Adama's inner landscape
The premise of this episode came as a bit of a surprise to me--I never thought we would get such an intimate view of Bill Adama's emotional landscape. I was a little anxious at first, thinking it could be a mistake on the show's part to delve behind the facade. However, I was quickly captivated by the execution and my fears faded.
I loved watching the way Bill's inner vision of Carolyn (I cannot find a definitive spelling of her name, so I'm running with this until told better!) shifted throughout the episode. To begin with his vision is serene--a tranquil house in a forest, with windchimes and a pond. And his image of Carolyn is warm, light reflected in her hair, accepting his caress. But there's something artificial about it: right from the beginning it felt very constructed, and Head!Carolyn's dialogue really sounded as if Adama was putting words in her mouth--which of course, in his mind, he was.
The real world impinges on the idyll--the alarm jolts him awake, but for a moment he imagines her sleeping beside him. Visually I liked all the uses of reflection throughout the episode and the way that Adama's interior world kind of leaked into the Galactica world, but in a way that's still different from the way Gaius and Caprica Six experience their visions of each other.
For all I hate Tigh, I do like that he remembered Bill's anniversary. It makes sense that he would appreciate the significance--I suspect Tigh has his own rituals and ways of remembering Ellen. Respecting his best friend's rituals and giving him space for them could be a self-affirming action for Tigh, though his own grief is so much darker.
One of the surprises (perhaps) about the insights offered in this episode is just how self-aware Adama is, and how conscious of his faults, if still inactive about addressing them. He's a puzzle, even to himself, as Head!Carolyn keeps asking 'why do you keep bringing me back?'
Head!Carolyn was spot-on accurate with her calls on Bill's relationship with Laura, their 'larger than life personas', just 'another excuse to keep your distance'. Bill's first meeting with Laura was quite formal, despite Laura's overtures of informality. When Laura asked to stay on the ship for the rest of the day, Bill flashes to memories of intimacy with his wife. It's significant that Laura's here on THIS day because he's more open and emotionally vulnerable than usual.
In their second meeting, at the end of the day, Bill brings up the night on New Caprica. He wonders if he should reach out to her, after all. He's had an internal dialogue with himself all day about the mistakes he made, about putting career and formality before family and intimacy. By raising the question of 'what would have happened if the Cylons came back?' he's talking about not just the past but a possible promise of a future. It's 'what we're fighting for'. And that longing is driven not just by his attraction to Laura but by the 'other times', including those regrets he has about his wife and their relationship, as well as the good times with her. I don't think that demeans Laura's significance to him--I think it strengthens it. By processing the past, he's taking a step towards change in the future and a different, successful relationship.
Laura's 'I absolutely would have built that cabin' has such resonance--because Bill's idyllic inner landscape is so like a cabin in the woods. And unlike Carolyn, Laura would follow through on her promises--that's who she is. But the question is whether Bill can commit to that, or not.
Cally/Galen relationship as reflection
Cally is my least favourite character but I found her quite bearable in this episode. Her whining was more justified than usual, given that she was about to die, and her plot, with that of the Chief's, served a greater purpose in the episode. For once! With all the internal work going on with Adama, I think it helped to balance the episode with an external example of some of the issues he was working through. Cally and Galen fight, there's also a suggestion that Galen at least takes refuge in alcohol ('that's why we build bars'). Cally is angry that they're not giving their child enough attention, that Galen in particular is putting career first. These issues remind Adama of his own relationship. Galen's line that 'the rough patches is all we have left' was similar to Head!Carolyn's assertion that she and Bill had more bad times than good. And seeing Cally and Galen make a pro-family decision when faced with life/death fits the overall direction of the show, which has been that in crisis, a sense of family becomes even more important, despite all obstacles and the immense pressures on everyone.
I really enjoyed the way the theme of New Caprica was used. In retrospect it's very powerful (though I'm glad we didn't have to dwell too long there on the show--boring TV!). New Caprica symoblised a lot of things including time for relationships, intimacy, marriage and children. It's also a place where promises were made ('we swore a lot of things') and not necessarily kept. This is a theme that works for many characters on the show, and it tied well with last week's episode where we saw Helo and Athena under similar strain of balancing work and raising a child. It's all very well to encourage procreation, but it's an enormous burden on those in key positions, and I thought it was very telling that Cally said 'no pilots' (though I liked that Galen thought of Lee and Dee first). That's a reminder that the reality is that orphaning is a very real possibility for families with parents in such dangerous roles.
Adama's view of Lee
Of course I have lots to say about Lee! But since this is Bill's episode, I'll start with his perspective on his son. I thought it was very interesting to hear how he defined him: 'like both of us'/'proud, stubborn and angry'. These statements sum up the contradiction implicit in Bill's view of his son--at best, he's insightful and can see the ways Lee is like both his mother and his father, but at worst, he sees only one face of Lee. 'Proud, stubborn and angry' DOES describe Lee. Some of the time. There are many hidden sides that Adama does not see.
It was interesting to watch Adama reflecting on his son while tuning out the actual words of his speech. A speech that was borrowed from him. While Kara makes a joke about that, and Lee shows self-consciousness about it, Adama himself is less interested in that than reflecting on the changes he's seen in Lee. It was also very interesting to see that Adama knows he should let Lee know that he loves him--but the Admiral's facade does extend to Lee too.
They've come a long way though--I thought it was really cute that he can refer to his 'Angry-at-Dad phases' now. Hee! But the episode also balanced that nicely by showing that there are still a lot of walls between Lee and his father, for all the recent warmth. Lee takes refuge in humour when Dee tells him the box is from his father. ('Is it ticking?') But that's a sign that he's emotionally vulnerable to such gestures--previously the gift of his grandfather's watch really affected him, and the lawbooks are even more beautiful a gift. But it's so Adama-like--given with minimal words, as 'silently' as possible.
Laura, Lee and law
I love how Laura's got it all sorted out. She needs a law library: Adama can get his father's books out of storage. She needs a Chairman: she'll have Lee. And she's right in saying 'like grandfather like grandson'. Her personal assessment of Lee is far more accurate than Adama's--Adama says he's never shown any interest in law, even though he later tells Lee he remembers him sneaking off to read his grandfather's law books. That was a really effective way of showing how Adama's blind to his own son. He imposes his own image of Lee over other evidence, dismissing it as unimportant. And in doing so, he misses the deepest emotional issues. It's a very similar situation with Carolyn--he's simply blocked out much about her, because the truth is ugly and messy and maybe doesn't say the best things about him either.
In Adama's imagined landscape there are echoes of a child--a bike, a ball, but no actual child. After talking to Lee about Law and realising that he had no idea how much it had once meant to Lee, he lets the ball drop, almost as if he's letting go of his imagined child.
'People who really know the difference between right and wrong: thus, Lee.' <---I am so in love with that line! And I adored Lee's reaction too. He's always so surprised when people hold him high esteem and he seemed generally staggered by Laura remembering him. Which is perhaps not SO surprising given how little contact they've had with each other over the last year or so. But Laura's clearly held on to the memory of the young man she met during the Cylon attack, who so impressed her.
Adama doesn't tell Lee exactly what Laura says--he says 'someone she can trust'. It's interesting that Lee looks away. I don't think he sees himself as dependable at all, even though he is. He is to Laura because she's got him pegged so accurately. She'll know what to do with him as Chairman. But seen in another light, Lee is not necessarily dependable--he's driven by his own moral code, he goes against authority when he believe he's doing the right thing, he speaks his own mind. But Laura knows that and likes that and they're in tune in terms of their view of the world.
I liked the little smile that Lee gave when Kara said her only problem was that he didn't preach that sermon a week ago--he knows that's the nearest thing to a compliment he'll get from Kara. And even her rebuke for stealing material was good-natured. She admires Adama and Lee knows it, so his 'steal from the best' line was well pitched.
Lee's face changes, darkens, when his father steps near. It's interesting that he's MORE fearful of his father than Kara. His father's still a mystery to him, and his acceptance/approval is not a given. So, it makes me happy that he's getting some approval from Kara--it affirms to me more than ever how happy I am with the turn of events in the Pilots plot. Kara's approval still means the world to Lee, but he's stronger for having made his decision to commit to the marriage he'd undertaken with Dee, and for NOT being a pushover where Kara is concerned any more.
And of course he takes Kara along on the crazy rescue mission! Hee! I'm not exactly clear what she did but if recklessness is involved, bring Kara. :-) And it was nice to see Athena doing some kickass flying as well. Plus, I'm delighted Lee came up with such a confident plan and carried it through. There was a little Kara-ness rubbing off there. He didn't just get angry at his father for demanding a solution, he was proactive and positive about the whole thing. Nice! I bet Kara's miffed she didn't come up with the plan herself!
I wasn't that surprised by the revelations of the family history and I thought they made sense of a lot of the Adama psychology, both father and son. But why was Zach not mentioned? *pout* Still, it brought out the ways that the divorce and subsequent fallout is still very raw to Lee. Which makes sense. I've said before that Lee reads as someone who as a child/adolescent suffered family breakdown and internalised the emotional baggage, taking on not just his own grief but those of others around him. His anger at his mother makes sense if she was so out of control that she didn't process her own grief/anger appropriately: that burden of early maturity presumably passed to Lee. It would have been interesting to learn how Zach dealt with things, but perhaps they cut for time.
Lee's voice breaks when he talks to Adama about it and he doesn't know whether to censor himself or not--once upon a time he would have loved to vent about it, get angry at his father, but now it's hard because he has a relaitonship with him that's worth preserving. He has to turn away as he talks about it.
The term 'lost control' was interestingly vague. While it might be that the show wanted to shy away from descriptions of specific abuse, it also worked to show Lee's ambivalence about revisiting the subject--the emotions are still fierce, unprocessed, and part of him doesn't want to look too closely at what happened, while another part wants to blurt it out.
Adama privileges Lee in his internal landscape by asking Head!Carolyn if it's true. And though he says 'that's enough' to Lee (poor Lee who's facing a wall rather than face his father), there is an internal acknowledgement that he believes him--Head!Carolyn starts yelling abuse at him. She's shifted in his memory--no tranquil setting now, she's all in darkness. And there have been hints of this earlier: when she began pouring drinks, her criticism of Bill became stronger and stronger. This works well on two levels--both as a reflection that Bill does remember her issues, and to show the power of alcohol in releasing these subconscious emotional issues. For we see Bill too taking refuge in a drink at the end of the day. Alcohol is a crutch for the whole family--but there's a danger lurking in it too. (Which makes me really more miffed than ever that they had Lee turn to food not alcohol in the whole Fat!Lee arc.)
Naturally I watched this episode very much through my Lee!goggles, asking myself what these things meant for Lee. My first reaction to seeing Carolyn was 'oh, no--of course Lee's 'type' is his mother'. *blink* Tall, blonde, emotionally volatile. Sound like anyone we know!? I'm not averse to this train of logic though, because it makes sense that Lee is drawn back again and again to resolve the issues from his parents marriage in his own relationships. He struggled with commitment-phobia: who wouldn't when your parents' experience suggests you don't know what you're committing too. He gets angry about Kara's changeability and restlessness: who wouldn't when you had a mother with such violent moodswings? Not to mention the mutual alcoholism and abuse issues.
While I'd expected the overall gist of Lee's speech revealing his childhood trauma (yes, yes, I know that's what it is and people are probably sick of Lee and his emo trauma), there were a few points that clicked into place neatly. In particular I thought it was interesting that Lee spoke of his mother vowing to change. He's learnt that good resolutions don't mean shit without follow-through. And that apologies can be meaningless. And making it clear that abuse, at least emotional, was involved, makes sense of why control, or lack of it, is such a big issue for him.
It's usually Kara we'd think of when we think of who on BSG has control issues. Hers are so extreme, so physical (because of the nature of her abuse). But Lee's are also very important, but they're more internal, more emotional. Lee has a very controlled strong persona as 'leader of men', but he's also capable of angry outbursts. And self-hatred. It makes sense that he would hate the out of control aspects of himself, and also that the strain of being in control all the time would get to him. He doesn't want to be like his mother. But maintaining an emotional equilibrium during war is basically impossible, and so it takes a tremendous toll on him--or has done in the past. We saw him want to surrender all control when he let go of the leak in his spacesuit. To give in, to let go, is one of his deepest urges.
In interpersonal terms, we've seen Lee's capacity to surrender completely to someone else (Kara) and the temporary bliss that gave him. On that night on New Caprica he gave his heart to her for safe-keeping, trusting completely--something he hadn't ever been able to do safely with his mother. So that morning betrayal was all the worse because it cut Lee where it hurt the most, sending him back into lockdown regarding the possibility of a positive, trusting relationship based on pure love. The flipside of love is hatred/anger, like the kind that poured out of him about his mother. And the kind we've seen him have about Kara when she came back aboard Galactica.
I just about died when Lee said that he didn't think his mother had ever loved his father. OUCH. That gets to right to the bottom of Lee's issues--and his fears that Kara doesn't love him, has never loved him.
What does this mean for his relationship with Dee? Well, it makes more sense than ever that he sees it as an alternative. It's a different model of relationship with a different basis. He's not the most emotionally vulnerable of the two in the couple. He can be the strong, protective one, but he can also be 'freer' because he's not going to get hurt by her. Interestingly though, this relationship wasn't an instant idyll--because the underlying issues hadn't gone away and they just came out as self-sabotage. Rather than Dee abusing him, Lee abused himself--through overeating and then alcoholism. And we saw him goading Dee into chastising him, as if that would give him a kind of release.
Lee is very like his father--what Carolyn describes in Bill ('leader of men, always judging people, making the hard call') also describes what Laura sees in Lee. And they have another similarity in common--a massive question mark hanging over their marriage. As Carolyn says, it's the biggest decision of your life--and if they blew it, it casts doubt over all their other decisions. I think it's interesting to reflect on that in light of Lee's struggle with his marriage and commitment issues. On the one hand it shows in his reluctance to abandon his marriage--because it would prove he'd blown it. But it also shows in his anxiety about committing to Kara--if, like Bill and Carolyn they are 'wrong for each other from day one'--then he could be making a huge mistake. And by the time Kara asked him to leave Dee, it felt like that to Lee--marriage to Kara having such strong echoes of his parents' issues. His renewed commitment to his marriage with Dee has given him strength.
Does that mean I think it's the end of the line for Kara/Lee? Not at all--for all the reasons we saw in this episode--he'll be drawn back to resolve those issues one way or another, because that's how we work. We try to fix those broken parts of ourselves by repeating old patterns in the hope that this time it'll work. I liked the signs of friendship between them in this episode and thing that bodes well--because mutual respect and friendship needs to reform there if there's to be any hope of positive growth for either of them and resolution of their issues.
That day when we all have the time
Will Boppy ever shut up? Yes, soon, I promise! I'll end by saying that I really liked the theme of 'one day' in this episode and all the little references to it. 'It's going to be a long day.' 'It's just a normal day.' Lee's speech that the only important number is ONE (one day). The first day Nicky doesn't cry getting dropped off at daycare. It's both an ordinary day and an extraordinary day. Life or death in the balance, but also the mundane and the trivial. Bill's note refers to a mythical imagined day, free from all the pressures driving them at the moment. But that day was elusive, even on New Caprica. Will there ever be such a day? I'd argue this episode proves both no and yes. No, because there's no day so pure. Yes, because every day is that pure if you make it so. On this day, Lee chose to tell his father the truth about his mother (despite his fears), Bill chose to reach out to Laura (despite his fears) and Lee was offered a way to achieve an old, buried dream. That day is today.