Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Last Supper

The time has (almost) come in our viewing where I can post and comment on the Last Supper image.  Here's a neat post on the Last Supper in pop culture...  Potential for spoilers!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"This has happened before"

A commentary on "The Plan."  If you have not seen the whole series, be warned - spoilers ahead!

The first viewing of “The Plan” left a bitter taste in my mouth.  How was it even remotely about The Plan referred to in the opening credits of each episode?  We already knew that Cavill programmed his “siblings” and engineered the entire Cylon attack on the colonies and destruction of the entire human race as a punishment for his “parents.”  But this wasn’t really about that, anyways…  It was more about how Cavill’s big plan DIDN’T work in its entirety and how a few random skin jobs thought on their feet to continue the destruction of humankind, and then did a half-assed job of it.  Did we really need to see the battle of the Sixes between prostitute-Six and buttoned-up Shelley Godfrey?  Did we really need to see Cavill’s creepy oedipal and incestual impulses acted out over and over again?  Did we really need to see Doral defend his fashion choices?  Why did the keep cutting from scenes with one of the Final Five back to the Final Five in their resurrection tubs?  Did someone think I could forget one of the show’s biggest reveals? How was this geared towards me, the huge Battlestar Galactica fan who has seen the series multiple times?  I felt pandered to, over and over again, as I am sure even a casual viewer would feel.  Come on, give us a little credit!  I came out of watching “The Plan” feeling like I had not only wasted a whole lot of anticipatory energy waiting to see this, but that I would have been better off had I not seen it in the first place.    

A second viewing let me unearth a few highlights:

The humanization of Simon
Simon was always a creepy, single-minded, serial nut job; his Farms and eerie grin let him be portrayed as a mass rapist.  It was almost a relief to see him laughing and loving his wife and daughter, and defy the orders of Cavill.  At first, I hated the introduction of yet another character (Simon’s wife) who we will only see in this particular avenue, but in the end I felt she added a lot to the story.  I especially like her conversation with Tyrol about her reaction to Simon being a Cylon and what she would do if she discovered the same about herself.  It was nice to see Tyrol have someone to talk to about the conflicting emotions that come from having been in love with a Cylon (and not just Helo, who has a bit of a biased opinion…)

Leoben really is spiritually tuned, and the origins of his fascination with Kara
A part of me felt that it could be argued that Leoben only became obsessed with Kara after her interrogation of him, that he used his proclamations of her “special destiny” as a way to throw her off in questioning, and then grew to believe his own “truth mixed with lies.”  I liked that it turns out that he really does sense something special about her, (and, of course, that there really is something special about her) before he even meets her, and he comes by his fixation honestly.  As disturbing as Leoben and his actions are through the show, his fascination is, if misguided, not unfounded.  I love the continuity of that obsession, and I am pleased that seeing Leoben’s story in “The Plan” doesn’t  break that continuity.

But I still have some sticking points (OK, maybe a lot…):

The explanation of Shelley Godfrey
I liked the implication that Shelley Godfrey was a physical manifestation of Head Six much better than the fact that she was simply another Six, and a wishy-washy one at that, and that her disappearance was just prostitute-Six in a wig.  Far less mysterious and interesting once explained.

Boomer’s identity crisis
I would also have like to have left unseen the Cylon side of Sharon as she battled her programming and identity on Galactica.  The use of the wooden elephant as a trigger was strange and seemed to leave bigger holes than it closed…  Was Cavill around with his magic elephant every time he needed to flip Sharon’s Cylon switch?  I didn’t see him lurking in the background in CIC when Sharon shot the Old Man…  The idea of her Cylon instincts driving her at all times, but that it was her humanity and attachment to the people that she loved keeping her from being overridden by her programming was far more romantic and interesting.  Sometimes the puppetmaster is better left in the wings...

The Hybrid
In the show, I have always loved the scenes with the Hybrids and their seemingly random babbling.  I liked the poetry of it, and trying to glean insight from their indiscriminate spouting, knowing there was often nothing to be learned.  In “The Plan,” I didn’t like the obviousness of the Hybrid statements…  “The [objects that are a significant but painfully obvious parallel to the astrological sign of the colony and its meaning] of [colony planet name derived from the astrological sign] are burning,” got painful after, oh, the second one…  The courthouses of Libron, the harbors of Picon, the forests of Aeralon; oh, how original…  I think one of the writers must have realized that they refer to the Twelve Colonies as a whole often enough, they’d better hit us over the head with each colony’s name and contribution to the human race.  This show has often played the subtlety card well, this was not one of those times.    

The special effects
Sure, the space battles were cool, but why is this the first time we are seeing that the Cylon Base Stars can rotate on their central hub?  And why would they do that anyways?  And continuing on my Hybrid rant, did we really need the gratuitous cuts to each planet’s significant feature burning in the aftermath as the Hybrid called the planet’s name?  I could have done with either the visuals or the commentary, but both was overkill. 

The Cylon skinjobs running around on Galactica
Leoben and Doral are known Cylon agents at this point, how do they feel that they are safe and free to wander the ship at will?  And how did Gaius' hot-woman-radar not kick in with two Sixes running around on Galactica?

It also left some unanswered questions, that would have been nice to wrap up:

What happened to the Olympic Carrier?

What about the Pegaus, how would affect Cavill's plans?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Eight! There are eight..."

Predictions and Spoilers, One-and-a-bit Seasons In

Viewing friends S and K, who have not seen the show, are running side bets on who is a Cylon. Currently, S is determined to look at couples, with the references to procreation and love being deciding factors. He is insistent that Dee and/or Billy are Cylons, and he has suspicions about Anders.

They are also wary of knowing episode titles, especially in season 4.0 and 4.5. S says he will cry if he hears there is an episode titled "The One in Which Starbuck Dies," he just doesn't want to know.

Last viewing Jeff, D and I (we three know all that has happened before, and all that will happen again) tried to have a sidebar conversation about one of the characters without giving anything away to those who haven't seen the whole series. (This is really hard, as they both refuse even to watch the episode's mini-teasers and are determined to stay away from any kind of spoiler. Me, I like a little bit of a taste of what's to come. Not to mention, I usually forget the details by the time the plot point in question comes up...) The discussion came to a point where we couldn't even say the character's name without giving away too much, and I think we weren't all sure exactly who we were talking about. I can't wait to be able to comment without fear of ruining the fun for S and K!

We were astonished to see what little clips from episodes are shown on the menu screen of the Blu-Ray! We had to advise that S and K avert their eyes lest these frames ruin the surprise...

I am sad that we can't even share this fantastic and catchy You-Tube ditty - too many spoilers in the lyrics.... Oh, I love Battlestar Galactica...

Monday, October 5, 2009

"...the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Resistance / The Farm / Home: Part 1

Does the title Resistance refer to the rag-tag resistance that Kara and Helo encounter on Caprica? Does it refer to the resistance of the fleet to Tigh's martial law and Roslin's continued imprisonment? Does it refer to the quite simmering resistance of the crew of Galactica to the actions and reactions of their drunken XO? Three big sides of the story.

I love the resistance that Kara and Helo meet on Caprica. I have always had a soft spot for post-apocalyptic stories - survival without society, fighting an immediate and tangible enemy, but also people coming together to re-build or at least unite in the face of extinction. Suddenly stumbling upon this Pyramid team, who are using scrounged weapons and tactics they learned from the movies, seems to pull Kara out of her moodiness and back to life. She has been shattered: finding out her friend Sharon is a Cylon and a traitor (I can only imagine the thoughts going through her head about Boomer back in the fleet!) then losing her only way back "home" to Galactica to that same traitor, breaking into her old apartment to realize that she never really missed any of it anyways, and hasn't been fighting for anything, just fighting because she doesn't know how to do anything else. (An aside that may be considered a mini-spoiler: I didn't realize that the piano piece that she plays on her battery-operated radio was her dad. Love the strings that this show dangles then ties up.!) I can only imagine her happiness - relief, maybe? - at finding more people who are fighting for their way of life, their freedom, their humanity, just as she has been. And, oh, what a breath of fresh air it must be to see new faces! Someone different, who's every quirk and tick you haven't yet discovered, memorized, anticipated. Perhaps that is why she falls so hard for Anders - he's new.

Dee's quiet resistance to Tigh's Martial Law is seen first in her (presumed) daily conversations with Lee as she escorts him to and from the Brig. She relays information about the health of his father; of Saul's new-found relationship with his flask; and that she wishes Lee Adama was in charge. We start to recognize where Dee's ultimate loyalty lies: to the Adamas. In the Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down, she overlooks off-log calls for the Commander as he looks into Ellen Tigh's credibility. And this week she facilitates Roslin's resistance by covering up scrambled calls to arrange for Lee and Laura's escape. (Plus, she gives Lee's behind a fond glance after one of their chats.)

Jeff, as always, is excited to see Racetrack in any significant role, so to see her aiding Roslin's escape just lit him up!

I love that Lee had to work with Tom Zarek to get Roslin out of prison. After his insistence on a vote within the Quorum for Vice Presidency, he forced her hand to supporting the nomination Gaius Baltar - keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Well, now "it would seem that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.," and this begs the question of what lows Zarek will stoop to for his own gain, or what debt will need to be repaid on either side of this tense peace.

The Farm is necessarily creepy - but again, this is a show that pushes boundaries and asks hard questions. So follow the logic: if the Cylons believe in their one true god, and they take their god's scriptures literally and god has commanded them to be fruitful, then the hardwired, determined, rational, robotic Cylon brain would find it absolutely necessary to procreate at any cost. Unfortunately, the price of that single-minded resolve is sinister - and it elicits an equally resolute response in the resistance that remains on Caprica - to seek out and destroy the remaining Farms.

And again with Kara Thrace and her special destiny. What does Leoben really know? Clearly he shares his opinions of Kara with the other humanoid Cylons, as Sharon references his comments. (Aside: this means that when Leoben was airlocked, he was not - despite Kara's threat - in fact too far from wherever he needed to be to download into a new body, otherwise his experience would have been lost.) But do all the Cylons revere the importance of Kara - whatever that may be? It doesn't seem so, as Simon and Six wanted only to hook her up to the machines - though Simon did express regret.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Out of the box is where I live."

Kara Thrace, notorious playboy. Drinking, smoking cigars, wiping the table at cards, fighting, sleeping around, and she does it all without any real-world conventional views of gender rolls. Is she just a token "strong woman" in a sea of girlie-girls? No, she is an equal - to all the men and women in her world. In a show that digs deep into the human feeling of race, religion, politics, war and terror, it sets aside any feminine or feminist ideas and presents us with true equality.

Kara is the most obvious example of how this "sexless" universe runs, but surely not the only one.

President Roslin's swearing in in the Mini-Series gives us a first glimpse of the notion of equality in this universe. No one even so much as mutters under their breath about the capabilities of a woman in this role, but comments about being led by a schoolteacher abound. There is just no gender lens for the characters to look at her through.

Cally Henderson, dislike her though we may, is unquestioningly part of the deck gang. Her small hands are actually praised at one point, as she is able to manoeuvre a part in small confines, but never is she demeaned for being a female mechanic.

Adama turns to Starbuck for out-of-the-box thinking in The Hand of God. He not only values her opinion, he continually draws strength from her originality and spunk. But what about Kara Thrace in a dress (in Colonial Day)? Where does this fit into the feminine/feminist dichotomy? The look on Lee's face shows it doesn't happen too often, so maybe she is just still "one of the guys?"

Head-Six, though seemingly a figment of Gaius' imagination (or is she?) is strong and manipulative; she gets her way. But is that because Six is a hard-hitting woman, or because whatever Head-Six is is stronger than Gaius? Thinking this way makes my brain hurt a bit.

Sharon is sort of a wild-card in the feminine/feminist gap - it is almost as if one Sharon is the girlie-girl, and one is the tomboy. Galactica-Sharon comes across as insecure and needy, but is that just her internal struggles with her latent Cylon programming? It seems that when her Cylon side takes over, she is strong and self-confident; it is just the "human" side of Sharon that is weaker. Boomer seems to constantly need assurance and assistance from Tyrol, their relationship doesn't come across as a partnership.

Caprica-Sharon is tortured as well; her loyalties lie to her kind, manipulating Helo with feminine whiles to whatever path her plan is to take them down. She plays her Cylon role with more self-assurance and strength, though, than her counterpart in the fleet: when it seems that Sharon has made up her mind to stick by Helo and defy her kind, it is a final choice, and we see no remorse or indecision. She is in it with Helo, and they will stick together. We see this theme with the two of them repeated over and over; Sharon and Helo are equals, partners, allies.

(Aside: I also love that all officers, male and female, are addressed as "Sir.")

Oh, and the best scene of the night: Kara punches Lee, and he socks her right back. No "can't hit a girl" rule here!

For a counterpoint, go here for an article on how the show is not so feminist after all, which I find takes some things out of context but is interesting nonetheless. Notice: it takes into account the full arc of the show, so there are lots of spoilers. You have been warned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cally Annoyance Point

In Litmus, while discussing with Jammer and Socinus the implications of Cylons appearing human, “This is too much. I don't even wanna know this.”

Whining is not going to change reality, sweetheart.

Friday, August 21, 2009

“You bite me, I’ll bite you back.”

Act of Contrition, You Can’t Go Home Again and Litmus

While the whole show is about telling a story with characters, these episodes are about telling stories about relationships between characters. We get to explore more about the relationships of Kara/Lee/Adama, Adama/Lee, Adama/Tigh, Gaius/Head Six, Sharon/Helo, Sharon/Tyrol, Tyrol/Deck Gang and Adama/Roslin.

Kara’s story richens with Act of Contrition and You Can’t go Home Again. Her relationships with Lee and the Old Man are explored, uncovered, and rubbed raw. The scene in Adama’s quarters is pure heartbreak; Adama’s “walk out of this cabin, while you still can,” through gritted teeth pulls out so much emotion from the two characters. Of course, the guilt at this dismissal is heightened when Adama has to face abandoning Kara on the moon. But the scene that really shows a little bit more of who Kara is, is the scene in the hospital with the Old Man. She asks if her knee will be ok, and he, supportively, suggests that Starbuck is such a fighter that there is no way it could not be ok. The look of anguish on Kara’s face as she turns away to hide her tears speaks of many possibilities: of her literal pain; of thinking of the coming stress of rehab; of facing the thought of her fellow pilots fighting without her while she is bedridden; or that maybe, just maybe, she was looking for a reason to never get in a viper again.

I love the development of the Father/Son relationship between the Commander and Lee. They unite together in their determination to find Kara, no matter what the cost, putting aside whatever wounds have been re-opened of late about Zak. But Lee's heart-wrenching question to the Old Man after they decide to give up the search and leave the moon seems to splinter this sudden alliance: would the Commander actually never leave, if it were Lee down there? We may get an answer to this in a similar predicament later in the series...

We also get to see a little bit about how rank and friendship intermingle in the military. When Tigh admonishes Adama’s decisions to remain on the search for Kara, Adama “pulls rank” and dismisses him. Tigh’s immediate salute shows how much he values the importance of the chain-of-command and respect for the Old Man above all else. Regardless of personal feelings, the Old Man is the boss, in any situation. Further conflicts of rank and familiarity are shown in Tyrol’s relationship to his Deck Gang, in their willingness to cover for him no matter the cost. When Tyrol pleads with the Old Man for Socinus’ release, it is as one man approaching another for mercy and understanding, but Adama stands firm and again “pulls rank,” Tyrol salutes him in obedience, despite his emotion. Tyrol is realizing that being the Deck Chief brings more responsibility than just making sure the vipers are running, he is realizing that he has a team that looks up to him and counts on him. His respect for authority, and guilt over what his relationship has done to a friend and colleague, leads him to break things off with Boomer. Makes you wonder what this will do for her emerging internal conflict of Cylon/human loyalties…

The moment in the hallway where Gaius and Head Six are arguing is an interesting and expository scene. We are still wondering who, what and why this vision of Six is in Gaius’s head, but her forcing him against the bulkhead just brings questions to any theories of her nature. How can she physically affect Gaius if she is just in his head? What is going on!?

(Aside: I always found the description of her character as “Head Six” a little misleading; I don’t like the opportunity for it to be confused as meaning “Leader-Six” or “Boss-Six” instead of “In-Gaius’-Head-Six.” Before reading that this is the term used to identify her, I always referred to her as “Gaius’ Six,” which I like better. But, in the efforts of avoiding confusion, I will use the preferred nomenclature.)

The advancement of the story of Helo and Sharon on Caprica is very engaging. You can tell it is building up to something, and when Helo survives the attack to find Sharon missing, even he must suspect something is up. In the bombed-out factory, when Helo rescues her, the look on Sharon’s bruised and bleeding face as she says that they should get out of there is a little bit more emotional – a little scared, even - than just keeping up appearances. Could it be that the Cylon’s secret plan for Helo is backfiring as Sharon falls for him?

I love the irony of the witch-hunt tribunal focusing on Tyrol and Boomer’s whereabouts and the nature of their relationship; “…conspiracy and collusion with the Cylons.” Turns out, Tyrol actually was meeting and colluding with a Cylon, though neither he nor the Cylon in question is aware of this! Brilliance.

All told, there is nothing better than watching fledgling President Roslin rise up on her shaky legs and spank the Adama boys into obedience to reason. Her power in that scene speaks to the person and leader she will become: strong, reasonable, powerful, understanding, convincing, and – very often - right. The growing mutual respect between Commander and President begins here, with them both better understanding how to work with, instead of against, each other.

Next week, we get the unambiguous excitement of Shelley Godfrey, Leoben Conoy and Ellen Tigh. Can’t hardly wait!!!