"Let's make the most with the time we have left. Please?" -BoomerCounting tonight's show, the time we have left with "Battlestar Galactica" adds up to five hours over four weeks. And I'm guessing that some of you -- maybe most of you -- aren't going to be happy that we just spent a good chunk of one of those hours on Starbuck re-learning how to play the piano.
And I might be troubled, too, if I didn't consider the characters -- especially people like Kara, Tyrol and Boomer, the center of this episode's two storylines -- at least as important to me as the mythology and the dogfights, and if I didn't feel fairly confident that the writing staff are explicitly saving the remaining seismic events for the Ron Moore-scripted finale.
For that matter, there's a lot more to "Someone to Watch Over Me" than piano lessons. The hour makes it pretty clear that Kara's father (first name starts with D, artistic temperament, either composed "All Along the Watchtower" or at least taught it to Kara) was Daniel, the missing eighth Cylon. It puts Hera back into enemy hands, revealing along the way that Cavil was willing to sacrifice Ellen in exchange for getting hold of the famous Cylon/human hybrid. And it tells us that the sentient Cylon goop won't be enough to hold Galactica's crumbling superstructure together -- especially not after Boomer's emergency jump, done too close to the big ship, sends massive shockwaves throughout the hull.
But let's talk piano lessons. This episode was written and directed by a trio of "Galactica" veterans: Bradley Thompson and David Weddle on script, Michael Nankin behind the camera. As Nankin did much earlier this season with "The Ties That Bind," he infuses this episode with the qualities of a nightmare. The montage of Kara going through the same routine (shower, pointless briefings about pointless recon missions for inhabitable worlds) makes it seem like she's just floating through her life at this point. She literally doesn't know who -- or what -- she is, the ship she loves is falling down around her, and like everyone else in the fleet, she probably suspects that she doesn't have much of a future. Kara Thrace is a frakkin' mess under even the most optimal of conditions; now that the end times are upon her, it's not hard to imagine her retreating into this fantasy(*) about her old man, and not even realize that's what she's doing.
(*) Now, is it a fantasy, or is it projection? I don't know that it's a coincidence that the other half of the episode brings us our first extended glimpse of Cylon projection in a while, especially if we're supposed to read all these clues about Kara's father as evidence that he's a Cylon and that Kara, not Hera, is the first human/Cylon hybrid. If Tyrol can project on his own with no real training -- and can do it without Boomer by episode's end -- then couldn't Kara be unwittingly doing that, assuming we're all right on the money about her true nature? Being a hybrid alone wouldn't explain the existence of a second, Extra-Crispy Starbuck that she and Leoben found on Earth, but I'm having a hard time believing she's anything else.
Now, whether or not she's a human/Cylon hybrid, Kara is definitely a hybrid of two cultures, daughter of an artist and a warrior, one who was very much leaning towards the world of the former until daddy ran away (or perhaps got boxed by Cavil?), and who then threw herself whole-heartedly into the latter. She's Starbuck, biggest, hardest, coldest bad-ass of them all, but her interactions with "Slick," and the glimpses we get of little girl Thrace playing next to her father, show us how much of Starbuck is an act of rebellion, and maybe even one of theater. No one would become that hard-core unless they were running away from the opposite lifestyle; she has to be Starbuck to prove that she's not daddy's little girl, that neither he nor anyone else can ever hurt her again. But we've seen from time to time, through her affairs with Lee and Anders, and through her relationship with Adama -- who replaced the father she believes abandoned her -- that Kara still has her vulnerabilities, no matter how she's worked to spackle over them.
With or without the "Sixth Sense" twist at the end, when you find out that Slick was never really there, and that Kara was playing "All Along the Watchtower" all on her own, with a little help from Hera's drawing (Hera, like Kara, is wired into the larger plan of the "Galactica" universe), this was still a wonderful showcase for Katee Sackhoff. We've seen the deconstruction of the warrior persona in episodes like "Scar" (also written by Weddle and Thompson), and before we get to the end, we get to see what made her that way.
Kara's story also worked nicely in parallel with the Chief/Boomer story, as both of them are characters who believed for a long time they were one thing, only to find out they were something else. And in the case of Boomer, I'm still not sure who and what she is.
Laura Roslin calls Boomer an emotional vampire, and based on the game she runs on Tyrol, and the emotional devastation she drops on Athena -- who not only has her baby stolen, but has to watch her husband obliviously have sex with the baby-stealer(**) -- Madame President is on the money. But how much of Boomer's behavior is her own at this point? Is there an independent Boomer at all, or is she being manipulated just as much by Cavil now as she was back in season one? We know Cavil has enough autonomy from the other models that he was able to pull off kidnapping his parents and erasing his siblings' memory of them; who's to say that he didn't arrange some kind of backdoor into Boomer's programming that allows him to pull her strings whenever necessary? It would explain why she sided against her line with Cavil to kick off the civil war, or even why she was so determined to hurt humanity on New Caprica when she seemed to so strongly identify with them in "Downloaded."
(**) There were complaints last week that the Tigh/Six/Ellen love triangle felt like a collection of soap opera cliches, and there's a part of me that felt that way about the Helo/Boomer sex scene, which was like the "Galactica" version of every evil twin plot ever done in daytime drama. But I thought the direction of it -- much of it shown from Athena's dazed point of view -- elevated it, as did the backstory. It's been established in the past that Helo has a wandering eye when it comes to other Eights, and also that only other Cylons can usually tell the identical-looking ones apart, so I bought that he'd fall for Boomer's ruse.
On the other hand, the idea that Boomer's mind isn't her own may not be that satisfying, especially with so little time left. There may be more revelations to come with her over the next four hours, but maybe she really was so soured by getting tossed in the brig and then murdered by Callie (who would then go on to marry the love of her life) that she's a willing and eager collaborator with Cavil.
Either way, she sure does a number on the Chief, who suffers a massive betrayal at her hands for the second time in the series. Aaron Douglas is one of those actors who seems to get better the less dialogue you give him, and so much of this episode's power was expressed through his eyes: the wave of emotion (half joy, half regret) at realizing that he and Boomer had a child in this fantasy life, the horror at discovering that he aided Boomer in kidnapping Hera, and, especially, the devastation at returning to the now-empty Picon house. Boomer's gone, the unnamed fantasy daughter's gone, and Tyrol's even still dressed in his flight deck coveralls, because the house is no longer the home he and Boomer might have built; it's just a fiction that he let himself believe too deeply in.
So, let's see where we are... Starbuck probably a half-Cylon, Hera missing, Galactica on the verge of disintegrating, Cavil ready and able to strike... Whatever reservations you may have about these most recent episodes, you have to believe that huge, huge things are coming over the last few hours -- and that few, if any, of the characters we love are going to make it out okay.
Some other thoughts:
• The hour was also an excellent showcase for Grace Park, who has me completely thinking of Boomer and Athena as different people.
• It's sometimes instructive to think of "BSG" as the show Moore would have wanted "Star Trek: Voyager" to be. The ship breaks down over time, supplies are hard to come by (they're down to the last tube of Tauron toothpaste in the known universe -- or, at least, the last non-irradiated tube, if Tauron's in the same shape that we last saw Caprica), and morale frequently breaks down. I saw a few publicity photos of Tyrol and Boomer in the Picon house and thought, "Oh God, I hope this isn't going to be like a holodeck episode," and while projection is sort of the "Galactica" version of the holodeck, it's not used as an excuse for goofy off-genre episodes, but for something much psychologically richer and more appropriate to the characters.
• They're starting to run out of new hairstyles for Tricia Helfer at this point, as Sonia, the Six who has apparently replaced Natalie as the leader of the rebel Cylons, doesn't look all that different from Caprica Six.
• Donnelly Rhodes still gets all the best lines as Doc Cottle, this week getting to dismiss the Cylon's suggestion of plugging Anders directly into their ship as "quack ideas."
• Slick was modeled on "Galactica" composer Bear McCreary, and at one point there was even talk of Bear playing the part, before everyone decided they needed a professional actor to play some of the emotional nuances off of Sackhoff, and cast Roark Critchlow.
• I loved the shot of Kara's marital tattoo in the mirror at the bar, with the reflection creating the illusion of the complete picture that's only supposed to exist when she and her husband have their arms entwined. She's all alone now.
• Tigh and Ellen mostly take a backseat after last week's drama, but we see how clearly Saul is hurting when he tells Tyrol, "We're all in Hell" and storms off to mourn Liam on his own.
Finally, Mo Ryan again let me piggyback on the questions she sent to the episode's writers, so check back here sometime tomorrow morning and hopefully I'll have some answers posted.
What did everyone else think?