A quick note: This review has been long-delayed, and I probably ought to have sourced it out when real life started bludgeoning me around the head for two weeks. All apologies for the wait, and I’ll try and do better next time. If it makes a difference, the bulk (nearly all) was written before "Escape Velocity," so it should be free of the influence of later eps. -Gooby.
Finally, the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica takes a step back from Starbuck. Not that I don’t love our girl, but jeez, Kara’s an antidote for Prozac these days. So in the interests, perhaps, of lightening the mood, “The Ties That Bind” turns from Kara to... Cally.
Good Lord. Could you all please excuse me for a minute, while I put on some Sarah McLachlan and cut myself some? Thanks. Anyway, to the story. Cally is one of those characters whom I’ve have mixed feelings about for quite some time. She’s been sort of an odd mix of a tiny, somewhat childish woman combined with moments of pure rage. And while it’s often easy to sympathize with her and her emotions, just as frequently, I’m a little freaked out by her. Not that I wanted to stare into her frozen, asphyxiated corpse eyes or anything, though. Among the most freakish moments for Cally, to my mind? When at the beginning of one two-part episode, she got her head broken by a man, and by the end of it, she was married to him. I will grant, that the editing of the show, as well as the Great Leap Forward, certainly had an effect on how creepy it came off for me; but still, one of my Life Rules has been: “Don’t marry someone who breaks your jaw.” One nice thing about TTTB (3TB?) is that Cally actually brings up how nuts it is to do just that.
But doesn’t it seem like just forever since we’ve seen Cally? I think the last time I remember seeing her was in “Dirty Hands,” right after... oh that’s it, right after she’d been shot out an airlock. Trend noted. And Adama threatened to put her against a bulkhead and shoot her. Times have been tough for the girl, yes? Still, there wasn’t much of a head’s up that things were this bad, was there? To be quite honest, I felt a little bit of difficulty getting into this episode’s main plotline, which may have something to do with my ambivalence towards Cally, or possibly my being thrown off by the surreal camera-work towards the top of the show. It seems like BSG is straying more into the land of visual trickery these days, and I for one wish they’d ease up on it a little bit. To me, one of the reasons that season 3’s Baltar subplot worked (well, to a degree anyway) was that it was such a stylistic departure for the show, from that gritty realism thing it does so well and consistently. I don’t know; am I wrong about this? Am I in the minority, wanting BSG to kinda hush up the “fiction” part of science fiction, and remain a show, essentially realistic, about hot killer robots who chase us around in our spaceships when we’re not all busy getting messages from our respective deities?
Gah, where was I? Cally. Okay, so we haven’t seen her for a while, the camera-work is distracting and she was never my favorite character. Still, I certainly had a level of interest in seeing what the show did with her, now that we know she brought a toaster to term and all. Obviously, she represents the most significant complication in the personal lives of the final four (Starbuck doesn’t count, because she and Anders are barely married at this point, and besides, she takes a back seat this episode, finally), so naturally we want to see how they use her. For me, I’ll admit that the route they chose, using her to showcase the emerging Cylon nature of one Tory Foster, surprised me, but in a good way. For all their uncertainty, the Final Four are Cylons, and it’s nice to know that at least one seems prepared to be a force for ill. They’re still the bad guys after all, if only marginally. Tory’s speech to Cally in the launch tube struck me as everything we might expect to hear from a benign Final Five, right up until she lay the super-powered smack on Cally. Even if I wasn’t 100% invested in the path there, I felt it was a good scene.
But Cally didn’t own the show. Lee’s B-plot, I’m pretty sure I’ll wind up liking more than most people, but then, I think I like Lee more than most people do. The storyline does provide an interesting perspective on Roslin’s government, and how she’s consolidating power. But what of it? What is the deal with this Executive Order; why does Roslin want secret tribunals? There’s no hint of the reason, here. If there’s a fault in this plot (and there is), it’s that it’s unclear where they’re going with this. Quo vadis, Lee Adama? Why should we care that you’re now a politician, and apparently buddying up to the other Apollo? This plot needs to go somewhere, if it’s not going to end up being just a place to stick Lee just because there’s no other place to put him.
Speaking of the crew of Demetrius, I actually don’t mind that goal (finding a place) with many of these characters, simply because they’ve had nothing to do, for so long. In particular, I refer to Helo and
A couple of weeks ago, I complimented the show on having its characters ask the tough questions about Kara Thrace’s return, and how it meant that we the audience weren’t being expected to take it all on faith either. But here? No one is asking the questions, and I think the expectation is that we won’t, either. Well no dice, show. You wanted me to pay attention to that kid, “shape of things to come” and all, and now I am. And I’m awfully, terribly sorry that you don’t know what to do with her anymore, but tough. Failure to mention what her parents have done with her is just plain lazy, whatever else you’re trying to do.
Enough about Hera. Let’s concentrate on characters who still exist. Anders’ scenes with Kara, whom I’m becoming more concerned with by the week, were maybe the last gasp of Season 3 Starbuck. You know, the one who looks at Sam, claps her hands and says “oooh! Something to hurt!” I realized, watching the scene after, with them talking in bed, and recalling their scene at the memorial in the season opener, that I’m losing my empathy for Kara, as well. At least last season, she felt sane, or what insanity she had was caused by the visceral pain she had undergone. Now? This messianic urge of hers, which has her holding the President at gunpoint and painting on the walls, has stolen some of the humanity from Starbuck, and that’s a damn shame, because she was a beautifully human creature, from the start. Her sense of purpose, wherever it’s coming from, is now causing her to ignore the needs of the crew under her command, and it’s an open question, how long they’ll put up with it. Starbuck never had a problem bending the rules, of course, but this seems more like a case of her forgetting that the rules even exist. She doesn’t seem to care about anything much anymore, other than the chip in her brain zapping her when she doesn’t think about Earth.
But, like I say, she does spare a moment to demean poor Anders, and rattle of some identity crisis stuff that he will in no way relate to, so it’s not like she’s a total loss yet. We’ll just wait and see what awaits us and this good ship.
The Cylons storyline continues to... gah, Boomer kissing Al. Sorry, I love Dean Stockwell, truly I do, but well... I don’t like seeing “gentlemen of a certain age” kissing. Sorry if that makes me shallow. Anyway, Natalie may have fired the first shot, but Cavil seems determined to fire the last one, no? And are we to understand that all the Eights, Sixes, and Leobens (other than Caprica, Boomer, and Athena) are on the Basestars that were attacked? I didn’t really think that’s how Cylon society worked. Maybe this is a small sub-set of Cylon society, but if that’s the case, how can they decide to “un-box” an entire model? I’m confused. Normally, a bit of mystery around the Cylons, I’d call a good thing. But it just seems like the parameters of this conflict are really stretching belief.
Well, looking over what I’ve written, it seems like I didn’t care for this episode all that much. I feel like I enjoyed the episode perhaps more than my tone infers, but when I start to think about the various subplots and what their weaknesses are, the episode really doesn’t hold up that well to close scrutiny. I originally might have given this episode an eight, and I still don’t feel like this episode failed as an essentially good hour of television, but the problems do add up, and serve to bump it down, let’s say to 7/10.
Ouch, that’s a C-. But Battlestar can do much better.