Battlestar Galactica & Caprica Reviews

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BSG - Season 3 - Episode 20

BSG - 3x20 - Crossroads, Part 2 - Originally Aired: 2007-3-25

My Rating - 4

Fan Rating Average - 5.95

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Synopsis
Tigh, Anders, Tyrol and President Roslin's assistant Tory Foster are all now hearing — or hallucinating — a strange song aboard the Galactica.

Roslin, meanwhile, is recovering in the ship's infirmary after her first major cancer treatment. There, she experiences another vision of the opera house through which she, Athena and Six pursue the toddler Hera.

Waking with a start, Roslin is shocked to discover that Six, Athena and Hera have shared the identical vision. Like those hearing music, none of these women can find an answer for their perplexing experience.

At Baltar's trial, the defense is teetering on the edge of defeat. To save his client, Romo Lampkin moves for a mistrial because Lee Adama has heard his father — a judge — make biased statements against Baltar in private.

Lee reluctantly takes the witness chair. Instead of admitting his father's prejudice, however, he makes a compelling speech on behalf of his client, arguing that President Roslin has forgiven countless misdeeds since the fleet's long journey began, and Baltar should be treated no differently.

Lampkin rests his case after this eloquent statement, and soon, the judges determine by a vote of three to two that Baltar cannot be considered guilty. The courtroom erupts into chaos. The last duty that Lee and Lampkin perform for their client is to whisk him away from the mob to safety. After that, Baltar is a free man — but he's also on his own in a hostile fleet.

Roslin is disgusted with the verdict, and her relationship with Adama is shaken when she learns that he voted to release Baltar. They must set aside their conflict, however, when the fleet finally arrives at the Ionian Nebula.

As the Galactica scans this waystation on the route to Earth, the entire fleet abruptly loses power. In the darkness and confusion that follow, Tigh, Tyrol, Tory and Anders are nearly overcome by the insistent song, and they each follow it to an obscure workout room on the Galactica. When they lock eyes with each other, they guess the obvious but horrifying explanation for the mental summons that they've obeyed: they must all be Cylons.

At that moment, a massive Cylon armada bursts onto the scene. Lee Adama joins his old Viper crew and flies out in defense of the Galactica. In the light of the mysterious nebula, to his shock, Kara Thrace appears in a Viper next to him. Seemingly back from the dead, she has come bearing a message of cosmic importance... [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- This episode did not feature the opening "the Cylons were created by man" opening scene, or any opening credits.
- The lyrical song prominently featured in this episode is Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower, originally written in 1967. The lyrics are as follows: "There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief / "There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief / Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth / None of them along the line know what any of it is worth" / "No reason to get excited," the thief, he kindly spoke / "There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke / But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate / So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late" / All along the watchtower, princes kept the view / While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too / Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl / Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl

Remarkable Scenes
- Lampkin, on agreeing with Lee about going for a mistrial: "Our tactical victories are pissing them off." Baltar: "Right. So now because we're winning, we're losing, actually." Lampkin: "Perverse, isn't it? One of the reasons why I love what I do."
- Roslin, Athena, and Caprica Six sharing a communal vision about Hera.
- Apollo's monologue while on the stand about the purpose of Baltar's trial.
- Baltar getting a not guilty.
- Romo Lampkin's exit, putting the sunglasses back on and abandoning the cane, subtly revealing that the cane must have never been necessary to begin with.
- The revelation that Admiral Adama was the swing vote that decided Baltar's freedom.
- Tigh, Anders, Tory, and Tyrol all converging on the same room, driven there by the madness the song they all hear has caused them.
- The Cylons showing up.
- Starbuck showing up and claiming she's been to Earth and will show the fleet the way there.

My Review
Crossroads, Part 2 is difficult episode to assign a rating to, because while parts of this episode are worth a great deal of praise, by and large the episode walks the suspension of disbelief line pretty hard. That said, this episode never did quite cross that line. As such its other merits make up the rating I gave it. The numerous fantastic smaller details of the episode not only keep the episode's rating out of the gutter, but also manage to raise the episode slightly above its predecessor in overall quality.

So what provokes me to rate this rather obvious milestone in the course of the show so low? Well, lots of reasons that all add up to a big stinker. First thing's first, like the episode's predecessor, the handling of Baltar's trial was particularly weak. Thankfully, this time around my overall feeling of boredom regarding the proceedings vanished, but instead it's been replaced by a feeling of incompetency and a distinct lack of realism.

Three things stand out as being wrong with the trial. 1. Caprica Six was never put on the stand despite hints in The Son Also Rises that at least one of the two sides had an interest in doing so, 2. the move for a mistrial was completely forgotten, and 3. the prosecution never got a chance to make their closing statements. Neither did the defense, but Lee's monologue definitely counts as a de facto closing statement. In addition to this, Baltar acted like a bumbling buffoon throughout the whole episode with his rampant disrespect for his allies, his inability to comprehend legal strategy, and his overwhelming arrogance (even for him) during and after the trial. It seemed out of character.

Moving beyond the trial, the dream sequence scene which we now know is communally shared by Roslin, Six, Athena, and presumably Hera still felt rather pointless. It serves more of a purpose this time around than it did in the last episode, but like much of the rest of the episode, it gave us more questions than answers. The vision seems to be a manifestation of Cylon projection, but why is Roslin affected? Is it because she has some of Hera's blood in her? What is the meaning behind the vision? Why wasn't more time in the episode spent on exploring the ramifications of this?

For that matter, frankly, I don't feel emotionally invested in Roslin's character at all anymore. When we first found out she had cancer again, it was done so casually I thought she was lying. It should have been the big cliffhanger during the last episode! In this episode, only a tiny amount of time is spent dealing with Roslin's cancer; once again it's on the back burner. And once again I feel emotionally detached from it. Just like my criticism of the last episode, Roslin's cancer should have been the front and center issue of this episode. For gods' sakes, the president is dying! And they're focusing half the episode's plot on four random characters going crazy hearing a Bob Dylan song?

And that of course brings us to our wonky cliffhanger. Regardless of whether or not Tigh, Anders, Tory, and Tyrol really are Cylons, the reason they're all communally hearing a mysterious song no one else can hear is not made clear. I suppose it's possible that it too is a manifestation of Cylon projection (like the opera house dreams), but frankly I'm having a hard time buying the idea that all these characters are all Cylons to begin with. With Tory and Anders I'm able to see it as a viable possibility. But with Tyrol and especially Tigh it's a tough pill to swallow. In Tyrol's case, Cavil told him directly that he's not a Cylon. Granted, there's no reason to take Cavil's word for it, but the aesthetic of the scene in its broader context leads me to believe Cavil knows this to be true. Especially seeing as how Cavil seems to know things about the final five none of the other Cylons know. As for Tigh, he fought in the original Cylon war against the Centurions! His existence in the Twelve Colonies predates the presumed invention of the humanoid Cylons!

Granted for all we know this episode is just misdirection; maybe none of these characters are Cylons and the point of the plot is to get the characters to believe that they are. But like all the overarching thematic mysticism this show has had to offer this season, the implications are left vague. Similarly, the return of Starbuck was equally confusing. How did she survive the explosion of her viper? Where did she get another one? How did she get all the way to the nebula? For that matter, how did she reach Earth? Is she a Cylon? Did Apollo just imagine the whole experience? What caused the fleet-wide power surge in the first place thus making time for the whole rendezvous with Starbuck thing? And why was power restored shortly afterward? The implications are, once again, left overly vague.

All of this scored to a cover of a 1960s psychedelic classic rock song by Bob Dylan for no apparent reason. Bear McCreary's rendition of it is absolutely fantastic, but I don't think that a classic rock song, even a well reinterpreted one quite belongs in the Battlestar Galactica universe. The whole ending just leaves me with bad flashbacks of Galactica 1980. If that's happening, there's obviously something aesthetically wrong with the episode.

The basic problem here is that a good story leaves its audience with most strongly an emotional impact rather than lingering questions. The best impression to leave your audience with after the emotional impact is "wow, that was incredible, I can't wait to see what happens next!" Kobol's Last Gleaming and Pegasus did this masterfully. I didn't quite get that feeling in Lay Down Your Burdens, and even less so during The Eye of Jupiter. Crossroads, Part 2 takes the issues that Lay Down Your Burdens and The Eye of Jupiter had and multiplies them. Even more so than those two episodes, the audience is primarily left emotionally detached from the story, confusedly wondering why things happened the way they did rather than enthusiastically wondering what happens next. Battlestar Galactica has been slipping into this inferior style of storytelling slowly and consistently over the last season and a half causing overall episode quality to diminish significantly.

In the end though while the storytelling and the aesthetic of this episode is irritating, nothing that happens in this episode can't ultimately be rationalized later even if making four or five main "good guy" characters Cylons is what the writers really intend on doing despite the issues it brings up and the overall lack of taste. Indeed, beyond that this episode features tidbits of masterful writing. In particular, Apollo's monologue in court about the purpose of Baltar's trial was brilliant, along with Romo Lampkin's final scene. The symbolism of abandoning the apparently unnecessary cane and restoring the sunglasses is a fantastic detail and the acting in this episode was its usual high quality, especially Tigh and Apollo.

This may be the worst executed of the major cliffhangers Battlestar Galactica has had to offer so far, but despite the radical departure and downgrade in storytelling style, this episode does manage to succeed in remaining true to what kind of show BSG is: an innovative science fiction drama willing to go in crazy, risky directions to keep things interesting. And while the stories may not be as finely crafted and as emotionally powerful as they used to be, they remain at the very least still quite interesting. At least we still have that.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Bruno on 2007-03-27 at 2:58am:
    Look at the fan rating. This is the most divisive episode ever. Frankly, we will only be able to judge it properly after we see how the 'hidden five' thread is resolved.
  • From Kethinov on 2007-03-27 at 5:41pm:
    I disagree. It's my personal policy, as I stated in Flesh and Bone, never to rate an episode based on what might come after it, but only to rate the episode based on its individual merits. This one comes off as so vague that I cannot really rate it as the awesome epic turning point of the series that I believe most people want to see it as. Instead, I can only *hope* the implications of this episode are great and rate the first episode of season 4 accordingly.
  • From Bruno on 2007-03-27 at 10:39pm:
    I see your point. And of course you can only rate what you saw, not what you expect to see. So perhaps I should say that I found this episode's story instigating, and that the revelations were sufficiently credible to maintains suspension of disbelief. Of course if the story is resolved in an awkward or silly manner in season 4 it could ruin the show.

    But I still think hindsight can ruin (or, more rarely) improve an episode in a tightly-woven story. My appreciation of the X-files was almost ruined by the last 2 seasons, for instance. Just imagine if 04x01 opens with a Cavill and a Tyrol lauguing maniacaly as an Enders proclaims 'Our plans are finally coming together! Bwahahaha!!'. I would want to do things to Ron Moore that would make the closing animations look mild!
  • From Brian on 2007-11-25 at 11:17pm:
    I believe that Crossroads, part 2 is actually a better cliffhanger than even Kobol's Last Gleaming. It's all about whether you buy into what's happening. You don't, and many fans don't, but I, and many others, do. BSG has moved past being the realistic show it was in season 1, and really amplified the attention on its mythos, which I, for one, consider one of the strengths of this show.

    In Crossroads, we have Roslin getting her cancer back. This a wonderful thing. As Ron Moore has said, she hasn't played as big a role this season, in part because she's been cured and they don't know what to have her do. This also reopens her role as The Leader. In many ways, Crossroads is getting the show back on track.

    We have the realization of the 4 Cylons. I think this is brilliant. I know you have problems with Tigh having fought in the original Cylon war, but Moore has said that before they even committed to it, the writers made sure they had a very good explanation. As he has said, the final five are fundamentally very different cylons.

    But the most important thing is the advancement of the mythos. We have Starbuck returning. BAM. She's been to Earth. She knows where it is. She's going to take us there. And she's been off ...somewhere... probably dead, but now she's returned. This is some pretty meaty stuff. (I also think that Starbucks final words here really make the best cliffhanger moment in the history of television. Well, at least that I have seen (which is admittedly more than I'd like to say I've watched)).

    We have the realization that there is a second hybrid child, Nicholas Tyrol, which means that even though Hera has been on the backburner this season, the hybrid child story will play a good role in season 4. If it weren't going to, why else would they bring in another hybrid child?

    We have the dreams, linking Laura and Six and Sharon, perhaps Hera as well.

    I thought the trial of Baltar was good stuff. Not amazing, but good (though Bamber's performance as he questions Roslin is his finest moment in BSG and Roslin's look as he makes her tell things she doesn't want to say is the most hear-wrenching scene in the series).

    But really, a lot of it is whether or not you can buy into it. Can you buy into them hearing this music? My answer: why not. Can you buy into Tigh and Tyrol being Cylons? My Answer: Hells yeah, because I have faith that the writers have not screwed the pooch and with that option eliminated, whatever explanation they ahve is bound to be...astounding. Did you think the Trial was handled well? My answer: yes. I know there were some issues, but really it was quite good.

    While I think that New Caprica (cept Exodus prt 1, which is structured nicely enough that u can just ignore it in re-watching) is the finest BSG arc plotwise, and that the Maelstrom-Crossroads arc is the finest character-based arc. Although there have been some dips this season, I think overall it is better than season 2, and at least as good as season 1. I believe that its overall cohesiveness (how the state of the characters in the finale and their evolution throughout the season has flowed inexorably from the premiere and how, unlike season 2, the finale really is a conclusion of the entire season) makes up for dips in quality like The Passage.

    If you take a step back from Crossroads, it's really a message of hope. The last shot is of Earth. And that's where we're headed.

    It ranks as my third favorite episode, after Occupation/Precipice (It aired as 1 episode, it flows as 1 episode, it IS 1 episode) and Pegasus.
  • From Kethinov on 2007-11-26 at 4:18am:
    If you consider the fact that the show has "moved past being the realistic show it was in season 1" to be a good thing, then you and I are truly of two different minds! :)

    Thus since I disagree with the entire premise of your analysis, I have very little to say about the specifics of your comment. However, one thing is worth clarifying: it's not whether or not I "buy into it" that's important. I have confidence that RDM will plug all of, or at least most of the continuity, logical, and technical holes that now ensue. He's a pretty thorough guy.

    The basis of my critique is that hinging the whole impact of your story on the mere possibility of cool stuff to come is weak writing. That's not what the miniseries, Kobol's Last Gleaming, or Pegasus did. Those stories were extremely compelling all by themselves.

    Consider this amusing scene from HBO's Rome. Deep in season two, in one scene, Antony is trying subtly to bully Cicero into granting political favors, a common theme on the show. The pattern is that Antony threatens Cicero's life, then Cicero caves and does whatever Antony wants. But this time, the dialog was somewhat different. Just as Cicero refused to cooperate, Antony says: "Well you leave me only one option then." Cicero replies: "It always comes to this." Antony agrees: "I know. I'm sorry. Such times we live in." Cicero then says: "Please, go on. Make your threats. I don't like to submit to mere implication."

    Like Cicero, I will not submit to mere implication. I'm as devoted a fan to BSG as Cicero was a devoted coward. But I will not gush all over the show over the mere implication of good stories to come. :)
  • From Sean Freeburn on 2010-03-29 at 8:48pm:
    Personally, I found this a rather good two-parter. I enjoyed all of the stuff in the courtroom - particuarly Lee's speech - but the music subplot and revelation of the four Cylons left a lot to be desired. The cliffhanger was cool (didn't expect Starbuck to show up!), but as much as I enjoyed it all, it was still not a good season finale. A good episode, yes, but not a good end to the season. Baltar should have gotten his trial weeks ago, not as the finale. Ah well.
  • From bibi on 2013-02-10 at 5:38pm:
    I was just re-watching the entire show and consider this one of the greatest episodes. I absolutely love season 3 and this was such a stunning cliffhanger. I think the mythology given here is fantastic. The use of lyrics and music is spectacular. The progress of the season from fighting the occupation on new caprica up to this point, this moment where the final five are reveal was outstanding in acting, writing and directing. Well, that, at least is my opinion :)

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