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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Home, Part 1"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Home, Part 1 Kara, Helo, and Sharon rendezvous with Roslin s fugitive fleet in
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 11, 2005
      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      Battlestar Galactica: "Home, Part 1"

      Kara, Helo, and Sharon rendezvous with Roslin's fugitive fleet in orbit of
      Kobol, where they prepare for a dangerous mission to find the Tomb of
      Athena. Meanwhile, Adama begins to feel the pressures of a fleet divided.

      Air date: 8/19/2005 (USA)
      Written by David Eick
      Directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan

      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

      "Home, Part 1" is about how Adama gradually comes to the crushing
      realization that he has been significantly abandoned -- and that a divided
      fleet is a substantially weakened fleet, in terms of both ability and

      In the episode's early scenes, he names a new CAG, Lt. Birch (Ben Ayres), to
      replace his son. His selection is based more on Birch's apparent loyalty to
      the chain of command than actual leadership ability. Even Tigh has doubts
      about him. The story drives home the point when Adama holds a press
      conference where he says, "We've lost no one who cannot be replaced with
      someone loyal." Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Earth is something
      Adama made up. Adama threatens to jail reporters who spread such "slander."
      This is not a fleet that has high confidence in its battlestar commander.

      Meanwhile, Roslin heads up the mission to Kobol with Lee serving as her XO
      on the Astral Queen. This is an irritant for Zarek, who really wants to be
      in charge but recognizes that Roslin is the one who wields the power with
      her religious followers who want to find the Tomb of Athena. Zarek's
      right-hand man, Meier (James Remar), readily encourages Zarek to plot
      several moves in advance. Meier reminded me of Gul Rosot from DS9's "Tacking
      into the Wind" -- a man participating in a fragile alliance, just waiting
      for the right moment to upend the arrangement by taking Lee out of the
      equation. Meier seems like more of a wild card than even Zarek, because at
      least Zarek has a sense of political savvy that somewhat reins him in.

      Kara, Helo, and Sharon rendezvous with the Astral Queen, and for the first
      time on "Battlestar Galactica," there is no Cylon-occupied Caprica on the
      screen. If there were any questions as to what kind of reception a copy of
      Sharon would get upon returning to the fleet, they're answered here. Lee
      grabs her, throws her against a wall, and presses a gun against her face.
      Roslin doesn't hesitate in ordering Sharon put out the airlock, no questions
      asked, which is as disturbing as it is consistent. Only Sharon's claim that
      she knows how to find the Tomb of Athena puts her execution on hold. Sharon
      is thrown into a cell; to say Roslin is skeptical is an understatement.

      With a show like "Home, Part 1," the truth is in the details and character
      nuances. Take, for example, the scenes between Kara and Lee. When they're
      first reunited, Lee spontaneously kisses her, much to (I suspect) both their
      surprise. Later, he goes to talk to her while she broods with her
      Caprica-acquired pyramid ball. The way he playfully taunts her with the ball
      has an unmistakable sibling vibe to it, like two kids on a playground. And
      when he casually tells her that he loves her (again, with a sibling sort of
      throwaway delivery), I like the way Kara turns around and taunts him with
      that admission. The sexual tension is there, yes, but the story doesn't lose
      track of the unique, playful bond between these two characters. (Although
      given how this is played, I fail to see the point of the writers pairing
      Kara up with Anders in "The Farm.")

      On board the Galactica, we get two sequences that show how Birch isn't up to
      the job of CAG. (A training exercise with Hotdog and Kat almost ends in
      disaster, and a routine refueling mission is botched.) By extension, it
      shows Adama's own emerging impotence as a leader. When Birch blows the
      refueling mission, Adama's face has never seemed longer. In the privacy of
      his quarters, he sits at his desk and crushes walnuts in his hand, as if to
      release little bits of percolating rage.

      The episode has a great scene that works because of its haunting stillness.
      Adama sits in his quarters doing touch-up painting on a model sailing ship,
      and has a monologue to an off-screen listener: "Betrayal has such a powerful
      grip on the mind. It seems like a python. It can squeeze out all other
      thought, suffocate all other emotion until everything is dead except for the
      rage. I'm not talking about anger. I'm talking about rage." The scene is
      entrancing, in no small part because it's so quietly pitched. Edward James
      Olmos plays this monologue with utter calmness and emotional detachment, as
      if Adama has separated himself from his feelings and can contain and
      objectively analyze them. The listener turns out to be Dualla, and her
      unexpected response to Adama's monologue is a terrific moment, because it
      demonstrates her own perceptiveness and doesn't let Adama off the hook for
      his own responsibilities in this mess. "You let us down," she says.

      A subsequent scene is also powerful even though it has absolutely no words.
      Adama stands unhappily in a corridor, realizes that the situation cannot
      continue as it has, and decides he's going to take steps to fix it. He does
      not reach this decision easily; you can see the pain on his face. Everything
      about Adama says pain. As Dee said to him, it's time to heal the wounds.

      Like most episodes so far this season, there is a major action sequence in
      the final act. I've complained about gratuitous action scenarios on other
      series, but the action works on BSG, because it's not arbitrary and grows
      from a place of good motivation. (It also helps that the action is visceral
      and feels more like chaotic war footage than inorganically inserted
      choreography.) It's established early that the path to the Tomb of Athena is
      likely being guarded by the Cylons, and the action is not simply about
      itself but also about how the characters behave under fire. Lee doesn't
      trust Sharon one bit and acts like a very rabid watchdog; this pays off with
      an explosion that earns Sharon some trust.

      Priest Elosha is killed when she steps on a land mine. I would express mild
      surprise at the writers having the guts to kill off a supporting character
      who has been around since the miniseries, but let's face it: She's not going
      to be nearly as necessary as a source of exposition once "Home" answers its
      questions in the second part.

      There are a lot of dynamics of interest in this episode. Whether it's Zarek
      and Meier discussing the power of Roslin's myth, or Lee and Kara arguing
      over Sharon's motives, or Roslin using Sharon's love for Helo against her,
      or Sharon telling Helo that it's human nature to be distrusting and
      unkind -- it's all engrossing and we're made to care because we have a stake
      in all the characters.

      But the real point here is Adama. Here's a man who has been wounded and
      humbled and is not quite the man he was, and now he has to watch as
      everything around him goes further to hell. Only by making a concession that
      goes against his military hard-line strength can he find a way out of this
      jam. Olmos makes the journey to this realization a particularly interesting
      one, by depicting a man who deep down knows what must be done but has a hard
      time swallowing the pill.

      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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