Last week, I complained that it was clear “Battlestar Galactica” had done me wrong, because they put out a very good episode that I couldn’t enjoy because there were still just too many problems with the series as a whole.
This week’s episode (“Blood on the Scales”) was even better. It started with a space battle and the aftermath of a grenade, and rode on that momentum for the next 45 minutes, barely letting up. It was so well-done, in fact, that it forced me to face facts: I’m not going to make it to the end of the series unless I stop expecting the show to play by my rules. I had to hit the Zen of BSG (also known as The Serenity of A Writers’ Room That’s Painted Itself Into a Corner), and just take it for what it is: an hour of drama and tension a week. And, it should be repeated, Mary McDonnell, who’s consistently good.
Back when “The X-Files” was good, I’d get annoyed at people on the internets who’d complain about its continuity errors. (Same for comic books). I figured if they could make an outstanding hour of TV using these characters, then what’s the big deal if they don’t all fit together neatly? Now that’s coming back to haunt me.
I still say that BSG set a pretty high bar for itself: beginning every episode with the reminder that the Cylons did have a plan, reminding us of the fleet population, giving us allegedly symbolic Last Supper photos to ponder, and packing every episode full of prophecies and portents and promises of great things to come. But now that I’ve realized I’m not really attached to any of the characters, and that the big stuff they’ve been building to is almost certainly going to disappoint, I can just sit back and watch the explosions, executions, and arguments. And this one delivered. Mostly.
When the episode was over, I thought it was awesome — except for the double-fake-out on the execution, which was completely unnecessary both times but seriously, it’s not like this is anything new where BSG is concerned. And last week I complained about their mentioning stuff from previous episodes that they really shouldn’t be reminding us of, but here they did it right. The lawyer guy asks “has anybody seen my dog?” which, whether it was intentional or not, I’m interpreting as a brief but funny mea culpa about that god-awful episode about him and his delusions of having a cat.
But since I was still in a contentious mood, I still had to ask what was the point? Whether it was good or not, did this whole coup two-parter really accomplish anything in terms of the overall story? I think it did:
- It solidified the idea that the rebel Cylons will stay loyal to the humans in a pinch, setting up two clear sides for the end of the series.
- It got all (I hope) of the “why are we working with the people who destroyed most of human civilization” questions out of the way. The story can’t take a left turn like that without repercussions. And I liked that they were careful to point out that there were guys loyal to the fleet who would still refuse to work with or for Cylons.
- It got rid of the political structure they’d built for themselves, so they can take wilder turns in the story without having to show votes taking place and without having to declare martial law again.
- They finally managed to get Richard Hatch to stop hanging around the set.
- It gave a more substantial send-off to Gaeta than Dualla or Cally got, portraying him by the end as a guy who always did what he believed was right, even when he was just rationalizing or deluding himself. The whole redemption of Gaeta even up to his execution was handled really well.
- While not handled quite as well, it set up a similar redemption for Baltar. After four years, several betrayals, and a cult, his conscience is finally starting to work correctly.
- It set up a “the Galactica is coming apart” storyline, apparently.
And when I said I wasn’t attached to any of the characters anymore, that was of course a lie. There’s one character who will always be in my heart and, from now on, my signature file: