Monday, March 16, 2009

Daybreak, part 1

After an opening sequence that recaps the last episode and with no hints of what’s coming in the opening credits, we get a montage that begins with a pigeon flying against a skylight and ends with a shot of Vancouver, or rather, Caprica City, and the words, ‘Caprica City Before The Fall’. It’s interesting that the sequence is bookended with such obviously Biblical imagery. The dove - and a pigeon is a dove, a rock dove - is symbolic of both the Holy Spirit and of peace, and ‘the fall’ is a phrase used to describe mankind’s move from a state of innocence to a state of sin. ‘Before the fall’ implies that we are looking back at a time of innocence. What we are looking back at is a long series of flashbacks, some dating back years, to a time when the destruction of the Colonies and the ensuing exodus was unimaginable.

First up is Adama, dressed in civilian clothes. He is being required to do something he doesn’t want to. His command experience, he seems to feel, should be enough. But he has to do it, regardless. Do what? We are never told, something that implies we’ll see more flashbacks in the two hour finale.

Next up is Gaius Baltar. He is riding in a limo with Caprica 6. It’s early days in their relationship and he admits to her that he can’t remember her name. An inside joke. Throughout the series, we have never learned the name this 6 used while undermining the Colony’s defences. Things are becoming amorous when Gaius gets a call. He hurries to his father’s home. He had asked 6 to stay in the car, but she follows him anyway. His father is an angry old man and he’s just stabbed his nurse. She is still walking and talking, screaming and walking out, actually, so the elder Baltar has obviously not done her too much harm, but she’s had enough. She’s quitting. There is a screaming match between the two men. His father has nothing but contempt for the man Gaius has made himself into - you’ll recall that Gaius came into the world as the child of dirt poor farmers, everything about him, including his accent, is something learned, acquired - but his father is also entirely dependant on him. Later Gaius is bringing a girl home and finds Caprica is sitting in his house. He tells the girl to go on upstairs and Caprica that he doesn’t appreciate her breaking in. He is going to call the police. She tells him that she has had his father moved into a full care facility, one that will allow him to grow his own food, to be a farmer again.

Laura Roslin is, first, at her sister’s baby shower, and then, waking up to find the police knocking on her door. They have come to inform her that her father and her sisters were all killed together in a car accident. She tells them to leave and then walks out herself, still in her pyjamas, and wanders down to the local park, where she wades into the fountain and leans against the center piece. Three months pass and she is on the phone with a friend who is trying to set her up on a blind date. She says she is being courted by Adar, but that she really isn’t interested in joining a federal campaign.

Kara Thrace is cooking in her apartment. Lee Adama knocks on the door, bearing flowers. He compliments her apartment. She tells him he is a terrible liar, they should play cards sometime. Zach Adama comes out and greets Lee. He and Kara are dating and this is Lee‘s first meeting with Zach’s future fiancée. Later Lee returns to his own apartment to find a pigeon has gotten in. This is the bird from the beginning sequence.

Sam Anders is being interviewed. He is a great athlete, but his team isn’t very good and he has never won a championship. Does that bother him? He replies that what is important to him isn’t the game itself, it the pursuit of perfection in each aspect of play. He compares it to a science, to physics.

So what does it all mean? Why, when we are so close to the end, are we going back to the beginning? For the first two seasons the show was about humanity’s desperate search for a new home and the social and emotional impact of their catastrophic situation, then, after being ‘rescued’ from New Caprica by the Cylons, Baltar asked the questioned that has defined the show ever since. If there are twelve models, why has he only ever seen seven? Caprica 6 tells him that they never talk of the others, but the show has talked about little else. Gaius wondered if he might be a Cylon. If he were, he hoped, he would be transformed from fool and a villain to a great hero. But he wasn’t. The other five, the Final Five, came to so dominate the show that when they finally got to Earth, it was only to discover it had been their home all along. Now with only hours left, I think the show is returning to its roots and giving the story back to its human characters. I realize that Anders isn’t human, but, at least until the bullet awoken his memories, the only time there was any direction in his life was when he was a sports star. Is it too little, too late? Maybe. The pacing for this final season has been uneven, to be charitable. The network initially ordered only half a season and I have often thought that the show would have been much stronger if it had been forced to work within that time constraint.


So, what’s happening in the present?

Lee is in charge of stripping the ship down and apportioning the parts to other vessels. He agrees to let the techs dismantle the launch tubes last. It is a battlestar, after all. Later Tigh tells Hoshi to leave a launch tube functioning. The Admiral wants to fly the last Viper out. This seems to be a theme. Yes, they are going to strip the ship, but first it’s a battlestar and that means… Well, we’ll see what that means.

With everyone talking about wrapping things up on the show, we do get a special scene. The two Olmoses finally get a scene together. The Admiral passes Hot dog, who has dropped some of the many photos he is carrying. What with baby Nicholas in his arms he has trouble picking them up, but Adama collects them for him. Hot Dog explains that he was taking the photos of the pilots off the Memorial Wall. Many of the pictures there are being left behind, because no one knows who they are anymore. Adama leaves, then thinks better of it. He turns around and takes the picture of Maya and Hera. Maya was Hera’s adoptive mother, killed on New Caprica.

The ever practical Paula is happy. She tells Gaius that, in the coming elections, their numbers give them majorities on half the ships. Head 6 interrupts to tell Gaius that the End Times are indeed here and that he will write humanity’s final chapter. Gaius decides to put Paula first and goes to Lee. He tells him that he represents thousands and that he wants them to be given their own seat at the Quorum. Given that Paula’s figures mean he will have several seats, I don’t know why he wants an official one. Perhaps he wants to head off any opposition to their coming pre-eminence in the government. But Lee can’t get past the messenger to hear the message. He wants to know what Gaius is after, telling him he has never done an unselfish act in his life. The subject is dropped at that point.

Helo goes to see Galen, who has been locked up for his part in Boomer’s escape. Helo understands why Galen did what he did. He is, after all, married to another version of Sharon Valeri, but Galen won’t have it. He did what he did because he is an idiot. The 8s are all alike. All of them are. They are machines and they were all made to be alike. Helo starts to come to Athena’s defence, but Galen tells him that she is just a ‘blow up doll’ and that she shouldn’t be trusted. None of them should be. Helo breaks things off at this point.

Meanwhile, at the Cylon Colony, Hera isn’t eating. She is colouring lots of dots, which utterly fails to impress Cavil. Boomer tries to come to the child’s defence, but Cavil won’t hear it. He orders her to be fed intravenously. I had two thoughts on seeing this. Neither that surprising. First, given the importance of the page of dots she gave Kara, I am sure that what she is drawing now will prove similarly important. And, second, Boomer is going to redeem herself by coming to Hera’s rescue.

Kara is continuing her search for a hidden message in the song. She shows her work to Adama, admitting that, yes, she found her body on Earth and burned it. She doesn’t know what she is. Adama tells her that he knows. She is his daughter. He tells her to plug Sam in. He has something he wants her to ask him.

Adama and Kara arrive on the flight deck with a roll of red tape. They stretch it down the center, along the length of the deck. He calls for everyone’s attention and tells them that he had thought a rescue mission to save Hera would be impractical because they didn’t know where she was. Now they do. And now we know why they kept deferring the ship’s dismantling. News of his speech spreads throughout the ship, going from mouth to mouth. Everyone knows. Volunteers only. The only requirement is that the person must be over the age of 15. Incarcerated mutineers are allowed to volunteer. They have to present themselves personally to Adama. Helo goes to give the good news to Athena, but she is still inconsolable. She believes it’s too late. Cavil will have already finished with her by now. She won’t be going on the mission.

Adama addresses those who have assembled. He doesn’t sugar coat it. In fact, he stresses the risk so much - ‘Let there be no illusions, this is likely to be a one way trip!’ - you wonder what the purpose of the mission is. He tells them that if he hasn’t enough volunteers to send the Galactica, he will lead a raptor assault with anyone willing to join him. Those who will are to step to the starboard side of the red line. Those who do not want to join to the port. Here the show is drawing on two ideas. One is the ‘line in the sand’, an idea that goes back to a story about the Battle of the Alamo. When things looked hopeless, the commander, a guy named Travis, drew a line in the sand with his sword. He told his men that those who would stay should cross the line. The rest could go. Only one chose to go. The other source, given that they made the red line, is the British idea of a ‘thin red line.’ The phrase is best known from an American novel about Guadalcanal, and the two movies adapted from it, but it originated with the British Army, which once wore red coats. It refers to a thinly spread line of soldiers, defending themselves against a superior force. There is a long pause and then Adama commands them to ‘make their choice’. Lee crosses first, then the Tighs, Hot Dog, and Cottle and his nurse. Adama sends him back, telling him he is needed here. He calls Cottle by his first name, Sherman. The first time we’ve heard it. Caprica 6 crosses. Galen takes Tory’s hand and leads her across. People freely cross from one side to the other. Gaius seems to weigh whether to join the mission or not. Will this be his selfless act? But, no. He doesn’t cross. And why should he? What could he offer? Roslin, however, does cross. She has dressed and donned her wig. In the end most don’t cross, but I am sure enough have moved to starboard to allow Adama to take the Galactica.

A raptor is sent on a recon, to check out the information Sam has given them about the Colony. It is piloted by two mutineers, Racetrack and Skulls. They jump into what they believe is a dense asteroid field. A quick scan by Skulls, however, reveals it to be the accretion disk of a black hole. So the show is saved the embarrassment of B movie asteroid field, where the rocks tumble so close to one another that any ship could be destroyed at any moment. In real life an asteroid ‘field’ is spread over such a large area that a ship can easily pass through it unharmed. When the data is analyzed the rescue party realizes that the Colony has been positioned so that there is only one safe jump point in, and that it is likely to be heavily guarded.

So what did we get in the end? We got an episode that cannot stand on its own merits. It is very much part one of three, the set up for the grand finale. Will the amount of time spent on Caprica prove worth it? We don’t know. The amount of time spent pushing the overall story forward was very small. We learned Cottle’s first name and that Sam is somehow hooked into the Hybrids. As Leoben was really the only one to take their ramblings seriously, I think that fact is safe from Cavil’s discovery. But what’s next? The previews show a lot of action - even Gaius has a gun - but you know how little I trust those. While he hasn’t given any facts away, Olmos has said of the finale, ‘Emotionally, heartbreaking. I’m telling you this for a reason, because I don’t want you guys to think you’re going to go through this without getting yourself really twisted … it’s brutal what happens to us. Not many of us make it.’ Perhaps they don’t make it. Perhaps they all get sucked into the black hole and crushed and only those who stayed behind survive. We’ll just have to wait until Friday to find out.

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