February 3, 2009

Homecoming proves bittersweet for Galactica’s crew

For a show that wiped out 99.9 percent of the human race in its first hour, it’s still been gut-wrenchingly painful to watch the first three of Battlestar Galactica’s final 10 episodes.

The remaining human fleet finds Earth at the end of the first half of this season. It turns out to be more Planet of the Apes (the original, with its “you blew it all to hell!” ending) than home-sweet -home. The dream of settling a habitable planet was the only force keeping the fleet together; when this dream turns to ashes, so does most of the cast’s fragile alliances, beliefs, and morals.

The first two episodes, for the most part, show how individual characters’ psyches react to this harsh truth. President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) takes a break from public life, her cancer therapy, and her subtlety, finally shacking up with a despondent, struggling Admiral Bill Adama (Edward James Olmos). But after one of the title characters rather abruptly commits suicide, we finally see Adama mustering the strength to search for a homeland and take command of a tattered fleet.

And then the ever-angsty, newly-vicious Lieutenant. Felix Gaeta (Alessandro Juliani) starts his rebellion, mostly because he has little else to live for. Given how TV shows work, Gaeta must be routed. And given the show’s recent thirst for blood, our once-shy character will likely go down in flames.

However, the damage he has caused will resonate through the rest of the series; never has the show split the crew of the Galactica like this. Adama, a man who even gave Cylons amnesty, promises the rebels, “If you do this, there will be no forgiveness.”

Aside from this chaos, it’s unclear where the larger, mythic plots of the show are heading. Cavil’s “bad” Cylon forces are still somewhere out there, and the show may end with the Galactica firing its last nuclear weapons at their fleet. Ellen Tigh should be popping up for obvious reasons, though it would be regrettable if the show employed the “Ship of Lights” deus ex machina the original Battlestar used to explain strange happenings.

Even with all the action, the show’s stellar acting and thematic depth haven’t been sacrificed; the Cylons are demanding human (?) rights and facing their own mortality quite vividly, with only a single baby as the future of their race. One annoying turn of events, however, is the “un-Cyloning” of the other baby via a Grey’s Anatomy-style drama, making Cally’s horrific death last season utterly meaningless.

It’s unclear where the next few episodes after the rebellion will end up, but it is safe to say the downward spiral and tragedy has a ways to go before the situation will perk up for these tortured heroes. But really—would we want it any other frakking way?