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[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Revelations"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: This review contains significant spoilers. ... Battlestar Galactica: Revelations A deadly standoff ensues when D Anna holds Roslin and others hostage
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 17, 2009
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      Note: This review contains significant spoilers.

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      Battlestar Galactica: "Revelations"

      A deadly standoff ensues when D'Anna holds Roslin and others hostage
      and demands Adama turn over the secret Cylons aboard Galactica, who
      supposedly know the way to Earth.

      Air date: 6/13/2008 (USA)
      Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
      Directed by Michael Rymer

      Rating out of 4: ****

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      -----

      D'Anna knows who the Secret Four Cylons are. And she's not telling.
      She's a narrative wild card. She wasn't part of the alliance
      negotiated between the Colonials and the rebel Cylons. She came late
      to this game, and she's setting new rules. And because she has
      leverage and uses it, the situation quickly becomes a standoff that
      threatens to spin out of control.

      D'Anna holds the Colonials, including the President Roslin, hostage
      aboard the basestar. She makes an announcement: She will hold the
      hostages until the Secret Four are turned over to her. But this
      creates a real problem for Admiral Adama and President Lee Adama.
      They don't even know who these four Cylons are. The only ways this
      stalemate can possibly end is either in bloodshed or with the secret
      Cylons turning themselves in.

      Now let me quote myself from my review of the second-season BSG
      episode "Sacrifice": "At this point in my movie- and TV-viewing life,
      I'm almost willing to say that any pitch that can be summarized
      as 'hostage situation' should be thrown out by whomever is
      potentially producing it." Good thing I used the word "almost" in
      that sentence, or else I'd have to eat those words. "Revelations" is
      the most riveting hostage standoff in recent memory. Old conventions
      can be made to work in your favor if there are real stakes involved.
      And the stakes here couldn't be bigger: Lives of major characters
      hang precariously in the balance, as does the secret surrounding
      Earth.

      And because this is a BSG hiatus launcher, there's no telling what
      will happen or where the story might end up. The season-ending
      cliffhanger used to make me groan because it was an obligatory
      cliche. But BSG has for me single-handedly revitalized the
      cliffhanger with its track record of shocking unpredictability. The
      suspense level is amped up in "Revelations" in part simply because I
      knew it was a midseason finale.

      One interesting point worth pondering: D'Anna says four Cylons are in
      the fleet. Not five. Does that mean the final Cylon is *not* in the
      fleet? Is the final Cylon a character on the basestar? Or is D'Anna
      lying?

      When D'Anna makes the rules of the game clear, it creates a real nail-
      biter. She knows who the secret Cylons are. They know who they are.
      And we know who they are. But all the other characters must play this
      deadly chess game in the dark. Immediately, the secret players start
      quietly jockeying for position. Tory, the other wild card here,
      craftily gets herself aboard the basestar by offering to take Roslin
      her medication. Tigh tries to stop it, but he can't without giving
      himself away. (Once aboard the basestar, Tory swiftly burns her
      bridges. When the president tries to reason with her, Tory's response
      is: "I'm done taking orders from you.")

      Tigh immediately becomes the key player here, because he's in Adama's
      inner circle as the rules of engagement are being established. It
      puts Tigh in the bind of all binds. The screws continue to tighten
      and options diminish: D'Anna proves she means business and airlocks a
      hostage, promising more will follow. (There's an inspired extreme
      long shot where a tiny body goes flying across the screen amid the
      fleet.) It could be that in this chess game, the only way to ward off
      the disaster is if Tigh outs himself. Watching this unfold is
      deliciously excruciating.

      Meanwhile, Tigh, Anders, and Tyrol try to figure out how they might
      know the way to Earth. Supposedly they do know, but they have no more
      information about Earth, until...

      The radio static and musical signals return in the minds of the
      Secret Four, like at the nebula in "Crossroads." They are drawn to
      Kara's Viper. They don't know why. So they must solve the mystery
      before the hostage situation explodes. To buy time, Tigh marches into
      Adama's quarters, where he...

      In one of the most edge-of-seat scenes on this series, Tigh confesses
      everything he knows to Adama. "*I am a Cylon*." Adama tries to
      explain it away, using all the facts that we as viewers would
      ourselves use to debunk this belief. It's a fruitless endeavor. Tigh
      *knows* he's a Cylon. And with this knowledge he puts himself forward
      as the most possible valuable leverage to use against D'Anna. It's
      brilliant. It's selfless. It could very well cost him his life. And
      it's 100 percent Saul Tigh.

      The ensuing Adama emotional nuclear explosion that occurs is a raw
      and heartbreaking performance by Olmos. It depicts nothing short of
      utter devastation. This man has a breaking point, and we've passed it
      and then some. Tigh's outing turns Adama's world upside down. Not
      only is Adama's best friend of 30 years a Cylon, and not only has
      every military decision Adama ever made now the punch line of a cruel
      cosmic joke, but now Adama has to put Tigh in an airlock and use him
      as currency. "I can't kill the bastard," Adama sobs to Lee. He
      literally cannot do it. So Lee steps up to address the crisis in his
      father's stead.

      On the macro tier of the story, the brilliance of "Revelations" is
      how fate assembles a big picture from the jigsaw puzzle of all the
      characters in order to not simply point the way to Earth, but force
      the humans and Cylons to do it together. In addition to the Secret
      Four, this puzzle can only come together with the involvement of
      Resurrected Kara and her Viper (which begins receiving a mysterious
      signal, and is the only piece of equipment that does so); the
      renegade Cylons; and even Baltar, who reasons with D'Anna long enough
      to cause a crucial delay. And, of course, a higher power to make all
      of these coincidences play in perfect concert. Sure, this is all a
      construction of clever writers, placing the available pieces where
      they best make sense. But it's done well and done organically, and
      the spell of the story is never broken.

      Ultimately, Tigh is in an airlock with Lee's finger on the button,
      who demands D'Anna stand down -- and it doesn't look like she will. I
      honestly didn't know whether Tigh would live or die -- I really
      didn't. Airlocking Cally in "The Ties That Bind" made possible this
      scene's palpable sense that anything could happen. It generates
      unbearable suspense, even while making use of that old standby:
      crosscutting back and forth to a character who's desperately running
      through hallways with crucial information to stop something awful
      from happening.

      And how awesome is Saul Tigh? He has no regrets whatsoever about his
      choices here. He stands up straight and prepares to face death like
      the man he always has been. As the moment is drawn out, Tigh looks
      straight at Lee and says, "What are you waiting for, Apollo? *Do*
      it." It's a great line that elevates this character (and Michael
      Hogan, who plays him) into a stratosphere of awesomeness.

      But Kara's word of her discovery stops everything at the last
      possible moment. As quickly as the crisis seemed headed beyond the
      point of no return, it's completely defused. She has found a signal
      leading back to Earth. Lee negotiates a halt to hostilities with a
      Yes We Can speech; everyone can go to Earth together. In a way, for
      this brief moment, Earth has saved everyone.

      I must also admit I was blindsided by the idea that once this
      agreement is reached, *we are going to Earth right now*. I really
      didn't see it coming. I expected another clue to Earth, not the full
      solution. Again, it's a testament to this series defying
      expectations. The moment of truth has arrived, Earth is in reach --
      and yet here's a character kernel not to be overlooked: Adama is
      still deflated, his spirit crushed. It takes Roslin to lift him back
      up.

      But we're not kidding around. We're going to Earth! We get it all:
      the spine-tingling epic sweep, the dramatic musical score, the shot
      of the fleet in orbit of a blue planet, Adama making a grand fleet-
      wide announcement, characters celebrating and hugging. Nice stuff.
      Even nicer: Tigh sits alone with a bottle. Even Earth is not going to
      solve all our characters' problems. And then...

      There's that doozy of a final shot of a devastated Earth. Adama picks
      up that first handful of dirt, and a Geiger counter clicks away. In
      addition to the implications of this scene, I must praise the
      technical skill. It's a tour de force of stage direction that gathers
      all the characters in a single, wordless tracking shot. I could
      easily write another 500 words on just this shot and how it breaks
      down all the characters and silently, implicitly comments on all of
      them. But why do that? You get the picture, and can form ideas of
      your own. One thing is certain: The dejection is palpable.

      What happened to Earth, what does it mean, and what do we do now?
      This ending is not a cliffhanger; it's another brilliant, giant
      question mark -- the biggest one yet on this series. If there's a
      major statement being made here, above all else, it's that there is
      no quick fix in the "Battlestar" universe. For this extended journey,
      the destination, and all hope, has resided on Earth. Now they have
      found it. But apparently finding it has resolved nothing.

      Earth may have allowed the Cylons and Colonials to come together, but
      now they are here, and they are going to have to deal with each
      other. Earth is not going to save these people. They will have to
      save themselves.

      Somehow. I don't know how.

      -----
      Copyright 2009, 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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