Wednesday, November 22

Galactica Continues To Assault Comfortable Sensibilities

Source: HNR

In a world where people are trying to blow up airplanes using tampons and KY jelly; where donkeys and elephants continue to dance on the head of a pin; and where every crackpot dictator wants his own personal 'nucular' device, it’s becoming almost pro forma to call Battlestar Galactica the most topical series on television.

It remains unabashedly unafraid of wading waste deep into the often depraved psyche of our collective humanity.

And the wading continues. Eight episodes into Season Three it's clear that there's no let-up in sight. The constant assault on one's sensibilities; the bombardment of the senses by way of situations few humans can imagine, nor would wish to; the oppressive relentlessness of the Cylon pursuit—it all adds up to nine hours of riveting, yet often exhausting, television. It's difficult not to tune in to see exactly who will be dropped in the meat-grinder next, and how.

This is not intended as a flippant remark, for the results almost always yield unexpected consequences—unexpected for the audience, anyway. For the series doesn't just put us behind the camera using its well-publicized cinema vérité style, it often swings that camera towards the mirror, so to speak, and forces us to take a an unvarnished look at ourselves, too, challenging the audience to confront its own convictions and dogmas. It's a task that the news, no matter how gruesome, is often bereft of accomplishing. With our own beliefs often mercilessly sacrificed on the alter of forced introspection, Battlestar Galactica doesn't take sides or preach philosophies, rather it shatters preconceptions and leaves a slack-jawed audience to pick up the pieces. Very clever, those Galactica writers.

Perhaps nowhere was this more aptly demonstrated than in the season's opening episodes, "Occupation" and "Precipice." Certainly, as Baltar remains cloistered in Colonial One, presiding as a Cylon-imposed figurehead over what has become a sort of ossified fiefdom, we experience feelings of disgust at his apathetic slide into the cold embrace of the enemy, particularly given the abhorrent physical and psychological tortures being endured by the Colonists in the New Caprica camps. But it's the story of the insurgency that resonates for the audience, for they — who are willing to blow themselves up in their fight for freedom — are the Colonials; they are us. It's a 180 degree look at events happening on the ground in Iraq, events that the news too often regurgitates as dates...and numbers...and simple equations of good vs. evil.

Life is seldom so simple, of course.

And while the initial two episodes have been accused of being a bit slow in pacing, they nicely presage "Exodus, Parts I & II" in which the octane is lit ablaze and the "insurgents" are finally brought home in a daring rescue executed by William Adama and his son Lee—one that, unfortunately, results in the destruction of the Pegasus.

In episode four, "Collaborators," the aftermath of the Colonials' treatment on New Caprica is explored, resulting in the meting out of revenge (passed off as "justice") by a small group of the occupation's survivors, led by Colonel Tigh. The episode wastes little time chronicling what can happen when assumptions are made without proper evidence; and how vengeance can diminish a human being.

Meanwhile, Baltar awakens to find himself aboard a Cylon baseship, and just like the collaborators on the Galactica, his fate now rests in the hands of Six, the only one who can break a deadlocked jury, half of whom want Baltar put to death.

By the episode "Torn," the series is moving in a new direction, one that reveals more about the Cylons, as we explore two possibly intersecting story points: that the Cylons are aware of Earth and anxious to use Baltar to help them find it, and that they are susceptible to an unknown virus found aboard a Cylon scout ship.

The final two episodes aired so far, "A Measure of Salvation" and "Hero," force the audience to face a bitter conceit: that in our pride and arrogance — and indeed in our very fight for survival — we can do no wrong...or so we tell ourselves. It's "the end justifies the means" argument that runs throughout the series, and boils to the surface in episodes like these two. In "A Measure of Salvation" an opportunity to eradicate the Cylon race once and for all presents itself, and is hotly debated between Laura, William, Lee and Helo, calling into question the perhaps obvious, but necessary argument about whether or not the Cylons are sentient beings, or merely machines that should be "switched off" permanently.

Regardless of the outcome, what makes "A Measure of Salvation" truly resonate is the next installment, "Hero," where we learn that William Adama may have partially precipitated the Cylon attack upon the Colonies by following the orders of an overzealous Admiralty and crossing into Cylon territory with a stealth ship, thereby violating the terms of the armistice agreement.

Battlestar Galactica remains a show that asks tough questions, but offers no easy answers, preferring instead to allow the audience to draw their own conclusions.

No comments: