Battlestar Galactica & Caprica Reviews

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BSG - Season 4 - Episode 10

BSG - 4x10 - Sine Qua Non - Originally Aired: 2008-5-27

My Rating - 7

Fan Rating Average - 4.68

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Synopsis
As Natalie dies amid a haze of visions, Admiral Adama banishes her murderer, Sharon Agathon, to the brig. Meanwhile, the rebel Cylon baseship has jumped away inexplicably, carrying Roslin, Baltar and many of Galactica's pilots. Have Roslin and the others have been kidnapped? That's the consensus.

The President's absence creates an especially chaotic leadership vacuum because Adama doesn't trust Vice President Tom Zarek. With Zarek's grudging permission, Lee Adama recruits eccentric lawyer Romo Lampkin to seek an interim president that the Admiral and the Quorum of Twelve will follow.

Adama is quietly agonizing over Roslin's fate, but he has no idea where to start searching for her until a battered Raptor jumps into view. It's the same one that carried Roslin to the baseship, but pilot Eammon "Gonzo" Pike the only one aboard, and he's dead. Adama angers the Quorum by jumping the Galactica to where Pike's Raptor came from, leaving the fleet undefended.

There, the Galactica discovers wreckage from human and Cylon ships, and possibly from the elusive Cylon resurrection hub itself. Tigh speculates that the hub was destroyed and the humans lost in a battle, but Adama refuses to accept that Roslin is dead. Although Adama returns to the fleet, he leaves Raptors behind to continue the search, straining resources and risking lives.

Next, Doc Cottle drops a bombshell on the overburdened Admiral: Caprica Six is pregnant. Knowing of Tigh's interrogation sessions with the Cylon prisoner, Adama guesses who the father is and furiously confronts Tigh. Tigh — shocked by the news that he may be a parent — fires back, accusing Adama of letting his emotions rule his decisions regarding Roslin. The fight escalates and the two men come to blows before wryly reconciling.

With voices on all sides warning him that he is too emotionally involved in the search for Roslin, Adama eventually decides to relinquish his command until the President is found.

Soon afterward, Romo Lampkin tells Lee that his hunt for an interim President is over: He has decided that Lee himself would be the best candidate.

Then Lampkin, an unstable man filled with grief and guilt, pulls a gun. He demands to know why the human race, imperfect and doomed, deserves to have hope. At gunpoint, Lee defends his idealism, insisting that he can help lead humanity to a better future. Lampkin spares Lee's life, and the younger Adama is sworn in as the interim president of the Twelve Colonies.

After the ceremony, Admiral Adama formally turns command of the Galactica over to Tigh. Adama isn't going to stop searching for Roslin, but he will no longer endanger the fleet to find her. Instead, he has a new plan that will risk only one life — his own. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- Aren't direct references to Freudian psychology and Latin phrases pushing the realism a bit?
- Zarek makes a reference to the government of "the past five years." However, it has in actuality been less than four years since Roslin rose to power.

Factoids
- Survivors, according to the main title: 39674. Up one, inexplicably.
- The gun Lampkin assaults Lee with is the same model that was seen owned by Tom Zarek in the second season.
- This episode establishes that Lee's full name is Leeland Joseph Adama.

Remarkable Scenes
- Amidst the chaos, Adama assessing his losses, the Cylon rebel leader dying, Zarek ascending to the presidency.
- Adama confronting Athena.
- Racetrack investigating the sudden appearance of one of the missing raptors.
- Romo psychoanalyzing Lee, comparing his repressed ambition with Roslin's.
- Romo and Lee observing the Galactica jumping away inexplicably, without warning.
- Galactica investigating the ruins of the Cylon resurrection hub, discovering at least one colonial viper in the wreckage.
- Adama confronting Tigh about impregnating Caprica Six.
- Adama's and Tigh's fight.
- Adama regarding his (once again) broken model ship: "You know how many times I've had to repair this thing?"
- Starbuck, regarding Adama's mission orders: "My people are gonna feel like they're being asked to go on suicide missions." Adama: "I'm not asking."
- Lampkin talking down Adama from his reckless quest to find Roslin but failing to get him to accept Zarek as president.
- Adama: "There are limits to my realism."
- Lamkpin informing Lee that he's the perfect choice to serve as the interim president, shortly before freaking out at him with a gun.
- Lee talking down Lampkin, convincing him to have some hope after all.
- Lee being sworn in as President of the Twelve Colonies.
- Adama taking off alone in a raptor to wait for Roslin while the rest of the fleet jumps to safety.

My Review
Normally I would complain about not being able to see the battle which destroyed the Cylon resurrection hub, but this episode manages to milk the bottle show effect to its fullest potential as a result of that.

The mysterious disappearance of a large swath of our characters in the prior episode isn't explained at all here which allows us to really feel the effect of the mystery and the panic it creates within the fleet. This episode focuses solely on the various different reactions to this sudden event within the fleet, fully exploring the implications of a number of different radical, sudden changes.

The first, and most interesting is the ascension of Zarek to the presidency. As is expected, Adama was unfond of that notion and effectively blocked it from happening. What's most interesting though is how that happened. Instead of focusing the entire episode on Adama playing politics with Zarek, he simply stopped caring about the civilian government at all, much like in the events of Kobol's Last Gleaming. But instead of staging a coup, Adama proceeded to be governed by simple apathy, best exemplified by when he jumped Galactica away from the fleet without warning. A powerful scene.

The full effect of Adama's disapproval of Zarek is observed, but moreover we get to see Adama obsess over finding a way to retrieve Roslin and his missing pilots; a set of behaviors not unprecedented at all. Motivated solely by his anger and rapidly losing his objectivity, he lashes out at everyone around him, including Tigh, as he did in You Can't Go Home Again. Though I think Tigh probably deserved some browbeating for his actions. More on that later.

Adama's story culminates in a beautiful moment of clarity motivated by Romo Lampkin of all people convincing Adama to back off from his irrational quest for the sake of the fleet's safety. This forces Adama to realize that while he cannot let go of his obsession, he can at least obsess without endangering the fleet. In one of the most touching endings for an episode so far, "Husker" climbs in a raptor to wait for his lost love to return to him, all alone in the night.

There is much else to praise as well. Lee's ascension to the presidency was not without its predictability, but was simply the inevitable strongest choice for the show's overarching narrative. Pairing that with Zarek's reckless behavior spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt among the quorum; having them "inhaling fear and exhaling anger" as Lee put it was a great way to turn Lee against Zarek for the first time in a long while. I loved Zarek's line pointing out his resentment of the fact that he was actually elected to office whereas Roslin wasn't.

Perhaps an even better line was Adama telling Athena that she "murdered an innocent woman" when he was referring to the leader Six. It's fascinating how Adama seems to simply casually consider the Cylons to be people now, not inhuman things without rights. Finally, using Lampkin to force Lee to realize that he's the perfect choice for president was quite apt as well. I especially liked the whole repressed ambition analysis. Quite right.

The biggest problem with the episode stems from how Lampkin's character behaved. His apathy and eventual nervous breakdown simply weren't very compelling and frankly, to me, did a disservice to his character. Certainly it added some humanity to him, but it also removed so much of his gravitas. I liked the fact that Lee saw he was depressed and recruited him into the interim president search for that reason, but the way Romo's depression and Romo's eventual conclusion that Lee was the best choice for interim president were mashed together seemed something of a mismatch to me.

Specifically, the entire nervous breakdown scene mashed together Romo's personal apathy with his apathy regarding hope for humanity seemingly triggered by the death of his cat at the hands of those who hated him for defending Baltar. His lashing out at Lee is motivated by his belief that Lee's the best hope for humanity, but since he's concluded that hope is pointless then there's no reason to prolong humanity's demise. In Romo's mind, killing Lee symbolically forces humanity to accept its hopelessness.

This all makes sense, but it plays in the episode like it's trying to be some grand revelation as it is at this time (explicitly anyway) the audience is clued into the fact that Romo's cat has been dead for weeks, as if anyone really cares. Moreover, Romo goes off on a guilt rant, expressing his disgust with himself over saving himself at the expense of friends and family, forcing Lee to give an entirely unnecessary speech pointing out the fact that everyone alive in the fleet had to do the same thing. As a result of all this, the scene comes off as some sort of half-assed attempt at manufactured danger rather than a touching character moment for Romo, or some sort of pointed philosophical statement.

Other missteps the episode makes are of course the reprisal of the Ellen-as-Six aesthetic, but more importantly the idea that Tigh has impregnated Caprica Six. There is an obvious technical problem associated with this, as it is established in The Farm that Cylons cannot procreate with each other. I'm sure this can and will be explained later. It can easily be written off now as "the final five are different." Still, it comes off as rather weak. The same confrontation between Tigh and Adama could have been achieved by simply having Adama discover that they've been having sex. The pregnancy was unnecessary. That said, let's hope she has the baby. That would certainly be interesting. ;)

All in all, a very well done episode. Normally, the bottle show isolation aesthetic alone would make this episode lose significant points, but here it works quite to this episode's advantage. I rather preferred not seeing the Cylons in this episode and I quite enjoyed watching the Galactica investigate the battle only in its aftermath, always seeming to be one step behind the Cylons.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Sean on 2010-11-02 at 8:21pm:
    That was the best episode of BSG in a while. I much preferred this episode to "Guess What's Coming to Dinner?", it was nice to see the show focus on the characters, and none of this vague religious mumbo-jumbo or prophecy crap. To be honest, it reminded me of season 1, with the feeling of isolation and helplessness. Having Adama take centre stage, after several episodes not doing much (or not appearing at all) was probably what made the episode so great.

    My only complaint is Lee ascending to the presidency so quickly, and the fact that nobody said something along the lines of, "Oh, great, we've got Adama as our president and his dad in charge of the military."

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