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260[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 1"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Jul 12, 2005
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 1"

      Roslin believes prophecies are coming true when a recon mission finds the
      location of Kobol, the planet of origin of the 12 Colonies.

      Air date: 3/25/2005 (USA)
      Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
      Story by David Eick
      Directed by Michael Rymer

      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
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      The opening sequence of "Kobol's Last Gleaming" sets the stage for a
      two-part season finale in which a multitude of characters will go in many
      different directions. This opening does not tell you where the story is
      ultimately going to end up, but it tells you where the story starts, and in
      some ways that in itself reveals the unexpected.

      Cross-edited to a musical piece that has a classical bent unlike most of
      this series' more avant-garde fare, we see several things happening: Lee and
      his father are boxing. Kara is having sex with ... somebody. The Galactica
      version of Sharon puts a gun in her mouth. Helo runs away from the Caprica
      version of Sharon and eventually is forced to draw his gun on her.

      Adama knocks Lee to the ground, telling him that Lee was too much in control
      of himself. Helo shoots Caprica Sharon in the shoulder and takes her
      prisoner. Galactica Sharon can't pull the trigger. Kara calls out Lee's name
      while having sex with ... oh, look, it's Baltar. Whoops. (This is hilarious
      when you consider whose ego is being taken down several notches.)

      What's nice about this sequence is that it's based on character rather than
      just plot. It's about these people and the messy, complicated relationships
      they have with other people. In the case of Galactica Sharon, the
      relationship is with the Cylons, which she suspects but is determined to
      suppress. There's a sort of epic foreboding in the way characters crash into
      each other to the tune of classical music, and it makes for a memorable
      sequence.

      From here we have Baltar descending into a drunken funk over, apparently,
      the realization that Kara does not worship him -- indeed, does not much like
      him beyond the role of a temporary placeholder. Six finds this funk
      disappointing, and mainly wants to know whether Baltar has fallen for
      another woman. There's a card game where Baltar gets hostile with Lee for
      "competing" with him. Lee is nonplussed. When Kara shows up and Baltar
      grumpily insists she call him "Mr. Vice President," the cards are on the
      table.

      Ah, Baltar. What a great, entertaining character. Where else can you find a
      guy who is simultaneously so lovable and detestable? We root for the guy
      even as we laugh at his misfortune. There's a scene where he's talking to
      Roslin while Six keeps buzzing in his ear, and he loses his patience. "I'm
      not your plaything!" he shouts. "Plaything?" asks Roslin and Six, in
      perfectly synched stereo. Funny stuff. And yet this isn't all just zany fun
      and games. Six warns Baltar that Galactica isn't safe, and that he needs to
      get off the ship. What's going to happen?

      Perhaps it has something to do with Roslin's latest drug-induced,
      hallucinated premonitions. Roslin's doctor gives her six months to live, and
      the fact that she's dying only fuels Priest Elosha's belief that Roslin will
      lead humanity to Kobol. "I know you're the one," Elosha tells her. If Roslin
      is The One, then I guess that makes Elosha the Oracle. Just remember: There
      is no spoon.

      But I suppose if I were Roslin, I might begin to believe too, especially
      after Boomer and Crashdown return from a recon mission having found a planet
      that turns out to be Kobol. When looking at orbital photographs of the
      ruins, Roslin's hallucinations allow her to instead see buildings and a
      famous opera house, suggesting that the prophecies are true.

      The mythology surrounding Kobol/Earth is intriguing material that expands
      the canvas of the series. It ties into various aspects of Colonial religion
      and history. As such, it's not something that everybody agrees on. The seeds
      of discord between Adama and Roslin are planted when she suggests using the
      Cylon Raider to jump back to Caprica to retrieve the historic Arrow of
      Apollo from a museum (this presumes the museum hasn't been nuked, which is a
      big presumption). The Arrow, legend has it, can be used on Kobol to open the
      Tomb of Athena, which will reveal the location of Earth. The whole concept
      of Earth is its own potential trouble point for Adama. He used it in the
      miniseries, in the form of a lie, to inspire a reason for hope. That lie is
      now about to come back and bite him.

      What's kind of amazing about this episode is how many characters it keeps
      track of, and how much justice it's able to do their storylines. For
      instance, we have the Lee/Kara friction over her sleeping with Baltar,
      including a moment where the two actually come to blows. What could've
      potentially come off looking petty and obvious instead reveals true pain and
      regret in the characters. This apparently isn't the first ill-advised affair
      Kara has had, and Lee holds a certain resentment for it. The irony is that
      Kara obviously has feelings for Lee that she's suppressing (or more
      specifically, had channeled through sex with Baltar), and the unfortunate
      end result is that now Lee is pissed off at her.

      There's also a wonderful scene where Baltar visits a visibly suicidal Sharon
      in her quarters. Six tags along in Baltar's head for good measure. Sharon
      knows deep down she's a Cylon, but doesn't want to accept it. Six notes that
      "the model is weak, always has been." That brings up an interesting point:
      Perhaps the Sharon model is actually strong, in that it has more free will
      than the other Cylons. I suppose it depends on your point of view.

      Baltar, who knows Sharon is a Cylon but lied to her about it ("Flesh and
      Bone"), shows a sympathy and kindness toward her that transcends his usual
      selfishness, even as his fear that she'll carry out a Cylon mission led him
      here for partially self-serving reasons. What he says to her walks a fine
      line that tells her she's a Cylon without explicitly saying so. "There are
      worse things than death in this world," he notes ominously. In a very
      delicate way (and I loved the complexity of this scene), Baltar pushes
      Sharon over the edge into suicide. Actually, it's more of a suicide gesture;
      she shoots herself but doesn't die, which leads to a scene where Tyrol
      visits her in sickbay and Sharon realizes just how alone she is. Poor
      Sharon, living a cursed existence.

      Meanwhile, the tactical situation turns grim when a Raptor survey team jumps
      right into the middle of a Cylon fleet now orbiting Kobol. One Raptor is
      destroyed, one crashes on the planet surface, and one returns to warn the
      Galactica. The crashed Raptor contains key characters, including Tyrol,
      Crashdown (Sam Witwer), Cally (Nicki Clyne), and Baltar, the latter who
      volunteered because it got him off the Galactica and he thought he'd be
      safe. Did Six manipulate him to come to Kobol for a more specific reason?

      Starbuck comes up with a plan to use a confiscated Cylon transponder and the
      Raider to get close enough to the Cylon base star to nuke it. This military
      plan is interrupted when Roslin thwarts chain of command and calls Kara in
      to tell her about the Arrow of Apollo on Caprica, its importance to the
      future (as she believes it to be), and the fact that Adama has lied about
      knowing the location of Earth. Roslin invokes religious scripture in making
      her case, and it's notable that Kara is willing to listen in part because
      she is a believer.

      This episode is filled with intersecting and diverging plots and paths. But
      what makes it truly work is its commitment to characters who have free will
      and make big decisions -- choices that will have severe consequences.

      There's a scene right before Roslin calls in Starbuck where Billy questions
      Roslin's plan and warns that it's likely to bring her and the government
      down. It's reassuring to see prudent thinking like that. Similarly, there's
      the scene where Starbuck goes to Adama and asks him about Earth. The answer
      he gives is ambivalent, but the answer Kara hears is clear in light of her
      new information. Adama has his own defense for lying about Earth, which
      comes down to a simple matter of having no regrets. He can live with the
      consequences; can Kara if she abandons the fleet?

      It's this level of detail that keeps "Kobol's Last Gleaming" grounded in
      choices, and governed by its characters rather than simply a clever writer
      setting up pieces.

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      Copyright 2005, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...