TV REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: “A Disquiet Follows My Soul.” (Season 4, Episode 12)

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If last week’s episode was all about the shock of dealing with the death of hope, this week was about the grieving process. There are stages to these things, and I suspect the show is deliberately following them. Next week, presumably, will be about anger. Then acceptance. Bargaining is probably in there somewhere, I’m not much of a twelve-stepper so I’m not sure about it.

As we begin, the fleet is still in orbit around earth. The situation seems to have improved slightly – there’s no more fighting or open drunkenness in the halls – but only slightly. Although people are going back to work, although the surface of the waters are calm, all manner of dark things are churning away beneath the surface waiting none-too-patiently to break free.

The Rebel Cylons want to join the fleet permanently. They want to take their chances with the humans, rather than wait for Cavil and the rest to find them. To that end, they want citizenship in the fleet, representation in the Quorum, etc. “I’ve convinced them that you’re the kind of man who takes the oath seriously, sir,” Tyrol tells Adama. The cost for this is that the Cylons will upgrade the fleet’s jumpdrive systems, giving them thrice the range. This does not go over well with some people, who are increasingly upset about the fact that the Rebel Cylons are around at all.

The Quorum passes a law stating that the captains and people of all the ships can refuse to let Cylons come aboard, or monkey about with their equipment. Before Adama can really do anything to oppose this, the Refinery ship mutinies and runs. Adama manages to bluster it’s location out of Vice President Zarek using a very clever stick to threaten him with. (It’s interesting that Adama has Zarek’s number, while Lee never quite got it. But then Lee’s always been something of a disappointment.) The situation is presently resolved, but it’s really just a weather balloon, a harbinger of what is to come. More decay and despair awaits them in the future.

Anti-Rebel-Cylon feelings run rampant in the fleet. We’re told in one scene that 50 Billion people are dead because of the Cylons, and now we want to ask them to help us? That comes to an average of 4.16 Billion per colony, and it’s the first time they’ve actually *Said* the number, not just pussyfooted around the enormity of the slaughter. The number is rattled off as a cliché almost, but there’s horror in it. An agent provocateur is sewing the seeds of insurrection in the fleet. By the end of the episode, he’s evidently made great inroads. This person’s feelings, while wrong and short-sighted, are not entirely misguided. By the end of the episode, we feel the power-base slipping away from our principles. Not entirely, but it’s loose and uncomfortable.

Baltar’s little cult is in a weird space, essentially demanding that God has wronged them, their plight is unjust, and demanding that He be put on trial for crimes against humanity. Where this will go is unknown, but it’s interesting that they seem to be fair-weather believers preaching a lovey-dovey God one week, and wanting to imprison Him when things don’t go their way the next. The parallels to the “Trial of God” in Auswitz are deliberate and obvious. I need to reflect on that a bit to really puzzle out the subtext, but I’ll let you know what I find when I do. Baltar’s cult has always been irritatingly halfassed, and the second-weakest thing about the really weak first half of this season.

The second half, thus far, has been pretty frackin’ great, though, I have to tell you. The last two episodes have been high drama firing on all cylinders. It’s pretty great.

And that’s pretty much it for the “Plot” portion of our review, now on to the observations:

Adama is getting sloppy. He’s back on the job, he’s functional, he’s not the basket case he was in last week’s episode, or in “Revelations,” but he’s still a mess. He’s waking up late for work, he’s more subdued than usual, and he appears to be popping uppers to keep going. He’s also oddly obsessed with random bits of trash that keep showing up on the deck. Olmos’ performance is stoical brilliance. We know that he’s operating about 10% past his tolerance point simply because of the way he carries himself, there’s nothing overt in the dialog, except one poignant like played for laughs, “Some days I really hate this job.” Yet even under all this pressure, even eroding rapidly, Adama remains a formidable man. It is truly amazing that a person can be as beat down as repeatedly as ol’ Admiral Bill is over the past four years, and yet he’s *Still* better than everyone around him, and it’s a testament to ol’ Edward James that he makes Adama’s uberman status – and even more importantly, his status as a crumbling uberman – seem believable.

Roslin, as we saw last time, has given up. She refuses to take her pills, she’s refusing to go to her Chemotherapy treatments. She’s drinking something, which might be water, or maybe something stronger, we don’t know. Everyone seems to be abusing some kind of substance these days. Her mental deterioration is oddly exacerbated by the feelings of euphoria she gets as her body recovers from the Chemo. She will not step up to the plate, even though the fleet and the government are in dire states. “I played my part as a dying leader who brings us to earth. Is there some other part I have to play for the rest of my life? Haven’t I earned the right to enjoy what little time I have left?” This is an interesting contrast to the Roslin of just three or four episodes ago, who was getting more dictatorial, exacting more control over the day-to-day life of the fleet, who was willing to do a lot of stuff to maintain order that she would have found unthinkable when she first took office. Though painted as a liberal, and essentially self-described as such (Well, a “Federalist,” anyway, the colonial version of a Democrat), in fact the more I look over her past, Roslin has always been a duty-bound pragmatist. Yeah, she has leftist ideals, and yeah, she thinks they’re great, but at the end of the day her main goal is just keeping the trains running on time, and she wouldn’t be *too* adverse to rigging an election or criminalizing abortion (Yay!) or detaining a political opponent indefinitely, or suspending freedom of speech/religion when she deems those to be subversive. She wants to be a liberal, she really, really does, but life keeps getting in the way, and every time – every single time – she does the pragmatic thing rather than the idealistic thing, and I suppose she looses a piece of herself in the process. There’s probably an unintentional moral in there, but the Roslin of 2009 bears little resemblance to the Roslin of 2003, and now that she’s done everything she can practically think of to do, she’s pragmatically chosen to die.

Dee did the same thing last way, but in a more direct fashion, and in a generally similar process: First she broke down, then she chased one happy memory, and then she killed herself. The producers say that it was all about Dee trying to enact some control on her life – I’ve taken all I can stand, I can’t fix or accomplish anything, so my story ends here. Roslin broke down, now she’s chasing pleasure (Whether or not they’ve done it before is still up in the air, but her and Bill definitely bumped uglies tonight). Roslin is definitely nearing the end of her story.

Deanna reached the end of her story last week. She sought her gods, and found them to be the drunken, abusive, co-dependent Tighs, a professional athlete, a bitch, and a fatassed mechanic. That’s a lot for anyone to take in. She decided to await her end on earth. I doubt we’ll see her again. Certainly she’s not in this episode.

In keeping with the theme of our protagonists having everything stripped away from them, Chief Tyrol discovers that there is yet more than he can loose: First he lost his one true love (Boomer), then his humanity, then his wife. Now his family: The big shocker of this episode being that he isn’t his son’s father. Cally was knocked up by another man prior to landing the Chief. I won’t tell you who, as there’s a nice fakeout in the episode leading up to it.

Man. Has there been a massive downturn in the real estate market with regards to Cally or what? They’ve done so much to trash her character this year that it’s hard to remember her as the plucky blue collar girl who joined the Colonial Fleet to pay for dental school, and bit the ear off a would-be rapist. Granted, she was never my favorite character, and most of her episodes tended to drag a bit, but I’m uncomfortable with the way they’ve ground her memory in to the dirt.

The Chief, by the way, is no longer in the Colonial Fleet. He’s evidently a civilian, and acting as a bit of a go-between with the Rebel Cylons. Tigh is still the XO, and seems a much happier, more functional man since he learned he’s not really a man at all. His anger issues seem mostly resolved. Him and 6 are actually a couple, and they’re eagerly anticipating their first child, the first successful attempt to breed cylons directly. “This means the cylon nation can survive without resurrection!” I note that Helo appears to be the Galactica’s 2nd officer these days.

The biggest and most startling transformation has been in our man Gaeda, always a nice guy and a dutiful soldier up until now. Well, brother, he ain’t nice any more. He’s an evil, shifty son of a bitch, and he’s playing these people in a way I’d call nefarious if it weren’t merely motivated by hate. He thinks the world is ending, and he intends to take what time he has left to get revenge. There’s been a huge transformation in Gaeda’s character that’s largely taken place offscreen. I really, really wish that I’d reviewed “The Face of the Enemy” webisode before this one, as that details it. I’ll make up for that ASAP. In the meantime, it’s interesting that Galactica’s one openly gay character (As of the webisode) is suddenly portrayed as a very, very, very bad man. It all flows organically, it fits, and it’s nice to see Mr. Juliani get more screen time, but I’m not sure if it’s sending the propagandistic message they intended when they decided to make him gay. Again, I’ll have to ponder that.

Of course the Rag Tag Fugitive Fleet consists of members of all 12 surviving tribes. The notion of the Rebel Cylons becoming the 13th tribe was not unexpected – the show has been edging towards a human/cylon synthesis on all levels pretty much since Helo met Sharon on Caprica – but it has a beautiful symmetry to it none the less: Humans on Kobol make Cylons, Cylons revolt, Cylons run away, Cylons found earth. Earth gets blown up somehow – details are still sketchy – and meanwhile Humans get kicked off of Kobol, found the Colonies, recreate Cylons, Cylons revolt, run away, then come back and kick ass. The recurring theme here is that the creation comes back to kill the creator, and the whole quest to find the 13th tribe was a quest to find a creation that everyone had forgotten about. The machine is out of balance because both sides keep such distance from each other that they can’t trust each other. When the Rebel Cylons join the Colonial Government – and I’m sure they will – it takes a machine that has been out of whack all along and re-balances it. The purpose of this show was essentially to reunite with the 13th tribe.

Well, duh, they’re doing that now.

A very strong episode, highly reccomended, though the "Trial of God" scene obviously made me uncomfortable.