Friday, June 13

Galactica Station's review of The Hub

Gooby Rastor spends his first week of summer vacation reflecting on episode 4.11, "The Hub."

An interesting experiment these days would have been to record the Google hits for “Mary McDonnell” and “Emmy” for the week following the airdate of “The Hub.” I have come to feel, over the past five years, (has it really been so long?) that while Battlestar Galactica’s leading man, Edward Olmos, does an exceptional job of leading the show’s cast, for which he is justly praised, the real standout is Ms. McDonnell, whose character is so complicated, so seemingly contradictory at times, that in the hands of a lesser actress, it would strain belief. McDonnell’s Roslin is given such nuance however, that the audience never fails to believe in her. In a phenomenal cast, filled with veterans as well as breakout talents, she’s top of the heap, no question in my mind.

What brings on this observation is a tour-de-force in this episode; Laura Roslin finally confronts the deeper consequences of her growing ruthlessness and isolation, and the results are not over-the-top, but rather subtle, though certainly real and maybe even profound. A welcome guest star in Roslin’s journey is Lorena Gale as Elosha, whom we haven’t seen since she was blown up on Kobol. While we all remember Billy as Roslin’s conscience, it’s a nice reminder that she’s been robbed of another human connection since Elosha’s death. Tangentially, what does Elosha’s appearance mean? Is it actually Laura’s subconscious, or something more, a supernatural reflection of the dead? The show’s starting to get more spiritual, which would suggest the latter, but Virtual Six did tell Baltar that those who die on Kobol simply cease. I wonder if the show will explore this question.

Back to Roslin’s reaction. By the end of the episode, Roslin has not changed appreciably when it comes to her ability to ruthlessly pursue what she sees as right; Helo still has to bring D’anna to Laura, who never questions her own decision to go back on her word towards the Cylons. It’s nice that for all of Roslin’s self-reflection, she doesn’t do a 180˚ in the space of a single episode. All too often, because of the limitations of the television medium, show writers seem compelled to introduce sudden character changes, as the only way of making those characters dynamic. In this case at least, BSG resisted the urge to have a single epiphany reverse the course of a character arc. Good on them, I say.

“The Hub” is at its strongest when focusing on Laura Roslin; other characterization is a little hit-or-miss, I’m sorry to say. To wit: Helo encounters a situation that the more prurient among us have been wondering about for a while: What happens if he finds himself alone with an Eight, other than Sharon? He also faces a decision not unlike the one he encountered in “A Measure of Salvation,” where his morals conflict with his orders. The latter problem generates a fairly interesting situation, where Helo decides (this time) that his duty requires him to follow Roslin’s orders and betray the trust of their erstwhile allies. Regarding the faux-Sharon, however, the episode bafflingly keeps Helo emotionally flat. I’m not sure how much of this is due to Tahmoh Penikett’s acting and how much is writing related; but it seems more like the latter: Instead of exploring the more creepy implications of Helo encountering someone with not only his wife’s body but her memories, they dismiss them with a throwaway line (“I know this must feel like a violation of trust, or something”). It’s a poor choice for the character, who hasn’t had much movement on the show for a long time, and remains static here.

Meanwhile, one character does goes through a change in this episode, though I find it a rather unwelcome one. For some reason, the Gaius Baltar of season four does not appear for the first half of this episode. Instead, we get a reappearance by his earlier self. I was unimpressed by the spectacle of Baltar screaming at the Hybrid and then congratulating himself on getting a reaction from her. It just didn’t seem like it came from the place that Baltar’s in these days. And can someone please explain why Baltar was trying to incite disloyalty in that Centurion? Was he just scheming for its own sake? Who knows. It’s a good thing that Baltar gets caught in that explosion, because it seems to jog his memory, restore him to his current personality, and remind him of his new philosophy of redemption.

On the lines of redemption, when we do finally see our season four Gaius, when he plays a critical role in what movement Roslin’s character does make, it was a well-earned moment for the show. While Roslin has been moving further away from her own humanity, further from loving people, as Elosha would say, she has never descended to the level she almost did tonight, actively killing a man. I liked the entire exchange, really. From Baltar’s original sin finally coming out into the open, to the way he pleads with Laura, “don’t do this to me,” and to her horrified reaction, after tearing off his bandage, when she realizes what she’s done. The understated power of this scene goes a long way towards making up for the earlier Baltar inconsistencies.

But it wasn’t all character work this time around, by any means. One of the reasons I was a bit excited about the chance to review this episode was the promise of another great space battle, which have been true high points of the season so far. Tonight’s fire-fight was fairly run-of-the-mill, however. Perhaps what was missing from it was a perspective. Looking back on them, most of the battles in BSG’s history have had at least one main character’s point-of-view central to the story of the fight; from the initial destruction of Galactica’s Viper wing (Boomer and Helo), to when they took out the Cylons’ Tylium operation (Apollo), to the Ionian Nebula this year (Anders). Perhaps it was the fact that so much of this battle was Cylon-on-Cylon violence (and not the good kind, like Six knocking the stuffing out of Sharon), that kept me from locking onto the battle emotionally. It wasn’t a bad sequence, really, but not really stellar either. A step down, in other words.

The show’s one MacGuffin relating to the prior ep, the dead Pike’s raptor jumping back to the Fleet (how’d he know how to get back to them anyway?), wound up being fairly meaningless, didn’t it? Guy freaks out, bugs out, gets shot, and jumps anyway, apparently for no better reason than to let the good folks on Galactica know that he’s dead now. Like I say, sort of pointless to my eyes.

Let’s end the review where the show ends: With Bill and Laura. The end of “The Hub” finally pairs up Adama and Roslin, romantically. This is one scene that, I don’t mind saying, my review of may be completely useless to some of you out there in Web-land. I’m not against an Adama/Roslin pairing, per se, in fact I rather like the way they’ve danced with the idea in the past. Maybe what leeriness I’m feeling about this current turn of events lies in the fact that I was such a fan of the easy chemistry the two of them had back on New Caprica, or how they interacted when Adama was in the boxing ring in “Unfinished Business.” I liked the way they were doing things and am not sure that changing the dynamic in this way will be good. On the other hand, I have to admit, it’s possible that the reason I’m not 100% satisfied with this development is that I have a cold, cold heart that rejects any hint of happiness in life. YMMV. Let’s wrap things up.

Something seems a bit odd about my ability to review lately: When I come back to episodes I’ve seen, I seem to remember the show being much better or worse than they appear after a day or two of reflection. “Escape Velocity” and “The Ties That Bind” suffered for this phenomenon... I’d thought on initial viewing that the shows worked, but my brain slowly picked them apart after time. “The Hub,” in contrast, seems to benefit with distance. I’m not quite sure why, but I feel more favorably inclined toward it than I did right after watching. Maybe it’s that the show’s missteps deal with characters whom I’m invested in, but in hindsight, they’re pretty small next to the success of the episode’s exploration of Laura Roslin. I was expecting the plot aspects of the episode to be a bit more interesting than they wound up being, but the quality of the characterization lead me to give “The Hub” a respectable B. 8.5/10.

P.S.: Points to those of you who guessed that Lucy’ Lawless’ line about the Final Five would turn out to be a red herring.

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