Hero Worship


Images courtesy Galactica Station.

Battlestar Galactica is one of those rare pieces of television where everything works together. You take some of the best actors on television, couple them with some of the best writers and some of the best directors, couple it with good special effects and send it spinning in a storyline that mines the drama of humans coping with terrible disaster. That’s the recipe for success.

Indeed, the recipe is such that it’s easy to take the actors for granted. It’s said that good writing can make bad actors look good and that it takes really good actors to rise above the material. The quality of the material on Battlestar Galactica is so high, it’s to the ceiling. Rarely do we get to appreciate how good the acting base is on Galactica, and it is the latest episode, Hero that affords us this opportunity.

I have to be frank and tell you that I wasn’t expecting all that much from Hero. I mean, the previews did not give me much hope: a man from Adama’s past miraculously returns and brings with him a dark secret that could destroy the reputation of the only man who’s managed, so far, to hold this fleet together?

I’ve already complained that it would be a remarkable coincidence if the five remaining models of Cylons somehow manifested themselves amongst the human refugees; to the producers’ eternal credit, they’ve addressed this. Still, it stretched my suspension of disbelief that, given that humanity has been culled to such an extent that the remaining survivors must almost-literally consider themselves to be winners of a lottery with worse odds than the Super 7 (a really, really fun lottery where you get to live in a spaceship, flee for your life, and all sorts of fun things), for anybody who miraculously escapes Cylon custody and miraculously finds the fleet, to be intimately associated with our leading characters. There’s even a nice scene which points this out, when Tori, the president’s aide, says to Bulldog, “we’ll see if any of your family survive” in the precise tone of voice that says, “don’t hold your breath.”

But those concerns were held before I actually sat down and watched Hero. I really should give Ron Moore and his crew more credit. They took every reservation I had and built it into the storyline. For example, what a coincidence that Bulldog escaped thanks to the same virus that we saw last week — apparently the quarantine failed… except that’s what the Cylons wanted us to think. Writer David Eick provided an explanation for every question raised, and still managed to leave himself enough time to concentrate on a solid character piece exploring the relationships between Adama and Tigh, as well as Adama and his son.

Bulldog, Adama’s hotshot viper pilot from his previous command, the Battlestar Valkyrie, is well played by Carl Lumbly and it should be interesting to see if he returns in subsequent episodes. The actor has a clear rapport with Edward James Almos and Michael Hogan, and that’s critical to selling this episode.

This episode also works well in Tigh’s favour, as he is tempted to use Bulldog to strike out at Adama, but pulls back as soon as Starbuck makes him realize this is precisely what the Cylons want. It can’t be coincidence that Tigh walks into the final scene wearing a spiffy, flesh-coloured eyepatch, just as Adama asks him to resume his duties as XO. The final shot of Adama and Tigh sharing a drink (which, in any other situation, would be seen as bad for Tigh, but here seems to be just the thing he needs), is wonderfully set up, suggesting that their friendship may be, at last, on the mend.

It’s Edward James Almos that carries things, however. Straight from the moment Bulldog’s stolen viper arrives, you get a sense that this is not a joyous reunion. It’s very subtly done, and anything more wouldn’t have carried off so well. The secret that Bulldog unleashes is also believable, and its implications interesting. Again Almos carries this. Though subtle action, he conveys his lingering guilty suspicions — however misplaced though they might be — that his actions a year before might have provoked the Cylon attack. And this is counterbalanced by Jamie Bamber’s strident shock that the Admiralty had a suspicion that a Cylon attack was coming.

Hero is an episode that works because of its careful balance. It could very easily have oversold its revelations, rendering it a shrill mess. But that wasn’t the case.. Hero is an episode that called upon its acting heavy-hitters, and they delivered.

I should also note Mary McDonnell’s performance as President Roslyn. She doesn’t have much to do in this episode, but she makes the most of it. It’s a wonderful moment when she shows that she knows that Adama isn’t telling her the whole story. And her scene with Adama at the resolution ties everything up wonderfully. “You want to be punished?” she says, paraphrasing. “Then your punishment is to stand up and be a hero to the fleet, even if you think you don’t deserve it.” It’s a wonderful moment, that Almos bears with wonderful tempered grace.

And let’s not forget the scenes aboard the Cylon ship — all pure set-up for a payoff that may be episodes down the line, but all interesting, nonetheless. Baltar seems to have finally found favour with the Cylons — to the point of having disturbing threesomes with D’Anna and Caprica Six. I don’t think Baltar has a line of dialogue, but the scene of him standing off to the side in the control room, behind that strange wall of water, appearing to be holding a jacket over his shoulder, is a nice visual, as is the other Cylons staring at him, looking… what? Befuddled? Bemused? Antagonistic? Stay tuned.

But D’Anna herself promises some interesting developments in future episodes, flashing back to her death on Galactica (the “End of Line” inscribed on the Galactica bulkhead was a nice touch, and an intriguing element of Cylon dreams) and then ordering a Cylon Centurion to kill her (and erase the record, strangely) so she could experience the moment between life and death.

And what a moment. Notice that the music echoes what was played in the halls of Kobol, as does the architecture, last seen when Baltar and Chip Six viewed “their baby” (Hera, who, incidentally, is in no way their baby, but maybe that will be resolved in future episodes). I’m left to wonder if we’ll be returning to Kobol at some point; if its contribution to the find-Earth storyline has been fully resolved.

Maybe the Cylon’s new home actually be Kobol, while the humans get to escape to Earth?

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