what would an angel say, the devil wants to know

Nov 07, 2010 09:31

This was going to be a three-episode post but then my Day in the Life thoughts got entirely out of control.  SHOCKED.  I KNOW.

Taking a Break from All Your Worries

Given that Lay Down Your Burdens meant “giant horrible burdens all around”….this worries me.  I’m concerned.  In seriousness, I loved this episode.  This.  This is delightful.  (Because I consider excruciatingly detailed depictions of torture and miserably dysfunctional relationships delightful, I guess?  ISSUES.)

Watching Laura yell is just shocking.  We’ve never seen her lose it in front of anyone before, and while this is clearly a show, I think she’s letting herself let loose on him to a direct purpose.  I actually think it was a mistake sending Laura in to yell at him instead of Tigh.  Baltar would know that’s not her MO.  I don’t know why, but Laura’s hand movements when she tells Tigh to “TAKE him [thumb over her shoulder] and throw him out the nearest AIRLOCK [hand across her throat]” are just perfect.  It feels just the right amount staged, to tell us she’s putting on a show, even if we also know she’s saying what she really feels.  It’s also a bit of a shock seeing her light up the cigar, I don’t think we’ve ever seen her smoke except when she’s fully relaxed.  She’s going through with this because it’s useful, but she’s clearly enjoying it even before she confesses this to Bill.

Laura goes from “the other Cylons” when talking about Gaius (she thinks of him as a Cylon), and telling him she thinks the difference between him and the Cylons is “an academic distinction,” from her final ascertainment that he’s one of us, he’s a person, he deserves a trial.

Though I think she believes that, I think she’s also recognizing something Adama doesn’t get, which is that the trial isn’t about Baltar at this point.  There’s no acquittal, there’s no impartial jury, there’s not even a law damning enough for what he did.  It’s about assigning guilt, if not by confession then by judgment.  It’s about giving the New Caprica survivors closure.  It’s about subtly Othering Cylons by making a big production of the rights humans get.  It’s about forcing some truth out of someone, one way or the other.  It’s about making someone pay for the genocide.  It’s bigger than Baltar.  The fact that she’ll get to see Baltar squirm without tormenting her own conscience is a bonus and I think she’s looking forward to it, but that’s not why.

I like this episode for Bill.  I’d rather a hundred times over have his dangerous side brought out to the forefront than have it hidden behind posturing about ideals he has no intention of upholding when push comes to shove.  The show has no illusions about just how dark this character is.  The drugs he administers are on Galactica and he knows exactly how to perform the interrogation (and you know he would love the shit out of how he sounds like the voice of Zeus in Baltar’s head).  That’s not just having something on hand.  That’s having been directly involved in the trials.  Bill’s chest-pounding at Laura in that last scene, about how Baltar could just vanish, misses the point.  it’s a direct callback to the actions of Zarek just after the rescue mission, and it’s both wrong and foolish for the same reasons.

“We tried the stick; it’s time to try the carrot.”  Baltar is in exactly the place Gina was in on the Pegasus, only the person arguing against torturing him is someone who hates him.  I’m really intrigued by the exploration of the interplay between interrogation and torture.  Because making him fear for his life in order to get him to talk is exactly what they just did.  They tried to drive him to confession through sleep deprivation which can drive a far more stable person than Baltar to desperation.  But actually changing his brain, even temporarily, rather than messing with it?

I feel like a terrible Gaius fan for not having a while lot to say about him in this episode.  But he’s just perfect undiluted Gaius from top to bottom.  He’s a twisted imitation of common western depictions of Christ, with the beard and flowy hair being tortured by his own people, as they keep reiterating.  And that’s how he has to see himself just to stay with it, as the beseiged Chosen One, even though he clearly knows what he did.  He finally admits that he was hoping all along to have been a Cylon, because then nobody was betrayed.  If it’s all programming - if it’s a computer or a god or Six or whoever, nobody committed the terrible crimes he has committed.  The show uses the Baltar-as-Cylon fakeout for the second time, and then puts it to bed.  He rolls what he did and his feelings for Six all into the same thing, and he doesn’t know what she is to him, any of her iterations.  Is she an angel, or is she a demon? (He doesn’t think to ask himself this before the admiral takes Six’s place in his head again; it’s this substitution that jars him into honesty in a lot of ways.)  His story right now is that he’s the brilliant scientist who for one just doesn’t understand.  He’s never not understood before.  And that’s why they’re not going to get anything useful out of him.  He’s past coherence.

And OMG Gaeta!  I actually don’t know what he thought was happening with Baltar, though it was also cute that he thought to get suited up before he went to the jail cell.  And oh, neither does Roslin, hmm.  Also, “Mr. Gaeta,” rather than ‘Lt. Gaeta,” or whatever his military title is now.  Everyone thinks of him as a scientist.  I really really want to know what Baltar said to him at the end.  I don’t think Baltar’s suggestion that Gaeta was “play[ing] both sides” is anything more than manipulation of Gaeta as well as the folks who are watching them.

I have to say, I don’t believe Lee/Dee.  Not like I can’t believe the show WENT THERE.  I just don’t buy it.  Kara/Sam I actually do buy, I get what they had and have and what it’s been, but Lee/Dee just doesn’t ring true to me.  There’s nothing to back up the very intense emotional honesty that we see from the two of them in this episode.  I mean, the actors sell the shit out of it, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense.  I don’t know what they do for each other, or what they see in each other, if anything I think they hold each other back instead of helping each other grow.

And it’s spilling into the rest of their lives.  Lee drinks when he’s down and it brings him down further, he’s a mopey drunk.  It’s not just Dee being pissy, the bartender knows him by name.  And that’s been happening a lot, to the extent that nobody on the crew is particularly concerned or surprised when he drops his ring and has the drunken meltdown in the corridor.  (Though, pathetic as he is right now, what the fuck is wrong with all of these people at this point, that they can just wander on by someone sitting on the floor crying?  Or is he that much of a jackass to everyone?)  He’s also taken to almost always wearing his uniform - at the bar when he’s trying to relax, he passes out in his dress pants, he’s in uniform when Kara approaches him.  He’s suited up until he sits down to dinner with Dee.  He’s trying to hold it all in and hide behind his job, but that facade only lasts for so long.

Since when are Lee and Tyrol such besties?  Since the Eye, I guess.  They’d be each others’ only option to be close on some level, as well, since they’re high-ranking officers who don’t actually have conflicting authorities; they can let their guards down in front of each other in a way they probably can’t in front of the people they spend most of their time with, especially given the romantic entanglements for both of them.  They don’t quite let each other in - Tyrol is obviously holding something back about his feelings for Sharon, Lee doesn’t reveal why he asked - but there’s the recognition that they can.

Love how Dee, in contrast, is drinking white wine, because that is Good Girl alcohol; certainly nobody has ever made a terrible decision under the influence of white wine.  In seriousness, Dee just does not seem to have anyone besides Lee.  The last people we’ve seen her voluntarily talk to besides him are Bill (obviously she can’t confide in him about her marriage, ew, especially since there’s nothing he can tell her that she doesn’t already know) and Gaeta, way back before the occupation.  I don’t think she’s pushing him because she’s the Little Woman, I just don’t think she has anyone else.

Lee’s confession of his love to Dee, which we suspect might not be true, intercut with Gaius’ confession which we know is a rationalization.  In the end, Dee buys it because she wants to, and Lee forces himself to believe what he’s saying because, like Gaius, he has to.  But it’s just as wrong as what Gaius is saying.  You are good for me, Dee, and I need you? I mean, she’s not good for him, I don’t think - whether or not Kara is good for him, and I am uncertain at best on that point, I don’t think Dee is good for him or that he’s particularly good for her.  Like with Kara in the last set of episodes, I think he’s making such an effort to honestly speak his thoughts - and his admission of love for Kara is a huge step for him - he doesn’t quite realize that he’s saying them out loud to somebody, who’s going to interpret them in her own way.  I don’t think he really expects anyone to be listening when he talks.  To the extent that he asks Dee what the point of their marriage is, and she calls him on his bluff and remembers that there isn’t one, or at least, not the point that they want it to have.

And he certainly doesn’t expect Kara to listen to him, though he has a little more reason for that.  He at least acknowledges why he can’t go out on a limb for her entirely.  She won’t admit that Sam tried to push her towards Lee - because that would give Lee too much power, and because it would just crush Lee to be able to tell himself that he’s her second choice - and he has no reason to believe.  He expects her to make decisions the way she always has, without showing any previous thought, so he doesn’t think her word means anything.  He forgets that this is actually the farthest out she’s gone for him without prompting from him.  (Also, she snaps “thinking is what you’re best at” like it’s some kind of insult, but it’s just true.  And a pretty useful and rare characteristic in this group of people.)  She’s done something huge with him, tried to face up to her feelings and take a step forward with him, but he pulls back.  He needs her to accept him, for some reason; he has to think it’s up to him somehow.

The Woman King

I’m just going to jump right into the exploration of systemic racism here.  It was fairly clear from the beginning that Helo’s accusations weren’t unfounded.  But Roberts is a Good Guy.  He’s one of Us.  And the military brass ends up closing ranks around Roberts passively, by refusing to investigate.  That’s privilege.  They don’t have to worry about it, so they won’t.

The tipoff of Roberts maybe should have been the way he sells the vaccine to Helo all wrong.  He goes home to his kid every night.  That’s how you convince him.  He wouldn’t put himself ahead of other people without a fight but Hera?  In a heartbeat.  While the doctor’s decision that Helo deserves it because he’s a viper pilot and one of us is appalling and wrong, he really does have to be vaccinated if he’s going to live in the barracks, though; the refugees are kind of quarantined by default since they all live on the deck, but not Helo.

I’m up and down on the way they handle vaccinations.  Obviously the civilian doctor is way way the hell over his bounds even before we find out he’s executing (telling himself he’s euthanizing) people, claiming it’s okay to vaccinate people while they’re unconscious.  But the officers are approving under-vaccinating, too.  I don’t think the kids on board should have to be at risk for dying because of their parents’ fundamentalism.  Treat it like schools.  Kids have to get shots.  Parent’s don’t get to sentence their kids to death.  Cottle’s point about doing everyone is taken as well.  The civilian doctor is owning up to playing god well before we know just how terrible his motivations are.

In particular, Adama not following up on Helo’s suspicions is kind of shocking, since he’s pretty good about following up on potentially important information no matter how unreliable the source (Mrs. King had every reason to lie and no reason to even be in touch with the truth at the time).  He doesn’t have the attachment to Roberts that Tigh had, either, from their time on New Caprica.  He just can’t be bothered to pay attention to the Saggitarons.  He’s starting to think in terms of The Enemy, focusing only on the Cylon threat, rather than in terms of why they are protecting humanity from the Cylons.  Between this and the involuntary drugging of Baltar in the last episode, he’s going down Cain’s road.  I think he has Roslin to keep him from going too far, but it’s worth the reminder that he could.

And Sharon.  Sharon acts as gatekeeper and model minority here.  I have to prove I’m good enough, they should all be proving it too, and if they won’t, I’m going to push myself away from them at any cost.  It’s about keeping her place in the pecking order, not the way it’s about questioning the pecking order the way it is for Helo.

She subtly does the same thing when she visits Six.  She’s the one who tries to put the prisoners’ dilemma into play, telling Six that her way to survival is to rat out Baltar.  I don’t think that Sharon is even necessarily lying when she says that’s the key to acceptance; she got acceptance herself by cooperating while incarcerated, and she owes Caprica Six a great debt of gratitude for helping her to take back Hera, but she’s clearly been instructed to say what she says.

I actually weirdly enjoyed the fight between Helo and Sharon, if only because it’s refreshing to see them be able to trust each other enough to let loose with their anger at each other and the rest of the ship without descending into violence, threats, or name-calling.

Helo’s blows at her are pretty harsh, though, when he starts to say that maybe he deserves the treatment he gets.  If he deserves to be punished for crossing lines…she’s the biggest line he ever crossed, so what’s he saying when he lumps their relationship in with all the other things he’s done?  But all in all, it is kind of the same thing to Helo.  He really does believe in a high level of moral responsibility that allows him to stand by Sharon as well as stick up for the Saggitarons when he thinks something is up with Roberts.  Sharon assumes it’s terrible because she’s trying to distance herself from the refugees and keep Helo’s (and by extension her) name out of gossip.

The episode could also have been a little more Dee-centric than it ended up being, especially since we’ve heard her reject Saggitaron extremism from the very beginning, as she’s the hardest on Zarek out of all the crewmembers we hear talking about him way the hell back in Bastille Day.  She’s got more reason to be angry at the Saggitarons than anyone else.  She doesn’t mind Tyrol’s trash-talking; she’s far less bothered by it than Lee is.  (Interesting moment for the two of them; we don’t know what planet Tyrol is from but we know he’s bailed on a super-religious lifestyle same as Dee.)

And yet I don’t know.  It ends up being more about Helo’s journey than any of the Saggitarons’, even Dee’s or Zarek’s, and so it ends up being the white Caprican savior who’s important in the story of oppression.  And that’s unfortunate.  (Interesting spin on this of course is that Tahmoh Penikett has deep roots in the White River First Nation.)  It is a wonderful episode for him, though.  We finally see that he does step back and doubt himself and worry about his place in the crew and question his ideals, and that’s important to keep him from being solely an annoying shit.  His ideals are far more credible when they’re hard-earned this way.  And we know that the brass really doesn’t have a whole lot of reason to give him the benefit of the doubt, not so much because he married Sharon but because he helped her re-upload herself onto a Cylon ship recently.  His faith in her ended up to be proven well-founded, but those subconscious seeds of doubt stick around for a while.  And in general.  Tahmoh.  Holy shit.  He's so great this season.

Unsure what the fallout from this episode will be with the Saggitarons.  OTOH their fears of doctors and resentments of Capricans have been brutally confirmed by Roberts, but they’ve also had the opportunity to see with their own eyes that Helo, Cottle, and Tigh do eventually stop allowing it.

Public health isn’t the only civil problem raised in this episode, though.  “This trial is going to bring this fleet down.”  Zarek has jumped completely on his position of power.  He’d know about off-the-wall political unrest, seeing as how he spent his whole life before this formenting it.  Of course he is terrified.  If anyone still thinks of him, they either think he’s a sell-out or a terrorist hiding in plain sight.  He doesn’t offer Roslin any particular insight she might be able to use, though, just tries to convince her that her ideas are dangerous.

I actually expected to hear more from him this episode, since we met him as the voice of Saggitaron extremism.  It would be especially interesting given his avowed secularism to hear him claim his Saggitaron identity while still arguing on the side of science as we know he has and would.  (How are the Saggitarons suddenly pacifist “religious freaks” when Zarek had such good press among them?  And I thought the Geminons were the super-religious ones?)

The way humans treat other humans shows up in sharp relief with our observations of Six in captivity.  She’s actually treated much better than the Saggitarons, because though she’s far more the enemy than they are, she’s also valuable.  OMG HEAD!BALTAR LOVE.  So you’re here to save him? Baltar doesn’t use a lot of first person on his own, but especially in Six’s head.  Baltar’s head!Six always refers to every incarnation of Six in the first person.  It’s always her.  Baltar is the opposite, he can’t even own up to himself.  Even Six (or Baltar himself) thinks he’s a completely different person now than he was before the attack.  No weight on his conscience, and so no empathy for someone in the spot Six is in right now.

We finally see someone react to the weirdness that has been Baltar all along, with Laura and Tori observing the one-sided caress.  They expected him to be talking to himself and twitching around strangely, because he’s a genius, they’re strange.  But because they expect Six to be different and sinister, her behavior looks suspicious to them.  I’m not sure if the fact that she’s seeing Baltar would be as bad as communicating with other Cylons, or maybe even worse.

other thoughts
  • Gaius’ lullaby at the beginning is awesomely creepy; I actually couldn’t tell who it was at first and wondered if it was one of the families on board.  It didn’t sound like Sharon and Helo, but it could easily have been Callie and Tyrol.
  • Actual “fuck” count is up to two - when Helo and Sharon are fighting, I’m pretty sure he yells “oh, that’s right, it’s all in my fuckin’ head.”
  • I thought I was making it up, but there are slightly different opening credits every episode.  this show.  this effing show.  oh, when it’s paying attention, it’s art in every beautiful detail.  it’s so many people’s baby.

bsg, race, episode reviews

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