Monday, January 29, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: NORM!

Spoilers for "Battlestar Galactica" just as soon as I go out and buy a 'Vette and a Members Only jacket...

Bi-polar episode. Loved the Let's Torture Baltar II: Psychedelic Boogaloo portion, completely bored by the endless love quadrangle. In what little I've listened to of the podcast so far, Moore says the quadrangle story was intended as a light comic break from all the usual bleakness, and it wasn't until they watched final cut that everyone realized that it was just as bleak as everything else they do. I'm trying to figure out what the original vision was, but mutual adultery with two decent cuckolds isn't an overtly wacky concept, and they've been playing the same note since "Unfinished Business" that I'm just tired of it. I admire the show's willingness to let two of its main heroes do selfish, despicable things, but this story's just running in circles now. Either have Lee and Kara actually get together for a while, or leave it alone. I would have much rather had the Bonus Scene integrated into the episode, plus whatever else was cut from the A-story, then to go through all this again.

(Plus, oddly, Jamie Bamber's accent completely changed for this one; it was still non-English, but he didn't sound anything like he usually does.)

But the Baltar scenes? Genius. He's been looking more Christ-like ever since he grew that beard, and this episode's imagery played into that (as well as, as Matt pointed out, a little "Macbeth" homage with the three Sixes standing around the cauldron-like resurrection bath). Adama's "In his eyes, he's the victim, not the criminal" describes Gaius to a T. He didn't think he was dooming humanity; he thought he was having a lot of sex with a hot blonde. Of course, from that point on, his mistakes become harder to defend objectively (giving a nuke to a Cylon rape victim being the worst of those), but some argument could be made. Marian doesn't watch the show very often, but as she was sitting through this one she kept asking of Baltar, "So he's the bad guy, right?" And I had to say, "He's not bad; he's just self-interested." And smart, too.

It occurs to me now that one of the big reasons I had an issue with the latter half of season 3.0 was the sidelining of Adam and Roslin, a flaw that came into sharp relief after seeing so much of them both, and Roslin in particular, in this episode. With a different actress, the shift from Laura playing nice with Baltar to Laura as screaming Airlocker-in-Chief would have felt jarring, but Mary McDonnell sold it with that one little head shake after Baltar insisted he didn't collude in the genocide of humanity. She's so amazing, it feels wasteful to have her in only one or two scenes an episode.

This is later than I wanted to post it (the above link to Todd VanDerWerf's review on Matt's site goes into more detailed analysis of Baltar's hallucinations), so I'll jump to some other quick thoughts:
  • On the one hand, "Occupation" aired so long ago that I wouldn't have remembered Baltar giving Laura her glasses if the show hadn't bothered with that flashback. On the other hand, it reminded me of one of David Simon's recurring complaints about "The Wire" pilot and how HBO made him put in a flashback at the very end in case the audience was too dumb to recognize the murder victim from earlier in the episode. This is obviously a much longer gap, but there's a part of me that thinks it would have been cooler if Laura's gesture had gone unexplained, a little something for the real obsessives to appreciate.
  • Where did Lee and Dee get wedding rings, anyway? When Billy proposed to Dualla with his class ring, it was with the implication that there isn't a jewelry store ship as part of the rag-tag fleet. (I assume that's one of the reasons Starbuck and Anders got those marital tattoos; ink's more available than jewelry.)
  • My recording cut off before the closing credits. Do my eyes deceive me or was that Hey It's That Guy Tom Bower as Joe the bartender?
  • About the only thing I found interesting in the quadrangle stuff: Lee, the alleged straight-arrow good guy, is the one lying to his spouse, insulting her when she calls him on it, and passive-agressively running back to her because he's afraid of being with Kara (and also to spite her for what she did to him on New Caprica), where Kara the psycho rageaholic is capable of having an honest, even loving discussion with her spouse about what she should do. She doesn't deserve Anders, but at least she's not trying to fool him about what he's in for in the future.
  • Oh, and I also liked the acknowledgement that Cally is to Tyrol what Dualla is to Lee, and yet I believe the Chief when he says he doesn't think about Sharon anymore. He's more straightforward than Lee.
  • The bonus scene with Roslin and Caprica was superb -- loved the disdain dripping from Laura at learning Six's nickname -- and I can't think of a single quadrangle scene that deserved to make the regular cut over it. But then Sci-Fi wouldn't have had an excuse to drive people to their website, would they?
What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you noticed the accent shift too. I thought maybe I was just hearing things. In any case I wasn't that interested in the quadrangle this episode, and up until now I didn't have a problem with it. It's just that the Baltar stuff was so much better and a reappearance of Madame Airlock is always welcome. Baltar as Jesus? Twisted, but compelling. Quadrangle soap opera antics? Boring. And I'm not sure if I was supposed to laugh at Drunk Apollo freaking out over his lost ring.

However, I did like the scene where they panned out from Anders and Kara showing us that they are going through this "drama" in very close quarters... and even the crew overhearing this doesn't care.

Alan Sepinwall said...

That was a nice little shot, absolutely. Edward James Olmos did a really stellar job directing and helping to edit this one, pushing the show into territory where it doesn't usually go and yet producing an episode that feels indisputably like "Battlestar Galactica."

Anonymous said...

Agreed on the deleted scene. I understand that Moore and Eick prefer to leave character scenes in over plot scenes (as Moore mentions in most podcasts), but cutting the Roslin-Caprica Six scene just seems wrong in every way. With most of the cut scenes on the DVDs and web site, I understand the justification for cutting the scenes, but not so much this one.

Hopefully this episode marks the end of the quadrangle story as a major plot thread and the beginning of more Roslin/Adama/Baltar scenes per episode.

Anonymous said...

My wife, who's much smarter than I am, points out that Kara and Anders have essentially become a much younger version of the Tighs.

Anonymous said...

Does that picture count as a spoiler?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Really interesting, Chris -- and yet Kara has aspects of both members of the Tigh family, where the only thing Sam has in common with Saul is knowing and not really caring that his wife sleeps around.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jim, since it's in a hallucination, no.

Anonymous said...

Whew! I shoulda known they wouldn't give up stretching that one out yet.

Anonymous said...

The quadrangle as levity? Hunh? Blech. I am done with it - and I hope the show is, too. I wouldn't mind seeing a smidge of it here and there, just so we don't have all involved unrealistically switching back into "normal" mode, but I am done with the melodramtic focus on it.

The scene where Lee loses his ring was painful to watch, and not because it was bad. It was just hard to see Lee in that much pain. To me, it showed that he took marriage seriously, even if he's managed to frak it up.

One thing I really didn't like were the final scenes. Cutting from The Quadrangle to Baltar interrupted the flow of each scene for me. I found it distracting. And I agree that the cut scene would have been more interesting the some of The Quadrangle junk.

Also, where the hell did the bar come from? It felt too much like, "Gee, we need Lee and Chief in a bar. Let's create one."

Alan Sepinwall said...

Having gotten through more of the podcast, Niffer, Moore explained a couple of things:

-Originally, the Lee story was going to be a light romp about him trying to get the bar up and running, but too many people felt the show had to deal with the ramifications of what happened to the quadrangle in the last few episodes. I'm still not clear on whether Moore expected the final version of the script to still be fun and goofy.

-Ever since they nuked Cloud Nine, the writers and the network wanted a place where characters could gather to blow off steam, and the pilots' ready room is only available to certain characters. With civilians turning one of the two Galactica hangars into a refugee camp, they thought it would be interesting to create something much more downscale than the swanky Cloud Nine bar from the "Die Hard on a Spaceship" episode with Dana Delany.

Anonymous said...

As someone who absolutely loves soap opera-ish relationship drama, I found everything to do wtih the quadrangle mind numbingly boring. Part of it, I think has to do with how I don't believe Lee and Dualla as a couple. I don't know, they just don't have the kind of chemistry of people like Kara and Anders or even Laura and Adama.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Caitie, you just reminded me of one of my favorite moments of the episode: Laura touching Adama's arm after he suggests that they could make Baltar "disappear." Part of the charge of that bit comes from how little time the show spends discussing the obvious sexual tension between these two, but most of it comes from the chemistry of those two superb actors.

Anonymous said...

Well, I liked the quadrangle okay, but I have to admit, I'm just waiting for the flashback episode that explains when Adama and Roslin got married.

K J Gillenwater said...


I totally agree with you and that last part of editing. Terrible. Totally took away from the tension in the scene with Baltar and Gaeta.

The quadrangle would have been better if they'd moved it forward somehow, but they seem to be stuck in the same arguments. Would have been better to have one of the couples work it out to some degree and make the other jealous or sad or angry they couldn't do the same.

Eh, I don't know...

Mac said...

The rings weren't gold, but some sort of white metal. I prefer to think that they're iron or aluminum, fashioned from scrap metal.

Anonymous said...

Okay, finally watched it. I give them an E for effort, trying to tie in Baltar's interrogation with the Kara/Lee thing. The intercutting almost had an Alan Moore feel to it (Dan Coyle will know what I'm talking about). And I did not see the Gaeta thing coming at all. Baltar might be crazy, but he's not stupid. And is Bamber's accent not right? He always sounds like Tom Cruise to me, so I guess I just answered my own question.

You know, I honestly could not tell if Tyrol was telling the truth or not about never thinking about Sharon. This show takes ambiguity to a whole nother level.

Well, now I'm going to wander around all night squinting and muttering, "Bastard wants ta die that bad, I say let 'im..."

P.S. Just watched last week's again with the podcast. Moore is one smart, honest mofo. He points out flaws in the episodes you don't even see until he mentions them, and makes you understand WHY they're flaws.

Anonymous said...

The opening "teaser", especially with that creepy sing-song, sent shivers down my spine. I thought it was the best opening teaser since 33.

Kat Coble said...

So was I the only one yelling "Look! It's the Zocolo!" when they first showed the bar?

Anonymous said...

I think I'm the only person still left who actually doesn't mind the quadrangle at all. IMO the writers did a good job of showcasing just how messy and ugly human relationships can be. And anyway, I think this will close the door to that story, atleast for a little while.

Re: Chief's assertion that he never thinks of Boomer, I believed him. But to me it was like a deliberate decision, like he everyday makes the conscious effort to NOT think about Boomer.

Taleena said...

I am so glad my favorite characters are back interacting with each other. James Callis does such an excellent job of making Baltar sympathetic that you forget how narrowly he thinks, it is all about him to the exclusion of the larger impact his decisions make. He gave the Nuke to Gina because he needed to assauge his guilt over her treatment.

Roslyn is the antithesis of Baltar. Her duty encompasses the entire human race and that big picture is so inescapable she often overlooks the impact of her decisions at the personal level, re: Hera and the Agethons.

Anonymous said...

Kat, awesome Babylon 5 shoutout. You called it.

Y'know, I am mixed on this ep. I thought it was OK, though I agree that the intercutting at the end didn't really work.

My problem was, we got a few teasers of the Chief and Apollo hanging at the bar, discussing their wimmen problems, but they should have gone into that more. I would have liked it if they'd backed off the quadrangle, given us more of that in small, implied doses, and in exchange given us much more of what's going on inside the fleet's version of Cheers.

Given the stresses these people are under, there's got to be some seriously wack stuff, not to mention some epic meaning-of-life conversations, going on in that place. I would have really dug seeing more of that, whether it was between the Chief and Lee, or various other characters.

I think their original idea, to explain how the bar came to be and spend time with the people who hang out there, was the right one. I totally loved Unfinished Business, but I could have done without the retread of those themes we saw. Though word to those who say the Anders-Starbuck scenes were great. I think Anders does not get props. He's a good character, and that actor is better than he gets credit for.

I also have never seen much chemistry between Lee and Dualla, though the actors have done their best with those scenes.