In the fifth episode of the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck’s failure to find Earth begins to grate on her crew. Tyrol, still in mourning, finds himself drawn to the preaching of Gaius Baltar. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
Seriously, this show is not giving me a single goddamn break, and I find that it is become increasingly difficult to feel anything but discomfort and frustration. The best part? I LOVE THAT THIS IS HOW I FEEL. What show does this to its audience FOR FOUR YEARS IN A ROW. Granted, for me, it’ll be about three months straight of near-relentless pain, but the point still stands: this show has taken its characters to extremely uncomfortable places, grown them in unexpected ways, and managed to tie it all together with one hell of a perplexing mythology. WHICH I FEEL LIKE I AM NO CLOSER TO FIGURING OUT THAN I WAS A MONTH AGO.
The two main plotlines don’t really help me put much together because they only hint at what is to come, delivering us a lot of clues and a ton of development from Starbuck, Helo, and Tyrol. Tyrol’s story continues on from the chilling end to “Escape Velocity,” as the man comes to terms with his nihilism in the wake of his wife’s death. This show is doing a fantastic job showing us that the death of Cally was a huge moment for everyone on the Galactica and most especially for Tyrol. He finds himself falling between extreme apathy and destructive self-hatred and anger, unable to contemplate the reason for his wife’s death. God, it’s so hard to watch this because Tyrol is kicking himself down when he doesn’t even need to. Argh, I hate Tory Foster so much. You ruined everything! What have you done? Oh god, and the way she tries to comfort him in the launch tube…MY HATE KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES.
Baltar’s sermons only seem to aggravate Tyrol more; his talk of the inherent perfection of humanity irritate him because Tyrol’s experience with life seems to run completely counter to that. Where does a Cylon who has made monumental mistakes fit into that world view? And not only that, but Tyrol’s a Cylon who largely considers himself an atheist. How does he factor into Baltar’s God’s plan?
But I think it’s important to acknowledge these factors while admitting that Tyrol’s grief is what motivates him to visit Baltar for the first time in his quarters. (Is that a church now? It looks more like a commune, actually.) I was irritated by Tigh’s insistence that Tyrol simply “get over” his mourning of Cally because WEREN’T YOU JUST MAKING OUT WITH A CYLON WITH BLOOD ALL OVER YOUR FACE. By the way, how is Tigh’s face not all bruised when he sees Tigh?
Anyway, that’s not important. You know what is? Tyrol’s FRIGHTENING FREAK OUT ON BALTAR. Look, as soon as Baltar tried to reach out to the Chief, I thought this wouldn’t end well. Telling him that this is what “Cally would have wanted” though? OH NO, BALTAR. YOU IN DANGER. What the fuck possessed you to use such a manipulative line on Tyrol? I think Tyrol overreacts, because no one, not even Gaius Baltar, deserves to be choked. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the man’s rage at such a callous comment; I empathize with his anger at someone taking such a horrific moment in his life and using it to proselytize him. Hell, that happened to me over on Mark Reads when I spoke about why I became an atheist when someone (actually…quite a few people) told me that I was abused and outed because it was all part of God’s plan. That sort of trivialization seriously hurts, and would certainly cause me to contemplate throat punching someone.
It seemed to be the final breaking point for Galen Tyrol; overwhelmed by the loss of his wife, furious at the absurdity and pointless nature of it all, he flips out in his quarters. I believed he would actually kill himself during this scene; I think it’s inevitable at this point that one of the four Cylons on the fleet is going to die and be resurrected. IT HAS TO HAPPEN.
Instead, we’re given a scene just following this that surprised me. As I said in the last review, Baltar’s faith seems genuine this time, and I think it’s tied to his quest for an identity. So when he shows up at Tyrol’s quarters (where’s Nicky, by the way???), I expected some sort of ridiculous performance with him. Instead, I was pleasantly shocked by how real his apology was; he was actually trying to show Tyrol remorse for what he did, explaining that this is the path he’s chosen to redeem himself for the terrible things he’s done. And I believe him when he says this, and so does Galen Tyrol. Galen Tyrol, the conflicted, mournful Cylon. He takes Baltar’s hand in a silent acceptance of the man’s apology.
God damn this show is good.
But really now. Really. This plot is well-written and fabulously acted by Aaron Douglas, who totally sells Tyrol’s determined anger and hatred. But. But. Ugh, Starbuck, I will never stop proclaiming my love for you. Katee Sackhoff, why is your fireplace mantle not made of 40 million Emmys? Where is the justice in our world?
There have been many uncomfortable plots throughout Battlestar Galactica. I won’t deny that. I am hard-pressed to name one worse than this one: watching Starbuck slowly deteriorate as her crew decides to mutiny against her. We’re normally dealt these situations with ambiguity on both sides of the issue, but not this time. In “The Road Less Traveled,” we know that Leoben is not lying. We know there is a Cylon civil war going on and that it’s highly likely that this specific Leoben escaped at the last minute in order to find Starbuck.
We’d already seen how strained relations were on the Demetrius, but with Starbuck’s decision to allow Leoben onboard and believe his ridiculous story about a Cylon war brings about a near-riot from almost every crew member. Pike in particular doesn’t even pretend he’s okay with this.
We also get to see the second Final Five Cylon meet one of the original models and have a ridiculously loaded conversation about identity and destiny. I mean…Caprica Six could sense that Tigh was a Cylon, right? Just like it seems as if Leoben knows there’s something special with Anders, right? AH THIS IS SO AGONIZING TO WATCH.
But y’all. I just can’t deal with this. It’s bad enough to see the crew turn against Helo. HELO I LOVE YOU AND YOUR DESIRE TO SUPPORT STARBUCK AND FOLLOW ORDERS AND RESPECT THE CHAIN OF COMMAND EVEN IF YOU YOURSELF FEEL TERRIBLE ABOUT ALL OF THIS. I’m going to start shipping Starbuck/Helo just on principle and not even because I think they’re necessarily a good fit. You are not allowed to stop me.
Seriously, Kara’s storyline is so haunting to me and it’s not just because I want to see things go right for her. Her character has been built on confidence over the last three seasons, and while she’s certainly wavered from time to time, what has always drawn me to her was the certainty she possessed time and time again. She was certain of her knowledge and certain of her morals. Sure, she’s arrogant and rude at times, but that sort of resolve is what kept her going. Throughout “The Road Less Traveled,” the events on the Demetrius continue to test her spirit, over and over again, and as the crew members rapidly start to turn their backs on her, even she starts to doubt herself.
That doubt is never stronger than when Sergeant Mathias dies while searching the Heavy Raider for any possible tracking devices. Mathias has been such a constant force on this show that I never even considered her expendable. She’s always been there in the background, and suddenly, she’s gone. It causes Kara to erupt on Leoben, furious that even if it was an accident, she can’t be positive of anything anymore. What if this is all a trick? What if he’s telling the truth? Starbuck can’t tell anymore, and that kills her. It destroys her. But all Leoben has to offer her is talk of how different she is, as if her body is just a shell. (SHE CANNOT BE A CYLON, CAN SHE???) He insists that she needs to see the Hybrid, who we know is a lot more insightful than the Cylons mostly realize. She has a destiny, and the only way she can feel whole is if she pursues this.
All this talk of destiny doesn’t help, and I think Starbuck, a woman who lives for definitive ideas and direct facts, just cannot deal with not knowing what this is about, what she’s supposed to do, and how she’s supposed to act. All she has left is instinct, and it’s instinct that got her to fly into the Ionian Nebula to find earth. But I didn’t initially realize this when she returned back to her crew, who are all milling about in marked anticipation for what Starbuck is going to decide to do. As she started to make a loose apology for what’s happened, for being a poor captain to her crew, and accepting responsibility for Mathias’s tragic, senseless death, she suddenly stopped. This isn’t something Starbuck is used to admitting or saying, that she fucked up.
I was touched that Gaeta spoke up to seemingly complete her thought. WHERE IS MY GAETA EPISODE BY THE WAY. He seemed to be sympathetic to how hard this was for her, even if he was a tad vocal in disagreement with her earlier. So you can imagine my surprise when she tells Gaeta that they’re actually going to the basestar and not meet up with the Galactica for the scheduled rendezvous. Things erupt into chaos so quickly that I had to watch this final scene twice because I thought I missed something. Yep, Pike’s down. Helo’s got a mean pistol whip!
And with the main voice of dissent out of the way, I mistakenly believed that we would see the Demetrius jump to the basestar, and we’d find out if this was truly a trap. Instead, Battlestar Galactica gives us one of the most heartbreaking (and well-acted) scenes of the entire series: Helo refuses to obey Starbuck’s order. She very quickly relieves him, turns to Gaeta, who promptly refuses her as well. This. Is. Not. Happening. And as Helo began to cite the Colonial Military Code, I knew that I was forever unprepared for “The Road Less Traveled,” to watch Starbuck’s entire crew turn against her.
This is so fucked up.