Monday, February 19, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Loose seal! Look out for loose seal!

Spoilers for "Battlestar Galactica" just as soon as I take my anti-hallucinatory meds...

So Baltar has a HeadSix, Caprica Six has a HeadBaltar, and now Adama has a HeadEx? Is this going to turn into some kind of commentary on the perils of too much time on-line, where , by the end of season four, every character is too busy chatting with their own imaginary to interact with the flesh-and-blood people around them?

The Adama story was a strange one, and already the second this season (after "Hero") to dwell on things that happened to Bill pre-genocide. I don't feel like the big story arcs have to advance every week, and I appreciate giving the characters some depth, but I don't want the standalone episodes to turn into "Lost," you know? The details of Adama's marriage to Lee's mom just doesn't interest me, no matter how much they tried to dress it up with fancy editing. Even the stuff about his relationship with Lee felt a little besides the point, as they've for the most part made their peace with each other. On the plus side, I won't ever complain about a chance to see Olmos and McDonnell enjoying each other's company in general, and Mary laughing in particular.

In the downstairs portion of our upstairs, downstairs format, I thought the Chief/Cally stuff worked fine as a disposable thriller (particularly the FX team's work on the explosive decompression rescue). The personal side, however, felt lacking.

Tyrol doesn't love Cally, has never loved her, seemingly married her out of guilt for beating her up and because with the settlement, it seemed the thing to do. Obviously, he's not happy tending to a crying infant right now, but it feels like the episode came up to the edge of the two of them acknowledging the fundamental truth of their marriage and then backed off. Maybe the writers felt they already had hit their Doomed Marriages quota for the season with the quadrangle, I don't know. Tyrol's speech at the end could have played as a man recognizing that he's stuck in a bad situation and trying to make the best of it, but instead it read as him getting a healthy dose of perspective and realizing how much he loves Cally, and I don't buy that. The actors have little chemistry; Tyrol and Seelix have more spark, and I forget who Seelix is whenever someone's not referring to her by name.

Also, what was that silly contrivance about the deck crew being so shorthanded? Wasn't a big deal made about how Galactica's been overstaffed ever since the Pegasus blew up? We've seen scenes of bunk overcrowding, of pilots trying to beg their way into the flight rotation, and yet somehow there aren't enough deckhands? The show established a long time ago that Cally was only using the military for the Caprican equivalent of the GI Bill, and would have mustered out a long time ago if not for the genocide. Even with Adama's recent hard-assedness, surely he could find enough compassion to let a new mom who doesn't want to be there get a discharge -- or, at least, an extended maternity leave -- since there's such a huge surplus of military personnel relative to the amount of available jobs.

If that was just a contrivance to put Chief and Cally in danger on the job together, it'd be one thing, but it feels symptomatic of a larger problem this season. One of the things I love about this show is how much it cares about its own internal logic and the consequences of what's happened earlier, and lately it feels like things happen not because that's how they should work in this world, but because it seemed like a cool idea in the writer's room. One week, Helo's mayor of the refugee village, the next he's back in the flight rotation making fun of Hotdog's veneral disease. One week, there are too many crewmembers and not enough space or work; a few weeks later, Chief and Cally are overworked. All the real booze has long since been used up and replaced with the Chief's still-brewed concoction, but Adama somehow has a bottle of the good stuff to toast his dead ex-wife each year. Tigh's sowing dissent and in an alcoholic death spiral, and then he's absolutely fine and reduced to minimal screen time.

Maybe my problem with the standalones of late is that in previous years, even if those self-contained hours weren't superb, I never felt like the show was losing its sense of direction, and right now I'm a little worried.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I honestly believe that the show has been on a downward spiral since the Resurection Ship episodes where the humans killed the Cylons that were following them. Sure the New Caprica episodes where great, but since then, the Cylon's have begun a "non-aggressive" approach, which while an interesting commentary, not particularly thrilling television, particularly when it takes place over the course of a season and a half. I think BSG is best at its when the Cylons are humans are at war, so I always seem to feel like filler eps, are just, you know, filler.

P.S.-I did not like the performance of Mrs. Adama

Isaac Spaceman said...

I don't watch this show, but had to comment after I saw the title and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Anonymous said...

These last two episodes haven't been that great, although as you've said, any scene with Olmos and McDonnell together is fun to watch and that's what made this week's episode slightly more interesting than last week. I didn't really care about Tyrol and Cally, because, unless they were actually going to go through and kill one of them, what's the point? I find Cally whiny and therefore any show that focuses too much on her makes me tune out.

I fear that next week will be the same because it looks like another Tyrol episode... why? There are plenty of other characters to focus on. How about more Tigh? And what is going on with Baltar's trial? Stop talking about it and just show it.
There are plenty of issues that need to get resolved such as the identity of the Five and Kara's prophecy abilities, and that is more interesting than this Voyager-lite garbage.

Anonymous said...

How much of this episode was a set up to the Caprica prequel series? We get information on Adama's lawyer father, his ex-wife, and other miscellaneous details, all of which would be relevant to a series following the Adamas in the pre-apocalypse Caprica. If that is what they were doing with this episode, I thought it was kind of sneaky and self serving. But Adama is so fun to watch, what can you do?

Alan Sepinwall said...

That hadn't occurred to me, anonymous, though I'm not sure Adama's even going to be a character in the prequel series, which is supposed to take place decades ago.

And if that's what they were doing, then I'm even more annoyed. I hate episodes of series that have no purpose except for setting up a spin-off.

Anonymous said...

Well, if it occurs decades ago, then certainly we may see a very young Bill Adama and perhaps the wife we saw last night in a younger form. I mean, how old is Adama, anyway? Decades and decades ago, he might be his son's age, right? Certainly, though, we would see the lawyer father, who we now know of and whose law books we now have seen? How much you want to bet we see those law books again prominently in the spin-off?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I get that Adama would be an appropriate age for the period. I just don't know that the prequel series will, should or has to feature Young Bill Adama as a character. I'd rather see that world explored through the eyes of someone new.

Also, I think the law books were primarily about setting up Baltar's trial, whenever the hell that happens.

K J Gillenwater said...

I think this episode focused on the wrong thing: Adm. Adama and his dead wife. I thought the story in the airlock was so much more exciting and interesting. I was *so* bummed out when they had their risky rescue mission work out just fine without any real problems.

Personally, I think that would have been the opportune time to kill off Cally and leave Tyrol with a ton of guilt and a baby to raise all on his own somehow. That would have been more disturbing, more interesting, and more realistic.

Obviously, they are wanting to start a romantic relationship between Adama and the president, but wanted or felt they needed to give us some background on Adama's marriage to explain why he acts the way he does.

I don't know.

Still, enjoyed the Cally/Tyrol drama. Sad to see that next week is devoted to more about them and their New Caprica unionizing thing bleeding over into the Galactica. Looks boring...hope it's not.

Anonymous said...

I thought I had read somewhere that the new Caprica show was going to focus on the Adamas in particular, rather than "new" characters.

Andrew said...

The lack of internal consistency from week to week is disturbing. Did Helo get put back on the flight roster because he solved all of the problems with refugee town? Or did Moore and co simply forget last week's episode? It's similar to the previouslies that are scenes which were cut from earlier episodes or simply created to retroactively create foundation for the current episode.

It's not that this was a bad episode, but it wasn't a great one either.

The pickup for season 4 was only for 13 episodes. Perhaps the return to the shorter season will mean less filler and more quality.

Anonymous said...

"Internal inconsistency" is right. Not just Helo, but also Lee hanging around laughing with the pilots one week and turning into Capt. Hardass the next. At least Verheiden didn't have him playing detective again.

I wish Cally had lost her grip on Tryol as they went out the airlock. Enough of her Shelly Duvallness.

SJ said...

The only good part of this episode was watching Mary McDonnell laugh. Is it just me or is she looking better and better?

hmn10134 said...

Anyone else catch Jamie Bamber in Sunday night's Cold Case?

Unknown said...

Who do you call to play your possibly unbalanced ex? Annabella Wilgis!

I think I like Adama/Roslin a little better when it's this unacknowledged undercurrent and not something Adama is actively agonizing about like a twentysomething with Relationship Issues. Same with her, actually, with the laughing at his bad jokes like a schoolgirl...seriously, they've been way more mature about this in every other episode where it's been hinted at.

So, were they friends with benefits on New Caprica or what?

Anonymous said...

I guess I have a completely different take on the Tyrol/Cally relationship. He's certainly more in love with Cally then, say, Lee is with Dualla.

Having Halo show up in his flight suit after the last episode was definitely jarring. Some things like that I don't notice, Adama's liquor stash didn't phase me. Some things I just more or less explain away myself. Tigh was a well known drunk who attained his position through a personal connection to the captain. He is now the hero of New Caprica. I think he's making efforts to sustain the respect he's earned. We haven't seen him take a drink in quite a while. And there was at least some effort to detail his transition.

Although it looks like we're in store for some more rapid character "development" next episode with Tyrol.

The show does seem to have lost a little punch. I love the last episode because I genuinely did not know how the Halo vs Bruce Davison situation would resolve. It made me love the ending even more. This week I had no doubt both Cally and Tyrol would live, so the touching ending felt a little unearned.

Building up the Baltar storyline so soon means pretty much all of these filler episodes are going to leave you disappointed. They should have stretched out the Baltar scenes over these episodes. That would give us a little something to hold on to, and might have led to a storyline that better explains why they're giving him a trial in the first place (other than because Rosslin says so).

Anonymous said...

I actually liked this episode, but maybe that's because after the last one my expectations were lower. If it weren't for Helo suddenly being back in flight rotation, I wouldn't have had many complaints.

I enjoyed seeing the Adama flashbacks, but I agree with you, Alan, we don't want this to become Lost. I also found want Mrs. Adama said about Bill being unknowable interesting. Has he been one of those people who always holds something back, even from those he is closest to?

Oh, and thanks you mschlock! I was wondering where I'd seen Mrs. Adama before! It was bugging me, andnow I know :)

Anonymous said...

One thing I'm noticing that never pops up in these discussions, and I think might explain the disconnect between what the writers WANT to get across, and what we end up picking up, is time.

Honestly, it's sometimes hard to tell if one episode happens days, weeks or months after the next.

This wasn't the case early on, where the episodes (like 33) where almost snapshots of the very next moment, sometimes with the hours feeling like they were in real time.

Then came the "one year later" moment. Since then, the episodes have felt like they were more timeless (unless directly connected). There is little to tell us if Helo hasn't moved back to his old job, because perhaps the refugee situation has somehow been mitigated. And what about the Lee becoming "Capt. Hardass"? We have clues that time has passed (the pilots "keeping count"), but don't have a way to connect that to when the LAST episode was...

I really think a lot of the character inconsistencies (quick changes in behavior) suffer more from that disconnect of expectation than inconsistent writing. But that's just my take.