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Battlestar Galactica “Lay Down Your Burdens, Parts 1 and 2” Review (2×19/2×20)

29 Sep

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“People vote their hopes and not their fears.”

The opening sequence of Part 1 is masterfully executed, with each scene flowing into the next and building a sense of dread as we see characters in dark places. Sharon, closed off and distraught over the “death” of her daughter. Tyrol, beating Cally after he has a nightmare of his suicide. Baltar, behind in the polls and taking Hera’s death as his own daughter’s death. As we see throughout the two episodes, there’s a bigger picture to all this dread: with a presidential election coming up and with morale so low, if hope should present itself in the form of a new planet, then people will even go so far as to elect Gaius freaking Baltar as President.

We’ve come a long way from the events of “Kobol’s Last Gleaming”, but what goes down in “Lay Down Your Burdens” is reminiscent of those episodes; for one, the montage at the beginning. Second, the fleet running into a new planet. Third, Starbuck calling Adama before she heads off to Caprica. What’s different here is the mood: whereas before, the search for the Arrow of Apollo seemed to impart a sense of hope to the fleet–as contested a mission as it was–now, the infatuation with New Caprica seems to exist out of a greater sense of desperation than before. Roslin had the reins then, but now, she has to resort to fixing the election in order to beat out Baltar’s powerful platform of “We’re going to live on this planet”. Fear of the unknown is quite necessary in their situation, but like with our current state of politics, lofty promises and political attacks win elections. The unknown is, simply put, a huge turnoff.

Of course, Roslin could remain President if she wants, considering she has the (fixed) votes needed to continue to hold office. At the same time, though, we know that it’s certainly something that would eat her up inside forever. Adama acknowledges that at the same time he’s acknowledging the stupidity of Gaius Baltar as President, and what results is a wonderful conversation that places morality up against the larger whole; this kind of morality play is, of course, a staple of this show. Roslin and Adama have similar mindsets with regards to Baltar, but can they live with the election rigging?

No, they decide. So, the results are overturned, and we immediately see what we’ve known since the first minute of the show: Baltar’s not going to be a good leader. Even Tigh, so opposed to Roslin at the beginning of the season, is joining in her reelection efforts, but in the end, it’s all for naught. Baltar wins, and ironically, he’s convinced that Roslin is the kind of person who wouldn’t rig an election; eventually, there’s some suspicion and eventually, Adama convinces him to drop his investigation, but again, he’s now the leader. Everyone’s heading off to New Caprica.

That brings us to the time jump. Oh, what a gloriously bold move this is. Part of me is a bit disappointed that we’re deprived of seeing things develop–especially considering some episodes in the season could’ve been spent on something better…like this–but another part of me is cheering about the shake up. The transition is handled flawlessly: the first image we see after the jump is Baltar, slumped over at his desk in front of a self portrait on the wall, and it’s an excellent summation of his character. Roslin had the whiteboard, and Baltar has himself. Roslin seems happy as a teacher, and Baltar is anything but as President. Roslin led them away from the Cylons, and Baltar has led the Cylons to them. In the end, it all comes down to Six, to Baltar’s delusions, to his narcissism, to his selfishness, to the fact that he’s probably mourning Gina more so than he is everyone else who died on Cloud Nine. New Caprica is now occupied by the Cylons, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Starbuck, however, is going to fight ’em until she can’t.

GRADES: “Part 1” (B), “Part 2” (A-)

SEASON GRADE: B+ 

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-The Tyrol-Cally-Cavil plot seems a bit…I don’t know, out of nowhere? I get why it could turn out this way and I get that his psychological troubles serve as a representation of the larger struggle with the Cylons, but again, pacing issues. Still, I like Cally’s apology scene, one similar to the one in the beginning of the season after she shot Sharon.

-The reveal in part 2 that the Cylons are leaving–news delivered by Cavil–made me laugh. It should’ve gone: “Oh, yeah, we’re done.” END OF SERIES

As rushed as the development is, though, it’s nice to see that the events of “Downloaded” have had significant effects on the narrative. I’d imagine that next season, we’re going to have an even more in depth look at the Cylons.

-The whole nuclear bomb plot ends up not having the impact you’d expect it to have after the explosion, eh? Maybe it just shouldn’t have been introduced in the first place.

-Ya gotta love drunk Starbuck. Speaking of, the Anders rescue mission sort of gets the short end of the stick here, doesn’t it?

-Fat Lee and Adama’s Mustache, coming to a venue near you.

-Ooh, Leoben. Lee and Dualla are married. Sure…? Starbuck and Anders are married. Starbuck and Tigh are friends. This is all so interesting. Who knows? This all could backfire, but I’m intrigued.

-The season in general is strong, but that stretch after Pegasus is easily the show at its worst. Cut those out, and you have one that rivals season one.

-Next up: Razor and the Resistance webisodes. Then: Season 3…New Caprica arc!

Photo credit: Syfy, Battlestar Galactica

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