294[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Hero"
- Jan 5, 2007Note: This review contains significant spoilers.
Battlestar Galactica: "Hero"
An imprisoned Colonial pilot escapes from a Cylon basestar after three years
in captivity, and his connection to Adama's past reveals a dark secret.
Air date: 11/17/2006 (USA)
Written by David Eick
Directed by Michael Rymer
Rating out of 4: **1/2
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Three Cylon Raiders jump into the immediate vicinity of the Galactica, and
as the Vipers close in to intercept, it becomes clear that one of the
Raiders is running from the other two. The two pursuing Raiders are taken
out by the Vipers, and the third Raider is escorted into the Galactica's
hangar deck. The pilot of this stolen Raider is Lt. Danny "Bulldog" Novacek
(Carl Lumbly), who served under Adama during Adama's previous command of the
battlestar Valkyrie. Bulldog was captured by the Cylons three years ago and
was held prisoner until his current escape.
It quickly becomes clear that Bulldog's disappearance involves a dark secret
pertaining to a Valkyrie mission and, more specifically, Adama's role in it.
After Bulldog's debriefing that seems to be going through the motions with
little regard for brutal honesty, Roslin asks Adama, "Do you want to tell me
what's going on?" Adama replies, "You're going to have to trust me on this
The message of "Hero" is one of taking individual responsibility. The whole
issue of how Bulldog was captured by the Cylons digs deep into one of
Adama's painful secrets and perhaps into his soul. The show's message is an
admirable one, but it's not terribly convincing. Considering what humanity
has been through in recent months (what with the Cylon occupation and all),
you'd think that long-ago bygones would be bygones. Then again, Adama does
have a soft spot for Individual Responsibility.
His dark secret is that the Valkyrie was on a classified mission about three
years ago -- before the Cylon attack -- to investigate the Cylon border,
peek across with a small fighter (Bulldog was the pilot), and see what the
Cylons were up to. (There were rumors of a Cylon war machine at work. I
suppose the intelligence was correct, but far too late.) When it looked like
a Cylon patrol had seen Bulldog's ship, Adama ordered it shot down so its
presence wouldn't be detected and construed as an act of war. Bulldog
ejected before the Valkyrie's missile impact, and was subsequently captured
by the Cylons, unbeknownst to everybody, although possibly suspected by
some, including Adama and Tigh.
Dramatically, the problem with "Hero" is that it builds up to a big secret
that simply isn't big enough. First of all, the new information that Adama
commanded another battlestar so shortly before the events of the miniseries
feels retroactively inserted into history solely for the sake of this
episode and not like an organic or convincing piece of Adama's true
backstory. Second, the story makes much of the fact that Adama is
overwhelmed with guilt that this failed mission might possibly have been the
catalyst for the Cylon attack on the Colonies.
Adama confesses this to his son and even breaks down into tears. I'm not so
sure I buy it. The Cylons were clearly planning the attack for years before
it happened (as evidenced by the sleeper agents). Adama's guilt over his
role in something so much larger than himself does not strike me as
believable, especially since we haven't seen a trace of it for the past two
seasons (often a problem with inventing retroactive backstory). Yes, Adama
has always been willing to question his choices and those of humanity -- and
I appreciate that -- but for him to go from asking a few tough questions to
blaming himself for starting the entire war is a stretch.
Adama is so shaken by Bulldog resurfacing that he visits Tigh in his
quarters, who has locked himself away since that memorable scene at the end
of "Torn" when he said he wouldn't be coming around anymore. If I don't
believe Adama's characterization in this episode, I do believe Tigh's, whose
deeply damaged psyche and believable screw-the-world response seems to be a
selling point of a lot of episodes these days. *This* is a guy whose
motivation I completely buy from week to week.
Meanwhile, the questions circle Bulldog and his escape from the Cylons. Just
how did he get off a basestar? Kara reviews the flight video and becomes
convinced that the two Raiders that were chasing his Raider simply let him
escape when they easily could've killed him. She passes the information to
Tigh, and during this scene I again found myself wondering: Just how did
these two former-enemies become friends on New Caprica? Much the way
"Unfinished Business" will explore how Kara and Lee became so deeply
estranged, I hope to find out someday how Kara and Tigh became so amicable
(even before their perception of shared suffering upon returning from New
There's also a subplot on the basestar with Baltar, D'Anna, and Six, who
these days share a bed, threesome style, which is somehow appropriate given
Baltar. D'Anna's fascination with Baltar undoubtedly arises from that
intriguing torture scene in last week's "Measure of Salvation," but we also
get some further hints at her fascination with death -- or, more
specifically, the mysterious images that lie between death and downloading.
Are there truths to discover? Is this the same D'Anna who was a TV reporter
on Galactica? (There are flashbacks to her being cornered and machine-gunned
in a corridor on Galactica.) Why does she have the Cylon Centurion delete
its logs when she commands it to shoot her in the head? When she downloads,
surely someone has to know that she died and transferred to a new body,
right? Do Cylon bodies have serial numbers? Is this plot supposed to give us
hints about something or simply provide half-baked pseudo-philosophical
atmosphere? I confess that I don't know.
Back aboard the Galactica, Bulldog inevitably learns of Adama's role in
shooting him down, which leads to a violent confrontation in which it looks
like Bulldog is prepared to crush Adama's throat with a pipe. Tigh
intervenes, and has a priceless little self-describing speech about
self-loathing versus facing the truths that we deep down *know* but don't
want to accept. "Sometimes surviving can be its own death sentence," he
says. His speech is better than a 12-step program.
Bulldog knows he was shot down; he just doesn't want to admit it. Bulldog
knows the Cylons let him escape; he just doesn't want to admit it.
Meanwhile, Tigh knows that he would rather drown in self-loathing than face
the fact that he killed his wife. The speech the writers give Tigh is great
service to Tigh in terms of character development. I like that Tigh is in
this place of pain, and is somehow able to burrow his way out. I also like
that this leads him to finally bear his soul and confess his sin and reason
for suffering to Adama at the end of the episode. In a less-than-stellar
episode, there are still stellar moments like this to find.
On the other hand, I don't buy the rationale surrounding Bulldog. Apparently
the Cylons let him escape because they knew he would find out about Adama's
role in shooting him down and take revenge. If that's the Cylons' plan (and
the opening titles assure us every week that "they have a plan"), my
questions are as follows: (1) How in the world did Bulldog find the fleet?
(2) If Bulldog can find the fleet then why don't the Cylons find the fleet?
(3) Why don't the Cylons jump in and attack the fleet directly since they
must therefore know where it is? Perhaps their need to find Earth supersedes
their need to attack the fleet. Or perhaps the plot is a sieve.
After the past has been dealt with, where does Bulldog go at the end of the
episode? He gets on a ship and it's not said where he's going. Apparently
he's not staying on Galactica, and that's all we're intended to know. On a
series that has had such a dearth of prominent black male characters,
Bulldog's half-baked exit from this story is less than satisfying. (Not that
his thus-far-mediocre character would've necessarily been a winning addition
to the recurring cast.)
And the episode never convinced me of Adama's characterization of
overburdened self-administered guilt. When Roslin tries to set him straight
(i.e., he was one man in a war that had many, many reasons, etc.), it seems
like common sense. That Adama would go so far as to submit his resignation
to Roslin (which she rejects, naturally) borders on the ridiculous. You can
be torn up inside, but for the sake of those around you and under your
command, you can't afford to be so outwardly dramatic. Adama of all people
should know that.
Copyright 2007, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
Jammer's Reviews - http://www.jammersreviews.com
Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...