This episode was, where I was concerned, ironically titled given that it was the episode in which I lost all faith in the show and it's capacity to produce an ending that I will be at all satisfied with. My loss of faith was pretty sudden. It started last week when I had a realisation about where RDM was taking the show and why he thought that would be successful (which I'll get to below). But I didn't write about it immediately, even though I felt like doing so. I thought I'd wait and see whether I was wrong. But this episode confirmed my fears completely.
daybreak777 completely selflessly and generously offered to watch the episode with me (I think she sensed that I was struggling) and I feel really guilty for being bleak all over her squee. So I honestly urge you not to read this review if you are at all squeeful about the show still! Because I wish I was. I still love it to pieces, I love the characters to pieces and I will be watching (and writing) until the last second, because that's what I'm like. I'm a completionist and I'm very loyal. I'm not giving up BSG, but something fundamental has shifted for me.
Let me put it this way: I feel like by this stage in the series RDM wants us all to be on a certain boat, being carried towards the final horizon. But I got left on the shore. It's not a shippy thing; it's not even specific to Lee! I'm actually very happy about Lee's plot this season so far, and I think during the first few eps that insulated me from the realisation that I wasn't onboard with the show overall. I was just squeeful to have the show, and Lee, and Kara/Lee, back.
But Season 4 is, we know, the final season, and we also know that RDM has a very specific ending in mind. I've been growing increasingly uneasy about what that ending will entail. All the signs are that it will involve humans and Cylons uniting, despite the past conflict. Now, that actually sounds ok to me in theory. In fact I remember once ages ago having a conversation with queenofthorns, in which she argued that the Cylons should never be forgiven for the genocide. I sympathised with that viewpoint but, at the time, was more moderate in my response. At that time I still held hope that the show would show us that some of the Cylon models were collectively capable of change and remorse. The humans are not perfect either and I also expected that the show would, at some stage, explore the ways in which the humans were responsible for the creation of the Cylons in the first place. I was, therefore, able to give the show the benefit of the doubt about making that ending successful--because hypothetically it could work, if the storytelling was strong enough.
It's been clear to me this season that this is exactly the ending that RDM is pushing for. We've got Kara and her ambiguous destiny, that is linked intrinsically with the Cylons. We've got Gaius promoting Cylon monotheism and people totally buying into it. I can see the writing on the wall. But what was puzzling me, until last week, was why RDM would think that we'd swallow such an ending. Because, to me, they haven't done enough to show that the Cylons are capable of remorse and real change. There are a couple of individuals--Athena and Caprica--who have proved capable of that. I trust neither of them fully, even now. I do like them and find them fascinating characters, but they're hardly representative of their race: they're the anomalies. I think it was asta77 who said to me recently that just as there are some terrible members of humanity, there are some 'good' Cylons. But I wouldn't damn all humanity on the actions of a minority; likewise I can't embrace all Cylons because a couple of them are sympathetic.
So why does RDM think we'll swallow this? I was genuinely puzzled, and that made me hope that perhaps a more subtle ending was in store. Surely RDM couldn't really think he'd made the Cylons sympathetic enough to us yet? I had expected there to be a lot of development with the Cylon morality this season if he was going to sell that idea; but we haven't seen that. And then it dawned on me! He does think he's done enough already--and he thinks that because of the Final Four reveal at the end of Season 3. He thinks that the audience will be invested enough in at least one of those characters, and interested enough in their journey of self-discovery, that they will want the Cylons to be sympathetic. They will want a 'way out' for their Cylon favourite.
His logic is probably quite sound. After all in choosing the Final Four, he's covered a fair range of characters. There's Tigh, who as Adama's best friend carries a lot of gravitas. There's Galen, who is a popular likeable 'everyman'. There's Sam, who is wildly popular and is intimately connected with Kara (another favourite), and there's Tory. Ok, Tory seems like the weak card, but some people do like her, she's linked to Roslin and they probably needed at least one woman. ;) I think it's no coincidence that it's Tory who they've played as most embracing her Cylon identity. She was the most expendable of the Final Four because she had the smallest following. It would have been less interesting if all of them had rejected their identity. But in having one of the embrace it, the stakes are upped.
Trouble for me is: I don't care about any of these characters. I didn't like them much before they were revealed as Cylons and I don't like them any better now. There was a brief moment where I thought I might get into Sam's angst, but then he started acting like a complete nitwit and lost me again. Of all of the four, I probably like Tigh the most, but I still find him a rather repugnant bigoted individual. He makes for compelling television, but he's not sympathetic to me. But. If he was. If any of them were, I might be finding this season a lot more suspenseful because I'd be torn. I'd be wanting the humans to find Earth and freedom from the war, but I'd also be wanting my Cylon character to find a torture-less future too.
So, in short, I understand why heaps of people are still on board with the show, but I'm not. Two other factors are compounding my feelings: the monotheism versus polytheism issue, and the sexual politics.
Monotheism versus polytheism
I've never been the biggest Baltar fan, but I don't think that's the reason I'm finding this plotline distasteful. I'm actually quite entertained by Baltar himself and rather fascinated with the way that Head!Six is controlling him. However, what I don't like is this shift to monotheism. Laying my cards on the table: I'm an atheist, and all the religious aspects of the show have been a bit of a struggle for me. I was willing to run with them, but I was way more comfortable with the idea of multiple deities that are, as Laura described this week, not meant to be read literally. Instead we've got this shift to monotheism, complete with a lot of Christian overtones. And boy, am I NOT on board with that.
I'm sure many people will disagree with me, but it's my own personal belief that monotheism has caused a great deal of violence and a great many attrocities in our own world. I do not see it as an improvement on polytheism and I hate the suggestion that it is. Doubly, as an atheist, I find all this 'God loves me just the way I am'/'I am perfect' stuff absolutely repugnant. Under that ethos, you can commit any act as long as you wash your sins away with 'God' afterwards. Bleugh.
On a lighter note, I just find monotheism way more boring. If I had to make up a fictional world, I would never make it monotheistic. So many shows have used religious imagery that has parallels to Christianity (or another monotheistic religion) to great effect. Been there. Done that. I thought BSG was more interesting!
Furthermore, monotheism has been the Cylon belief system since the beginning and yet all these human characters are turning to it after all? I find that hard to believe. Seeing Laura have her own religious experience and consider the possibility that Baltar could be telling the 'truth' this week was the final straw for me. Until that point, I could understand Laura's own feelings about religion. She liked the ceremonies, the traditions, and she maintained an open mind about the mysticism. But she didn't read the scriptures too literally. I loved the scene between her and Emily where she expressed her sorrow about her mother and the way her mother had clung to religious hope. Her description of their being 'nothing' reminded me of Lee's death. No bright shining lights, no welcome home party. Just darkness. However, seeing Laura on an actual boat later really shocked me. I didn't buy it, I couldn't swallow it. It shocked me out of the show. Unlike Adama, I was not convinced by Laura (or Baltar) one bit.
This could be a whole other post, and really I don't see a lot of point in going into it in depth as many people have written about it better than I could. But as an extra irritation, I find the sexual politics of BSG increasingly suspect. I used to love the show for its strong female characters, and I guess I still do. But they've also diminished and sexualised so many of their female characters (all but Laura: which can be read as ageism). Every week, something hits my squick button. If it's not Tory being pimped to Baltar or Kara acting like a wifebeater, it's Boomer/Cavill (ewww with the unnecessary!). Or, this week, the gratuitous Six/Six kiss. I could live without all of that. It makes it feel like RDM's just creating his own personal fanservice every week. Heaven forbid that a week go by without Baltar or Kara or preferably both getting off with someone. Usually for no good reason.
So. This week's ep. I actually thought it was quite good--certainly better than last week's. It was powerful story-telling, just not story-telling in a direction that I liked.
And the second week in a row with no Lee? NOT COOL.
Things I liked: the suspense (waiting for Kara versus getting Gaeta's leg treated); Laura's scenes (so emotionally resonant and powerful); Kara acting, at least for some of the episode, with a clear head.
Things I really didn't like: Sam's behaviour throughout, all the Cylony anvilly stuff for Kara, and the implication that Baltar is right.
Sam drove me absolutely fucking batshit, excuse my language. I have tried with his character, I have really tried. But I think I have to give up at this point. I cannot believe that he responded to the mutiny by staging his own personal mutiny and pulling a gun on a senior officer. Of all the dangerous, escalative actions! That could have ended in a total bloodbath. Not to mention being professional suicide for him. And then he actually shot Gaeta. Gah. I've always felt Sam wasn't really cut out to be a soldier (that's pretty much been textualised on the show) so him becoming a pilot was always problematic to me. And this episode brought all my fears to life. He has no respect for authority, he is a total loose cannon, he acts on his own personal emotion, with no logic whatsoever. What was he going to achieve exactly by holding everyone at gunpoint and asking 'do you wanna know who's in charge?'?!
His actions were so out of line--as shown by the fact that Kara herself couldn't bring herself to talk to him afterwards. She, thankfully, kept a level head and a clear sense of priorities. In fact I think his actions were so totally out of control that in some ways it helped trigger Kara's decision to go it alone. She didn't want to be associated with his crazy actions at all. (Of course, that was undermined by her agreeing to take him along. OMFG, WHY? I'm going to fanwank that she just couldn't be bothered arguing with him. But it did make me DEEPLY WORRIED that she was heading off in a raptor with three Cylons.)
I did think the dramatic set-up was excellent though. And they remembered that Athena is a Cylon! \o/ Having her go on the mission both made sense and added dramatic tension to Helo waiting until the last minute for their return. daybreak777 can confirm that I called Jean's death as soon as she was accepted for the mission (and what, are they killing off every support cast member one by one now? Will Seelix or Racetrack be next?). There was no other reason for her to be there: so slightly less tension there.
I have been very curious to find out more about the Cylon civil war, so I was pleased that we got to do so this episode. But on a personal level I found it tragic that Kara's destiny turned out to be the Cylons. Having her comet turn out to be a Cylon basestar made me feel physically nauseous. All that hope of freedom and human survival... turns out to be a Cylon plot. I know several people have suggested that Kara's death was faked by the Cylons and now I'm starting to think that too. The alternative is that she is an Angel to them, as Leoben suggests, luring the humans to their deaths. Neither possibility bodes well for humanity.
There were some fantastic scenes on the Cylon basestar though. I loved Athena's speech to the other Eights. 'You don't cut and run when things get ugly' (Waah, that's exactly how I feel about BSG!) 'You pick your side and you stick.' For better or worse, I, like Athena have picked humanity. And her call seems really true about the other Eights: they're flaky.
The scene where Six confronted Jean was likewise very powerful. I like the continuity and I felt it proved one of the many reasons it's going to be hard for humans and Cylons to co-mingle: they are going to be looking into the faces of their killers. Tricia is such a great actress--she really sold me on that Six model's pain and inability to let go of the memory of being killed. I thought Jean was surprisingly blase and reckless in making the call she did--given how dangerous it was for them to be there with so many Cylons, and given how tenuous the agreement to work together was. At the same time, I was upset by Jean's death. She was an interesting character, and I'd liked the little riffs between her and Sam last season. It worked dramatically to have him there and have him freak out about her death, but omg, once again proving what a bad soldier he makes. Kara even tried to talk him down, and still he ignored her. I see that it's in character, but it pained me. Likewise Sharon proves, once again, that she's a more hardcore 'human' than humans--arguing that since they've killed 'one of us' revenge is justified. I must say all of this made Kara look pretty good. But it was still agonising to watch.
The fact that one Six was able to so calmly justify the killing of another only confirms to me what a mistake it would be for the humans to trust her.
And yay, Kara for finding the Hybrid hopelessly obtuse! Worried as I am about the end of the show, I really didn't need to hear the Hybrid's dire warning from Razor again. And this time it came with bonus other hints. Kara is a 'spark of God's fire' (would that be Baltar's god?), her children will be find their own country and then 'end of line' (Cylon-human hybrids?). And oh, my poor Kara! To have to hear that prophecy herself. Her shock was so terrible. :( All this time she's been chasing her destiny, only to discover it's to be a destroyer.
The Eight's death was moving largely because of the way that it built on previous scenes. Her asking for Athena's forgiveness was very moving. And while I don't empathise with him, I found it interesting (aka chilling) that Anders was so drawn to offer her the comfort that Athena herself could not. He proves himself 'more human' than them--and that was, I think, his motivation in doing it. I wish I could have seen it as a selfless compassionate act, but it seemed more like he was trying to prove something, trying to redeem his previous destructive actions. And wow, if Kara wasn't so distractedly in shock, you'd think the alarm bells would definitely be ringing that he was a Cylon by now.
I like the amp up in the stakes though: D'Anna will reveal the final Five. I wonder if she really will... seems like Anders might step in to prevent that happening. But it's intriguing, for sure. What will Kara do with the idea that she may be humanity's destroyer? She's already forged an alliance with at least some Cylons... if she thinks that through she may conclude that prophecy is correct. I would hold out hope that that might stop her pursuing her destiny if they hadn't made it so clear that it was physically painful for her not to. Waah!
I thought Laura's scenes were superlative this episode. I totally felt for her, to the point where I found them very hard to watch. I loved her dialogue with Emily--though I firmly took Laura's side in the religious debate until the end. It was only once we got to the boat vision that it lost me. And here I just don't know what to do. I'm not onboard. I have suspected all season that Laura is the Final Cylon, and this makes me more certain than ever. She resisted Baltar's religion not just because it was Baltar but also because it was a Cylon God. And now she's turning to it? I know she's dying but that's a big stretch for me. Unless it's part of a grander plan. Setting her up as the 'dying leader' is something I can totally imagine being part of the Cylons' Plan.
Forgive me for fearing the worst but this ain't going to end well.
And I missed Lee desperately. And also my Lee-subsitute, Gaeta, had his leg destroyed. And eeek with the foreshadow-y conversation with Helo about having it amputated. :((
It's all NO GOOD. Woe is Bop. But I'll still be tuning in next week...