In the second part of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries, secretary of education Laura Roslin faces the reality of the Cylon attack and moves to begin rescue efforts, facing resistance from the men around her. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
I am so happy that the bulk of this second part focuses on Laura Roslin. I have a feeling that she’ll quickly become my favorite character of the entire ensemble cast, and the nuanced and touching performance that Mary McDonnel gives is a large part of that. (Which is not to ignore the wonderful writing, which I’ll get to.) There are so many layers to her story, and even though we’ve only gotten a few, I can already feel that she has such a stunning potential for fulfilling story arcs.
The break between “episodes”/parts is a bit odd, and I know it’s a little weird that iTunes splits up the miniseries this way, but aside from the abrupt beginning aboard the Raptor with Boomer and Helo, it’s otherwise a fitting transition. Even tonally, the story changes: it’s less about what has happened and more about how these people react to the surreal and terrifying news about the Cylon war. And really, there are so many moments here in part two that are just inconceivably surreal. From the explosions littering the surface of Caprica, to the image of bodies floating in space due to decompression, to Cally holding the charred body of Prosna as she cries. (WHICH SUCKS. Because I like Michael Elkund and I was excited to see more of him BOOOOOOO.)
I’m just so impressed how quickly the writers put all of these characters in impossible situations, forcing them to choose between Awful and Possibly More Awful, But Definitely Awful, Too. This is generally reserved for mid-season runs! Or end of seasons! And we’re just past the very first hour of the show!
The first of those decisions arrives at the feet of Boomer and Helo. (Kind of literally, actually.) After successfully avoiding death from the Cylon missiles, the damage they suffer forces them to land on Caprica, drifting past the remains of their fellow Battlestar ships. Even there, the signs of war are not gone. Flashes of bombs burst in the distance. (To be honest, if I’d seen those? Probably run with my tail between my legs. That is a figurative statement. I am not a furry.) And then: everything gets really goddamn awkward. Helo tells Boomer to draw her weapon, and we can tell that something or someone is about to arrive. Only it ends up being an entire crowd of survivors, trying to escape the Cylons on foot. The predicament has arrived. With a ship that’s large enough to hold only a few people, how do these two soldiers deal with a frightened, panicked crowd of fifty folks? (I don’t know that there were fifty people, but that’s just a guess from the size of the crowd.)
Both Boomer and Helo are smart enough to recognize just how quickly these people can turn hostile. They can see the desperation in the faces of everyone staring at them. There was a moment that I almost thought everything would get away from them, but the two take control: Children first, and then a three ticket lottery. And look, I’m not judging these two in any way. This is the best possible idea they could have come up with, and I respect Boomer for vocalizing it. But christ, could you imagine how hopeless you’d feel in a situation like this? These are your people, and leaving them behind could mean leaving them to die. What if the Cylon’s don’t stop bombing Caprica until every human is gone?
Which is why I could not imagine a more horrifying (and utterly fascinating) irony than Helo picking out the one man in the crowd who is essentially responsible for this whole thing and trading places with him. I don’t want to deny what a heroic act this is for Helo, though, as it is certainly something rather noble to do. And as hard as it is for Boomer to watch, she knows he’s doing something right. What else can she do now, especially since Helo’s already made up his mind? She can take off, save these lives, and return back to Galactica.
Colonel Tigh had his own difficult decision to make, too, but there’s something unexplained about his character that I still can’t figure out. I get the sense that Commander Adama (OMG I GET TO SAY THAT HOW AWESOME) trust Colonel Tigh without any hesitation, but I don’t exactly know why. I also don’t know why Tigh seems to be so close to some sort of breaking point either. What happened with his wife? Why is he now an alcoholic? Why does he second-guess himself and his abilities?
It’s unfortunate that these things seemed to come to the surface now, because Tigh had to make an awful choice in the midst of it all. Does he save the ship or does he save the crew but probably doom the ship anyway? Again, after choosing to decompress the ship, which is honestly the most practical option anyway, Commander Adama supports Tigh, this time to Tyrol’s face, who is furious that he couldn’t get just forty more seconds to save his crew.
Seriously, though: What else could you do?
The best story line in part two, though, belongs to Laura Roslin. This miniseries now belongs to her, and in just forty minutes, she commands the bulk of my attention and she’s given the most intriguing story. Putting aside her own personal trauma after learning that she has a malignant tumor, she very quickly begins to assume control on board the Colonial Heavy 798. She does so in a way that isn’t pretentious or invasive, but with respect for the gravity of their new situation. She speaks to the other passengers in a way that is wonderfully calming, too, making her quite the natural leader.
But what this part of the story does so well is introduce the idea that the men around Laura Roslin cannot seem to bear with the idea that a woman is in charge of them. Aaron Doral is the first to suggest that something is wrong with the idea of Roslin doing anything to boss another person around. Now, I’m not going to ignore the fact that it is true that Captain Apollo and Commander Adama both have more flight and war experience than Laura Roslin. It would be foolish to suggest otherwise. But that’s not the only thing at work here, and it’s coded rather obviously that the men are a bit resistant to Roslin taking charge in the way that she does. And it’s not just that she’s a woman; she’s a woman who is better at her job than they might be.
Captain Apollo is the first to yield to her, though, and I really love the scene. Aaron Doral is basically like the school tattletale. TEACHER TEACHER THIS GIRL HAS COOTIES WHY IS SHE TELLING ME WHAT TO DO. I mean…right? That’s essentially what he does. And when Apollo watches how quickly Roslin is able to give succinct, rational orders, he realizes that she probably is best for the ship. So he obeys her orders, and the Colonial Heavy sets off to start collecting survivors.
Isn’t that an interesting contrast, though? Roslin sets out to find survivors, and Commander Apollo sets out for war. Even more intriguing to me is the fact that both of these people come to power in the second part of the miniseries through the sheer fact of being alive. Adama takes command of the fleet after losing nearly every other Battlestar, and Roslin, over forty positions down the chain of command, is unbelievably made President of the twelve colonies. (And look, I don’t even know why, but I already teared up during her confirmation scene. WHY WAS THAT SCENE SO TOUCHING TO ME???) It sets up an unexpected character conflict that will certainly be explored in the future. It certainly doesn’t help that Apollo is on board with Roslin, and that Roslin doesn’t know about the emotional rift between the commander and his son, making the already tense confrontation a hell of a lot more awkward.
I refuse to believe that the cliffhanger that Part II ends on is real. I can’t. As two Cylon Raiders launch nuclear missiles at the Colonial, those on board the Galactica are soon witness to the oncoming destruction as well. It’s actually an interesting choice aside from the drama it provides because it’s this huge moment of catastrophic violence that is viewed from afar by our main characters. That’s a large part of what happened with the Cylon attack. Aside from Baltar’s scene, we were never actually on Caprica to experience the start of the war. Like that, we see Apollo activate those pulse generator things, but everything else is from the perspective on the Galactica.
I can only hope that the Colonial survived through some stroke of luck, but for now, I’ll appreciate how bleak this first half of the mini-series is. Edward James Olmos is not particularly flashy as Commander Adama, and I like that about his character. He expresses things quietly, calmly, and with reserve. And even when he is witnessing the apparent obliteration of his son and the president of the Twelve Colonies, he can only observe in silent horror. He says absolutely nothing.
- So, it took me until this specific part to put my finger on it, but I noticed how crisp all of the space flight scenes are. Even the method the camera uses to focus in on specific ships makes it look like it’s not drenched in CGI. I’m actually impressed by how detailed a lot of the external shots are.
- The music in this miniseries is kind of minimal some of the time, even allowing some scenes to play out entirely silent. The thing that’s used the most–and brilliantly so–is a constant heavy rhythm. Deep drum beats are used often and I find they work a lot better then tense, high-pitched strings in some of the more thrilling passages.
- I find it fascinating that Commander Adama does not shout at Chief Tyrol. I think any other show would have played that scene very loudly.