Little Earthquakes (Epiphanies Reviewed)

The latest Bloggers Hotstove is out! Be sure to have a listen as Bob Tarantino, Greg Staples, Greg Bester and I go at it, handicapping the Liberal leadership race and talking about the first week of the new parliament. It ends rather optimisticallly by praising all three federalist leaders (and potential leaders) and then Greg Bester decides to talk about sex.

And if that doesn’t get your attention, nothing will.

Note that we will be off next week, as that’s Easter Sunday, but we’ll be back the week after that.

Beware the foxes,
the little foxes,
the ones that spoil the vineyard.
- Song of Soloman, 2:15

The title of this post is yet another Tori Amos song, the theme of which is, like this Bible quote (quoted by Erin), that no matter the big challenges in your life, it’s the little things that will really hurt you.

Battlestar Galactica’s Epiphanies is a remarkable episode. Given that the series could hardly be expected to follow-up the fireworks of Pegasus and Resurrection Ship, a change of pace was called for. What was delivered was an episode that may have outshone the trilogy.

As President Roslin’s terminal cancer enters into its final phase, she struggles to stay conscious while Adama, Baltar and Number 6 prepare for the eventuality of her death. Even Roslin herself is making preparations. In what is likely to be her last meeting as President, she decides that the hybrid foetus inside Cylon Sharon is a threat to the fleet and must be aborted. She struggles to make the final decisions in order to take them out of Baltar’s hands, because both she and Adama know that Baltar isn’t ready to be president. Even Baltar himself isn’t sure he’s ready — a far cry from the ambitious scientist we saw in the mini-series 189 days ago (189 days? Geez, it seems like almost three years!).

As Roslin slips in and out of consciousness, she flashes back to her last day on Caprica, wherein she learns she has terminal cancer, and faces off with both striking teachers and President Adar (played with pinasche by Colm “Trudeau” Feore. Insert your Liberal-baiting jokes here). As she struggles to keep the strikers and President Adar’s forces from clashing, she goes behind Adar’s back to set up a last-ditch meeting. While meeting with the head of the teachers’ union to establish this meeting, she spies Baltar at the edge of the public square, making out with… someone.

The Caprica scenes are shot in a hazy, yellow-filter, sharply contrasting with the sharp blues of the scenes on Galactica. The Caprica flashbacks have an apocalyptic feel to them, almost like the sun is about to explode, which is appropriate given that we’re hours away from the Cylon surprise attack. If so, why the heck should we be concerned with the mundane things of government?

But this episode is full of apocalypses. By promising too much (in Adar’s opinion) to stop the strike, she gets fired. Her romantic relationship with Adar, already on the rocks, comes to an end. On the day that Roslin learns she has terminal cancer, she loses her job and her lover as well as her life. Her world comes to an end, not once, but four times. Each of these moments is carefully chronicled with the same sense of impending doom that has been the hallmark of this series. It is an illustration that even in days of total catastrophe, the smaller catastrophes don’t take a holiday, and in their own way, they impact the individual as much as the big one.

And let us not forget the fifth apocalypse that’s staring in the face of Baltar and Adama. The death of President Roslin will change the face of the fleet. Everybody knows it, and everybody, including Baltar, is dreading it. In the end, Baltar is forced to take extraordinary measures in order to prevent this apocalypse from coming about.

The episode may have been titled Epiphanies, but it could just as easily have been entitled Apocalypses. Tellingly, the two words are synonyms, meaning “revelation”, a sudden unveiling, or to uncover. Baltar looked into his future, and did not like what he saw. So he took a syringe and pulled the veil back into place. The episode is subtle and quite remarkable.

The rest of the story amounts to Battlestar Galactica’s usual excellence. All of the actors are in fine form, and I loved the directoral touches in this piece. More than just the Caprica flashbacks, director Rod Hardy offers some neat camera work in the Galactica scenes, especially a funny moment between Baltar and Number Six involving Baltar’s tie. Kudos again to James Callis for another impressive outing for Baltar. While he was a bit of a loose end at the beginning of this season, he is growing into a very conflicted character, and my interest in him is growing.

The president’s controversial decision to forcibly abort Sharon’s fetus is sure to raise controversy — as it should in this complicated program where there are no easy answers. Actress Grace Park lends considerable intensity to this storyline, but it feels slightly out of place in this take about Roslin’s personal apocalypses. There is nowhere else this story could go, however, and one can argue that the decision to terminate the pregnancy amounts to the episode’s sixth apocalypse. And there is something neat that it ends up providing the solution to halt (or hold back) Roslin’s death.

Yes, the ending is a technobabble solution, a Deus Ex Machina — the sort of Star Trek tripe that the show was supposed to have locked away. But I’m willing to give this series this one. Mary McDonnell is simply wonderful as Roslin, and the show would have been worse off without her. Erin notes that Deus Ex Machina is only really a problem when its use renders the struggle of the plot irrelevant. That’s far from the case here. Instead of resolving the issue of Roslin’s cancer in trite fashion, we get to see a side of Baltar we haven’t seen before. And now that Roslin has remembered seeing Baltar and Number Six together (the scene where she points and mumbles incoherently when waking up is another McDonnell highlight), the new plotthreads have been uncovered, that will take us to the end of the season and beyond.

And that’s the seventh apocalypse.

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