The Black Market and Scar Reviewed

Please note that this review is full of spoilers. Photo courtesy of Gateworld.net.

Last week’s Battlestar Galactica episode, Black Market seems to have split the people I’ve talked to. Half like it, while the other half didn’t think it lived up to the series’ promise. It was noted that the episode tread a lot of ground that had been tread before, by other series. It was grim without pushing boundaries. It didn’t advance the plot, and it gave the interesting question of how does an economy function in such a situation only a passing glance.

I myself liked it, seeing a tightly plotted story bolstered by the stellar acting of James “Apollo” Bamber, and I do believe that his character arc was nudged forward slightly. We see his developing death wish and depression, and we know that Apollo is in a very dark place, and only getting darker.

Photo courtesy Gateworld.net

But yesterday’s episode, Scar, reminded us of what Battlestar Galactica was capable of. A remake of an episode of the original series bearing the same name, Scar drops us into the middle of the situation and doesn’t wait for us to catch up. While the rest of the fleet jumps ahead to wait under the protection of the Pegasus, the Battlestar Galactica stays behind to protect a mining ship that is gathering vital metals from the asteroid belt of a debris-filled solar system. With rock debris everywhere fouling up Galactica’s radar, Cylon raiders have plenty of places to hide, and they harry the mining ship and the vipers sent out to protect it.

One raider in particular, battered and blackened, has proven so effective in taking out Viper pilots, that the pilots under Starbuck’s command have taken to nicknaming it Scar. As Starbuck fends off a challenge to her authority by an up-and-coming hotshot pilot, she is hampered by the pressures of her new command, and by memories of Anders, the resistence fighter she left behind on Caprica.

Scar suffers from the fact that it is the third episode in a row with a heavy flashback component, but it is easily the best of the three, largely thanks to Katie Sackhoff, and writers David Weddle & Bradley Thompson who really give Starbuck some serious character development here. I like the fact that Apollo and Helo both know what’s going on: her contact with Anders means that Starbuck suddenly has something to live for. Moreover, she’s no longer fighting just for herself, but has responsibilities toward the pilots under her command. This has knocked the edge off her recklessness and has her reeling with uncertainties. She’s feeling the pressure of having her pilots’ deaths on her conscience, though she’s loathe to admit it.

The direction of this story is taut to the point of snapping. There are long stretches where the incidental music just packs up and leaves, and the actors give it their all. Luciana Carro as hotshot Lieutenant Louanne ‘Kat’ Katraine keeps the pressure on. Grace Park’s Sharon lends a creepy moment where we learn that even the Cylon raiders reincarnate. Apollo and Starbuck finally admit what’s really eating them: that whatever bright future President Roslin may be offering, probably isn’t open to them since they’re more likely to die defending the fleet than to survive. They’ve seen so much death, that they can’t remember the faces or the names of all the pilots that have died. Starbuck grabs at a live-for-now moment with Apollo, and I thought for sure that she’d cry out Anders’ name while they made love, but the writers’ tweaked our expectations. Apollo breaks off the moment because he doesn’t want to ruin his friendship to Starbuck. As depressed as he is, he has had more time with something to live for to simply live for the moment. Watching the strain on their friendship was heart-rending.

The episode all comes together when Starbuck breaks off her suicide run at Scar in very un-Starbuck like fashion. Hotshot Kat gets the kill, and Starbuck is forced to eat crow. Katee Sackhoff plays the scene brilliantly; the way she picked up the bottle, I was half expecting her to smash it on the Kat’s head. But she keeps her cool instead, and she holds it up in a toast, reciting the name of every pilot we’ve seen die during the series. It’s a powerful moment, delivered perfectly by Katee, as she struggles through the grief, and hesitates a long moment at the end, so wanting and so not wanting to add Anders’ name to the list.

Any possibility that she and Colonel Tigh now have a newfound respect for each other? The look that passed over his face as he watched the toast seemed to suggest it.

Scar is a brilliant character piece that pushes Starbuck’s boundaries. It may seem like an intrusion on the plotlines have been developing thus far, but it just serves to highlight the embarrassment of riches the show has in terms of characters and actors. Baltar was conspicuous by his absense here, though just a few episodes beforehand I was mourning the fact that he seemed at a loose end, his appearances somewhat grafted on to the story at hand. We hadn’t seen much of Starbuck during the early part of this season, and this episode really gives her character a boost. It’s grim watching, and hard slogging, but a welcome hour nonetheless


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