Boom? Fizzle. (Rapture Reviewed)

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Image courtesy Galactica Station.

Before I start, I should draw your attention to Andrew at Bound by Gravity who is championing a wish by a local Ottawa child who is suffering from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Shane’s wish is to receive as many birthday cards as possible before his eighth birthday, which is May 30th. As wishes go, this one should be no trouble for you readers to fulfill, and I think it would be nice if Shane could recieve cards from as far afield as possible. Check out Andrew’s post for more details on how you can participate and please participate.

Now on with the review.

Battlestar Galactica’s Rapture may not have been the best episode to end a multi-week hiatus on. When we last left our heroes, The Eye of Jupiter had raised the stakes considerably. The humans and the Cylons were in a Mexican standoff over a planet circling a dying son. Both sides were fighting over the discovery of the Temple of the Five, another interesting clue as to the thirteenth colony’s journey to Earth. Apollo and Anders were at loggerheads over their relationship to Starbuck, and D’Anna and the other Cylons were at loggerheads over D’Anna’s drive to enter the Temple and see potentially the faces of the five remaining models of Cylons. Adama threatens to end the standoff with mushroom clouds, and it’s “to be continued…” after a six week break.

Rapture asks more questions than it answers, and it provides signposts towards several interesting directions the series could go, but I think I would be a lot less disappointed if Rapture was shown one week rather than six weeks after The Eye of Jupiter, because in terms of delivering on the first episode’s promise, Rapture falls a little flat. It carries over all of the acting, the dialogue and the directorial strengths of the first episode, but its refusal to answer some of the questions raised by that episode proves frustrating, especially when it comes to D’Anna finally having a look at the faces of the five remaining Cylons.

The build-up here is nicely handled, especially with regard to the other Cylon models’ increasing disquiet over D’Anna’s personal agenda. And the impact of the revelation to D’Anna, blinding her and making blood run from her nose as she dies, emphasizes that the information contained in the Temple of the Five is big. Frustratingly, we are never told what that information is. D’Anna recognizes one of the five Cylon models, and apologizes, but we never see who it is. And the fact the other Cylons justifiably decide to box her model suggests to me that we won’t find out for several episodes to come. How frustrating is that?

Then there is the supernova. It’s not a problem that there’s no surprise in the fact that the planet’s sun conveniently goes nova in time for the episode to end; the writers were careful to put that gun on the wall (indeed, they may have made too much of it, making the final explosion utterly expected). But the question, raised by Gaeta, about the tremendous coincidence of the humans and the Cylons arriving at precisely the planet at precisely this moment, is completely unanswered, only to have a new question raised around Starbuck: how was it that the Eye of Jupiter’s nova imagery showed up in her artwork?

Both of these elements hint at a mystical strain that has appeared a few times in the humans’ heroic quest for Earth, but Rapture represents one of the first times that there doesn’t appear to be a coherent plan about what the mysticism is about. This renders Gaeta’s astonishment over the heavy coincidence of the moment to what the Turkey City Lexicon refers to as “you can’t fire me, I quit”.

So, the Eye of Jupiter turns out to be a supernova — not the one that chases the Battlestar out of the solar system at the end of the episode, but one that took place 4000 years beforehand, when the Temple was built. That makes the temple one heck of a set and one heck of a reveal (remember the teaser to The Eye of Jupiter) for what is essentially just another signpost. Given the questions the temple raises, especially with regard to the Cylons (how is it that the five remaining Cylon models could have anything to do with a temple built 4000 years ago when the Cylons themselves have only been around for a couple of centuries?), I have no choice but believe that we’ve left a lot of information behind.

The writing staff have, for the past three years, been carefully building a backstory regarding the founding of the twelve colonies. We’ve seen Kobol and we’ve found it to be a ruin, destroyed possibly by a great war. We’ve also seen Kobol provide a mystical signpost pointing to Earth. I admit I was expecting something similar here. Between this, between Kobol, the other signposts, and the mystical messages that have been heading Baltar’s way through the hybrid (remember, he’s “the Chosen One” and looking more and more like Jesus every day), there’s no consistent picture of what this backstory is, and how it will lead the humans to Earth. My fear is, the writers themselves don’t know the story, which increases the risk that we’ll either not get an explanation, or the connection between Kobol and the Cylons will not be able to overcome the audience’s suspension of disbelief.

I have several concerns over the revelation that the Eye of Jupiter’s imagery has shown up in Starbucks’ artwork. One, it comes out of nowhere. Two, it asks questions that I’m hard pressed to see answered. Much less the improbably of a connection between the thirteenth colony and the Cylons, how is it that the thirteenth colony is connected to the remaining twelve, given that the thirteenth was never heard from after its departure from Kobol (supposedly)? Did some turn back before finding Earth, and integrate themselves into the twelve colonies? Why would they do that?

But I think my greatest complaint is the fact that it’s Helo that brings this up with Starbuck. Not that the writers can do much about this, given that it was Helo that spent time in Kara’s apartment and saw her paintings, but Helo spent almost no time in the temple. Instead, his story focused on killing Sharon so that she could resurrect herself on the Cylon base star and rescue his daughter. Helo has been put through the ringer in this episode, but when he goes to talk to Starbuck, he seems remarkably unaffected. The stuff he brings up is totally irrelevant to the story arc his character receives in the two parter. I mean, it’s like: “Hey, Starbuck: I just killed Sharon so she could get Hera back, and that reminds me: doesn’t the image of the Eye of Jupiter remind you of those paintings of yours we’ve all largely forgotten about?”

Given how many of the mystical elements of The Eye of Jupiter centered around Tyroll’s troubled religious upbringing, Tyroll should have been the one to bring the imagery up with Starbuck. As difficult as this would be to do in terms of continuity, it makes the most sense thematically. Without it, Tyroll’s story is basically dropped through Rapture. Had this conversation taken place between him and Starbuck instead of Starbuck and Helo, it would have provided the necessary bookend to his character arc in the two parter.

Better handled is the romantic rectangle between Starbuck, Apollo, Dee and Anders, as Apollo eventually caves to Anders’ demand (and his own feelings for Starbuck) in ordering Dee to rescue Starbuck. Again, the actors all round make the most of this intriguing character-driven storyline, with Candyse McClure stealing the show with her cynical response even as she loyally rescues Starbuck and works with her to get off the planet.

The direction for the most part is well handled, although the supernova and the final destruction of the planet feels strangely rushed, with the one hour between the initial explosion and the arrival of the shockwave taking place in a few seconds, and the rescue mission occurring in dialogue alone (and, don’t forget, there are still Cylon Centurions on the planet). Indeed, the whole episode feels rushed, with only a few story arcs resolved satisfactorily.

I wouldn’t call Rapture a failure in the same way that The Passage was a failure. In terms of the season’s development, Rapture is probably an important turning point for several plot threads. As a standalone episode, it continues the program’s tradition of excellence in acting, directing and special effects, but as a resolution to The Eye of Jupiter, it disappoints. Still, there is plenty of promise. The handoff of Baltar to the humans was well done (and Tyroll getting to bag him makes up a little for the loss of his more interesting personal story arc), and I’m sure many viewers are looking forward to the battle of wills between him and Roslyn that’s sure to follow.

Oh, well. It was still good to get my Battlestar fix after a six week hiatus. I’m still looking forward to this Sunday.


Galactica Notes

  • First of all, let me acknowledge the acting talents (again) of Grace Park. In the scene where Sharon Athena is reunited with her child, Erin was immediately able to identify the other Sharon in the scene as “Boomer”. Grace Park was able to carry two separate characters (and they are separate; their different experiences has turned one bitter and the other sweet) in one scene through body language alone. It’s a truly remarkable moment that a lesser actress would have flubbed.
  • It was also interesting to see Caprica Six turn against her former ally and go with Sharon Athena and Hera to Galactica. I hope something interesting comes of this which explains this development a bit more. It’s one thing to hand off the child to Athena, but another to abandon the Cylons and go into enemy territory. She didn’t do it to follow Baltar because she didn’t know he’d been captured by the humans. So why did she do it? And let’s hope the explanation is deeper than “because the writer told us to.”
  • With the (temporary, I hope) departure of D’Anna, one wonders how the dynamic with the remaining Cylons will change. Of the seven models, D’Anna stood alongside Leoben as the most mystical. Brother Cavill and Leisure Suit Larry (who was surprisingly absent this time around) were the most mechanical, in my opinion, less interested in touching the face of God than in simply ridding the universe of the human pestilence. (Simon is not developed enough of Cylon character for me to get an accurate impression of him — he may be a wildcard) Leoben now has no natural allies left, so will his isolation (apparent from the beginning of this season) grow, or will he take control of the agenda and continue to draw the Cylons along the mystical path?
  • It’s also worth noting that the faction (Boomer Sharon and Caprica Six) that talked about making peace with the humans is, effectively, nullified, with Caprica Six now on board Galactica and Boomer Sharon cynical following the events of the occupation, and the Cylons’ failure to care for the baby Hera. With the voices for moderation silenced and the dynamic now focused between mystical Leoben and mechanical Cavil and Larry, I expect the Cylons’ attitude towards the humans will harden.
  • Finally, here’s a behind the scenes shot of D’Anna’s meeting with the five, shot without that hyperwhite light that rendered the cowled figures nothing but white silhouettes. Here, you can see some faces. Though this is probably not an indicator of who these five are, make of this what you will.
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