Thursday, March 8

Galactica Station's Review of Maelstrom

Marine Goobyrastor reviews the much anticipated and now much picked at episode 316 Maelstrom.

Oh God. Lee said it right. I love Kara Thrace.

And now, what to do without her? I know the question you’re all asking yourselves, cause I’m asking it too: Is Starbuck dead? Really, really, dead? I don’t know. You all figure that out for a bit, I’ve got to try and type a review past the lump in my throat. Thank God I’m not on the podcast this week.

I once had a discussion about the archetype of the “damaged woman,” and how the ostensibly strong Starbuck was really just another variation on this theme. My take on it was a bit more charitable to RDM, however. This Starbuck was just a more honest look at the “bad boy/girl” than the old series ever gave us. No one courts death with such a devil-may-care attitude unless they’re sporting some serious scars under the surface. And so here we are, and I was a little bit surprised at how effective Starbuck’s death was, given how intensely unlikable a person she’s been through nearly all of the third season. But this episode brings the circle of her character (nearly) to a close, showing from where the girl gets all her pain. We knew the story, of course. We heard Leoben and Simon talking about Kara’s childhood, the broken fingers, the suffering. But there’s something different when you see it. That shot of the little girl’s hand shoved into the doorjamb just killed me. And then the SOBs showed it again. Showing the abuse, physical and emotional, which this woman went through as a child, hammered home to me the reason that I never stopped loving Kara Thrace, even when she was doing some very awful things to people I like.

“Maelstrom.” For an episode killing off a main character, this episode was decidedly low-key. No great, important mission against the cylons. Just a simple matter of hiding from the bad guys until the ships could refuel. Starbuck didn’t die taking on all eight, she just... died. And honestly, that’s the way for someone like Starbuck to go out. Because we all expected a blaze of glory, right? And then, we’d be able to say “well, at least she died fighting the good fight.” This way, there’s more of the sense of loss that there should be when someone young and full of life dies.

If there’s one word that sums up this episode to me, it’s “foreboding.” Even to a spoiler-free sort like me, the way the hour played out convinced me that something very bad was going to happen by the end. The scene with Helo near the top, to show the two friends one last time. Then her and Apollo actually functional for a change, with him supporting her as a friend would, and only a hint of the sexual tension from before. Both nice little scenes, quite appropriate, but a bit too comforting, given the series we’re talking about here. All the time, my entire being was shouting that ”This is Battlestar Galactica! Something terrible must be about to happen!” Along the same lines, I’m pretty sure there were people, not watching the show, in a hole in Siberia, who figured our girl’s story was coming to an end after the first “what do you hear, Starbuck?” exchange since the miniseries.

The acting in this episode was top-notch; you could tell that the cast wanted their best to show for this one. That was some great stuff from Jamie Bamber, in the scene trying to pull her back and then after she was gone. Seeing Kara’s death from his eyes made it all the more painful. And speaking of painful, seeing Admiral Adama in tears, alone in his quarters, was nearly unbearable. Trust Olmos to end a show like this perfectly. Shame about the museum-quality model, though. Worth every penny? Well, so long as they can still find insurance.

But the show wouldn’t have worked without Ms. Katee Sackhoff. I mean, I can hardly imagine the series itself without Sackhoff. Starbuck has always been an enigma. This season saw her deconstruction, but never the moment of redemption that some where looking for. Instead, in “Maelstrom” we get Sackhoff acting the hell out of this poor, angry young Kara Thrace. The way she’s been playing Starbuck all season has been building up to this episode and this end. Not for a moment this season has Katee Sackhoff played Kara without making us acutely aware of her pain. And that’s a hard thing to do, given that she’s been hurting others pretty much non-stop since New Caprica. But even when she was pummeling Gaeta, in her worst moment, that pain was present. Thanks to Ms. Sackhoff. And that’s how the Kara we see here makes perfect sense. Whether or not you consider her actions suicide—and I do—she was certainly suicidal in this episode, making her peace with loved ones, accepting death. If Katee Sackhoff’s performance were not so consistent and so well done, from day one, it’d be harder to accept this aspect of the cocky Starbuck.

The premise of this episode, the way it was written and directed, make it somewhat difficult to review objectively. “Maelstrom” is well directed, in that the episode is cohesive, building up the emotions and pacing that it sets out to. It’s a well-crafted episode, but it’s sort of like a very nice pathway leading up to the museum door: If you don’t like going to the museum, you probably don’t care too much for the sidewalk leading up to the entrance. Fortunately for me, I liked where the episode went, and so was properly moved. The show wanted me to dread? I dreaded. It wanted to grieve? I’m grieving.

She’s gone. Will she return as a being of light? It’s possible; I’ve been convinced for a while that Kara would be our next guide, after Roslin, into the mystical aspect of this show, the realm of “this has all happened before and will happen again.” But barring that, and barring memories of her, I have a hard time thinking of a way for them to bring back Kara Thrace without it feeling like a cop-out.

I just hope they don’t try to tell us that the raider picked her up, cause that would make me mad.

Changing my rating system from U.S. type “letter grades” to numerical. So Maelstrom gets a 9.2, out of 10.

Source Gooby Rastor

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