Tuesday, March 31, 2009
EW has a new list, this time the top 20 heroes and villains in pop culture. My turn, my turn!
First off, check out their list, for it's a good'un. However, I hate the accompanying article's pedantic tone. The article is actually great as a recap of western cultural history, but it adamantly declares an origin and causality that doesn't quite exist. I don't really want to go into it, but let's all agree that the Christian god and devil were not, in fact, the first hero and villain in human history. Civilizations rose and fell before the Old Testament was even begun. And blurring the lines between heroes and villains did not begin with Norman Bates and James Bond. Really, EW, ever heard of Shakespeare, or the rest of British literature for that matter?
But again, we're not here to savage a perfectly enjoyable article that occasionally oversteps. We're here to discuss our favorite heroes and villains! I've come up with my own favorites, but I'd love for you to join in. This topic is far too vast for me and the staff of EW to hit all the highlights. Even if I cover everything I've encountered, the vast majority of cultural works are undiscovered country for me.
Since the topic is so broad, I've split my lists into four parts. Part 1 is for my top 10 teams of heroes and villains. I'll follow up with my Top 20 heroes, antiheroes, and villains.
Consider this the appetizer.
My Top 10 Hero Teams:
10. Gary & Ace, the Ambiguously Gay Duo - Saturday Night Live
Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert are not only superheroes in real life, but they play them on TV. Gary and Ace may not be the most successful superheroes, but they try hard. So to speak.
9. The Middleman Team (Middleman, Wendy, & Ida) - The Middleman
They might be higher if I read the comics, or if the television series had more than 12 episodes to tell its story, but regardless, the Middleman and company frequently save the universe and look good doing it. Besides, are there wittier crime-fighters? Methinks not.
8. Yorick, Dr. Mann, & Agent 355 - Y - The Last Man
I haven't completed the series, so I'm cheating a bit here, but from what I've seen (more than half the comics), these guys can get out of anything. As it stands, they may be humanity's only hope for survival. Extra points for the sheer awesomeness of Yorick's name. Further points for the full frontal. It is a story about the only penis on Earth after all.
7. Dutch & Claudette - The Shield
Much as I enjoyed following Vic Mackey and Shane Vendrell over the years, I always cared more about Dutch and Claudette, the real heroes of the Farmington district. They scored more confessions legitimately than Mackey coerced. Dutch put several serial sexual predators behind bars thanks to his extensive knowledge of psychosexual motivations for violent crime, but Claudette was always better with people, ultimately taking over the Barn and ending Mackey's reign of terror (via Shane and then Ronnie).
6. Frodo & Sam - The Lord of the Rings
I could cheat and use the whole Company of the Ring, but all nine were only together for, what, a few chapters? Frodo and Sam made the long haul, and each saved the other's bacon when it came down to it. They lose points for not being able to destroy the Ring, but they get further than anyone else would have.
5. Head Six and Head Baltar - Battlestar Galactica
Helping out here and there to ensure human history works out according to plan, these angels fabulously dominate every scene they're in. Head Six is the iconic character of Battlestar, and it's she who symbolizes the series ending by disappearing into the crowd in its final moments.
4. The X-Men - X-Men comics under countless titles
This is also a bit of a cheat, since everyone in the Marvel universe was once an X-Man. I mean, if Magneto can join the team for a bit, it's not saying much to give them a hall of fame slot. But I grew up with the '90s team, which is quite large enough: Cyclops, Jean Gray, Wolverine, Gambit, Beast, (Arch)angel, Iceman, Rogue, Storm, Bishop, Psylocke, and of course, Professor X--Banshee, Nightcrawler and Colossus can come too, when they're not busy with their other teams. Every now and then I check wikipedia to see what's become of the X-Men, and I can barely keep up with these guys, much less all the new characters. My favorite X-Man Gambit's a full-fledged villain now or something? Well, I'll always have the '90s comics and the animated series.
3. The Order of the Phoenix II - The Harry Potter series
The second Order of the Phoenix gets the job done right, and this Order includes all our favorite child characters. Everyone's important to Harry Potter achieving his goal. Favorites include Professor Lupin and Mrs. Weasley, but really, there are no weak links. Also, David Thewlis is a god among actors; Julie Walters too. (Note: JK Rowling deserves centuries of Promethean pain for killing Lupin and Tonks.) Now that we're on the subject, the Order of the Phoenix is quite the accomplished cast: Maggie Smith, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Robbie Coltrane, etc.
2. McNulty, Bunk, Kima, Lester, and Prez - The Wire
Sure, I had to cherry-pick the heroes from amongst the bureaucratic Baltimore PD, and they're not exactly classical hero archetypes themselves, but these five are the heroes of the show, and each season comes down to their efforts (with more than a little help from Daniels and Pearlman). In a functional system, these five would have made Baltimore gang-free within a year. But this isn't a perfect society. This America, man.
1. The Crew of Serenity - Firefly & Serenity
These Robin Hoods weren't exactly interested in saving the universe but in surviving under a despotic galactic government. Still, they mostly did the right thing ("The Train Job", "Ariel") and in Serenity, they become the classical, big damn heroes we expect, risking it all in the name of truth. The crew works so perfectly together I can't imagine losing anyone. Joss Whedon begs to differ. But he can't change the fact that Mal, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, Kaylee, Shepherd Book, Simon, River, and Inara are my favorite team of heroes.
Top 10 Villain Teams:
10. The Koopas - Mario Bros.
Not only do they have a vast family fortune and network of castles, but every time you corner one, they teleport away with the Princess. Talk about slippery.
9. The Kanamits - The Twilight Zone - "To Serve Man"
Maybe other aliens have had more frightening genocidal intentions for humanity, but the Kanamits buddied up to us first. It's the most passive-aggressive cannibalism in cultural history.
8. The Plastics - Mean Girls
They lose points for being dealt with so easily (and for forever corrupting a talented Lindsay Lohan), but the Plastics ruined many lives in their time, always with a smile. "One time, Regina George punched me in the face. It was awesome."
7. The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad - Kill Bill
Each more deadly than the last, the Vipers are frighteningly skilled at what they do. Hence the double feature of ceaseless violence.
6. The Borg - Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager
Unfortunately defanged by Voyager, the Borg of The Next Generation were an unstoppable force. They assimilated Picard, killed Jennifer Sisko (and millions of others), and bulldozed the Alpha Quadrant. If Voyager had come up with their own villains, the Borg would be much higher.
5. The Marlo Stanfield Organization - The Wire
Chris and Snoop alone are the most fearsome characters on The Wire (even over Omar and Brother Mouzone). Then there's Marlo himself, sweeping through Baltimore like the Borg, ignoring territorial markers and assimilating crew members from the remains of the gangs he's destroyed. On top of it all, Marlo destroyed poor Michael's life.
4. The Masters of the Gun - El Topo
Like the Borg, the Masters of the Gun essentially win. El Topo is no match for these philosopher-warriors, masters of the mind as much as the gun.
3. The Weeping Angels - Doctor Who - "Blink"
Have inanimate objects ever been so scary? Combine their frightening, strobe-like movements with time travel and a demonstration of physical uncertainty, and you have one of my favorite teams of villains.
2. The Avon Barksdale Organization - The Wire
While Marlo's crew is more frightening and successful, I'll always like the Barksdales more. These guys are old-fashioned, honoring loyalty and family above greed. The Stringer-Avon schism in Season 3 hurt like it was my own family. I concede that the Barksdales (and Marlo's crew) aren't really villains outside of their opposition to the show's ostensible heroes in the Baltimore PD, but I couldn't leave out my favorite crime organization. Stringer Bell would not approve.
1. The Dominion - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
A group of alliances that nearly conquered the universe, the Dominion is my favorite villain team. Made up of the godlike Founders, the diplomatic Vorta, the warrior Jem'Hadar, and later the Cardassians, Breen, and others, the Dominion were successful because their leaders were dedicated to rational thought. Enslave a warrior race that's become physically dependent on your drugs, and you have an invincible army. The Dominion brought Deep Space Nine into its own territory in Season 3 and beyond, and the Dominion War arc is my favorite long-term storyline in Star Trek.
Those are my top 10 teams of heroes and villains, though I admittedly stretched the definitions a bit. Surprisingly, I mostly strayed from comic superhero teams.
Stay tuned for Parts 2-4. Until then, let me know your favorite hero and villain teams.
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Sunday, March 29, 2009
This weekend, I experienced a rare phenomenon: I got out of a speeding ticket. I was going 77 in a 65 (which would have been 70 during the day, if you pretend like me that night speed limits are suggestions). But he let me go, and I think I know why.
Here's the full story, with all the detail necessary to analyze the situation.
I was driving on 290 from Houston to Austin, just before the exit to College Station. It was about 10:20 PM, and I was returning from visiting my family for my mom's birthday. I was dressed much sharper than usual: a nice button-down, contrasting undershirt, and blue jeans that fit. As it goes, I had mostly obeyed the speed limits since it was a Saturday night near the end of the month. I don't know if this is true or an urban legend, but I always heard that officers try to make their ticket quotas by the turn of the next month.
So the thought occurred to me that I could get home by 11:00, and for whatever reason, I stepped on it. I passed a few cars, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a carnival of blue and red lights exploded to my left. He was parked next to the median. It was a trap.
I immediately stepped off the gas, checked my speed, and got in the right-hand lane, and I have no idea in which order. But I do know when I saw my speedometer, it indicated I was going 74. Thinking the limit was 70, I considered briefly the possibility that I was not his target, but I exited the highway anyway. In my rear-view mirror, he still hadn't put his car in drive, but soon enough, he was parked behind me with enough voltage to counterbalance Earth Hour.
I turned off my music, rolled down my window, and positioned my hands on the steering wheel, as I've been told by those digg articles about what officers like you to do when they pull you over. The reason for putting your hands on the wheel is so they know what you're doing, i.e. they don't shoot you for pulling a gun. Other than that, No Country for Old Men was all I could think about as he sauntered toward me in the dark. Did I mention we were all alone on some central Texas feeder?
Luckily, I could see his hands, and he wasn't holding a baton, much less a cattle-gun. He asked me how I was, and told me why he pulled me over. I was respectful, but I verbally double-taked upon hearing my speed. "How fast was I going?" He asked for my license and registration, and I provided them. He wanted to know where I was headed, and I told him College Station. Then he walked back to his car. After about a minute, I hung my head and moved my hands to my eyes. I don't know exactly what was happening--it was a Jason Bourne moment where I instinctively reached for my eyes. I rubbed what I thought were fake tears for a couple seconds--didn't want to overdo it--but to my surprise at least one real one snuck through.
Then I thought naggingly, "Is this the man you want to be?" and I ceased my charade. It wasn't exactly fake--I was dedicated to this performance and had to see it through. I kept my eyes out of my rear-view mirror because, again, the light of the Sun was shining at me. I thought two or three times that I'd like to swig some diet coke, but I felt that would detract from what's supposed to be my single-minded despair.
Finally he returned with my license and registration in hand. I hadn't noticed he wasn't carrying a clipboard yet. He asked me if I've been pulled over before, and I told him I had. "You need to slow it down," he said kindly. "But I'm gonna let you go this time." I was busy processing the first part, and I responded that I had no idea I was going that fast, as if that would put his mind at ease. As I put my license and registration back in my wallet, I realized that I got off, and I thanked him meekly. He told me to have a good night and returned to his car. I hate leaving after being pulled over, but even as I pulled back onto the highway at the next entrance, he hadn't moved, so I felt like the traffic situation would be less awkward.
So that's the scenario, and I have a few theories as to why I got off. As I said, I was dressed well and spoke politely to him. I hope it came through that the officer struck me as rather kind himself. He was probably a few years younger than my parents, but I look young too, so maybe there were some transferrence issues going on.
If you're like me, you have a female friend who has gotten out of approximately 12 speeding tickets by alternately crying and accentuating her twins. Also, you've never heard of a man getting out of a speeding ticket by crying. But lo and behold, I tried it--sort of--and I think it may have worked. At the very least, it may have pushed him over the edge.
I've been pulled over seven times in my seven years of driving (which I just realized and am a little embarrassed about). Five were for speeding, one was to tell me that my brake lights weren't working, and one was to tell me that Texas recently passed a law prohibiting any part of your license plate being obscured by a frame. Of the five times I was caught speeding, I was let off twice. Unfortunately, I can't recall every detail of the first time, but I always attributed my warning to having asked and verbally challenged the speed I was told I was going. Again, I don't remember the details, but my memory is confident that I wasn't speeding very much, though my record begs to differ.
So it's possible I was let off last night because I indicated that I wasn't going as fast as he said. After all, my speedometer said I was going 74 mph, though I may have looked after a healthy amount of deceleration. This is the second time I was let out of a speeding ticket, and the second time I questioned my alleged speed.
But I like to think the officer let me go because I cried. I always assumed that it wouldn't help me get off, but when I tried it, it worked. Conscience be damned. Yes, this is the man I want to be. A man who doesn't have to pay $120 because he sped by a parked cop. A pioneer for men who have had to face the consequences of their actions. The world may now be safe for men who'd rather cry than pay tickets. I, too, had a dream, and last night that dream achieved fruition.
This is merely the next stage in the grand speeding ticket experiment. Next time--given my record, there will be a next time in the coming year--I'll gather more evidence. But until then, I'd like to hear from others. Has anyone ever cried to get out of speeding tickets? Any men? Anyone ever heard of any men getting off? Rick Perry had it all wrong. He should have tried wiping some tears.
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At some point, I realized it was time to stop dedicating this blog to Battlestar Galactica. Painful as it is--and withdrawal is a process--I have a new show to discuss: Rob Thomas' Starz comedy Party Down.
Party Down follows a team of cater-waiters who work a different event each episode, most of whom are aspiring, struggling, or failed Hollywood types. Has any series in the history of television premiered with such a tested and encouraging cast? The Party Down team consists of three Veronica Mars players (Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen), Martin Starr (of the Apatow oeuvre), Lizzy Caplan (of Mean Girls fame), and Jane Lynch, whose work in Arrested Development and the Christopher Guest films has earned her entry into Valhalla.
To top it off, the first two episodes--only two have aired so far--guest star Enrico Colantoni, Jason Dohring, and Alona Tal. Seeing Keith Mars joke around with Dick Casablancas was refreshing, to say the least, but Logan Echolls and Meg Manning participating in a domestic dispute felt like a wonderfully wacky alternate universe. Now if only Rob Thomas can rescue Kristen Bell and Kyle Gallner from B-movie teen horror purgatory (though Gallner had a promising run on The Shield and Bell was fantastic in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), all will be right with the post-Veronica Mars world.
I'm not done touting this show's pedigree, because Paul Rudd was originally set to star, but is now executive producing. He and Rob Thomas, along with ex-Mars writers John Enbom and Dan Etheridge, wrote the pilot and are the series' creators. Enbom wrote the second episode as well. So, two half-hours into the series, I'm more blown away by the peerless cast and crew than anything else.
That's not a slight. The show is pretty good at what it does. No masterpieces yet, but certainly a solid, promising couple of episodes (at a homeowners association event and a college conservatives ceremony, respectively). Somewhat surprisingly, Party Down targets that space occupied by The Office and The Comeback, half-hour comedies where the laughs serve to distract from the emptiness of the characters' lives. And like those shows, Party Down succeeds in conveying its existential despair as often as it scores guffaws. But unlike those shows, Party Down doesn't revel in its depression; it slaps us with it, then moves on to the laughs.
Party Down uses a neat structural trick that I love, flashing the closing credits just before the final scene or two, a device that shows on ad-happy networks should use in order to stave off credit minimization. It's a nice way of honoring the crew, though it might cause more anxious viewers to switch channels before the episode's over.
I haven't discussed the characters or plots much, because they're more fun to discover on your own. Despite the procedural nature of the show, there's a healthy amount of serialization with regards to the stories of the main characters. While they're catering a different party each week, they're still trying to achieve the same dreams of success they had last week. I think that's what I appreciate most about Party Down: it's about the frustration of following your dreams. One character finds more happiness in giving up his former acting dreams, an interesting counterpoint to the rest of the cast, a motley group of people betting on their dreams despite their miserable stations. A character says in the premiere that an intelligent screenplay can't sell, and as the Academy Awards rage on, I'm inclined to agree. The world is not a meritocracy, and these people try anyway.
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Saturday, March 21, 2009
Spoilers for the series finale (despite upcoming television movie "The Plan") of Battlestar Galactica after the jump.
The finale for this brilliant landmark drama took us not to the book of Revelation, but close: It brought us to The Amber Spyglass, the final book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, with the crew of Galactica jumpstarting the evolution of man. Hera as Mitochondrial Eve is a stroke of brilliance.
The most thrilling moment for me was the actual final scene, where Baltar and Six, angels of the universe, chat in Times Square and then walk off as a news network plays a montage of advances in robotics. Some fans thought the scene was preachy or on-the-nose, but I really don't think the intent was to say, "Don't make humanoid robots!" Most of those images were inherently humorous. So I completed a finale I have many opinions about with a smile on my face and one final fan of the intriguing mythology flame.
In my response to "Part 1," I talked about the show Battlestar Galactica has become, a character drama rooted in philosophy and politics with sizeable doses of action and mystery. But I left out that Battlestar is also a military show, with episodes devoted to its rituals and others to strategy. "Dabyreak, Part 2" divides evenly into two parts: the first, a military raid with all the action we could have hoped for simultaneously answering our remaining questions about the mythology of the show, and the second, a character drama about farewells that, of course, adds to the mythology one last time.
The military raid is an exciting thrill with incredible visuals (and since this is the last one, I'd like to thank Gary Hutzel's visual effects department, who have consistently raised the bar), but it's not just an excuse for action. The raid is the culmination of almost all of the mythological elements, and I found the conclusion in CIC breathtaking. One aspect gave me pause at first--in seeking to involve as much of the cast as possible, the raid was especially complicated, and every time we weren't in CIC, I was wondering how much longer Bill could afford to wait while a rescued Hera darts off through more corridors--but on the whole, it was a gripping climax.
The revelation of the opera house mystery was transcendent for me. Sure it was simple, and I'm not exactly clear on why it needed to happen that way (i.e. why Hera couldn't have just gone to CIC with the pilots who rescue her in the first place), but as soon as Laura and Athena started chasing after Hera, I didn't care. And like a lot of the ends in "Daybreak," the opera house dream wasn't nearly as insidious as it seems, Sharon ending up with her daughter after all.
(Sidenote: I suppose the drunk driving motif from "Part 1" was a sign of the decadence of Caprica "before the fall.")
I've written before that Ronald D. Moore and company are great at making events feel inevitable. In "Daybreak, Part 2," I think they fell on both sides of that line. Every mythological answer--the opera house, Kara's song, Kara's existence--felt inevitable. Even if it hasn't always been the plan that these inexplicable mysteries are agents of the grand design, it was the perfect answer. Could you explain why someone or something is trying to keep humanity on its cycle satisfyingly? Isn't it better to leave a little bit of mystery there?
At worst, I would say that I wasn't elated that the finale, departing from the rest of the series, sides firmly with the existence of a divine being orchestrating the grand scheme who has angels to ensure the proper results. But in retrospect, I have two responses to my own misgivings: 1) It's not a writerly cop-out, because this series has always dealt with the existence of a god or gods, and 2) Despite the use of angels and resurrection, the one, true cylon god (who I was so hoping would be Baltar, or my original choice a year ago, Romo Lamkin) is not the Christian god, per se--he is not good or evil, as Baltar says, and all through his speech in CIC, this rational humanist was nodding and smiling, and what's more, God apparently doesn't like being called "God." Anthropomorphizing him in this way, in the final moments of the series, lends more credence to his not being an omnipotent creator, and I left the show feeling more than satisfied regarding the divine.
But the events of the second half felt less than inevitable, to put it kindly. I mostly enjoyed this overlong sequence--as a fan, I wanted as much time with these people as possible, as many moving goodbyes as I could get, but as a film-lover, the denouement has issues.
Since we're talking about the mythology, I'll start with Kara. I don't think there's a better way to say goodbye than to have her disappear. I like to imagine her consciousness is exploring the universe. But they could have established this much better. First, Kara was not exactly an angel in the way Head Baltar and Head Six are, because she could physically interact with reality and she was never as confident as they. Still, the writers could have established her awareness of herself as a divine agent sooner. Kara spent the entire season wrestling with who or what she is, and in the final few episodes came to realize she is connected to the landmark events in human history. I'd have liked an onscreen epiphany, a moment where Kara realizes what she is, rather than saving that moment so she can shock Lee.
(Credit where it's due: the writers established the redemption arcs for Boomer and Gaius well, and when Boomer's death came, they both refused to let her off the hook and gave her a moving finale. I said I wasn't sure I'd buy her redemption when it came, but I was touched by her ending.)
Meanwhile, the writers could have spent more time establishing the reconciliation of Gaius Baltar and Caprica Six. They hadn't seen each other for a while until that moment in "Islanded in a Stream of Stars," where he runs into her in a corridor and she inadvertently encourages him to earn her pride. Again, I'm not complaining about the finale, because the story of Baltar and Six, in both forms, was brilliant. I'm not sure I'd single out any one performance as dominating the episode for me, but for their final episode, James Callis and Tricia Helfer went out strong.
Now I'm curious about something. Before the final scene, we could accept that angels take the form of those nearest and dearest to us, so the angels that appear to Six and Baltar take the form of their soulmates. Why then do Head Six and Head Baltar retain those forms 150,000 years later? Are they angels for James Callis and Tricia Helfer, the actors? Is it possible that Head Six and Head Baltar have always been, awaiting the day their divine forms would be born to humans? From that perspective, Head Six could have appeared to whichever cylons were involved in the creation of the Number Six model and encouraged a specific form. I realize that final scene was not intended to take this kind of weight, that perhaps they only appeared in those forms to the audience, but it's an interesting proposition.
The writers also didn't make the abandonment of technology feel inevitable, at least for the entirety of humanity. It would have been interesting if some of the fleet chose not to settle, and without the cylon threat, continued their journey through the stars. In fact, it would have been interesting if at least one or two of the name characters felt that way. I'm not sure I buy Ellen, goddess of the universe, a woman with millennia of memories, choosing to willingly live out her days on a single place. Couldn't Saul and Ellen have gone out on a raptor to explore the galaxy?
(Related sidenote: I feel the writers could have done a little more exploring Ellen's existence, the impacts of all that experience. There's a poignant story there about the immortal woman choosing to court death by staving off resurrection technology. I find myself wanting to know more about what makes the new and original version of Ellen tick.)
(Personal sidenote: I suppose I've given away my own Anders-like dreams of perfection by saying Kara and now the Fighting Tighs should spend their days exploring the universe. It's fitting that projection informs my vision of happiness for the characters to the end.)
Which brings me to my biggest issue: all of the main characters on Earth rather quickly decompressed and chose a life of solitude. I would have liked maybe an Earth version of a conference scene where the supposed family discusses what their next step should be. I loved everything about the finale of Bill and Laura, but after Laura's buried in a beautiful spot, couldn't Bill have found Saul and Ellen? When he was leaving Lee and Kara for the final time, I kept wondering why it had to be the final time. Why are they willingly sacrificing all the technology that could help them retain their connections to each other? Tyrol's ending was almost tragic, though his willing participation in it fuels his narcissistic streak of late. I'm someone who's taken issue with how many times over the years Bill berates himself for letting things get too lax on the battlestar, for letting himself give his friends and family too many breaks in an occupational setting, but in the final account, they all do everything possible to ensure they'll never see one another again. It wasn't necessarily out of character, but I'd have liked to see them arrive at these conclusions.
The series is over, and the finale was a mostly great example of what we love about Battlestar. Except there was almost no political commentary. I kept thinking the Lee flashbacks were going to have more political significance in the future, given his idealist shell but cynical heart. We've seen that cynicism play out in the last few weeks, but "Daybreak" not only featured no significant political stories but also effectively dissolved the government. It felt like more of a bookend to the miniseries than "33," which is the right decision by the writers, even though "33" is much more brilliant than the actual series pilot.
Bear McCreary pulled out all the stops for the finale's music, my favorite example being his score to the end of Adama's story. You know, Adama is a Hebrew word that means "sacred earth" I believe. That final shot of him could not have been more perfect, nor could Bear McCreary's score.
Now might be a good time to mention that my eyes were not raining buckets during the Roslin death. It felt right, and I knew when she died, it would just be a cessation of movement, that the death scene of one of my favorite characters would ride on Adama's reaction. I'm happy to report that Edward James Olmos nailed it, as he did much in "Daybreak." And I'm thankful for those Caprica flashbacks for (giving us a flashback of Ellen and Saul, as predicted, and) giving Mary McDonnell scenes where she wasn't physically broken down. She got to go out with the same dynamic presence she came in with.
I also predicted the telegraphed Admiral Hoshi, but like the rest of the episode, his promotion was not remotely as bleak as I expected. That shot of Admiral Hoshi and President Lamkin standing on the raptor was one of my favorite visuals. It's the characters, stupid. Speaking of which, Doc Cottle's farewell to Roslin was perfect. I'm especially happy that after we say goodbye to these secondary characters, we get to see them again on Earth.
There's nothing left for me to say about this cast. I've found Rekha Sharma's performance occasionally less than charismatic (which is strange, because in The Last Frakkin' Special, she is charming and entertaining, everything I wish Tory could be), but I loved her in "Daybreak." Special mention goes to Tricia Helfer and James Callis, as usual, along with Michael Hogan, Grace Park, and Katee Sackhoff. And Dean Stockwell's ending is absolutely the right one. Man, he should play every sci-fi villain, shouldn't he?
So that's my reaction. "Daybreak" was mostly enjoyable, but I had some artistic issues with a simultaneously rushed and ponderous denouement. At this moment, I wouldn't add it to my Top 10 episodes. But it wasn't bad, or worse, mediocre. It was so ambitious--bringing us back to prehistory, concluding in present day Times Square, writing off the mythology as divine--I'm not surprised reactions are so all over the map.
With the entire story laid bare, it's safe to say Battlestar Galactica remains one of television history's finest dramas, a deeply literary series that almost masterfully pulled us through 80 hours with controlled suspense and mystery. It's a brilliant evocation of life under the Bush Administration, and other series should look to its political engagement as a guide. Everyone expected something of a bleak ending, but that wouldn't have been quite right, would it, considering Battlestar's political life? I wonder if I'd have preferred a bleaker ending, since I'm lukewarm on aspects of the hopeful one. (Once more, I'm decidedly not lukewarm about the brilliant closing scene, and I'm pretty sure I now believe in angels.) Maybe clamoring for a bleak ending reflects the impact of the Bush years on my artistic sensibilities. What do you think?
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Friday, March 20, 2009
I considered waiting to release my top 10 episodes until after "Daybreak," but I originally promised top 10 lists as a way to drum up anticipation for tonight's finale. After reading Alan Sepinwall's favorite episodes, I was so excited I wanted to compile my list before tonight.
"Daybreak, Part 1" is not taken into account for this list, and I fervently hope "Daybreak" as a whole merits future consideration for such a top 10 list. Of course, this isn't any kind of objective top 10 list, but a list of my favorite 10 episodes of one of television's best dramas. I've decided that a two-parter counts as a single piece, which is either cheating or upholding artistic integrity. And now, the list:
I'm going to ruin some suspense right now and say I left off three excellent two-parters that will make everyone else's lists ("Kobol's Last Gleaming," "Resurrection Ship," and "Crossroads"). These are great episodes, but after perusing my top 10, I wanted a little more personality in there, so I cut them to make room for more idiosyncratic choices that I also love.
Honorable Mentions, in chronological order:
Remember the first time we saw Head Baltar? How suave and charming he was? Head Baltar is my favorite part of "Downloaded," but it's an episode with a lot to recommend it ("Daybreak" point of interest: Head Baltar appears to Caprica Six, but her relationship with the real Baltar is obviously strained. Does Head Baltar still appear to her?). Boomer, assassinated by Cally, resurrects on Caprica, our first real look at that process. Lucy Lawless returns as Three, and Michael Trucco returns as Anders, both of whom would have play major roles in the remainder of ther series. Boomer and Caprica Six become celebrities in a society of merciless equality, like Hugh from Star Trek: The Next Generation. But the reason I return to this episode time and again is Head Baltar, Caprica Six's guardian angel.
"Taking a Break From All Your Worries"
This took place in the early part of the second half of Season 3, when Baltar was in prison on Galactica and standalones were getting a bad wrap. It was intended as a light, humorous break from the relentless darkness of the first half of the season, but it turned out to be one of the darkest hours under Edward James Olmos' direction. I've said before that the Roslin-Baltar relationship is my favorite on the series (just over Baltar-Six and Ellen-Saul), and this is one of their landmarks. Laura recalls Baltar's visit to her cell on New Caprica by returning the favor here, then she marches him to an airlock with the very sincere intentions of dealing with humanity's greatest traitor once and for all, and since that wasn't dark enough, she proceeds to psychologically torture him. There's also a new bar, some love quadrangle drama, and an alternately intriguing and scary scene where Gaeta stabs Baltar with a pen in this underrated gem of Season 3.
Starbuck's third season showcase, with her dreams of painter sex with Leoben, memories of her mother's abusive punishments, her quest to understand her destiny, and her placid surrender to death by maelstrom. During her final flash to her Caprican apartment with Leoben before her death, as she realizes what she has to do, the director gives us a tracking shot unseen on television, pushing in on the duo, putting them on opposite sides of the maelstrom, and eventually abandoning Leoben altogether, as this scene is ultimately all about Kara. I was also impressed with how well the episode conveyed a deathly atmosphere, every moment drenched in an impending sense of doom. And after she's gone, you can't help but feel the void every bit as much as Apollo and Adama.
Another generally forgotten episode, but one of the standouts of the first half of Season 4, this is the episode where Roslin bonds with another cancer patient, dreaming of her death as a voyage by boat to the other side, where her family is waiting for her ("Daybreak" point of interest: we know more about which family members will be waiting for her now). I can't express how moved I was by the boat ride sequences, and I hope it recurs in the finale in the event of Roslin's death. Also, the episode includes more of Baltar's hypnotic preaching. In the other story, the Demetrius mission reaches a breaking point when mutiny forces Anders to shoot Gaeta in the leg as Starbuck visits the hybrid. It's all tied together by the idea of faith--not faith in a higher power or destiny or fate, but faith in each other, and faith in your own abilities to achieve your goals (in this case, Earth), expressed touchingly in the final conversation between Roslin and Adama.
"Sometimes a Great Notion"
The first episode after the discovery of Earth is a stunning piece unified by purposelessness. It's a brilliant episode that asks the questions art is supposed to ask while giving us tantalizing hints about the future. But the characters are naturally unequipped to cope with the loss of their dreams, so Roslin, Kara, and Dee surrender their lives. Of course, Dee's the only one who physically dies, but Roslin gives up on her roles in life as president, girlfriend, and humanity's mother while Kara burns her own body. All three are transcendent sequences from a remarkably intelligent work, and I haven't even mentioned the Final Five flashbacks, the discovery that the 13th colony was composed of cylons, or the finale revelation that made me cheer: Ellen Tigh is the final cylon, and she's coming back!
I knew for sure what my top few episodes would be, but delineating between the honorable mentions and the lower entries in my top 10 was challenging. Unfortunately, it's been a long time since I've seen certain episodes from Season 2 or 3, and most of those from Season 4a I have only seen once. So this is obviously not a permanent list, but it's good for now. Here's hoping "Daybreak" cracks the top 5.
My Top 10 Episodes of Battlestar Galactica:
10. "The Ties That Bind"
Cally has always been an interesting character, but her stories have never made me care about her. But finally, in her finale, I come to understand and sympathize with this immature young woman thrown way beyond her depths. She joined the military to pay for dental school, and ever since, her life has become a nightmare, culminating in her semi-Oedipal, semi-masochistic marriage to her surrogate father, the man who beat her face to a pulp, and now, the man who insidiously made her carry and deliver a half-cylon baby. Cally is not often a woman of nuance, and her entire worldview is wrapped in hatred of cylons, so her husband's betrayal hurts her that much more, and as she prepares to kill herself and her child, you can't help but feel the heaps of pain the universe has thrown at this young woman. On top of everything, it's heartbreakingly cruel that Tory talks her down only to do the job herself. Aside from the moving central plot, the episode features a delicious political scene where Roslin dresses down Lee and another where Adama reads Caprican noir to Laura in the hospital. But the star of the episode is Michael Nankin whose direction sells the restless, paranoid claustrophobia of Cally's nightmarish existence and Kara's garbage scow. A few of the stunning visuals: the blood droplet, the star mobile, Kara's raptor flying by a gas giant, Tigh's good eye looking toward the hole in the wall obscuring Cally.
9. "Unfinished Business"
I'm an avid hater of boxing on film. Raging Bull is merely decent, and Million Dollar Baby's acclaim is going to embarrass people in the future. But "Unfinished Business" is a work of beauty, the finale and prequel to the brilliant New Caprica arc. The boxing matches themselves are visceral, blood and sweat drenching every frame, and the brackets (Helo vs. Lee, Adama vs. Tyrol, Lee vs. Kara, etc.) beautifully frame the flashbacks. I loved the boxing conceit here, and I also enjoyed getting to see a time when the characters had hope. Roslin was going to build a cabin, happy to be a schoolteacher again. Baltar was living a playboy life again, scoring attention at pointless photo ops. Lee and Kara had something like a peaceful romance, at first. There was a time, post-genocide, where the characters were ready to settle down and live out their days in peace. Which makes the New Caprica arc that much more poignant.
A gripping political crisis that will be on everyone's top 10 list, probably even higher than this. Even before the surprisingly early discovery of Earth, this was a thrilling episode that had every element we love about this series: political intrigue and commentary, action and suspense, character moments like the opening (Lee and Kara talking about filling in their parents' roles), and a game-changing human-cylon alliance. All this was overshadowed, of course, by the game-changing Earth sequence, and rightfully so. First Bill gives a powerful, celebratory monologue. Then we are treated to a sweeping montage of the remnants of humanity--victory in CIC, quiet celebration in the Agathons' quarters, mournful absurdism in Tyrol's, grateful prayer in the Baltar cult, respectful acknowledgement of the dead amongst the crew, and unabashed joy in the fleet. After a fade to black, a surprise fade in on ships entering Earth's atmosphere, a glorious sight if ever there were one. And finally, a tracking shot that blows other series' direction out of the water depicting our characters facing a bleak future.
The current pinnacle of effects is the Galactica jumping into the atmosphere of New Caprica, falling like a brick toward the surface as the vipers launch while Saul Tigh looks on. But "Exodus" is so much more than its effects, though the ensuing space battle is another strong spectacle. "Exodus" is about the occupied New Capricans launching their cover assault and planning their esacpe while the battlestar crews coordinate their getaway. Although this episode is about the two halves of humanity working together to escape mostly intact, the finale makes the separation between the halves especially stark. Saul Tigh has been changed forever, unable to cheer their victory. Kara too is now broken--the look of joy on her face as she holds Kacee in the hangar underscores the pain of realizing the truth of Leoben's final mind-game. And Ellen Tigh is revealed to be all too human. Her loving treachery uncovered, she is put to sleep by her doting husband. "Exodus" is another landmark sure to be written about on everyone's list, but what I loved most is how much is lost in the act of restoring the status quo. New Caprica may have been a minor digression for the series, but its effects are felt throughout the season and in the character of Saul Tigh clear through the finale.
6. "The Oath" & "Blood on the Scales"
I rather recently extolled the brilliance of these episodes, so I'll be succinct. I prefer "The Oath," but the two are of a piece, and I couldn't ignore the overall story. Mark Verheiden's script for "The Oath" is one of my favorites, an intelligent piece about communication and revolution, but Michael Angeli deserves credit for scripting Laura's response to Zarek's ultimatum. But as a unified piece, the Gaeta coup arc features thrilling action moments (like Starbuck rescuing Lee) and more than its fair share of character shading (a favorite being Seelix's femme fatale moment with Anders). And of course, it gave Alessandro Juliani and Richard Hatch excellent centerpieces for their goodbye episodes, both actors dominating the arc with some of their best work.
Eerie music plays as Galactica encounters another surviving battlestar, the Pegasus, a twisted fable of what could have been. Fisk's supposedly invented drunken chat with Tigh about what exactly the Pegasus has been up to sets the tone for what becomes one of Galactica's best hours to that point, a smart, twisted piece that tests what it means to be human like never before. If seeing the Pegasus' Six wasting away in a cell wasn't terrible enough, the episode closes with the attempted rape of Boomer, and the fallout when Tyrol and Helo kill the would-be rapists. Cain's phone call to Adama builds the momentum expertly until the two battlestars launch their respective vipers, the arrival of Pegasus heralding a civil war between what remains of humanity.
4. "The Hub"
My favorite episode from the first half of Season 4 has always been this simple sci-fi tale. It could have been an episode of Doctor Who or Twilight Zone, but our intimate knowledge of the histories of the characters enhances its impact. At its heart, "The Hub" is the story of a woman gone cold, a woman whose cancer isn't killing her as fast as her perhaps subconscious exclusion, her willing but unwitting removal of herself from humanity. A sci-fi mechanism--the hybrid's flashes inducing visions in Laura--allows her to eventually realize how far she has fallen, and ultimately dictates her resolve to regain her connections to her new family. Testing this is Baltar's deathbed confession of his sins, a powerful, moving sequence of passive manslaughter and a desperate change of heart. I haven't even mentioned the recovery of Three, involving a space battle in which humans are symbolically attached to cylons with umbilical cords, and her knowledge of the Final Five. And the ending is one of the series' greatest romances, a tearful reconciliation between the born-again woman and the man who'd sacrifice humanity to be with her.
For most of the series, I claimed "33" as my favorite episode, and even now, it's difficult to argue this isn't the best episode of the series. Refreshingly ambitious in its abandonment of traditional narrative, "33" evokes exhaustion and all that comes with it (paranoia, indecision, etc.) the way "Maelstrom" evokes its deathly mood. And without any expected plot movements outside Baltar's fear of being outed by Dr. Amarak and the ensuing Olympic Carrier crisis, "33" takes a slew of characters and reveals them in otherwise minor moments. I'm speaking of Dee catching Tigh giving Adama an extra ten minute nap, and Laura reacting to Baltar's freak-out with all she could muster, a simple "He's a strange bird, isn't he?" and Kara refusing to take her stims and then shouting at Apollo to be a real CAG and make her obey him. All the while, we are treated to something of a structure as Baltar and Head Six debate about a man- or god-determined universe, opening with Baltar's declaration that he believes in a rational universe and closing with his profession of faith, at which point God or chance kills Dr. Amarak. And after an overwhelming hour of inexorable despair, Billy lets Roslin add one to the white board, a small but important victory.
2. "Lay Down Your Burdens"
Two and a half hours of television excellence, almost entirely focused on the literal and metaphorical debate between two leaders--Roslin preaching experience and the ultimate paradise of Earth, fearing for humanity's safety, and Baltar preaching hope, the dream of ending the infinite chase through the galaxy, a myopic political ploy that threatens the civilization. While Kara leads a mission to rescue Anders and company from Caprica and Tyrol confesses his fears that he's a cylon to Brother Cavil, the episode is unequivocally a centerpiece for Baltar and Roslin, both of whom resort to shady political maneuvers whose fallout extends to several main characters. In the end, Roslin rescinds her aide's ballot-stuffing scheme, and President Baltar takes us a year into the future in my current favorite time-jump on television. The final twenty minutes give us a tantalizing taste of the future on New Caprica, and things don't look pretty even before the cylon occupation, but Kara's final words--"We'll fight 'em till we can't"--give us a hint of hope before a lengthy hiatus.
1. "Occupation" & "Precipice"
If you're like me, you probably think of the New Caprica arc as the introduction of one-eyed, soulless Saul Tigh, with "Occupation" and "Precipice" the showcase that launched Michael Hogan to many viewers' favorites list. His every scene is authentic and moving, surprising for a character I hadn't much cared for to that point, and he absolutely nails his two mini-speeches--"We're on the side of the demons, Chief..." and "Sometimes I think you're just a naive, little schoolteacher..."--along with his hard-boiled egg analogy. But such an epic two-parter is not solely focused on one performer. Instead we see glimpses of where everyone ended up post-occupation, and there are too many great scenes to list here. "Occupice," as it's called by the writers, is notable for introducing not only one-eyed Tigh but for establishing Battlestar's position as the foremost political series on television, with the debate raging over suicide bombing until the harrowing finale, an especially pointless display since the target of the attack didn't show. Many considered New Caprica an unnecessary diversion from the point of the series--flying through space to try to find Earth--but as I've made clear, I think the New Caprica arc (from "Lay Down Your Burdens" to "Collaborators" and "Unfinished Business") is the moment this series achieved greatness. I've watched these episodes many more times than I've seen the rest of the series, and I am still viscerally affected by them--the Laura/Zarek ambush, Cally's arrest, Gaeta's espionage, and obviously Duck's ending. I may write at more length about this arc in a future post, but until then, "Occupice" is for me a perfect two hours of television.
(Sidenote: I have four favorite performers on Battlestar, with Katee Sackhoff and Kate Vernon following. They are, in no order, for their greatness is without measure, Mary McDonnell, James Callis, Michael Hogan, and Tricia Helfer. I expect--nay, demand Nobel Prizes for them all.)
I've already noted that I discarded the well-done "Kobol's Last Gleaming," "Resurrection Ship," and "Crossroads." But what else did you love that didn't make my list?
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Spoilers for Part 1 of the series finale to follow.
As series finale cliches go, moving to a new home and the last hurrah are not only innocuous but appropriate. The series is called Battlestar Galactica after all. It only makes sense that it continue until the end of Galactica herself.
But seeing as "Daybreak, Part 1" is merely a third of a fully realized piece, it's difficult to judge it on its own terms, and I don't intend to reach half the word count of my last response.
"All this has happened before, and all this will happen again" is something of a series mantra, and the finale taking us further in the past we've ever been while bringing us to some sort of future jumping off point is a smart plan. Since we've barely begun the episode's plot (presumably the Galactica's final mission, the rescue of Hera, and some sort of conclusion to the cylon war), I have no idea where we're headed, or if we need all this backstory. But I can't deny how much I appreciate that "Daybreak, Part 1" is almost designed as a flowing river of character moments.
Every scene on Caprica before the cylon attack thrills me, though I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I only now realize that Kara's fake apartment on New Caprica was modeled after her real one on Caprica. I've been a little disappointed by the diminishing importance of Baltar, but his flashback is sandwiched between Adama's and Roslin's, so I'm confident he'll be as significant as he used to be. Which is excellent, because if I had to pick a best performance of this episode, I'd pick James Callis by far (and you know my love for Mary McDonnell knows no bounds). Not that he stole the show exactly, because this is a talented ensemble, but every moment he was onscreen, I was enraptured. Between his playboy life on Caprica and his clearly conflicted conscience in the present, Callis demonstrates exactly why I've been missing him in the spotlight these past few weeks, and his work here is among his finest to date. Now that he's the only prominent character staying with the fleet, I look forward to him dominating the finale's B-plot.
I also appreciated that the episode's writer Ronald D. Moore tells not just the lead characters' stories on Caprica, but found room for Anders in a scene--he interviews about his pursuit of perfection--that resonates for the character and the series. I wonder if "Part 2" will feature the Fighting Tighs on Caprica, a scene I imagine will feature a clearly inebriated Saul coming to bail out Ellen, who's just been arrested for public nudity and intoxication, on top of, one assumes, attempted bribing of an officer. Which reminds me: Is there a connection between Lee stumbling into his apartment drunk, having clearly just been through an ordeal, and Roslin's family being killed by a drunk driver? I don't think so, seeing as the drunk driver was hospitalized shortly thereafter, but it can't be a coincidence that, earlier in the episode, Six asked Gaius if he always drinks and drives. Is Battlestar Galactica a meditation on the folly of driving under the influence? Why the sudden drunk driving motif?
Since we're talking about the series returning to its roots, it's important to look at the evolution of the series. The miniseries makes it clear that Battlestar Galactica is a complicated character drama about how to stay civilized without your civilization. But this was no Merchant Ivory production, and throughout Season 1, the series relied heavily on action and intrigue. In fact, until the end of Season 2, the series was almost as evenly an adventure tale as it was a character drama, but the Pegasus arc hinted at the depths the show was capable of, and the one-two punch of "Downloaded" and "Lay Down Your Burdens"--a season finale whose central plot was simply an election--cemented the show's shifting scales. The third season featured far less action than usual and relied more on political, philosophical, and moral questions. And by Season 4, the series had abandoned the concept of standalones, becoming a serialized leviathan unabashedly focused on what it means to be human. Once Earth was discovered in the midseason finale, Battlestar Galactica had 11 hours left and no plot. It was here that the series took its most ambitious leaps. The show has never abandoned action elements, just as it has always had political drama front and center, but as the story progressed, it became clear that Battlestar always places character first.
I've called Battlestar Galactica the most politically significant series of the Bush administration, and plenty of critics and awards bodies concur. So I confess a bit of disappointment to find "Daybreak, Part 1" almost devoid of political commentary. I have a feeling the conclusion of the Baltar story coupled with the otherwise irrelevant Sonja character will satisfy me in "Part 2," but at this point, the series that has most effectively tackled the issues of our day, provocatively reflecting our political state since its inception, is concluding without anything especially interesting going on politically. I'm as interested as the next guy to find out why the head angels appear or to learn why the three ladies share the same haunting dream or to watch as Galactica destroys Cavil in the most wondrous space shots of the series, but its political stories have always been my prime draw to Battlestar Galactica, and I hope for some fulfillment on that front tonight.
Relatedly, I have a problem with Lee's character. Granted, this isn't necessarily a problem with the series, because people are complex and hypocritical, and Lee's never struck me as that smart anyway, but why has his idealist democratic restructuring consistently upheld barriers to democracy? In "Bastille Day" and "Crossroads," he was all gung ho about making sure everyone has a vote and granting liberty to every citizen in the fleet. But now that he's in charge (I infer that his position is something like the Speaker of the House to Roslin's president, though he may be vice president), he can barely keep order of a civilian government, and more damningly, both Sonja and Baltar have been forced to resort to back-doors deals in order to guarantee their representation. This is not democracy, Lee Adama, and in the words of Jon Stewart, might I interest you in a hot cup of shut the fuck up? Lee of late is not exactly in character, but he's also not unbelievable based on what we know of him, so I'm not suggesting the show's worse for depicting a less righteous Lee, but excluding Baltar's people from democracy (and we're talking a majority on over half the ships in the fleet, which is to say a massive constituency) is threatening his credibility.
One final complaint, and this is somewhat nitpicky in light of the finale's events: When Cottle tries to join the mission, Adama tells him the fleet can't afford to lose a doctor. By implication, they can afford to lose their two highest-ranking government officers, one of whom is the architect of this new and untested regime? Considering how effective they are, I suppose so, but since the story isn't ending for the characters, Adama should have done the right thing and told Laura and Lee thanks but no thanks and that he'll see them when he gets back.
Political science issues aside, "Daybreak, Part 1" was a splendid piece. We open with a montage: The Milky Way, viewed from so far away as to appear almost tranquil, belying the human-scale events taking place. A pigeon flying near Lee's Caprican apartment ceiling. Earth in shadow, or is that Caprica? Water from Laura's fountain falling below. A close-up of Earth or Caprica. At this point, it feels a little cobbled together, but I assume there's a deeper meaning behind the assembly of the finale's opening montage than that it looks cool.
The Caprica scenes in "Daybreak Part 1" are mostly dedicated to Baltar (and Six, and Gaius' father Julius) and Roslin. As I've said, Baltar seems to be set up for some kind of redemption, possibly in the form of self-sacrifice. In his first scene, Six lectures him without lecturing on the merits of independence (harking to Ellen's sermon to Boomer), and in present day, when speaking to Lee about representation, he seems sincerely dedicated to his position as leader. I look forward to future developments. On another note, in the scene where Gaius and Floozy #22 find Six in his house, at first I thought Floozy couldn't see Six and was responding to Gaius' words to Six. When I rewatched, it seems she looks at her, but without confirmation via dialogue, I thought my initial reaction was interesting enough to merit mention.
Meanwhile, Roslin throws a baby shower for one of her two younger sisters, both of whom die along with their father in a car accident perpetrated by a drunk driver possibly named Lee Adama. Mary McDonnell is simply transcendent in the scene in the fountain. But at this point, I'm more intrigued by her final flashback (which I understand is not actually a flashback), where she tells someone over the phone that she's not joining Adar's presidential campaign, but that she will go on a date with someone whose name sounds familiar: Shaun Ellison. Does that sound familiar to you? I wonder if we'll see this date in "Part 2," and if Shaun Ellison is the drunk driver who killed her family.
In the present, Galactica's emptied out until Bill authorizes one last mission. Helo visits Tyrol, who's too busy being pathetic to realize how wrong, narcissistic, and worse, nasty he is to Helo regarding his wife. But on the bright side, everyone else is engaging in positive relationships: Saul makes mentor-like comments to Hoshi, including, "You'll never make admiral like that," which calls to mind several questions, many worrying: Is it possible that, in Hoshi's lifetime, there will be a military large enough for multiple admirals? Is the implication that when Bill and Saul go, Hoshi will be up next? Is this foreshadowing that I should prepare for? Bill runs into Hot Dog and Nicky, then affirms his friendship with Athena and Hera by collecting her picture off the wall.
But the most moving relationship affirmation of the episode is the teamwork of Bill and Kara. I'm not just talking about him calling her his daughter either. The way they play off each other in the hangar deck, and his reaction to her confession that she burned her body, and how they formulate that final mission together. The series began in a place where Bill was closer to Kara than he was to Lee, and it's nice to see the Bill-Kara relationship take center-stage again.
Bill's speech in the hangar was oddly inspiring, given its apocalyptic tone, but I like to think I'd have gone with them. On the other hand, I completely understand Baltar staying put, and the look on his face, tormented by his conscience and constant accusations of selfishness, sells his decision without undermining his final arc. I'm reminded of Baltar's first speech in "33," talking to Six: "I believe in a world I can and do understand, a rational universe." Baltar is at heart a logician. Some would say it makes him more human; some would say it makes him more machine. Other great touches from that scene include Kara helping Laura stand, Hoshi making his choice, the throngs of people who decided not to go, and the Fighting Tighs, for anything Michael Hogan and Kate Vernon do is entertaining.
And now the troops are off to rescue Hera, who's in the Colony 2.0, possibly already dissected by Simon's instruments and Cavil's bile. Racetrack and Skulls take part in yet another important raptor mission by confirming Anders' coordinates for the Colony 2.0, which is conveniently orbiting a black hole. This battle ought to rock.
As for what's to come: some explanation of the drunk driving motif, probable redemptions for the increasingly conflicted Boomer and Gaius (who has to live up to Head Six's words here that he will be the author of humanity's final chapter), and the answer to Bill's one-hour meeting. Not to mention the preexisting threads of the opera house dream, the head angels, Starbuck's resurrection, the song, and Hera's prescience (she was drawing more dots on the base star!), as well as the general conclusions of the surviving characters. Any final predictions as to who lives and who dies? If you asked me a year ago, I'd have said everyone dies but Roslin and Adama. Now, I don't want anyone to die, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to suffer through quite a few favorite characters biting the bullet. On the other hand, I'm sticking by my prediction that even if they die, something will await them, if not resurrection, some kind of projection perhaps.
I leave you with one of my favorite monologues of the episode, delivered by Gaius Baltar:
"Galactica has been more than our guardian. She's literally a vessel into which we've poured all of our hopes and dreams. And when she's gone, when we can no longer derive the security from looking out a window and seeing her massive bulk gliding by, then this life will be over, and a new life will have begun. A new life that requires a new way of thinking."
After the finale, I'll be back with more. I was hoping to release my Top 10 episodes and my Top 50 Moments, but they may have to wait. You can definitely expect my Top 10 episodes soon, but I may wait until after tonight in order to take "Daybreak" as a whole into account. Until we know the fates of Roslin and Baltar, think happy thoughts!
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