Battlestar Galactica & Caprica Reviews

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BSG - Season 4 - Episode 05

BSG - 4x05 - The Ties That Bind - Originally Aired: 2008-4-18

My Rating - 10

Fan Rating Average - 4.43

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Synopsis
Although Laura Roslin values Admiral Adama's support during her cancer treatments, she remains angry with him for his unilateral decision to send Kara Thrace and a team of officers in search of Earth aboard the sewage freighter Demetrius. The press and the Quorum of 12 have begun asking inconvenient questions about the top-secret mission.

Making matters worse, Lee Adama, the Quorum's new Caprican delegate, threatens to become another thorn in Roslin's side, as he agrees with Vice President Zarek that Roslin's extensive executive powers should be curbed.

Aboard the Demetrius, Kara Thrace's leadership is also being questioned. She is uncertain about their course but hostile to her crew when they express skepticism. Anders confronts her, but she silences him first with a scathing rebuke and then by luring him into bed.

In the Cylon fleet, the Cavil whom Natalie ordered to be executed is resurrected in the arms of Boomer. He pretends to capitulate to Natalie and her faction, who want to re-awaken the boxed D'Annas as the next step in their spiritual quest. On the fleet's next Jump, however, Cavil orders the resurrection ship to stay behind. Then his ships open fire on Natalie's ships, attempting to kill her and her followers, with no hope of resurrection.

Amid these crises of leadership, a subtler but equally critical drama is playing out aboard the Galactica: Cally and Galen Tyrol's marriage is falling apart. Cally has become depressed and resentful, taking medication but only growing lonelier as Galen withdraws into himself, leaving her to care for their son Nicky.

Cally doesn't know that Galen is wrestling with his new, horrifying awareness of his Cylon identity. Instead, when Cally sees him having an intimate talk with Tory Foster, she assumes that the two are having an affair.

Then Cally finds a mysterious note hidden in the door to her family's quarters, naming a time and place. She sneaks into a crawlspace near that rendezvous point and overhears a shattering conversation: Saul Tigh, Tory Foster and Tyrol are discussing the urgency of keeping their true Cylon identities secret.

Cally escapes unseen, although Tory Foster suspects her presence. Back in her quarters, Cally struggles to keep her chaotic emotions in check as Galen returns and makes a seemingly heartfelt promise to recommit himself to his family.

Without warning, Cally grabs a wrench and strikes him in the head. He falls. She steals his access keys, grabs Nicky, and flees. Desperate to escape forever from the nightmarish truth that the father of her son is a machine — and what that means her son must be — Cally has a terrible solution in mind. Only Foster can stop her … but Foster might not want to. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
None

Factoids
- Survivors, according to the main title: 39676. Apparently no one died off camera in the span of the last episode.
- The weapons locker the new Cylon characters meet at in this episode is labeled "1701D" - a reference to Star Trek TNG. The Enterprise in TNG had the same registry number.
- Destroyed Cylon capital ships, running total: 7 confirmed, 5 probable. (+3 probable, though this estimate is conservative. It is possible Six had up to five basestars.)
- This episode aired on my girlfriend's 24th birthday.

Remarkable Scenes
- The confused and angry Cavils resurrecting.
- Cavil: "The sixes and their acolytes used their new pets to engage in a little ethnic cleansing."
- Boomer kissing a Cavil. WTF?
- Cally and Tyrol fighting.
- A highly intoxicated Cally confronting Tyrol at the bar, suspecting Tory and Tyrol of having an affair.
- Adama reading to Roslin.
- Lee accepting his quorum appointment.
- The Demetrius has four vipers on its roof. Hah! I wonder how you get in one!
- Kara, aboard Demetrius, struggling to lead her new command.
- Cavil meeting with Six.
- Six: "Is that how you see our very existence; as some sort of nihilistic punchline?" Cavil: "Nihilistic punchline. I like that."
- Six pressuring Cavil to unbox the D'Annas.
- Zarek confronting Lee about Roslin's alleged increasingly tyrannical behavior.
- Cottle counseling Cally.
- Cally: "That's what I like about you doc, you only pretend to be a bastard."
- Starbuck and Anders having angry sex.
- The contentious quorum meeting.
- Cavil's camp attacking the basestars following Six.
- Cally eavesdropping on the meeting between Tigh, Tory and Tyrol.
- Cally assaulting Tyrol and running off with the baby.
- Tory confronting Cally, gaining her trust, only to take the baby and brutally murder Cally.

My Review
Battlestar Dramatica! Oh, I missed this feeling, this feeling of being completely satisfied by every character, every plot thread, the pacing, the action, the intrigue, all of it. This episode earned its ten across the board. BSG's dramatic appeal just reached its resurrection ship and came back with a fury.

The most remarkable quality of this episode is how it does so much with so little. Most episodes I've awarded tens to have had big, epic space battles, major plot events and gritty drama all at the same time. This episode has all of this, but the major plot events, while significant, are relatively minor and while the space battle in this episode is awesome, we see very little of it. Instead, Cally single handedly steals the show.

It's pretty much a cliche by now that once a character gets an unusual amount of screen time they're sure to die. However, this episode doesn't leave you feeling like "why are we all of a sudden focusing on Cally?" Every moment was perfectly natural, every emotional hoop she jumped through was real, and at the end of the story you feel for her. She was truly a victim of circumstances.

Which brings us to Tory. She's the vessel from which the gritty drama of this episode flows. The character that's always in the background, who remained relatively in the background even after being revealed as a Cylon, suddenly came into blinding focus. What she did was just astonishing. Tory, in the moment of Cally's most profound anguish gained Cally's trust in a matter of minutes then viciously abused that trust, striking her down, taking the baby and brutally murdering her in front of her infant child. Wow. I mean, just wow. This is the kind of dark drama I watch this show for.

As such, the overarching weaknesses of the show just fell into the background for me here. This episode was so good I didn't care about the vague thematic mysticism, the lack of answers surrounding numerous critical plots, or the aesthetic issues other episodes faced. During this episode, everything was perfect, and I'm incredibly thankful for that.

And I don't just mean the incredibly compelling story and the masterful acting. Even the little details are spot on here. Such as the fast cuts, rapidly taking you from one compositionally fascinating scene to the next and back again in every character context. Everything from Starbuck's haphazard command to Cally's spinning out of control amidst her spinning night light was television as an art form at its best.

Additionally, the side plot with the Cylons was easily strong enough to be the episode's main plot. Between plans to unbox D'Anna, the Centurions getting crankier, and Cylon basestars blowing each other up, the Cylons are getting more and more interesting by the minute. One lingering nitpick is we never found out if the D'Annas really got unboxed or if Six' armada was completely destroyed.

Another ambiguity is where all this Lee business is going. While all of Lee's scenes this time around were worthwhile and downright fascinating, I am left wondering just what everyone's agenda really is. Zarek has a point when he says Roslin seems to be becoming more tyrannical, but I've got to wonder whether or not she's actually a victim of circumstance as well. Was the executive order Lee bashed in the meeting really just innocently flawed? Or would Roslin have let that one slip by if no one called her on it? My only guess is that Lee's trying to be as ethical as possible, loyalties be damned. If someone close to him fraks up, he'll call them on it.

Among other nice touches in the episode were two interesting scenes between Roslin and Adama. Early on in the episode Adama sits down next to Roslin's hospital bed and begins reading a mystery novel to her. It's a cute, sad little scene. If you recall back in season one, she mentioned having a "weakness for mysteries." I also like the scene where Roslin and Adama speak about the Demetrius candidly. It implied heavily that Adama authorized the mission without Roslin's approval and informed her afterward. This is entirely in character for Adama and an interesting counterpoint to Roslin's behavior when she hid the Cylon child without notifying Adama.

Overall, simply put, this episode is an outstanding piece of drama. I felt that Cally's character really reached her full potential in this episode and her death was among the most touching, gut wrenching, and shocking moments of the show so far. It's up there with Adama getting shot, and that's saying a lot. Bravo!

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From AuH2O on 2008-04-20 at 5:53pm:
    Thsnks as always for your very interesting and fun reviews. One of the consolations at the end of new BSG episode --when the realization sets in that you will never that episode for the first time again-- is looking forward to reviewing your review. By now, it's also quite a resource, a guide to watching BSG.

    However, I must ask whether perhaps you were drinking too much champagne in honor of your girl friend's birthday. A perfect 10 for this episode? It seems extremely generous to be. I went back and you really award the Perfect Ten rarely (as you should): Miniseries Part I, from Season I, the Hand of God, Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2; from Season II, Pegasus, Resurrection Ship Part 2; from Season III, just Exodus Part 2. And Razor Part 1 from Season 4.

    Does this episode really rank as high as those classics? Better than 33, Scattered, Valley of Darkness, Captain's Hand?

    When I first saw it, I didn't particularly like it, especially not the beginning. The end, I admit, was spectacular and very well done. I liked the scenes with the Cylons.

    But the politics felt stale --haven't we seen all of this already many times?-- and, more problematically, dramatically jarring given context. The fleet was lost a lot of people, the whole Kara business and Cylons suddenly disappearing, and in the midst of this one of the best pilots and military leaders goes off to sit on boring committee where there is a lot of yelling? And although the PResident announced dramatically last week that she is dying, she is undergoing chemo, her hair is falling out, but she has the energy to sit through these sessions and although she is experiencing her last days is planning presidential secret tribunals? Why, to set up her replacement Zarek as all-powerful. It makes no sense. If she really thought she is dying, it would make a lot more sense for her to actually make the office of president LESS powerful, and ensure that the Admiral will be able to carry on the mission after she is gone. Also, Zarek was adamant at the end of last season that Balthar shoudn't get a trial and now he praises Lee for his role in it. I guess it makes some sense, but it's not in any way explained.

    Also problematic is the composition of Kara's crew. By giving her his chief navigator AND Helo, Adama is seriously weakening his crew. Why would he do this in the midst of a crisis? Isn't one ship by itself very vulnerable. I know we saw 2 vipers on deck and I suppose they have pilots, but if they run into a Cylon basestar, aren't they finished? Why didn't the Admiral send some more ships?

    All in all, it seems that RDM is moving his pieces on the chess board. For some reason he needs Athena and Helo and Gaeta together with Kara and Anders. Why, we'll have to wait and see.

    And he needs Lee to become President or at least Vice President after Roslin dies.

    I think he should have been able to address some of the more obvious problems he is running into while making his moves. For a truly talented chess master, they shouldn't even look like "moves."

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