BSG on BBC 4.03/4.04: The Ties that Bind/Escape Velocity – “This is the life I chose.”

Ugh. Politics and religion. Two subjects I go out of my way to avoid on this blog.  I guess it is natural, though, that a television show about the slow disintegration of humanity would eventually arrive at the point where religion comes to the forefront.

After years of atheism and scorn for all types of religion, Baltar is finally a believer in the Cylon one true God. Considering this is Baltar, it should be no surprise that his God loves him, and you, because you are perfect. As much as Baltar has grown he still cannot escape the one true essence of his being, his egotistic narcissism and his driving need to be unique and better than everyone else. He may talk like he is a man of the people, but the essence is still there, rooted in his twisted belief of the one true God.

The Ties That Bind (★★★) and Escape Velocity (★★★) are about various characters struggling with their identity, most notably the four newly revealed Cylons. Anders, actually, is off-screen for most of these episodes and, of the four, he is most comfortable with himself, as a human and a Cylon. Which means he isn’t nearly as interesting as the other three. Tory has embraced being a Cylon, the idea that she is perfect and that the human emotions of guilt don’t apply to them. Saul’s struggle has less to do with himself than with his guilt over killing Ellen and the hypocrisy of that act. Tyrol is the most conflicted for various reasons, most notably his regret over losing the one woman he truly loved (Boomer) for a reason that turned out to be highly ironic considering his true nature.

Of the relationships on BSG, Tyrol and Cally’s is by far the least developed. They moved from Chief beating the shit out of her, to her declaring her love for him while her jaw was wired from his attack, to jumping foward to New Caprica where they are married and she is pregnant. No development and very little time spent since with them in the relationship. Since returning to the fleet, their relationship has been strained, to say the least. This strain has never packed an emotional punch, unlike the periodic tension between Adama and Roslin, one of the best developed and believable relationship evolutions in television history. Whenever Cally and Chief fight it is just uncomfortable, like the strangers you see arguing in the grocery store. You have no context for their fight, you are merely a bystander, embarrassed to be witness to their marital troubles, trying to get away from the scene as quickly as possible. But, their troubles lead to her suspicion that Chief and Tory are having an affair, her subsequent discovery that Tyrol, Tory and Tigh are Cylons and her ultimate demise, at Tory’s hands. It is a surprising, but emotionally unsatisfying, death for a character that we knew too little about and whose defining characteristic was her association with Tyrol.

Politics have been central to the show from the beginning. In fact, I sometimes describe it as a pastiche of Top Gun, The West Wing and Melrose Place. It is easy to assume that the point of view of anything from Hollywood is slanted to the left, with the possible exception of 24. And, there are times that I am quite sure that Roslin is a Democrat. There are others, though, when her ideas and actions remind me forcibly of the Bush administration. What is most interesting is, inside the context of the show, I find myself agreeing with her in many of the policies I would abhor in the real world. This is why BSG is such a brilliant reflection of the United States at a very specific point in time.* As Roslin says, sometimes doing the right thing is a luxury we don’t have. But, the problem with that point of view is once the genie is out of the bottle he is nigh on impossible to get back in. Into this quagmire of right and wrong waltzes Lee Adama, the most idealistic character left in the universe. I agree with him, mostly, but I find his preaching and higher ground bullshit to be insufferable.

*Though, if you read history at all, you know that the BSG mantra of “All this has happened before and it will happen again” is true in real life. The attitudes and political rhetoric that seem so extreme and disturbing now can be found throughout our history. The targets my change, but the germ of the attitudes come from the same place.

Overall, these two episodes are rather boring, a surprise for so early in the season. The filler episodes don’t usually come around until the sixth, seventh or eighth episode of the season. They are highly character driven, which I usually love. The problem is, I don’t particularly care for these characters. I care not one bit for Tory and Tyrol’s struggles with their nature. Tigh is a bit more interesting, but his behavior is so unexplainable – until he starts seeing Ellen instead of Caprica Six on his visits to the brig – as is her response to him. I’m ready for the rest of the fleet to discover their identity. Their reaction and the fallout from that will be much more compelling to watch.

Other Thoughts:

  • Roslin has lost her hair and is now wearing a wig.
  • She is also planning her funeral, much to Adama’s chagrin.
  • “It started like it always did. With a body. This one was in the river, and I could tell she had once been beautiful, but this bullet and fast current had taken away from her. All we are, or that we think we are, all that we are certain about, is taken away from us. When you’ve worked the streets and seen what I’ve seen, you become more and more convinced of it every day. Caprica City has been my teacher, my mistress. From the moment I opened my eyes, she is in my blood, like cheap wine. Bitter and sweet, tinged with regret. I’ll never be free of her, nor do I wanna be, for she is what I am. All that is, should always be.” ~ Adama reading from a Caprican mystery to Roslin during her cancer treatments.
  • “I am not a priest. I’ve never even been a particularly good man. I am in fact a profoundly selfish man. But that doesn’t matter, you see. Something in the universe loves me. (smiles) Something in the universe loves the entity that is me. I would choose to call this something “God”, a singular spark that dwells in the soul of every living being. If you look inside yourself you will find that spark too. You will. But you have to look deep. Love your faults. Embrace them. If God embraces them, then how can they be faults? Love yourself. You have to love yourself. If we don’t love ourselves, how can we love others? And when we know what we are, then we can find the truth out about others, seek what they are; the truth about them. And you know what the truth is? The truth about them? About you? About me? Do you? The truth is, we’re all perfect. Just as we are. God only loves that which is perfect and he loves you. He loves you because you are perfect. You are perfect. Just as you are.” Baltar, to his flock.
  • Roslin: Lee has no idea. He really has no idea. […] There are pragmatic realities he refuses to face.
    William Adama: Well, that’s a problem of course. He’d say what he thinks is right.
    Roslin: Well yeah. He is Lee. Thing is, it probably is the right thing, but…sometimes the right thing is a luxury. And it can have profoundly dangerous consequences. And it’s almost as if he doesn’t want that to be true.

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