In the tenth episode of the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, everything is broken and everything hurts. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
I think that “Revelations” has me thinking about why I enjoy bleak fiction so much more than the joyous stuff. I know it’s a joke around here that I dearly love it when I am crushed and destroyed, or when all hope is extinguished. And it’s generally pretty funny and entertaining in a way, especially because I constantly have way too much hope for things, time and time again. Will I ever learn??? But the way in which I watch television through Mark Watches (and by the same extension, the experience is very similar for Mark Reads as well), I generally have time to get over things. I’ve come across a lot of particularly heavy-hitting things in Harry Potter, in Avatar: The Last Airbender, and in The Book Thief and The Subtle Knife. But there’s always been more after it. There’s always been a chance for the shock to wear off, for me to move on to the next episode, or chapter, or book, and I start to feel better.
It’s been 48 hours (almost to the very minute) since I finished “Revelations.” Occasionally, I like to sit on posts before I even attempt writing them so that I can work through some ideas in my head. I initially wanted to do another all-caps review, as there’s certainly no episode that deserves it more than “Revelations.” But I worried that it would diminish the narrative power of the episode, and half of the effect of this story comes from the quietest moments. Anyone who had watched this show up until this point had been waiting for these reveals for a long time. Who are the final Cylons? How will the colonials react to discovering they are people they’ve known for a long time? Where is Earth, and will the humans ever find it? How is Starbuck connected to the search for Earth?
I’ll start off by saying that even though I expected this show to deal with these reveals in a wonderful way, and that I was indeed immensely satisfied by the result, I was still ridiculously unprepared for all of this. I am reeling from this. I am hurt and I feel something worse than sadness. This is despair that I feel for these characters, who have been dealt–
Wait, I’m getting way ahead of myself again. That’s the problem I have writing about “Revelations.” I’m reminded of, first of all, “Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II.” How can you talk about the elections? How can you talk about the fractured relationship between Starbuck and Lee, or Shannon’s nihilism? THEY FOUNDED NEW CAPRICA AND IT IS A YEAR LATER AND THE CYLONS HAVE RETURNED gods help me.
That’s the problem I have with talking about “Revelations.” As yet another example of why my spoiler policy needs to be so strict, no one even hinted to me that this episode was a mid-season finale, and even worse, it was planned as a series finale in case of the Writer’s Strike not ending. I’m used to watching shows that have a specific narrative flow; and there’s really nothing wrong with that pattern! I like a traditional narrative as much as anybody. Sometimes, the best stories have a slow build to a climax, hinting at what’s about to come next. “Revelations” reminds me of a few other shows (and that number is very small, as most shows don’t take risks like this) that chose to leap forward with their plots and characters in extremely unnatural ways.
(I’ll be using rot13.com to cypher these two spoilers because I need to talk about them, but don’t want to ruin these shows for anyone. Just paste these segments into the box at rot13.com and press Cypher! to decode them if you won’t be spoiled by them.)
Spoilers for The X-Files season 6: Va gur zvqqyr bs frnfba fvk, jr trg “Gjb Snguref” / “Bar Fba,” juvpu rssrpgviryl nafjref yvxr 90% bs gur dhrfgvbaf jr unq nobhg guvf fubj hc hagvy guvf cbvag, naq xvyyf bss nyzbfg rirel ivyynva gur fubj unf rire frra. Nyfb, vg vf nznmvat naq cresrpg naq V xabj gung gbanyyl, gur guerr rcvfbqrf gung pbzr nsgre vg ner ernyyl shpxvat jrveq orpnhfr fb zhpu unf unccrarq, OHG: V ybir nyy “Nthn Znyn,” “Zbaqnl,” naq “NEPNQVN” jvgu rirel bhapr bs zl urneg.
Spoilers for Fringe season 3: V ynetryl guvax frnfba guerr bs Sevatr vf engure tbqqnza cresrpg, ohg gur sybj bs gur svefg rvtug rcvfbqrf, fjvgpuvat orgjrra havirefrf naq tvivat hf n evqvphybhf ahzore bs “nafjref” gb gur znva zlgubybtl vf trahvaryl hayvxr nalguvat V’ir frra ba gryrivfvba. Vg’f fhpu n hetrag naq rkpvgvat eha bs fgbevrf, naq “Ragenqn” zvtug sberire or zl snibevgr rcvfbqr bs gur ragver fubj. Rira orggre, hfvat “Znevbarggr” gb or n fbeg bs zvq-frnfba svanyr jbexf VAPERQVOYL JRYY. WSP GUVF TBQQNZA FUBJ.
Even if “The Hub” hinted towards, at the very least, the revelation to the fleet of the four Cylon models hiding amongst them, I did not actually believe we’d see this happen until much later in the season. More so than that, from the very beginning of the show, right at the end of the miniseries, we’re given an overarching concept, one that you expect to last until the final moments of the show. It’s the whole drive of the show, isn’t it? It’s the end goal, the light at the end of the tunnel, the carrot at the end of the proverbial fucking stick, you know?
Over the course of “Revelations,” the entire story showed me that the writers of this show have no qualms about taking a traditional television narrative, throwing it out the window, lighting it on fire with a flamethrower on the way down, and then dropping an nuclear bomb on it just to make sure I don’t feel fine at all.
I’ll tell you the first moment where I knew I had to discard this idea that this was going to be like any other Battlestar Galactica episode, that it was time to stop hoping things would turn out fine: when Colonel Tigh walked into Adama’s office by himself. There could not be any reason for him to be there except for a confession.
I don’t know what I really imagined for this moment when Adama would discover that his friend, one he’s known for at least ten years, is actually a Cylon. I knew this show wouldn’t play it lightly, and I’ve been saying that it would destroy Adama. That was an understatement. I have never seen him worse than the moment Tigh is arrested and taken away. I don’t think I’ll ever see him in a worse state than that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen disappointment manifest itself in such a visceral, ugly way. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHOW DOING TO ME.
I was equally impressed that Starbuck’s and Roslin’s reactions to discovering the identity of the other Cylons were largely silent, something that speaks both to how these characters behave and how close they were to these people. Starbuck was married to Anders, yes, and I’m sure she’ll come to terms with having frakked a Cylon in a future episode; we even see bits of Roslin’s shock, disappointment, and dismay at Tory’s reveal, especially since Tory is rather abrasive about the whole thing. (She’s just mad that Roslin totally called her on sleeping with Baltar. STOP BEING BITTER.)
The truth is, though, that there really wasn’t a single thing that could “prepare” one for these scenes. You could have told me that Adama got drunkenly upset about Tigh, that Roslin nearly cried, that Starbuck slipped immediately into shock, and it would not have mattered. Witnessing these reactions, which all three actors sold so beautifully, is all that truly counts; there aren’t words to represent the heartbreak, the disappointment, and the confusion these people go through. Even further, I’m glad that the characters even address the absurdity of this, Adama in particular making a point to note the flaws. How can Tigh be a Cylon if he’s aged? How can he be a Cylon if he’s known Adama longer than ten years? Granted, I still don’t understand this myself, and it’s one of the things BSG has left to answer in the second half of season four. There has to be some sort of timeline for how these Final Five Cylons were produced.
But I’m more interested in the why. We come to discover (after a particularly awful segment in which Tigh, Tyrol, and Anders are nearly flushed out an airlock) that the ship Starbuck brought back from Earth, which was an impossibility in and of itself, was actually the trigger for the Final Four. That music they heard? It was caused by her Viper, which used a Colonial emergency locator signal to help locate earth.
WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON. I mean, who placed that in her Viper? And why? Why is it so important that the humans find Earth with the Cylons? What’s fascinating to me about this is that there does seem to be something–a power, a force, an entity–orchestrating this. I like that Starbuck uses that word: orchestrate. This is not a simple case of cause and effect. This is an elaborate, far-reaching…hell, I hate to use the word conspiracy. There’s not much about this that’s a theory anymore, is there? There are too many clues and signs and pieces to deny that something is at work here with these people. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON, I say! oh god don’t answer that i am so goddamn unprepared.
The thing that was entirely distracting about “Revelations” at this point was two-fold: first, the story we are given is one about reconciliation. I was pleased that Adama gave the Final Four amnesty. He was making a choice to avoid war and conflict, something so terribly unlike the Adama we’ve seen over the past three and a half seasons. Is this what this was all for? I started to believe that perhaps this was all orchestrated not to tear humanity apart, but to unite them for the first time since the beginning of the series.
And that leads to the second reason I was distracted so easily by “Revelations”: there was so much joy. It kills me now, and it will kill me every time I watch this show and this episode in particular again. The fleet rolls the hard six, and when Gaeta announces that the constellations match up, that cheer, that roar, that din of ecstasy and excitement and joy…it is palpable. I started tearing up. I didn’t understand this moment because I didn’t know how the fleet could find earth so early into season four. But I refuse to deny myself the opportunity to feel elated on behalf of these people. After three years of searching, of years of undeniable sadness and tragedy and loss, Earth was found. They found Earth. THEY FUCKING FOUND EARTH!
When the screen flashed to black, I though this was where it would end. We’d get that celebratory moment, and save the discovery for the next episode. If I was confused by the discovery of earth, at least from the perspective of those in the CIC, then I was downright bewildered by the shot of a collection of colonial ships and a few Cylon freighters flying towards the surface of Earth. They’re showing this now? OH SHIT AWESOME. THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME.
The very first shot of Earth is as Roslin promised: she wanted to see him pick up the very first fistful of soil, and he’s doing that. I watched this episode along with my friend Jessica, and I almost considered using our chat transcript as the whole review, but this episode was too important for that. However, I think this is appropriate:
Me: I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS SHIT. THIS IS AMAZING. OMG LOOK AT LEE
Jessica: I KNOW
Me: OMG GAETA IS HAPPY
Me: OMG THIS IS THE BEST
Jessica: I KNOW
Me: omg this is overwhelming
Me: i can’t even
Jessica: breathing is hard
Me: what the fuck
Me: what the fuck is going on
Me: what the
Me: i am confused what is fucking happening
Jessica: what do you think is happening
Me: oh my god
Me: hold me
Me: WHAT THE FUCK!!!!
Jessica: holds you
me: WHAT THE FUCK
Me: YOU CAN
Me: YOU CAN’T DO THAT TO ME
Me: WHAT THE FUCK
Me: WHAT THE HOLY FUCK
Jessica: Well, see. There’s this show called Battlestar Galactica.
Jessica: and it’s purpose is to DESTROY YOU.
me: I CANT
Me: I CANNOT FUCKING DEAL WITH THIS
Me: WHAT THE FUCK
Jessica: do you have a small paper bag to breathe into? Because I nearly hyperventilated the first time I saw this.
Jessica: Because they give you ALL THE THRILLING JOY OF OMG YES FINALLY YES
Jessica: and then they give you a RADIOACTIVE WASTELAND WITH THE RUINS OF THE TEMPLE.
Jessica: and then they say “SEE YOU IN SIX MONTHS, SUCKERS”
Me: i can’t breathe
It’s been 48 hours since I saw this. It is no easier to deal with. I have never felt so much despair over a television show and I’ve watched Luther. I have never seen writers take such a risk with their show, to do something that will most certainly create unbelievably amazing stories from the wreckage of these people, but still risks alienating their audience.
I am not ever going to forget the image of nearly the entire cast of this show (those that are alive, that is) looking upon the wasteland that is Earth with varying degrees of disappointment, shock, anger, confusion, and, in the case of Tyrol, a detached satisfaction. (Seriously, was he SMILING?)
This is fucked up. This is a fucked up show. I feel fucked up. Holy shit, I was truly not prepared for this moment.