A Shining Beacon of Hope, in fact! ;) Hope? Infinitely better than Faith. :D
This episode wasn't faultless, but I'm so full of squee at BSG finally focusing on a plot I'm invested in this season that I don't really care. Yup, totally unashamedly biased. ;) Because I knew this episode had been nominated for a bunch of Emmys, I did have high expectations going in, and I did have some issues with it, but overall I thought it was very good, and it certainly gave me lots of stuff I love: Lee! Romo! DOGGY! \o/ (I almost loved the doggy best of all. *g*)
So since I'm cheery for once, I'll be focusing on the good in this eppy.
I never really liked Nathalie, but I'm feeling a bit sad now because my favourite scene of hers was of her dying. I really loved the operating-room scene. I thought it was very compelling watching someone who once would have been able to download into a new body, struggle with her mortality. Her fear was palpable, she was so helpless, and that image of her hand reaching up to take Cottle's was so moving. In his hands it doesn't matter whether she's Cylon or human--he tries to save her, but in vain.
I thought the Quorum scenes were an excellent way of showing in microcosm the kind of confusion that would be spreading through the fleet in the wake of these two dramatic events: the shooting of the Cylon leader and the disappearance of the human President. Of course people would be trying to work out causality and the degree to which the events were preplanned. As viewers, we know Athena was thinking only of her own child, but it would be easy for conspiracy theories to run wild, especially given how new and tenuous the human-Cylon-rebels alliance was.
I loved the Athena parts of this episode: she continues to be my favourite Cylon. :) Adama confronting her about what she had done was one of the most powerful scenes in the episode for me. I loved the way he turned from her in annoyance when she said she's had a vision. He must be getting so sick of all these women and their visions! ;) There's no way for Athena to explain logically what she's done, she acted out of fear but also out of conviction. However wrong she was, she believed with every fibre of her being that her child was in danger and she acted to protect her. I do think Athena's xenophobia against her own kind played into that fear and allowed it to run rampant though.
But god, what a heartbreaking burden to carry now--that in protecting her daughter, she might have lost her husband. Not to mention the greater political implications. I loved that Adama brought up the promise she made to him and points out that this act was one of betrayal. However, I really felt for Athena in not being allowed to have Hera with her. (And the part of me that was already pissed off at Bill for other reasons was thinking 'yeah, of course YOU wouldn't understand doing whatever it takes to save your child'.) Thank goodness he found some compassion by the end of the episode.
Tigh and Caprica
You have got to be kidding me! *blinks* Didn't see that coming. I kind of wrote off that scene where she snogged him because it was weird and icky and didn't work for me the way the writers wanted it to. I didn't extrapolate that they'd been sleeping together, but that just packs on the 'eww' and confusion for me. It shocked me enough when she called him 'Saul'. What the hell is Caprica getting out of this relationship? Is she just batty from being imprisoned? Does she see him as a way out?
The Tigh side of things I found a lot easier to understand. He sees his wife in Six's face and he is confused by it--at times he sees her as the enemy and then at times it's like Ellen is back with him. He's unbalanced and on edge. I didn't like him lashing out at her, but I could understand him doing so. It's a whole lot more horrible now that we know she's carrying his child. And hmm, I wonder what the child of a Final Five and a regular Cylon will be like.
I had a lot of Bill issues in this episode. That should come as no surprise. They started with him refusing to talk to Zarek and they carried merrily on all episode (though at least, unlike in some episodes he did redeem himself somewhat). He frustrated me, but I think he was meant to. His stubborn refusal to speak to Zarek even after Lee personally appealed to him (and how ridiculous was it that he took Lee's call and not Zarek's?!) was incredibly stupid and short-sighted. I can really do no better than borrowing Lee's words here: he was fanning the Quorum's suspicions, encouraging dissent, giving the civilians reason to hate the military, and doing nothing to stabilise the Fleet at a very politically sensitive time. It was like dealing with a ten-year-old who'd had his favourite toy taken away from him: 'I don't want to play any more. Get lost!' Honestly for most of this episode I was wondering who was the parent and who was the child.
And yes, I know he was deeply distressed about Laura's disappearance, angry at Sharon, and possibly a smidgeon worried about the pilots (but mainly Laura, let's face it). I have no issue with his emotions: they were human and normal and understandable. But I do have an issue with his actions because he's a military commander and shouldn't let his personal relationships get in the way of logical decision making. He shouldn't endanger others unnecessarily, which he started to do, and he should also think of the whole fleet. I would like to think Laura would be appalled at him.
Bill basically held the Quorum, the whole fleet, ransom in this episode. By refusing to acknowledge Zarek, he made Zarek more powerful, fed him fuel for his argument that the government they'd had wasn't a true government but 'a tacit agreement between a military strongman and a political strongwoman to rule together by fiat'. And you know what? There's a lot of truth in that. But in that brief snippet of radio interview that we heard, we also heard the start of Zarek's solution--a civil defence force. Zarek's positioning the military and the civilians as in opposition to each other, and that could have devastating consequences. And Bill only made things worse.
Lee for president
It was painfully obvious from the word go that Lee was going to be the only workable alternative. As Romo says, the outcome was inevitable from the start. I It was also adorably Lee-like that he took a ridiculously long time to see that himself. Also, it annoys me that the main reason it had to be Lee was that Adama would actually pick up the phone for him. Because Bill isn't interested in democracy, he never has been. He doesn't care about the civilian population or their issues and it's only through his personal relationship with Roslin that he's grown amenable to her appeals. He likes her, not the Quorum. Zarek would be particularly galling to him, but I can't imagine him falling over himself to connect with any other president either. It would take someone very forceful and determined to make an impact on Bill--and noone could make the same impact Roslin did. At the very least it could take ages to establish a working relationship. Whereas with Lee the relationship's already there. He doesn't like listening to Lee, but he does do so on more occasions than he'd like to admit, I think.
I don't like to think Lee got the office just because of Adama--I cling to the fact that he had to be seen as worthy in the eyes of the rest of the Quorum. I do believe Lee's the best possible interim president and the one most likely to keep stability in the Fleet while things are in crisis. Since I assume Laura will be back at some stage, it probably won't come up, but if he were to stay president I would really desperately want him to be elected properly, because this feels very much like he became president by default.
The issue of political ambition and legitmacy is a complex one in this episode, one with a lot of greys and very little black and white. Zarek clings to the fact that he was legitimately elected--and he's got a strong case. He was elected, Laura chose him as vice president; she was always running the risk that if something happened to her, he'd end up as interim president. He says he got Lee appointed 'to do some good', but he's not as selfless as he makes out--he is angry at Lee because he thought he had him on side. And he's only going to me more angry now that it's Lee who replaced him.
I am glad, though, that it was made very clear that Lee didn't start out as self-seeking. He even sought out Romo to help run through candidates! Whee! But in his very determination to do so he showed exactly the qualities that make him the perfect candidate. For starters, he's not jaded or defeatist. He doesn't want to just sit around and wait for things to fall apart. He can see the domino effect that's being set in motion and all his instincts are screaming at him to step in and avert it before things get worse.
Romo was the perfect foil for Lee in this episode. He displays the contrasting attitude to Lee, calling the problem they're trying to solve a 'losing case'. Lee, on the other hand, is compelled to deal with the problem. He's animated while Romo is laconic. They played off each other perfectly and I liked the way they genuinely connected yet were both clearly in completely different headspaces. (And oh, that moment when Lee kicked the cat's bowl and we see that the cat's just in Romo's head! *gulp*)
They did provide lots of room for reflecting on the issues raised by this crisis, one of which is how do you balance the ambition to wield power with the unselfish motivation of acting in the collective best interests. I loved Romo's observation that Laura is a study in repressed ambition, just like Lee. Yup, they're two of a kind and that's why he's her perfect successor.
I must admit that I am getting a kick out of having Lee see what it's like to be on the other side of the fence. That shot of Galactica jumping away when they didn't know why was fabulous at demonstrating the vulnerability of the Fleet and the way that without a working alliance between the military command and the presidency (aka someone to keep Adama in check) things would just fall apart.
Chasing a mystery
Tigh was fabulous in this episode. I usually find him infuriating, but I actually started thinking he was the one better fitted to command. Even though he's a Cylon. Even though he's batshit. Because Adama was seriously losing it and I was so relieved when he admitted that.
The confrontation scene between Adama and Tigh was another highlight of the episode--and one that had some parallels with the Athena-Adama confrontation. In both instances, Adama struggles to understand the destructive actions of a member of his crew who he trusted completely. Both Athena and Tigh are 'loyal' in their hearts, but they also act selfishly, driven by their personal fears. But Adama too is driven by his fears and that's why it was brilliant to see Tigh call him on his behaviour. Yay, Tigh! But wow, there was something really sad and pathetic (in the true 'pathos' sense) about seeing two old friends beat each other up. They're both batshit in their own ways. And aww, they broke the ship again. Hee!
Adama turning over command to Tigh was another fabulous scene. I particularly liked Tigh talking about his previous stint as a complete disaster. Er, yeah. And I actually found myself agreeing, at least in part, with Adama when he said Tigh wasn't the man he was then. That surprised me because I've always been very critical of Tigh. Their hug even made me tear up!
Of course Adama followed up his pragmatic relinquishing of power with a melodramtic gesture of pointless heroics (except that no doubt they will be legitimised by the show!). He insisted on pursuing his own personal hero/suicide quest. Sigh. I'm sorry. I know I'm supposed to be moved by that and I know it'll all be validated by having a big teary Roslin/Adama reunion (with Helo back too: kthx!). But I'm with Lee: it looked a lot lik suicide or an old man's stupid stubbornness. And what the hell was that story about his first mission in space saying? 'I'm a fear junkie'? The bit about not being able to live without Laura was a lot easier to understand (for both Lee and me!) And I do understand it on some level. I guess Bill has been struggling all season with the idea of losing Laura and he can't give up on her, can't bear the idea of letting her down. Fair enough. I'm just relieved he's not endangering everyone else in the process.
And Kara and Lee seeing him off was rather lovely.
The stupidest thing about Tigh taking over command? All that energy expended on finding a president Adama would talk to, only to wind up with it being Tigh intsead. And Tigh and Lee aren't exactly buddies. Though I guess I can imagine Tigh listening to Lee with half an ear 'for the old man's sake'.
Exercise in futility
I have to say that I had a lot of sympathy for Romo. He says it's all an exercise in futility, and since that's kind of what I feel about the whole of Season 4 (if not the whole show), I really connected with that feeling. This show definitely does keep bringing up the question of 'what is the point anyway?' and did so again in this episode. Romo reflects on the pilots looking like they've given up hope. That felt like an echo of Lee talking about the Quorum having given up hope. Has the whole fleet given up? Lee himself has been there, wondering why it's worth continuing to fight, but he's come out the other side all the more determined. Perhaps that's what makes him such a great leader: he can empathise but not get bogged down in their emotions.
Which brings me to the brilliant confrontation between Zarek and Lee. It was perfect on every level for me. I loved both sides equally because they were each valid. I don't think Lee set out to seek office, but does he want it deep down? Yes. Does he have moments where he thinks he'd be the best man for the job? Of course. He's also pragmatist enough that he must see that he's the bridge to Adama they need so badly. That would be very hard to keep denying, even though his personal humility demands it.
Putting him at gunpoint actually worked really well, I think, to push Lee to connect with that part of himself that does want to just take control himself, step in and fix things, and that has the personal charisma to do so. In talking Romo down, he drew on some of the same strength and beliefs he drew on during Baltar's trial. He points out that 'somewhere along the line, we've all made decisions that have saved our lives at the expense of others'. Lee certainly has--so when he speaks about this, he speaks from the heart. He's lived and breathed that reality every day and been tortured by the burden of carrying it. Lee could have been talking to himself in that scene when he asked 'you think you're unique? do you think your sins are so special?' Oh, Lee, you SOOOO need to hear that yourself sometimes, honey!
It was brilliant to see Lee so mature in this scene, so clear-sighted, with an articulate argument about faith in the right of humanity to continue to live as being a choice, not a given. That really spoke to me because it many ways I kind of agree with Romo--the humans can be (en masse) really disgustingly cruel and destructive. Lee's chosen to believe in the potential of humanity for goodness--and in the potential in himself for creating a difference. (That's so inspiring! Whee! \o/) And oddly, more than anything else this season this scene between two humans did more than all the Cylon scenes combined to make me reflect instinctively on the parallel between humans and Cylons. Cylons too need to put their past behind them and believe in their capacity for real change (not just lipservice). How much chance does either race stand? On their own, let alone together? Who knows. But they need leaders who believe they can.
Hanging on to hope
Romo's scene with Adama was a very interesting one, not least because it got to the heart of the episode. Romo talks about people holding onto hope any way they can. It's true. And so often that hope comes in the form of a significant other--a fact which was illustrated by having two pilots hugging each other goodbye. So Roslin is Adama's hope--if I cared about Bill much, that would be very moving and also deeply tragic because hi, she's dying anyway. I guess Caprica is Tigh's hope, Hera is Athena's hope, and poor Romo... Romo had cat. :( F
From my own ship perspective I thought it was a sad sign of the writers having lost interest in the Kara/Lee ship that they didn't bother to use those two as an example of the overall episode theme. They could have done so so easily--two lines would have been enough (Kara congratulating Lee on becoming President?), a little 'touching base' with how those two separate destinies were going. Sigh. I'm reduced to putting my shipper thoughts in 'small' because they're so irrelevant to the show.
Back to stuff I liked... I'm sure some people would have hated it but I loved the pets plot with Romo. *sniffles* Poor kitty! :(( He was Romo's hope and he's not quite ready to let go of it, despite what he says--he continues to carry it around with him even though it's dead and stinking. :(( Poor Romo, like Tigh who lost Ellen and Adama who lost Roslin, he's going a bit batshit from losing his touchstone, and it's also triggering him to relive his guilt about abandonning his family.
But Lee has the solution! :D He gave him JAKE! Resistance doggy! \o/ Oh, you don't know how much delight this gave me. Although I did momentarily start to get excited that it was Lee's dog (how great would that be?!! If he can't have Kara, he can at least have a doggy! Puhleeeeeeeeeeeease writers? He needs unconditional love!). But then of course him selflessly gifting him to Romo is far more Lee-like and awesome. *nods* Jake himself was completely adorable, of course and I hope we get to see him and Romo make a little cameo later in the season so we can see them doing well together. :D
Next week I'm guessing (unspoilt and want to stay that way please!) that we'll find out what happened to Roslin and Gaius. And we've probably used up our Lee rations for now, alas. But I am still grateful.
ETA: I heart Leland (hilarious though it is!).
ETA2: I want an icon of Lee that says 'President. Because my dad sucks.' :D