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

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Crossroads, Part 2 Baltar s trial goes to verdict after stunning testimony on the
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2007
      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

      Battlestar Galactica: "Crossroads, Part 2"

      Baltar's trial goes to verdict after stunning testimony on the witness
      stand. Meanwhile, a mysterious tune -- which only a select few people aboard
      Galactica can hear -- leads to an unexpected discovery.

      Air date: 3/25/2007 (USA)
      Written by Mark Verheiden
      Directed by Michael Rymer

      Rating out of 4: ****

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

      Much like "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2" did, "Crossroads, Part 2" takes
      the risk/reward approach to storytelling. It does so to a bold extreme. The
      risks are substantial: It upends characters and relationships with story
      developments that promise that things will never be the same. It also asks
      us to believe that what happens makes sense. Are you convinced? I was. This
      is a series that makes up the rules as it goes, but it earns its right to do

      The reward is proportional to the risk: This is a brilliant hour of
      television that moves confidently through its story to reach a conclusion
      that is as inspired as it is -- well, trippy. Reality feels shattered by the
      end. The audacious final pull-back through the cosmos seems like it was
      inspired by a drug-altered state. It had an odd effect that left me with a
      distinct "WTF?!" sense and yet at the same time feeling satisfied and
      boundlessly enthusiastic. We are in uncharted waters here. This is one of
      "Battlestar Galactica's" finest hours.

      I managed to mostly avoid spoilers on this episode -- for which I was glad
      -- but let it be said that I knew Something Big was going to happen at the
      end of the episode; I just didn't know what. In a way, that's the best
      possible spoiler you can get for an episode like this, because it whets your
      curiosities and expectations. The result is an episode that generates almost
      unbearable suspense.

      In getting to its destination, the episode first moves through the outcome
      of Baltar's trial, which exists in the BSG universe as we know it, and, let
      it be said, is no less brilliant than what happens in the final act. The
      story remains true to its legal-show pedigree in that it catalogs the
      momentum of the case as witnesses testify and the realities of the situation
      that faces the defense: Emotions trump testimony. Lampkin notes that the
      tactical victories the defense has had against the prosecution witnesses
      have actually succeeded only in pissing off the panel of judges. "So we're
      losing because we're winning," Baltar notes, frustrated. Yes. Sometimes
      people can still smell a rat even if the evidence doesn't prove it.

      Lee pitches to Lampkin the notion of a mistrial based on his assertion that
      the judges aren't impartial. Adama earlier, in private to Lee, called Baltar
      a "human piece of garbage," which, let it be said, is not impartial. The
      witnesses aren't impartial, either. So hated is Baltar that Gaeta is willing
      to lie on the stand, claiming that he was present at the meeting where
      Baltar signed -- without hesitation -- the execution order on New Caprica.
      We know this isn't true because we saw a gun being held to Baltar's head in
      one of the most memorable scenes in "Occupation/Precipice." Baltar's
      reaction to Gaeta's perjury is equal part shock and performance art:
      "Everyone in the fleet knows you tried to stab me through the neck, and you
      missed! Butterfingers!"

      But what elevates this trial into one of the series' classic moments is when
      Lampkin calls Lee to the stand to testify. Lampkin senses an honest and
      urgent message in Lee that accounts for his taking part in all this. Adama
      also wants to hear him out, no doubt to understand why Lee has subjected
      himself to this alienation. This leads to reluctant testimony by Lee about
      why he thinks Baltar is being railroaded on trumped-up treason charges by an
      angry system. Lee's testimony builds and builds, into a brilliant
      five-minute speech that does nothing less than challenge every assumption
      about the fleet, the legal system, and its motives for putting Baltar on
      trial. Lee cites a laundry list of things that have happened since the Cylon
      attack -- the dozens of individual actions that have been forgiven. No one
      has stood trial, because the circumstances have forced rules to be broken
      and laws to be ignored. The reason: "We're not a civilization anymore. We
      are a gang."

      This speech is so well-written, so well-argued, that I myself was completely
      convinced. How do you find Baltar guilty purely on the facts? The facts
      simply don't support the charges. What we have here is society's motives
      spelled out in explicit dialog and argued with a startling passion: The
      fleet wants to flush Baltar away because he has become a symbol of
      everyone's shame over what happened on New Caprica -- for those who were
      forced to stay and commit war atrocities, and also those who were forced to
      run away. The idea of essentially putting the actions from New Caprica on
      trial makes for a wonderful bookend for the season.

      Baltar's trial is not about justice, it's about emotion. With this speech,
      Lee's motives become more clear than I had ever expected, and they shine a
      light onto a number of truths about a society trying to survive after being
      destroyed. Can the legal system as it was on the Colonies even be workable
      within a fleet that faces so much desperation?

      When the judges come back with the verdict, there's a palpable tension,
      resulting in a scene that generated more suspense than I'd anticipated. The
      ruling is 3-2 for acquittal, and the courtroom explodes in anger. I love the
      fact that there are so many who *don't* want to accept the verdict, even in
      light of Lee's testimony. Watch Roslin's reaction; she's furious. Her
      bitterness over the verdict is almost unsettling. When she prods Adama about
      his vote -- which, as it turns out, was for acquittal -- he has a response
      that will not satisfy any who wanted Baltar to answer for New Caprica, but
      nonetheless expresses a simple necessity: "We have to look to the future." I
      agree with him. If humanity is to find Earth and survive the Cylons, they
      need to focus on the present and the future and not the mistakes of the
      past. You can't flush humanity's shame away by holding one man accountable.

      Still, though, we may *want* to flush Baltar away for pure personal
      satisfaction. In private with his legal team, his reaction to victory
      displays a hubris that is beyond belief. I mean, this guy doesn't know when
      to shut up. You'd think the trial would've humbled this man, but acquittal
      apparently had the effect of, in his mind, confirming him as the victim he
      always saw himself as. Baltar's comeuppance comes in his realization that he
      has nowhere to go, and that half the fleet wants him dead. He's not safe.
      Coming to his rescue are his cult of mysterious worshippers, who whisk him
      away and to a promised new life. What will he do once he goes underground?
      Will he cause political trouble that will make everyone wish they'd put him
      out an airlock after all? One wonders.

      And then there's Lampkin. The guy is a professional manipulator and yet we
      forgive him far more easily than we forgive Baltar, because we respect his
      command of human nature while we shake our head at the utter tone-deafness
      of Baltar's ability to read a room. Lampkin's last conversation with Lee and
      his exit from the story has just the right note and confirms him as one of
      this series' best guest stars. Even his cane is a fa├žade, no doubt to
      engender sympathy. I wondered in my "The Son Also Rises" review whether this
      guy was a cynic or an optimist. I'm still not sure, but he certainly is
      capable of seeing through an optimistic prism; he put Lee on the stand
      because he knew he was an honest man.

      While all this with the trial is happening, we also have in the background
      that mysterious song in the heads of specific characters -- as it continues
      to get louder and clearer. In addition to Tigh, Anders, and Tory, you can
      also add to that list Tyrol, who goes wandering the corridors at night and
      hears the song in the patterns of the ship's white noise. The sharing of the
      ominous mystery music is apparently also connected in some way to a sexual
      relationship that emerges between Anders and Tory, who realize that they
      both hear the music only after they've apparently hooked up. At one point,
      Tyrol and Anders have a conversation about the music. They can hear it, but
      they can't *hear* it. It's more like something in their subconscious that
      has been lying dormant since childhood. This is a bizarre chain of events
      that hints at the inevitable solution even as it hides it in plain view.
      Tigh goes to Adama and tells him that he's convinced the music is some sort
      of Cylon sabotage, which is a wonderful irony given the outcome.

      And what about Roslin's mysterious sixth sense throughout all this? She
      shares a simultaneous vision with Sharon and Caprica Six involving the need
      to protect Hera at the Opera House. And when the fleet finally makes the
      jump into the Ionian Nebula (the next landmark on the path to Earth),
      there's a fleet-wide power outage, which Roslin can feel even before it
      happens. A Cylon fleet jumps into the nebula at just this time. What does
      this mean? Is Roslin connected to Hera, the nebula, the power outage, the
      Cylons, or all of the above? Is it all part of the foretold story involving
      bizarre twists of fate and special destinies?

      The episode has its share of strange, strong images, including Six's visions
      of the Opera House with Baltar and Hera and the Final Five Cylons as glowing
      figures of white light with unknown identities. The story marches slowly but
      implacably to its revelation that Tigh, Tyrol, Anders, and Tory are, in
      fact, four of the Final Five Cylons. The idea is that a switch is flipped,
      and these four realize that they're Cylons, but they still retain their
      personalities, beliefs, and motives.

      To that end, the visualization of this process is a tour de force. Tyrol
      watches the action on the deck, and everything snaps from slow-motion to
      full-speed, as if he has awakened from a sleepwalking dream state. The four
      characters are drawn into a single room where they hum the same tune and
      realize, to their horror, what they are. Bear McCreary's music is
      appropriately revelatory. The music turns out, in fact, to be a revamped
      cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," which is so odd and
      threatening of breaking the fourth wall (the lyrics are even incorporated
      into the dialog) that it's as perplexing as it is effective.

      So what does it mean that these four characters are Cylons? There are cosmic
      questions of purpose as well as plot points to consider. It's already been
      made clear that the Final Five are somehow different Cylons than the other
      seven. What are their roles in this story? What are their destinies? Is it a
      coincidence that the switch went off just as they reached this nebula? And
      what does it mean that they all have free will and apparently no Cylon
      agenda that they're aware of? And what about the fact that they've all gone
      through hell and back as loyal humans ... *for this*? And that Tigh has been
      in the service for 40 years, which would clearly predate what we thought was
      the advent of human-mimicking Cylons? And that Tyrol and Cally have a child
      that we now realize must be another hybrid? And how about the fact that the
      most trusted right hands of both the head of the military and the head of
      the government are both Cylons? What will these characters do? How will they
      cope? Will they be exposed? Will they band together or turn on one other?
      Are they Cylons with an opposite agenda to the other seven? Do they have
      copies, or are they unique? If they're unique, what are the chances they
      would all have survived to this point? Or was that part of the original
      Cylon plan? Who's making that plan, anyway? Do we believe that plan? For
      that matter, do we still assume that the Cylons evolved from the machines
      created by man? Perhaps they're an alternate human race, or something else.
      Or were created from scratch by someone else. (I don't believe the Cylons
      have a plan as much as this series' gods have a plan which manipulates all
      the pieces, Cylon and otherwise. Perhaps the Final Five are unwitting
      servants of that God?)

      And what about Starbuck? Lee jumps into a Viper to join the fight and finds
      himself in a secluded cloud chasing a bogey that turns out to be Kara, who
      claims to have been to Earth and knows how to get there. And you thought
      four characters turning out to be Cylons was mind-blowing. When you think
      about where Kara's been and what she found there and how she could've come
      back from the dead, your head might explode. Okay, maybe not.

      I could go on forever, but I already have. This is a season finale with
      endless questions. I don't see a problem with that, because they're
      questions that are at the heart of this series' larger, more admittedly
      metaphysical and fantastical concepts. The end of "Crossroads, Part 2"
      requires a viewer's faith in the narrative and a willingness to believe in
      spectacular coincidences that can only be explained in terms of destiny or
      God, or a willingness to accept that stories are built of constructs that
      seek to amaze more than they seek to be plausible in the real world. This is
      a universe where the spectacular is possible and the will of man may be an

      In other words, "Battlestar Galactica" has confirmed its mission as a type
      of science fiction that embraces elements of fantasy and religion that play
      out in ways only possible in a purely fictional, elevated universe. Those
      who embraced the gritty realism that existed earlier in BSG may henceforth
      be getting something they may not have originally bargained for. This series
      is destined to be every bit about its own mysterious and cryptic legends as
      it is about human characters in a post-apocalyptic world. The last shot is
      of Earth, and that's where this series is headed. If you step back and look
      at "Crossroads," it is really a story about hope.

      Jammer's note: With "Battlestar" wrapped for the season, people may be
      wondering about my intentions for "Star Trek: TNG." Visit my site for
      details: http://www.jammersreviews.com/info/notes.php

      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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