Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4, Episode 2, "Six of One"

One thing that’s always bothered me about Hollywood is the way it tends to gloss over the deaths of its minor characters. It’s annoying to see James Bond mow down a group of lackeys without a twitch of remorse. But on a show like “Battlestar Galactica,” where the sanctity of human life is measured by the number 39,676, such blithe disregard for it is simply an unpardonable sin.

The final moments of last week’s episode saw Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) in such a desperate frenzy to gain access to President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) that she lobbed a grenade at two redshirts guarding Roslin’s door. It was a shocking but effective scene, agreeing both with what we know about Thrace from seasons past (she will relentlessly do what she thinks is right, and to hell with the consequences) and what was established earlier in the episode itself—namely, that Thrace believes that she and only she can lead the fleet on the proper course to Earth.

On an obsessively serialized show like “Battlestar Galactica,” that drastic action should have had far-flung repercussions, and during the show’s first few seasons it certainly would have—think back to Boomer’s (Grace Park) slowly-evolving horror at blowing up the fleet’s water tank in season 1, or Colonel Tigh (Michael Hogan) drinking himself to oblivion in the wake of New Caprica. It would have been more organic to “Battlestar Galactica” to see Thrace profoundly changed in some way. Consumed by guilt, perhaps, or becoming a fanatic willing to shed blood to spread her unique word. But neither Thrace nor her peers in the fleet seem to give the matter much thought, and by the end of “Six of One,” Thrace is back to the person she used to be, and in charge of a separate mission to find Earth to boot.

Last week I observed that “He That Believeth In Me” marked a new “Battlestar Galactica,” focusing more on the series’ mythology than the workings of the fleet. “Six of One” shifts that paradigm even further, as the show seems to be concerning itself far more with plot than with character. Whether or not that’s a good thing is certainly a debatable point, since what irked most viewers of season 3 was the spinning-of-the-wheels quality to the character studies like “The Woman King” or “Dirty Hands,” episodes that many consider to be the show’s worst. But that kind of relentless plotting can sometimes lead to enormous oversights like the overlooked murder. At its best, “Battlestar Galactica” seamlessly incorporates both character and plot, but “Six of One” brings up some very valid concerns that the producers might wrap things up too quickly.

Some other thoughts:
  • Even a weak episode of “Battlestar Galactica” is eminently watchable, and for that we can thank Gaius Baltar (James Callis). I suspect that most of us would be horrified to meet ourselves, and Callis plays that impatience and derision beautifully. That said, head-Baltar meeting with the real Baltar probably demonstrates that there is some sort of deity—be it the one true God, or a more minor one—pulling the strings on this whole shindig.
  • It was nice to see that Tigh hasn't lost his enthusiasm for sending people out on horrible missions in order to serve a greater cause, and even nicer to see Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma) get her first big scene in some time and knock it out of the park.
  • The obligatory scene between Adama (Edward James Olmos) and Roslin was superb as always, despite some awkward dialogue. ("You can stay in the room but get out of my head"? Ouch.) These characters have changed so much since the miniseries that they almost seem to have switched roles, with Roslin the cold-blooded pragmatist and Adama the forgiving and patient teacher.


Michael said...

So is this the same Head Baltar that we saw in Six's head?

Steven Simunic said...

I think that's the only real explanation, yeah. Which lends credence to the notion that Caprica-Six and Baltar somehow really are special.

Maybe it's perverse, but that part of the mythology is the stuff that really interests me. Ron Moore freely admits that he's making most of the Final Five stuff up as he's going along, but since the head-people have been around since the beginning, it's obvious that there's always been an explanation for them.

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