Battlestar Galactica & Caprica Reviews

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BSG - Season 4 - Episode 06

BSG - 4x06 - Escape Velocity - Originally Aired: 2008-4-25

My Rating - 3

Fan Rating Average - 3.35

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Synopsis
As he mourns his wife Cally's apparent suicide, Galen Tyrol fights to conceal his turbulent emotions, which go beyond simple sorrow. His fellow Cylons — Tigh and Foster — offer him little comfort. Tigh can only see the situation through the lens of his own guilt and grief for executing his wife, Ellen. Foster (who, unbeknownst to everyone, murdered Cally) urges Tyrol to "shut down" his negative emotions and embrace his new identity as a perfect creation of God.

Tyrol struggles to bury his emotions in obsessive work, but he bungles a technical repair on a Raptor, nearly causing a fatal crash. Furious with himself, Tyrol grows even angrier as his crewmates smother him with well-intentioned pity.

When Admiral Adama tries to console him, Tyrol finally explodes, his crushed hopes, his anger at Cally and his fundamental identity crisis bursting out as he rants at the Admiral. In the end, he demands that Adama demote him. Adama complies. The former Chief, now a specialist, is left alone with his conflicted grief.

Tigh has found a different way to cope with his new identity and his old guilt over Ellen's death. He has begun visiting Caprica Six in the Galactica's brig, asking how she endures the guilt of participating in genocide while not telling her why he wants to know.

As they speak, Caprica's face sometimes appears to be Ellen's. Magnetically attracted by this vision, Tigh can't stay away. Eventually, he dismisses Caprica's guards so the two of them can be alone. As Caprica offers her unique brand of help to this broken man, the two move toward either a deadly crisis or a strange consummation.

Meanwhile, a gang of religious traditionalists called the Sons of Ares invades the quarters of Gaius Baltar's cult, trashing possessions and beating up Baltar's followers. Baltar retaliates in kind by disrupting a traditional religious service, nearly causing a riot.

Baltar is arrested, and Laura Roslin confronts him in the brig. She promises to institute rules for his protection but also warns him that, if he continues provoking trouble, he will find that her impending death has only made her more fearless about stopping him, no matter what. She has faith that all her actions are justified because they protect the fleet, but the Quorum of 12, led by Lee Adama, worries that she is abusing her power.

Released, Baltar returns to his cult's quarters to find Marines blocking the doors. Roslin's so-called "protective" rules, it turns out, forbid his followers to assemble as a group. The Six in Baltar's head urges him to defy the order. With her help, Baltar provokes a one-sided bloody pummeling by the Marines as he repeatedly tries to walk peacefully into his home. Roslin's restrictions are moments away from transforming Gaius Baltar into a martyr... [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- Tigh is seen with admiral pips in this episode.

Factoids
- Survivors, according to the main title: 39675. Down one. (Cally.)

Remarkable Scenes
- Tigh changing Tyrol's baby.
- Tigh talking about what it's like to lose a wife with Tyrol.
- Baltar's reaction to Tory's hair-pulling foreplay: "I think I preferred it when you cried."
- The assault on Baltar's fan club.
- The raptor crash.
- Tyrol's reaction to discovering an accident he made was the cause of the raptor crash.
- Baltar leading an assault on a Kobolian funeral service.
- Adama: "Baltar has an uncanny ability to stir up all the crap."
- Roslin regarding Baltar: "Those girly, groupy, sex... whatever they are already think he's a god."
- Tigh confronting Six about how it feels to be responsible for killing billions.
- Roslin's creepy little visit with Baltar.
- Adama trying to console Tyrol and failing miserably.
- Tyrol freaking out at Adama, then getting himself demoted.
- Roslin: "Every single one of you remember what it was like when Gaius Baltar had political power and you should be terrified to think about what this man will do with blind religious devotion."
- Six: "Should I get used to waking up to this face?"
- Tigh's reaction to Six bringing up Baltar.
- Baltar puppet protesting the crowd control order.
- Six assaulting Tigh to show him the clarity of pain.
- Lee intervening in the crowd control measures.
- Adama reading to Roslin.
- Six regarding assaulting Tigh: "I made a mistake. This isn't what you need." She then takes him into her embrace...
- Lee's reaction to Baltar's speech.

My Review
Verbose is the keyword when describing this episode, as it spends too much time on too few plot threads. I feel rather boxed in as aside from the raptor crash, the short quorum debate, and the rather useless Demetrius cameo, we see nonstop frontloaded Galactica scenes. This is especially jarring considering the myriad of plot threads the previous episode presented us with. It's as if we've suddenly gone from epic and dramatic to small scale and silly.

And indeed this episode is silly. At the beginning of the season I was quite entertained by Baltar's cult and his overall story in general. It worked quite well as an ongoing subplot, and it all seemed like a natural continuation of his character to me. It indeed still does. In fact, I'm quite glad to see him slowly manipulating his way back into public life and I was delighted to see Roslin's reaction to his ever regrowing fame and critical acclaim. However, this episode could have accomplished all of that with half or even a quarter of its scenes devoted to that plot thread. If we've learned one thing here, it's that Baltar's plot, at least for now, works much better as a subplot than a main plot.

This episode just oozes superfluous Baltar scenes and even Tigh's creepy little visits with Six were a bit on the verbose side. More aesthetically wrong in my opinion though was the dramatic angle chosen for Tigh's scenes with Six. Bringing back Ellen and dressing her up as Six was just too much. We didn't need to be force fed the symbolism; this could all have been done subtextually or, if the director was feeling particularly lazy, with just a single flashback to Ellen during the scene when Tigh is smiling over the sleeping Six. That said, a good share of this episode's points goes to Tigh and Six. Their scenes were endlessly fascinating if a bit pointless at times. A better episode would have shown us more of where that was going rather than dwelling on idle conversation, no matter how amusing it was.

One area where this episode was spot on was with Tyrol. His explosion at Adama was extremely well done and his mistake with the raptor was as chilling as its aftermath was fun to watch. As a side note, I find it a bit hard to believe that Racetrack and her copilot survived what appeared to be such a horrendous crash. The whole front side of the raptor was torn off, then the raptor slammed face first into the side of the hangar deck! And there's not a scratch on them. It's not entirely unrealistic, especially seeing as how they were fully suited up with helmets and all. I just think aside from adding a bit more realism, it would have added a bit of gritty drama to the episode. Something which it sorely lacked. Moreover, I'm getting a bit tired of Racetrack having random issues with her raptor. It's almost a cliche by now.

Another character I liked this episode was Roslin. Her behavior regarding Baltar in the quorum meeting was spot on and her new wig adds a chilling dimension to her character. It's been pointed out quite correctly by others that her new hairstyle bears a striking resemblance to Admiral Cain; some nice symbolism underscoring her newfound ruthlessness. Her scene with Baltar in jail illustrates this quite well. Finally, Adama's continued closeness with Roslin remains sweet.

Tory's story is a bit muddled this time around. While it's obvious that her "we're perfect the way we are" campaign is a way to help her feel okay with being a Cylon, it seems useless for her to use that to manipulate Baltar. For that matter, why is she still hanging out with him? Also, while I was intrigued regarding the various references to Tory having discovered a new physical prowess thanks to being a Cylon (slapping Cally halfway across the airlock, overpowering Baltar, inferring this newfound strength in a meeting with Tigh and Tyrol), the episode did not go into any depth exploring this beyond the most casual of references.

Instead, we're treated to Baltar generally acting like a jackass, then making a nonsensical religious speech at the end of the show, heavily motivated by Tory's "we're perfect" dialog with him just prior to the Baltar cult being assaulted. Baltar's and Tory's motivations in this episode make little sense and the episode's attempt to intercut Tigh, Tyrol, and even worse Anders after having shown absolutely none of the Demetrius the whole episode to add some significance to Baltar's speech seemed wholly manufactured.

At the end, the episode comes off as something of a flop. The two most relevant plot threads get no screen time and what we do see here is so overdone and mishandled that it's tough to choke down.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From AuH2O on 2008-04-26 at 9:00pm:
    Actually, there is a huge technical problem here, or at least something that will have to be explained in some fundamental way: the silly speech Baltar gave at the end, which I propose we'll refer to as the Sermon on the Ship, is theologically completely the opposite of the essentially Christian monotheism that Head 6 has been preaching to Baltar since the Miniseries. But Head 6 is standing there, beaming, proud as the mother of a child who he is taking his first baby steps. "God loves us just the way we are", i.e. no need for a repentance of sins, is the antithesis of everything Head 6 stands for, theologically. RDM chose to make the show all about the mystical and religious aspects, and again he devotes much of this episode to it but what does it all mean?
  • From Dan on 2008-04-27 at 1:43am:
    I can understand why many people will find this episode poor compared to the first three episodes of the season, but I for one was left with the distinct feeling that with this episode RDM has made a conscious and very deliberate turn in the BSG storyline. To me, it was almost as if the religious undertones that have been rumbling along for three seasons were suddenly brought to the surface, and we see for the first time the true intentions of the writers and the place that they are leading us to.

    Forgive me if I have this wrong, but I have heard that the original BSG series was heavily influenced by Mormon theology (they believe in the Judeao-Christian God, but have some radical ideas about the end of the world and their role within it). If this is true, then it is definitely not the first time that Mormons have written some fantastic and very detailed science-fiction sagas (the writer Orson Scott Card, for example). Responding to this issue in an interview, RDM said that while not pressed to retain the same level of Mormon-istic dogma or symbolism in his re-imagined series, he is aware of its influence over the original series and tries to retain a level of continuity between the two.

    This then has influenced me in the way I respond to the religious element of the storyline.
    It is quite possible (and likely) that the "god" of the Cylons is not explainable in a scientific sense, and may not ever be "explained". Virtual Six has said many times that she is an angel of God - an explanation that in all likelihood is the real answer and the only answer. She has made it clear to Baltar she appears to him to tell him of God's unending love for him, and to help him repent of his sins. I think Baltar truly did reoent in the previous episode, when he pleads with God to let him die on behalf of the small boy. So I disagree with the previous fan comment that Baltar's Sermon on the Ship (SOTS) is at odds with SIx's teaching. A little unrefined perhaps, but it is definitely an echo of Six's "God is love" statements.

    This whole episode was about the awakening of some of the central character's to the love of a God that is completely foreign to them. For the Secret 4, they all experienced this in different ways:
    Tigh sensed that somehow Caprica Six could offer him redemption from the guilt over Ellen that has been eating him up. I doubt he really knew why he thought this could be found in Caprica Six - it was more of a subconcious awareness perhaps enhanced by his recent discovery of his Cylon roots.
    Tori is seeking God's love by attempting to live her life free from guilt in a "God loves me just the way I am" kind of philosophy.
    Tyrol and Anders are less developed in their exploration of God's love, but the conversations Tyrol has with Tigh and Tori, and the quick flash to Anders at the end leave us in no doubt that they are part of this journey of theological discovery.
    Most interesting to me was the presence of Lee in all of this - Lee says to Baltar "I'm not doing this for you, you know", and Baltar repsonds with "no, you're doing this because your God compels you." I thought "What?!" and Lee's face echoed that thought.
    But then Lee hangs around to hear the SOTS, and appears hooked. Interesting.

    Baltar got it right - the whole BSG story is moving to a dramatic showdown between the old Gods (Zeus, Artemis etc) and the new God. Sound familiar? Think Roman Empire vs Christianity. All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.

    This episode was beautifully constructed and quite symmetrical - the opening scene of the funeral in the old religion, balanced by the closing scene of Baltars SOTS promoting the new faith in one God. A God who is not the Cylon God, or Baltar's God - He is just God. This is where I think it is going, anyway.
    To me, this episode ups the ante and pushes the story into the next gear.
  • From Kethinov on 2008-04-27 at 4:15pm:
    With such a heavy handedly religious analysis, I think it'd be pretty obvious why many people found this episode distasteful. Religion is stupid. I tolerate it on television as an interesting window into the psyche of fictional characters, but as for real life in the 21st century, I am astonished that anyone puts any stock in any branch of it whatsoever.

    Keep in mind while BSG has had many religious overtones, the vast majority of them have all been rooted in tangible science, archaeology, and history.

    For example, everything we've seen on the show so far seems to point to the Lords of Kobol obviously being historical figures and the lost true history surrounding them is instead replaced by a religion. Makes sense. But nothing mystical about it.

    The Cylon god is quite obviously the creator of the Cylons, or the original programmer, as Cavil calls it. For all we know the guy in the tank in Razor was the Cylon god. He said: "My children think I am a god." Once again, no mysticism, just a lost history replaced by a religion.

    If the show really is headed down a path of the unexplained supernatural, be prepared for a string of zero ratings. Because it would be in direct contrast to the prevailing aesthetic of the show so far. I want a gritty drama, not force-fed veiled symbolically religious crap.

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