‘Battlestar Galactica’ review: Adama, Starbuck finally wake up

It’s comforting to know that even when the end is near—the end of a journey, the end of a battlestar, the end of the best frakkin’ TV show out there—alcohol will be available. Adama (Edward James Olmos) basically opens and concludes this third-to-last episode of “Battlestar Galactica” with a drink in his hand. “Islanded in a Stream of Stars,” although not as powerful as “Sometimes a Great Notion,” action-packed as “Blood on the Scales” or illuminating as “No Exit,” delivers in that it actually moves the story along. And we need the pacing to pick up, because only two episodes remain before this four-season series goes off—hopefully none too gently—into that starry night.

A quick recap: Hera, the only Cylon child, is gone, taken by the duplicitous Boomer (Grace Park). Liam, the son of Tigh (Michael Hogan) and Caprica Six (Tricia Helfer), died in the womb. Ellen, the last member of the Final Five to be revealed, was resurrected and has rejoined the fleet. Anders (Michael Trucco), shot in the head during the uprising attempted by Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) and Tom Zarek (Richard Hatch), remains catatonic. Oh, and in addition to earth turning out to be an inhabitable wasteland—and the graveyard for Starbuck’s body—Galactica is falling apart.

“Islanded in a Stream of Stars”—really, what a gorgeously poetic name—starts off with an impromptu gathering: Tigh, Ellen (Kate Vernon), Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) and Tory (Rekha Sharma) trying to convince Adama and Lee (Jamie Bamber) to go after Hera. But this would mean a confrontation with Cavil (Dean Stockwell), and Adama has had enough of destiny and prophecy. He’s seen the bitter disappointment it’s created in his lover, President Roslin (Mary McDonnell).

Much like his ship, Adama is exhausted and beat-up. He still hasn’t recovered from the shock of seeing Boomer again—the Eight who shot him twice in the chest and nearly killed him. He would rather smoke weed in the hospital ward while visiting Roslin (who at least does it for medicinal purposes) than think of ways to solve the problems before him.

At least Roslin has her head on straight. Or maybe it’s the pot’s influence. She doesn’t come across as much of an authority figure lying in the hospital bed—who can forget Laura “I’m coming for all of you” Roslin?—but her words still carry weight with Adama. “I know you love this ship—you probably love her more than you love me—but Bill, if you don’t get us off of this ship, you may lose both of us at the same time. Why don’t you give us a chance?”

Cylon sacrifice

While working on repairing the ship’s hull, two people get into a verbal altercation: a male human and one of the Sixes. Ironically enough, it’s an Eight who puts a halts their bickering. But seconds later, such squabbles become meaningless as a hole in the hull rips wide open and people literally have to hold on for their lives. It’s a Cylon—the very one insulted by the male human—who saves his life and offers up her own in exchange for the salvation of everyone else. That’s an important act of bravery here, as well as a sign of hope for better race relations, but Adama doesn’t single it out for recognition during the funeral for the 61 dead crew members. Maybe he’s not ready to look too kindly upon his new allies. Or maybe he’s unaware of what happened. Maybe the show’s writers want to make the point that great deeds often go unrecorded and unrewarded.

We’re left to wonder: Does the Cylon give up her life because her race is accustomed to working for the greater good of their species and not taking into account individual choices or desires? Or is it simple as she forgot she can no longer resurrect?

Throw him out of the airlock already

I might be in the minority, but I wish someone would toss Gaius Baltar (James Callis) into space. I’m tired of his limpid, weepy eyes and the spiritual drivel he spews nightly on his wireless communicator to his flock and whoever else is willing—and weak enough—to listen. His attempts to reach out to Caprica Six, who apparently has no home after the return of Ellen and the loss of Liam, are construed by her as him trying to resume their previous relationship. But Caprica Six has come a long way—does anyone else remember when she murdered that baby in the market during one of the early episodes?—and she rebuffs his advances, not wishing to join his “harem.” This coming from Six, the Cylon model most associated with sexual manipulation? I almost jumped to my feet and applauded.

But I’ll admit Gaius has a useful function in this episode. It’s easy to forget amid all his rambling excuses and pathetic yet successful schemes for self-preservation that he is a very intelligent, talented scientist. When Kara tells Gaius in the bathroom that she saw her own dead body on earth—for reasons that don’t make sense other than the fact she must have been bursting to let the news out—there is both annoyance and relief. Annoyance she chooses as her confidante the man who betrayed his whole race for a few good romps in bed; relief that she finally shares her secret with someone other than Leoben, who witnessed the eerie scene and then ran off. (Where is this particular Cylon, by the way? We haven’t seen much of him since then.)

During the funeral services for the workers, Gaius announces you don’t have to be a Cylon to come back to life and points to Kara Thrace. We now know Gaius tests the blood on the dog tags Kara gives him and discovers that while the DNA is indeed her blood, it comes from a dead body. While Adama yells at everyone to disband and threatens to throw Baltar in the brig, Kara marches up to Gaius and slaps him—an unusual reaction from the Never Miss Dainty Starbuck. We expect Kara to stick a knife in his ribs, or at the very least slug him. But a slap? I guess you have to improvise when there isn’t a martini glass nearby. Kara should have stood closer to Adama; she could have flung the contents of his flask in Baltar’s face.

See? Boomer’s got a heart

I wondered when Boomer would start showing her true self. I wondered when we’d catch a glimpse into her soul. I wondered if she made up the dream house with Chief (Aaron Douglas) just to trick him into helping her to complete her mission, or if she had always used that fantasy landscape as an escape. Tonight, I got some answers.

In the beginning Boomer is cold and callous to Hera. She threatens to drug her again to stop her sniveling; Hera keeps tearfully repeating she wants her mommy. But just as Boomer is about to stick the needle in her, she decides to tell her about this place where she goes to make herself happy. She learns that Hera can follow her into this alternate reality, that she can project. She softens, and for the first time ever, she seems to look upon Hera as the daughter that could have been hers, the daughter that she wanted with Chief. And, for the first time ever, we learn that, in addition to having strange curly hair and abnormally rosy cheeks, Hera possesses powers similar to the full-blooded Cylons. This aspect of the show hasn’t been explored before; it’s only been hinted at, with Roslin, Caprica Six and Athena sharing the visions of Hera running around in an opera house. The show will undoubtedly culminate in such a setting (and it’s going to sound like a rock concert if “All Along the Watchtower” is the background music).

I had hoped Boomer would turn the raptor around and return Hera to her parents, but that was maudlin thinking on my part. Boomer can’t go back; she can only go forward to Cavil (Dean Stockwell) and aid him in his vile plans. If she flew the raptor back to the fleet, this time the Adama-Roslin administration really would execute her, and she’s not courageous enough to walk to her own death. We saw that in the first season, when she knew something was wrong with her but she didn’t tell anyone.

Burning question: Will Boomer be to Hera what Wormtail was to Harry Potter? J.K. Rowling was able to show us that a moment’s hesitation can make a big difference in which side wins the war. Boomer hands Hera over to Cavil, but she doesn’t want to.

Creepy factor: Since his tirades against humanity and his own human form in “No Exit,” Cavil has left an indelible impression on audiences. Stockwell plays the part well; he’s no longer that helpful hologram I remember from “Quantum Leap.” The sight of him holding Hera makes me shudder. What exactly does Cavil mean when he tells Hera she’ll have all sorts of playmates soon? Will he clone her? Or is he talking specifically about resurrection technology? Do any of his machinations involve killing her? And I can’t help but remember Ellen’s taunt to a pregnant Caprica Six that Simon would love to get his hands on her baby. Simon sided with Cavil and must be aboard the ship. Those two men should never be allowed to be around children. Ever.

This is the end

Two people awaken from their self-induced comas tonight: Starbuck and Aadama. Starbuck, because her secret coming to light frees her in a sense to do what she needs to do. Adama, because he always knows what is the right thing to do, even if it’s not his first instinct to do it. The point is, these characters, who in the past have excelled in emergency situations, are both doing something instead of walking around in a drunken daze, as they have throughout most of the second half of the fourth season.

Lee comes over to Starbuck as she stands by the wall covered with photos of dead people—the casualties of this war with the Cylons. He gives his support to her, as he’s always done, and she smiles—she smiles in such a heartbreakingly sweet way that you’d think Lee would now know enough to be suspicious. His wife, Dee (Kandyse McClure), smiled at him like that, even kissed him, before going into the locker room and shooting herself in the head. If he doesn’t remember that, the show’s writers want to make sure we do. After Lee walks away, Kara pins a photo of herself on the wall next to Dee.

Starbuck has no intention of killing herself, though. She’s first and foremost a fighter. What she wants to do, though, may risk the fleet. She visits Sam, who aboard Galactica has been hooked up to the main power grid of the ship like they do with hybrids. She reconnects him to the main power grid, not caring that Tigh ordered him unplugged so he wouldn’t jump the ship, as the hybrids are prone to do when sensing danger. She wants to solve the mystery of “All Along the Watchtower”—the song Sam supposedly wrote, that her father taught her to play in her childhood, whose notes Hera drew on a piece of paper that otherwise looks like a string of stars. Kara doesn’t always do the smart thing, but she doesn’t shy away from action. We want the mystery solved too. We want to know who Kara is and what her role is in the greater scheme of things. We’ve been waiting for answers ever since Kara rejoined the fleet.

Adama has his own epiphany of sorts, an emotional upheaval that leaves him clear of thought and sure of purpose. He has a breakdown, where he starts flinging white paint on the walls and himself and eventually slides down to the floor crying. It’s a weird scene, perhaps unnecessary, but briefly giving up control provides a much-needed release for the tightly coiled Adama.

After his emotional hailstorm, Adama washes his face in his bathroom and when he looks up, his second-in-command is there: Adama briskly informs Tigh he’s made some decisions. He doesn’t reveal them all—some are implied—but he states he’s stopping all the repairs on the ship. They’re abandoning ship, he says. Tigh, who earlier argued with Ellen over where his true loyalties lie, doesn’t want to give up on Galactica, but he bows to Adama’s wishes. After all, Adama has just called him the finest friend and officer he’s ever known. The words probably made Tigh tingle in a place we don’t want to know about.

When Adama pours them drinks and says they are going to send her off in style, Tigh knows exactly what he’s talking about. And the previews for next week’s episode hint that Adama will fight Cavil over Hera and the fate of humans and Cylons alike.

“She was a grand old lady,” Tigh remininisces.

“To Galactica, the best ship in the fleet,” Adama replies.

Hear, hear.

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One Response to “‘Battlestar Galactica’ review: Adama, Starbuck finally wake up”

  1. […] Raftery presents ‘Battlestar Galactica’ review: Adama, Starbuck finally wake up posted at elan. She asks what many fans have wondered – why doesn’t someone just throw Baltar […]

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