Battlestar Galactica & Caprica Reviews

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BSG - Season 4 - Episode 02

BSG - 4x02 - Razor, Part 2 - Originally Aired: 2007-11-24

My Rating - 9

Fan Rating Average - 4.44

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Synopsis
Lee Adama's first mission as the commander of the battlestar Pegasus — and the harrowing tale of that ship's desperate fight for survival in the immediate aftermath of the Cylon's genocidal siege of the Twelve Colonies.

Lee Adama's new XO, Major Kendra Shaw, is plagued by memories of her service and sacrifices under Admiral Helena Cain, who was able to save her ship during the Cylon attack — but only by making Shaw and her fellow officers rationalize suicidal battle tactics and brutal war crimes against their own people.

In the crucible of war, Shaw must let her hesitation and doubts burn away, until all that remains of her is the honed edge of a living human weapon — what Colonial veterans call "a razor." But an edge so fine cuts in more than one direction. It can cleave an enemy to pieces … or it can carve away a person's soul. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- Both Tauron and Scorpia are shown to be habitable planets. Since it is strongly implied that all twelve colonies exist within one planetary system, it stretches realism to assume that even with terraforming that there could be three naturally habitable planets in one planetary system. (It's worth nothing that Firefly also suffered from this problem to an even greater degree.) It would have been much more realistic if these worlds were depicted as domed colonies with artificial life support.

Factoids
- This episode won a VES Award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Miniseries, Movie or Special.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a One Hour Series.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (one-hour).
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (half-hour) and Animation.
- This episode was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form.
- This episode was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Television Presentation.
- Although Razor was aired as a single two hour episode and only had one teaser and one set of opening credits, it is considered to actually be two episodes, which is why I've reviewed it in two parts. It is difficult to see where the parts cleave, but the midway point of the story seems to be the aftermath of Sharon and Adama telling what they know of the Cylon hybrids black project. There is an act-out shortly after that exposition with Adama claiming that he doesn't want to think about the implications. The following act-in featuring Adama and Apollo planning the rescue mission with Roslin is where I'm considering part 2 to begin.
- The survivor count at the beginning of this episode is 49579. In chronologically subsequent episodes, the survivor count remains 49579, even though (at the very least) Kendra Shaw and one team member aboard red squad had died. This discrepancy could be accounted for by births in the fleet, however.
- Destroyed Cylon capital ships, running total: 7 confirmed, 2 probable. (+1 confirmed)

Remarkable Scenes
- The revelation that Shaw was one of the executioners aboard the Scylla.
- Cain assigning Lt. Thorne to interrogate Gina using as much degradation as possible.
- Cain ordering Fisk to conduct a raid on the civilian convoy they discovered.
- Cain ordering Fisk to shoot the families of anyone who does not cooperate.
- Cain promoting Shaw to captain interwoven with her flashback to the loss of her little sister "Lucy" followed by her "razor" speech.
- Starbuck and Shaw discussing fear and anger, comparing Cain's and Starbuck's mother's perspectives.
- Pegasus engaging the fleet of old style Cylon raiders to lure them off.
- The raptor crew ejecting with jet packs shortly after letting the Cylons destroy their raptor.
- Old style Cylon centurions talking to each other...
- The raptor crew sneaking aboard the Cylon base.
- The old style Cylon centurions attacking the raptor crew.
- Cylon hybrid, talking to himself: "At last, they've come for me. I feel their lives, their destinies spilling out before me. The denial of the one true path. To play that out on a world not their own. But will they be soon enough? Soon there will be four glorious new awakenings, struggling with the knowledge of their true selves, the pain of revelation bringing new clarity. And in the midst of confusion they will find their enemies brought together by an awesome belonging. Enemies now joined as one. The way forward, the once unthinkable, yet inevitable. And the fifth still is in shadows, drawn toward the light, hungering for redemption, that will only come in the howl of terrible suffering. I can see them all. The seven, now six, self-described machines who believe themselves are of no sin, but in time it is sin that will consume them. They will know enmity, bitterness, the wrenching agony of the one splintering into many. And then they will join the promised land, gathered on the wings of an angel."
- The Cylons capturing one of the infiltration team members and Shaw murdering him to prevent the Cylons from experimenting on him.
- Apollo ordering Hoshi to prepare a nuclear strike on the Cylon base and Adama countermanding his order.
- Apollo ordering Starbuck to detonate the nuke manually.
- Injured Shaw ordering Starbuck to get on the raptor at gunpoint so she can detonate the nuke manually.
- Cylon hybrid: "What am I? A man? Or am I a machine? My children believe I am a god."
- Shaw flashbacking to the Scylla. She fired the first lethal shot.
- Cylon hybrid: "Kara Thrace will lead the human race to its end." Shaw: "What?" Cylon hybrid: "She is the herald of the apocalypse. The harbinger of death. They must not follow her."
- Shaw attempting to relay the Cylon hybrid's warning about Starbuck to Apollo only to have her transmission jammed at the critical moment.
- Shaw setting off the nuke.
- Apollo and Adama talking about the legacy of Cain and Shaw.
- Starbuck, speculating as to why Shaw sacrificed herself: "Maybe she thought she had a lot to answer for. Maybe she had it coming." Apollo: "We've all got it coming."

My Review
The second half of Razor lives up to its first half and then some in terms of action, however there are some deficiencies. Aside from the fact that the cameo scene featuring the old style Cylon centurions talking to each other was somewhat painfully authentic, I found the prophesies imparted by the Cylon hybrid/god/whatever to be murky at best. Few if any answers are dispensed here and like Flesh and Bone it is as difficult to evaluate the legitimacy of the statements made by the hybrid as it was to evaluate the statements made by Leoben. Will the prophesies dispensed here come more or less true like they did with season one's prophesies? If so, how did the hybrid know these things?

In particular, it's somewhat aggravating that only half-baked impressions are getting revealed to the audience. At the end of the pilot miniseries, a similar revelation about a main character being potentially harmful to the rest of the main cast was imparted as well, but was done so in a much clearer way. Boomer was revealed to be a Cylon. Simple.

But At the end of Razor, Starbuck is revealed to be "the herald of the apocalypse. The harbinger of death." (That is, if you believe the Cylon hybrid.) As I said before, this is murky at best, and leaves us with significant questions. How does the Cylon hybrid know these things? For that matter how does he know about Kendra Shaw's hunger for redemption? Is he the Cylon god and therefore some kind of supernatural entity? Did he create the other humanoid Cylons?

Aside from that, this thrilling action story still manages to be a profound commentary on the kind of person Cain and consequently Shaw turned out to be. Adama and Apollo being unable to truly judge them also says something interesting about their characters. I like how the story used the controversy between Apollo and Adama of whether or not to nuke the whole base and sacrifice the whole team to complete the mission as a way to counterpoint the similar controversial decisions made by Cain. As Adama said, nobody was wrong from a tactical perspective.

I also like how Shaw's willingness to sacrifice herself at the end of the story quite nicely resembles Cain's unwillingness to go forward with her assassination attempt on Adama. Just like at the end of Resurrection Ship, Part 2, we learn that like Cain, Shaw really was a good person at heart. Just psychologically twisted and messed up by circumstances outside her control.

Indeed, we see Cain get more and more vicious in the second part just as clearly as we do in the first. The progression is steady and unrelenting how they transition from the authorization of raiding civilians, to prison rape, to the murder of civilian families. Then to sit and watch Cain justify it all to Shaw's face and promote her for carrying it all out is just an astonishing piece of drama.

Other notable details, the jet pack scene reminded me of Firefly. The scoring even seemed to channel Firefly in that moment. Overall, the science fiction and space battle stuff in both parts of the episode are beyond gorgeous as usual. Even watching the old style Centurions conduct guerrilla warfare was pretty awesome. They certainly didn't look as clunky and useless as they did in 1978.

It is interesting to compare my review of Razor to my review of the pilot miniseries. I recall subtracting a point from the pilot miniseries for not showing us any of the major Cylon engagements against the Colonial Fleet. We got to see some of that here, however I must now subtract a point from this similar production as well for the opposite reason. We got quite the light show in Razor and plenty of action, but the ending was seriously lacking in profundity.

It was never satisfactorily explained why Starbuck decided to act as Lee's CAG after explicitly stating in The Captain's Hand that she was going to stay on Galactica and be Galactica's CAG. She then reverses her decision to be Lee's CAG at the end of Razor as arbitrarily and as inexplicably as she reversed her original decision to stay on Galactica at the beginning of Razor. Then throwing in the joking about Leoben's assertions from Flesh and Bone that Starbuck has a destiny didn't help either.

Razor actually would have been a superior story had it not had anything whatsoever to do with prophesying things about Starbuck's mystical destiny. However, this little gaffe aside, the two part special was an incredibly satisfying piece.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From AuH2O on 2007-11-25 at 8:48pm:
    Agree with the thrust of your review, well done. I thought it was an 8/10 when I first saw, then went back down a bit, so came out at overall 7.5/10. By the way, you MUST watch the extended version on DVD. They really cut out some important bits. Unfortunately there was even more mysticism in the extended version, with the Hybrid ranting about the Five and the Seven. I'm afraid RDM has tangled himself up real good. The show has become about the mysticism and there just isn't any way he'sgoing to be able to wrap it all up satisfactorily. There are just going to be more puzzles in season 4.1 and then no matter how he resolves it all in 4.5 it'sgoing to be a let-down. Too bad, but he let it spin out of control.
  • From Remco on 2007-12-20 at 9:34pm:
    That survivor counter is not really a problem. Say every 2 people will have 2 children in their lifetime. Considering it takes about 25 years for 2 people to actually have children, you could count on 50000 / 25 = 2000 babies being born every year at this population count. That's 5 each day. It's also not too far fetched to have people die at a rate of about 5/day, so the number should actually fluctuate a lot more.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, of course.
  • From Kethinov on 2007-12-20 at 9:59pm:
    You're absolutely right. The fact that babies could be born is a perfectly satisfactory rationalization. It's a (perhaps too) nitpicky plot hole.

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