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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Resurrection Ship, Part 2"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Resurrection Ship, Part 2 Even while on the brink of two opposing coups, Adama and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 25, 2006
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "Resurrection Ship, Part 2"

      Even while on the brink of two opposing coups, Adama and Cain and the fleets
      under their command set out on a daring military operation to destroy a
      critical Cylon target.

      Air date: 1/13/2006 (USA)
      Written by Michael Rymer & Ronald D. Moore
      Directed by Michael Rymer

      Rating out of 4: ***1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      -----

      "Resurrection Ship, Part 2" is an episode that has great images, great
      dramatic moments, and great examples of characters facing tough emotional
      situations. This is a powerful episode with a clear message. I only wish it
      could've ended on a note that was a little more messy and a little less pat.
      There are people here that go through hell, and the only thing holding the
      show back somewhat is that the plot doesn't seem quite willing to go through
      hell with them. It yearns for tidy resolutions (although, to be fair, it's
      not completely tidy).

      The central question in "Resurrection Ship" is this: Is our survival worth
      it if we have to jettison our morality and human decency in the process? For
      Admiral Cain, the answer appears to be yes, although she'd surely argue that
      she's doing the best she can under the circumstances. Cain is not evil, not
      crazy, not even selfish. But she does do and permit evil things. When
      balancing the moral scales, she's in the wrong. She condones torture. She
      has ordered the execution of innocent civilians. She rules with an iron
      fist. Democracy is basically unheard of. It's all about martial law,
      steadfast obedience and order, all serving the bottom line -- survival. What
      Cain perhaps has not stopped to really ask herself is whether it's all
      necessary. The Galactica has survived just as long as the Pegasus under
      similar circumstances, and has managed to bend morality without completely
      breaking it.

      There's a scene early in the episode where Cain calls Kara in for a
      discussion that hints at what makes Cain tick. She doesn't believe that a
      moment's disobedience can be tolerated. She orders executions because she
      believes she has to -- because without the chain of command, there is chaos.
      She implores Kara not to flinch when crucial difficult decisions must be
      faced. The irony of this speech is that by the time it comes, Kara has
      orders from Adama to take Cain out. Cain is unknowingly telling Kara not to
      back down from the mission to kill her.

      Lee is assigned to provide Kara with backup during the assassination. Lee is
      understandably appalled at the notion of taking out a superior officer, and
      one could argue that he holds the most crucial emotional pieces in this
      episode. After being demoted by Cain and having his flight status revoked,
      there's a scene where Lee visits his father's cabin to hear for himself that
      Adama has actually ordered Kara to assassinate Cain. Adama confirms it, but
      the punch in the gut to Lee is not only that Adama plans to go through with
      it, but the fact that the president is the one who suggested it. "She's made
      of sterner stuff than people give her credit for," says Adama.

      That may be true, but it's of no comfort to Lee. Jamie Bamber's performance
      nicely conveys Lee's saddened isolation; it's like he's been abandoned by
      everyone he cares about. No doubt he understands the pragmatism of this
      order, but that doesn't make it an easier pill to swallow; it's as if
      humanity has been chipped away from everyone around him -- including the
      president, who used to be the one who stood for democracy and civil decency,
      and now is ordering the killing of a Colonial Fleet admiral.

      What's perhaps most interesting about the story structure of this episode is
      how the assault on the Cylon fleet and the resurrection ship almost becomes
      secondary to the drama unfolding between Adama and Cain. I say "almost"
      because it isn't so much secondary as it's played as a dramatically charged
      foregone conclusion, while the showdown between Adama and Cain is played for
      genuine suspense. Even so, the battle sequences are impressive, both in
      visual design and emotional impact.

      There's a lead-in to the battle where Adama asks Sharon why the Cylons hate
      humanity so much. Sharon uses Adama's own speech from the miniseries --
      where he posed the question of whether humanity was worth saving -- as the
      case against him. (It's worth noting, however, that the Cylons are even more
      guilty than their creators, because they took their beliefs to a final
      conclusion of all-out genocide.) From Sharon's words we cut directly into
      the middle of the battle sequence, which is an interesting editorial choice;
      I like that we don't witness the battle start or end, but only see it in its
      broader middle strokes, because the story knows we're already familiar with
      the plan's details from part one.

      Lee's mission to destroy the resurrection ship's FTL drive is successful, at
      which point he's hit, the Blackbird is destroyed, and he's ejected into
      space. In a bold and effective visual choice, we see the battle through his
      eyes as he floats helplessly in space, waiting either to be rescued or to
      die. The methodology here has an almost poetic artistry; the continuing
      battle unfolds in silence before Lee's eyes, with the atmosphere and music
      providing a counterpoint to the brutality. (Although I'm really starting to
      wonder just how many times Bear McCreary's scores from previous episodes can
      be recycled with virtually no alteration.)

      This is terrific stuff. It's almost enough to make me overlook logical
      questions like: How is it in the past a battlestar was always considered no
      match for a base star, and yet here we have two battlestars and two base
      stars going head-to-head and it seems now that the Cylons are completely
      outmatched by the Galactica and Pegasus? And shouldn't this battle result in
      a lot of human casualties? It sure doesn't seem to here.

      The battle is a major victory for the humans, who destroy the resurrection
      ship and chase the surviving Cylons into a retreat. This also means it's
      time for the show's central drama -- the dual power plays of the two
      battlestar commanders -- to play out. This is milked for some truly
      agonizing suspense, especially concerning Starbuck; it's a tense moment that
      has the audience on the edge of its seat because anything is possible. It's
      noteworthy, then, that neither commander has the stomach to go through with
      their respective assassination plans. As Adama puts it to Starbuck: "It's
      not enough to survive. One has to be worthy of surviving." -- which is the
      story's message in a nutshell.

      So, then, how is all the brewing conflict between Adama and Cain resolved?
      Not inappropriately, it comes down to Baltar and Six. There's a brilliantly
      performed scene where Baltar turns his back on the fantasy Six by using her
      own words against her to simultaneously gain Pegasus Six's trust. Rather
      than helping her commit suicide, Baltar helps spring her from her cell in
      the interests of "justice" (i.e. revenge). And justice she gets, by hiding
      in Cain's cabin and shooting her. One could argue that maybe Cain gets what
      she deserves, but let's also not forget that Six has more than her share to
      pay for as well. Baltar gets her off the Pegasus and finds her a place to
      hide.

      And yet ... I can't shake the feeling that on a plot level this is all too
      neatly resolved and lets characters off the hook so they don't have to take
      definitive actions. Essentially, Adama and Roslin are saved by good fortune
      rather than having to take the desperate measures they were fearing. Cain
      dies at the hands of a Cylon that the entire fleet already reviles.
      Meanwhile, Baltar is apparently scot-free because there are no witnesses
      (also because no one thought to put video cameras in the prison cell of
      Pegasus' No. 1 enemy). Just how many times can Baltar get away unscathed?

      If the plot is perhaps a bit neat, there are plenty of character tidbits
      worth mention. For starters, there's Lee's confession that he didn't want to
      come back from his mission alive; the episode shows that he possibly even
      *avoided* rescue. Here's a man who has been pushed to his limits. Kara makes
      an intriguing speech at Cain's funeral service that seems to side at least
      partially with Cain -- although it reveals Kara has perhaps been too quickly
      swayed by Cain's unofficial mentoring program. And never have Adama and
      Roslin -- who have been through so much -- seemed closer. She promotes him
      to admiral, which, if you think about in terms of a cosmic joke, might've
      saved everyone a lot of trouble had she done it before the Pegasus showed
      up.

      "Resurrection Ship" asks tough questions and gives its characters tough
      assignments. If it doesn't completely follow through on its indicators of
      passing a point of no return, it's because the conventions of television
      require that we have another episode next week where primary characters
      aren't dead, imprisoned, or forever morally compromised. It's a dangerous
      universe out there.

      -----
      Copyright 2006, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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