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Battlestar Galactica 3.04 - "Exodus Part 2"

There's a difference between predictable and inevitable storytelling. "Exodus Part 2" contains both.

The episode opens on an emotional scene between Dualla and Apollo, talking about the hopelessness of Galactica's mission. I was really hoping then that the climax wouldn't involve the Pegasus jumping to the rescue, but of course it did. Cliched and disappointing.

Still, the loss of Pegasus was a worthy - if predictable - development. Arguably, it undercut the uniqueness of the Galactica to have a (bigger, more powerful) sister ship standing by to save its bacon, though personally I would have preferred to see both remain in the fleet. Dramatically, like the dead bodies strewn on New Caprica, Pegasus's destruction served as a reminder that there is a price to pay for salvation.

Tigh paid the hardest price of all. He lost not just his eye - though that will be the most visible cilice for the rest of the series - but also his wife. Cosmic - or writerly (which amounts to the same thing) - retribution for his attitudes in the season opener? Killing Ellen was inevitable. What's the difference between that and the predictability of the Pegasus's rescue? Ellen's death felt earned, it extracted real pain.

It did however reinforce my suspicion that Ellen's betrayal really only served one purpose: to have Tigh kill her. While this added immeasurably to his character arc, it would have been even stronger had her actions had broader consequences.

I also can't help thinking though that "Exodus Part 2" would have worked better as the back end of a two-hour episode. It resumed mid-stream on such weighty moments that we, as the audience, suffered from dramatic whiplash even before the credits rolled, and certainly just after. And while full-on intensity can work for action-based openings, I don't think it works as well for emotional moments; we need time to settle into the drama. This episode felt like acts three and four of a single instalment, which was basically how it was conceived.

Another mild criticism: the use of "frak". The first time I saw the miniseries I thought they were actually saying "fuck". Cool, I thought, a space opera that wasn't afraid of real language. But, no, this wasn't a HBO show (though I truly think it should be), and after a while the constant euphemisms became wearing to the point now of actually undercutting the drama. Ellen's confession would have worked better if she had actually said, "I fucked him" rather than "I frakked him". It wouldn't have been out of place at all because BSG already depends so heavily on present-day language, design and military conventions, with only a thin veil of genre elements. "Frak" generates unintentional humour and self-awareness in a show that deservedly takes itself very seriously. No feldergarb.

(Speaking of humour, I noticed that a future episode will be called "Taking a break from all your worries". Will this be Battlestar Galactica's first comedy episode, or will it be a psychological profile of Tigh's relapse into alcoholism?)

I've always liked the space battles on this show. Eschewing the 19th century gunship metaphor of, say, Star Trek II and the World War 2 fighter plane analogy of Star Wars and the original series, this BSG adopts a missile-equipped jet fighter and carrier group paradigm. This is entirely in line with the design aesthetic of the series and feels (perhaps not entirely logically) more "real". And it certainly makes for some stunning and unique visuals in the series, especially when when capital ships engage in battle, as they do in this episode. But I don't think there's been a sequence as well conceptualised as the Galactica ablaze upon its drop entry into the atmosphere, with Vipers shooting from the launch bays like firecrackers. It's a cinematic first, as far as I can tell. I've seen some criticisms that the use of jump technology in the series has been inconsistent, but while that may be true, as long as the writers and effects teams turn out moments like this one, I really don't care.

Baltar - again, predictably (or inevitable?) - stayed with the Cylons. They're not going to kill off the character, and there's really no way the Colonials would have let him live. At least, not at this point in the show. Eventually I'm sure that he'll do something that will either partly redeem him or make him too valuable (or risky) to get rid of, but in the meantime he will - like John Colicos's Baltar - find a level of accommodation on the Cylon side of the trenches.

It was somewhat convenient that Hera was taken - given how much Roslin stressed her importance last episode. Surely she should have had more protection during the evacuation?

Speaking of Roslin - an interesting bond developing between her and Zarek. I like the quiet confidence and pleasure with which she resumed her office on Colonial One, though I gather there may be some doubt about her legal ability to do so.

We'll see Starbuck, I suspect, struggle with elements of Stockholm syndrome. I think when Leoben made her tell him that she loved him, she believed it just a little, and this will haunt her, all the more so because Kasey turned out not to be her daughter after all. (Killing Loeben one last time of course was inevitable.)

Kasey's parentage was an unpredictable move, because so much emotional weight had been invested in Kara's - and our - belief that Kasey was indeed her daughter. While there was always a good chance that it was a Cylon trick - making the twist believable from a plot perspective, she and we believed it, making the twist work from a character perspective. (Of course, it wouldn't surprise me if Casey's mother turned out to be a Cylon plant with Starbuck being the real mother after all.)

The ending in the launch bay, unlike the corresponding scene in "Part 1", worked. Again, because it felt earned after 90 minutes. It had real resonance, juxtaposing elation and despair: of the reunited crews, Apollo and Adama, Starbuck's realisation that she had been played (a fine, nuanced reaction by Sackhoff), and especially, cuttingly, Tigh. This was a moment of brilliance by Michael Hogan: I don't think it's possible for a man to look more broken; he was tragedy personified, like one of those drawings that distil loss into its most essential, primal lines.

So "Exodus" ends with, not so much a return to the status quo - because this is a show that is driven by momentum and change - but a resumption of the journey. The fleet has been burned, people have been scarred, but it is time for old growths to be pared away, like Adama's moustache (or, no doubt, Apollo's girth), and for humanity to ready itself for what is to come next.

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Philosophically, I liked Roslin's universal pardon. It makes a powerful statement about truth and reconciliation as opposed to justice and revenge. Emotionally and thematically it worked as a cap to the episode. But, unlike last week, I worry now that ... [Read More]

Comments (2)

Bruce:

How about when the skin job locks Starbuck in the room? The thumb latch is on Starbuck's side of the door -- oops!

Advanced Cylon thumb latches. They don't work like Human locks. ;-)

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 22, 2006 12:40 AM.

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