In the eleventh episode of the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, this is just too much. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
My primary concern at the end of “Revelations,” besides my own personal well-being over the fact that I was allowing a television show to become a life ruiner, was pretty simple: HOW THE FUCK CAN THE SHOW GO PAST THIS POINT? As brilliant and haunting as the end of the mid-season finale was, I started to have deep, distracting worries about how the show was going to take such a huge reveal and then move beyond it. True, there were still unanswered questions: Who was the final Cylon? Why was it Starbuck’s destiny to find Earth? What happened to her when she “died”? Where the fuck is everyone going to go? Still, the main narrative thrust was gone. This show has been about the quest for earth since the end of the miniseries, and now they’ve found it. And it’s an irradiated wasteland.
The cold open of “Sometimes A Great Notion” picks up from the very end of “Revelations” to drop us into this discovery as we see the humans and Cylons attempt to cope with the reality of what’s just happened. The whole planet has been destroyed in a nuclear blast, not just the beach where they stand on. As the details begin to flow in, the writers give us, over the course of 46 minutes, one of the bleakest, most depression episodes of television I’ve ever seen. Ever. It is incredibly difficult to watch, and I spent most of the time with my hands constantly flying up in the air in disbelief or fighting back tears. Understandably so, the characters take this discovery particularly hard, especially Laura Roslin, Adama, and Dualla, who are all so heartbroken and disturbed by Earth that they each fight back (and then give in to) a nervous breakdown.
I just…I knew that I was in for a horrible time after the scene where Roslin returns to Galactica. It’s beautifully acted by Mary McDonnell, but honestly…I couldn’t handle the awkward tension as she tries to find the words for the crew. What could you even say at a moment like that? What words could explain such a horrific revelation? How could you comfort that many people with news so arresting?
This was where my mind wandered to after this. I thought that this episode would solely focus on how various members of the fleet would cope with all of this. And “Sometimes A Great Notion” still largely addresses that, to be accurate, but I was shocked by how many new “answers” we’re given over the course of this story. More than anything else, they help give the remainder of season four a new focus and a new purpose. It’s clear that there’s a direction now, that there are still a whole lot of stories to tell on this show, and that this will never stop being fucked up.
Look, this is how it is:
THINGS I IMMEDIATELY NEED THE ANSWERS TO:
- How are there unfamiliar Centurion helmets on Earth?
- How the holy fuck is it at all possible that the Thirteen Tribe were made up of HUMANOID CYLONS? I mean…WHAT THE FUCK????
- NO SERIOUSLY HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE
- How is Starbuck’s Viper on Earth?
- DID YOU READ THAT QUESTION BECAUSE JESUS FUCKING CHRIST I NEED TO KNOW HOW THAT IS POSSIBLE.
- How is it possible that Galen Tyrol was on Earth 2,000 years ago when it was destroyed by nuclear blasts?
- Hell, why was Earth blown up in the first place?
- NO SERIOUSLY!!!! HOW WAS TYROL ON EARTH?
- EVERYONE I NEED TO KNOW HOW KARA THRACE’S BODY IS ON EARTH. HOW THE FUCK IS SHE THERE. HOW THE FUCK DOES SHE EXIST. Those aren’t even questions. They’re demands. I don’t think I have ever been so bewildered by a reveal in my whole life. THAT’S HER BODY. BUT SHE’S STANDING NEXT TO IT. THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE.
- On a less serious note, I think it’s neat that it’s totally played to make you think that she’s the Final Cylon, which is ironic given the end scene. GOD I LOVE THIS SHOW.
- Okay, back to MORE QUESTIONS: Why did Leoben so fiercely believe in Kara’s “destiny”? Why is this suddenly not part of it?
- How the FUCK did Samuel Anders write “All Along The Watchtower”??????
- HOW CAN THE FINAL FIVE CYLONS HAVE LIVED ON EARTH 2,000 YEARS AGO?
- why would you bring back lucy flawless just to take her away from me in the saddest way possible. oh my god my heart.
- HOW THE FUCK OH MY GOD ELLEN TIGH IS THE FINAL CYLON did she even fucking know??? DID SHE KNOW SHE WAS ONE OR WAS HER DEATH A MISTAKE? If she died so long ago, WHY HAVEN’T WE SEEN HER YET???? Like….she would have had to have downloaded after her death on New Caprica, which means someone must have been there when she woke up on a Cylon ship. soooooooo I KNOW THIS IS LIKE 40 QUESTIONS IN ONE. But I don’t care. Also: It’s kind of sweet that Ellen’s the last Cylon? Now Tigh won’t be so lonely OH GOD WHEN CAN THEY REUNITE.
- Okay, I have watched this a few times but WAS THAT THE STATUE OF LIBERTY BEHIND TIGH BEFORE HE FOUND ELLEN? what the holy fuck is this show doing to me.
There are some things that don’t belong in lists, though, and as exciting as all these new revelations were, it’s really only that final reveal that gives any sort of hope for the future. As the story twists between Lee, Adama, Roslin, and Dualla, we see how the discovery of Earth has brought people to their limits, and “Sometimes A Great Notion” represents what happens after this. In the case of Laura Roslin, she’s lost her sense of purpose. The guilt she feels after believing so many visions, leading the survivors of the colonies to a vast nothingness, is too much for her to handle. Cancer never even made her this vulnerable, and she completely shuts down. It’s painful to watch because…well, it’s not like she could have known that this would happen. Still, it’s a guilt that consumes her because it takes away the end goal of what she was doing. She was supposed to be the dying leader who led the way to Earth, and she’s done that, and it was a failure. It’s why she rejects her doloxan treatment and the touch of Adama. She wants to give up.
oh god why is everything so awful.
No, I’m just kidding, things aren’t awful yet! They’re not! In hindsight, there were a lot of hints towards where Dualla’s story was heading, but I was lost in the joy of reconciliation on her part, especially after she was clearly gutted by what she’d seen on the surface of Earth. When she returns to the Galactica, I genuinely believed that she was just trying to distract herself. She babysat Hera because it brought her happiness to see the child. (Well, I suppose that’s still true, though the motivation for it was different.) She sought out Lee to remind herself why she fell for him in the first place, to rekindle feelings she had fond memories of. It was a chance for a new start, I believed; this was a chance for the slate to be wiped clean. I was actually quite positive that this was the point of Lee repeating his speech to her after they return from their night out: with the search for Earth gone, the fleet can finally put their baggage behind them and just do whatever they wish. And in that moment, Lee wanted Dualla, and Dualla wanted Lee.
I generally don’t deal with suicide well because I have such an intimate history to it, but good fucking lord, I turned into an ugly mess almost instantly after Dee pulled the trigger. It was so matter-of-fact. The certainty of it will always haunt me. And it recontextualized what I’d just seen: Dualla was filling her mind and her heart with the things that made her happy so that her final moment would be one of joy and satisfaction instead of dread, terror, and disappointment.
And oh god, Seelix’s face. Gaeta’s face. Everything is awful and everything hurts.
It’s this moment that truly breaks Admiral Adama, though, and, again, when Edward James Olmos decides he’s going to cry, I get all uncomfortable because he’s a really good crier and then it makes me want to cry and then I can’t stop and then JESUS FUCKING CHRIST WHAT HAS THIS EPISODE TURNED INTO. As Adama keeps drinking, first furious at Dualla, then sympathetic to the idea that he let her down and disappointed her, he breaks. It’s ugly to watch because the first person he seeks out is his oldest friend, Saul Tigh. At this point, with Dualla dead, I started to worry that this show wouldn’t really shy away from killing off Tigh as well. Would this be the moment?
Instead, Tigh comes to recognize that Adama’s confrontation was meant to provoke him into killing the Admiral, that now even Adama wants to give up. The woman he loves doesn’t want his help, a longtime crewmember and friend killed herself, and Earth is a toxic wasteland. He sees no reason to move on, and the story he tells Tigh about the foxes at his uncle’s house exemplifies what so many in the fleet are feeling: they are just tired. It’s been three years of constant fighting and tragedy, and Earth was supposed to be the end of that. Where do they go from here? Why? Why press on? In a spectacular reversal of roles, it’s Saul Tigh that comforts his friend, telling him to stop drinking, urging him to accept that his suicide would help no one. In that moment, I think that Tigh demonstrates that he truly is Adama’s friend, and the best one he’s ever had.
Lee surprised me the most out of all the characters, though. I think it’s easy to misread his reaction as apathy. I think when Starbuck comes to him and he starts to tear up when he has to be the one to inform her about Dualla, we can see how raw his emotions are, how close he is to breaking down like everyone else. I think that Lee’s journey in season four is one of patience and resolve, so it seems rather natural to me that Lee finds a quieter way to cope than all the others. He’s been drifting towards this anyway; he was impatient, a hot head, when we first met him, and it’s almost like his character’s arc is like a coming of age story. But…an adult? LOL LEE GREW UP that sounds ridiculous. However, he was pretty immature at the start of all this, and that’s not how he seems anymore.
Still, I can’t forget how haunting and depressing “Sometimes A Great Notion” is. All of these characters are in a bad place, whether they’re confused about their origin or their purpose. I’ve been given a lot to deal with, and a very clear sign that there’s a whole lot more to deal with. Battlestar Galactica isn’t done with me yet.