The Son Sets (The Son Also Rises Reviewed)


Image Courtesy Galactica BBS

About three quarters of the way through Battlestar Galactica’s latest episode, The Son Also Rises, Erin could hold back no longer. “This is just a bunch of words thrown at the wall!” she shouted. “Actors weaving side to side to give their dialogue a sense of emotional import.”

I’m not sure if this was an emperor’s new clothes’ moment, or if the episode just happened to choose that particular instant to fall apart on me, but my appreciation of The Son Also Rises diminished rapidly from this point. Overall, I had been enjoying it, though in the cold light of Erin, I realize that what I saw was a few strong performances and some slick direction masking a plot that wasn’t really coherent.

The episode opens soon after Maelstrom and we are treated to some excellent moments of Lee and Adama grieving. Lee prepares to tack up Starbuck’s photograph in the spot she picked out on the memorial wall, while Adama leafs through Starbuck’s record, her commendations, her medal for valor, disciplinary note after disciplinary note, and articles of court martial. But they don’t have much time to grieve. Roslyn is pushing ahead on Baltar’s trial, and tensions are running high on the fleet. We see the crew on the flight deck badmouthing Baltar’s assigned counsel… and then a bomb goes off in a Raptor, killing him.

It’s a strong moment, recalling again the horrors of Iraq, which made me swear at the screen. But then Roslyn assigns Baltar new counsel, and things both… pick up and go off the rails.

The replacement counsel they bring aboard is Romo Lampkin, played by Mark Sheppard (X-Files fans may remember him as the pyromaniac Brit in the first season episode Fire). He puts on a creepy performance which is interesting to watch, but is all sunglasses and gravelly voice and sinister, bizarre behaviour that it took Erin and I all of two seconds to shout at the screen, “No! He’s totally wrong for your trial! Find somebody else!”

I mean, think about this, you’re about to try somebody who has been accused of bringing about the worst disaster in the history of humanity since the Ice Age. You’re trying somebody who is pretty publicly despised for surrendering and collaborating with the Cylon occupational government on New Caprica. The fact that you’re even giving Baltar a trial is a testament to your belief in the legal process — a process where justice is seen to work well and quickly. Yes, Baltar deserves a fair trial, but a legal farce does not fit that definition, and Romo Lampkin seems the walking definition of courtroom theatrics. No good can come of this.

Still, Mark Sheppard and Jamie Bamber gamefully keep us interested as Lee Adama is taken off his KAG duties to ensure that Romo Lampkin lives to serve as Baltar’s counsel. There are some interesting mind games as Romo builds his case, and sews whatever doubts he can into Caprica Six. Then we learn that the man is a kleptomaniac, and that development allows us to catch the man behind the bombings, end of story.

And that’s really it. Not much point to this episode at all. The various actors essentially run in place and engage in conversations which are made to seem deep, without accomplishing much of anything. And then we come to the argument that caps off the end of this story, when Adama reassigns Lee to his KAG duties, and Lee asks to be kept on as Romo’s legal advisor. I’m sorry, but that just didn’t work for me. There is very little buildup on Lee’s part of any interest in assisting in the legal aspects of the case, his advocate grandfather aside. And the whole argument about who was ready to get over their grief around Starbuck seemed very clumsily written. The actors tried to make it work, but in the end, they simply couldn’t.

I’m not ready to call The Son Also Rises the weakest episode of this season, but I’m close to doing so, and may well do so on further reflection. It has all of the problems of The Woman King, but without the window on the worsening situation within the civilian fleet that made the earlier story so interesting to me. The Son Also Rises also has some nice moments, including the bomb attack, but especially the depiction of Anders’ grief, not to mention that of Lee and Adama. These feel very different from the other material in the episode (tellingly, written by Michael Angeli, the same person who gave us The Woman King), and I have to wonder if these parts weren’t tacked on by a different writer.

Overall, Battlestar Galactica has had a strong third season, with no signs of the rut that affected the second half of season two. Unfortunately The Son Also Rises may have thwarted the seasonal build-up to the two-part finale which starts next Sunday. I’m writing this now, suddenly realizing that we have two episodes to go, and no idea how they’ll close matters and leave us yearning for season four. That can be both a good and bad thing, but as it’s partly due to the fact that key elements of the season-running narrative have been left on the cutting room floor, I’m a little concerned.

But then, Battlestar Galactica has impressed me before — as early as last week, in fact. If Maelstrom was indeed the start of Act 3 part 1 of Battlestar Galactica’s four act play, according to Ron Moore’s commentary, then I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop.

And I hope that the missing scenes are properly reinstated into the DVDs.

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