Respectful Insolence

I have mixed feelings about the season finale of Battlestar Galactica, which aired Friday night. Overall, the second season has been a lot less consistent than the first. Some episodes (Downloaded, for example) were as good or better than anything in the first season, while a couple (Black Market, for example) bordered on being downright stinkers. Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II contained elements of both the best and the worst of the second season.

At the very least, this episode confirms that Battlestar Galactica is surely one of the most exhiliratingly and infuriatingly adventurous shows on the air, if not the most adventurous. What other show would make such radical changes in its premise, changes so radical that I thought at first that what was happening in the last half hour or so would turn out to be a dream sequence? Going forward, if Ron Moore isn’t very careful, we could be looking back at this two-part episode as the time when BG jumped the shark. Worse, we have to wait until October for new episodes.

First, let’s dispose of one plot point that seemed just a little two convenient. Of course, that was when the Cylons suddenly abandoned Caprica. Even though there was the revelation that the Cylons are not monolithic and that there were some who thought that attacking the colonies and occupying Caprica was a huge mistake, it just didn’t seem believable that the Cylons would suddenly decide to leave in the middle of a battle. Their departure seemed only to be an excuse to save the asses of Starbuck and the rest of the landing party.

That annoyance disposed of, however, the rest of the episode had much to commend it. The electoral shenanigans were fairly believable, and it was good to see that Adama is such a straight arrow that he wouldn’t go along with the ballot stuffing once he found out about it, even if it meant Baltar became President. Also, even though Roslin didn’t appear to have specifically ordered the ballot stuffing herself, she did tacitly approve it, showing just how far she’s evolved since she first took the oath of office with trembling hand. Starting as a political naif, she’s now a hard-core political operative, but not so much so that she didn’t look at herself with disgust and back away from what she did.

Naturally, Baltar as President is just as huge a disaster as anyone would have expected. As he promised, his first order was to colonize New Caprica. The jump ahead one full year was quite jarring and radically reconfigured the show, revealing Baltar to be just as decadent and corrupt as we always knew him to be, cavorting with his harem and letting the fleet’s defenses deteriorate to the point that, when the Cylons came, Adama had no choice but to flee with the hope of coming back someday. It was also a nice touch that the nuke that Baltar had given Gina and that she had used to commit suicide and destroy the Cloud 9, turned out to be the clue that led the Cylons to New Caprica. On the minus side, the move to New Caprica was so abrupt, happening as it did over a mere two episodes, that the transition seemed rushed. In any case, jumping ahead a year, placing Baltar in charge, and now having the Cylons conquer and occupy the remnants of humanity shows that Ron Moore and his writers are utterly fearless. They’ve radically altered the entire premise of the show in such a way that could be very difficult to resolve, and Ron Moore has said that this is not a dream sequence.

Will it pay off? (And will it be worth waiting seven months to find out?)

I hope so. I hope Ron Moore has the vision and ideas to pull this off. He’s taken a huge chance radically altering the entire dynamic and premise of the show. If he does, the best seasons of Battlestar Galactica could well be in the future. If he doesn’t, the show will likely spiral into mediocrity, and I’ll be quite bummed that my favorite SF show since Babylon 5 couldn’t keep up a high level of quality for more than two seasons.

Has Battlestar Galactica jumped the shark? What say you?

Comments

  1. #1 Bob Patterson
    March 13, 2006

    Overall I’m still pleased and I don’t think BSG has jumped the shark quite yet. I do agree that having the Cylons suddenly pull out after nuking earth and chasing Adama et al across the galaxy was a stretch.

    The big stretch however was the military. Soldiers abandoning their posts is ludacris! I highly doubt that both Adamas would give permission for half their contingent to just become colonists. Troop rotation and R&R, yes.

    So now you have a skeleton crew on each Battle Star. Give me a break.

  2. #2 majkia
    March 13, 2006

    I disagree with you on how unbelievable it was for the Cylons to abandon Caprica in the middle of a battle. Common in military history (same with Firefly, btw).

    I liked it as this served to emphasize that the Cylons are playing a different game than are the remaining humans (and really, we have no idea really if they _are_ the only humans).

    A tiny little ground party is of no significance to the Cylons. Their strategy and tactics are tailored to their own needs and desires and plans.

    If it wasn’t Starbuck and crew who were fighting there we wouldn’t know about that battle; it would be just one of many happening on every planet our heroes once controlled.

    And, given the finale’s ending, they made the right choice.

  3. #3 Bartholomew Cubbins
    March 13, 2006

    why wasn’t the cylon/priest outed and killed on Caprica?

    Why did Gaeta turn out to be such a tool?

  4. #4 clark@lextek.com
    March 13, 2006

    The weaknesses in the second season were actually just the last 8 episodes. I think some of them could have been abandoned. I also think it would have been nice to have extended out the problems on New Caprica over a few episodes. I could have lost episodes like Black Market for instance to see an episode about the problems of colonizing a new world.

    The bit about the Cylon pullback though was clearly contrived so as to emphasize that the Cylons were sincere. Thus the Cylon in the midst of the team designed to communicate the message. i.e. it wasn’t a plot hole so much as an obvious Cylon trick.

  5. #5 stephen benson
    March 13, 2006

    i still enjoyed it, and i agree with your assesment. if it tanks, this will be the turning point. for something completely different however,

    http://koti.phnet.fi/lagopus/dwquiz.htm

    which dr. who are you?

    i got this of the blog of a fellow irishman. . .

    i is #8

  6. #6 usagi
    March 13, 2006

    The BSG arc is an expansion of the first draft he wrote that is Deep Space Nine. The Cylons are now the Cardassians, and we get to see the occupation of Bajor. Look for special fun as Cylon monotheism collides with Human polytheism. And better still, there’s no Trek reset button or network concerns about, well–anything.

    No character is safe. Assume nothing. Enjoy the ride (or enjoy the series up to the point you started to hate it–I still thoroughly enjoy the first 13 episodes of Andomeda; pity about the rest, but four or five bad seasons can’t erase the solid writing in the first half of the first season).

  7. #7 Ali
    March 13, 2006

    My main problem with the series is with some of the truly cringe-inspiring performances. I really wish that they had cast differently for Starbuck and Sharon, not to mention the Chief, Helo and Saul. I don’t think the blame for the awkward dialogue lies entirely with the actors, though. The writing is at times so clumsy I want to stop watching. About the only thing keeping me in the show is the production quality and cinematography. And, sucker that I am, I want to see how things turn out.

  8. #8 Stacy
    March 13, 2006

    “Fearless” is exactly the right word for the writing staff. Maybe this will turn out to be a mistake, but Moore & Co have enough credit built up with me that I will wait and see where they are going with this.

  9. #9 Ick of the East
    March 13, 2006

    The Cylons giving up the attack to let their enemies escape? Tora Bora anyone?

    And no matter the twists and turns of the plot; there are still many, many copies of Sharon. What’s not to love about that?

    The Sharon who just got to New Caprica with the invasion is Chief’s original bit of rumpy-pumpy. How’s she going to deal with a pregnant what’s her name?

    Are they going to jump ahead a few years so this Cylon/Human kid is sentient enough to have some input into the plot?

    Is the escaped fleet going to find Earth? What year will it be on Earth once someone finds it?

    Is Baltar going to realise that he’s been a complet dick, turn himself around, wash his hair, and do something noble?

    October? Goddamn, that’s a long wait.
    Good thing the Sopranos just started up again.

  10. #10 AJ
    March 14, 2006

    Many things to comment on….

    First, I do think that Season 2 has not been quite as good as the first one, but it has been getting better. There were a few fluff episodes, but remember Babylon 5 (if you do), there were more than a few junk episodes and plot lines (Dr. Franklin going on walkabout still irritates me).

    But I totally agree with the fact that Ron Moore has taken a big chance with the way things ended, and I think we all hope it pays off.
    But I have been telling my friends (and we all obsess over this show) that something had to change, that they had to do something different or the show was going to be done before the end of the next season. I’m personally in favor of have a defined story line (x # of seasons) similar to B5. Maybe he does have one, I hope so. I think that kind of thing helps progress the show along.

    I also agree with the fact that no one should be safe. The more you keep the audience wondering, the better.

    There are some great performances going on here. I disagree with Ali in the desire for different casting choices. I think that the dynamic has been good, multiple potential story/plot lines and the tension they can build is pretty easily done. As far as the acting, Olmos is awesome. Starbuck is pretty good for a cocky, brash hothead pilot. I mean, that’s a difficult role she’s filling and does it well. Saul is played very well and so is the Chief (in fact I think that he really gives one of the better performances for a ‘minor’ character).

    I have nothing but high hopes for this next season. It is irritating to have to wait till October…just dumb these days. But I think we are in a good place.
    I did go back and watch the last 2 episodes of season 3 of B5….and that cliff hanger was pretty impressive. Hopefully they’ll take this the right way.

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