Embrace Death?March 8, 2009
Spoiler Alert: This is a review for the episode, “Islanded in a Stream of Stars.”
I enjoyed this week’s episode almost as much as it drove me crazy. One moment, it was pulling at my heartstrings. The next, it was trying to make me laugh, then turned right around and made me angry. But most of all, it just left me wanting to know more.
There were precious few questions answered this week, as we focused mostly on the human (and Cylon) drama created in the last few weeks: Helo is desperate to search for Hera, but Adama won’t let him go. Starbuck and the Final Five Three (Anders is in a coma and Tyrol is apparently in the brig.) are also desperate to get back Hera. Starbuck is also coming to terms with the fact that her husband may never be truly alive again in any recognizable sense. Adama is trying to come to terms with the idea that both Roslin and his ship are about to die, and Boomer is trying to come to terms with having betrayed her love Tyrol and turning over a defenseless Hera to Cavil.
While I have been impatiently awaiting answers, what with only two episodes to go, I have to admit that the human drama did quite get to me this week:
Helo’s Request to Go Search For Hera:
I should say first of all that I hardly ever feel bad for Helo. I mean, I like his morals, but really, he’s usually the golden boy of Galactica, so I always feel like he’s going to turn out okay and I don’t have to worry about him. Adama has always treated him like one of his favored kids. So it was a bit of a shock to see Adama give him so little latitude, especially when he’s been indirectly guilty of ripping Hera from Helo and Athena once before.
But when you mess with one of Helo’s family, he gets seriously shaken to his core. This week, in the wake of Boomer kidnapping Hera off Galactica to give to Cavil, Helo was a mess. The way he was practically crying in front of Adama as he asked him for a Raptor to find Hera just about killed me. It was perfectly in character and completely understandable, but wow, it was hard to see the even-keeled Helo losing his mind like that.
And at this point, I have to say it seems ridiculous that Adama wouldn’t let Helo and Sharon take a Raptor to find Hera. How many times has he used the entire resources at his disposal to go and find Starbuck? This is a man who stepped down from commanding the ship to go find his girlfriend in almost equally hopeless case. How can he look a teary-eyed Helo in the eye and say “get over it”? It really does feel like Adama’s lost all sense of perspective at this point, and I’m not sure what to make of that. It does make it hard to sympathize with him.
Sharon Agathon: Not So Different After All
Watching Helo trying to get Athena to admit that she hates him and her just crying to the point of muteness just crushed my heart. And lately, to be honest, I have found her to be an occasionally creepy character that I don’t know if I should really trust.
Nevertheless, a friend of mine made a comment that I hadn’t thought of and I think she was dead on with it: What bothers Athena far more than her husband was sort of unfaithful to her (because he really didn’t know, and I’m sure she realizes that) is this: She’s devoted her every waking moment on Galactica to proving that she’s different from Boomer, that she’s different from the Eights, that she’s different from any other Cylon. That difference is what has shaped her identity in the last three years, and it has been the basis of the humans’ trust in her. Now, in one single day, all that has been ripped away from her. The irony is, of course, that the way Boomer sees it, Athena ripped her entire life away from her, so turnabout is fair play, but that is not Athena’s view, and from her viewpoint, Boomer’s little trick has had more devastating consequences than Boomer probably ever thought out.
Boomer and Hera: The Kidnapped Daughters of Galactica
Again, I have to credit a friend with this insight, but it is so true I couldn’t not use it: When Boomer got shot off the Galactica and into her own personal Cylon hell, it was truly akin to a kidnapping. She woke up handcuffed to a tank of goo not knowing where she was. She was one of Galactica’s kids, brutally snatched from a family that loved her. She was brought to a basestar to serve the needs of others who had little sympathy for her. This is why Boomer both hated and now cries for Hera – because she is dark reflection of Boomer herself, and Boomer only now realizes it as she hands Hera over to Cavil. Much like the abused child who sometimes gets the courage to stand up to an abuser when they see the horror about to be repeated upon younger siblings, I think Boomer is going to come up swinging at Cavil pretty damn hard next episode. I’m sure of it. He’s all complacent in his belief that Boomer is his “pet Eight,” but I think she will take him out.
Baltar and Caprica Six Reunite:
Except they don’t. What a sad and anticlimactic ending to the relationship that started this whole conflict between man and machine. Can that really be the sum total of these two characters’ arc with each other? I sincerely hope not, because that would be unfair not only to the fans who have invested all sorts of time and energy to watching their twisted relationship evolve and devolve, but also to the actors who spent so much time creating all these ugly-beautiful nuances to the relationship between Gaius Baltar and Caprica Six. At this point, I feel like I know more about their relationship quirks than my parents’.
Nevertheless, the actors did amazing things with what little they were given. James Callis makes Baltar’s hurt, dismay and helplessness at the way Caprica misreads his offer of assistance utterly palpable, while Tricia Helfer manages to pack a multitude of emotions – ranging from outrage to regret – into one extremely loaded gaze.
But then of course, the show turned around and made me all angry with Baltar again, on the turn of a dime. When he outed Starbuck, I wanted to do more than slap him. Baltar, hon, I love you and all, but your sense of timing sucks. Still, I think he actually might believe his own spiel about angels walking among us. He might really think that Starbuck is one of those angels. But what would he do with such a revelation? Nothing, as far as they have told us. It’s a little frustrating. I mean, I get the impression that Kara sort of manipulated him into something like that, even if she did slap him. (Incidentally, what happened to the real Kara Thrace? In a previous season, Baltar would have totally gotten punched for something like that. Or at least kneed in the groin.)
As for Baltar, I’m understand that in real life, personal change isn’t something that necessarily is linear and permanent, but seriously, Baltar’s character has been seesawing back and forth between growth and regression in each episode for all of Season 4. I wish the writers would just decide to let Baltar grow, if that’s what they want him to do. Or else, stop tantalizing us with that possibility and declare him an immature git and be done with it.
Sam Anders: Galactica’s Hybrid
Remember back in Season 4.0 when Sam was so curious about his newfound Cylon identity that he came *this close* to sticking his hand in the Cylon goo? Well, poor Sammy got his wish and much, much more this week, when the rebel Cylons on Galactica decided to try and wake him up from his coma by sticking in him in a goo bath and hooking him up to the data stream, just like their basestar hybrids. And sure, enough, that’s what Sam has clearly become – a true Cyborg, spouting the same technobabble and eerily schizophrenic nonsense that we saw from the Hybrid in Season 3. (One part that made me laugh a lot, even as I was ready to cry over poor Sam’s fate was the bit where in the middle of his babbling, Sam recites the lines in monotone: “There’s a hole in the bucket. Dear Liza, dear Liza.” Yes, indeed Sammy, there certainly is.)
Kara’s monologue to Sam sums up the interesting parallels between Kara and her husband these days. They are both lost souls, both resurrected from the dead with seemingly no sense of self or purpose. While Kara might not be spouting Sammy’s mostly unintelligible nonsense, certainly she is wandering around Galactica with little purpose, with little sense of what or who she is, and with no relationships with the other people on Galactica, who shy away from her in suspicion at her ambiguous identity. Baltar may refer to her as one of the “angels” that walk among us, but other than the ability to speak coherently, how much more alive is Starbuck than Anders? And the way things are going, Sam may turn out to be more useful to the humans than Kara does.
Bill Adama: Get Over It
I really wish the writers weren’t making Adama so barely likable in all these Season 4.5 episodes. It was really hard to sympathize with his somewhat valid point to Helo that a search-and-rescue was a needle in a haystack that would probably get two of his best soldiers killed when he was telling Helo things like “get over” the loss of Hera (a second time, I might add). I get that they are pushing Adama towards complete disintegration, much like they are doing with Galactica itself. I smell a suicide-by-mission for Bill coming, but seriously, he’s drinking in *every* scene. It’s like the writers don’t want us to have any respect for him anymore. When he took off his pins and walked into his quarters, the way it was shot, I honestly thought there was a 50-50 chance he might walk in there and off himself. Seriously, though. If he drinks and emotes over the Cylon goop one more time, I may not mourn his death very much, which incidentally, he seems very ready to embrace.
However, I have to admit that I totally enjoyed his sickbay scene with Roslin, especially when she pulled out a joint and lit it up (although seriously, be careful, Fleet Mom, that’s OXYGEN you’re lighting up next to. While I had some problems with some of the words coming out of Roslin’s mouth – like being okay with the fact that Bill probably loves a hunk of metal more than he loves her, and with her death being more about her man’s needs than about hers – I did love the scene overall for the easy intimacy between Fleet Mom and Dad and the recall to the conversation on New Caprica these two shared about having a life outside of being asexual martyrs for the human race. The sickbay scene was one of the few scenes that made me laugh. Still: Roslin saying she hasn’t felt truly at home anywhere until her relationship blossomed with Bill? Ugh. Laura is so much more than some man’s dying girlfriend. I appreciate the romance between Laura and Bill, but I wish Laura didn’t have to sacrifice her personhood for it.
I liked the montage of all the different funerals – military and civilian, human and Cylon. To me, it felt like a clear foreshadowing of the idea that the humans and Cylons are going to need to unite or die. Their attempts to unite are not going so well so far, given all the arguing and bad feelings we saw this week in the Cylon-Human repairs of Galactica and in the Quorum, so I’m curious as to how the writers are going to resolve that in only two episodes.
I was intrigued by Baltar’s call for everyone to embrace death, as much as I was annoyed with Baltar’s timing and delivery of said message. Baltar’s call sounded a lot like Adama’s decision to abandon ship and accept that Galactica’s dying. Is everyone going to die at the end of the series and be resurrected somehow, just like Kara? Is that where we’re going? Are we going to see long-dead characters come to life once the Galactica self-destructs? Or does Ron Moore simply have the bleakest or bleakest of endings in store for us? At this point, I almost don’t care what the ending is, as long as our characters get some peace, finally.
Finally, I loved the last little scene with Adama and Tigh sitting on Adama’s sofa, with Bill’s painting of the First Cylon War a backdrop. It’s such a great shot that says so much with so little: Bill and Saul met in the aftermath of the first conflict with the Cylons, and that war imprinted itself so heavily on their personalities. It may very well have been what turned Saul into a drunk, and Bill into the dysfunctional father he’s been to Lee and all his faux children on Galactica. But it’s also what made them into the men who rose to the occasion under the most unimaginable of circumstances – the near-total Apocalypse of the human race. To have that shot in this episode that’s wrestling with the need to put aside the mindset that molded Bill Adama and Saul Tigh is really kind of elegant.