BSG: Wow

Very big spoilers here for the last three episodes of season 2 of Battlestar Galactica. Non-spoiler summary: I loved them, and I've regained my faith in the show and the writers.

(I wrote most of this last week, staying up 'til 3 a.m. one night, but didn't quite manage to finish it that night, and didn't get a chance to come back to it 'til now.)

I admire (and very much appreciate) y'all's strength of will in not responding to my previous BSG entry by telling me all about the final episodes. And I hope I (inadvertently) provided you with some amusement by making the specific complaints I made.

Which is to say, Kam and I just watched the rest of the season. Zowie.

It was clear from "Downloaded" (the first episode we watched that night) that the writers were back on top of their game. All sorts of cool stuff, and I was totally flabbergasted (in a good way) by imaginary!Baltar. (Am I using descriptive !s correctly? Now I feel self-conscious about it. I think I'll switch to hyphens, which is what Galactica fandom seems to be using.) I loved the moment of Galactica-Sharon telling Caprica-Six that Baltar was still alive. (Though I'm skeptical about the idea that the point was to make her go crazy; that doesn't really make sense to me. In fact, I thought imaginary-Baltar was wrong or lying when he said the plan was to box Galactica-Sharon.)

I continued to feel that the writers were mistreating Roslin by making her come up with dumb and unmotivated plans; why would it be a danger to anyone for Caprica-Sharon to raise the kid? Wouldn't that give our heroes leverage on Caprica-Sharon? And wouldn't the baby be safer (and less of a potential threat) in military custody than being raised by a normal human who doesn't know what she is? And isn't it obvious that making her think her baby is dead is going to really upset Caprica-Sharon, and that upsetting the only Cylon who's ever helped them is a bad idea?

But the details of the plan turned out to be not quite as bad as I originally thought, and I was willing to forgive the flaws.

So then we have "Lay Down Your Burdens." Part 1 addressed my complaint about Starbuck not going back for Anders et alia as well as my complaint about nobody talking about looking for Earth any more. I thought things went a little astray during the sequence on Caprica (especially the part where they wait for 18 hours behind a wall and can't come up with any better plan than killing each other), but overall I liked this episode quite a bit.

And then along came part 2, which once again demonstrated the writers' ability to totally surprise me by taking the show in entirely unexpected directions, along with their ability to undergo extremely rapid changes of pacing/chronology. (If I had a transcript of a certain earlier episode handy, I would quote the line about Vipers experiencing heavy G-forces during combat. The audience has to be prepared for sudden massive acceleration on this show.)

I was briefly worried that Adama was going to agree to go along with the rigged election; I thought that decision would have been just barely justified, but I didn't see any way they could keep it secret, and my respect for the characters would've dropped considerably. So I was very glad they took the other path, even knowing that it probably led to disaster of some sort.

And the nuclear destruction of Cloud 9 was quite an opening salvo in that disaster. Yikes. I'm unclear on why exactly Gina did it; I thought, based on stuff at the end of the episode, that she was intentionally signalling the Cylons, but Kam suggests that Gina was just killing herself (as she'd previously said she wanted to do) in a particularly messy and destructive way.

And then: wow. As Abigail Nussbaum wrote in her "The Excitement Wears Off" entry at the end of March, the jump forward a year "was also a moment of incomparable neatness, the kind of gosh-wow-I-can't-fucking-believe-they-did-that twist that used to be a hallmark of the show's writing but seems, in the second season, to have faded away." Yeah. I disagree with a fair number of the specifics of her post, but there's a lot of good analysis there. Thanks much for the link, Ted! Even though reading that entry and others it links to were why I was up until 3 that night. :)

Another particularly interesting comment, from an earlier entry in that journal: "What distinguishes a human-form Cylon from a human? And why have none of the human characters asked any of these questions?" Yes yes yes. I have been wondering that a lot, every time someone refers to a skin job as being a "machine." In what sense, exactly, are they machines? That's an honest question; I don't know the answer. Caprica-Sharon has a data port embedded in her wrist, but presumably it's organic and undetectable. They appear to have blood and bones and internal organs. Starbuck claimed that they can shut off their pain receptors if they want to, but I don't know that we've seen any evidence of that. At least some of them are stronger than normal humans, but I don't know if all of them are. There's the nifty-but-creepy glowy-spine effect at (presumably) orgasm (which suggests a fun way for Baltar to create a Cylon detection system), but again that effect is presumably achieved without detectable mechanical parts. Anyway, I suspect this doesn't bear a lot of analysis, 'cause I suspect the writers haven't thought it through carefully, but I'd love to be wrong about that.

Okay, enough. Very much looking forward to season 3.

9 Responses to “BSG: Wow”

  1. David D. Levine

    Where did the use of “!” for descriptive adjectives come from? I haven’t seen it anywhere other than here.

  2. Chris

    Honestly I don’t know if they’ve completely ironed out the specifics on how human-form Cylons can be called machines. In the audio commentary on Kobol’s Last Gleaming EP Ronald D. Moore mentioned that the Clyon Basestar’s interior was also supposed to resemble the strange combination of the organic and synthetic. He didn’t go into any real detail, about it. I’m assuming that they’ll explain it in some way further down the line.

  3. Anonymous

    Oh, and um, sorry for the second post, but I remember the “!” signifier from my old days on a Buffy list, when some described the alternate version of Willow (s&m vampire kook) as alt!Willow. I think the usage actually originated on newgroups. Personally, I prefer the hyphen. 😉

  4. Susan

    I absolutely 100% prefer the hyphen, because I spent just long enough with computer programming that I still read “!” as “not”, which just makes it all confusing.

  5. Shmuel

    I’ve seen the adjective!character form almost exclusively in Buffy and Harry Potter fandom. Wikipedia classifies it as a fan fiction usage.

    I prefer hyphens, largely for the reason Susan gives.

  6. Tom Galloway

    Oh, don’t get me started on the problems with the Cylons. At least in the finale they seemed to have abandoned two aspects that annoyed me; their being religious fanatics (not fanatics toward a particular set of reasoned beliefs in terms of being very closed-minded, but specifically religious monotheistic fanatics) and their more-human-than-thou-wannabeness. But as you mention, there are all the ways they aren’t human which should be detectable, not to mention that the number 12 is stupid beyond belief. That’s 12 models of humanoid Cylon. Um, if those 12 models can show *that* much difference (both genders, at least three significant ethnic groups (caucasian, black, asian), significantly different physical features, etc., you’ve got to convince me why you can’t make models 13-1,000,000 that are different in appearance.

  7. Jed

    I’m told that the ! in this context may have been coined in popslash a few years back, primarily for referring to alternate versions of characters from alternate universes. (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it in the phrase “vampire!Willow.”)

    Thanks much for the cite, Shmuel! I spent a frustrating ten minutes Googling for any reference to this usage whatsoever, and couldn’t find it; turns out it’s because I was looking for [fanfic exclamation mark] when I should’ve been looking for [fan fiction exclamation mark]. Sometimes I miss some really obvious approaches to finding things.

    Anyway, I used to find this use of “!” confusing and weird, but after I saw it enough times I started using it in an attempt to pass myself off as one of the cool kids. But I think maybe I’d better just stick with hyphens.

    Chris: Interesting; thanks. One of the things I find most interesting about this show (and any other show with Big Secrets) is the question of how much the writers know from the start, and how much they make up on the fly. The Alias writers turned out to have a phenomenal ability to throw in hooks that they themselves didn’t understand and then later turn those hooks into central plot elements, giving the impression they’d known what they were doing all along. The BSG writers also give me that impression, but given that Helo was originally intended (after the miniseries) to die on Caprica and never be heard from again, the writers are clearly willing to make huge changes as they go. Which is admirable for a TV show, I think; when the storyline is too rigid, it has a hard time surviving the loss of actors and such. But still, I do hope they have some idea what they’re doing with the Cylons.

    Tom: I actually kind of like the religious fanaticism, and I have a feeling it’s utterly central to the mysteries around what’s really going on with the Cylons and what their Plan is. I’m particularly fascinated by a hint from a deleted scene about how monotheism relates to the twelve gods of Kobol. As for the number 12, Kam pointed out that there might well be one Cylon model corresponding to (and claiming to be from) each of the 12 colonies; note that (for example) most or all of the black humans seem to come from one of the 12 planets, so having one black Cylon to match that seems appropriate. In which case it’s not that they Cylons can’t create more models; they just didn’t see a reason to do so. Which is clever on the writers’ parts: if we reach the point where they’ve shown us all 12 Cylon models, they can easily change the rules and say the Cylons have decided to not limit themselves to 12 models. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that happen late in season 3 or sometime in season 4. (We’ve seen six of the models in the first two seasons, so I’m guessing we’ll see the other six in roughly the next two seasons. Also, I suspect the writers are leaving a couple of slots open for them to plug in new Cylons as needed; they may, for example, be planning to have one of the major characters turn out to be another sleeper, but haven’t decided which one yet.)

  8. Mandada

    On the issue of new parents for the hybrid baby I really have to agree on the direction of the plot… the child can extend life and cure cancer, therefore it must be protected from the potentially “unmotherly machine” and from the abuses of future governments. Where will the child lead the genome race with the machines, and where will the course of nature be led with the potentially catastrophic new “human”?

  9. Samantha

    Wow is right. BSG continues to amaze and surprise me in really good ways. As to Gina, oh my god, this is something I wish I didn’t understand. Regrettably I do from my own experience. Gina was suffering from, among other things PTSD and she knew if she took her life in any normal fashion, she’d be downloaded into a new body somewhere else. Embracing a nuclear device when it went off made certain that she couldn’t download even IF they hadn’t destroyed the resurrection ship. The EMP of the nuke going off simply destroyed any possible data stream from her body. It would put an end to the pain in her heart and soul, she’d never have to feel any of it again.

    Being able to temporarily, or permanently disable pain stimuli response is a relatively simple matter, for humans or “Skin Job” toasters. I’ve studied martial arts of various kinds as well as meditation and hypnotherapy for many years and can easily shut off any physical pain without effort. Mental and emotional pay however isn’t so easy, or at all doable in some cases.

    Having been raped and beaten by my late husband too many times (anything more then -1 is too many!) I really identified with what Gina was feeling and trying to do. I spent several years being suicidal, fighting it, and didn’t want to “download” to a new body and have to deal with it all again. Me, I have no choice but to believe in reincarnation, I remember too much of my last life and the ones before. So I can see what Gina’s motivation and feelings were. Regrettably I’ve had to find a different way, something harder because I know my death isn’t going to solve anything. I still hurt from my last life, and now, wow, I’m in worse shape because I made some of the same (or similar) mistakes.

    Thankfully I’m learning new ways to deal with things. Sure beats lying on the floor in a catatonic state for days and more . . .


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