March 26, 2007 | Comments ()

By Seth Freilich | TV | March 26, 2007 |


Well, between the series finale of “Rome” and the season finale of “Battlestar Galactica,” last night was one hell of a two-hour punch. And let’s make this real clear — the DVD Folk (or the “just ain’t caught up to my TiVo yet” folk) need to stop reading this right now. Especially the “BSG” fans, as there will be spoilers aplenty (though I suspect you’ll inadvertently run into the “BSG” spoilers before the August DVD release anyway). Point being, consider yourself warned.

Before we get into the many things “Galactica” that need discussion, let’s pause for a moment to honor “Rome.” Last night’s finale was magnificent, and my only true regret is that we don’t have more. And I don’t even need more story, per se (although it would be nice to follow Octavian a little further down the line, seeing him get the Augustus title and eventually become the first Roman Emperor, and putting a little positive spin on him, as he ends the series being portrayed as quite the little bastard). But I’d love to have this second season stretched out a bit, throwing another couple of episodes into the mix. Whereas I felt that much of the first season (particularly the earlier half) was paced a little too slowly, this second season suffered from the exact opposite problem — the pace was so fast and furious that we missed out on having a lot of things really fleshed out as much as I would’ve liked (for those who lost track, this second season covered a whopping 14 year span over its 13 episodes, from Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C. to Octavian’s post-Antony Triumph in 30 B.C.). I would’ve loved to see the growth of Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship a little bit more, particularly in light of Antony still having Atia pining for him back in Rome. I also felt like Octavia got a little short changed. Her character certainly grew and changed — how about that knowing smirk of enjoyment when Atia figuratively bitch-slapped Octavian’s wife, something which first-season Octavia would’ve been appalled by. And I absolutely get why she changed in the ways she did, but it still would’ve been nice to see it all a little more.

One character who did get plenty of screen time for her changes was Atia. How can you not love this show for taking Atia, a mostly despicable woman for much of the series, and transforming her into a quasi-tragic figure? While there was that one bitch-slapping glimmer of our old Atia, she’s basically a (heart) broken woman now, and our last shot of her — miserable and teary-eyed — was kind of crushing, even though she was really getting her just deserts for years of being a grade-A bitch (and Servillia is surely laughing from the afterlife).

“Rome” also did the same thing, to a lesser extent, with Marc Antony, who also wound up entirely broken just before taking his life — of course, he was broken and corrupt and drunk/doped out of his head largely by his own accord. But I still couldn’t help feeling a little for him, particularly when he broke down after getting Cleo’s “suicide note.” And while I knew that his suicide and Cleo’s subsequent suicide were both coming, that foresight didn’t damper the impact of those great scenes. Particularly because of the great way the show dramatized the suicides, giving explanation and justification to why Antony killed himself first with Cleo followed suit shortly thereafter. It was all very satisfying. And for what it’s worth — as much as Polly Walker (Atia) and Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo) were the standouts of this show, over the whole season, I think James Purefoy may have delivered the strongest, Emmy-worthy performance with his Marc Antony.

Of course, as great as the political and historical elements of the show are, “Rome” has always really been about Pullo and Vorenus’ story, and it was a great honor to them that there was one last brothers-in-arms battle. While the ultimate result of that battle was a bit of a bummer, I had been feeling like Vorenus’ death was inevitable throughout the course of this whole season. But again, that inevitability didn’t take anything away from his final scene and, yes, when his daughter finally relented and came out from hiding to see him (and more importantly, to let him see her), the unspoken emotion of it all…well, there might have been just a touch of dust stuck in my eye.

Meanwhile, Octavian’s great glory is taking place while Lucius is getting his death on, and the epic swell and pomp of his Triumph was really a fitting triumph for the show as a whole. But as this is really Titus and Lucius’ show, it was quite fitting to end, not with the Triumph, but with those two quiet Titus scenes, one with Octavian, the other with his son (and I was pleased that they not only came back around to the plot-point of Caesarion being Titus’ son, but that they used Titus’ lie about the boy being dead to comport, more or less, with the actual history, which had Caesarion being murdered). This morning, I read a complaint somewhere about how this grand and epic show should not have ended with a joke (Titus’ line, taken from the show’s title, to Caesarion: “Look, about your father…”). But I think it was absolutely fitting. When you get past the warring and the politics, life continues ahead on the Roman streets, and Pullo continues to get by, joking all the while and trying his best to do right. I couldn’t think of a better way for this show to end.

Well, unless they started playing a Dylan song over a shot of Lucius Vorenus grandly returning from the dead.

So, “Battlestar Galactica” - how you doin?

When I watched last night’s finale, I pretty much loved everything about it. Now, having had some time to think on it all, I still dug the episode, but the pessimist in me has come to light. So there will be some bitching throughout this discussion.

But before I start bitching and complementing, a side comment — last week, I noticed that there were no opening credits, and I was a bit confused by that (plus, I found myself quite missing the opening theme). And I was particularly surprised when it happened again this week. But in retrospect it was (pun intended) a dead giveaway. As a contractual series regular, I’m sure the show is obligated to credit Katee Sackhoff in the opening credits for any episode she’s in. And last week’s episode was a “Part 1,” which means last week and this week are all considered one episode as far as the Guilds are all concerned. So they would’ve had to include her in last week’s credits, even though she didn’t pop up until the end of this week, if they had had credits. So, as I say, I should’ve put two and two together, but I’m a fool.

As for the episode itself, let’s take a look at Baltar’s trial. It was really hard (frustratingly so) to watch it without putting my lawyer’s cap on, so I can’t help but complain about Lee giving that long spiel while on the stand. I’m OK with the original reason he was put on the stand, as a material witness to judicial bias which supported a motion for a mistrial. But the rest of it was rather preposterous. Particularly because that same speech could’ve been done as a closing argument, although I recognize two caveats with that: 1) it may have been the kind of speech which Lee could only make involuntarily, after being pushed to the brink by Romo Lampkin; and 2) there may not actually be closing arguments in “BSG” criminal procedure, since they went right from the defense resting to the judges going into deliberations. In any event, lawyerly criticisms aside, I thought the trial had a relatively satisfying outcome. Lee’s speech went a long way towards redeeming him from the depressing, mopey bitch he’s been for much of the season. More importantly, however, it was an entirely valid criticism of the whole process and gave enough justification for buying into the fact that Baltar could wind up a “not guilty.” Which was a result I was sure was coming — Baltar is simply too good a character to keep locked away or, Gods forbid, to airlock. So letting him go free was the necessary direction of events, particularly as we’ll now get to see an interesting duality to his “new life,” being disdained by the many, while being seen as a messiah by the few.

But fuck Baltar. That’s not what folks are really talking about today, is it? I suspect people are instead talking about Robert Allen Zimmerman, also known as Bob Dylan. First, let’s get this point out of the way: the show’s composer, Bear McCready, posted a bit about the song over on his blog, and he explained that the “BSG” version of “All Along the Watchtower” shouldn’t imply that the ship was picking up Earth radio waves or that Bobby Dylan even exists in this universe:

I happened to catch Ron Moore in the hallway at Universal and, in a brief conversation, got everything I needed to know. I learned that the idea was not that Bob Dylan necessarily exists in the characters’ universe, but that an artist on one of the colonies may have recorded a song with the exact same melody and lyrics. Perhaps this unknown performer and Dylan pulled inspiration from a common, ethereal source. Therefore, I was told to make no musical references to any “Earthly” versions, Hendrix, Dylan or any others. The arrangement needed to sound like a pop song that belonged in the Galactica universe, not our own.

As for the song itself, and the related scenes, well what can you say? When Tyrol busted out the first line of the lyrics (“there must be some kind of way out of here”), it didn’t register with me at all. But when Tigh came out with “said the joker to the thief,” well, I shot up from my prone-on-the-couch position. It was a touch distracting to have this element of “our world” creep into the “BSG” universe but, ultimately, who cares? From those moments through the four of them deciding to go back to their “stations,” that may have been one of the coolest scenes the show has ever done. Just strong stuff. And I dug the hell out of the composition and music of the song itself, and thought it played real well over those scenes. However, when the singing came in over the space scenes, well, McCready really should’ve used someone other than his brother to sing, because that just didn’t work for me at all.

But that’s neither here nor there. The song was a gimmick. The real meat here is Tigh, Anders, Tyrol and Tory. All Cylons, some Cylons, none Cylons? I’m sure the internet discussions are all over the place on this one:

ToasterLover834: Dude, they totally must all be cylons.
HotAdamaMama: Sha - whatever! They just think they cylons.
ToasterLover834: U R so gay!
HotAdamaMama: Frak you!

I had a similar dispute with myself about this (although the derogatory slurs were much worse than “U R so gay”) until I watched the ending scenes again this morning. When Tyrol comes out with it, saying “we’re Cylons - and we have been from the start,” I think that’s Ron Moore talking right to the viewers, rolling up his sleeves to show us that he’s not hiding something. So unless/until we learn otherwise next year (January ‘08? Eegads), I’m operating under the assumption that we just met the four of the Final Five, with one to go (and that also makes sense in light of the fact that next season may very well be the last — you’ve gotta get the Final Five into the mix at some point, without rushing it all at the very end).

But here, with these Final Four, is where I start to have some problems. Yes, those scenes and the reveal and realization of the Final Four was fucking tits. But the other seven Cylon models (except for the now on-ice Xenas) don’t know a thing about the Final Five. And until right now the Final Four, themselves, didn’t know anything about the Final Five. So there’s an obvious question of who, exactly “flipped the switch?” Unless it’s the last Cylon, there has to be someone or something else at play here. And that makes me highly dubious of the continuing claims that the Cylons “have a plan” (something which I’m already suspicious of, quite frankly, in light of the fact that there have been a lot of lucky coincidences and changes to their “plan”). There’s just this sneaking fear in my gut that we’re on the edge of a less-cluster-fucked version of the “Lost” predicament. It’s only a doubt right now, not a major concern as it is with “Lost,” and I’m still willing to give Ron Moore and company the benefit of that doubt, but it does give me pause.

Another problem with this Final Four is Tigh’s speech about “that’s the man I want to be.” The speech, itself, was fantastic. Really an excellent performance by Michael Hogan. But it was also entirely out of character. When he first realized what was going on, what did he do? He had them lock up the frakking doors. Because Tigh knows as well as anyone that once that switch is flipped, “sleeper” Cylons can’t help themselves from doing something they might not “want” to do, i.e., Sharon’s Season One assassination attempt. So I find it a bit hard to believe that the man who was willing to sacrifice his wife and other members of the cause for the greater good is now suddenly willing to allow himself and Tory to sidle up to Adama and the President, rather than insisting that they airlock themselves. Unless the “Cylon” in him pushed him to go that way, which I guess is a possibility. But there was just something unsatisfying about it, despite the coolness of seeing them return to their roles with this new self-awareness.

And while we’re talking about Tigh, one more comment/concern. Let’s put aside the fact that it’s highly improbable that all four of these guys survived the initial attacks and their time on New Caprica and everything else, and let’s also put aside the improbability that these secret Cylons were the ones leading the New Caprica rebellion (although, perhaps that’s not so improbable and goes to something about the seven-versus-the-Final-Five). It’s even more improbable, to my mind, that Tigh could even be a Cylon to begin with. As I recall, he met Adama shortly after the first war, which was about 40 years ago. And our understanding of the Cylons doesn’t suggest that they had skinjobs back then, let alone that there had already been a falling out with the Final Five, all of which has to be true for Tigh to be a Cylon (unless we get into some sort of Body Snatchers or time travel scenario, and I can’t see either of those occurring). Sure, I assume this will all be explained next season, and I hope it will be done in a satisfying and credible way. But again, for now, it does make me worry a little. But neither this, nor the other bitches, moans or complaints is meant to take away from what was a very solid and entertaining episode.

Before I wrap up, I have a question for y’all. When Xena “met” the Final Five, who was she apologizing to? Of the Final Four we’ve not met, I’m pretty sure Tigh is the only one she ever interacted with. So she could be apologizing for the whole ocular-popus-outus thing, I suppose. Otherwise, she could’ve been apologizing to the still-unknown Fifth. What do you all think?

“Still-unknown fifth?” Yup. I stand by what I said before — I still don’t think Starbuck is a Cylon. I’m pleased as hell that she’s back, surely. And her having been to Earth and planning to lead folks there certainly plays into her “special destiny” in a much more satisfying way than a meaningless suicide. And Cylon or not, there are plenty of questions that need answering — how did she survive (I told you before that the shot of the ejection lever was a tell), how’d she get a new viper, how and why is she apparently tooling around with a Cylon fleet now, etc. But I don’t believe any of this will be tidied up with a “she’s a Cylon” answer, and I think it’s a mistake to jump to that conclusion.

And what about President Laura? Not only did her headaches conveniently match up with the fleet’s loss and regaining of power, but she was “projecting” into that opera house with Athena and Caprica, and that can’t simply because she drinking the wacky-weed for her cancer. But my guess is that this is tied to the fact that Hera’s blood is pumping through her veins, not that she’s a Cylon, if for no other reason than it would be far too convenient and improbable (and a bit infuriating) to have the President of the Colonies turn out to be a Cylon, wouldn’t it?

Oh, by the way - if Tyrol is, in fact, a Cylon, then his kid with Callie is another hybrid (barring her being the Fifth). So does this diminish Hera’s importance a little? I keep hearing Yoda’s voice in my head saying “there is another.”

OK, I’m rambling now. My ultimate point here is this — I enjoyed last night’s episode on its own, but I think it’s too early to judge in the grand scheme of things. It had the season finale punch that’s come to be expected from “BSG.” But there’s also a risk that this whole season could essentially be one of no consequence. We’ll have to see how things go next year, but look at it — Baltar is free, folks are relatively unscathed from the New Caprica ordeal, Lee and Pappy are (probably) OK again, etc. — it feels like the only major changes are the Final Four and Starbuck’s new destiny, all of which basically came over the last two episodes. There is nothing I hate more than when a show’s season amounts to a hill of beans (see the last season of “Lost”) so I really hope I’m wrong about all this, and I will continue to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m just a bit bummed that, for the first real time, there even is some doubt.

And what about next season? Here’s the deal. Season Four is slated for a January 2008 premiere. Last week, SciFi announced that they were upping the episode order from 13 to 22, and there’s wide speculation that this means Season Four will be it for the show. Moore himself is on record as saying that he’s still deciding, at least on his end of things, whether Season Four will be the end. But we all know that SciFi may dictate it as the end, whether Moore likes it or not. However, Moore also says that, regardless of whether or not this will be the last season, the series has definitely moved into its third act (i.e., getting to Earth).

In the meantime, there will be a two-hour movie this fall. But it will not follow from last night’s episode. Instead, it will be a story set in the “past” on the Pegasus, back when Admiral Cain was still running the ship. Although, Moore says it will play into Season Four.

And there you have it. What say you all?

Update: Thanks to TV Squad for pointing out this interview with Moore, where he says, without question, that we have met four of the Final Five, and that Tyrol’s kid is, therefore, another hybrid:

It’s more that they arrived at a certain point in space and they were made aware of who they are. The music manifests a dawning awareness. These are four of the final five, which puts them in a separate category from everybody else. There are reasons for that I can’t really get into. We’ll be playing out those plot lines for quite a while.

So there you go with that.


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Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He’s not so sure anymore that “he’s probably not a Cylon.”

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Maybe the Secret to Great Television is Simply to Have a Character Named Gaius

"Rome" and "Battlestar Galactica" / The TV Whore
Mar. 26, 2007

TV | March 26, 2007 | Comments ()




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