Thursday, March 8

Galactica Station's Review of The Woman King

Marine Goobyrastor offers his take on the much critiqued episode the woman king.

Well, we got it. The episode where Helo shows that he’s one of the good guys, kicking ass and chewing gum. And all the much maligned Helo-lovers can rejoice. Or they could have if “The Woman King” had been a better episode.

There’s a good story in this episode, somewhere, and there are a number of parts which I like. Sadly, there’s also something missing from TWK.

The show sets itself up for a fall right from the beginning. Or rather, before the beginning. The “previouslies” are nothing of the sort. Know how occasionally, the show will sneak in a deleted scene into this space, to set up a bit of the episode to come? Well this time, the entire A-story comes completely out of left field, with a couple of clips spliced onto the top of the show to make us think it’s not quite so big a leap. But... Galactica is still housing civilians? Really? And Helo’s in charge of taking care of them? I... guess.

Also, since when are the Sagittarons these uber-religious folk? Up until now, we’d only heard that about the Geminese (where have they been, I wonder?). If we’re going to accept the Sagittarons as fundamentalists of a sort, doesn’t that beg a number of questions, such as how they felt about Roslin “playing the religion card,” way back in early season 2? Or how about the religious aspects of the election? Maybe they only read the parts of the Scrolls of Pythia that say doctors are bad.

The setup notwithstanding, this episode does a number of things right. The scenes in the Agathon household are nice, if somewhat predictable. Sharon and Helo love each other, they don’t understand each other perfectly, he doesn’t want to be defined simply by his relationship to her. This is not incredibly deep stuff here. But it’s not irrelevant, either. If anything, the very normalcy of (most of) their relationship is a statement. If there’s anything off about these scenes, it’s that next to nothing is said or shown about the adjustments made because of Hera’s return. Neither on the mundane level, of Helo and Sharon learning how to cope with meeting the needs of an infant, at all hours of the day or night (munchkin didn’t even cry when someone was banging on the door. Is that a cylon thing, or what?), nor from the standpoint of Hera’s vaunted status as “the shape of things to come.” Has Adama forbidden observation of the child; has anyone asked Six what the plan with Hera was? Since her birth, we’ve seen next to no real indication of Hera’s importance, beyond the fact that the cylons seized her, and her parents wanted her back. Really, even if this show doesn’t want to reveal all it’s cards as far as Hera goes, it should at least start showing people as being interested in what she represents.

The way in which the others on Galactica react to Helo’s attitude is refreshing, too. Up until now, most of the antagonism directed Helo’s way was pretty obviously unfair. I liked how here, he brought things on himself by being, in Doc Cottle’s words, a “righteous ass.” Helo’s a moral guy, sure, but he can also be self-righteous at times. Sometimes, that’s a good thing, other times, such as during his spat with the Mrs., or his B&E into Cottle’s records, you can understand why the other parties start to lose patience with him. I like that much of the conflict in this episode resulted from Helo’s difficulty in working within the system. Special kudos to the scene between Helo and Tigh. The Tigh that Helo belted was the Tigh of “Torn,” and he certainly had a fist coming. Saul, meanwhile, was right on the money when he described Helo as being “on the outside, looking in.” He’s also more cunning and savvy than Helo, and it showed in this scene. “You’d better have the Doc take a look at that hand.” Nice. Round goes to Tigh.

But the best had to be the night’s one, great “frak yeah” moment, when Athena is visiting Six in her cell... and suddenly, the Baltar in Caprica’s head steps into frame! YES! Call him Head Baltar, call him Virtual Baltar, I call him awesome. Having him appear for even as brief a time as he did, and not even pouring any martinis, netted this episode a half a grade from me, just to know he’s still around.

But for every aspect which TWK nails, there seem to be two where it falters. Bruce Davison gives a good turn as the Mengele-like Dr. Roberts, but in the end, I still couldn’t really say why he did what he did. The Sagittarons were refusing help and dying for it, which seemed to tick him off. So he kills them? Uh, aren’t they going to die anyway? “I intervened because someone has to make the tough choices here.” What choices? I know racism isn’t exactly rational, but a more clearly motivated villain might have been nice.

The woman King, herself, is an important character to be sure, but hardly central enough to merit getting the episode named after her. It’s a shame because “The Woman King” is a great title for an episode. But she’s too much of a non-entity to be pivotal. Helo seems affected by her plight, but her grief and anger are too subtle, and involve too much that happens off-camera, to reach the audience in a similar way.

Admiral Adama’s few scenes left me puzzled. Not that Adama acted out of character, but I guess that I almost felt he was too in character. His last speech to Helo struck me as almost a caricature of Bill Adama. “There’s hate, and there’s allowing hate. We’re guilty of both...” He’s not dropping pearls of wisdom, those are anvils of wisdom.

Lastly, the show falls back on that tried-and-true device, the deus ex machina. Tigh and Cottle’s sudden arrival on the scene, backing Helo to the hilt, makes a certain amount of sense. Is it plausible that Cottle would have lied to Helo about doing an autopsy? Sure, Helo was bugging the frak out of him at the time. Could he have then decided to perform the post-mortem? Of course. But it’s not very satisfying drama, as it makes Cottle’s earlier lie an artificial-feeling tension builder.

All in all, a bit of a let-down of an episode. Not nearly as much of a loser as “Black Market,” or “A Measure of Salvation,” TWK manages to observe Helo’s character without really exploring it. The positives manage to bring the episode into passable territory, and it’s not quire as soapy as last week’s, but those wanting a return to the main plots of the war with the cylons and the search for Earth will have to wait a while longer.

Last thought: Zarek. Tom Zarek is pushing for martial law? That doesn’t sound right. Say, you don’t suppose he’s up to something, do you?

Grade: C+

Episode reviewed by Louie Brennan “Gooby Rastor.”

Bonus review: I like seeing the extra scenes, I really do. But they seem to be leaving some pretty important stuff on the cutting room floor! The scene between Helo and Adama may not have been quite as crucial as that between Caprica and Roslin, but still. I don’t have the answers, but it seems like they’re just writing too much for a one-hour show, and stuff’s getting lost.

Source: Gooby Rastor

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