Battlestar Galactica #63: Sacrifice

"This isn't about Sharon. It's about something much bigger than that. It's about the long term survival of the Fleet. It's about the way we conduct ourselves in all of this."
SO SAY WE ALL: The Cloud 9 lounge is taken hostage by Dana Delany.

REVIEW: I've made no secret of my enduring crush on Dana Delany, from China Beach on up, so it is with grave sorrow that I have to report the BSG episode in which she guest-stars is probably the worst the new series has produced. It is bad on many, many levels, though not the acting. Ms. Delany and the regular cast are all on point, emotional, and as ever, watchable. It's just that neither the dialog nor the plot do their abilities justice. Ever since the big Pegasus blow-out, the show seems determined to do stand-alones that fit different genres or subgenres, leaving a lot of continuing subplots (the nuke in terrorist hands, Sharon's baby, integrating Pegasus, the Caprican resistance...) lying fallow. We've had a film noir detective story, a gritty air force drama, and here Die Hard on Cloud 9. But it's an ineffectual Die Hard that turns into an ineffectual hostage negotiation drama where the show's bleak outlook makes the action-suspense tropes resolve in a most unsatisfying way.

The A-plot has Dana Delany seeking revenge for the death of her husband by becoming an unlikely terrorist and though she's amassing evidence that Galactica is colluding with a Cylon (Sharon), she decides to rope some guys into taking the Cloud 9 lounge hostage and demanding Sharon be released to her so she can kill her. She could expose Galactica in some way, and might have made a strong political opponent for Roslin, but instead, this. I don't quite buy the character as taking up arms and ordering hostages shot. A bunch of characters we know are in the lounge when it happens, Lee tries to play Die Hard but fails because his plan isn't really thought through. Starbuck also acts impulsively and HER plan fails, leading to a sudden shoot-out that gets some of her men killed and gets Lee hit by nearly-fatal friendly fire. And later, ADAMA'S plan fails when he releases the Boomer's long-dead body to the terrorists and they notice, leading to another round of shots being fired and Billy getting killed trying to play hero. Like Roslin says at the end, not worth it, especially if all the action scenes are going to feature terrible slow-motion. It just feels like the show is trying to confound expectations too much and inverting action tropes for its own sake. The last several episodes have been piling guilt on top of the characters, and we really didn't need these events to add to it.

Most tedious of all is the soap opera going on. Billy asks Dualla to marry him and she refuses. Then he finds her confiding in Lee and thinks the worst. Things go pear-shaped before the mix-up can be resolved, but who even wants it resolved? It's too adolescent for Battlestar. Lee tries to give them room to talk, but falls afoul of Ellen Tigh obviously on the prowl and expecting some extra-marital action out of him. The scenes aboard Galactica between Adama and Tigh repeat concerns we've heard before about his blind trust in Sharon. We're really not getting anything new there. And eventually, it's the soap opera that makes Billy act like an action hero when he should keep his head down, perhaps trying to outdo Lee, and bam, he gets killed. This frees Dualla who is at Lee's bedside and flirting within hours, which really isn't a good look.

Billy's death is a great shame. As we saw in the very first scene, he's grown as a policy maker, but is still a moral center for Roslin. I like that he's about transparency. There's a behind-the-scenes reason for his departure. The actor was reportedly skittish about signing a long-term contract and the production made the decision for him, fearing he might leave at an inopportune time. His story feels pretty rushed. In one episode, he seems invaluable to Roslin, tries to advance his relationship with Dee, is rejected, and dies a chump's death trying to play hero. It's just another sore point that he goes out on a weak episode, almost as an afterthought. Ironically, it leads to the one good scene in the episode: Roslin's reaction to his body. She can't look at him, eventually plays with one of his curls... She's lost a surrogate son and it hurts like hell. A brilliant, raw performance, but alas, not enough to save the episode.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: Headcount is at 49,590 when these incidents occur. Sesha's husband Ray should be counted among the dead already if he was killed 10 weeks ago, but it's hard to say if he was part of a previous deduction, or if a birth offset it and we couldn't notice. Over the course of the episode's present-day time frame, two marines and three terrorists lose their lives. The hardest-felt loss, however, is presidential aide Billy Keikeya.

VERSIONS: A deleted scene would have shown the entire sequence of the husband dying "ten weeks ago".

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - The only reason not to skip this one is that it includes Billy's death and Roslin's reaction to it.

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