Friday, May 16, 2008
I love these crazy kids and their robots
I know I'm getting dangerously close to Dwight Schrute "bears, beets and Battlestar Galactica" territory with yet another post about my favorite Cylon-filled show, but I can't help myself. I promise to lay off it after this, but right now, this show is blowing my mind to such a degree I have to take a few minutes to talk about it, especially in light of recent reviews such as this one in Salon asserting that so far this has been a muddled season. Needless to say, I heartily disagree.
Here's what I'm lovin' so far about the BSG (and there are spoilers ahoy for season 4):
1) The Ick-Filled Cult of Baltar It's been a helluva ride watching Gaius Baltar transition from the human who helped destroy most of mankind (yet still weirdly served as the series' comic relief) into the president of a Cylon puppet regime and now into a smarmy cult leader who may, accidentally, transform a polytheistic humanity into a monotheistic humanity -- all while bagging nubile young brunettes and trying not to get his throat cut again. It's fascinating to watch this portrayal of what makes people believe what they believe. It elicits all sorts of questions -- what makes someone give up one set of beliefs for another? What makes one religion fall while another flourishes? How desperate do people have to be to believe the guy from Bridget Jones' Diary? And perhaps most importantly, do we really have to see James Callis naked quite so often? (You'll no doubt remember those last two questions from Sunday school.)
2) Morality This has been a great season for watching questions of morality played out by the series' resident bad guys, the Cylons. The thing is, are they really the bad guys? Sure, they annihilated the human race but the humans were the ones who started the fight. Sure, they turned New Caprica into a police state and poked Saul Tigh in the eye really hard, but the thing is, they thought they were helping. (Well, not with the Saul thing.) The Cylons in this new incarnation of BSG have always been like wayward children, never knowing their own strength, never understanding the power they wield or the capacity they truly have for destruction. They just want god -- their god, humanity's god? -- to love them. Also, they apparently all want to make out with Baltar -- perhaps the worst crime of all. Watching the Cylons splinter and fracture, watching them decimate each other and fall to their own flaws...well, I just can't turn away. It's a 16th century morality play with blondes in tight red dresses. Who doesn't love that on a Friday night?
3) The Dylan Four What happens when you wake up one morning and discover you're not who you thought you were? Worse yet, you discover you're a machine and you have no idea where the owner's manual is. At the end of last season, four Cylon-hating humans -- Galactica XO Saul Tigh, the president's aide Tory, lovable jock Anders and beefy Canadian Chief Tyrol -- all discovered they were Cylons, which is kind of like Karl Rove discovering he voted for Al Gore...and liked it. So far, each has reacted to the news in wonderfully different ways: Saul has sought forgiveness and a weird brand of atonement from a Cylon prisoner; Tory has embraced her inner "perfect" robot with gleeful abandon; Anders can't stop wondering if this is gonna be a deal breaker with his ex-wife Starbuck, what with her penchant for killing robots and all, and Chief, well, he's shaved all his hair off and can't stop staring menacingly at his half-cylon son. With build-ups like this, the eventual payoff is going to be big. Really big. Like I'm finally going to have to break down and buy that plasma TV just to hold all of it.
4) Civil liberties. This season, BSG's writers have been killing me hard with my favorite character, the increasingly Lady Macbeth-ish President Laura Roslin. First, her cancer returns and now she just doesn't care so much about laws...or civil liberties...or anything really that stands in the way of her mission to protect the fleet. But again, this is what BSG does so well. Despite the hew and cry from the masses, Roslin believes she's simply trying to eliminate the dangers her people will face after she is dead and gone. In short, she's just trying to find them a home. How can you blame her for that? You can't but you can blame her actions. That's what makes it hard to watch and that's what makes it great to watch.
5) The relationship between Roslin and Adama. Some have complained that the growing relationship between Roslin and Adama is simply filler and has nothing to do with the rest of the show. I disagree. This show has always been, on some level, about death and how we cope with it. Now, the writers are cramming that lesson at us hard by showing the slow demise of one of the series' strongest characters. While most shows would gloss over the difficult parts of Roslin's illness -- she'd get sick, look pale, cough a few times and either get better or expire bloodlessly -- BSG shows us Roslin's fear, her anger, her irrationality and the general shitty unfairness of life. To bookend that with her relationship to Adama, a man who absolutely cannot tolerate loss but who is now being forced to endure it slowly and painfully, well, now you've got a damn powerful storyline. I'm going to hate it when they finally kill off Roslin (speculation, not spoiler), but at the same time, I know I'll be tipping my hat and thinking "job well done." And then quite possibly, I'll cry myself to sleep.
BSG does that kind of stuff to you. This show is all about conflict -- good versus evil, love versus hate, faith versus fear, life versus death -- and it inevitably comes to rest in the moral gray area, the spot that never truly provides answers, just more questions. It's a conversation so good you never want it to end. Which is why I'll miss this show so much when it does. For now, I'm content just to savor every last morsel.