In the eighth episode of the second season of Battlestar Galactica, the newly unified fleet still has problems with the way the military has been behaving, so Adama and Roslin allow an anti-military journalist to make a documentary in order to change the tide of public opinion. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
Could “Final Cut” be more suited for my tastes? This is not a perfect episode, for the record, and it’s also the first one that has a much slower pace until the end, but I was absolutely enamored with the way that this episode explores how media can interact and intersect with politics, and how images and messages are spread through different means. Even if I don’t ever talk about it on here or on Mark Reads, it’s implicit in the narrative: we are dissecting media (what’s inside of it) and the medium itself. (What are the limitations of television? What do I accept or disbelieve because of it?)
In reality, it’s something I’ve been doing a long time. I wrote a post this week for Mark Reads (it goes up tomorrow) that is over 6,000 words, and I remember back in high school how much I struggled with reaching 1,500 words when I had a structured essay to complete. I did well, and I enjoyed writing analytical essays for AP Language and AP Lit. Part of me thinks those days were almost like training for what I’m doing now. Even when I got to college, a 4,000 word paper made me want to die forever. But I’m at a point in my life where I’m writing about 20,000 words PER WEEK. what. It’s become far more natural to me than ever before, and it’s because I feel comfortable delving into a story and pulling apart all the various pieces.
In that sense, watching “Final Cut” was like a bizarre glimpse into my own head. Yes, the story is quite meta, as the writers look a bit inwards towards their own characters. Yet even as a social commentary on military-industrialism, or the use of journalism as activism, it’s never once ignored that there are people at the heart of this, and I think that’s why I ultimately enjoy the message of this episode, even if it feels a tad cheesy towards the end.
“Final Cut” continues this shows wonderful run of acknowledging the logistical reality of being stranded in space, of 47,000+ humans banding together to survive. Namely, in this case, it would be unreasonable if Adama and Roslin returned to the fleet and everyone hugged and there were never any problems in the world ever. (Would I watch two and a half more seasons of Adama and Roslin having tea, discussing books, and hugging? Yes, I would.) With Adama back in command and on the Galactica, it’s time to face the repercussions of Colonel Tigh being in command. This is explored through the lens of D’anna Biers, who I only barely recognized as Lucy Lawless (!!!!!) about halfway through the episode.
Like many scenes before this in the run of the show up to this point, everyone speaks very plainly to one another, from D’anna’s insistence that she will not make propaganda for the Galactica, to Roslin’s claim that D’anna will get whatever she wants. What Battlestar Galactica has done so well is presenting things in such a morally ambiguous way. Yes, this is not the first time that I’ve pointed this out, but I think “Final Cut” has a fantastic example of this. We know that D’anna is right, that Tigh is responsible for making a poor decision under pressure, and that the public has every right to distrust the military. This is made even worse when Tigh himself is so hostile and dismissive towards being criticized, or when the military seems so willing to cover the truth up.
Yet I think the larger story is that no one really knows how difficult this has been for those on board the Galactica. Well, we know because we’ve been here watching them the entire time. This is certainly Tigh’s fault, but D’anna’s ultimate ideas about how the military operates is based entirely on conjecture. There are tens of thousands of people we’ve never never met in this fleet, and the inverse of that is true: none of those people have ever met the crew of the Galactica, so it’s quite easy to ascribe any number of personality traits or ideas about tyranny without any basis in reality.
Which, again, is not to ignore that there needs to be accountability. It seems in the opening that Roslin is all for an open and transparent military, and that she surprised Adama by giving D’anna full clearance. But even Adama starts to warm up to the idea because he knows that they truly don’t have anything they need to hide. Well…there’s one thing, but we’ll get there.
I thought it was an interesting choice on the part of the crew to use the actual footage that D’anna and her camera guy was shooting to give us a frame for the documentary she was making. It was a refreshing change from the norm (not to imply that the show’s cinematography is boring, as it’s anything but); however, I was fascinated by it for an entirely different reason. The writers brilliantly use this as a chance to give us insight into some of the secondary and tertiary characters. I loved Dualla’s story about her father’s resentment towards her joining the military; she is a wonderful example to break to stereotype that only brainless jocks join the armed forces. As many problems as I have with the American military and some aspects of military culture, I’ve always sat on the fence because my father was a soldier in Vietnam, and my best friend in high school left for the Marines when I was a senior. Obviously, these people are not evil, and I know that a lot of soldiers are part of the system and rarely have anything to do with what I ultimately disagree with.
In “Final Cut,” that’s what D’anna finds out when she speaks with Dualla, Gaeta (OH MY GOD HIS MONOLOGUE FUCKING AMAZING), Kat, and Kelso. Reality is not a matter of drawing a line on some sort of moral astral plane and placing people on one side or the other. Even outside the context of this show, it’s more like our bodies are sprawled all over the line, which is more a mess of tangled yarn than a constant border. D’anna sees the soldiers and pilots dealing with frustration, with the lack of new recruits, with little to no support, and it shows her that her preconceived notions of what the military was actually doing were far off-base.
All of this is well-written and handled sensitively, with respect to both parties, and then ON TOP of all of that, the tension starts to build. This episode has the longest period before it begins, but it’s there, and it’s a slow-burn. I’ll be honest: I initially thought that Ellen wrote the Caprican poetry reference on the mirror herself, and I was convinced that this episode would reveal she was trying to manipulate her husband further. Look, I still think she’s a Cylon, though I know I’m probably wrong. But this small moment tears at Tigh’s conscience and concentration. And the addition of a camera crew only makes it worse. There are some things that the crew on the Galactica need to keep to themselves for the time being, but then D’anna captures the sabotaged Raptor on film, and it looks like the secret is out.
So why does someone want to kill Tigh? It’s clear that’s the intent. Was it someone related to one of the four civilians who died on the Gideon? That was my initial guess, and I think Tigh suspected as much. I’m glad that the show forces him to deal with his guilt over that decision, as difficult as it is to watch, because it’s not something that should be ignored. But as D’anna continues to have full access to everything going on in the ship, I worried about how these two stories would collide. I did not expect, however, that D’anna would capture Valerii on tape as Dr. Cottle tried to save her child.
SO YEAH ABOUT THAT STORY LINE. As soon as Valerii pulled out that blood hand from under her blanket, I cried out in shock. And then I was immediately filled with a lot of feelings. Apparently this child is destined for great things, and one of those things is THE DESTRUCTION OF THE HUMAN RACE. Yet I can’t help but worry about Valerii, Helo, or the child. Battlestar, what are you doing to me? I CAN’T FIGURE OUT HOW I FEEL. IT IS ALL SO CONFUSING.
It’s the first moment where Adama steps in to have D’anna abide by his earlier demand that anything that can compromise security would be cut. But now someone else knows that a copy of Valerii has returned, and she’s PREGNANT. God, I never once thought about the rest of the fleet finding out about the Galactica willingly holding a Cylon and allowing her to give birth, but I knew it was inevitable, especially since D’anna HID THE REAL COPY IN HER BRA. oh god OH GOD WHAT IS SHE GOING TO DO.
I was completely spellbound, then, but what does happen next, because I thought we’d head down a road where D’anna leaks the footage to the fleet. Instead, the writers choose to give us one of the most powerful images of season two: we see the perspective of the crew of Galactica as the Raptor fighters engage some Cylon Raiders. It’s been standard that the show switches between the point of view of those in the CIC and the Raptors themselves, but I found it rather brilliant that we are left observing just how awful things are for those who stay behind, listening to the radio chatter in the hopes that their friends don’t die, that they don’t die in the process as well, that there’s some hope they can survive after all of this.
No one sees this. Not one second of it. I’ve seen it happen so many times I couldn’t try counting it. And god, it’s even more tense than I remember.
Because of this (and the ultimate end to the episode), I must admit that I was a tad underwhelmed by the conclusion to Tigh’s arc in this story. I liked that he feigned what seemed like a genuine apology to Palladino (one that even I nearly believed) in order to disarm him. When the Marines burst in with D’anna, who figured out the whole thing just minutes before, I suddenly wondered what the point of this all was. I did like that Tigh had to face his guilt, but did he do anything with it? Did he grow as a person or come to realize something new? Sure, it’s probably part of a longer story for him, but I didn’t see how this fit into the larger scheme.
It doesn’t help that the next scene after this is the review of D’anna’s final footage. I know it’s probably intended to evoke this reaction in us, but I laughed when the Colonial anthem came in. It was just so ridiculous and over-the-top, maybe a bit too much. I get that D’anna had a change of heart and, while still including some of the negative aspects of the military, wanted to portray them differently than she intended to.
Except…is that what she wanted to do? As the folks on the Colonial One watch the ending to the documentary, the camera pans to reveal that the Cylons–Boomer, Doral, and Six–are watching the exact same thing. Only they get to see the cut footage that Adama ordered removed and get confirmation that Caprica!Valerii is still alive.
Wait. How is that possible? Who is that woman in the front row? How did they get this tape when–
HOLY FUCKING SHIT D’ANNA IS A CYLON WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE HOLY FUCK WHAT TL;AKDSJF; A;SKDLFJ AS;DKLFJÂ
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It was all a mission to learn more about that child, which needs to be protected and I don’t get this and my brain hurts and my heart and oh my god i never saw this coming HOLY SHIT.