Battlestar Galactica “Act of Contrition”/ “You Can’t Go Home Again” Review (1×04/1×05)

29 May


Kara Thrace, for all her cigar-smoking, wise-cracking, badass ways, is still human. These episodes remind us of that fact, and “Act of Contrition” in particular is a heart-wrenching study of the show’s most fascinating character.

Here, she’s vulnerable, wracked with guilt, still pained from Zak’s death and the role she indirectly played in it. Here, we see memories haunting her, the jarring shifts between the various scenes reflecting the way we actually think: how often do we truly zero in on one memory for an extended period of time? We jump around, and during times of guilt and pain, those memories can overwhelm us, closing in on us as it does for Kara here.

Katee Sackhoff carries this episode, wearing her emotions through her body language and carrying the weight of not only Zak’s death, but those of the freak accident that takes place at the beginning of the episode. One of the most genuinely human moments occurs when she can’t focus on playing cards; instead, we see an image of Zak touching her ear. It’s these simple moments that emphasize just how much of an intimate character drama this is.

Going off that point, the card games and the pilot ready rooms are where we’ve seen Kara at her most playful and entertaining. Now, though, her cockiness during her address to the nuggets is anything but; she’s always had that sense of humor and that unwavering self-confidence, but sometimes, those traits are used as a shield, an attempt to convince herself of her own strength as it is to convince the nuggets.

This all culminates in the scene of the season: Adama asking point-blank about what happened. I cannot praise Sackhoff and Olmos enough for this gem, one of the most raw, well-acted scenes I’ve seen in a while. Kara’s let herself down, but more importantly, she’s realized she’s let Adama down, one of the people she’s incredibly close to and who loves her like a daughter. We can tell Adama’s expecting something bad, but is quietly pleading for it not to be the case; when he gets confirmation, his face hardens and “Walk out of here while you still can” is a chilling line.

While “Act of Contrition” is about Kara on an emotional precipice (and instead of being trapped by her memories, she’s literally trapped here), “You Can’t Go Home Again” delves into Adama’s side of things. He becomes driven by emotion over logic, one person over the good of the fleet; he and his son recognize that what they’re doing is hurting their chances of survival, but it’s not until Roslin lays into them and calls them out that they decide to abandon the search. As cold as he was at the end of “Act of Contrition”, there’s no denying that Kara’s important to him; in fact, never before have we seen him this close to losing it.

Starbuck, on the other hand, is back and is as resourceful as ever. The Raider plot is a bit too easy, but the Raider itself is interesting; it’d make sense that the Cylon flying machines would be a hybrid of technology and organism, and it’s certainly something I haven’t seen before. Eventually, Starbuck’s able to fly it back to the Galactica, and what I like about the final sequence is how triumphant it feels; “Act of Contrition” made us truly care about her, so we’re rooting for her throughout “You Can’t Go Home Again”.

Although I feel like the whole Kara-Adama plot could’ve used a few more episodes–my main criticism of “You Can’t Go Home Again” is the fact that it feels as if the writers are modeling everything around this supposedly self-contained two-episode arc–the actual reunion scene is fantastic. Instead of Adama quietly pleading, this time it’s Kara, looking up with hope in her eyes, with a desire to know that his parting words were not absolute. When he congratulates her–accepts her, even–she breaks down into tears. She’s human and she has flaws, and that’s why we root for her.

Starbuck. Ya gotta love her.

GRADES: “Act of Contrition” (A), “You Can’t Go Home Again” (B+)

Photo credit: Syfy, Battlestar Galactica




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