Monday, December 18, 2006

Battlestar Galactica—The Eye of Jupiter

The Upshot from the Sci-Fi Channel: While harvesting algae on the planet beyond the star cluster the possible discovery of an ancient artifact known as "the Eye of Jupiter" leads to a deadly stand-off with the Cylons, who believe that the Eye is a marker left by the 13th tribe to point the way to Earth.

Well you know it’s a mid-season finale when just about every major character on the show (and a few minor players too) have found themselves in some sort of pickle.

How? Let us count the ways—such as a battlestar/base ship standoff; an “away team” on the planet’s surface cut off and outnumbered by the enemy; a shot-down pilot, the fate of two marriages on the bubble; an overcrowded three-some and an Admiral’s finger on the nuclear launch button.

This episode had it all and it very well could have come across as overloaded but it did was it was supposed to do—kept us wanting to come back when the second half of Season 3 starts next month—January 21 at on a new day and time, Sunday at 10 p.m.

As the episode opens on the “Algae Planet” during the 14th day of the re-supply mission, we find we’ve only had to wait two episodes to find out what’s the deal with Apollo (Jamie Bamber) and Starbuck (Katie Sackhoff) following their boxing match as they hook up inside a raptor, even as their respective spouses Lieutenant Anastasia "Dee" Dualla, (Kandyse McClure) and Samuel Anders (Michael Trucco) know but don’t wish to be aware of what’s happening.

However, Apollo is guilt ridden about the affair and wants them both to divorce so they can marry but Starbuck doesn’t want to. She has no problem with an affair but marriage is sacred to her. He won’t cheat; she won’t divorce so they are both stuck in a stand-off of their own.

Considering the collateral damage they are leaving behind in their wake—namely Anders and Dualla— it’s hard to feel sorry for these two, while it’s becoming progressively easier to detest Starbuck. Emotional trauma and self-loathing is one thing, but Kara seems to be going well out of her way to inflict as much hurt on as many people as possible—she’s on the fast track to becoming an irredeemable character unless a major sea change comes soon.

Meanwhile, Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) feels an irresistible pull away from overseeing the algae harvesting to a strange rock structure where inside it he discovers the lost, ancient Temple of Five, where the Eye of Jupiter — a mysterious object that points the way to Earth — is supposedly hidden.

Before the humans can find the Eye, however, four Cylon baseships arrive. The crew is surprised to find the baseships not on the attack and even more surprised to hear the voice of Gaius Baltar (James Callis) urging a truce and a meeting between Galactica and the Cylons.

As Galactica hosts Cylons D'Anna (Lucy Lawless), Boomer (Grace Park), and Cavil (a woefully underused Dean Stockwell), along with Baltar, the former Colonial President and traitor confesses to his Imaginary Cylon Number Six (Tricia Helfer) how much he has missed Galactica, even knowing they despise him.

Yet it doesn’t stop him from telling them “how good it is to see them,” and greeted with frosty silence by Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos). Baltar seems especially eager to get the attention (and what…approval?) of President Roslin (Mary McDonnell), who for her part makes no attempt to disguise her contempt for Baltar—“The less that man says, the better this will go,” she declares then shortly afterward walks out in disgust.

Given all that Baltar has done—both what Adama & Roslin know and especially what they DON’T know—It’s nothing short of incredible that Baltar is hurt by their derision but Baltar’s penchant for self-delusion is exceeded only by his ability to protect his own arse—and that’s what makes him the very best bad guy character ever.

Baltar is a bad guy who doesn’t set out to do bad things but he consistently lacks the strength to do the right thing—in the age of the anti-hero protagonist, Gaius Baltar is the anti-villain antagonist.

During the meeting, the Cylons declare they want the Eye of Jupiter—if Galactica gives it up, they are free to leave unmolested. To “sweeten the pot” and close the deal, Cavil offers to “throw in Baltar,” much to D’Anna’s surprise and Baltar’s horror. Have we mentioned just how woefully underused Dean Stockwell has been so far?

Adama shuts down the negotiations by declaring that if the Cylons make any aggressive moves, he'll launch nuclear strikes on the planet so that no one can have the Eye. Oh yeah, we find out later that the planet’s sun is about to go Supernova so the eye might not be held by anyone.

During the meeting, Boomer and Athena/Lt. Sharon Agathon (also Grace Park) have a face-to-face encounter. There, Boomer tells her counterpart, Athena, that Athena's daughter, Hera, is alive in the Cylon fleet — revealing that Roslin lied about her death. Worse, the child is sick and they don’t know why.

It was interesting to see Boomer, who was once so conflicted as one-time unknowing sleeper agent now apparently having drunk the Kool-Aid now fully embracing her true nature.

We knew this moment of revelation was coming—from the moment Athena declared to D’Anna on New Caprica that “Adama would never lie to me.”

Adama confronts Roslin about what Boomer has revealed and she confirms it. As she tries to explain her reasons, Adama storms off—pissed and apparently learning this for the first time. We were astounded by this. We always assumed Adama knew—did he really think that the child just conveniently died?????

On board the basestar, the Cylon deliberate as to their options. Cavil wants to attack and “eliminate the human pestilence” once and for all—even if it risks destroying the Eye of Jupiter and Earth’s roadmap. What does it matter, if it takes five days or 5,000 years, they are machines, he says, they’ll be around but they should eliminate the humans now.

Are we the only ones who enjoy the irony that Cavil was a priest before he was outed as a Cylon.
Yet the Cylons are not stalemated as it appeared. Secretly, D'Anna made an executive decision to sneak a Centurion raiding party onto the planet's surface, the moment her fleet arrived in the system. When questioned, she said it was “need to know” and now they have the need to know—nothing is said but resentment is in the air—some Cylons appear to be more equal than others.

This equality is further fractured when D’Anna and Baltar “dump” Caprica Six from their love triangle. D’Anna is close to seeing the face of the Cylon God and Baltar is close to discovering whether he is one of the five unknown Cylons. Their answers are on the planet’s surface with the Eye of Jupiter in the Temple of Five. Caprica Six can’t come.

Speculating that just such a Cylon ambush is possible, especially after all of their communication channels are jammed, Apollo mobilizes his people on the ground to defend the Temple — or destroy it, if they must. At Starbuck’s suggestion, Anders is recruited and reluctantly helps Apollo organize the civilians into a fighting force.

While flying recon in the group’s sole Raptor, Starbuck spots the Cylon raiding party, begins to relay the message before she is shot down, location and condition unknown. Frantic to rescue her, Anders tries to leave the Temple, but Apollo can't spare the personnel and refuses to let him go.

As Galactica sees the contingent of Raiders (transporting D’Anna and Baltar) to the planet, Adama—still angry from his confrontation with Roslin—orders the ship’s nuclear arsenal to be readied for deployment. He appears to be ready to make good on his threat to nuke the planet’s surface.

Roslin asks Adama if he is ready to sacrifice his son Lee/Apollo. Her question is met it stony silence. “The release of nuclear weapons is now authorized,” he says.—Fade to black.

Frakin-A! Stay tuned indeed.
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