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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Kobol s Last Gleaming, Part 2 In the midst of a Cylon threat and the discovery of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 12, 2005
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2"

      In the midst of a Cylon threat and the discovery of Kobol, Roslin's
      interference in a military decision creates a rift between her and Adama,
      which threatens to escalate to the point of no return.

      Air date: 4/1/2005 (USA)
      Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
      Story by David Eick
      Directed by Michael Rymer

      Rating out of 4: ****

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      -----

      As a general rule, I'm tired of cliffhanger season enders. Cliffhangers have
      long since become cliche. The newer template of serialized cable
      television -- as evidenced by shows like "The Sopranos," "The Wire," or "The
      Shield" -- has managed to get away from the network presentation of the
      cliffhanger season cap. Cable series now often treat seasons as book volumes
      where certain plot lines are resolved in some form, even as new plot lines
      are set up. Usually they end on a note of quasi-resolution rather than a
      note of "to be continued."

      Not "Kobol's Last Gleaming." But I'm certainly not complaining. I'll take
      any cliffhanger as purely entertaining -- and that promises to be as
      life-altering -- as what we get in "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2." Not only
      does the episode end on a true "Mr. Worf, fire" moment of unexpected shock,
      it's like five cliffhangers all at once, united in the big quagmire that is
      the story. Just about every character ends up in the jackpot, and for some
      characters, things will never be the same (or at least I would hope not).
      This is a cliffhanger for which there will be hell to pay. How is this all
      going to play out? One legitimate concern is whether season two can pay off
      what has been set in motion here.

      Let's start with Helo and Boomer on Caprica. Not the season's best story
      structure, I'll grant you. Basically, they've been running around in the
      background of 13 episodes. Dramatically, aside from Helo recently learning
      Boomer is a Cylon, this has been a long road of relatively inconsequential
      events. It has allegedly encompassed 51 days, but it feels more like a
      couple weeks. And what's Helo's brilliant plan? Still to get off the planet
      and get back to the Galactica. What in the world makes him think Galactica
      is going to be anywhere to be found after nearly two months?

      Whatever. Helo and Boomer go to the museum that holds the Arrow of Apollo --
      the same Arrow that Starbuck has jumped all the way back to Caprica to
      retrieve on behalf of Roslin. Is it a coincidence that Boomer has brought
      Helo here? Or do the Cylons also have a plan involving the Arrow? If they
      do, why have they waited 51 days to go after it? And is it a coincidence
      that the Cylons have taken orbit around Kobol right after the fleet
      discovered it?

      Aboard the Galactica, the situation quickly deteriorates. Roslin, having
      gone around Adama and betrayed his secret to Starbuck, admits her
      complicity. Adama immediately asks for her resignation. She refuses. Oh, and
      she's called the press to hear everything unfold. Noting that "she's
      dangerous," Adama intends to board the Colonial One and force her to step
      down. Both think the other is bluffing, but make preparations in case they
      aren't.

      Who's to blame for this situation? In a way, everybody and nobody, but I
      guess this is ultimately about crossing lines. Clearly, Roslin crossed a
      line by going to Starbuck. But the choice, ultimately, was Starbuck's to
      make; Roslin didn't force her to do anything. By demanding her resignation
      and sending an armed party to arrest her, is Adama justified, or is he
      himself now crossing the line in bypassing due process of the law? One
      wonders how anything can ever be the same again when the head of the
      military sends guys with guns to arrest the head of the civilian government.

      Don't forget -- we also have a stranded Raptor team on Kobol and a Cylon
      base star in orbit. The new plan is to send a Raptor with a Cylon
      transponder to go nuke the base star. With Starbuck gone, Adama chooses
      Boomer to fly the mission ("I need every pilot") with ECO Racetrack (Leah
      Cairns). For obvious story reasons Boomer needs to be on this mission, but
      would Adama really send her in light of Boomer's suspiciously "accidental"
      shooting of herself? Perhaps this is what trusting your fellow soldiers is
      about, but one wonders if Adama asked himself the question.

      The stranded team on Kobol is mainly concerned with basic military survival
      tactics, and I liked the story's continued commitment to character details.
      Lt. Crashdown is in command, but he's clearly not nearly as experienced as
      Chief Tyrol, who has better instincts about where the team needs to be
      going. There are early signs of some friction/competition here, even as
      Crashdown realizes he's wrong and Tyrol's right. Meanwhile, Six plays the
      part of guardian angel for Baltar, saving his life at one point, and then
      promising him answers. She leads him to some nearby ruins of the Kobol opera
      house, in a sequence that's visually and musically arresting.

      Starbuck arrives on a very Cylon-occupied Caprica (although most of the
      Cylons seem to be in orbit), and there's a nifty FX shot of her Raider
      flying through a ravaged cityscape of damaged skyscrapers. She quickly finds
      the museum and the Arrow, but is just as quickly ambushed by a copy of
      Number Six. This leads to the best brutal beating between blonde babes that
      I've seen since the fight between Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah in "Kill
      Bill, Vol. 2." The stunt work isn't nearly as elaborate or inventive, but as
      a simple, dirty, dusty, grueling, violent slugfest, it's well done and
      entertaining. The music made me think of "Black Hawk Down." Starbuck can't
      really go head-to-head against a Cylon, but that doesn't stop her from
      trying, and I enjoyed her spirit, even if the dogged underdog is nothing we
      haven't seen before. The fight ends the only way it can (and the only way
      Kara can win it), with a reckless, desperate explosion of Starbuck madness.
      Yes, Kara should probably be dead from such a fall, but I'm heartened by how
      on this show even the slugfests end in a way true to character.

      Helo and Boomer happen upon Starbuck just in time to watch gravity become
      her (painful) best friend. Speaking of Helo/Boomer, Sharon reveals to Helo
      that she's pregnant, and that what they had together was important for
      spiritual reasons. The entire season on Caprica has basically been building
      up to this discovery, and the sci-fi/religious implications and questions
      are endless. What does this mean? Why do the Cylons want hybrid children? Do
      they require humans to conceive? Why destroy a civilization in order to
      replace it in the same image, complete with hybrids?

      All of these questions are tantalizing. The one hesitation I have is that
      they seem like they could potentially have arbitrary answers (or, for that
      matter, none at all), like the "X-Files" conspiracy plots or "Enterprise's"
      Temporal Cold War. The Cylon master plan is either seriously flawed
      (couldn't they have engineered a love/sexual encounter in far simpler ways?)
      or spiraling out of their control. One interesting idea is that maybe Sharon
      is a wild card capable of more independent thought than the Cylons
      anticipated. There's certainly evidence to support that theory.

      Like, for example, Sharon being capable of blowing up the Cylon base star
      orbiting Kobol. Faced with a malfunction, Sharon and Racetrack are forced to
      land their Raptor in the base star docking bay, and Sharon must remove the
      nuke from the side of the Raptor and arm it. While doing this, she's
      confronted by a small army of naked Sharon copies (who emerge from
      strategically placed shadows). This is a truly eerie scene, and Sharon's
      response ("This isn't happening") is pretty dead-on. The gentleness of the
      Sharons toward Sharon is especially disturbing, as if they're simply
      incapable of harming one of their own. Why do they let Sharon go? Do they
      even know that she's planted a nuke on board their ship? They don't appear
      to, anyway, until it's too late. Sharon gets into the Raptor and they leave.
      KA-BOOM.

      Back on the Galactica, Roslin doesn't show any signs of standing down as the
      boarding party arrives, and the unfortunate prospect of the system
      collapsing is demonstrated through a nice touch where Dualla and Billy ask
      each other if their respective bosses are really going through with this. As
      if the Cylons weren't enough trouble, now human beings are suddenly on
      opposing sides of internal strife. Lee's major decision grows out of his
      speech on democracy in "Bastille Day"; he pulls a gun on Tigh at the last
      minute and stands not exactly with Roslin, but against a military coup that
      is terminating the current government. The volatility of the standoff
      prompts Roslin to back down. Adama has her put in the brig, in a scene of
      dialed-down straightforwardness and quiet regret.

      And then, after all that, comes the shocker: About to be publicly
      congratulated on her successful mission, Sharon pulls a gun and shoots Adama
      in full view of everyone in the Galactica CIC, leaving him bleeding to
      death. It's so swift and unexpected that it could not have been predicted.

      So, aside from the obvious drama circling the "will Adama die?" question
      (gee, what do you think?), the reason this works as a cliffhanger -- and
      works so well -- is because it cannot be undone. It has huge consequences
      for the characters, who by the end of this episode are scattered all over
      the place.

      For starters, the cat is out of the bag -- Sharon is a Cylon and everyone
      knows it. There's the added complexity that the Caprica Sharon seems willing
      to defect (and is pregnant, which has endless possibilities), even while the
      Galactica Sharon shot Adama on what looked like autopilot (will she even
      remember doing it?) *after* destroying the base star.

      We have Adama out of commission, meaning Tigh will have to step up into
      full-fledged command. We have Lee in handcuffs for mutiny, having gone
      against his father, who now lies badly wounded. We have Roslin in the brig
      for willfully undermining a military decision. We have what appears to be no
      working government for the fleet.

      We have Starbuck, Helo, and Boomer on Caprica, in possession of the Arrow of
      Apollo, which might or might not mean something bigger. We have a military
      team stranded on Kobol. And, as usual, we have Baltar off in his own little
      world, being taken on journeys of God and destiny by Six, who foretells
      Baltar as the one to watch over the new generation of God's children -- the
      hybrids.

      That all of this actually makes sense and holds together and seems to emerge
      from a single coherent narrative with a consistent through-line, *and* has
      artistic ambitions without coming across as pretentious, *and* has a large
      dose of mystery without seeming aimless -- well, that's pretty damn amazing.

      Heck, "Kobol's Last Gleaming" is enough to convince me that cliffhangers are
      still worth doing. This episode, and the season in general, makes me feel
      more like a cheerleader than a critic. So be it. The cards lie where they
      fall. Hopefully season two will not be afraid to fully confront this
      intriguing shuffled deck.

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

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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