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276[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Epiphanies"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Feb 10 12:46 AM
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "Epiphanies"

      President Roslin, very near death, orders the termination of Sharon's
      pregnancy amid violent protests by a group advocating a peaceful resolution
      to the conflict with the Cylons.

      Air date: 1/20/2006 (USA)
      Written by Joel Anderson Thompson
      Directed by Rod Hardy

      Rating out of 4: **1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      -----

      There's nothing really wrong with "Epiphanies" except perhaps that unlike a
      lot of episodes of "Battlestar Galactica," I knew more or less where this
      one was going. One of BSG's biggest strengths, much like "The Shield" or
      "24," is that you never quite know where the characters and the story's
      momentum will take you. You just know that there's so much momentum that it
      will have to take you *somewhere*.

      "Epiphanies" is somewhat boxed in by the fact that the only way for it to
      end shockingly and unexpectedly would be to kill off the series' female lead
      -- which, obviously, is not going to happen. President Laura Roslin, who has
      been dying of breast cancer since the first half-hour of the first episode,
      enters "Epiphanies" literally on her deathbed, and it quickly becomes clear
      that by the end of the hour she will either be dead or miraculously saved by
      sci-fi machinations. I leave it to you to guess which is more likely. If you
      guess wrong, you are banned from reading my reviews.

      To kill Roslin would be a writer's coup d'etat, just as killing Adama when
      he was shot at the end of "Kobol's Last Gleaming" would've been equally
      spectacularly shocking. The problem, of course, is that then your main
      characters are dead and you don't have the same show anymore. Quite simply,
      there are things you cannot plausibly do on a still-running television show.
      I suppose it's an item of courage that the writers are willing to look the
      deaths of the lead characters straight in the eye, playing a game of
      storytelling chicken before swerving at the last possible moment to avoid
      the collision. It's also worth noting that the way Roslin's death is averted
      is perhaps the most absolutely appropriate under the circumstances, and one
      that adds yet another layer to the Cylon/human conflict and Roslin's
      personal world view concerning same.

      On her deathbed, Roslin realizes she must make the order she has likely been
      putting off: deciding the fate of Sharon's hybrid child. Dr. Cottle has seen
      strange things about the pregnancy, although I would suggest (as does
      Baltar) that any hybrid pregnancy between a man and a machine would likely
      have some ... oddities. Roslin decides the baby, which could potentially
      become a threat to the fleet, should be terminated. Since she won't be
      around to make the decision later (when there might be more information to
      make a more informed decision), she makes the decision now, and it's the
      last one she expects to make as president. Adama agrees to carry it out. The
      moral implications here are obviously huge, since we're talking about the
      forcible abortion of a prisoner's child against her will.

      This storyline coincides with a subplot involving new turmoil brewing in the
      fleet thanks to an organized group insisting on finding a peaceful,
      negotiated solution with the Cylons to end the war. This group is not above
      sabotage and violence to get their message across, which begins as a thorn
      in Adama's side before escalating to a true threat when one of their members
      carries out a suicide bombing on the fleet's tylium refinery vessel. Adama
      arrests their suspected leader, a man named Royan Jahee (Paul Perri), but
      the movement continues and Jahee is not cooperative.

      Yes, these are all interesting and relevant issues that have a basis in the
      world we live in today. I guess the problem is that the story is a little
      too much of a functional plot and not enough of a dramatic enterprise with
      fresh character insights. Yes, Helo is understandably appalled at the notion
      of his baby being aborted. Yes, Sharon flips out when he delivers her the
      news. (In what might be the visceral peak of the show, she takes on the
      characteristics of an enraged animal, ramming her head repeatedly into the
      glass wall of her cell.)

      But after all we've been through this season with the "Pegasus" trilogy and
      the whole Kobol arc, "Epiphanies" feels more expected and inevitable, and
      less surprising or riveting. Adama must track down the terrorist threat
      while the characters react -- expectedly understandably negatively -- to the
      edict that Sharon's pregnancy will be terminated.

      There are also some ancillary issues worth mention. There's a parallel
      flashback storyline that follows Roslin on Caprica in the days before the
      Cylon attack. This was when she was secretary of education and was trying to
      broker a deal with an educators union on strike. She does some
      behind-the-scenes negotiations to end the standoff and get them back to
      work. President Adar (Colm Feore) does not like the method of Roslin's
      solution: "You've just showed them that if they hold out long enough, this
      administration will cave."

      The flashback narrative runs parallel to Roslin's and Adama's current
      problems with the organized sympathizers, and the lesson to take from this
      is that there's a difference between negotiating to solve a problem and
      negotiating because you're afraid of violent reprisals. In the end, Roslin
      agrees to negotiate with the sympathizers if -- and only if -- they bring
      serious intentions to the table. I think that's the lesson, anyway, because
      it honestly lacked clarity to me. Meanwhile, if there's *any* point to the
      revelation that Roslin was having an affair with Adar during the education
      standoff, then I've missed it. I found it completely arbitrary, extraneous,
      and distracting -- downright puzzling, in fact. In brief: Who cares, and
      what does it have to do with anything?

      Meanwhile, there's Vice President Baltar, who looks to be just hours away
      from assuming the full-time role of president. Baltar already shows signs of
      not being up to the job; at one point, Adama gets in his face and
      essentially tells him to grow up: "Pull yourself together. You're about to
      become president of the Colonies. You're going to be asked to make some very
      hard decisions. Act like you can handle it."

      Baltar's situation is further complicated by the fact that he still has
      feelings and sympathies for Pegasus Six, whom he helped escape and who is
      now hiding on board the Cloud Nine, apparently helping the sympathy
      movement. She wants his help. He's conflicted and still uncertain of what
      she's capable of. Does she want to truly negotiate peace or wage her own
      agenda and destroy the fleet? I like that Baltar is such a wild card: You
      never know whether he's going to act out of his quasi-psychotic love for Six
      (any version of her) or his deep guilty need to safeguard humanity from his
      own potential contributions to destroy it. Roslin's flashbacks also reveal
      buried information: She remembers seeing Baltar with Six on Caprica before
      the attack. Now she knows he was somehow involved. And this will all lead
      somewhere.

      Baltar makes an eleventh-hour discovery that the blood in Sharon's hybrid
      baby has unique resistance to human disease, including cancer. The blood in
      fact is able to cure Roslin's cancer at the last possible moment. There's
      irony in the fact that Roslin is saved by that which she ordered destroyed,
      and it's an irony that will prompt some tough questions for her and everyone
      else. I guess if you're going to rescue the president with a sci-fi solution
      at the last minute, this is the way to do it, and one that creates at least
      as many new issues at is resolves. Still, I found myself asking: Once you're
      on your deathbed -- hours away from death -- isn't the damage to your body
      already done? Even if you cure the cancer, aren't you still damaged beyond
      repair? Perhaps this sci-fi treatment also healed all of Roslin's organs.
      It's a tidy resolution, for sure.

      I didn't much care for the episode's final exclamation point, where Baltar
      delivers to Pegasus Six the nuclear warhead given to him (and virtually
      forgotten by the series) way back in "Bastille Day." I'm having a very hard
      time believing that Adama would be so careless in following the whereabouts
      of this device, which he gave to Baltar, of all people, whose
      trustworthiness has hardly been ironclad. I guess I'm resistant to the idea
      of a nuclear bomb becoming a plot device in a world that often tries so hard
      to be plausible in its military details.

      Bottom line: "Epiphanies" is a perfectly acceptable hour of BSG, but this
      series has done much better.

      -----
      Copyright 2006, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...