Friday, October 06, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: Eyes for an eye

Twice the "Battlestar Galactica" spoilers comin' right up...

Not sure which is more shocking: that the Cylons gouged out one of Tigh's eyeballs, or that Ron Moore has suddenly flipped the 9/11 allegory so that the Cylons are now America and we're the Iraqis.

In our interview, Moore said the situation was more complicated than that, that the occupation is borrowing just as much from Vichy France and the West Bank and a variety of other occupied territories in modern history. But he also admitted that he wanted to provoke a reaction, to make viewers question which side they were on, and there's not a more potent, jarring way to do that then to have the good guys strapping explosives to their chests and blowing up real good.

It works that it's Tigh ordering the suicide bombings and the resistance's other extreme measures. Of all the military characters, he's always been the most extreme, to the point where I suspect he has a "Kill 'em all and let the Gods sort it out" t-shirt tucked away in his duffel bag. And his time in the Cylon equivalent of Abu Ghraib has made him even more militant, to the point where I wonder if Brother Cavil already took more than an eye in there. (See the "evil men in the gardens of Paradise" speech.)

And the genius of it all is that, just when you're feeling sick and disgusted that our heroes are pulling this stuff, Baltar -- Baltar -- is the one to argue against it, while Tigh insists that a suicide mission is the same whether it's being conducted with a viper or an explosives belt. (Collateral damage is all but expected from aerial bombing missions, even if there are attempts to contain it.) Again, which side are you on? Especially on this?

I definitely had the most visceral reaction to the suicide bombing material, but thought the entire hour was vintage "Galactica." The venue and tactics may change, but the tone and quality don't.

In particular, I got chills on several occasions:
  • "Have hope. We're coming for you." Sometimes it's the simplest words that have the most power -- especially if we've seen the despair in which the recipients are living.
  • Kara standing over her "daughter" (and, given what Moore has said in the podcasts about mutual love being a requirement to produce human/Cylon off-spring, I call shenanigans on Leoben) after Kasey (Casey? KC?) fell on the steps of Leoben's swinging jailhouse duplex.
  • Tyrol coming home to find the baby alone and wailing. (Since the Cylons went to all the trouble of building a jail and creating a police force, do they also have social workers to prevent this sort of thing?)
  • Callie, never a classy one, asking Boomer how many times she needs to shoot her to make her go away forever.
  • Pretty much any scene with Brother Cavil, but especially that second sex scene with Ellen where he threatens to do much worse to Tigh. Hard to believe Dean Stockwell was only in a couple of episodes before this; he scares the crap out of me.
I think Moore and company really thought out the ramifications of the settlement and the time jump, and they're playing it for all it's worth. I'm so happy to have this frakkin' show back.

Some other random thoughts:
  • Though Duck (the suicide bomber) and Jammer (the reluctant human police recruit) both figured prominently in the webisodes, the horse came before the cart here. The TV episodes were written, and then Sci-Fi approached Moore and company about doing the web stuff, and they realized they could use the web stories to provide some shading to two characters who were glorified extras most of the time.
  • So what exactly did Kara stab Leoben with? Looked like a tuning fork to me, but she seemed to be crafting something under the table while waiting for his return.
  • When Caprica-Six and Baltar reunited in the season two finale, I was really excited about the prospect of their respective hallucinatory best buddies playing a scene together, ala Al and Zoey (the Evil Leaper's sidekick) on "Quantum Leap." Moore said he toyed with the idea and even wrote a draft or two of a scene featuring Chip-Six and Chip-Baltar, but cut it pretty early in the writing stage. Too much else to deal with. Still, I find it interesting that Baltar still needs the fantasy of Chip-Six when he has the real thing right in front of him. (I also asked Moore whether Chip-Six and Chip-Baltar were really just hallucinations, since they frequently know things that a figment couldn't; all he said was that "they play into the larger mythology of the show."
  • Gods, but the makeup people have done a good job making Jamie Bamber look like he totally let himself go. Moore couldn't remember if the naked torso shot was makeup or a body double, but the facial makeup looks terrific, more convincing than most fake fat faces (say it five times fast) that I've seen.
  • I understand Laura's desire to keep a record of what went on during the occupation, but would she really risk keping a written diary that included significant details about the resistance, moles in the Baltar administration, etc.?
  • Okay, so during the time-jump, we had the weddings of Anders and Starbuck, Tyrol and Callie, Lee and Dualla and Helo and Sharon. Frankly, I'm shocked that they didn't find some way to marry off Laura and Tom Zarek. I know there's a plan to do at least one episode that fills in some gaps on what happened in the last year (plus four months), but it feels like they'd have to spend virtually all of that on showing how Sharon went from dog-collar girl to Adama's BFF.
  • Given Moore's desire to play on lots of historical locales beyond Iraq, I thought it was a nice touch that the police uniforms had a touch of Nazi to their style, which made them a nice parallel not only for the Iraqis who we're trying to train to be cops, but the Jews who were recruited to police their own people in the ghettos.
  • Speaking of the Nazis, letting the prisoners out of a truck to stretch their legs was the pretext used to slaughter all the British soldiers at the end of "The Great Escape." Time to start humming that theme song.
  • Caprica Six killing D'Anna was the first bit of Cylon-on-Cylon violence ever? Does Sharon killing one of the Six'es to get in good with Helo not count?
So what say you all?


Matter-Eater Lad said...

"Still, I find it interesting that Baltar still needs the fantasy of Chip-Six when he has the real thing right in front of him."

Didn't Six-in-Baltar's-Head not appear until after the "real" version was shot in front of Baltar?

Samantha said...

YAY, it's BACK!!

(so say we all)

Anonymous said...

The episode reminded me also of Cambodia and Year Zero, and China with the Great Leap Forward, and the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany - basically, any political movement that decides to impose a rigid system of order and "correct" behavior from a select ruling party. People are expendable in service of the promised utopia.

Definite Abu Ghraib vibes in the prison scene, and it also gave me a flashback to the Iranian hostage crisis. And of course, the masked policemen recall terror videos and pictures that have become all too familiar.

Movements like these are quite partial to masks - protecting their own identities, and taking away the identities of their captives.

R.A. Porter said...

I had just one fundamental problem...there is no way I believe Kara Thrace wouldn't have smothered her half-Cylon "daughter". I know showing her inner turmoil and softer side has been important, but her one unifying theme has always been hatred of toasters. She wouldn't have hesitated for a second, particularly considering the circumstances of her creation.

It was enough to make me long for Face.

The rest of my review is here, though it's politically incorrect (and leads with a bad poem.)

Alan, I was looking at the episode casts for 301 and 302 at imdb and Amanda Plummer was listed. Is that just an error, or was she cut?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, gouging out eyes is one of the interrogation techniques the CIA wants to use, right? Oh wait, I mean not letting people take a nap.

Actually, when Baltar was vehemently denying the torture, I thought, "Hey, what if Tigh is just wearing that patch to stir up even more resentment against the toasters?" And they'd have the big reveal of him looking in the mirror and taking off the patch and he's still got both eyes. But nope, the Cyclons are even worse than America (if such a thing is possible, LOL).

I think Kara is just playing that Cylon son of a bitch. If that little brat hadn't hit its head, she was prepared to do it herself. When she was looking at herself in the mirror, she was psyching herself up to do it. Maybe? And what happens when one of these half-breeds dies? Does it half-download?

Dean Stockwell might be their best casting ever. Everybody thinks of him as the nice older gentleman on Quantum Leap, but remember him in Blue Velvet? Brrrrr.

The suicide bombing was not good. I was glad Roslin at least said something.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and they should have given Apollo a beard, considering the way he's Rikered out.

R.A. Porter said...

"Rikered out"...I love that! Nice way of describing it.

Anonymous said...

I was so hoping it was Baltar who was the inside source. Mostly because I'd forgotten Gaeta exists.

R.A. Porter said...

I can't forget Gaeta exists. I'm still not sure he's not a deep sleeper.

Take a look at the end of season 1...what's Gaeta's hand doing out of the frame when he congratulates Sharon...right before she caps Adama? Then last year, I'm sure there's a bit of a smirk on his face when he exposes the vote rigging.

It could all be coincidence, but Gaeta seems to be central to an awful lot of the biggest events.

Brent McKee said...

Having Tirol and Callie's baby in the tent crying is a reminder of the real inhumanity of the Cylons. Throughout history, when you've had human occupying forces that perpetrated mass arrests and "disappearings" (a word which appeared around the time of the Argentine Junta of the 1970s) there has always been a mechanism for caring for, and often converting the children of the victims. The Argentine Junta would place the infant children of someone they'd made "disappear" (often dropped from helicopters into the River Plate) with childless families of members of the military. About the closest humans have ever come to this sort of act in living memory are the Nazis who would murder men, women and children indiscriminately, but even then they'd take a child - the younger the better - who was suitably "Aryan" regardless of birth or heritage and give it to a German family as an Aryan orphan. For the Cylons, since human children of the disappeared can't become Cylons, their fate is less than irrelevant.

dark tyler said...

Is there any way to know how did it do with the ratings? I'm curious to find out if the recent hype (including a cover on EW) did anything for the show's numbers.

Anonymous said...

As I mention in my thoughts on these eps, I like the fact that BSG is actually exploring themes about wars on terror, collaborating with enemies, occupations, etc. rather than just preaching about them. It's only possible to do that when you take all the issues on all sides and mix and match, as opposed to making good guys that have the same views as ours and bad guys that have the same views as theirs.

It's a direct contrast to a show like Studio 60..., which seems to prefer preaching a single view rather than actually exploring that viewpoint.

(Sorry about plugging my own reviews in the post, but I also felt I should point out that the review format is a direct ripoff of Alan's old NYPD Blue days.)