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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Hero"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Hero An imprisoned Colonial pilot escapes from a Cylon basestar after three years
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2007
      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      Battlestar Galactica: "Hero"

      An imprisoned Colonial pilot escapes from a Cylon basestar after three years
      in captivity, and his connection to Adama's past reveals a dark secret.

      Air date: 11/17/2006 (USA)
      Written by David Eick
      Directed by Michael Rymer

      Rating out of 4: **1/2

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

      Three Cylon Raiders jump into the immediate vicinity of the Galactica, and
      as the Vipers close in to intercept, it becomes clear that one of the
      Raiders is running from the other two. The two pursuing Raiders are taken
      out by the Vipers, and the third Raider is escorted into the Galactica's
      hangar deck. The pilot of this stolen Raider is Lt. Danny "Bulldog" Novacek
      (Carl Lumbly), who served under Adama during Adama's previous command of the
      battlestar Valkyrie. Bulldog was captured by the Cylons three years ago and
      was held prisoner until his current escape.

      It quickly becomes clear that Bulldog's disappearance involves a dark secret
      pertaining to a Valkyrie mission and, more specifically, Adama's role in it.
      After Bulldog's debriefing that seems to be going through the motions with
      little regard for brutal honesty, Roslin asks Adama, "Do you want to tell me
      what's going on?" Adama replies, "You're going to have to trust me on this

      The message of "Hero" is one of taking individual responsibility. The whole
      issue of how Bulldog was captured by the Cylons digs deep into one of
      Adama's painful secrets and perhaps into his soul. The show's message is an
      admirable one, but it's not terribly convincing. Considering what humanity
      has been through in recent months (what with the Cylon occupation and all),
      you'd think that long-ago bygones would be bygones. Then again, Adama does
      have a soft spot for Individual Responsibility.

      His dark secret is that the Valkyrie was on a classified mission about three
      years ago -- before the Cylon attack -- to investigate the Cylon border,
      peek across with a small fighter (Bulldog was the pilot), and see what the
      Cylons were up to. (There were rumors of a Cylon war machine at work. I
      suppose the intelligence was correct, but far too late.) When it looked like
      a Cylon patrol had seen Bulldog's ship, Adama ordered it shot down so its
      presence wouldn't be detected and construed as an act of war. Bulldog
      ejected before the Valkyrie's missile impact, and was subsequently captured
      by the Cylons, unbeknownst to everybody, although possibly suspected by
      some, including Adama and Tigh.

      Dramatically, the problem with "Hero" is that it builds up to a big secret
      that simply isn't big enough. First of all, the new information that Adama
      commanded another battlestar so shortly before the events of the miniseries
      feels retroactively inserted into history solely for the sake of this
      episode and not like an organic or convincing piece of Adama's true
      backstory. Second, the story makes much of the fact that Adama is
      overwhelmed with guilt that this failed mission might possibly have been the
      catalyst for the Cylon attack on the Colonies.

      Adama confesses this to his son and even breaks down into tears. I'm not so
      sure I buy it. The Cylons were clearly planning the attack for years before
      it happened (as evidenced by the sleeper agents). Adama's guilt over his
      role in something so much larger than himself does not strike me as
      believable, especially since we haven't seen a trace of it for the past two
      seasons (often a problem with inventing retroactive backstory). Yes, Adama
      has always been willing to question his choices and those of humanity -- and
      I appreciate that -- but for him to go from asking a few tough questions to
      blaming himself for starting the entire war is a stretch.

      Adama is so shaken by Bulldog resurfacing that he visits Tigh in his
      quarters, who has locked himself away since that memorable scene at the end
      of "Torn" when he said he wouldn't be coming around anymore. If I don't
      believe Adama's characterization in this episode, I do believe Tigh's, whose
      deeply damaged psyche and believable screw-the-world response seems to be a
      selling point of a lot of episodes these days. *This* is a guy whose
      motivation I completely buy from week to week.

      Meanwhile, the questions circle Bulldog and his escape from the Cylons. Just
      how did he get off a basestar? Kara reviews the flight video and becomes
      convinced that the two Raiders that were chasing his Raider simply let him
      escape when they easily could've killed him. She passes the information to
      Tigh, and during this scene I again found myself wondering: Just how did
      these two former-enemies become friends on New Caprica? Much the way
      "Unfinished Business" will explore how Kara and Lee became so deeply
      estranged, I hope to find out someday how Kara and Tigh became so amicable
      (even before their perception of shared suffering upon returning from New

      There's also a subplot on the basestar with Baltar, D'Anna, and Six, who
      these days share a bed, threesome style, which is somehow appropriate given
      Baltar. D'Anna's fascination with Baltar undoubtedly arises from that
      intriguing torture scene in last week's "Measure of Salvation," but we also
      get some further hints at her fascination with death -- or, more
      specifically, the mysterious images that lie between death and downloading.
      Are there truths to discover? Is this the same D'Anna who was a TV reporter
      on Galactica? (There are flashbacks to her being cornered and machine-gunned
      in a corridor on Galactica.) Why does she have the Cylon Centurion delete
      its logs when she commands it to shoot her in the head? When she downloads,
      surely someone has to know that she died and transferred to a new body,
      right? Do Cylon bodies have serial numbers? Is this plot supposed to give us
      hints about something or simply provide half-baked pseudo-philosophical
      atmosphere? I confess that I don't know.

      Back aboard the Galactica, Bulldog inevitably learns of Adama's role in
      shooting him down, which leads to a violent confrontation in which it looks
      like Bulldog is prepared to crush Adama's throat with a pipe. Tigh
      intervenes, and has a priceless little self-describing speech about
      self-loathing versus facing the truths that we deep down *know* but don't
      want to accept. "Sometimes surviving can be its own death sentence," he
      says. His speech is better than a 12-step program.

      Bulldog knows he was shot down; he just doesn't want to admit it. Bulldog
      knows the Cylons let him escape; he just doesn't want to admit it.
      Meanwhile, Tigh knows that he would rather drown in self-loathing than face
      the fact that he killed his wife. The speech the writers give Tigh is great
      service to Tigh in terms of character development. I like that Tigh is in
      this place of pain, and is somehow able to burrow his way out. I also like
      that this leads him to finally bear his soul and confess his sin and reason
      for suffering to Adama at the end of the episode. In a less-than-stellar
      episode, there are still stellar moments like this to find.

      On the other hand, I don't buy the rationale surrounding Bulldog. Apparently
      the Cylons let him escape because they knew he would find out about Adama's
      role in shooting him down and take revenge. If that's the Cylons' plan (and
      the opening titles assure us every week that "they have a plan"), my
      questions are as follows: (1) How in the world did Bulldog find the fleet?
      (2) If Bulldog can find the fleet then why don't the Cylons find the fleet?
      (3) Why don't the Cylons jump in and attack the fleet directly since they
      must therefore know where it is? Perhaps their need to find Earth supersedes
      their need to attack the fleet. Or perhaps the plot is a sieve.

      After the past has been dealt with, where does Bulldog go at the end of the
      episode? He gets on a ship and it's not said where he's going. Apparently
      he's not staying on Galactica, and that's all we're intended to know. On a
      series that has had such a dearth of prominent black male characters,
      Bulldog's half-baked exit from this story is less than satisfying. (Not that
      his thus-far-mediocre character would've necessarily been a winning addition
      to the recurring cast.)

      And the episode never convinced me of Adama's characterization of
      overburdened self-administered guilt. When Roslin tries to set him straight
      (i.e., he was one man in a war that had many, many reasons, etc.), it seems
      like common sense. That Adama would go so far as to submit his resignation
      to Roslin (which she rejects, naturally) borders on the ridiculous. You can
      be torn up inside, but for the sake of those around you and under your
      command, you can't afford to be so outwardly dramatic. Adama of all people
      should know that.

      Copyright 2007, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

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