Battlestar Galactica #61: Black Market

"It's hard to find the moral high ground when we're all standing in the mud."
SO SAY WE ALL: Lee Adama investigates the fleet's black market.

REVIEW: Lee Adama gets more despondent and disabused by the minute, becoming an edgier character with a death wish ever since he survived the attack on the Resurrection Ship. Given the task of investigating a murder that ties into the criminal black market that's been identified as a problem by the president, he's ready to go too far, because he'd rather be dead anyway. What undercuts this film noir detective story is, ironically, a film noir trope: the femme fatale. It doesn't come out of nowhere, seeing as he's being self-destructive and it fits that pattern, but we find out Lee has been seeing a prostitute, Shevon, regularly, and is in deep, emotionally. What DOES come out of nowhere is that he was seeing a woman on Caprica, a woman it is implied was pregnant (see Versions for confirmation), who died in the Cylon invasion. Shevon and her daughter become surrogates for a relationship he rejected and is feeling guilty about. The fact it was never established before makes it feel forced, and as fruit from the poison tree, so does the relationship with Shevon. When she rejects him at the end, we hardly care.

The crime drama is strong though. It seems clear from the off that Pegasus' commander, Fisk, is in on the black market, the way he tries to minimize its importance, and later "buys" VP Baltar's friendship with cigars. When he gets brutally murdered in his office - you'd think security would be a better, but the criminal underworld probably bribes a lot of people to make it happen - it's shocking. How many top officers must Pegasus lose before Adama is forced to send one of his guys over to run it? Thought for sure Fisk would be more of a recurring character. At the top of the food chain is the great presence that is Bill Duke as Phelan, whose is unimpressed by Colonial authority and so powerful he can have people killed in front of him and walks away without breaking a sweat. His villainy goes over the line when he brags about selling kids to pedophiles - about as dark as BSG gets, and geez, how many of those (presumably rich) monsters survived the Cylon attack?! - and Lee kills him in cold blood.

His men don't really know how to react, and I kind of like that they don't immediately take revenge. They have no loyalties. What the episode tells us again and again is that the black market is a necessary evil, one used by everyone in the fleet. The economy is trade-based, and Galactica can't ensure the equal distribution of goods. And some goods just aren't necessities. Getting toys or jewelry shouldn't be a priority, so someone will fill the gap. Roslin isn't happy with the outcome, but she's not being pragmatic. Apollo and Adama are. Lee's solution is a fair one. Let the black market go on, within limits. No human trafficking, obviously, no hording of medicines, and keeping it alive means it can be monitored. Killing it here would risk seeing it be reborn elsewhere, without the same limits. It's an adult and complex take on the problem.

CAPRICANADA: Lee's flashbacks take place at the Waterfall Building, same place used as Roslin's doctor's office, though the different angles hide the similarities.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: One element of the original series we haven't seen is the role of socialator held by the character of Cassiopeia. Here, they are simply called "escorts" and do not seem to have the same kind of accepted place in Colonial society.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL:
Fisk is killed, and the next headcount is 49,597, one less than in the previous episode, even though people were killed in a terrorist attack. (It's possible Fisk wasn't counted and that only the suicide bomber was killed in the previous episode.) We'll have to assume births are off-setting this small number. Two more people - Phelan and his assassin - are killed over the course of the episode.

VERSIONS: Scenes deleted from this episode include Shevon giving Lee a gift; Fisk's body being discovered; Dualla sharing her own death wish with Lee; the introduction of Renner, the Pegasus' XO, getting into Lee's face and getting the consequences; Lee and Shevon talking about the woman from his past (would have helped sell the ending); Lee threatening himself into Phelan's presence, violently fighting various thugs along the way; and the reveal that Lee's girlfriend was pregnant, which is what he wasn't ready for, and another similarity with Shevon.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A nice, complex film noir story, but Lee's flashbacks just don't work and are further not needed to make the episode work.

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