In the eighteenth and penultimate episode of the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, the writers not only set up for the series finale, but take each of the main characters to monstrous or disturbing places. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
There are a number of scenes in “Islanded in a Stream of Stars” that are both touching and immensely difficult to watch. I am both frightened and saddened upon thinking of how close I am to the end of all of this, but I continue to be enamored with how the writers compose characterization and drama after all this time. I’m impressed with all of the post-Earth storylines and as we rapidly approach the very end, I’m pleased to have gone through this. It’s very easy for me to say that Battlestar Galactica is one of, if not THE, most intense shows I’ve ever seen. Here we are, just one episode from the finale, and they’ve still got it.
The opening sequence involving the hull breach is certainly going to rank as one of the scariest scenes in the entire series, both for showing us just how poor the quality of the Galactica is, and for giving us a Six who gave her life in order to save a human who was, quite frankly, being a goddamn bigot to her just a few minutes earlier. I suppose there’s something innately horrifying about the concept of being sucked violently out into space and freezing/suffocating to death pretty much instantly. It’s not a pretty, noble death, and for a show that’s given us a whole lot of death, it’s still my least favorite thing to see. As the Cylons continue to integrate into the human population, we see that a lot of crew members still aren’t all that keen on the “skinjobs” being a part of the general populace. However, it’s clear that the previously obvious line between the two parties is anything but obvious anymore. And a lot of that is due to both the Cylons’ desire to genuinely help out, and Adama’s outright acceptance of them. We know he’s struggling with the loss of the Galactica, finally conceding to this by the episode’s end, but he largely keeps these conflicts to himself.
The Cylons also face a problem due to Boomer’s kidnapping of Hera: leaving the fleet really isn’t an option anymore, and now they have another problem. It’s here that Ellen Tigh finally reveals where the Cylons went after the end of the First Cylon War forty years prior: The Colony. THERE IS A CYLON HOME WORLD JESUS SWEET PEA CHRIST. After the end of season three, and especially after learning of Adama’s backstory in Razor, it’s a thought that’s crossed my mind. Where did they go? How did they hide for so long, and what exactly were they doing? Quite a few pieces have been filled in for me, but now I am EXTRA EXCITED to see one final piece of the Cylon mythology. What little glimpse I got of the Colony makes me WANT TO SEE SO MUCH MORE OH GOD.
I was worried for a second that this wouldn’t happen. As much as I wanted a giant expedition to the Colony in this episode, Adama was right: he has followed far too many “visions” and calls to “destiny” in one lifetime. He knows Hera is important to Athena and Helo, but is he going to risk what little is left of the fleet’s population in order to do so? He certainly needs a better reason than what Ellen or Starbucks offer him, and I think even Roslin would have agreed with him this time.
And so he allows only a Heavy Raider to follow Ellen’s information regarding the location of the Colony. In the meantime, the perspective of the show switches over to Helo and Athena. It is heartbreaking to see how upset they are, and it angered me so much that Boomer had done this to them. Would Athena ever forgive Helo for making that sort of mistake, especially when he was so close to figuring out that it wasn’t his wife with him? I think that the degree that Athena is distraught over the loss of Hera is what motivates Helo to be proactive about things. Certainly, he also wants to make things up to his wife as well, so he goes directly to Adama to beg for a Raptor to go search for his daughter. Without a doubt, it was Tahmoh Penikett’s time to shine, the one scene that will always stick out in my memory when I think of this show and his character. I recall thinking he wouldn’t even survive past the mini-series, and I watched him, four seasons later, portray a man destroyed and broken by his daughter’s kidnapped. It’s gut-wrenching, absolutely. Ain’t no shame in admitting how misty-eyed I got during this scene. WE’RE ALL FRIENDS, RIGHT?
I’ve said it many times over the course of the reviews, and I don’t mind repeating it now: one of Battlestar Galactica’s great strengths is in giving us antagonists who are rarely painted in absurdly absolute tones. There’s no “evil” in this show, and even the most violent and heinous Cylon is largely sympathetic. It was easy to hate Boomer in her first scene in “Islanded in a Stream of Stars,” and it was the kind of visceral hate that comes from a character doing something so utterly reprehensible and awful that there’s no doubt in your mind that it’s an immoral thing. Given that, I was honestly completely shocked that the writers still found a way to take my resolute morality and crush it to tiny pieces. Oh, you want to feel like you can judge Boomer? Here, let’s make this ridiculously difficult to watch.
I can’t say I could pinpoint exactly what it was that triggered Boomer’s fierce sense of remorse over her actions, but Hera’s ability to project and share a projection is probably a good start. Not only did it confirm to us that this projection was real and wasn’t created specifically to manipulate Tyrol, but it forces Boomer to fairly quickly come to terms with what she’s done. Hera is the child she might have had if she had not shot Admiral Adama, if she had stayed with Tyrol, if she’d not been a Cylon. All these hypothetical situations could have led here, but that’s all they are anymore. It’s just an idea and one that can’t be made reality at this point. So Boomer takes what she can get, and in this instance, it’s the small and brief emotional attachment that grows between her and Hera as they head towards the Colony. The show doesn’t paint it as some great love, but simply a sign of what could have been.
That’s why Boomer breaks down when she hands Hera over to Cavil. She’s made a grave error, a miscalculation of her own capacity for love or affection, and the only sign she’s had of hope since the events of the miniseries. Like Tahmoh Penikett, this is absolutely one of Grace Park’s shining moments. I mean, think how terribly this could have turned out, especially since there’s no real way to paint her actions as anything but horrific. Instead, the show decides to give her character a new context, a new turn for Boomer right at the very end of this massive story. I LOVE THIS SHOW.
Even with all this being forced upon us, this final episode before the finale still manages to pack in some surprise, two beautifully touching moments, and one hell of a set up for the end of Battlestar Galactica. Because even though I was already freaking out over Hera and Boomer, and Helo and Athena’s reaction to their child being taken, there’s still SO MUCH MORE GOING ON. Roslin haves the Opera House dream again, as does Caprica Six. WHAT DOES IT MEAN. I DON’T GET IT. She doesn’t look like she’s doing to well, and I’m getting the creeping suspicion that she might not make it to the last minutes of the finale, and I WILL NOT BE OKAY IF THAT HAPPENS. But short of a miracle (of which multiple characters need one), how is she going to get better?
The fascinating that’s drawn here (and confirmed by Roslin herself) is that the two things Admiral Adama loves most–Laura Roslin and the Galactica–are now dying before his eyes. Death is everywhere, and that concerns me. The Hybrid told Kara Thrace that she’d be the harbinger of death; is this what she meant by that? Even worse, Anders, now relegated to being a hybrid of sorts for the Galactica, tells her exactly the same thing. Why is there such an emphasis on death in season four? It’s not just characters like Cally, Dualla, or multiple Cylons dying permanent deaths; we see representations of it elsewhere. Galactica is dying. Baltar’s “faith” dies when he’s forced to admit he doesn’t believe what he’s saying. Roslin is dying. The destiny and hope that came with finding Earth died when they found out it was also dead as well. The Cylons now possess the capacity to die as well, a key fixture we’d come to accept as permanent for three seasons. Was Starbuck’s return meant to trigger all of this? If so, WHY?????? NO SERIOUSLY WHY.
Also IS ANDERS REGENERATING. holy shit he’s a fucking Time Lord OH MY GOD
It doesn’t help at all that Starbuck goes to Baltar for help. As I said, the man’s crisis of faith has never been more severe; he’s merely going through the motions at this point with nothing to grasp on to. So when Starbuck comes to him and asks him to test the second set of dog tags she found on her own corpse, I did get a little excited. WHAT WOULD HE FIND? I should have instead anticipated that, once again, Baltar would do something to benefit himself. SURPRISE. I was mortified that he chose a GODDAMN FUNERAL to tell the present members of Galactica that Starbuck was dead, that the woman that stood before them WAS AN ANGEL. ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS, BALTAR. Look, even on the off chance that she is actually a goddamn angel (NO THAT IS NOT POSSIBLE LOL WHAT ARE YOU SAYING), I couldn’t believe the gall of announcing that publicly to the whole fleet.
On the upside, the public “outing” does give us my favorite moment of “Islanded in a Stream of Stars”: Lee coming to Starbuck immediately and giving his unconditional love and support. This is especially beautiful because we’d seen in “Blood on the Scales” that Lee had a bit of a problem with Tigh being a Cylon, but now, many days later, he seems to have gotten over that. To be fair, he is TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH KARA THRACE, but still! How goddamn sweet is this gesture? And then she puts a photo of herself up on the wall and then suddenly my vision is all blurry and my throat hurts??? What has this show done to me?
There’s no more fitting end to “Islanded in a Stream of Stars that I could think of aside from what we are given here. Adama’s relationship with Galactica has been shown to us from the very first moments of the miniseries. He loves the ship, and he loves his crew, and he loves his job, even if there are days when he hates it. It’s entirely natural for him to have a meltdown of tears in his quarters over his ship dying, and it’s another brilliantly acted scene from the man. (And, while I’m at it, he directed this episode and it is beautiful and he did a lovely job.) Though I must admit to laughing just for a few seconds at the fact that this show seems to have a volatile and emotional attachment to sticking characters into frantic situations involving paint. This is the third time, I believe, that someone has thrown paint around in some matter during a moment of angst. That shit is hard to clean up, y’all. You ought to be careful!
Adama’s final point to Colonel Tigh is an important one. Galactica is dying, and there’s no way he can deny it anymore. The two toast to an integral concept: it’s best for her to go out in style in the way of their choosing. It’s the action that gives her the most dignity, and it’s the only fitting end to a tumultuous but loving relationship. Even if the episode parallels the ship with Roslin, that closing scene parallels Galactica with Tigh as well. Things started out pure and certain, and through great tragedy and loss, things are one big ol’ mess of complications. But the love is still there, and it’ll always be there.
I hope you can join me tomorrow at 9am PST to liveblog “Daybreak, Parts I & II” with the rest of the Mark Watches community. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find a pillow to sob out all of my worries into and wish that there was more to this than their is.