In the second episode of the first season of Battlestar Galactica, Boomer begins to experience memory and time loss and becomes concerned that she is responsible for the loss of 60% of the Galactica’s water supply. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
I think one of the things I’ll probably come to enjoy about BSG, if this episode is any indication, is the writers’ ability to tell uniquely personal stories amidst the chaos and tension. I honestly believed it would be a good while before we’d deal with Boomer’s Cylon nature, but the show does this much earlier, and does it incredibly well. Without spelling out everything to us, we learn so much more about Cylon agents and how they function.
The cold open to “Water” is arresting: Shannon “Boomer” Valerii seemingly “wakes up” in an equipment room, in her flight suit and soaked from head to toe with water. Not knowing how she got there, she opens a duffel bag near her to discover a towel, which to me suggested so much about how Boomer is programmed. When she discovers a G-4 explosive in the bag…oh god, BOOMER WHY.
Here’s the thing: I would have been kind of annoyed if the show had introduced us to this rad character, Boomer, and then six episodes down the road, she just turns “evil” and then she’s dead. Instead, Ronald D. Moore gives us what is essentially an entire episode from the point of view of a sleeper Cylon agent, complete with the moral and identity crisis that comes along with it. Even in that first scene, Grace Park’s reaction is remarkably genuine, and without saying much of anything at all, we can begin to understand that these Cylon agents are so utterly human that, until they are activated, their identity is distinctly human. Before that, all I’d known for sure is that their biology functioned like a human’s.
So where does that leave Boomer? How long has she been a Cylon? What sort of experiences are real, and does she have a planted memory, too? I imagine a lot of these thoughts were running through her head as she headed to the small arms locker, only to discover that five other G-4 explosives were missing. Seriously, what a set-up for an episode!
It’s natural for Boomer to seek out Tyrol, too, but even that has a new context for me, and my mind started wandering. What I wanted to know most (and what “Water” doesn’t give me, which is perfectly fine) was how Boomer came into all of this. Clearly, some time had to have passed for her to develop the relationship that she has with Tyrol, enough so that when Boomer asks to speak to Captain Tyrol, fright in her voice, Cally would turn to give them a look of acknowledgment, knowing that they’re probably just looking for privacy to be consenting adults. Those things take time to create! Which then leads me to thinking….christ, how long ago did the Cylons actually develop this technology? It had to be years, right? So this must have been some sort of long, patient con of sorts….OH GOD I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT THIS.
And I actually like that this show is already making me ask questions and desire answers like this just by the second episode. It reminds me of my fascination with LOST and how the serialized, mythological nature of that show caused me to do the same thing. Battlestar Galactica itself is highly, highly serialized, especially since, so far, very little time passes in between episodes.
Ok, enough speculation and theorizing for now. It didn’t take me long to figure out where this episode was headed. As Tyrol and Boomer had their frantic discussion about the bizarre nature of what had happened to Boomer, Roslin’s visit to the Galactica made me connect the dots: The episode is called “Water,” and she’s coming to learn more about the water reclamation process on board the ship that will help keep the fleet alive. Oh Christ, the explosives are in the water tanks. How else would Boomer have woken up soaking wet?
Simultaneous to this realization, the subplot of “Water” specifically deals with the interactions between Roslin and Commander Adama, but not in a way that brings about some grand sort of conflict. I actually enjoy that, for the time being, these characters are largely getting along. Of course, I imagine that isn’t going to last, but Roslin and Adama understand one another, and Roslin, in this episode, is quick to admit her limitations as president. She was Secretary of Education, and a lot of what she witnesses on the Galactica is entirely foreign to her. Why does the whole crew dress up for her appearance? Why is she appearing just to watch the transfer of water? It’s all protocol, she assumes, acted out by Adama because he enjoys the display. (A bit of an aside: You know how there are words you hate the sound of? Like how most people hate the word “moist”? I can’t bear the sound of the word “protocol,” which is unfortunate for me as a fan of Star Wars.)
Look, I don’t care if this will make me the worst Battlestar Galactica fan ever, but the Roslin/Adama/Lee story line is ENDLESSLY ADORABLE. They’re like awkward teens! Who talk about books! And feelings! And Roslin basically asks for help from Adama’s son so she can impress him. Oh god I love it. She even shares a tender moment with him regarding the destruction of the Olympic Carrier, telling Lee it’s ok to question his choices in private. Also, no one’s mentioned it in the comments yet, but is this a ship-heavy fandom? Because–not gonna lie–I could see people shipping Roslin/Adama or Roslin/Lee after this episode. That’s mostly a credit to Mary McDonnell because christ I love her so much already. Why aren’t we friends?
I get the sense, though, that much of season one will be devoted to this idea that there is a Cylon agent aboard the Galactica and that Baltar will be forced to develop his test for the crew. The meeting held between Lee, Tigh, Adama, Baltar, and Roslin is another tense scene for the episode, and it’s made all the worse by the appearance of Six to Baltar. Every time Six shows up alongside Baltar, I just get nervous. I’m beginning to understand that others can actually see his reactions to visions of Six, and I think it’s only a matter of time before this becomes a disaster for Baltar.
But all of this is an uncomfortable reality, honestly. How do you discretely test a crew of hundreds (thousands? I don’t know how big the Galactica crew is) without revealing to everyone that Cylons look like humans? It’s clear from Tyrol’s comment early in the episode that way more than five folks know the truth about Cylons, but it’s not quite public knowledge yet. For Baltar, though, this goes counter to his need to be left alone. His intellect has become his curse, in this sense, because he can’t escape others. Ironically, his attempt to explain why his test is logistically difficult ends up getting him a team, led by Gaeta, that will follow him around to help create a Cylon test. WOOPS.
It seems that Baltar simply doesn’t want to get involved. At any moment, someone could discover that he knows a little too much about Cylon technology, and he’ll have to face what he did to bring about the destruction of the human race. I actually don’t think he’ll successfully avoid this, honestly, but I think the writers will extend this conflict out for a while. For now, though, Baltar has to deal with Six and all of the folks assigned to help him. About Six, though….will she act out in rage when she confronts Baltar about his flirting with Starbuck? (BY THE WAY, HOLY HELL WHAT A SCENE) I’m inclined to believe that Six actually did love Baltar, and I’m certain she won’t be pleased. Then again…she’s not real? I think? Oh god, I don’t really know i am confused.
Speaking about bizarre romantic relationships, isn’t Boomer technically interested in two men and it’s not cheating at all? THAT’S PRETTY AWESOME. Boomer’s relationship with Tyrol is tested throughout “Water,” and Tyrol lets his heart get in the way of his duty. Throughout the entire episode, I kept wanting to shout at him: “JUST TELL SOMEONE. CHRIST, DUDE.” I totally get that he wants to protect Boomer, but you are digging one steep grave at this point.
And yet simultaneously, Boomer is on Caprica with Helo, and the flirtation nearly ends in a kiss. I assume Helo knows about Tyrol, so….holy awkward. Here’s my guess, though: I think Helo already has it in his head that this whole situation is not right. He keeps pressing Boomer to explain why she came back and why she doesn’t have a plan, and I think he’ll soon confront her about her not being the real Boomer. That’ll depressing when that happens, though, because…well, there’s no real Boomer anyway, is there?
I actually don’t know how to answer that question. (Yet.) During the water recon mission, though, we see something I didn’t think was even possible: Boomer resisted her Cylon programming. She was completely aware of the fact that her screen read positive for water, yet she couldn’t bring herself to say it. Even worse, the Cylon “side” of her tries to detonate the last missing G-4 explosive, which is strapped to her seat.
So is the Cylon part of Boomer like a personality? Where did they Cylons even get the blueprint/idea to make a Cylon like Boomer? Is it possible that she is actually the first Boomer, but just got infused with Cylon technology? What’s more important to me, though, is the fact that by having this small victory against her nature, Boomer exerts her own agency of choice: she doesn’t always have to be bound by whatever it is that is trying to get her to sabotage the Galactica.
It doesn’t mean that this is ending anytime soon, and the final moment shows that Boomer seems to be under Cylon control, determined to reach some undetermined destination. So the question remains, then: Can Boomer completely resist Cylon programming, or is she doomed to forever antagonize the crew she’s come to love and respect?