In the fourth episode of the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, an attack on Baltar’s “church” brings about a tense situation on the Galactica, as the Quorum decide whether freedom of religion should continue. The three Galactica Cylons also begin to face their identity issues more directly. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
I think at this point, all I’m trying to do is avoid sounding like a broken record. I proclaimed my love for this show a long time ago, and that feeling has continued to grow over three seasons. Now, moving through the final season (SOB), I find myself just as transfixed and enamored as I was back in July when I started this show for Mark Watches. After gushing about the beauty of “The Ties That Bind,” I told myself that I would at least try to find something to pick on with a critical mind, and then the show gives me “Escape Velocity” and I’m rendered helpless.
Who really needs to read me flailing about because of Adama and Roslin’s adorable relationship? Or praising the continued character ambiguity of the writing? Or talking about how this show never fails to shock me and keep me on the edge of the seat? Those of you who are BSG fans already know this by now, and it makes up part of the reason why you love all of this. I suppose it’s nice that I finally understand why so many people over the years swore I was missing out on something by not watching this show. That’s why I like doing this and why I’m careful when selecting things to watch for this site. One day, it might be fun to pick something I’ll probably despise, but for now, I can’t say I enjoy many things more than the process of discovering something I love.
At the heart of “Escape Velocity” is the search for identity. Aside from a brief shot at the end of the Demetrius, this entire episode is contained to the fleet. The three Cylon models–Tigh, Tory, and Tyrol OMG ALLITERATION–as well as Gaius Baltar come to terms with what their identity might be. Well, some do, and some do not. And the issue of identity is treated as the main conflict, with the obvious problem affecting the Cylons more. The most important thing we see is how the loss of Cally (which is being explained as a suicide NOW I REALLY HATE YOU, TORY FOSTER) means that Tyrol has lost his anchor. Watching his self-destructive burn is painful. The man is consumed with guilt, numb during Cally’s funeral ceremony, and confused as to whether his life is real or not. I’m still interested in the logistics of the Final Five Cylons, who all were probably created before the genocide of the human race. How much of Tyrol and Tigh’s past is a fabrication? Or were they born as Cylons??? Or were they merely inserted into the human population at a certain point with a programmed story, like in the case of Boomer?
I imagine these thoughts were running through Tyrol’s mind, which is why he was so shocked to see Tory’s frank acceptance of her Cylon nature. It seems Tory has taken a much different route, believing that she’s “perfect” because she is a Cylon. WELL THAT WAS QUICK. It’s a tad disturbing to me too; was she inspired by her murder of Cally to feel this way, after discovering the physical power she has, the ability to judge right and wrong? Is she embracing this newness she describes because she feels it completes her?
I’m satisfied to see that we get such varied stories from all of the characters, but it’s Colonel Tigh’s that intrigues me the most. First of all: HEAD ELLEN. Oh my fucking god, I was drinking water when she appeared and I started choking. WHY DO YOU DO THESE THINGS TO ME, BSG? Oh my god, Ellen, I HAVE MISSED YOU SO MUCH. I mean, yes, she’s only some vision of Tigh’s, but STILL. IT’S NICE. So, again, I can’t ignore that this is happening to other characters aside from Baltar. It has to be significant, right? It can’t just be a throwaway detail, can it?
I’ll get back to that in a second when I talk about that scene, but for Tigh, he’s just as guilt-ridden and tormented by the thought that he is a Cylon as Tyrol. In a move that could (and might) prove to be an utter disaster, he repeatedly visits Caprica Six in the brig. Good lord, every scene is absolutely amazing. Electrifying. Thrilling. And layered with a couple bajillion layers of subtext. I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH, OKAY? Obviously, the man is working through his guilt and is entranced by the idea that this Cylon can somehow trigger visions of his dead wife.
But Tigh, one of the most anti-Cylon voices on the ship, repeatedly visits Caprica Six. You can tell the guards outside who are monitoring these visits are increasingly confused by all of this; even Caprica Six herself is flabbergasted as to why this man continues to see her. But strangely so, I think she knows what he is and who he is. Part of that comes from her waking up and seeing Tigh pull an Edward Cullen, I’m sure, but she senses that he is not here to harm her; he’s already in pain himself. I was completely transfixed with Caprica Six’s explanation of how pain helps her learn, and how losing Baltar helped her to realize that she has feelings just like the humans do. It was at that point that I knew she wasn’t just ironically being helpful towards Tigh.
Yet I couldn’t ignore that this was rapidly approaching some dangerous territory for the two of them, since they were under surveillance. SO TIGH KICKS OUT THE MARINES AND DEACTIVATES THE EQUIPMENT. I was about ready to wet myself out of joy. Was it really going to happen? Would he admit he was a Cylon to Caprica Six?
Funny thing is, he never really had to. When Caprica Six takes off Tigh’s eyepatch, I’m simultaneously moved by how affectionate it is, and disturbed by its unsettling nature as well. Tigh has experienced such terrible loss and grief over the past three seasons, and in this moment, he believes his wife has returned. Well, sort of. Because once Caprica Six starts punching him in the face, trying to bring about the “clarity” she as a Cylon has experienced through pain, there’s no mistaking that this is not Ellen Tigh. But even more bewildering is her sudden claim that he doesn’t need pain, but something else.
And she kisses him. And I don’t know what the fuck is going on with anything at all. THIS SHOW.
This isn’t the only moment of pure chaos and shock. God, “Escape Velocity” gives us three fantastic story lines and I wouldn’t take a single one of them out. How absolutely mind-blowing is Head Adama when he appears to Tyrol at the bar? I mean, perhaps this one is just a hallucination spawned from grief, as Head Adama is only around for a few seconds. BUT OH MY GOD I fall for these visions EVERY GODDAMN TIME.
Yet Tyrol’s story is not just leading to that moment, a chance to have his mind play tricks on him. In his pursuit for identity in “Escape Velocity,” we watch the Chief pervasively lash out to Admiral Adama in Joe’s Bar. It’s one of those scenes where I just held my head in my heads and just kept thinking, OH GOD PLEASE LET THIS STOP RIGHT NOW. As Tyrol continues to dig himself further into his own grave, insulting Adama and rejecting every opportunity that his boss gives him to just walk away, he finally demands that Adama demote him and kick him off the ship. TYROL WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING. Oh god AND THE ADMIRAL OBLIGES. So, to recap: Tigh is having bizarre mouth hug parties with Caprica Six, Tory Foster thinks she’s perfect, and Tyrol has just sabotaged his career.
WHAT THE FUCK.
So, amidst all of this, we get a war of belief and legislature between Roslin, Lee, and Gaius Baltar. Well, first we actually get a confusing sex scene between Tory Foster and Baltar. Tory seems bent on discovering more of her own capacity for Cylon perfection, only this time through giving Baltar conflicting sensations of pain and pleasure? IDEK WHAT THIS IS, THIS IS SO AWKWARD. But their sexy time party is interrupted by the Sons of Ares, who should all be thrown in an airlock as soon as possible. Turns out that Baltar’s monotheistic preaching has rubbed a few people who follow the Lords of Kobol the wrong way! So obviously the best thing to do is enter the church, destroy everything, and punch a bunch of women in the face. THAT WORKS. THAT’S A REAL GOOD IDEA.
You know what’s a better idea? Taking this traumatic, horrific event, one filled with pain, resentment, and injustice, and PERPETRATING ON PEOPLE WHO HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ACTUAL ATTACK. Head Six, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO BALTAR? That was my first question and I think it’s answered by the end of the episode. But at the time, I knew that Baltar storming towards a temple would not end well.Â And guess what? IT DOESN’T! IT’S A FUCKING DISASTER. Baltar. Baltar. Look at that life of yours. Look at the choices you are making. Vandalizing a temple will gain you pretty much nothing. Oh, and it makes you a total asshole.
Obviously, word gets around Galactica pretty quickly and Adama and Roslin have to get involved to stop a possible religious war on the ship. (Well, plus we get that goddamn depressing scene about Adama saving the last chapter of Searider Falcon until he’s ready. And when the other shoe dropsâ€¦jesus christ, I will need to be held until the end of time.) I can’t deny that they’re right: Baltar has a way of riling up the fleet in a way that no other person can. It’s here that Roslin decides to do a very beautiful thing. It is a thing which is so perfect and scathing and honest and I am reminded just why I love this character so much:
She tells Baltar she is tired of his shit.
In as many words, I mean. Butâ€¦my god, Laura Roslin, you could not be any more perfect. And might I say you look fabulous in that wig of yours, too!
But this is not enough for Battlestar Galactica! I’ll admit to the fact that the inclusion is spread a little thin, but the entire “conflict” between Baltar’s group and the Sons of Ares forces the Quorum (led mostly by Lee Adama) to challenge Roslin’s executive order that limits how many of Baltar’s group may be in one room at a time. It’s an issue of religious freedom tied in with the charismatic personality of Gaius Baltar, and it’s one of those situations where, yet again, the show doesn’t really paint either side as being more moral than the other. Roslin is right that Baltar is provoking fundamentalist groups on purpose, and Lee and the other Quorum members are right in stating that this will set a disastrous precedent if enacted. I admire Lee for fighting for the freedom of Baltar’s group to practice their religion, and I think if I’d been in his position, I probably would have done the same thing. Still, I can’t ignore Roslin’s emotional plea to the Quorum to remember the last time Baltar held power over a large number of people. Ugh, her voice cracks and I CAN’T HANDLE ANY OF THIS.
Despite all of this, I wasn’t expecting where “Escape Velocity” would take Gaius Baltar. He’s always straddled the line between caring about those around him and acting entirely out of self-interest, admittedly landing on the latter more often than not. But when Lee visits Baltar at the end of the episode, he witnesses exactly what he’s allowed to continue. It confuses Lee just as much as it unsettles him. Is this what he’s set free?
I found myself far more perplexed and fascinated by what Baltar says here, though. For the first time in a long while, I believe what he says, at least to an extent. Baltar’s identity since he joined the Galactica has been one of guilt, and he’s now the head of a movement that absolves him of that. I think he’s stopped using this as a method to further himself, and might actually be on the road towards healing himself.
The last image of “Escape Velocity” is of Head Six turning to look at Tory Foster. She knows, doesn’t she? Is she trying to influence Baltar to bring the Final Five Cylons to him? AGGGH I UNDERSTAND NOTHING.