February 20, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: "Deadlock"

"Any mythic revelations? Nope, nothing to report sir."

Well that's perhaps the understatement of the year.

After the monumental answers provided in last week's "No Exit", the show's producers apparently thought that they deserved a week off. I hope that whatever the Canadian equivalent of Atlantic City is was kind to them, because it certainly wasn't as nice to the show. Really guys, I hope you struck it big.

To begin with, practically nothing happens in this episode, "mythic" or otherwise. Sure, Ellen arrives and stirs up trouble (interesting to see that the "real" Ellen so nicely matches the brainwashed human version, though I could have done without the deliberate baby killing), Adama oversees the Cylonification of the Galactica, and Baltar, dear Baltar, finally gets a plot line. Unfortunately, that's about it.

With four episodes remaining, "Deadlock" puts us no closer to anything the show has been building towards. Whether it's the discovery of a "home" for Humanity (and the "good" Cylons), what Starbuck is or how she led the fleet to Earth, the nature of any one of about three prophecies ("Dying Leader", "Truth of the Opera House", "You must not follow her", etc.), the location of Cavil and the endgame between the "good" and "bad" Cylons, how and why the Final Five were "triggered", or anything else, nothing in this episode moves the major plot lines of the show forward at all.

(As a side note to the above, isn't it interesting that the show should have so thoroughly established in this one that we are to see the Six model as "good"? Perhaps it's just me, but I didn't see Cavil holding a gun to any of the other models' heads when they were all doing bad acts on Caprica. Isn't this a bit like forgiving soldiers for war crimes because they were just "following orders." Nobody made Caprica or any of the other models commit the atrocities they did (at least not that we know of), and yet we, like the members of the fleet, are just supposed to forgive and forget. Despite the mutiny arc, not enough attention has been paid to how incredible a request this is and how it is being perceived by the less militaristic members of the fleet. I can't imagine that it's going over well.)

Perhaps the worst thing is that this episode makes me feel that I might have been too strident in my criticism of the "mutiny" plot line. It was Shakespearean in comparison. Had I known at the time that the show's producers felt so good about the number of episodes remaining in the series that they could afford to take an episode off, I wouldn't have made such a big deal about the show "spinning its wheels." If the writers otherwise only had 5 episodes of plot than we could do worse than spending three of the other episodes on a cool little mutiny story line.

But wait, wasn't I just writing about the way in which the information given to us last week seemed rushed (If it seems like I've been complaining about this show a lot lately, it's only because of how much I've enjoyed it over the years. I just want to see it end with a bang.) There were so many "answers" given last week and the method of delivering them was so mechanical and inorganic that I just assumed that the show's writers had so much plot to dispense that they simply had to give us a talking heads episode to "catch us up" to where we needed to be. Given the fact that outside of the death of Caprica Six's baby, nothing of any importance actually occurs in this one, I can't imagine that the real estate of a second hour couldn't have been used to better effect to realize the "answer dump" in a more organic way.

Quite frankly, I have no real desire to delve any further into the minutiae of this one. The whole thing just disappointed me. As always, it was very well acted, with particular credit to the scene in which a tearful Colonel Tigh tries to convince Caprica Six that he loves her, but superior acting alone simply can't cut it when the stakes are so high. Bring on next week, it can't come soon enough.

My Quick Thoughts:

A Blended Population - As a little bit of insult to injury, even the "big points" in this episode had the tendency to fall flat. The ship is blending together, Cylons and Humans. We get it. The real question is why the Admiral hadn't gotten it before the end of the episode. Are we really expected to believe that he didn't understand what the mutiny was all about? The mutineers certainly did. Baltar's incredulity at Adama's obliviousness towards the end of the episode was a nice touch (and stand-in as an audience proxy), but it doesn't explain how Adama could have missed the obviousness of it all in the first place. His arc in this one is completely based on his being less than intelligent, something that we know he's not. As such, it seems completely artificial all the way through the episode's end credits.

"Dying Leader" Report - As mentioned last week, the show's continuing emphasis on what is happening to the ship has only strengthened my belief that the Galactica herself is the "dying leader". Nothing in this one really changed my perception on this one way or the other, except to note that the numerous mentions of the Galactica becoming Cylon does leave the writers with another "out", narratively speaking. If, as was suggested to me by some other fans, there simply is no way to adequately convey that the Galactica is the dying leader (I don't believe this for a second, by the way, given the abilities of the Galactica writing staff) then the whole plot line has to mean something else, and the Cylon transformation may just be that "something".

In this scenario, the Galactica was never the "dying leader". The cracks were simply a plot device to get Adama to authorize the Cylonification of the ship: a transformation that, in the most literary sense, could serve as a mirror for the transformation occurring in the composition of the ship's crew. While this is a fairly clean reading of the plot line, it still seems too trifling for the show's producers to have spent this much time establishing. Still, the existence of an inconsequential hour like "Deadlock" gives me pause. If the show's writers can waste so much time on this nothing, who's to say that they couldn't have created the whole "cracks in Galactica" plot line simply to point out the transformation that was obvious to everyone in the fleet (save for Bill Adama, see above) weeks ago.

A Love to Last Forever - Perhaps it's just me, but the major problem I had with the Caprica Six baby story line is that I never bought into the fact that Colonel Tigh loved Caprica, and certainly not to the extent that he loved Ellen. Knowing that the audience was aware that Cylon women could only conceive in love (as was established in the Athena/Helo plot lines many years ago), I think that the mere fact of conception was used as a bit of a proxy by the show's writers for the love that Tigh was supposed to feel for his knocked-up Cylon girlfriend. In Hollywood parlance, the whole relationship seemed to me to be a case of the writers "telling" rather than "showing." "Tigh must love Caprica," they seem to be saying, "otherwise he never would have conceived a child with her". Never mind that outside of a few tearful scenes in this one (all practically post-baby), we never felt like we really got to see Tigh internalize that love.

After Ellen - As mentioned above, it was really interesting to see Ellen return to her "human" ways as a conniving, manipulative, ahem...witch. The Ellen in "No Exit" seemed almost calm and aloof by comparison, sparring with Cavil as she did. One could be forgiven for thinking after watching "No Exit" that the mind wipe voodoo worked on the Final Five by Cavil changed their personalities in fundamental ways, but the return of Ellen as Galactica's own Lady Macbeth pretty quickly dispels that notion. Apparently even the brain washed Final Five were still inherently themselves, they just thought that they were human. As I said, interesting.

Wall of Shame - Maybe it's just me, but I thought that having the Cylons put pictures of dead "skinjobs" on the wall of memory was far too distasteful. And this coming from a guy who hasn't even had 99.5% of his species exterminated less than five years ago by the very "people" that now seek to remember their fallen comrades. Perhaps more to the point in terms of fleet dynamics, are we even on the same ship that almost rose up to take control from Adama for being too much a Cylon-sympathizer? You mean to tell me that no angry Galacticans tore those pictures off the wall? It's one thing to ask Humanity to silently and graciously move past the differences that define the species. It's quite another to ask them to allow their own memorial to be co-opted by pictures of the very people that required them to create it in the first place.

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