BSG – “Someone to Watch Over Me” “Islanded in a Stream of Stars” & “Daybreak part 1”

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Time to catch the frak up. I want to get my thoughts about these last three episodes before the end of everything on Friday. I’ve been following the response on Twitter and various large blogs. Some of the fans have been disappointed with how the series has been progressing (or failing to progress) or that it’s boring. When I read these comments I remember that there are people out there who enjoy BSG for very different reasons I do. Many watched for the action sequences, dog fighting, grand space battles, shoot ‘em outs with Centurions; some watch for the mythology and mysteries; some watch for the intimate portrayal of human frailty through its varied cast of characters; while finally others watch for the ways in which BSG engage with and comments on contemporary life. Of course, people can and do watch the series for multiple reasons, but there does still seem to be one aspect that drew some in more than the others. The people who watched for the space battles and mythology seem to be the ones most likely to be dissatisfied with these episodes. I have thoroughly enjoyed them, but I have always found the characters, the political allegory, and the rumination on what it means to human to be the most interesting and best parts of the series.

–“Someone to Watch Over Me”–

Of the these three episodes, this one stands out as one of the series’ best. It engaged in a bit of melodrama — the scene with Chief running through his projection house, frantically opening all the doors, and collapsing in his “daughter’s” room — spring first to mind, but the high melodrama worked. By engaging in it, the emotional stakes were raised helping to communicate the dire situation that the fleet is really in.

The Boomer/Chief plot exploited BSG’s narrative seriality by bringing the audience all the way back to season one though flashbacks and the “previously on Battlestar Galactica” segment. In order for the emotional payoff of Boomer’s betrayal to be effective, we had to be reminded of what Chief and Boomer had gone through; how the Chief rejected her because she was a machine and the irony of that rejection.  The episode’s title also ironically plays with the lyrics to  “Someone to Watch Over Me.” (Here Ella sing it here http://www.wat.tv/video/ella-fitzgerald-someone-to-12hmh_tzsf_.html)

There’s a saying old
Says that love is blind –
Still we’re often told,
“Seek and ye shalI find.”
So I’m going to seek
A certain lad I’ve had in mind.
Looking everywhere,
Haven’t found him yet;
He’s the big affair
I cannot forget.
Only man I ever
Think of with regret.
I’d like to add his initials to my monogram.
Tell me, where is the shepherd for this lost
lamb.
There’s a somebody I’m longing to see
I hope that he
Turns out to be
Someone who’ll watch over me.
I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the wood.
I know I could
Always be good
To one who’ll watch over me.
Although he may not be the man some
Girls think of as handsome
To my heart he carries the key.
Won’t you telI him please to put on some
speed –
Follow my lead –
Oh! How I need
Someone to watch over me.
Someone to watch over me.

It would be a fair assumption to begin the episode thinking that it’s Boomer who is the “little lamb lost in the wood” looking for the the man who carries the key to her heart, “the big affair” that she can’t forget. The indications from the the previous episodes, (the cutaway to the Chief when Boomer asked Ellen who could she love) and the reminder scenes on the “previously on” all point to Boomer’s longing for Chief. Sure Chief misses Boomer, but it’s felt more like a wistful longing rather than as his defining characteristic. But by the end of the episode, we like Chief, realize we’ve all been had. She played on everyone’s emotions and expectations. Especially, I think the expectation that, love would bring her around to the “right” side, like it did with Athena. But everyone forgot, that Boomer and Athena are different; they each make their own choices. Boomer plays on this faulty assumption and swipes Hera right out from under everyone’s nose. Then we realize, Chief was the little lost lamb and feel her betrayal with him.

The scene between Boomer and Helo gave me pause. It felt so wrong on so many levels. I kept thinking, how could he not know? How could he not sense that something was completely wrong with the situation? I felt angry with Helo because he failed to notice that the woman he was with was not his wife but also felt pity for him since, really how could he? He was in some respects raped by Boomer. The scene following as Athena stumbles into the ready room is similarly heartbreaking. She relays the important information, Hera is gone. Get help. Only then does she break down and begin wailing on him. This is the second time she’s lost her daughter. It’s cruel what she has had to endure.

Which brings me to Starbuck. I love Kara. She’s quite possibly one of my favorite fictional characters ever. She’s a big ball of human contradiction. Sure, she can be annoying, but that’s what makes her such an interesting character. She does things that make no sense, that are bad for her, or bad for the people around her. And she often makes these completely wonky decisions because she’s still not sure who she is –and I don’t mean literally here– back in an episode early in season two, she tells Helo that she doesn’t mourn or fight for what she’s lost, but fights because it’s the only thing she knows how to do. She’s only secure in the cockpit. Everywhere else she’s lost. This all comes to a head again in this episode.  She felt as thought her knowledge of Earth gave her life meaning (as it did to the whole fleet – which is why it was so utterly devastating that it was a nuclear wasteland), but the discovery of her dead body on earth has once again set her adrift. So, she begins her conversation with the piano player, who is obviously her father.

And how fraktastic was this scene?

This entire series of events was great for so many reasons. That overhead shot of the two figures playing the piano as the music begins to swell, the push in on Tigh’s wide eyed stare and “what the frak?” were just wonderfully done, and it was a way to reveal some things without having to do it through clunky exposition. Scenes like this are what make BSG so great. Sure big space battles are super entertaining to watch, but the simple beauty of hands playing on a piano (and hands are an important reoccurring symbol through out the series) is seldom found on my television.

— “Islanded in a Stream of Stars” and “Daybreak Part 1” —

“For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars—pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons across eternal seas of space and time” (Henry Beston, The Outermost House). http://en.battlestarwiki.org/wiki/Islanded_in_a_Stream_of_Stars

Starbuck’s identity issues continue in this episode. Searching for answers she reveals to Baltar her secret in true Kara form while peeing in the head. The song, knowledge of which s,he now shares with Hera and the final five, seems to have given her a new sense of identity. And like others in the episode (which I will get to in a minute) she’s coming to terms with the reality of her situation. She must acknowledge that she died. She must mourn herself, so that she may move on. And in a sense, Baltar’s revelation about Kara’s death and seeming resurrection makes it possible for Kara to accept who/what she is. And she finally does this by placing her photo –smiling happy Kara Thrace — on the memorial wall next to Kat. She says goodbye to her former self. Lee sees her there and reassures her that he will always be there for her. It was a touching moment and one that sets up the action to follow.

Anders as a hybrid – yes please.

Baltar’s attempt to engage with Caprica was also touching. He perhaps more than anyone else in the fleet is in need of redemption. He is seemingly incapable of change. He’s still the same old Gaius – and Lee remarks on this in “Daybreak Part 1” as well. He’s never done anything for anyone but himself, and this is ultimately, I think, what makes him (and via him humanity) redeemable. Let me work back a minute and explain. In the miniseries, Adama in his speech says:

Why are we, as a people, are worth saving? We still commit murder  because of greed, spite, jealousy, and we still  visit all of our sins upon our children, and we refuse to accept responsibility for anything that we’ve done.  […] Sooner or later the day comes that you can’t hide from the things that you’ve done anymore.

This is lesson Baltar has failed to learned, but it seems like Adama realizes that it’s doing things without thought for oneself that makes one redeemable. This is ultimately why he decides to mount a rescue mission to retrieve Hera. And what’s wonderful about one’s capacity for selflessness as road to redemption is that it’s not tied to any essentialist conceptions of humanity. It’s something one does. These thoughts need to be worked through more carefully and thoroughly, of course, so please pardon if they seem too vague or general.

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One response »

  1. I agree with you completely. BSG pays off the most for those people who have followed it to see how they explore the complexities of issues like torture, patriotism versus allegiance, and identity (especially when everything you based your identity on, is gone).

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