This Is a Blog: My BSG Addiction: Episodes

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My BSG Addiction: Episodes

In order to get over my addiction to "Battlestar Galactica," I'm going to talk the show to death until it's out of my system. What originally started as a one-off essay is too big for just one post. This is Part 10.

The Best and Worst Episodes

Overall, the show maintains a pretty good pace for a serial. A lot of network serials, even "24," which I love, fall into the trap of having to fill too much time with too little story. While BSG stayed away from amnesia and cougars, it definitely had its slumps. The beginning and ending of each season are always the high points because you get the big cliff-hangers and the pay-offs. The short first season and the split up second season provided opportunities to really make something of the discovery of Kobol, the destruction of the Resurrection Ship, and the colonization of New Caprica. Perhaps that's why the 20 episode third season is seen as the low point. It's just this long stretch without any major story moments.

That third season, though, has some of the shows stronger episodes. The rescue from New Caprica is thrilling. The episode about the Sagittarian outbreak is the closest thing to a Twilight Zone episode they do. The big reveal of the Final Five is about as exciting as the show gets.
The fourth season is hard to watch for totally different reasons. Pretty much the entire second half, from the discovery that Earth is a barren wasteland to right before the mission to save Hera is some of the most depressing, hopeless TV you will ever see. The spirit and loyalty that held the fleet together is completely gone. Everyone is pissed and the most basic relationships in the show just totally fall apart. Some pretty central characters even mutiny against the Admiral, and the Vice President murders the entire quorum of 12. Roslin's cancer has progressed so far, she wears a wig. Structure wise, it makes sense the beginning of the final act would see everyone at their low point, but I can't imagine having to tune in week after week for nothing but this depressing shit.

Best: "Unfinished Business"

Centered around a military tradition, this episode gets more character mileage than any other episode of the series. As I'll get into below, I found most of the one-off episodes annoying. This one hits the right note of putting the big story arc aside and replacing it with some of the show's best character moments.

When things get tough, the crew sets up a boxing ring in the hangar. Everyone puts their dog tags in a box and gets to challenge anyone, no matter the rank, to a few rounds. We've had to trudge through episode after episode of everyone trying to purge themselves of the burdens of New Caprica. The family has splintered and fallen apart and it's about damned time everyone pulls together.

What the story is really about is Adama and Roslin, and Lee and Starbuck. In our first glimpse into that year the show jumped over, we get one night where the main characters might have gone a bit too far. Thinking their responsibility was behind them, the Admiral and former President allowed themselves to cuddle up under the stars. On the other end of the camp, subtlety aside, Lee and Starbuck fucked. The next morning, Adama went back to the ship and Roslin stayed on the surface. Starbuck married Anders, and Lee went after Dualla. While not necessary to the big story, especially that bullshit Lee and Dualla called a marriage, this one night did as much to define these characters than the entire Cylon occupation.

For most characters, the episode culminates with a match between Adama and Tyrol. Tyrol knocks the Admiral out and it seems like the whole world is going to fall apart. Adama pulls himself to his feet and, with their now undivided attention, he lays into them like only the old man can. It's moments like that that I can put aside any criticism I have of Adama. When it counts, he knows how to run a ship.

For Lee, Starbuck, Anders, and poor Dualla, there is one more beat. Starbuck challenges Lee, and they finally get out what they've been holding in all these months. Their relationship is so complex and their love so deep, they can never be together, but they will never end their respective marriages. As the two kick the crap out of each other, we know the show is finally getting itself back on track.

Worst: "Scar"

I'm pretty sure I'm way too hard on the self-contained episodes. On a show like this, I wish there was a guide indicating which episodes just have absolutely no impact on the big story. Until that massive time jump on New Caprica, I wasn't entire sure I wanted to keep watching, and this episode almost made me stop. I just wanted to get to the next big story beat, and this felt like a wasted hour.

I'm all for non-linear storytelling, but this episode seemed so in love with its structure it was just distracting. It's your basic story where the third act progresses throughout the episode, interspersed with flashbacks that eventually get us back to the framing device. The problem, though, is the climax doesn't have enough action to carry the episode. Every time we cut back to the present, the story progresses ever so slightly that it feels repetitive

The whole story centers on the competition between Starbuck and Kat. Knowing in hindsight that Kat's going to die fairly soon makes this episode even more useless. The episode reveals some nice, little details, like how there's this one raider that's a better pilot than the others or that Starbuck's starting to slip and one of the nuggets is taking her place. Overall, though, it just sticks out as a low point in the show.

Continue to Part 11

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