Monday, February 09, 2009
Our angst goes to eleven.
With only six new episodes left before the show heads off into the ether, I have to ask: what do you think about "Battlestar Galactica" so far this season? Be forewarned: spoilers ahead for those who haven't seen everything up to last Friday's episode, "Blood on the Scales."
I thought about being all coy with my assessment of the show, but I'm about ready to burst with wanting to talk about the damn thing, so I'll just come right out and say it: I think it's been brilliant and if this is the way the rest of the season finishes out, I'm fully on board with this show should go down as one of the best programs in TV history.
And here's why in two short words: moral ambiguity.
I'm one of those kooky people who likes my characters cast in shades of gray rather than black and white, good and bad. It's what I found fascinating about "The Sopranos." I hated everything Tony Soprano ever did but still, I couldn't help but like the guy on some level. I feel the same way about Oprah and Martha Stewart but that's neither here nor there.
This season, BSG is heaping on a big ol' helping of ambiguity and I've happily positioned myself at the head of the trough. Nearly every character is messing up somehow and unlike many other shows, those mistakes have consequences -- big ugly sticky consequences. Nothing illustrates this better than the recent two-parter, "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales." After having his illusions shattered by Gaius Baltar on New Caprica, after having his leg shot off by a Cylon, after watching his best friend die by her own hand and after having a seriously trippy experience aboard a drifting Raptor, poor Felix Gaeta finally gets mad as hell and just won't take it anymore. He joins with professional rabble-rouser and part-time dink Tom Zarek to lead a coup against Admiral Adama and President Roslin to prevent the continuation of the human/Cylon alliance.
Needless to say, things go terribly, terribly wrong. And here's the brilliant part: as much as I found myself hating what Gaeta did, I sympathized with him. Admiral Adama has gone soft and been making very questionable decisions like leaving a Cylon as his second in command and pushing for the installation of Cylon technology in all the fleet's ships. President Roslin, the other half of the sorta, kinda Macbeth-ian pair, has given up and let the fleet drift. No one's in charge and the only thing steering the remains of the human race is entropy.
So there I am at the end of "Blood on the Scales," watching poor Felix pay the ultimate price for his actions and all I feel is anger at Adama for giving him a punishment he actually deserves. Yes, I'm mad at Adama for doing the right thing and I feel sympathy for Felix for doing the wrong thing. That's about as morally ambiguous as it gets -- and to me, that's masterful writing.
Somehow this entropy, this idea of humanity adrift and in danger, seems far scarier to me than the Cylon threat ever did. Maybe it's because, as BSG always has, it mirrors so well what's going on in our society today. There's fear over the recession, fear of a dangerous world, fear of global warming and fear of tomorrow. We want to believe we can solve our problems, but this show posits the idea that we're all just human and maybe that's not enough. Talk about terrifying. I admire a show with the balls to go this dark and even though it makes me want to take a Xanax before each episode, I'm willing to follow it right to the bitter end. Because somehow I have to believe it'll all be alright. Humanity is nothing if not optimistic, right?
Besides, you've gotta love a show that injures so many people with writing utensils and then refers to the victims as "pen pals." I'd hate to see what they could do with paper cuts.