Monday, March 12, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Gotta wear shades

"Battlestar Galactica" spoilers coming up just as soon as I put my eyedrops in so I have an excuse to wear my Wayfarers indoors...

We enter murky waters now, review-wise. After I finished my "Maelstrom" review, I sat down and watched my screener of the season's final three episodes, and it becomes very difficult for me to comment on things in "The Son Also Rises" without letting those comments be colored by both halves of "Crossroads." This is why I specifically wrote my "Maelstrom" review before I had seen anything else, because I worried that if later episodes feature any hints of Kara's survival -- or lack thereof -- I wouldn't be able to give an honest analysis of that episode that wouldn't in some way reveal what was to come.

Now, I reviewed every episode of "The Wire" season four after I had watched that season in its entirety, but those reviews were less about likes and dislikes (since virtually all of it was brilliant) than they were analysis of themes, of character development, of all the detail work that makes "The Wire" "The Wire." "Galactica," especially in an up-and-down season like this one, requires more straight discussion of my likes and dislikes, so I'm going to do the best I can to try to discuss the episode as the episode and not as the first third of something I've watched and you haven't.

That long preamble is my way of delicately approaching the character of Romo Lampkin, who all but takes over the show for the next three episodes. My feelings on him evolved over time, but in this first episode I think he strayed just over the wrong side of the line between intriguing, colorful new character and self-consciously kewl and irritating new character.

In particular, I could really do without his wardrobe choices. On the podcast, Moore says everyone wrestled with the question of Lampkin's omnipresent sunglasses and whether they were too much of a parody. Eventually, he gave into writer Michael Angeli's conception for the character because he loved the moment where Lampkin finally takes the stupid things off to make a deeper connection with Caprica Six. Now, anyone who's ever seen "The Blues Brothers" (original version, not the abomination that is the Landis director's cut DVD) knows how effective that particular sunglasses gag can be. I just don't think that one moment was worth Lampkin coming across like the "Galactica" version of Gambit from X-Men: the suave, too cool for school guy in the fancy trenchcoat and the obnoxiously charming exotic accent who's somehow right about everything and everyone he encounters. (I figure if you're reading a blog entry about "Battlestar Galactica," you're enough of a geek to remember how annoying Gambit was when Claremont introduced him -- unless you were young enough at the time to think he was wicked awesome.)

I think if you ditched the coat and the shades and maybe had Mark Sheppard dial down his brogue to its natural level, Lampkin would have made a much better first impression on me. As it is, I grew to like the guy -- and I liked certain other affectations from the start, like his kleptomania -- but it was an uphill climb that didn't need to be so steep.

Outside the mad bomber mystery (more on that below), most of the episode was set-up for Baltar's trial (Moore admits that he basically did a three-part finale without admitting as much to Sci Fi brass). So much of it hangs on the performances, and Jamie Bamber is getting maybe his best opportunity to date to show that he's more than just the token beefcake. Lee is often a self-contradictory character, and where some actors might make you view that as inconsistent writing, Bamber makes it seem like an inherent part of Lee's being. He's the guy who's always at war with himself, never sure when he's supposed to be the hard-ass, or the golden boy, or the moral compass, or the isolated thinker. A lot's expected of him because he's Bill Adama's son -- and, as we're finding out lately, Joe Adama's grandson -- and he responds to all the stress (plus his grief over Starbuck's death) by trying on different personas. At the moment, that's as rebellious son and advocate for the most hated man in the universe; I'm sure he'll become something else by early next season, and Bamber will make me believe that one, too.

Other random thoughts:
  • Maybe it's just because I recognize him more now that he's also Plow Guy on "Men in Trees," but it felt like we hadn't seen Capt. Kelly in forever, even though IMDb lists him as being in both halves of "Exodus." I mention that because as soon as I saw him, I wondered, "Why did they bring that guy back?" and once we got into the mystery of the bomber, I realized it had to be him. Law of Economy of Characters and all that. Would've liked it to be Cally, and for her to be airlocked immediately. And speaking of which...
  • The Athena/Cally scene felt like it was airlifted in from another episode, one that focused more on Sharon, who hasn't had much to do since she rescued Hera.
  • Moore tries not to let the show be a polemic for his own views, but occasionally he can't resist making Laura into his mouthpiece. Here, it was her declaration that "This administration will never allow terrorism to alter the framework of our legal system." Patriot Act and/or Gitmo, anyone?
  • I know Caprica Six sniffing the pen was supposed to be a deep moment about her feelings for Baltar, but all I could think was, "Where did Baltar have to hide that thing?"
  • Romo's quarters were awfully big for a ship that's carrying a double personnel load. Ah, maybe at this point I need to let go of the whole "What about the Pegasus crew?" issue.
  • Anders is now wearing military fatigues because he's training to become a Viper pilot. I don't think that's been mentioned in previous episodes, and it's not really explained down the road, but we'll see him with the other nuggets (including Seelix) in the next two episodes. Time to go looking through the deleted scenes again.
What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...


It could have been better.

Peeve #1: Corey Har.... Er, Romo Lampkin comes on the ship wearing sunglasses in lowlilght and no one makes him pee in a cup? Damn irritating. The only good explanation for why a character would wear sunglasses all the the freaking time would be to hide his expressions from others. But, still, majorly annowying and felt far too gimmicky.

Peeve #2: Obtuse lines masquerading as deeply meaningful. It took what could have been a decent ep and sullied it with the pretentious crapola factor. Feh.

Peeve #4: Exotic mysterio accent only added to the pretentious crapola factor. Blech. It also reminded me a little too much of what's his name Irish dude from Lost who kept saying "Brother" too frakking much.

Peeve #4: The last few lines in the first scene between Lee and Bill were clinkers. The "work it out" sequence felt awkward and unnatural.

Since this is a Monday morning and I'd like to try to end on an up note, here's what I liked:

1. Bill flipping through Starbuck's file. I laughed a little when he got to all her disciplinary notices, and I loved her birthday card to him. Felt like one of those moments after the funeral when everyone gathers around and remembers all the things they loved about the deceased. And then I teared up.

2. More insight into ther Adama family. We knew that Joe Adama was a lawyer, but I didn't realize that he was a big time lawyer. Gave more weight to the comment from Dirty Hands about how it would always be an Adama leading the fleet. At the time it struck me as a little weird and presumptuous that Lee would automatcially take over from Bill. But, now it appears that the Adamas overall are a high ranking family in Colonial society.

I also found the implication that playing into the tension between Bill and Lee is Lee's resemblance to Grampa Joe. Hmm.

Is it just me, or does it feel weird and wrong to refer to Adm. Adama as Bill?

Anonymous said...

Well, my first thought upon seeing the crazy guy with the shades was that he had to be a Cylon. But, that would have meant the sabotage had to be by a Cylon, too, in order to get Lampkin installed as lawyer. Nah.

Then, I wondered about the cat. Or more specifically, my wife pointed out that we hadn't seen any domestic animals throughout the entire series. Nobody really blinked an eye that there was a cat, but it seems an unlikely thing to be normal in the situation in which humans find themselves.

I actually liked Lampkin's ability to understand Lee, but if he really does have the same knack for getting to the nitty-gritty of everybody, he'll become annoying.

I'll have to watch it again to see if the mumbo-jumbo philosophical talk makes more sense in the daylight.

Anonymous said...

The sunglasses were very distracting because I went from thinking he was blind, to wondering why he kept wearing them. It seems very amateurish to use a prop like that instead of actually having character development.

My least favourite episodes this year have been written by Angeli. I hope he is not asked to return.

I also think Lee's sudden transformation into a lawyer because he got his grandpa's law books is silly. In real life, he would be Romo's research monkey and there is no way he would do anything of value (besides researching cases) in a trial when a man's life is at stake. Besides, do we even know how current the legal texts are? Caselaw would have at least evolved until the Cylon invasion.

At least the Lee/Anders interaction was worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Plow guy! I knew he looked familiar.

Anonymous said...

Mark Sheppard, despite his obvious enthusiasm, is an actor that more often than not descends into total caricature (witness his awful guesting turns on X-Files and Firefly), but while inhabiting a character that's almost a caricature himself, Sheppard gave one of the best performances I've ever seen from him. Lampkin is still kind of silly, but Sheppard inhabits him with a droll melancholy I don't think was there on the page, just like Bamber makes Apollo's whipsaw character changes work.

K J Gillenwater said...

I thought Lampkin was blind at first, too! Very distracting.

Then, I started to wonder if maybe he wasn't a Cylon who could do some kind of communicating through his eyes when he sat down with Caprica 6. You never know...

I also thought the cat was odd. Are there such things as Cylon animals?? That cat seemed awfully crafty.

I didn't know Anders was training as a pilot. Hmmm...that will come in useful the last 2 episodes, I am sure. But I'm glad to see he is getting some kind of job...that guy is gorgeous! Love to see more of him...

Anonymous said...

Except for a few choice moments, this was another tedious episode. this show is losing me.

Anonymous said...

Last week: "41,400 survivors".

This week: "41,399 survivors".

Hee hee.

Anonymous said...

Last night's episode was just dull. So dull that I was left to wonder why the pictures on the memorial wall have 4 corners but every other piece of paper has its corners clipped. What's that about?
I really think the show has lost its way. There are interesting stories to tell, but the writers are too busy blathering on about issues. It feels like they're either telling the wrong stories or focusing on issue driven stories that don't resonate. Or they drop interesting storylines for seemingly no reason. For example: the taking of Hera from Sharon. Why did any of that matter? They got the kid back without much trouble and Sharon still seems completely loyal. Plus the kid's blood cures cancer but no one seems to care about that, either.

velvetcannibal said...


Last week: "41,400 survivors".

This week: "41,399 survivors".

Hee hee.

Are you hee heeing because the count should have been 41,398? The lawyer died before the credits, but the count only dropped by one body. Interesting. Did they think we wouldn't notice that?

Anonymous said...

niffer -

Don't be a berk!

1. This of all things you kvetch about, the sunglasses?

2. Example?

3. Are you nuts? Sheppard's brogue was played low and lethal. And Desmond is Scottish. What's 'exotic' about it anyhow? Don't they get the goddamn BBC at your house?

4. The Bill/Lee scenes were the centerpiece of the episode and Olmos played the stymied, frustrated father beautifully. The judgeship is a little arbitrary, of course, but the basic character dynamic - the desire to discipline a wayward kid knowing that he's probably out of your reach already - was totally believable. Otherwise the next Bill/Lee scene, with its chilling/sad 'I'm through giving you orders' line, wouldn't have been believable.

Your second 'what I liked' observation is dead-on though. The slightly creepy imperial succession at the heart of the show is only getting more impressive.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Watch the tone, Wax Banks. Hurl your invective at TV shows, not each other.

Anonymous said...

I like to think of it as a gentle lob, really, but point taken. Sorry Alan. That's one of the downsides of being commenter #1 - one's right in line for late-commenter annoyance. Still, I wonder how it's possible in the cable-TV era to find Sheppard's light accent 'exotic', even for the sake of sarcasm. etc.

PatricktheRogue said...

I, for one, loved the Romo character. So what if he wears shades, maybe he's from a low-light colony! Though his shedding his cane as a prop at the end of the season leads one to believe that this also was a prop. Regardless, as an Irish-American myself, I loved the fact that they had an Irish guy playing this subversive, stick-it-to-the-man, character. It's so appropriate. His cynicism and distaste for the aristocracy are perfect. I realize that this brings tropes from our own history into an alien society, but that is just one of the contradictions inherent in telling a story of an alien culture; you have to use familiar elements to get the meaning across.