Archive for All Along the Watchtower

‘Battlestar Galactica’ review: Too many Sharons on board?

Posted in Battlestar Galactica, Fantasy/sci-fi, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2009 by Dawn Raftery

I tuned into tonight’s “Battlestar Galactica” with trepidation, still disappointed in last week’s raging Ellen fest and worried that with only four episodes left everything won’t be brought to a satisfying end. And although the pacing hasn’t worked itself out yet—the first 40 minutes were snoozeworthy—I enjoyed it because it focused on two of my favorite and more complicated female characters: Boomer and Starbuck.

My suspicion that Cavil (Dean Stockwell)—or should we call him John like Ellen does?—sent Boomer (Grace Park) to Galactica on a nefarious mission was proven true, but it didn’t make me happy to watch her break Chief’s heart once again. In the early episodes, Boomer is compelling because she was in such turmoil over her dual identity. Her only memories were of being human, yet she could sense this other identity trying to take control of her body—and she was scared.

Well, apparently Boomer is no longer confused about who she wants to pay allegiance to. “Personal feelings are what Sharon Valeri preys upon,” President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) tells Chief. Harsh words, but after Boomer escapes the brig with Chief’s help, it’s revealed to be an accurate assessment. Because even as she’s kissing Chief (Aaron Douglas) and telling him she loves him, she’s already played him for a fool.

The plotline involving Kara “Starbuck” Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) remains as muddled as ever. I was hoping to find out who or what Starbuck is. Unfortunately, those answers weren’t given. We learn instead about her childhood, about the father who taught her to play piano but left her behind with that crazy, abusive mother to go on the road. Uh-huh. So what? We’re no closer to discovering whether she’s human, Cylon or some kind of hybrid. That’s what I care about.

Of brigs and betrayals

The intensity and emotion between Chief and Boomer are palpable. He drinks in the sight of her like a starving man, and although Boomer’s motives are a mystery—really, what kind of hold does the decrepit Cavil have over her? The swirl???—I’m going to continue to believe that she has feeling for Chief, despite her betrayal.

The other Sharons aren’t faring so well. One No. 8 is knocked out by Chief and placed in the brig so Boomer can run amok on the ship. And Athena is having a really bad day. We haven’t seen Athena in weeks, and when we do, she gets beaten up and tossed in a locker, where she is forced to witness the torrid love scene between her husband, Helo (Tahmoh Penikett), and Boomer. Their writhing around on the floor and Boomer’s moans of pleasure make up one of the most passionate sexual encounters I’ve ever seen on “Battlestar”—let’s all try to forget Ellen and Tigh on a table last week—and it’s ironic that it occurs between Helo and a No. 8. I’m reminded of another Roslin verbal gem, her rebuke to Helo in an earlier episode: “You’re not married to the entire line.”

One of the trickier elements of this episode—tricky because it’s easy to appear mawkish—is the fantasy landscape Boomer has created for herself and Chief, a dream house where they live and raise Hera, the little girl that could have been theirs. Boomer is able to convey this fantasy to Chief using the powers of Cylon projection. As cynical as I am, I began to believe they could have a future together. In retrospect, though, you have to reevaluate every word she says to Chief, including, “The most important thing is we both know who we are now. Let’s make the most with the time we have left.”

A Cylon pick-up line: “I’ve thought about you every day since that moment I died in your arms,” Boomer says to Chief.

Starbuck’s serenade

OK, so in the last few minutes of the show it’s obvious why Starbuck’s past has been dredged up: She needs to have the musical skill to play a special song on the piano. But getting to that point is a painful journey. The episode feels slow and dreamlike from the start. It’s told, at least in the opening sequence, from Starbuck’s perspective. Her days are ordered and monotonous and boring, perhaps to illustrate how disconnected she feels from everyone and everything around her. The montage of banal scenes is in contrast to the many times we’ve witnessed her being emotional and messy. I can picture the screaming going on inside Starbuck’s head as she gives flight orders from the dais. I wonder if she could hear the screaming in my head as I tried to stay awake.

The musician she meets in a bar, the man who becomes her friend and confidante, ends up being a figment of her imagination and an overhanded substitute for her father, but he serves his purpose. With his guidance, Kara overcomes her reluctance to play the piano again and realizes that a drawing given to her by Hera is in fact musical notes. When she plays the notes in the bar, the song—”All Along the Watchtower”—immediately resonates with Col. Saul Tigh (the wonderful Michael Hogan), Ellen (Kate Vernon) and Tory (Rekha Sharma), who, by the way, seem to have mistaken the bottom of a liquor bottle as the solution for how to save humanity.

The priceless moment in that scene: The camera zooming in on Tigh’s one eye as it widens and him uttering, “What the frak?”

Burning questions: What is the name of Starbuck’s father? Could it be Daniel? What are the show’s creators up to by making Anders (Michael Trucco) the writer of “All Along the Watchtower,” which in this reality was written and recorded by Bob Dylan? Are Dylan and—gulp—Anders the same person in parallel universes? Is Anders going to in a coma from now on, or will he wake up again and spout more critical information in a nonsensical way like the hybrids do? And why is the little girl who plays Hera so strange looking, with curly hair that looks like a wig and abnormally rosy cheeks? How does she at all resemble either one of her parents?

The vicious circle of vendettas

The one bright note in tonight’s episode—the one sign that humans and Cylons may be able to coexist peacefully—comes from an unusual source: Lee Adama. Lee (Jamie Bamber), who has been vocal in his hatred and distrust of Cylons, overcomes his prejudice enough to give one of the Sixes a seat on the Quorum.

If only those around him demonstrated such leadership and integrity. Roslin and Adama need to step down. Now. Once such insightful, inspiring and effective leaders, they are dangerously out of touch with the citizens and circumstances they are supposed to govern. Didn’t they see how desperate Chief was? Didn’t it occur to them, especially after the mutiny recently carried out by Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani), that their word is no longer considered law by people? That Chief would do what he felt he had to do to save the woman he loves? (Actually, since tonight’s show concluded with Roslin on the floor, maybe she has stepped down—permanently.)

Roslin is too complacent, Adama too bitter. But whereas Roslin is aware of her growing disinterest, Adama doesn’t recognizes his shortcomings or that he can’t think straight when it comes to Boomer, who as we all know shot him twice in the chest and nearly killed him. He’s too concerned with payback.

But that one bright note in tonight’s episode is also the darkest, because it’s another example of revenge gone wrong. The first Cylon government official in the fleet makes the request to have Boomer released so she can be tried for treason for siding with Cavil—an act that sets all the other tragic events in motion. Without this thirst for retribution from the Cylons, who show themselves to be all too human time and time again, Chief would have not made the poor decisions he did and Hera would be home safe with her parents.

So what’s the lesson today, boys and girls? Vengeance is not the key to survival, especially when your numbers are very limited.

Best quote of the night: “The last thing we need is you jerking our chains with a lot of quack ideas. So why don’t you take them somewhere else?” Ahhhh, the wonderful Dr. Cottle (Donnelly Rhodes), telling it like it is.

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