By the Fireside Bright

January 17, 2009

A review by millari *Spoilers behind the cut*

Kara's quest for answers lead to more questions.

Kara's quest for answers only leads to more questions.

At the end of Battlestar Galactica’s Season 4.0, the Fleet found Earth and made the shocking discovery that it was actually an irradiated dirtpile. With the beginning of Season 4.5, the episode “Sometimes a Great Notion,” rumored to get its title from  the old folk song, “Goodnight Irene,” (Sometimes I take a great notion/to jump in the river and drown) endeavors to show us who in the Fleet is able to bounce back from this cosmic rug-pull, and who is falling into despair.

Who is on which list is sometimes quite surprising. But before we talk about that, the question we’ve all been wondering about for months: What the heck is this ruined Earth anyway?

Well, our first answer comes when they dig up several skeletons from around the planet and analyze them. They find out that the nuclear attack occurred 2,000 years ago, and shockingly, Earth was populated completely by Cylons. Yep, the 13th Tribe were Cylons. By implication we are all Cylons. I can’t even get my head around the implications of that right now.

Meanwhile, Tigh, Tyrol, Tory and Anders realize they used to live on this planet and that it most likely had to have been our Earth, in roughly our time. How do we know? Anders finds a guitar neck buried in the sand and remembers playing “All Along the Watchtower”. Tigh, Tyrol and Tory remember him playing it for them. Meanwhile, Tyrol has visions of himself in an open-air market that looks suspiciously reminiscent of the Riverwalk Market from the Miniseries. He then sees a flash of light that seems to be Earth being nuked.

Tyrol, Anders and Tory seem to have been innocent bystanders in the nuking of Earth 2,000 years ago. But at the end of the episode, Tigh is compelled to wander off the beach into the river, where he finally has his flashback – of himself in a suit and tie in the same marketplace, with the same nuclear attack occurring. However, we also see him in the aftermath of the attack, struggling to pull someone out of the rubble of a building.

That someone turns out to be his wife Ellen, who is trapped and dying under the rubble, but nevertheless reassures him, “It’s okay. It’s all in place. We’ll be reborn, together.” When he awakens out of his reverie, he decides that Ellen was the fifth Cylon.

Is she? Furthermore, Ellen’s words seem to imply that she was behind the mastermind behind the nuking of Earth. If so, why? What happened to her when she died? Did she reincarnate again? Do the Final Five download by reincarnating into newborns? And if so, who has Ellen reincarnated into? Or who will she reincarnate into? Could she be reincarnating into Caprica Six’s embryo? Will we ever find out what she did to nuke Earth?

We may never know any of these answers, because it seems like they’re about to leave Earth, just as we got here, after we struggled for years on the journey. I personally would prefer not to leave before we learn more about what happened on Earth and how it happened. But next week’s promos seem to imply that we are going to focus back on what’s going on in the Fleet.

Speaking of the Fleet, many of our heroes are reacting to devastated Earth by falling into despair. First up, Fleet Mom and Dad:

Laura Roslin reacts to the shock of Earth by returning silently to Galactica about as quickly as she can, refusing to address (and thereby lead) the throng of deck crew and pilots waiting for her on the hangar deck as she exits her Raptor with baited breath, pushing Bill Adama away, and burning the scrolls of Pythia. She seems done with living, having refused to show up or reschedule her Doloxan treatment. When Bill finds her burning the scrolls, he can do nothing but leave her keening in mourning for her lost visions of Earth.

Bill, like everyone else on ship, turns to Laura for leadership, because it turns out that he can’t get himself to lead either. His most active move is to storm off to Colonel Tigh’s quarters with a loaded revolver and goad Tigh with insults about their friendship and about Tigh’s wife Ellen, as a ploy to get Tigh to shoot him, because as Tigh figures out, “you don’t have the frakking guts to do it yourself.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tigh – known throughout the series as a frequent screw-up and alcoholic – turns out to be one of the people who are bouncing back from the shock of finding a devastated Earth. Tigh gives him the toughlove talk Adama needs to hear – that he doesn’t have the luxury to give in to despair, that his crew and the remnants of the human race need him to lead them from here. By the end of the episode, Adama is back in the CIC promising to find a new home for the Fleet (who also seem to have fallen into despair and are lingering aimlessly in Galactica‘s hallways against the backdrop of “Frak Earth” graffitti on the walls).

But this attempt to find a way back to hope comes too late for some.

First and foremost on that list is Lieutenant Anastasia “Dee” Dualla.

Since Season 1, Dee has been a stout, unwavering crew member wherever she goes and a font of hope to the Adama men: In Season 2, she convinced Fleet Dad to “put the family back together”, and go find Roslin on Caprica. In Season 3, she rousted her husband Lee Adama out of uselessness and despair over the Cylon takeover of New Caprica. So it’s a particularly effective (and chilling) decision to have Dee lose all hope. It begins while  she is still on Earth and finds a child’s tiny rubber ball and jacks set, barely buried in the beach, and begins to cry. On the Raptor ride back to Galactica, Helo notices her chanting softly and unselfconsciously to herself, “Don’t give up, don’t give up.”

On Galactica, Dee briefly goes through the motions of having hope: We see her laughing with Hera, babysitting for the Agathons (finally we know who the heck took care of Hera while the Agathons were on the Demetrius!), and going out on what seems like a rebound date with Lee. When her bunkmate, Felix Gaeta – looking wan and awkward as he hops around on his amputated leg – teases her that she is practically “glowing,” she shoos him away with a serene smile, telling him, “Just let me hang on to this feeling as long as I can.”

As soon as Gaeta leaves, with the steady and and determined hand that has always been a part of the Dee we’ve known, she picks up her revolver, calmly puts it to her temple and fires – sending her best buddy Felix, her ex Lee, and her father figure Bill Adama into numbness and confusion as they try to understand her death.

RIP Anastasia Dualla. We never truly knew you, but I suspect your death will resonate into the near future, as the people close to you decide how to proceed from here. CIC may have quickly replaced you with Hoshi, but they will not so easily replace your voice of conscience at their shoulders.

Other surprising members on the list of the despairing are Leoben and D’Anna, both strong, even willful characters, who always believed in the possibilities of taking matters into one’s own hands and charging into one’s destiny.  D’Anna tells Tigh she is not leaving with the rest of the Fleet to find a new home. It’s just going to be the same thing over and over again, she tells him, so why bother? She’d prefer to die on the home planet of her ancestors. (By the way, no one bothers to ask her who the final Cylon is, perhaps the most evident sign of how much of a gutpunch irradiated Earth has turned out to be.)

Meanwhile, Leoben – whose unwavering, oblivious belief in a higher purpose for everything has practically defined his character over four seasons – has his own deep gutpunch to the soul to deal with. Ever since Season 1, he has focused on Starbuck as his beacon of purpose, so it makes sense that he would accompany Starbuck on her quest to find answers once they finally get to Earth. However, when the two of them find the Colonial distress signal and Kara’s pristine Viper containing her body – complete with dogtags – Leoben falls into shock and despair.

Stunned at their discovery, Kara turns to Leoben for answers, but he is left speechless and backing away from her, realizing he was wrong and his dreams of a higher purpose seem dashed. He runs off, practically in terror, while Kara is understandably asking the question, “What am I?” Is she a ghost? A clone? A reconstituted set of atoms? But unlike the Dylan Four, Kara has no idea what she is.

However, the one spot of good news is that Kara does seem to be on the list of people who are finding a way to pick up and go on. Having been abandoned by Leoben, she makes a funeral pyre all on her own and burns her Viper and her own body, so that no one will know the truth. Also, in an uncharacteristically mature move, this version of Kara decides to turn to others for help, namely Lee. However, he is too busy mourning Dee’s death, and so that revelation will have to wait for later.

Other folks who have managed to hold it together – besides Kara and the Dylan Four, include Lee, who prods Roslin (to no avail) to tell the people what is going on with Earth and who ends up making  an inspiring speech to the Quorum himself about them finding a new home, and surprisingly Baltar, seen away from his cult and in his lab, wearing his lab coat and “Didn’t you know I’m a genius?” glasses (which we haven’t seen since Season 3), analyzing the Cylon skeletons.

By the end of the episode, Adama may be back in the game again, but it’s unlikely that the despair we saw throughout Galactica (and presumably the Fleet) is going to go away that easily. If next week’s promos are to be believed, not everyone is just going to “man up” and help Adama look for their new home.

After an episode of thinking very big and mythological, it looks like we are headed for a much smaller episode next week, focused on more everyday concerns like who the frak should be running the Fleet, and how. Stay tuned.


  1. I agree that Dee’s reaction to the news of Earth was surprising, yet all that much more poignant for being the one whose strength just ran out. Another great review, Millari!

    Here’s a link to a great interview in the Chicago Tribune (http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2009/01/final-fifth-cylon-ellen-tigh-battlestar-galactica-dualla-dee-.html#more) in which we find out much about the episode, including the inspiration for the episode title being a novel of the same name by Ken Kesey, perhaps inspired by the same folk song you mention.

    No clue as to what Starbuck is. More stumped than ever by Leoben’s response too…

  2. […] be the last; the population count will probably drop sharply in the next few episodes. Indeed, The 13th Colony notes that the depth of despair felt by the people of the Colonies is so deep and dire that nobody […]

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