"No. Not now, not ever. Do you hear me? I will use every cannon, every bomb, every bullet, every weapon I have down to my own eye teeth to end you! I swear it! I'm coming for all of you!" -President RoslinWow.
"This was a hell of a ship once." -Captain Kelly
Wow, wow, wow, wow.
Did I mention wow?
There's a part of me that watches an episode like "Blood on the Scales" -- which managed to be even more moving and shocking and bad-ass than last week's "The Oath," which I didn't think was possible -- and recognizes that so much of what makes it brilliant is only possible because the show is coming to an end and the writers can throw caution to the wind. But there's a part of me that watches an episode like this and despairs at the thought of a TV universe without "Battlestar Galactica," because... well, you almost don't need me to tell you why this one was brilliant, do you?
The first of the two lines quoted above was the obvious one, as Madame President, convinced that that backstabbing weasel Tom Zarek has caused the death of the man she loves, makes it clear that she will never back down, never surrender and delivers an chill-inducing speech that's part Churchill, part Jean-Luc Picard. Sometime around "Hub," I wrote that I was running out of words to adequately convey the growing brilliance of Mary McDonnell. At this point, I feel like my lexicon of superlatives is exhausted, and that stinks, because there should be a way for me to properly pay homage to how this woman just keeps getting better and better and better, even at this late date, no matter what kind of emotion (fear, resignation, grief, blind rage, etc.) she's asked to play. (Insert boilerplate screed against the Emmys here.)
The other scene I quoted, where Tyrol and Kelly reminisced on old times as Kelly debated whether to kill the chief or let him get back to playing a stocky version of John McClain, wasn't nearly as flashy, but in some ways, it affected me more. Galactica was a hell of a ship once, even in its days as a museum piece. Its crew had a unity and a sense of purpose. No one had to wonder about anyone else's loyalties, or whether they might really be a Cylon, or anything else but stepping to and following the old man's latest orders. Kelly's a relatively minor character (he was the Galactica launch officer, and was arrested for assassinating Romo Lampkin's predecessor as Gaius Baltar's counsel), but as someone whose tenure goes back to the miniseries -- and to the days before the genocide and all that followed -- his weariness and regret over what the ship and its crew had come to in the last four years carried the appropriate amount of weight. In the middle of another great action episode with cool set pieces like Starbuck and Lee taking out the brig guards or Romo proving once again that a pen is the mightiest weapon in the rag-tag fleet, this one quiet moment stood out to me. It made me feel as sad for what had happened, and what was going to happen, as it obviously made Kelly and Tyrol. And it's this kind of human moment, one that isn't about technology or things blowing up or even big speeches, that's always elevated "Galactica" to the levels of brilliance that it's reached throughout the last four seasons.
But, really, I could pick out so many moments from this hour as illustrative of the show's greatness.
What about Baltar's confession to his latest Six conquest that he always runs away, and that maybe he's tired of it? I'm a little disappointed to get confirmation that Baltar was faking it the entire time with the cult, but James Callis sold me on Gaius' reversion to form, and then on his attempt to break his familiar pattern.
What about Tigh and Adama's bromantic moment after Lee and Saul saved Bill from the firing squad? Bill and Saul's exchange -- "They told me you were dead." "For a while, I was." -- is the sort of thing you might hear from reunited lovers at the end of some '50s melodrama, but Edward James Olmos and Michael Hogan made it entirely about the respect, trust, and, yes, love that these two comrades-in-arms share.
What about the image of Adama leading an ever-gathering army of supporters through the decks of the ship, until they overran Gaeta's people in the CIC like a swarm? No speeches necessary at that point; the image of the crowd, and the resolve on Olmos' face, was all that was needed to generate still more goose bumps.
And what about virtually every Gaeta moment throughout the hour, but particularly his final coffee with Baltar? As others have said, Gaeta was the perfect man to lead this failed coup, because of where he'd been when the miniseries began, and all the betrayals that we'd seen him suffer, and Alessandro Juliani did a masterful job of making you understand, if not agree with, Felix's point of view, even as he freed Zarek, enabled the Pegasus goons to arrest and terrorize Helo's family, ordered the death of both Adama and Roslin, etc. And how frakking brilliant was he in that coffee scene? Michael Angeli, who wrote this episode, told Mo Ryan that he hoped that scene would briefly fool people into thinking that Felix would get a pass for it all. I was never fooled, and, in fact, the scene worked much better for how obvious Juliani made it that Felix knew he was going to die soon, and how at peace he was with it.
And I loved the look that Gaeta and Zarek shared right before their executions, that little nod and half-smile that suggested that, even at this point, they felt they had done the right thing. Gaeta was written more sympathetically than Zarek through this story -- where Felix struggled with the idea of killing people he was once loyal to, Zarek had no problem ordering the massacre of the Quorum when it became clear they wouldn't get in line behind him -- but I felt like there were shades of grey to both. You can look at it as Felix having more of a conscience, but also as him being more naive. Zarek may have been driven on some level by a lust for power, but he also recognized the true meaning of a coup, and all the blood that has to be shed in order to pull it off. I don't think he was more evil, just less deluded about what he and Gaeta were doing.
So now what? Is there still a civilian government, or is Adama going to throw in the towel and declare martial law from now until/unless they find another habitable planet? Can Adama really lock away and/or execute everyone who participated in the coup, or does the reality of being able to run Galactica mean he has to be liberal with pardoning people like Kelly? And does that large crack in the bulkhead that Tyrol found in the FTL drive room mean that the old ship doesn't have much time left?
How many episodes left to go? If they can be this good from here to the end, I'm going to be very happy, and I'm going to be very sad.
Some other thoughts:
• On the subject of the Galactica crew size, Ron Moore said in last week's podcast that one of the reasons the coup was feasible is that the ship is now so understaffed that it was easy for Gaeta's people to move through large areas of the ship without anyone noticing. So, once again, I have to ask, what happened to all those leftover Pegasus crewmembers and the idea, established shortly after the New Caprica exodus, that Galactica was badly overstaffed?
• Whither Anders? Even with Moore's fondness for letting important developmets happen between episodes, I can't imagine he'd let Anders bleed out off-camera, so is he in for a miracle recovery next week, or do we just have to wait for Kara and the Cylons to say their tearful goodbyes?
• I'm of two minds about Romo's pen-is-mightier-than-the-gun moment. On the one hand, it felt like an indulgence from Angeli to the character he created in "The Son Also Rises," and one whom he clearly feels the same way about that I feel about Jon Hamm. On the other hand, Romo stabbed a Marine to death with his pen! Sweet! (Hi, I'm 12, and I'm going to go read all my old Gambit issues of X-Men right now.) If there is going to be a reconstituted Quorum, five'll get you 10 that Romo winds up on it somehow. Hell, maybe Baltar, too. (They're probably that desperate for politicians at this point.)
• Did Tory appear at all in "Sometimes a Great Notion," or is this the first we've seen of her since "Revelations" aired eight months ago? Either way, nice to see she's still making friends and influencing humans.
• Racetrack sharing a joke with Zarek opened up a very ugly side of my personality that wanted to see Kara immediately stand up from behind her cover and put a bullet in that frakkin' traitor's head.
• Was I supposed to recognize the gadget that Leoben used to help Laura override Galactica's jamming signal?
Let me remind you, once again: No talking about the previews. Or about any other spoilers you encounter in any form. Anything I find the least bit questionable will be deleted. Got me?
What did everybody else think?