Monday, December 04, 2006

Battlestar Galactica— Unfinished Business

The upshot from the Sci-Fi Channel: A rank-free boxing tournament aboard the Galactica is intended to help the officers and crew blow off steam, but it quickly drags old grudges into the light — including Apollo (Jamie Bamber) and Starbuck's (Katie Sackhoff) lingering issues and resentments, which were spawned on New Caprica.

Holy Frak! After a couple weeks of not entirely stellar episodes, BSG goes super nova with Unfinished Business. BSG has always been at its heart a character driven show punctuated by action and space battles but this week the characters are driven full speed ahead into facing their demons—all with nary a Cylon in sight (not counting Athena of course).

As the episode opened, we were heartened to see Starbuck and her estranged husband Sam Anders (Michael Trucco) back in the sack—a reconciliation perhaps?—but we were quickly disabused of that notion as once the beast with two backs was made, Starbuck grabbed her skivvies and made off. “Happy to be of service,” Anders quipped.

Anders wants their marriage back but Starbuck remains more emotionally damaged than ever and she is making good on her previous claim that she doesn’t much care who she hurts. Even as the viewer can sense that she has carried a life-long hurt, her bile-filed pissyness is getting annoying.

Speaking of hurting, below deck boxing is in full swing—literally. As we watch the Friday night fights, the viewer is moved between the conflict of the present and past where the seeds of conflict were sewn on New Caprica 17 months earlier, some 8 months prior to the Cylon-occupation.

As then-President Gaius Baltar (James Callis) broke ground in New Caprica City to usher in “bright future” the new colony, we see these are happy times for our cast of characters. During the post-groundbreaking party, we see Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan) and his wife Ellen (Kate Vernon) enjoyed a genuine loving moment during their previously train-wreck of a marriage. Given what we know is to come, it’s a quite bittersweet to observe.

The shocker of the episode was seeing Adama (Edward James Olmos) and then ex-President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) “bond” on New Caprica. They were so down-right snuggly that we wondered if they had gotten making with the love. FBW’s best pal Kemosabe told us he thinks that they did it. We’re inclined to agree.

In interviews Mary McDonnell has said that she believed her character, as President with the weight of the world on her shoulders, can’t afford to give herself to romance. It seems equally clear that Adama shares a similar viewpoint.

But on New Caprica, she wasn’t president anymore/yet—and he was in command of what was essentially a peace-time military—and she is a woman and Bill Adama is a man and…well you know.

In any event, whatever happened on New Caprica, stayed on New Caprica as since then the Second Exodus and Roslin’s reinstatement to high office, the Adama-Roslin bond has been stronger than ever but without a hint of sexual tension.

But it was cute to find out that Roslin a closet boxing fan and to watch her dispense good boxing advice to Adama during his time in the ring. Adama is prompted to challenge Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) to fight after an unintentional but telling moment of insubordination—the chief was too caught up in the fights and too willing to put off repairs until tomorrow what should be done today—a no-no aboard a warship.

After a sucker punch by Adama, Tyrol is goaded into taking the fight seriously until the much younger man leaves the Admiral quite bloodied but never unbowed.

Adama addresses the crew after his beating: “When you stand on this deck, you be ready to fight, or you dishonor the reason we’re here” he says. “When you fight a man, he is not your friend. The same goes when you lead men. I forgot that once, I let you get too close. All of you. I dropped my guard. I gave some of you breaks, let some of you go before the fight was really over. I let this crew and this family disband. And we paid price in lives. That can’t happen again.”

Adama’s words are sobering enough as Tyrol leaves ring to take up the work he had previously blown off. Only a man like William Adama could be beaten to a pulp and still walk away the victor.

And no doubt the took the beating in the first place, beyond as an object lesson to his crew, due to the guilt he will always carry for what he believes is his culpability for provoking the Cylons into launching the genocide as we saw in BSG Hero.

But the main event of the evening was the grudge match between Starbuck and Apollo—brining to a head their months of conflict dating back to events on New Caprica. The past on New Caprica and present in the ring flash back and forth as we see Starbuck and Apollo caught each other's eyes over the shoulders of their new lovers, Anders and Dualla during the celebration on New Caprica.

It turns out Starbuck and Apollo did get together on the planet and he declared his love for her, she reluctantly did the same. But the next morning we see Apollo waking up alone and later to be told by his father that Starbuck just got married.

Jamie Bamber gives the performance of his career here as the viewer watches his spirit shatter on camera as he absorbs the news. As Starbuck rushed into marriage with Anders, so does Apollo do the same with Duella but we see this is the moment where Lee Adama unravels and he starts to become the soft and weak shell of a man viewers first observe at the start of Season 3.

Flash forward to the present and these two are giving a whole new meaning to “lovers quarrel” as they pound the snot out of one another in the ring. The writers at BSG may have found a revolutionary form couples therapy—lace up the gloves and start swinging as you see in the BSG universe, there is no such thing as chivalry—equality of the sexes is a given so boys and girls can kick each others asses with dispatch.

And the more they take out of each other, the closer they become—even as their respective spouses watch. They end the bout hanging off of each other in exhaustion—“I missed you” Kara says to Lee. “I missed you too,” he says in reply.

Starbuck’s husband knows the score and he declares “I’m outta here.” We can’t help but feel bad for him. He’s done everything right but still losing his wife but she did after all go back to Caprica and rescue him from Cylon-occupation, saving his life….things he can never forgive her for and for which he can never repay her.

Duella, Apollo’s wife, on the other hand is another story. Given how she gave Billy the shaft last season just before he died, all we can say is what goes around comes around.


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