Comparing Battlestar Galactica’s Hero to Unfinished Business would be unfair. The two episodes are very different beasts. Both are perfectly executed, but Unfinished Business packed a whallop far heavier than any punch Mike Tyson could throw.
Like Hero, I initially felt that Unfinished Business was founded on a shaky premise: to encourage the troops to blow off steam, somebody organizes a inter-rank, inter-gender boxing tournament on board Galactica, with various characters getting a chance to beat their frustrations and grievances away on other characters. I actually said to the screen: “whose dumb idea was this?”
Adama: It was my idea.
Me (looking nervously at the old admiral): Well, I stand by my assessment, sir.
Okay, bad idea or not, it’s one I can see Adama coming up with. And he’s been in the military, so maybe he knows more about these things than I do. And the people start boxing, and sure enough flashbacks start happening as old wounds start reopening, from the time on New Caprica before the Cylons came.
Unfinished Business is flashy and dynamic, a testament to the abilities of director Robert Young. The fight sequences are well choreographed, and there is a infectious energy to the crowd scenes. If President Roslyn is swept enough to give training advice to Adama as he fights against Chief Tyroll, then I’m sure as heck swept up too, just like Doc Cottle, throwing his own fists in excitement as he watches Helo and Lee Adama go at it.
The fight scenes are also interwoven nicely with the flashbacks to New Caprica — a New Caprica which seems sunnier and warmer to what we were treated to during Lay Down Your Burdens. Perhaps the writing crew could have spent a little more time hinting that the planet wasn’t all bad, the lives weren’t all struggle, as this change came as a bit of a shock, but that’s hardly this episode’s fault.
But again it is the characters that take it away. In flashback, the chemistry between Roslyn and Adama flashes white hot. You can almost see her signalling to him by semaphore: “I’m no longer President! There’s no conflict of interest, here! I’m available! Do me!” And the storyline of Adama letting Chief Tyroll and Cally resign their commissions and settle on New Caprica, and his later regret, is well told. Although personally I don’t know why he was so upset with Tyroll underneath, Almos carries it off. The speech he gives at the end of his fight is a window on a man who is still wounded.
The Adama/Tyroll storyline is one thing, but the scenes between Lee Adama, Starbuck, Dee and Anders is the highlight of the episode here, providing a resolution that leaves one trembling with the impact of a body blow. Back in the one-year-later flashforward of Lay Down Your Burdens, reviewers wondered what had happened to sour Lee and Kara’s relationship, and why Dee seemed so cynical and embittered. Now we know, and the truth is stronger than the speculations.
In the midst of the celebrations on New Caprica, the scene where Lee and Kara confess their love for each other and consummate their relationship are more powerful than anything I’ve seen so far this season, and that’s saying a lot. All of this is due to the acting talents of Jamie Bamber and Katee Sackoff, as well as the script (by Michael Taylor) that supports them. After Lee shouts to the sky his love for Kara Thrace, and encourages her to shout her love for him, Erin nudged me. “Look at her,” she says. “Look at her face. She’s not going to be able to do it.”
But she does it. And that makes it a million times worse, because of what she does next. (And the little feminine “eek!” at the end of it is just so endearing!)
The fight between Starbuck and Lee, a long time in coming, is brutal and cathartic in so many ways, and the final hug is perfectly played. We must also give credit to the acting of Anders (Michael Trucco) and Dee (Kandyse McClure). Their reactions set off this scene perfectly, and promise interesting and different directions for their characters. Anders, realizing (not for the first time) that his marriage to Kara is over, storms off. Dee’s reaction is more subtle. In this situation, she is perhaps the most screwed of this fraught foursome, and yet her reaction is not one of surprise. Am I seeing acceptance? Perhaps even a dash of happiness for Lee amongst the anger and frustration that must be seething through her? My sense is, she knew this was coming, and knew that it was the way Lee’s Universe had to turn.
And not a Cylon to be seen (except brief appearances by “Athena” Sharon). Amazing.
Thus far, the third season has performed much better than the second. Only Collaborators has come the closest to disappointing. Greg Staples wondered, after the expensive production values of the first four, blow-out episodes of this season, whether we’d be settling in for more character pieces, such as what existed when the series went into its rut last year. Well, the character pieces have appeared, but this is no rut. There is some powerful drama on display here, and wonderful character development. The scripts and the acting are firing on all cylinders here (I’ve run out of boxing metaphors), and Battlestar Galactica is once again the best show on television.