Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

323[BSG] Jammer's Review: "The Oath"

Expand Messages
  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Feb 6, 2009
      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      Battlestar Galactica: "The Oath"

      Unwilling to tolerate the alliance with the Cylons, Gaeta and Zarek
      stage a mutiny against the existing leadership of the fleet under

      Air date: 1/30/2009 (USA)
      Written by Mark Verheiden
      Directed by John Dahl

      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

      "The Oath" is a superb, straightforward action show that's more about
      the execution of individual beats of action and character than about
      complex storylines or mythology. Suffice it to say that it's a
      riveting, pulse-pounding experience that moves its pieces (i.e.,
      characters) around with near-ceaseless momentum, where the stakes
      couldn't be higher and the drama couldn't be tauter. The overall vibe
      I get from "The Oath" -- from its general action beats and nuts-and-
      bolts approach to showing who is where and when -- is that it's a top-
      notch episode of "24," right down to the title cards that serve as a
      ticking clock. It doesn't take place in "real time," but it might as
      well have. This episode is a dissection of crisis management,
      punctuated by nice vignettes of character.

      It also takes a back-to-basics approach to the series. After all the
      mythology in season four, "The Oath" is simply about the explosive
      uprising on board the Galactica and in the fleet after the weight of
      that my-thology has come crashing down. Earth turned out to be an
      empty promise, and the Cylon alliance is for many the final straw.
      Something's gotta give, and that something appears to be the
      Adama/Roslin admini-stration. Gaeta has organized an alarmingly
      sizable mutiny (perhaps too quickly and quietly to be believed), and
      has coordinated a power grab with Zarek, who is prepared to take
      control of the civilian government.

      What's perhaps most interesting to consider about this power play is
      that neither Adama nor Roslin see it coming -- or indeed even as a
      remote possibility. Consider the opening scene, where Roslin, who has
      practically moved into Adama's quarters and is not bothering to hide
      that fact, tries to offer up nuggets of advice for how Lee might
      handle Zarek and the Quorum -- but then she backs off and insists she
      is not getting involved in that morass. If she had an inkling of what
      was about to go down, you can bet she'd be extremely involved.
      Assuming the power grab is ultimately put down, both Roslin and Adama
      are going to have a lot of hand-wringing to do: Roslin for stepping
      aside and creating the power vacuum that allows this to happen, and
      Adama for not having a better sense of the discontent festering under
      his command.

      The Galactica mutiny is all the more scary because it seems to be so
      sweeping. It's not just Gaeta and a bunch of nameless marines. There
      are notable secondary characters we know -- Racetrack, Seelix,
      Skulls -- who are in on this. And that says something about the state
      of the fleet. If people who are your friends have bought into this
      uprising, what does that mean for the fleet at large? Perhaps that
      the whole thing is on the verge of coming apart.

      The way the mutiny goes down is simultaneously fascinating and
      agonizing. We see how Gaeta has gotten all the pieces in place he
      needs in order to move men and weapons where he needs them, all while
      keeping Adama and Tigh completely in the dark. He's the one-man line
      of communications between CIC and the rest of the ship, and that
      allows him to manipulate the game and stage a series of complex ruses
      that would otherwise be impossible to sustain (and even here is only
      sustainable for so long). Galactica be-comes an exploitable
      chessboard, with Gaeta as the gatekeeper. It's frightening how one
      man, given his unique position, can mastermind taking over the entire
      ship. The episode, in its writing and direction, is expert at showing
      how Gaeta's ambitious plan unfolds, and the reasons for why Adama and
      Tigh are blind-sided by it.

      Ultimately it becomes a race. How long can Gaeta keep this up? Can he
      get his men in place before the ruse falls apart? The story generates
      great suspense in the way it puts us on edge for Gaeta as well as for
      Adama. We of course instinctively root for Adama, but the action also
      keeps us invested in the progress of Gaeta's plan.

      Meanwhile, the episode is ruthless in its momentum. Violence is
      uncorked, marines go marching, and prisoners are seized in successive-
      whammy scenes of high adrenaline. The resident Cylons (Caprica Six,
      Athena, Hera, Anders) and Helo are rounded up and thrown in a cell.
      The hatred and angry words are allowed to boil over, after having
      simmered for so long. One touch I liked: Spc. Gage (Mike Dopud), one
      of the Pegasus dudes who beat Helo and Tyrol with a bar of soap back
      in season two, appears here to grab the Agathon family from their
      quarters -- and he makes it clear that bygones are *not* bygones.
      Gage's presence as a former Pegasus crewman, as well as Narcho's
      (Sebastian Spence), is in deference to poor Chief Laird (Vincent
      Gale), who gets a wrench to the head from Zarek, and is the first
      victim of the mutiny. (I'd wondered who replaced Tyrol after his

      The action is also expert at putting in place the various characters
      who, from the lower decks, will be instrumental in resisting the
      mutiny. Kara gets a show-stopper of a bitchin' scene where she
      rescues Lee without the slightest hesitation in using deadly force,
      but while still doing so discriminately. She's so pumped up by the
      adrenaline rush (as are we) that she says, "This is the most normal
      I've felt in weeks." They slide quietly through the ship attempting
      to make sense of the chaos, "Die Hard" style.

      Then the marines take CIC by force. Adama's surprise to the mutiny is
      telling, but even more compelling is his promise to the
      mutineers: "If you do this, there will be no forgiveness, no
      amnesty." It begs the question of what the aftermath of this mutiny
      (again, assuming it will fail) will look like when so many people
      have participated in it.

      Adama and Tigh are led out of CIC to the brig. In another of the
      episode's bitchin' moments of adrenaline, Adama and Tigh overpower
      the marines. I like seeing these old guys in action. This is Adama's
      frakking ship, and he's not going to be marched quietly into a cell.
      Ultimately, Adama/Tigh meet up with Kara/Lee. And Kara won't hear
      anything about taking prisoners. She bluntly tells Adama that it's
      shoot to kill here: "They are not your men anymore! They are the

      The president, meanwhile, is shocked by these developments back into
      action, which leads her to try to get on the air to make a personal
      appeal to the entire fleet, and Zarek's coup from displacing the
      entire establishment. The only available person with a radio capable
      of broadcasting this address: Baltar. There's a nice little exchange
      where Baltar and Roslin fence over their roles in creating this mess.
      Roslin to Baltar: "I never really believed in your conversion, so I
      was counting on your well-honed sense of self-preservation."

      Roslin's appeal to the fleet got me thinking about the value of
      leadership. She makes her case, and it's a compelling one. People may
      be pissed off with the leadership that led them to the dead end that
      was Earth, and even more pissed off about having to ally themselves
      with the very Cylons that destroyed them. But what, really, is the
      alternative? Watching Gaeta's uneasy place in CIC as he tries to take
      command of Galactica only drives the point home more. Okay, so you've
      staged this mutiny. Assume you can take over the fleet and expel the
      Cylons. Then what? What is your brilliant plan from there? Where do
      we go?

      The episode is occasionally canny in its choices of re-establishing
      character details: Baltar tries to appeal to Gaeta's better sense.
      When that fails he mentions their "little secret," the one sealed
      with the stab to his neck with a pen. Here, the information from
      the "Face of the Enemy" webisodes comes in handy.

      Lee has a moment of playing devil's advocate when he makes a speech
      about the fleet's very real inability to put the past behind them. He
      rails at Tigh for being a Cylon. It's a valid point when Lee says
      that the destruction of humanity has left everyone with very few
      options. Still, just once, I'd like to get the sense that people like
      Lee actually understand that Tigh is not simply "a Cylon" but an
      individual who had absolutely nothing to do with the destruction of
      humanity and has fought every day for its cause. Tigh has been
      through every bit as much of an ordeal as any Colonial, and then some.

      The overall feelings of "The Oath" are summed up with the
      (inevitable) ending cliffhanger, as Adama and Tigh get the president
      off Galactica before making what they know could be their final
      stand. It's well-staged action, great cinematography and editing, and
      Bear McCreary's score sells all of it. At its core, it's about these
      two lifelong military guys defending their turf against those who
      have abandoned them. If need be, they'll go down fighting. To Adama,
      Tigh is not a Cylon; Tigh is and always will be Saul Tigh: "It's been
      an honor serving with you, my friend."

      Copyright 2009, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is

      Jammer's Reviews - http://www.jammersreviews.com
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...