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326[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Deadlock"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Feb 26, 2009
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      Battlestar Galactica: "Deadlock"

      Ellen returns to Galactica, upon which the Final Five must make a
      pivotal decision about whether to remain with the fleet.

      Air date: 2/20/2009 (USA)
      Written by Jane Espenson
      Directed by Robert Young

      Rating out of 4: **

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

      Now here's a dysfunctional episode about dysfunctional people.
      After "No Exit" -- an episode that contained more information than
      one thought possible in a single hour *and* somehow maintained utter
      clarity and great characterization -- "Deadlock" contains very little
      new information and somehow comes across as a ponderous, unfocused
      mess. There are solid, good moments and ideas to be found
      in "Deadlock," but they are adrift amid a sea of half-baked
      motivation and frankly ham-fisted drama.

      What's a surprise -- or, come to think of it, maybe it shouldn't be --
      is that the story's problems all stem from the volatile nature of
      Ellen Tigh, who strolls off Boomer's Raptor onto Galactica at the
      beginning of the episode and reveals to everyone that not only is she
      alive and well, but that she's basically still Plain and Simple
      Ellen. (Plus a ton of new information.)

      "I'm still Ellen, you know," she says. She asks for a drink -- or a
      flask, if someone has one. Apparently, you can take the memories out
      of the alcoholic, but you can't take the alcoholic out of the
      memories. She and Tigh make passionate love while he envisions
      Caprica Six, which is sort of the reverse of the situation with Six
      in the brig previously. It's like a three-way, Cylon Projection
      Style. When Tigh fesses up about thinking about Ellen while being
      with Six, Ellen's response: "I was your mental porn? That's just sad."

      At some point, a conscious storytelling choice was made that although
      New Ellen has retrieved all her memories from her original life as
      one of the Final Five, the bulk of her personality still remains from
      Old Ellen, the Colonial Wife Whom Saul Poisoned. As such, she is
      quite capable of all the Old Ellen behavior: being petty, vindictive,
      bitchy, and insanely jealous. One of the tenets of the episode
      appears to be that we cannot change who we fundamentally are, even if
      we did suddenly remember that we invented resurrection and built an
      entire race of AI beings. Although New Ellen has great insight into
      the entire human-Cylon situation, that doesn't erase the very flawed
      Old Ellen who "frakked half the Colonial fleet" and is basically
      still pissed off because Saul is married to his job.

      This would be a valid thesis if not for the fact that, well,
      virtually everything about "No Exit" played against this notion.
      Ellen's rediscovered memories made her a different person -- one who
      was able to calmly argue and philosophize with Cavil for 18 months.
      But now here, most of that wisdom seems to vanish. It's a non-
      credible backtrack for the character, one that doesn't make a whole
      lot of sense and is less interesting, not more. Instead of doing her
      best to help the fleet, Ellen plays some rather cruel mind games.

      But not always. There are scenes where she seems like New Ellen,
      where she marvels over seeing all of the Final Five, once again
      finally reunited, and ponders the possibilities for the future. But
      that vanishes when she learns that Caprica Six is pregnant with
      Saul's baby -- a piece of information Saul carefully, stupidly
      omitted. The jealousy of Old Ellen comes storming back; she and Saul
      never could have a child, despite years of trying, you see. This is
      good for some tension and some cruel laughs; Ellen can be ruthlessly
      nasty with devastatingly cutting remarks while playing innocent, like
      she does when she visits Caprica Six in her quarters ("I come here
      trying to be good..."). But this can also be perplexing, as she turns
      on a dime and suddenly seems genuine. The bottom line is that all
      this seems petty and counterproductive when you consider the stakes.
      Maybe that's the point: If the fate of the human and Cylon races rest
      with people who behave as shortsightedly as Ellen, everyone's in

      The problem is that too much of the drama feels schizophrenic,
      forced, or like it came out of left field. The main crisis here is
      that the Cylons want to leave the fleet and go it alone, and take
      Caprica Six and her future-of-the-Cylon-race child with them. But
      they won't do it unless the Final Five go along. So: Stay or go,
      Final Five? It comes down to a majority vote, because that's how such
      decisions are always made by Cylons. Anders voted last week when he
      said "Stay with the fleet!" before falling into a coma. Tigh of
      course wants to stay, because his loyalty to the fleet is second to
      none. Tory wants to leave, also not a surprise. Tyrol votes to leave.
      That makes Ellen the deciding vote, which she will leave up in the
      air while she plays out her little drama.

      But back up a minute. Tyrol wants to go? I think that's worth a
      little examination (although the story doesn't agree). Yeah, Tyrol
      has had a rough go of things lately and has become disillusioned
      about life aboard the Galactica. But what does life on a Cylon
      basestar get him? A fresh start, I suppose -- but Adama gave him a
      fresh start by giving him his job back. He has a chance to make a
      difference at a turning point in the fleet's history, when it's clear
      Adama is committed to the alliance. So why does he vote to leave
      behind everything he has ever known? I'm not necessarily saying he
      *wouldn't* cast his vote for leaving; what I'm saying is that story
      doesn't for a moment examine it. It's arbitrary.

      For that matter, just how many of the *Cylons* want to leave? Another
      theme this show examines is the societal melding of the humans and
      the Cylons who are now living on Galactica. There are Cylons working
      to install the organic gel that will fix the metal beams in the ship.
      And as we see in the final shot of the episode, the Cylons have even
      started using Galactica's memorial wall for their own fallen
      comrades. That's a very intriguing moment, and the most genuinely
      poignant point of the story.

      Also interesting is the symbolic notion that installing the gel to
      fix the ship is itself a melding of humanity and Cylon; Galactica is
      no longer who she used to be, but a hybrid of something new. And
      there's another great drunken scene between Adama and Tigh where
      Adama laments the death of Galactica as we knew her. While all this
      alcohol cannot bode well in the long run, watching these two old guys
      continue to drink together through all this mess is somehow
      reassuring, and I'd like to introduce a mathematical postulate: Adama
      + Tigh + Alcohol = Great TV.

      By the way, the whole storyline involving the organic gel -- it still
      makes me very uneasy. Surely Tyrol would've researched this mystery
      substance and declared it safe. Surely it's not going to grow into
      the metal and become something that could destroy the ship from
      within. But maybe not so surely. I don't know if Adama's obsessive
      alarmed gazes are just bemoaning the end of Galactica as she once
      was, or if he's concerned that this could end up being catastrophic.
      There are so many separate ominous shots of Adama watching the work
      being done (six, to be exact) that by the end of the show I wanted to
      declare these shots as the basis for the episode's official drinking

      But I've strayed from my original point, which is: Given all that has
      happened that is tethering the humans and the Cylons, *why do the
      Cylons want to leave the fleet*?

      Also not explained, nor attempted in even the most oblique way, is
      how Boomer was able to find the fleet in the first place. If she can
      find the fleet, why can't Cavil? (Or maybe he can, or always knew
      where it was, in which case he's playing waiting games.) Shouldn't
      Adama be asking a few questions along these lines?

      Instead, it's straight to the brig for Boomer, which strikes me as
      plausible, I guess, but not particularly forward-thinking or
      intriguing as a dramatic choice. If we can forgive Athena for being a
      Cylon, and Caprica Six for helping nuke the Colonies (though I'm not
      sure anyone knows that except Baltar and Roslin), why do we come down
      so hard on Boomer for shooting the Old Man under preprogrammed
      directives she had no control over? Perhaps there are simply too many
      Eights roaming the ship, and Adama needs to know where they all are.

      Also not explained: What the hell is a pregnant Caprica Six doing
      walking around the Dogsville section of the ship, which is overrun
      with gangs and people who hate the Cylons? That's just stupid. At
      this point, Caprica Six, given that her unborn baby is the future of
      the Cylon race, should probably be locked away in her quarters
      whenever possible. There are a lot of people, I'm sure, who do not
      want this child born. So why would you make yourself a target of
      violence and put the entire future at risk?

      Speaking of Dogsville, it's one of the other tiers of this week's
      story. Baltar returns to his flock, who have started to look to Paula
      as their new leader. She used to be a member of the flock, and when
      Baltar left for the baseship, she took over. Now they become rivals
      in a quiet ideological struggle for leadership of the flock. Head Six
      returns to help inspire Baltar with words in this struggle. But a
      funny thing happens on the way to the pissing contest: The whole
      thing becomes a pointless lackluster exercise.

      When Baltar was preaching against the establishment and in favor of
      the One True God, I understood where that notion came from. But that
      has all been wiped away and the priorities have been reset to the
      basics of finding food and hording it. Amid these events, Baltar's
      naivete is kind of mind-boggling. He tries to make a difference when
      he should damn well know better; Paula warns that guys with guns will
      steal the food, but Baltar doesn't listen. Then the guys with guns
      come and steal the food. I'm not sure what to make of this; I found
      it all sort of muddled.

      What does ultimately work is Baltar's appeal to Adama, where he cites
      the fact that Galactica is becoming Cylonized, and the civilians,
      already pushed to their limits, won't accept it and are about to rise
      up in a revolution, which is about the last thing Adama needs. Baltar
      needs guns to provide security against the gangs of the lower decks.
      So Adama gives him the guns, probably against his better judgment.
      The problem with this whole storyline, like the episode in general,
      is that it feels concocted and perfunctory rather than urgent and

      The Ellen plot comes to a head on what might as well be called
      Ellen's Dramatic Theater Stage. She invites the Final Five (minus
      Anders; still in a coma) and Caprica Six into one room where they
      discuss the merits of leaving the fleet. When Ellen announces her
      vote to leave, Tigh rejects it outright, and Ellen accuses him of
      loving Adama and the ship and the uniform more than her, more than
      Six, more than his unborn baby. It must be noted that Tigh is awesome
      even in the middle of this petulant drama display; Michael Hogan is
      great at growling dialog and punctuating it with variants of the
      word "frak" in ways that make you want to cheer for him in the face
      of absurdity.

      The psychological effects of this drama are enough to land Six in
      sickbay and put the baby's life in jeopardy. The whole notion of all
      of this is predicated on the belief that True Love is what's
      apparently needed to sustain a Cylon fetus. One scene I thought
      worked pretty well was when Saul struggles with the silly need to put
      love into words when he *feels* far more for Six and the child than
      those words could ever express. And I liked how Ellen transitioned
      from the role of selfish troublemaker to loyal supportive wife in the
      blink of an eye. Complicated and dysfunctional, this is.

      But *the baby dies*, which I found to be blatantly manipulative, and
      more motivated by the writers' apparent need to make Hera the sole
      face of the future than by what actually jells here in terms of
      story. Apparently, the psychosomatic effects of a Cylon's mental
      doubt that her lover actually loves her can result in the baby's
      death. Wow. Sorry, but that's a bit much for me. Besides, if a Cylon
      baby allegedly cannot be conceived without this notion of ironclad
      True Love, how was the baby conceived in the first place? Six and
      Tigh conceived the child during some sort of strange Cylon therapy
      session. I doubt they were in love at the time, as would've been
      required by the Cylon Conception Rules suggested here.

      I dunno. This episode is kind of a manipulative cheat and is dictated
      too much by Old Ellen, who somehow displaced the far more intriguing
      New Ellen. Last week, New Ellen was the matriarch and Cavil was the
      petulant child. This week New Ellen is gone and instead we have Old
      Ellen who behaves like a petulant child. There are probably ironies
      to be found there, but as drama this just doesn't work.

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

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