Mark Watches ‘Battlestar Galactica’: Daybreak, Part II

In the second part of “Daybreak,” the impossible battle against the Colony begins. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.

If you were to ask me what the finest hour of Battlestar Galactica was, given that I’ve now seen every aired episode, I wouldn’t think twice to say that the Battle of the Colony, the second hour of the series finale, would be that hour. Here, we see so many things that this show does right all at once: Bear McCreary’s hypnotic music; the superb cast of actors and actresses this show hosts; the ability of the writers to convey adventurous intensity alongside emotional growth; and having a wonderful sense of humor about all of this. I know that the second part of “Daybreak” is just that: it’s part of a whole, so it might not be fair to choose only a piece as the best out of everything. But I can’t deny feeling not just immensely satisfied, but emotionally stimulated. This shit was so fucking exciting.

Part two opens with flashbacks, and in a weird way, it was like another reminder that these characters’ stories were coming to an end. It’s not like this whole goddamn episode didn’t do that, but I realized that this would probably be the last time I’d see Adama and Tigh drunk together. (Side note: Tigh drunk screaming will never not be the most hilarious thing this show has ever produced ever. Which is perfectly fine, by the way, because I love the inclusion of humor that we see here. MORE ON THAT IN A SECOND.) This was the last time I’d see Starbuck and Lee make poor choices in a relationship and awkwardly flirt with one another. This was the last time I’d see Roslin diving headlong into an uncomfortable situation just for the hell of it. This was the last time I’d see Adama in the gutter, looking up at the stars. (OH GOD AN OSCAR WILDE REFERENCE, holy fuck I love this show.)

And then the stars cut to the system where the fleet floats quietly in space, and we see Gaius Baltar, alone. There’s something unsettling and saddening about the image of the charismatic leader in that vacant space, his followers gone. It’s one of many images on Galactica that are surreal, bizarre, and depressing. For Baltar, his journey as the leader of a cult has come to an end, even though he won’t make his decision until later in the episode. Head Six appears, and tells him to trust in God’s plan, and I start to get an idea of where this is heading. Why was Head Six there in the first place, and why was she always trying to get Baltar to do these things? When Baltar finally seemed to believe in God, she disappeared; when things took a dive, she reappeared to nudge him in the right way. At that point, I knew that it was entirely impossible that he was imagining her. It made no sense, and it made no sense that she was tied to some Cylon sense of projection. She had to be something else, I surmised, because she had too strong of a sense of purpose to be some imagined entity in Baltar’s head.

The rest of Galactica isn’t anywhere near as vacant as the home of Baltar’s followers. I really adore the way the camera jumps from room to room, showing us how the various groups are preparing for Galactica‘s final mission. I love that Roslin literally makes the normally-talkative Dr. Cottle speechless, the first of many moments that sprung tears to my eyes. I love that despite Helo telling the pilots how horrifically poor the odds are, every Raptor volunteers to go to the Colony. I love the weirdness of this all, of a hybrid (Anders) being brought right into the CIC. So much of what season four has done incredibly well is show us how Cylon and human culture begin to integrate themselves into one another, weaving an intricate and delicate pattern that becomes more complicated by the day. As I’ve said before, if you’d told me that there would be five humanoid Cylons helping the humans destroy another Cylon base in this method, I would have laughed you off this planet. It makes no sense without context, but now I see just how brilliantly the ending of this entire show was hinted all along in season four. Human and Cylon, side-by-side, fighting for a unified purpose.

And in a wholly hilarious and smile-inducing move, Hoshi is made Admiral, a fantastic callback to the previous part of “Daybreak.” Hoshi!!!! Oh god, then for a moment I got sad that Gaeta wouldn’t get to see this. But before I could get any sadder, the episode cuts to Lee making Romo Lampkin THE FUCKING PRESIDENT. I’m sorry, this is SO GODDAMN FUNNY TO ME. I mean, what could be more irritating for the man than having to be President? Lee, you are a genius and I love you for it forever.

But the best twist of this all, despite being pretty obvious, was Baltar abandoning his followers to stay with the Galactica. It’s clear later that he doesn’t even know why he’s doing it, and I actually think that’s an important detail. If he had some way to exploit this for himself, he could have at least thought of that. But the whole thing feels like the right decision for absolutely no reason at all. It’s a feeling he has, and he makes a leap of faith, choosing to fight one last time, even if he dies.

Like the scene earlier in this part of the story, we get another “montage” of sorts as the camera skips between the various parts of the ships, showing us the preparation that’s been taken for the Battle of the Colony. While I was excited to see how this turned out, one specific scene filled me with dread: Ishay shows Roslin how to mark those who “can’t be saved” with a black permanent marker and put them aside so they can treat those who can be saved. Even if they did make it out of that battle with Hera, I knew that this was a nod by the writers to remind us that there would be heavy, gut-wrenching losses experienced. They wouldn’t include this detail unless that was the case. As we see the Vipers in the launch tubes and the Raptors in the Galactica Museum (!!!!!!1 OMG BEST SHOT EVER !!!!!!), my heart rate started to pump faster. Lee is suited up with Starbuck and the other marines, alongside Centurions with large red sashes painted on them to identify them from the Centurions from the Cylon force of the Colony. Gaius Baltar, the millionaire genius scientist from Caprica City, is no longer cruising around town in a limousine. He’s wearing a soldier’s uniform, and none of it looks quite right on him, as if he’s a wearing his father’s clothes before finger painting in the first grade, but he’s there. And I don’t care about anything else: Baltar is there. He is in the hallways of Galactica, a gun in his hand, and he could very well die protecting the ship. (Actually, the odds are much higher for this than anything else, given that the man is pretty shitty with a gun.) He’s made a decision that doesn’t benefit, and though he won’t realize it until much later, he took Lee’s ultimatum and made it a reality.

This is most likely a one-way street, and Adama’s final speech to the Galactica is just the call to arms that suggests a horrible finality. It gives hope, yes, but it was right then that the sheer weight of impossibility and futility washed over me. If anyone could pull this off, it was this crew and these people and that Admiral. But this was nothing short of suicide, and I think everyone on that ship knew it. This was probably going to be the last thing they ever did.

And then the Battlestar Galactica jumps just feet from the Colony. And all hell breaks loose.

I have said many times that the special effects on this show are a cut above most things I’ve seen, even better than movies that have monumentally larger budgets. Watching the Battle of the Colony was like watching a bunch of kids in a candy store. I don’t know how much it cost to make this episode, but it looked like it cost a couple billion dollars. Never did I feel like I lost the narrative focus of the story; never did I feel like the visuals were a soupy, complicated mess. The color schemes were appropriately dark, but accented by the brightly colored beauty of the singularity that the Colony sat above. But it’s the sheer size of the whole thing that blew me away; the scope of the battle and the ambition that’s clearly on every frame of this whole thing is unlike anything I’ve ever seen for a television show.

The Raptors jump out of the museum. The Galactica RAMS INTO THE COLONY. If Adama hadn’t jumped into the atmosphere on the surface of New Caprica, I’d easily claim these two moments as the best battle techniques of the whole series. I wondered how on earth they expected to board the Colony, and when the plan was revealed and executed, I just stared at the screen, gaping. They smashed a hole in it. THEY SMASHED A HOLE INTO IT. Oh god, everything could have gone so terribly wrong and I love these characters for doing it anyway.

And then I’m reminded that this is a disaster of an idea when Racetrack and Skulls are killed mid-conversation by flying debris. It’s on, I realized, and this is the end. The Battle of the Colony is not going to end pretty, and it’s a stark and horrifying sign that this is serious. People are going to die.

But it’s not all one-sided. As a group of Raptors make their way inside the Colony, the camera cuts to Simon working on Hera. WHILE A HUGE BATTLE IS GOING ON. Jesus, these Cylons sure are dedicated. Taking cues from when we last saw her in “Islanded in a Stream of Stars,” Boomer’s own disgust over kidnapping her gets the better of her, and the first real Cylon death happens onscreen when she snaps Simon’s neck and grabs Hera.

It’s hard to organize everything at this point, though, to comment on it in any sort of chronological nature. More so than any other action scene in the show’s history, the second part of “Daybreak” is ridiculously chaotic. I think that for a good half hour, there’s not a single break in the action. One thing follows another, many things are happening at the same time, and we are given no time to reaction to any of these events. I found myself laughing at the sight of older Centurions fighting with the newer ones, as it’s something I would have never guessed I’d be a witness to. (Again, the well-placed humor is a huge reason why I love part two so much.) Yet just a minute or two later, I’m shocked into complete silence when Baltar and Caprica Six are suddenly able to see each other’s respective Head Baltar and Head Six. SOMEONE ELSE CAN SEE THEM JESUS FUCKING CHRIST WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!! But then we get absolutely no time to contemplate that when a group of Centurions lead by Cavil, a Five, and Simon burst onto the Galactica as the hull is breached. THIS IS ALL SO VERY MUCH TO DEAL WITH AT ONCE.

There’s a brief moment of quiet tension mixed in with all the chaos, and it’s when Boomer runs into the Agathons and Starbuck–and she’s carrying Hera. As she handed over Hera back to her parents, I knew that there was no other way for her story to end. As she says, she made a choice, and this is where she ended up. She asks Athena to tell Adama that she owed him one. I was thankful for Starbuck’s retort about not telling Boomer “the plan” because it broke the painful awkwardness at just the right moment. For just a second, I thought Boomer would turn around and walk away, but Athena opens from on her, killing her.

Boomer’s dead. Jesus fuck.

After stopping “for coffee,” Starbuck’s team meets up with Lee’s, and I was left wondering how on earth they’d get off the Colony. We see images of the bloodbath in the sickbay, both Ishay and Roslin overwhelmed by the destruction of the crew and civilians who stayed behind to help out. The Galactica is just as damaged as they are, probably more so, suffering from the persistent damage being dealt by the Raiders. With a limited amount of time available, I really only had one question left that I needed to be answered: How the fuck was Galactica going to survive this?

It was nice to see that Baltar’s crowning moment of violence was shooting a Centurion that was already down on the ground and nearly shooting Lee, too. I think that’s about as appropriate as it should be, don’t you? It’s not like he’s the greatest sharpshooter on the planet. But with Lee, Starbuck, Helo, Athena, and Hera safe, I got too comfortable. I felt too safe. I thought that this was a sign of victory, and I let my guard down. When Roslin sits down, in shock from all the violence she’d seen, and she experiences the Opera House vision once again, I panicked. Something was wrong. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t finished.

A Five appears. A shot is fired and Helo is down, and suddenly I’m worried that he’s going to die, and the Hera is gone, and it’s the Opera House vision all over again. It was only a matter of minutes before we’d see it enacted in the halls of Galactica, wasn’t it? As the characters fell into place, exactly as they were positioned in that vision we’d seen for so long, I was completely and utterly transfixed by “Daybreak.” I am not even sure I commented once during this entire sequence. My attention was devoted to what was happening, watching Hera run through the halls of that ship, losing my shit when Roslin and Athena realized they were always supposed to follow Hera into the Opera House, that it wasn’t about stopping her from being “taken.” They were supposed to follow her.

It seems fitting that the key to humanity and to the future and to all the talk of destiny over four years takes place inside the CIC of Galactica. That was always the heart of this show, wasn’t it? As everyone converges in that room, and Cavil manages to grab Hera during an explosion, the final standoff materializes right before us. This is where the future will be decided, and I could feel how important it was. This scene would be the key to the whole show.

I will admit to not entirely understanding what was at work here, and it took the third part of “Daybreak” to shed light on the revelation we’re given. What I did understand is that Baltar once more proved to Lee that he could do something without benefitting from it personally. There’s nothing in what Baltar says to Cavil that is disingenuous, and you can see how much he believes in every word that comes out of his mouth. Hera is important to humanity’s survival and that there’s a reason they all ended up in that CIC room at that moment in that order: some higher force orchestrated the whole thing. Here, Baltar uses the word “God” to describe this higher force; I don’t think this is at all what we associate with the meaning of that word. I’ll get more into this for my review of part three, but I don’t actually view this as the show saying that it’s impossible to be an atheist, that the God we all know and believe is the same thing for what it is to Baltar. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some sort of power in this show’s mythology, and I think it’s pretty clear there is; however, it’s not at all what we might think it is.

Just on a visceral level, the scene is about Baltar’s attempt at redemption, at saving this whole fucking mess that he technically started years ago on New Caprica. He pleads with Cavil to accept that there must be something else going on here, and executing Hera would solve nothing at all.

I was shocked (just as much as everyone else) that Tigh then made the deal even better: he offered resurrection to Cavil. That’s all Cavil really wanted, wasn’t it? The chance to continue the Cylon species in some way, and by getting resurrection, Hera becomes unnecessary to him. In a spectacular end to the second part of “Daybreak,” this actually works. Cavil orders the Cylons on the Colony to stand down. Adama orders his own crew to stand down. As weapons are lowered and Raiders fall back, it seems that Baltar found a way to negotiate a permanent peace with the Cylons.

Holy shit.

To be continued in my final review tomorrow! WHICH I GUARANTEE WILL BE EVEN LONGER THAN THIS ONE.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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