Hmmmm.....

That would be an interesting revelation.

But wouldn't Saul know or suspect Kara was his daughter if he had an affair with the mom? And I never got that impression over the years.

As for the Resurrection Hub being a 'single point of failure," it wouldn't really work very well to have a movie or tv show where there wasn't an absolute way to kill off the bad guys. Making redundant systems would definitely kill some of the tension and make telling the story a lot harder.

If they put in a redundant system somewhere, wouldn't half the audience then be saying "What a cop out. They just made that up to get themselves out of an impossible situation." At some point, you will have had to break through the redundancies and end up with one final thing to destroy, right?

I try not to get too bogged down in the 'realistic' aspect of a fictional show. There has to be a way to finally 'destroy' the Cylons way to resurrect. And I think this will work for me.

green-tara76 said...

But Kara did know her father, although it isn't explained if he died or just left them. In Season 2
when she & Helo are in her apartment on Caprica (with the nebula painting) she plays a haunting piece of music on her battery operated boombox, and tells Helo it is her father's recording. So, unless Saul Tigh was a concert pianist as well as a military frackup and a Cylon, I don't see that happening.

Pandyora said...

Random question - did anyone else find Baltar's explanation for how he knew about Roslin's dreams - that Lampkin told him after interviewing the Six - completely lacking in credibility? It seemed to me that the much more obvious explanation was that Baltar himself was in the dreams, so he was also sharing the visions with Roslin. If this is the case, why would Baltar lie, inventing this Lampkin story?

On the identity of the final cylon, I would probably be disappointed if it was some minor secondary character like Cottle or Duala. Unless the reveal was set up in a very convincing way, they would seem like a rather random choice. I mean, why shroud the last cylon's identity in such mystery if it is simply some supporting character?

Speaking of which, I loved Tyrol's sarcastic quip: "At least we'll know who the 5th cylon is."

kshen said...

But Kara did know her father, although it isn't explained if he died or just left them

The whole piano recording thing could easily be a lie, a la Barney Stinson's father being Bob Barker on HIMYM.

Jennykins said...

I've been assuming all along (as I think we're supposed to) that Roslin is "the dying leader" who will lead the people to Earth.

After this episode, however, I now think that Natalie Six may well be that dying leader. During a conversation with Kara, she was referred to (or referred to herself--can't quite remember) as the "leader" for the breakaway Cylons.

And I'm really beginning to wonder whether Roslin actually is a Cylon. I dismissed the idea two seasons ago, but now I'm beginning to wonder.

I'd love to download Gaeta's song on Itunes...

barefootjim said...

I continue to be blown away by the nerve-wracking high quality of this season -- we're approaching sainted HBO Wire/Deadwood/Sopranos territory here -- and am already looking forward to / dreading screaming "Nooo, you bastards!!" at my TV when the inevitable cliffhanger comes up in just a few

ddnnll said...

As the final Cylon...

Baltar, Roslin, Starbuck = too obvious.

Dualla, Gaeta, others = too anticlimactic.

The truth : it's Zak Adama. Bet on it.

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't at all make a habit of judging a writer by the episode that has his/her name on it. TV writing is incredibly collaborative and most get very rewritten by the group. So the same writer whose episodes you point out for not being subtle, may have actually come up with that subtle character scene you liked so much in another episode.

domino87 said...

To the last anon, I'm pretty sure Alan knows that TV writing is collaborative. I mean, he is a TV critic for a living.

And if you can't judge a writer by the episode with his/her name on it, what CAN you judge them by? Other than judging the entire writing team as a whole over many many episodes.

Maximilian said...

The missing three will give you the five….
….who have come from the home of the thirteenth.


Thirteen tribe....or cylon?

Rand said...

Doc Cottle I think would probably make the most sense because he's the only one with a cool enough demeanor that he would stay in the background even if he knew he was one of the final five. However, since I think the ultimate or penultimate climax of the show is going to come with the revelation of the final one, I don't think that Doc Cottle, the cool and calm, resigned but humane, doctor fits the role of breaking a climax like that. I still think Lee is going to be the final one, and when he's realized as the final one he's going to take command of the entire fleet/rebels, afterall, he's the only character not involved in the military disputes who has been consistently given full coverage.

Butch said...

When No. 3 saw one of the Final Five and her reaction was to apologize, I immediately thought of Cottle because she had been nasty to him on New Caprica. Who else would she have interacted with so personally? But the one she was apologizing to could just as easily be Tighe...

Al said...

what about Lee as the fifth Cylon?

At the very least, I think he'll turn Cylon-positive, and end up defending them. I always assumed this is why BSG moved him from Vipers to law ...

Kevin said...

Baltar cant be one of the final 5 for the final 5 were looking upon himself and the six in the opera house. The president is she the only non cylon to share the dreams? or maybe she's the last cylon. Which would be quite interesting to see how adama would react. I think the fact the base ship jumped away before the cylons found out what happened to the 6, will maybe save the alyance, and seems to me why the hybred did it. They can see through all time right. But comunicating on the 4d human level seems too difficult or simple for them.