Thursday, January 01, 2009

Still more pure evil: I have now seen Battlestar Galactica's premiere

I'm trying really hard not to be some smug jerk who does these posts just to go "Nyah nyah!" about me seeing special things in advance, but I also know that some people like hearing in advance what I thought of something, even in the broadest terms. (It's why I do those summer pilot non-reviews, why I wrote about "The Shield" a couple of weeks before the final season premiere, etc.)

So I will simply say this: I watched the "Battlestar Galactica" premiere last night, and it is brilliant, and it is devastating, and I can't wait to talk about it with all of you on January 16. And if you're fiending for "BSG" and haven't yet watched the "Face of the Enemy" webisodes, you should get started with that.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

While jealous of you, I can't consider you evil for having seen the BSG and Lost premieres. You actually write about them (and offer a forum for us after they air).

I reserve the evil label for a certain pop culture blogger who only mentions having access to the screeners to point out that she's seen the show already.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh, and as Mo Ryan points out on her blog, you really, really, really want to steer clear of spoilers for this final batch if you can.

Rev/Views said...

Sigh, no hope of watching the Webisodes outside the US again it seems. I can understand restricted content (sort of) for Hulu and so forth, but Webisodes? Gah!

Oh well, there's always other sources, but I'd rather be legitimate where possible.

OleNelson said...

On the one hand, DAMN YOU!

On the other hand, though, I'm totally thrilled to know that there is reason to be excited about the upcoming months of television.

Melanie said...

Alan, will I be ok if I don't watch the webisodes, or will I be missing something key?

56th Street said...

How are you able to see advanced episodes of shows?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, will I be ok if I don't watch the webisodes, or will I be missing something key?

I think so. The webisodes seem to be telling a standalone story, unlike the ones that preceded the start of season three.

Andy said...

Rev/Views, I'm usually against piracy, but the fact the network sites and hulu block content for overseas viewers is ridiculous. Go ahead and get the webisodes any way you can. I have lived outside the US for work and understand your pain. Anytime a network makes it difficult to obtain their content they deserve whatever lost revenue they may suffer from pirating. It may be a harsh view, but unless you have felt the frustration of attempting to watch US television while being abroad you wouldn't understand. I'm more than willing to watch commercials on hulu or the network sites, but the shows are simply blocked whenever you are outside the US.

Anonymous said...

I found BSG's last ten episodes to be so disappointing and just plain -boring- that I am actively seeking spoilers. Are these somehow an improvement? I can't honestly believe that anything from the reveal of the four cylons is being compared favorably with the prior high standard of this show. It honestly feels like the show is drunk on its own accolades. (Adama + Roslin was a sign the fan-fiction had taken over) The fourth season was so riddled with pointless meandering, and it has never righted it's course. Why should I be looking forward to these?

etselec said...

WANT!

Andy said...

I'm guessing the webisodes will not be essential viewing, but I'm sure watching them will enhance watching at least some aspect of the regular upcoming episodes. Anything essential to the plot would be rehashed in a regular episode I'm sure as not everyone will watch the webisodes.

I've seen all the webisodes, but I won't spoil anything. They were done well, but I'm not really a fan of the format (Short 3-5 minute acts, make it a bit of a herky-jerky way to tell what is essentially a 35-40 minute story) It's nice to have something to whet the appetite though.

S said...

I have to agree with anonymous here - the first batch of Season 4 episodes has been for the most part so below BSG's usual standard, I don't trust them enough to go into the new episodes blindly.

Your estimation makes me hope a little more for this final stretch, though. I'd hate to see this show go out on a disappointing note.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Keep in mind while studying my praise that I loved the first half of season 4.

S said...

You had to crush my hopes, didn't you. :)

Oh, well, we'll see. I like the webisodes just fine, so they might be a good indicator.

Andy said...

There has never been a bad season of BSG, maybe an episode here and there, but not even many of those.

The Engineer said...

YOU SIR ARE EVIL HUMAN

belinda said...

I hate you, Alan.

Anonymous said...

I am so Jealous that all you "tv reviewers" get to watch LOST and BSG early! It's so NOT fair!

dark tyler said...

Yeah, I'm wondering why the hate for season 4.0. It was obviously so much better that the whole of season 3 (excluding those first 4-5 episodes).

To each his own, of course, I'm just curious.

J said...

I loved the first half of season 4.

How did you feel about 3? I just finished that on DVD and thought it a horrid, steaming turd. (And in general I find the whole run of the show to be strong in isolated spots, but erratic and overrated.) I was hesitant to bump 4 up in my Netflix queue.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'd say the first half of season three -- really, the first five or six episodes (the New Caprica arc and a few after) -- are among the best episodes the show's ever done. After that? A big mess that didn't come back into focus until the very end with Baltar's trial and the Final Four revelation.

Andy said...

If you don't like the show or think it's overrated then don't watch it. I feel the same way about Law and Order, CSI, Greys Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, and many others. No one forces me to watch them so I don't.

Zachary said...

I've got Season 4 on the way from Netflix, so I'll be caught up in time for the 4.5 premiere. Woohoo!

Jeff L said...

Hey, I understand there is some kind of movie with werewolves and vampires coming out. Any other BSG fans heard about that?

Counting the minutes until the 16th!

Ryan said...

I'd say the first half of season three -- really, the first five or six episodes (the New Caprica arc and a few after) -- are among the best episodes the show's ever done. After that? A big mess that didn't come back into focus until the very end with Baltar's trial and the Final Four revelation.

As far as I'm concerned, it never came back into focus after New Caprica. So many reset buttons were hit after those eps, it's disgusting when compared to how seriously the continuity was taken beforehand. I was an ardent supporter of both Lost(no doubting) and BSG, and I can put up with some lame eps here and there from both. The death of Starbuck is the straw that instantly broke the show for me. NOT the fact that she died, but the fact that the episode itself is so full of itself and telegraphed that I couldn't believe such ham-handed writing was passing muster. She's freaking saying her goodbyes before we should even think she's going to die. Second straw: as "shocking" as the final four reveal was, it -still- makes no sense....so I said, fine, they are completely off the rails here, I'll go with them, but instead of at least using such shocks to actually change anything, we spend ten episodes doing -nothing- before they are revealed.

BTW, Baltar has always been my favorite character, so maybe my extreme disappointment stems from the fact they lost all sight of who he is...I couldn't tell you what his motivation is anymore. Not funny, not calculating, not even particularly selfish, just nothing.

Anonymous said...

Wow. It's such an honor to have someone of your stature announce he's watched 42 minutes of television.

S said...

If you don't like the show or think it's overrated then don't watch it.

I'd be glad if it were that easy, but I actually love the show, and I'd really like to continue loving it. I mostly agree with Alan about Season 3 - brilliant first few episodes, then a lot of filler, and then it gets slightly better in the end. I wasn't as riveted by "Lay Down Your Burdens" as I was by the previous Season 2 finale - I found Lee's speech stilted and think that not all of the final four were chosen wisely, not to mention that the whole "Starbuck is dead - no, wait, she is ALIVE" stunt was a bit too gimmicky for my taste, but it certainly seemed to promise a return to form.

And then Season 4 brought us generic characters who had only a passing resemblance with their former selfs, needless plot diversions, and both pointlessly artsy (was that the "Road Less Travelled" with all the somewhat hilarious shots of Starbuck from below?) and agonizingly mundane direction ("Sine Qua Non" could also be an episode of Law and Order where that is concerned).

It also has great points, no question (the Cylon Civil War and the resulting negotiations between humans and cylons just two of them), but I can't help thinking that this season especially would have benefitted if they had stuck to the 13-episodes format of Season One.

Anonymous said...

"...It also has great points, no question (the Cylon Civil War and the resulting negotiations between humans and cylons just two of them)"

Really? I thought that particular storyline was rushed and perfunctory, like something out of a much more mundane sci-fi show. It was motivated by plot; nothing else.

The rest of the season(excluding Lee Adama's political aspirations) I found to be incredibly moving and character focused. Episode six, "Faith", is one of my favorite episodes of any television series.

Different strokes and all that, I guess.

Thanks for the impressions, Alan. January's shaping up to be a good month for TV.

Craig Ranapia said...

I found BSG's last ten episodes to be so disappointing and just plain -boring- that I am actively seeking spoilers.

OK, perhaps I've got some glitch in my wetware -- when I'm done voting against my model, getting jiggy with Cavil and gabbing about the Final Five -- but why the heck are you looking for spoilers about a show you've now determined sucks, blows and pees on the rug?

I don't seek out spoilers for 'Grey's Anatomy' -- which used to be a campy guilty pleasure, sue me -- because I DON'T WATCH THE DAMN THING AND DON'T CARE WHAT HAPPENS.

OldDarth aka CanuckLou said...

Thanks for the heads up Alan.

Woot! When it rains it pours! Lost and BSG back in January. Yippee!

I agree that the 3rd season sputtered after the boxing episode and the 4th season never really got going until the 6th episode.

Still when BSG is good its very good.

Nicole said...

I don't get the BSG haters who still continue to watch the show. Life is too short to waste time on shows you hate. I quit Grey's Anatomy around the time Meredith almost died but didn't and have not looked back.
That said, parts of season 3 were weak, with the whole quadrangle stuff, but I thought the first part of season 4 was for the most part very good. I think BSG will benefit from DVD watching when seasons can be viewed as a whole and not split up here and there.

For once, Space, the CDN equivalent of Sci-fi is airing the webisodes so perhaps international viewers can try to watch it on the website -spacecast.com.

I too agree with the "watch any way you can" method when websites are blocked. We complain about China blocking websites from its population when that government deems the content unacceptable, but somehow it's okay for things to be blocked simply because of monetary reasons. Slap on a commercial, money will be made and let's move on. It's all greed.
(I am also peeved that I couldn't access the Doctor Who Advent Calendar goodies.... especially since my tax dollars to CBC actually help them co-produce the show)

Anonymous said...

How could anyone possibly hate season 4 when we got rid of Cally in such an awesome way?

A. Duncan Carson said...

Mini-Series: Awesome.

Season One: Awesome.

Season Two: Mega-Super Awesome.

The First Four Episodes of Season Three: Mega-Super-Ultra Awesome with Marshmallows.

The Rest Of Season Three: Mostly "meh," with some very big exceptions ("Unifinished Business" is among my favorites of the whole series, mostly because it mines flashbacks to New Caprica awesomeness, the one with Kat's story is a bit hammy but always makes me tear up, and the few leading up to the awesome finale are okay.

Season Four (1-10): Up and down, but "Revelations" make it worth anything, really.

I feel like these last ten are going to make all the wheeling spinning over the last 20 or so episodes totally worth it, though. This finale is going to be EPIC.

S said...

I don't get the BSG haters who still continue to watch the show. Life is too short to waste time on shows you hate. I quit Grey's Anatomy around the time Meredith almost died but didn't and have not looked back.

Usually I agree with this sentiment, and if this were Season 2, I would have been out, but since it is the last season, I'll give it another chance. Nostalgia, probably.

Andy said...

Whenever a show I used to like goes off the tracks, but I feel too invested to quit on it I will stop watching the live broadcasts and simply go to the DVR or wait for DVD. Almost any show is more bearable without having to sit through a full hour including 18 minutes of commercial interruption. Just a suggestion.

Ryan said...

OK, perhaps I've got some glitch in my wetware -- when I'm done voting against my model, getting jiggy with Cavil and gabbing about the Final Five -- but why the heck are you looking for spoilers about a show you've now determined sucks, blows and pees on the rug?
Because I used to love the show, and I want to know if there's any reason to tune in again. (I'm not spoiling anything) Like if the fifth cylon isn't just pulled out of thin air like the other four, for instance. They've been amazingly good at keeping that secret....which means to me they are either a non-entity or it means basically nothing. Also, those who say filler eps are gone seem to be wrong, once I read a few of the episode descriptions. Some of the later eps actually sound like pure wheel spinning, and I can't imagine there's actually any momentum. Anyways, I'll shut up now, I'm sure I'll watch it anyway.

Number Five said...

This isn't the place to get in super specific discussions about seasons 3 and 4 quality, but I don't think BSG has ever slipped up for a sustained stretch. Of course, I think it's one of the best television shows I've ever seen, so those go hand in hand.

I think BSG has been remarkably consistent on a macro level. Yes, season 3 had some ups and downs between New Caprica and the final episodes. But along with a couple of clunker stand-alone episodes were some very good ones that couldn't match up to the arcs only because...well, what could? They were still excellent. I think the same goes for season 2...the arcs were fantastic and the stand-alones were sometimes bad but sometimes unjustly maligned. And as far back as season 1, with its almost all stand-alone episodes but lots of through-line stories, there were a couple of duds but almost all greatness.

I'm not sure what the knocks against season 4 are...sure, there's relatively slow plot advancement, but BSG has never been about that. And along the way we got more powerful stories.

S said...

Almost any show is more bearable without having to sit through a full hour including 18 minutes of commercial interruption. Just a suggestion.

Oh, I don't watch it live. I'm in Europe.

As has been said before, to each their own. I'm glad you guys for the most part still seem to enjoy it.

Norgard said...

"Yeah, I'm wondering why the hate for season 4.0. It was obviously so much better than the whole of season 3 (excluding those first 4-5 episodes).

To each his own, of course, I'm just curious."


For one thing, the show has undergone a fundamental change -- or rather, evolution -- from the miniseries and first one-and-a-half seasons or so to this point, and quite frankly I'm just not that interested in that new direction. This used to be a show where people had to make hard decisions and live with the consequences. In the miniseries, Tigh had to blow sixty crewmen into space to put out a fire. Hamfisted as it was told, Roslin had to leave numerous civilians behind. They shot down one of their own liners in the very first episode. But from some point in season 2 on the writers more often than not protected the characters from the consequences of their actions. Adama doesn't want to kill Cain, and hey, there's Gina to do it for him. Kara wants to risk the entire fleet by going back to Caprica for a couple of resistance fighters, and of course she succeeds without a hitch. Lee gets the brunt of it by arguing to leave people behind for the greater good three times (during the New Caprica arc, the mid-season 3 cliffhanger and in Razor) and is proven wrong every single time (Hm. Maybe the writers just wanted to communicate that Lee is a horrible strategist). And of course, when Lee threatens to airlock Tigh, Kara's magical Viper picks up a signal just in time. At the end of Resurrection Ship II I was riveted because the show had sold me on the idea that it was at least very much possible that the lead character would assassinate his superior officer. In Revelations I was just bored because this show no longer had the guts to make such a threat seem real.

Speaking of the magical Viper, in the original miniseries there were fairly little overt fantasy elements. Then, as the show progressed, in crept these visions of Roslin, which of course were proven right every single time. There are prophets who speak in cryptic poetry. There's a Chosen One (There's always a Chosen One. It's a union thing). And destinies. Lots and lots of predestination. Humans and Cylons need to meet to form an alliance? Oh, Kara could have this urge to go in their direction. The Human-Cylon alliance needs to be disrupted? Oh, Athena could shoot Natalie because of a vision.

It's not even that you couldn't make a good show from these elements. But there are already plenty of shows like that. If I want mysticism and Chosen Ones I can watch Lost, or The Matrix. If I want to watch a woman's courageous battle against cancer I'm sure there are a dozen Lifetime Original movies that will accomodate me. Mary McDonnell's performance was one of the few real pleasures of season 4.0 for me, but I would have preferred if it had been in the service of a storyline that couldn't be done on any other show -- say, about a politician forced to negotiate an alliance with the group who tried to exterminate her people -- instead of Generic Cancer Battle/Romance Story #569.

Finally, and I don't know if it's always been this bad or if I just notice it more because I've become disenchanted with the show, BSG has a real problem with lazy writing, where things happen because the writers want them to happen, not because they make sense. Alan pointed out the numerous problems in his review of "Sine Qua Non", but my favourite example is from "Revelations": Kara, aware Tigh is about to be spaced, goes to her Magical Viper to find the signal no one else in two fleets can hear -- and then, instead of picking up the intercom to call Lee, she starts running. And I started laughing. Which puts hell of a strain on my suspension of disbelief.

Anonymous said...

I kind of like the idea of you not commenting on the episode. Maybe you should continue to do so.

Anonymous said...

Alan --

Find another job.

leoff said...

Sorry folks, but the "don't watch it" argument won't stick. Not with only 10 episodes left. That being said, I'm another unhappy fan. S3 was pointless after the 1st half of the season, but S4 has been a huge disappointment so far. You know, being the last one.

The pace is oddly structured. The "character episodes" (4x03, 4x04) are boring despite some really good acting; the ones in which the plot moves forward are so contrived, things happen too fast. I miss the old days, when the discovery and destruction of a Resurrection Ship was a huge event that took 2 or 3 episodes. In S4, they learn about a hub that, once destroyed, would turn the cylons into mortals. 20 minutes past that, a mission is organized and the hub is gone without any significant resistance.

Some character development is equally bad. The prize goes to Roslin forgiving Baltar. She hates the guy, then Roslin have weird out of nowhere visions with Elosha. And bang, she is now Baltar's best friend. I would expect this lazy writing coming from Heroes, not BSG.

Anonymous said...

"...And bang, she is now Baltar's best friend."

Yikes. You're watching a different show than I am.

leoff said...

You know what I meant.

Would you forgive a person guilt of horrible crimes (in your opinion, at least) that you hated for seasons just because a vision told you to do it?

A change of mind like that requires several episodes of set up. And set up is what S4 lacks. I don't buy it Lee becoming President and Zarek giving up the power that easily either.

crone51 said...

Jealous jealous jealous jealous.................You know, I am kinda old and I just may die before these things are aired...ok, not from old age (unless I run into The Master and he does to me what he did to number Ten) probably, but there could be....um...an accident-nuclear holocaust, an errant asteroid....so maybe you could possibly send me your copy....nah, I guess you can't do that. Can you be bought? I make really good cookies.

Did I mention that I am deeply jealous?

Anonymous said...

Alan, thank you for your intelligent commentary on this and other shows. Your insight is greatly appreciated as is this forum. I’m in the “I really loved season 1 & 2 but . . .” camp, unfortunately, and I confess I too now actively seek spoilers. But to be sure I still plan to watch because I want to know how it ends! I think a certain segment of the audience came to the show when the selling point was that the science fiction element was simply a jumping off point to create a dense, realistic-feeling drama. That’s no longer true: the sci-fi element is up front and overlaid with an increasingly important spiritual element. And these have truly altered the show’s perspective.

But I don’t fault Ron Moore for my lowered expectations. After all, it's his show, a lot of other people like those elements, and it is ultimately a work of science fiction. However, on top of this, as an earlier poster, Norgard, laid out so well, a whole stream of plot difficulties have made the journey a bit bumpier than necessary. I would add to his very fine list two examples that exemplify a problem where story is rendered subservient to plot devices.

First, the episode where Baltar gave Gina the nuke stuck me as the first time a major character strayed from an established personality not due to legitimate character development but as a script short-cut/plot device. Ron Moore himself had pointed out in an early podcast that Baltar was evil as a function of personal weakness not out of actual malevolence or foolhardiness. The second, the “Rocky in Space” episode, was so eye-rolling ridiculous as to constitute a major break with RDM’s oft-stated point that he wanted to depict the physics of the BSG universe as realistically as possible. Again, this was done to create a stand-alone episode that had artistic merit but came at the cost of the show’s earlier emphasis on realism.

I’m sure everyone has their own personal “Jar Jar Binks” moments that they wish might be excised from the series. And I still want to know what happens! But I can no longer recommend the show to non-sci-fi friends. I feel a tinge of disappointment at that even as, overall, I still appreciate Ron Moore for producing such a great series.

Anonymous said...

Alan --

I'm seeing something very special in advance, too. It's the day you stop masquerading as a journalist and host the next iteration of "The Newlywed Game."

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's the day you stop masquerading as a journalist and host the next iteration of "The Newlywed Game."

Dude! Sweet! That's always been my dream!