In one of his podcasts for the show - which have been distracted, but revealing - Ron Moore made a crack about the planning of the series. I'm paraphrasing, but he half-joked that if he were a smarter man, he would've figured out the whole story before they even got started: who the Cylons are, who played what role, and how the whole shebang would lead to the finale. The writers have winged it through much of the series, and this season we've had some fun calling them out on their errors. They had to retrofit a seventh Cylon because Boomer/Athena was model number eight. They had to change Tyrol's son into Hot Dog's bastard, because there could only be one half-Cylon. They introduced a Head Baltar, and then got tired of it. You could make the case that a four-year series could use better planning.
On the other hand? If they'd really worked the whole thing out from the beginning, who knows - that stupid kid they rescued in the mini-series probably would have been the Twelfth Cylon. So net-net, I think their strategy paid off.
But we'll know soon enough, because we're down to the last four episodes - and tonight's was a winner. For one thing, Starbuck's briefing filled in some context that's been missing (unless you listen to the podcasts). The ship is undermanned. Raptors are going out on long-haul missions, looking for habitable planets. And Tyrol fills us in on another crucial detail: Galactica is still in rough shape. Yes, they've wiped bio-goo all over the hull, but it'll only hold for a few more jumps. And after that? Well, there is no after that, is there?
I've got one more complaint, though, about the make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach to showrunning: while it's easy to believe that some of your good guy characters may turn bad, Galactica doesn't always pull it off convincingly. Take Boomer, one of the main characters this week. In Season One, she was a sleeper agent for the Cylons who thought she was a brave and upstanding pilot. We were on her side as she wrestled with her true nature and almost took her own life. But after she shot Adama, got killed by Cally, and shared the role of L. Paul Bremer on New Caprica, she wound up as Brother Cavil's pet and helped betray the rebel Cylons - at which point she became kind of a non-entity, until now, when we learn that she is a 100% snake in the grass, ready to manipulate anyone and do anything in order to serve Cavil. She tricks Tyrol into breaking her out of the brig and helping her get away in Athena's raptor. And she sleeps with Helo in front of his wife - which is a nice touch, because if she hadn't done something this spiteful, we might think she's simply an impressionable young robot trapped under Cavil's sway.
I'm not sure I buy the conversion, any more than I really bought Gaeta's. But I do believe she's bad news. The real kicker? Tonight she makes off with Hera, the little miracle/destiny child and the only half-Cylon, half-human baby in the universe. She's stuck in a shipping crate and headed back to Brother Cavil and the other evil Cylons. And no doubt she'll have to sit around making her creepy fingerpaint pictures while Boomer goes back to doing the naked Virabhadrasana pose for Cavil. My guess is, the humans are coming for her.
While that was the night's big plot point, we were also promised info on another character. The teaser focused on Starbuck, who, as you'll all recall, blew up in season three, crashed and died on Earth, somehow came back to life with a factory-fresh Viper, flew back to the Fleet, led everyone to Earth, Earth was a radioactive cinder, everyone got bummed out, and now Starbuck's hanging around a bar, drinking herself into a stupor and listening to some guy play piano.
We don't find out what's really going on with Starbuck. But we do get to see her hang out with her dad. For me, the entire episode hung on how well they handled this. Because let's face it, we knew where this was going. We knew, from the moment she starts talking with the piano man, that he's probably a Cylon-style projection, a figment of her imagination. We knew that whatever's going on, this is her dad, especially when he started reminiscing about how he left his wife and child to go off and play piano. And we know that seeing him again will give her some catharsis.
Were they going to hammer us in the head with it? I would've been happy if they'd never given us certainty - if the piano man had just vanished, and they'd left us in doubt. But the way they tipped us off was still graceful, as Starbuck finally recognizes him, and she smiles, and she turns around and he's gone. We're also left with a clue about Hera, and that song the Final Five hear, but, that doesn't interest me yet. I'm just glad Starbuck saw her dad again. It's a cliche to say that she needed closure on the man who abandoned her to a terrible mother and a lousy childhood. It's sentimental to say that she needed the emotional reassurance she gave him more than the story clues. But I don't care. Starbuck hasn't had many simple, meaningful moments, and she earned this one.
But it won't last, because not only have we set up the final showdown with Cavil; when Boomer jumps away, dangerously close to Galactica, she rips a hole in the hull. We're definitely in the endgame. And it doesn't look good.
Final Grade: A-
– Is it just me, or did the entire Galactica nation have a simultaneous nerdgasm when Starbuck held up her dad's tape and the title read, "DREILIDE THRACE - LIVE AT THE OPERA HOUSE"? I just wish I could've made out the name of the opera house; it was blocked by the cassette case.
– In case you were skipping the ads: the prop tube of Felgercarb Toothpaste - "the last Tauron toothpaste in the Universe," which Starbuck offered as a prize to all her pilots - is up for auction. So, that scene was product placement, for a tube of toothpaste that doesn't exist, yet you can buy it anyway. Good stuff.
– Boomer's entire escape - where she tricks Tyrol into believing she loves him (and maybe she still does); impersonates one, and then another Cylon of her own model; sleeps with her rival Athena's husband while she's helplessly tied in a toilet stall; and then sneaks off with the kid, but not before telling Tyrol that no matter what, she loved him - this is the making of an awesome noir. Writing genre fiction on the Galactica must be the easiest gig in the world.