Spoilers for tonight's "Battlestar Galactica" coming up just as soon as I give my teeth a good brushing...
"You know, there are days that I really hate this job." -Bill Adama
Last week's episode was about philosophy. This one's about practicality.
Where most of "Sometimes a Great Notion" was spent on the characters -- and the audience -- trying to make sense of the ruined state of Earth and one mind-bending revelation after another, "A Disquiet Follows My Soul" features the rag-tag fleet attempting to get back to business. There will be time for soul-searching, and for answers, later, but right now, everyone needs to figure out what to do now that Earth has turned out to be an even bigger dump than New Caprica.
The need to move on is signified with the long opening sequence of Adama going through his normal morning routine. To a career military man, routine is everything, and as we see him brushing his teeth, showering, taking out a fresh uniform, we see him setting aside all the angst he's been wallowing in for the last few episodes. No more crying, or punching mirrors, or getting blitzed -- there's work to be done, and that can only be done if the fleet is in the right mindset, and if its leader is setting the tone from the top down. (Note that he even starts picking up litter whenever he finds some in the Galactica corridors; if you let the little problems build up, ignored, then people feel free to create bigger ones.)
And, for the moment, the fleet only has the one leader. Where Bill has his act back together, Roslin is checked out, prepared to die on her own terms, luxuriating in the adrenaline rush of stopping her chemo treatments, and leaving the civilian government in the fear-mongering paws of Tom Zarek.
In some ways, this incarnation of Laura is more disturbing than last week's silent, fetal-positioned mess, or the vengeful robot she let herself become for much of the first half of this season. At least then, she allowed herself to feel something about the plight of her constituency, even if she overreacted to those feelings, curling into a ball or curtailing civil liberties. As Laura freely admits, she just wants to live a little before she dies, and the fleet can go crying to some other mommy the next time it stubs its toe. The moment when Bill and Laura finally consummate their relationship, finally give into their feelings even more freely than when she declared her love for him at the end of "Hub," should feel triumphant, the release of four years of anticipated build-up. Instead, it feels sad. I wouldn't begrudge either party their desire to get some before the apocalypse comes, to find some kind of happiness amidst all this tragedy, but I wish they could have reached this point before Laura gave up on humanity, both her own and everyone else's. I look at her glowing, and wish I could share in her happiness, but I can't.
When he isn't trying to corral, and eventually bed, the vacationing Commander-in-Chief, Adama has to deal with the realities of the fleet's current situation. Where do they go now? How do they stay safe from whatever's left of Brother Cavil's Cylon faction? And what's to be done about this fragile alliance with Six's faction? It was one thing for the fleet to go along with a short-term alliance, when it seemed like everyone's happy ending on Earth was just around the corner, but Zarek has a point: why should the fleet throw in its lot with the people who put it in this current horrible predicament? Even if they got to witness Natalie and Leoben and the rest have their come-to-Jesus moment (come-to-Baltar moment?) where they realized that maybe genocide was a mistake, would they care? And why, especially given how vehemently Adama opposed networking his ship's computers back in the miniseries, shouldn't people be shocked and outraged by the idea that he now wants every ship in the fleet to install Cylon tech?
(For more on Adama's reasoning on this point, I strongly recommend Mo Ryan's interview with Ron Moore on this episode.)
Zarek has a point. So, for that matter, does Gaeta, his new partner in insurrection. From our omniscient point of view as fans of the series, we can trust Tigh and Tyrol and Athena and maybe the rest of the rebel Cylons, but if we'd lived through this four-year nightmare? If we'd lost friends, loved ones, a leg, etc., to the toasters, and now our military leader -- who has a habit of making unilateral decisions that affect all of our lives -- declares that we're now bestest buddies with them, wouldn't we maybe think it's time for a coup?
The various Gaeta and Zarek scenes through the episode crackled, especially Felix confronting Kara about that fun time when she and two of her best Cylon buddies almost threw him out an airlock for allegedly consorting with the enemy. Alessandro Juliani hasn't been asked to do that much heavy lifting over the years, but he absolutely shines in this spotlight episode, showing you every ounce of Felix's hatred as Tigh demands to be called "sir," and matching every bit of Katee Sackhoff's feral energy as Starbuck and Gaeta swap insults. (Her: "Rimshot, big laugh, applause, applause, applause." Him: "So I guess a pity frak's out of the question, then?")
Richard Hatch got his own wonderful sarcastic moments -- asking Lee, "Are you the president again? Sorry, I get confused what your job is on any given day." -- and was allowed to make salient points, even though he was wrapping them up in the language of fear. My only complaint with this story is the evidence Adama finds of Zarek's corruption. Yes, this was set up all the way back in "Black Market," but for a show that usually relishes its moral ambiguity, I think it's an easy out to allow Adama to rightfully accuse Zarek of such hypocrisy. Wouldn't things be a lot messier -- and even more compelling -- if Zarek was every bit the freedom fighter he bills himself as? Wouldn't it be a lot harder to root against the insurrection, even though we've been on Adama's side since the miniseries?
The other practical matters to be dealt with here are questions of paternity. Tigh is, in fact, Caprica Six's baby daddy, which means that Cylon-Cylon breeding is somehow possible (and it would have to be, given the number and variety of Cylons we saw in the flashbacks to Earth pre-nuking).
Tyrol's son, on the other hand, turns out not to be his off-spring, but the result of a short-lived affair between Cally and dumb ol' Hot Dog. That addresses two issues at once. First, it means that Hera is still the only human-Cylon hybrid to date, which the writers had to address once they retroactively decided Tyrol was a Cylon. Second, it gives Tyrol -- already having pronoun trouble when it comes to referring to his newfound Cylon brothers -- even less of a connection to humanity. He thought Nicky was his own blood, raised him as such for the first few years of the boy's life, and will still care for him even after Hot Dog more fully enters the picture, but finding out he doesn't have any human relations (or half-relations) makes it even easier to start thinking of the Cylons as "us" and the humans as "them."
And when Gaeta and Zarek and their friends inevitably attempt to forcefully separate the humans from the Cylons, I don't think Tyrol's going to have a problem choosing sides. Do you?
Some other thoughts on "A Disquiet Follows My Soul":
• This was Ron Moore's directorial debut after four years of running the show, and several decades as a TV and film writer. A few of the sequences (Adama's multiple bouts of dental hygine obsession, Roslin sprinting through the corridors, Baltar's sermon) called attention to themselves, this final season has become more visually adventurous, so these didn't feel out of place.
• Baltar's sermon, in which he turns his back on his "you are perfect, because God is perfect" mantra and suggests that God has some questions to answer -- if He exists at all -- was the episode's one big philosophical moment, but even it felt practical. After Baltar spent the first half of the season spreading the monotheistic word, he would almost have to deal with the implications of God's plan turning out to be really imperfect, wouldn't he?
• Lee's slip at the press conference about the gender of the final Cylon makes it clear that Tigh told other people about his discovery about Ellen at the end of "Sometimes a Great Notion." Starbuck, on the other hand, appears to be keeping her own discoveries to herself, and it's eating her up inside.
• Am I nuts, or is one of the on-lookers cheering on the Tyrol/Hot Dog brawl Brent Spiner? He and Moore do have a professional history together, after all; maybe he was in Vancouver on this particular day and wandered by.
What did everybody else think?