Ireland’s Wars: Sean Russell In Germany

The early sections of the Second World War for the IRA had been dominated by the continued implementation of the S-Plan, the subsequent failure of which had left the organisation at a low ebb. In combination with the long term losses of the Christmas Raid, the picture painted of the IRA was of an entity that was badly led, with no clear strategic direction and prone to involving itself in flights of fancy that had little tangible benefit. It is possible that much of this could be traced back to the absence of the man whose takeover of the IRA in the 1930s had promised much in terms of the organisations future success. Sean Russell had left Ireland in 1939, and would never make it back: in this entry we will discuss his movements in this time, up to his sojourn in the heart of Nazi Germany.

Russell had left Ireland to travel to the United States in April of 1939, even as the S-Plan was in the relatively early stages of its implementation. Russell’s aims there were to shore up support for his leadership of the IRA – though he had nominally stood down as Chief-of-Staff in favour of the hapless Stephen Hayes – as well as maintain the required links with Clan na Gael and the funding they represented (in this regard, Russell was also investigating claims that sweepstake lotteries arranged for the purpose of IRA fundraising were being skimmed). Russell made several public speeches during his time in America, and became a target for FBI surveillance: when he tried to cross the border into Canada from Detroit, on the occasion of King George VI’s visit to Canada, Russell was detained by US immigration officials, nominally for making “false statements” about himself and exceeding the terms of his visa, but presumably because of concern that the presence of such a high profile IRA man in the area at that time could meaning nothing good. Russell was the subject of a brief cause celebre from sympathetic sources in the United States as a result, with his bail for the alleged crime easily covered: he was released fairly quickly. He and Clan na Gael were delighted at the publicity the incident granted, and Russell would continue his tour of the United States for the better part of another year.

Eventually, in the Spring of 1940, Russell determined to move on. The start of the Second World War and the collapse of the S-Plan perhaps focused his mind on the requirement for him to be much closer to home, and to foster a relationship with Britain’s primary enemy. Through Joseph McGarrity, Russell made contact with a German agent in America, known by the codename “V-Rex”. This man made contact with the Abwehr back in Europe, and got agreement for arrangements to be made for Russell to be transported across the Atlantic. Russell left a short-time later, on a ship bound for Genoa. Arriving on the 1st of May, he was then transported north to Berlin.

Russell got the VIP treatment after he arrived, with the Abwehr seemingly keen to foster a positive relationship with a man who could be of considerable use in the future. The former Chief-of-Staff was given his own villa, a chauffeur driven car and the status of a diplomat, along with a SS liaison officer in the form of Edmund Veesenmayer, at the time an advisor to the German Foreign Office on Ireland, who would later be convicted of crimes against humanity for his role in the Holocaust. Russell just missed Hermann Goetz, who was flown to enact Operation Mainau on the same day that Russell arrived in Berlin, and thus was unable to brief the German agent as the Abwehr wanted.

For the next three months Russell had numerous interactions with Abwehr, and received training in the use of explosives from German special forces. Just what the end result of this training was intended to be is not know with exact precision, but it seems likely that the Abwehr wanted Russell to act as an instructor to other members of the IRA, who would then use such tactics on British military positions and resources in Northern Ireland. Certainly Russell discussed such things with German military officers, who were keen to use whatever resources they had to hit targets on the British mainland. Russell’s interactions went as high up as the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, who was allegedly impressed with Russell, but Russell himself was careful not to promise too much to his Nazi hosts. His estimations of IRA strength disappointed German authorities, as did his political alignment. Russell remained primarily motivated by the cause of political change in Ireland and re-unification of north and south: if the Germans could assist with archiving this aim he was happy to listen, but he wanted “no strings attached” to any potential help in terms of a full of embrace of Nazi ideology.

There was one thing that Russell wanted from the Germans, that he got: the release of Frank Ryan from a Spanish cell into Berlin’s custody. Ryan had been imprisoned as far back as early 1938 after being captured during the Battle of Teruel, but Spanish authorities now happily turned him over at the French border, covering the event with a fabricated “escape”. Ryan was brought immediately to Berlin where he was re-united with Russell. Despite very different political ideologies, the two maintained a personal friendship, and German observations noted a warm re-union when the two were finally in the same room. The reason why the Germans were happy to go to the trouble of getting Ryan soon became clear, as Russell requested Ryan join him on a journey back to Ireland.

That journey was the purpose of “Operation Dove”. This involved the use of a U-Boat – U-65 – to transport Russell and Ryan from the port of Wilhelmshaven to the west coast of Ireland, with the intention of getting them to land somewhere in Smerwick Bay on the Dingle Peninsula. Just what Russell was going to be doing once he landed in Ireland that had the Germans eager to get him there is unknown. It might well be that the Abwehr was just happy to arrange the transport in the expectation that Russell would prove a more pro-active IRA commander in terms of attacking British targets than Stephen Hayes was. Concerns about Russell’s attachment to Germany, or lac of it, may well have influenced the decision to send Ryan with him: Kurt Haller, a German Foreign Ministry operative who had dealings with Irish agents before the war and during, has stated that the Abwehr believed Ryan would be more amenable to their cause. Just why they thought a man who fought for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War would be so willing is not clear. Regardless, Ryan agreed to go with Russell.

U-65 left Wilhelmshaven on the 8th August. Dove was only part of the submarine’s mission, which was to head into the North Sea and then go around Britain and Ireland on its way to the newly taken port at Lorient, France. Russell and Ryan left with only a small number of possessions, among them a radio and codebook for communication with Berlin. From the beginning, it was a miserable journey for Russell and Ryan, two men who were unused to the cramped quarters of such vessels. Russell suffered especially, vomiting constantly and complaining of stomach pains. After six days at sea, with U-65 160km’s west of County Galway, Russell’s condition had deteriorated hugely. The submarine had no doctor onboard, just a medical orderly, who was powerless to do anything about the cramps Russell was reporting. On the 14th August, Russell died. Unable to carry a body onboard, the Captain of the submarine had Russell buried at sea, allegedly draped in a swastika flag, and cancelled any plans to try and put Ryan ashore in Ireland, instead arranging for his return to Germany once U-65 made it to France.

An inquiry set-up in Germany interviewed Ryan and the U-65 crew about what had happened. They were, perhaps, naturally suspicious that some manner of foul play may have taken place. But nothing in that regard was found out, and the conclusion was that Russell had probably died as a result of a perforated ulcer. Speculation that Russell may have been assassinated has remained just that, with relatives of Russell confirming that his stomach problems pre-dated the war.

Russell remains an immensely controversial figure of this period, at once held up as an icon of militant Irish republicanism, and at the same time derided as a collaborator with Hitler’s Germany. Monuments to him that exist in Ireland have repeatedly been the subject of vandalism, and a recurring debate continues as to whether such monuments are appropriate at all. Russell never espoused a political philosophy of great detail, and it is hard to credit accusations that he was an out-and-out fascist, but the IRA undoubtedly tilted to the right during his tenure. At the same time, Russell also solicited guns and supplies from the Soviet Union, and he has never been described as a communist. In the end, it seems likely that Russell kept the focal point of full Irish independence and re-unification squarely in is mind, and was willing to make deals with whatever powers forwarded that aim. It just so happened that in the late 1930’s/early 1940’s the most prominent power who fitted that bill was Nazi Germany. History has thankfully denied us the possibility of learning just what role Russell would have played in Ireland if Hitler had proved victorious in Europe, but I do not believe that the man was a Nazi.

What Russell very much was, was a man who turned the IRA into a more aggressive entity than it had been for decades. The S-Plan was a failure, but it showed the reality of what the IRA was becoming, and it never would have happened but for Russell’s personal magnetism and dedication to military action. His absence from Ireland left the IRA weaker, and his death was a blow that the organisation would struggle to recover, saddled as it was with a litany of less capable men for its leadership.

Ryan would spend the rest of his life in Germany. Suffering himself from deteriorating health connected to wounds suffered in Spain, he lived in Berlin where he was at pains to always be near other people, as owing to his deafness he was sometimes unable to hear air-raid warnings. He visited Irish prisoners-of-war held in Germany during this time, but distanced himself from any scheme to come up some manner of military unit out of the same, like Roger Casement had attempted. He was briefly consulted on various Abwehr plans to land supplies in Ireland, or radio transmitters for the purpose of spreading pro-fascist propaganda, but despite his own desires to return home, he was not apparently considered for insertion back to Ireland himself at any point. Despite his location, Ryan remained a committed socialist to the end of his life, and resisted any idea of him becoming a mouthpiece for fascist ideology. He died in June 1944, from a combination of pneumonia and pleurisy, aged 41.

It was not the last time that Germany would express an interest in sending agents to Ireland, but for now we will move on. In our next entry we will return to a look at IRA activities within Ireland. The organisation was stumbling from problem to problem, and in the Autumn of 1940 an encounter between a group of Volunteers and a group of Garda in Dublin would eventually leave four people dead. Worse, background elements of the affair would expose potentially enormous problems in the IRA leadership, up to the point of treason against the organisation itself.

To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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Review: Hustle

Hustle

Trailer

Guess which one was a success in basketball.

Stanley Sugerman (Adam Sandler) is a highly-regarded scout for NBA side the Philadelphia 76ers, who dreams of moving to a coaching role. While on a scouting trip to Spain, he stumbles into the path of Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez), a basketball prodigy in the making who has lain undiscovered owing to his poor background and an arrest for an assault several years earlier. Over the objections of his flailing boss Vince (Ben Foster) and with the support of his long-suffering wife Teresa (Queen Latifah), Sugerman brings Cruz to the United States, and embarks on a one-man crusade to get him into the NBA.

Adam Sandler is a bit of a conundrum at times, isn’t he? In 2020 he gave us what was genrally percevied as remarkable performance in Uncut Gems, a role that screamed “paradigm shift” for an actor that we have gotten used to seeing in the worst of the worst, whether it is theatrically or on streaming (I was less complimentary, but I recognise what it meant for his career). Then he turned around and did Hubie Halloween along with bit parts in The Last Missy and Home Team, and suddenly it seemed like it might all have been a dream. Hustle appears to have come a little bit out of nowhere in that context, with a little known director and a little know writing team, but it most certainly is the kind of thing that seems more in the Uncut Gems range for an actor who just can’t seem to figure out if he wants to be remembered for his later career dramas or his low brow comedies.

Which is a bit of shame because, to re-iterate, Sandler can act. He can act well. And he doesn’t need to give us any pratfalls, jokes that revolve around fecal matter or extended screaming to showcase that. Hell, this guy used to make comedies, like The Wedding Singer, that showcased those things. But there are so far and in-between of his other, less glorious, filmography examples that something like Hustle can still sneak up behind you and offer a metaphorical mugging. Sandler acts here, and acts really well. His Sugerman is a really wonderful mix of hope and frustration: a person who is carrying so much from the expectations of his family, the weight of previous failures, a desire to one-up his asshole of a boss and the hope that Cruz might actually by the one. It’s a big old ball of mixed emotions, and Sandler portrays it all so well, the kind of internal cacophony that explains how Sugermen does what he does, to the point of lies and subterfuge, and yet never comes off as anything other than someone that we really want to root for, as much as or more than we do for Cruz. One of my problems with Uncut Gems was how hard it was to get behind a character like Howard who was so unlikeable, but with a different role Sandler gets beyond this issue.

Hernangomez is worth noting too. For a significant period of Hustle he’s a bit of a blank canvas, the unmoulded clay for Sandler’s Sugerman to play around with, but he comes into his own eventually. Cruz is a man who had a dream and then saw it snatched away by the crushing reality of life, not unlike Sugerman, but his background and life since has combined to turn him into the kind of person who buries the negativity under a mask of almost-serene confidence. It’s the moments when this mask slips that Hernangomez, a player with the Utah Jazz currently, is able to really showcase what he can do. He and Sugerman start out as mentor and student, but eventually manage to reach a sort of parity when he realises that he and Sugerman are not so different in fundamental ways. This is basic storytelling, but Hustle carries it off well: and when you get the fundamentals right, lots else can follow.

Hustle isn’t the kind of film that breaks down barriers in terms of narrative – it really is a lot like Rocky in structure (it sort of has to be, being set in Philadelphia), only the training montages are longer – but it does work. A large portion of the second act is given over to what in other hands would be a fairly dull set of scenes dedicated to Sugerman putting Cruz through his paces ahead of the NBA Combine, but it works because of the charm of Sandler, the eagerness of Hernangomez, and the way that the two are able to spice up what could be otherwise subpar scenes. Take for example a moment when Sugerman comes to realise that Cruz is overly-susceptible to on-court insults from opponents: a resulting three-point drill becomes vastly more entertaining when Sugerman starts peppering in insinuations that Cruz’ mother is a whore, in a bid to toughen him up. Sandler is thus able to siphon away from his comedy core, while also keeping things dramatic: Cruz presumably has plenty of experience with such a scenario in real life, and can tap into that. The result from scenes like this is a well-flowing story that is able to connect with the audience on a number of levels. This isn’t rocket-science. Hustle was a film that made me appreciate the simple things when it comes to filmmaking in a way that I hadn’t for a while I suppose, is what I am trying to say. Director Jeremiah Zager background as a documentarian probably helps, as he has an obvious urge to present things in as real a manner as possible, and that only helps a project like this.

It’s not perfect. The Vince character needed to be more fleshed-out, and his part of the story is reduced bit-by-bit until his arc is settled off-screen. Sugerman’s relationship with his daughter is under-baked for how important it is set up as early on. And there are times when the litany of celebrity cameos starts to overwhelm things. But generally Hustle is a film that knows what it is and doesn’t outstay its welcome, so I would call these forgivable sins.

Any kind of sports movie really will live or die on how well it portrays that sport visually, and in that regard I think that Hustle rates pretty highly. Zager gives us a kinetic fly-on-the-court style view of what basketball really is, his camera zipping around after Cruz and his opponents like one of them is wearing a Go-Pro on his forehead. Every score, every slam off the backboard, every jostle and bit of trash-talk are picked up in a manner that allows the viewer to feel as if they are extremely connected to what is happening, far beyond the status of a distant spectator. That intimacy is really important as we come to understand the mental aspects, positive and negative, of Cruz’ game, that you can only experience in such a manner. Zager takes full advantage of the approach, and the end result is mesmerising. Like the very best of sports movies, Hustle is one that is clearly made by people who adore that sport, and that affection is very obvious. But there are other things to appreciate on the visual front: an early montage where Sugerman travels the globe looking for the next star, signified by his efforts to try every McDonalds and KFC he can find (one target on that trip claims to be a 22-year-old diamond in the rough, who turns out to have a full grown son); the dichotomy between the elder 76ers owner who respects Sugerman with intimate conversations and his no-good son who prefers to do his talking from a cavernous office; and an effort to go whole-hog on the concept of social media as a force for change that lights up the hour mark.

On a list of the films from the sporting sub-genre, Hustle would have to rate fairly highly in my estimation. It passes the key tests for that descriptor, in making a sports movie that is not truly about a sport, and still finding a way to showcase that sport in a way that is dynamic, intimate and interesting. Sandler steps out of the shadow of his worse back catalogue to showcase what he can do again, and is ably matched by debutante. The story is engaging, the cinematography entertaining and not since High Flying Bird have I seen a piece of media about basketball that manages to really make you understand the fascination of that sport. Recommended.

(All images are copyright of Netflix).

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NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Four: “Guess What’s Coming To Dinner?”

We began to realize that for our existence to hold any value, it must end. To live meaningful lives, we must die and not return.

Air Date: 16/05/2008

Director: Wayne Rose

Writer: Michael Angeli

Synopsis: The arrival of the rebel basestar to the Fleet creates a political crisis, even as a landmark joint operation is proposed that would end Cylon ability to resurrect. The visions shared by Roslin, Caprica Six and Athena lead to a violent outcome.

Review

This is another episode that, frankly, can seem like a bit of a muddle, and Season Four has too many of those already. There’s a lot going on, and a lot that “Guess What’s Coming To Dinner?” is trying to get across, and it doesn’t always work. But when it does it makes BSG seem fresh and exciting, and is a suitable riposte to the feeling that we are stuck in a mode where the show’s writers are struggling with the weight of the task that has been appointed to them, with too much destiny to fulfil.

Things do start off really well, and this is an episode that makes the point that setting the tone properly from the off goes a long way. While nodded to a bit too much in the opening, I do like the crisis that develops when the rebel basestar jumps into the middle of the Fleet without the Demetrius, with the Fleet reacting as you would expect. It’s something different for this show and even if you are left wondering why the Colonials on the basestar can’t use the Raptor radio to contact Galactica, there is undoubtedly something very affecting in watching the Fleet panic, then send Vipers streaming towards the basestar, all while the Demetrius tries to get its FTL sorted. There’s spectacle to it, but also an important bit of character progression as Tigh reveals a little too much about himself. I focus on this because I think the last few episodes have been fairly action-lite, but BSG returns to form when it gets back to that kind of sci-fi.

Beyond that we quickly get into the central plot of the episode, which I will generously dub “making friends”. It’s not the first time we’ve had a human/Cylon conference – it was one of the best scenes of “The Eye Of Jupiter” – so it perhaps lacks a bit of an edge, but the meeting between Roslin/Adama and Natalie was a very nicely put together set-piece. Both sides have a hell of a distance to bridge, and I appreciated that Natalie gets right down to brass tacks in a bid to span that distance: sheer, simple revenge. Removing the Cylon ability to resurrect as a possibility is a little convenient, but I can’t imagine much else acting as a motivating force with similar results. Natalie understands the human mind pretty well I think, and knows that the only way to get to being in an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation is by giving the Colonials a hell of a shot at that enemy.

From there we go into an engaging mirror image, as both sides of this erstwhile alliance start making plots against the other. I said in my thoughts on “Faith” that it seemed like betrayal was innate in the Cylons. Well, after “Guess What’s Coming To Dinner?” it is only fair that I say the same must be true of the Colonials, at least as it pertains to the Cylons. Natalie gets Adama’s word early on that he will stick to their deal, which should mean a hell of a lot coming from him. But very soon after this the Admiral and the President are all too content to start down a Darth Vader-esque path of altering the deal, and suggesting people should pray they don’t alter it any further. Adama has made deals with Cylons before, in episodes like “Flight Of The Phoenix”, and held to them, but here he seems to act as if the Cylons are very much an enemy to whom he is under no obligation to deal with in good faith. We might view this as a sign of his increasing closeness to Roslin, whose interactions with Cylons have always carried a measure of deception, from her spacing of Leoben in “Flesh And Bone”, to her order of Athena’s execution in “Home (Part One)” to the way she toys with the infected in “A Measure Of Salvation”. He puts up very little resistance to the secret addendum to the deal.

Of course the Cylons respond in kind. You can see that Natalie wants to make this alliance work, and acknowledges that the burden of proving trust perhaps lies more on the Cylon side. But the rank hostility of the Fleet’s military and government is very hard to ignore. We must remember that the proposed military operation is one that will gain the Colonials much and the rebel Cylons very little, in practical terms anyway: in such circumstances it is understandable that contingencies to preserve the intangible gains will have to be made. Caroline’s pitch to the Quorum is based on the idea that the rebels want to embrace mortality, but one suspects that if they could have Earth and the means to resurrect they wouldn’t say no. The episode ends with the plans of both sides yet to be fulfilled but with the possibility very real: it makes one think of the ending of “Resurrection Ship (Part One)” and the twin assassination plans that were left dangling, unfulfilled but all too dangerous. “Guess What’s Coming To Dinner?” doesn’t have the exact same sense of tension, but I think the episode does a good job in building up the layers of distrust and the possible consequences of the same. The reality of not trusting someone because they don’t trust you fits pretty well into the cyclical nature of this universe.

For the first time in a little while – maybe since “He That Believeth In Me” really – we have an episode here where it really feels like what I like to refer to as the “Four of Five” actually all have something to do, each in their own little ways, which I really liked. “Guess What’s Coming To Dinner?” is the first episode where it feels like the group is on the brink of being exposed, and that moment is not far off coming you have to think. The episode could have gotten away with just showing how they all each react to that circumstance, and with Tigh and Tory there is a little bit of that.

But instead, we get more. Tigh has his moment at the start of the episode, and the sure signs that Adama is starting to wonder about him just a little bit: he knows him too well to be able to dismiss this gut instinct that saved the day as just that. Tory has her icy confrontation with Roslin, then her later pillow talk with Baltar, with she now being placed in the kind of awkward position her temperament is unlikely to tolerate. Anders has his guilt over Gaeta, which continues to add to the strain that he is under mentally, something now becoming more and more outwardly obvious. And Tyrol is suddenly catapulted into the middle of the episode’s climax, providing a twist of irony in a confrontation between two Cylons that is partially over finding out the identity of the Five. None of it dominates the episode, none of it overstays its welcome: I wish the first half of Season Four had more episodes that were able to fit in the Four of Five like this, with simple but effective characterisation.

The other major individual of the episode is undoubtedly Roslin, who is being tested on all fronts: with her allies, with her various enemies and with her health. It’s a time for clearing the decks in many ways, hence her early interaction with Tory where Foster’s relationship with Baltar is made the topic of conversation. Roslin really goes for the jugular with Tory: it would be easy to just dismiss her, but instead Roslin determines to try and use her, using language in the process that is remarkably aggressive and more than a little obnoxious. Considering what Tory knows about the President, and given what we know about Tory’s change of outlook recently (to the point of being capable of committing murder), we know that this move is probably quite ill-advised from the President, but it isn’t like Roslin has been making only sound decisions recently.

In the political sphere, Roslin continues to maintain a growing contempt for democratic institutions, only reluctantly engaging with the Quorum, and that only after Apollo basically begs her to throw them a bone. Her words are fairly scathing when it comes to that body, referring to “the neediness of 12 perpetually unhappy representatives.” It’s only natural that a woman of Roslin’s limited time might feel this way, but she’s the head of the government: her attitude here simple isn’t good enough. Apollo is the the other extreme, demonstrating a continually idealistic viewpoint of public office that doesn’t fit the times, but he’s looking more and more like a viable alternative to Roslin. At least he has respect for what amounts to the Colonial legislature, and more often than not lately that same legislature is looking squarely at him when Roslin isn’t doing her job.

It’s Baltar of all people who puts it into words the best, as he deflects Tory’s criticism of his public pronouncement on Roslin’s shared visions. Roslin has become a hypocrite in the way she is rejecting the traditions of government, a liar in how she is concealing her efforts to consolidate power with her and her office and too often attempts to shield her support for secret missions (one where someone Baltar has obviously complicated feelings for was badly wounded) and the undermining of due process by appealing to a very specific form of patriotism. Now, she’s demonstrating an eerie connection with Cylons and getting huffy when it is brought into the light. One feels we are getting closer and closer to the possibility of Roslin no longer being tenable as a President, but any such transition is bound to be difficult.

It all swirls into what I will call a twin confluence at the episodes conclusion. I’ve said before that I am not an enormous fan of this whole “shared visions” thing between Roslin, Athena and Caprica Six, it always felt like a means to let the destiny side of BSG spin its wheels for the required number of episodes, but here it actually does come to a head in an interesting kind of way. It’s partly the way that others outside of the three, namely Starbuck, Baltar and Tyrol, get sucked into the vortex, it’s partly because of the way the episode is able to take the concept and then split the parts into two separate plotlines, with Roslin on the basestar and with Natalie/Athena on Galactica. There’s ingenuity in all of it, and while we will have to see if it leads anywhere productive, the set-up was very well done.

So we have Roslin forced to acknowledge the destiny-adjacent Baltar, and the possibility of them having to deal with the other in a life-or-death crisis, and we have Athena’s choice on Galactica which creates its own drama. Initially I thought that what Athena does was hard to defend, seeming remarkably extreme in the wider environment, but upon reflection the plot point grows on me. Athena has been through a lot in BSG, and has had more than her fair share of brushes with destiny as it pertains to her daughter. But Hera is not a game piece in a cosmic chess match to her, she’s her flesh-and-blood. And she’ll defend that flesh-and-blood, even in the face of an apparent pre-destination so strong the signs of it are bleeding into other characters’ dreams. That’s what her shooting of Natalie meant to me anyway: a sign that Athena has had enough of the universe trying to tell her what will and what will not happen with her daughter. She’s taking a big risk in her actions, with consequences she can’t foresee. But I appreciated the power behind it, in terms of that stand against God or gods. At the same moment the President, Baltar and a lot of the military are jumped away for mysterious reasons, and in line with the unique crisis of the opening the episode has a pretty decent conclusion.

All that is left to talk about really is the sad case of Lt Felix Gaeta. It’s kind of impossible to not feel that he has become the true victim of the sheer inhumanity that life in this Fleet is, in this war, in this universe. Gaeta really didn’t do anything wrong on the Demetrius when you get right down to it, and his reward was to get shot in the leg by a moron who didn’t know what that actually meant, and then have vital medical care delayed for the better part of a day as his compatriots waited around for their deranged leader to fulfil her mission of destiny. Now, he loses that leg. It’s striking how Gaeta demands that he remain conscious for the amputation, which I think speaks to his desire to have the act, if it has been forced on him, undertaken on his terms. He couldn’t stop the bullet, but he can take a bit of fleeting control here.

Gaeta has a lot to be traumatised by. Physically, he has undergone an ordeal that can be described as life-changing without hyperbole. The person who inflicted this ordeal on him is seemingly not to be reprimanded for the act, at least not as far as we can see. And this comes after a storm of a time for him, that has seen him attempt to murder a prisoner in “Taking A Break From All Your Worries” and then perjure himself in a court of law in “Crossroads (Part Two)”. His response to all of this is to sing: a mournful ballad whose tune and lyrics speak to a terrible tragedy, and a desperate effort to undo what has been done. The time is going to come, and sooner than many would like, when Gaeta will not be satisfied with just singing his pain away. And as of right now, who could blame him?

You are never gonna take my child.

Notes

-The title is a play on the 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, about an inter-racial couple dealing with the reaction of their respective parents to their engagement. I’m not sure it’s the best thing for the Cylons to be a “what” in this case, but it’s a clever title otherwise.

-Wayne Rose is back as director for the first time since “Dirty Hands”. That was a better episode, but only just when you come right down to it.

-Lee complains about how hard it is to get in to see Roslin, and she responds icily with “I’m sure you’re quite happy to stay”. And she isn’t wrong. I do feel that Apollo has more political ambition than he lets on.

-Of course he remains a populist, very much “of the people, by the people, for the people” in all of his pronouncements. In a way it’s like Baltar, but much purer. Or naïve if you prefer.

-Starbuck isn’t making any promises to the rebel Cylons, suggesting that she has no idea if the Fleet will “feed you or frak you”. Nice bit of implied sexual violence there, wonderful.

-Here’s a question: why not let Demetrius jump back to the Fleet first, and then follow?

-There’s an obvious tension as the Demetrius queues up its FTL drive, from the music to the countdown. It’s clear that something is going to go wrong.

-I love the visual of ships of the Fleet having to dodge out of the way of the basestar, it really adds to the sense of chaos in that moment.

-“Weapons hold!” It’s not the first time Tigh has made a life-saving order in the CIC of his own volition – see “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down” for a big example, but this is extraordinary. He knows it too, it’s just too much of a coincidence.

-Love that look that Adama gives Tigh here. He knows there is something strange going on.

-The count is down two, reflecting the deaths of Jean Barolay and Emily Kowalkski in the last episode.

-“Which one of them shot Gaeta?” asks Tigh of the rebel Cylons. I guess it’s meant to feel ironic, but the Cylons did actually kill a Colonial. That never gets brought up again it seems.

-I like that Adama is taking notes at this meeting with a pen and paper. Very simple, but a neat touch.

-First we are hearing of the “Resurrection Hub”, which doesn’t sit right really. It’s like “Death Star 2” in a way.

-Natalie doesn’t waste any time when trying to pitch an alliance to the Colonials: “Vengeance” is the one word she needs.

-Not unlike me, Adama isn’t easily buying the idea of the Hub. It’s just too tempting of an idea isn’t it?

-Once again, for like the sixth time, it’s Racetrack and Skulls that get to discover the vital MacGuffin in their Raptor.

-The “Hub” has a cool look though, an extension on previously seen Cylon designs.

-Our pan over Cottle/s surgical instruments here is deliberately ghoulish, with the sense they are depicted more as instruments of torture pretty prevalent.

-Tigh continues to reach new levels of irony, describing a successful hit on the Hub as meaning “Billions of skin jobs lose their bath privileges”. Is the process of Cylon resurrection well known enough that it has garnered such a moniker?

-I like the use of the phrase “Mortal enemies” here, emphasis on “mortal”.

-The sight of Colonials on the basestar in these numbers is quite strange. The CGI backdrop could be a bit better too.

-Zarek doesn’t have much time for Roslin’s conciliatory message on Cylon/Colonial cooperation, devolving into “Blah, blah, blah” in his narration. It’s a little catty for him, which is telling.

-And in the same scene, everyone is suddenly looking at Apollo for answers. Is this a sign that he is seen as close to Roslin, or that people are just naturally looking to him for leadership?

-Sam is clearly dealing with his own mental trauma. His repeated “He sings” as he describes Gaeta is a sign off that, a toneless mantra wherein Anders betrays his inability to deal with the weight of events.

-“You’re sleeping with him right?” That sound you’re hearing is off a multitude of jaws clenching all at once.

-“Your friendship and your trust mean…” “…Frak”. This would indicate “frak” is a singular phrase, like “shit” not “fuck”. If it was the opposite Roslin should presumably say “frak all”.

-Roslin is at her vindictive best as she insists that Try is going to get information from Baltar “on your knees praying or just on your knees”. This would make her the second person to attempt to pimp Tory out for her own ends, right?

-“Gaeta’s Lament” is an interesting little tune, that remained me a bit of “She Moved Through The Fair”. The lyrics involve the singer asking for three wishes: that an unnamed “she” be spared pain, find true love and “wake” in exchange for the singer’s life. It was written by Michael Angeli, with McCreary providing the music. Juliani is trained as a singer, and his performance is wonderful.

-I’m not sure what a vote of no confidence in Roslin actually means coming from the Quorum. Roslin’s reaction indicates that it is quite serious, would it mean she has to resign or something like that? Like a loss of supply in a parliamentary system maybe?

-Apollo’s assessment of the Quorum’s reaction to the emergency jump is pretty chilling: “They were empty”. The danger doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s another glimpse of the disintegration of the Fleet.

-The spark certainly seems to be gone for Baltar and Tory. The aftermath of this particular bout of lovemaking lacks any kind of affection, with Foster looking annoyed at her predicament. Or is the implication that have just gone to bed and are now doing nothing?

-Baltar’s assessment of Roslin is brutal. We might remember the man who insisted that Roslin was fundamentally honest in “Lay Down Your Burdens (Part Two)”. Now she’s a hypocrite, a liar and a threat to democracy.

-While they are there to guard against anything untoward from Natalie, it remains eerie to see Roslin flanked by Marines within a political context.

-Interesting, Natalie’s thoughts on the Cylon sense of time being effected by resurrection. When you have that option, the idea of days, weeks, months, years must start to have less bearing than they would otherwise.

-Starbuck gets to join in with all of the visions with a few flashes during Natalie’s speech, and can we just move along from this please? I suppose it does at least give us an alternative to the “harbinger of death” line, indicating it may be connected to the loss of Cylon resurrection.

-Baltar makes a fleeting visit to the medbay to see Gaeta, but does not approach him. Are we take this as a sign that he has gotten past Gaeta’s efforts to have convicted in “Crossroads (Part Two)”?

-The addition of Baltar to the visions is more of a return to what we se previously of him in the opera house – all the way back in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)” – but at least propels this plot along.

-Man, how creepy is Hera’s “Bye bye” in this scene? Are we take it from this that the child is expecting to leave?

-Roslin and Starbuck appear to be reconciled, at least somewhat. What occurred in “Six Of One” appears to have been forgotten anyway.

-Hera’s Six drawings…the creepy just keeps building up and up with this little girl, huh?

-There are some bad extras in some of the scenes near the conclusion, like those that maybe don’t move out of the way of the Centurions properly.

-Tyrol has seemingly been demoted to basic maintenance work after his meltdown in “Escape Velocity”. Given how banged up Galactica is, that might be a more important job than we realise.

-I don’t think that Athena and Tyrol have had any interaction since “Resurrection Ship (Part Two)”, right? It’s always going to be strange seeing the two together, given Tyrol’s past relationship with Boomer.

-Athena’s choice is direct and unmistakable: she shoots Natalie because she thinks it is the only thing she can protect her daughter in that moment.

-It was always a bit orgasmic, but the Hybrid jump that occurs at the end of this episode is especially so.

-We close on Gaeta’s mournful song, and while it is difficult to apply the lyrics to the situation at hand, it certainly imbues the conclusion with the right sense of dread and foreboding.

Overall Verdict: I think I came around a bit on “Guess What’s Coming To Dinner?” in the course of writing this review. There’s definitely problems here, with the biggest being the sense that there is too much going on in the episode, especially in its last ten minutes. A lot of plot lines get some progression here, or in some cases a jump start. But generally I appreciate the narrative of the Colonials and the Cylons being so unable to trust the other that they are enacting plans of betrayal very quickly, I like that the Four of Five all get stuff to do and I think that the Athena plot that closes the episode is strong. If we proceed on the basis that Season Four is better the longer you think about it, that won’t be the worst outcome. We’ll see.

To read more entries in this series, click here to go the index.

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Ireland’s Wars: Irish Neutrality During The Second World War

It is an unfortunate reality that I have to open this entry of the series with a warning. Over ten years ago I wrote a post on this general topic entitled Suicidal Obstinacy: Max Hastings And Irish Neutrality During The Second World War, wherein I took issue with a section of Hastings’ then new book All Hell Let Loose where he discussed Irish neutrality in the conflict in negative terms. The post ended up attracting some of the largest amounts of comments I ever received for this site, with a large proportion of them exhibiting what I can only call extreme hostility. When I shut down the ability to post comments on that piece, it was in response to being physically threatened. So, if you do feel the need to comment on the below, be advised that anything that contains such threats, hostility, or anything I feel crosses the line will be deleted, and anything such a commenter attempts to add after that point will be automatically deleted unread. Life is too short for such nonsense.

The totality of this topic is one that really does go beyond a simple post, but it behoves me to give it a try, as there are aspects of Irish neutrality during the Second World War that do not rightly fit in anywhere else. It is a subject that remains, 80+ years later, of significant controversy to some, and there are numerous aspects of the policy that are debatable in terms of their implementation and adherence. In this entry we will look at how the Irish government attempted to follow through on their commitment to neutrality, some of the consequences that occurred as a result and the myriad amount of ways in which neutrality was tested. We will not discuss here the ins and out of Irish diplomatic interactions with the Allies and the Axis in relation to neutrality and the war, that will be for a future entry.

From the start of the conflict, Ireland busied itself with the practicalities of enforcing the policy of neutrality. In some respects this was basic as writing the word “EIRE” in large letters all around the coastline so any planes straying accidently over the island would know where they were (the merchant marine, whose story I will come to at another time, similarly sailed with full lights to emblazon their tricolours), in others it was the very careful and precise manoeuvring needed to ensure that the perception of the state was one where de Valera’s government was seen as taking no sides. The government got on with its business, which included the censoring of radio broadcasts, the internment of IRA members (or suspected members) and a tighter control than ever on the physical resources of the state.

While the policy of neutrality obviously saved Ireland a degree of destruction that would have been inevitable if it had joined the Allies from the start, there were obvious negatives that became apparent very quickly, beyond draconian security measures. The creation of a fully functioning merchant marine was something that had been neglected since the establishment of the Irish Free State, and as a result Ireland was disproportionately dependent on foreign ships for the maintenance of trade. These now became less available, whether they were more focused on maintaining trade for belligerent nations in the case of British ships, or unwilling to enter an active war zone in the case of other neutral nations, like the United States. While certain supply lines to Britain were maintained – which suited Britain of course, in terms of economic back-and-forth – from the start of the war to a period after it, Irish import and export markets were severely affected, to a degree that might not have been in the case of Ireland were allied with Britain formally, or the United States later.

The results were predictable. Various foodstuffs and other supplies, especially fuel, suddenly became very short in supply with the lack of coal and petrol leaving many vehicles, from cars to trains, unable to move. Rationing became a standard part of life, with the shortages in some food stuffs leading to price hikes and an explosion in black market smuggling. A huge drop in the supply of wheat led to fears of potential famine conditions at one point in late 1941. When the government attempted to get more wheat grown in place of barley used for the production and export of beer, a deal was reached with the British to import more wheat to Ireland to keep the supply of alcohol flowing: a country at war was seemingly one unwilling to forgo supplies of beer. Despite this, the situation got desperate for some and malnutrition among sections of the population was probably a factor in outbreaks of diseases, like typhus, during the war. All of this came at a time of wage stagnation, and the situation provoked a degree of social unrest not helped by the attempt to have greater government control of agriculture and other avenues of production. The sense of national isolation became palpable the longer the war went on. It is enough to say that neutrality was far from an easy course.

The other key aspect of Irish neutrality in this period where the various ways that it was bent, or flat out breached if we take a very sober analysis. There were numerous instances in which de Valera’s government leaned towards support for the Allies over the Axis, enough that the British government felt obliged to offer them a somewhat formal acknowledgement in the Cranborne Report after the war. Just why Ireland would do so is clear with a detached analysis. Despite the historical enmity between Ireland and Britain, and the partition of the island that de Valera continued to claim as the main reason why Ireland could not join the Allies, an Allied victory in the war suited Ireland interests. Britain was Ireland’s main trading partner, so Britain’s survival and victory benefitted Ireland in obvious ways. Later in the war the common bonds between Ireland and the United States provoked obvious sympathy for their cause. On the other hand, Hitler’s Germany had spent the early portions of the war rolling over a litany of “small nations”, and despite whatever was being said in diplomatic channels was unlikely to respect Irish sovereignty if push came to shove. As a result of this, and maybe to some degree an identification with the forces of liberal democracy over fascist dictatorship, Ireland strayed past the middle ground of neutrality throughout the war in the direction of the Allies: never enough to be called a belligerent wolf in a neutral sheep’s clothing, but enough that it was clear who Dublin would have preferred to see winning the conflict.

The most important, at least for a time, might have been the so-called “Donegal corridor”. Lough Erne, in Fermanagh, was the western most body of water within the United Kingdom where flying boats could be based, which were vital in combating German U-Boat activity in the Atlantic. From the moment the war began the submarine threat to shipping became acute, and the “Battle of the Atlantic” was arguably as important a campaign as any that was fought in Europe.: flying boats helped to spot U-Boats and direct the fire of other military assets onto them, as well as being capable of setting down and rescuing sailors whose ships had been sunk. The problem was that Lough Erne flying boats did not have a straight shot out into the Atlantic, owing to the landmass of County Donegal. Nominally, they had to take the time to fly north, and then turn to the west, an extension of a trip that limited their range once they were out at sea and delayed their ability to react quickly.

In January 1941, de Valera secretly came to an agreement with the British whereby flying boats based in Lough Erne’s RAF Castle Archdale base could cross Donegal, in a small stretch between Belleeck and Ballyshannon, drastically cutting the amount of time needed to hit the Atlantic. Nominally such aircraft had to be engaged in rescue missions, but this appears to have been an agreed fiction to pacify any German objections if they had come. Commitments to fly at large heights and avoid Irish military ground were made, but then largely ignored. Flying boats operating out of the area where involved in convoy protection and more offensive operations: by the end of the war, aircraft flying from Lough Erne had been involved in the sinking of at least nine U-Boats, as well as the famous German battleship Bismarck. The cost was not small, with 320 men flying out of Castle Archdale listed as KIA in the course of the war. The availability of the Donegal corridor should not be dismissed lightly as an example of Irish sympathy for the Allies: other neutral powers would be far less willing for belligerent nations to use their airspace in such a manner.

The issue of pilots and sailors was also at the heart of Irish neutrality, and the ways it which is was not applied uniformly. Throughout the war planes from either side would crash-land in or around Ireland, and ships be attacked, with their surviving occupants that were captured by Irish authorities becoming the responsibility of the state. Strict adherence to the neutrality policy, in line with laws at the time, meant that all such persons should have been interned until the conclusion of the war, with a special camp set up in the Curragh for the purpose, split between the Allies and Axis. But in practise, this procedure applied only fully to those pilots, sailors and other crew from Axis powers. They would spend the war locked up in the Curragh, or working in local areas when Germany refused or was unable to pay for their upkeep: airman and sailors of the Allied side had a tendency to make it over the border into Northern Ireland, either because they were just allowed to get there after landing in Ireland, or because they were released from internment “on license”, that is having undertaken a promise to remain in the country, a promise typically not kept. It was not even a legal crime to aid an internee’s escape in Ireland until 1942, and in late 1944 all Allied servicemen in such conditions were set free. Over 250 German military personnel would be interned during the war, most of them sailors who were rescued from sunken ships by the Irish merchant marine: initially held under strict conditions, they were granted more leeway as the war went on, getting the opportunity to enjoy leisure activities outside of their camps, or even enrol in university courses in Dublin. But they were not permitted to leave the state until the war was over.

There were plenty of other examples. Submarine activity in the seas around Ireland was reported to the British, as were unidentified aircraft in Irish airspace (excepting the Donegal corridor): though minor, this again should be viewed through the lens of a neutral power actively aiding the war effort of one side over the other. Perhaps more critically, the Irish remained willing to share metrological reports with Britain and the larger Allied faction, which was vital in respect of Ireland’s geographical position: stations on the west coast had early access to weather fronts moving in from the Atlantic. Famously, such a report from Blacksod Bay in the north of County Mayo was among those used to determine a critical two day delay in the D-Day landings in June 1944 to avoid bad weather. And Ireland agreed to take in a number refugee children from British cities, evacuated owing to the fear of German bombing, an allowance that was not extended to German children suffering under the same at any time of the war.

Not that any of the above, some of which only became common knowledge after the war in fairness, was enough to convince some people outside of Ireland that the country was not leaning in a pro-Axis direction. A common myth, invented then and repeated liberally throughout the war and since, was the claim that Ireland was a safe haven for German U-Boats to dock, re-fuel and re-supply, in Dublin or in various positions along the western and southern coasts. Such stories tend to revolve around claimed memories of German naval officers visiting Irish pubs in such areas, or the accounts of British military personnel crossing the border into Donegal for an evening and seeing such sights when they went for a drink. Certainly U-Boats entered Irish waters: more than one sank in such waters. It is perhaps not entirely out of the bounds of possibility that German officers might have left an anchored U-Boat off the coast of Ireland and taken a drink at a nearby pub, but nothing close to hard evidence for such a state of affairs has ever been produced. It should go without saying really, but here I am anyway, that the larger claim of German U-Boats being actively welcomed at Irish ports is the stuff of fantasy, an invention that suited those with an axe to grind against Ireland and its government. Indeed, the only belligerent whose ships got to dock in Irish ports was Britain, when they were transferring various guns and other armaments as part of trade deals.

It should also be noted that, despite the various troubles that Ireland encountered resulting from the policy of neutrality, it never stopped being a popular position internally. As previously discussed, only a tiny number of legislators rejected neutrality, and this was reflected in the population at large. Many had German sympathies, many had Allied sympathies: among either faction there were people who took up arms in some fashion or another, whether they were IRA Volunteers or crossed the Irish Sea to join the British military. But the idea of Ireland itself becoming a belligerent does not appear to have been something that anything approaching a majority of the Irish people ever wanted.

This is reflected, in a way, through the elections that took place during the war. Fianna Fail attempted to postpone the required vote in 1943 on account of the larger situation, but the lack of support from the opposition for the measure meant it went ahead. De Valera lost ten seats and his majority, but Fianna Fail remained the only party capable of forming a government. Unsatisfied with having to operate as a minority, de Valera took the chance to call another vote only 11 months later when a bill was defeated, doing so without a Presidential dissolution of the Dail because emergency powers allowed him to do so. Opposition parties, with Fine Gael now led by Richard Mulcahy, were unready for another campaign so soon, and efforts to craft a common platform among the smaller groups was unsuccessful. Fianna Fail regained most of the seats lost the previous year and resumed life as a majority government, and for the third time de Valera had succeeded with a snap general election. Looking beyond the party politics, we can see a popular mandate for the main proponent of the neutrality policy being given. But the electorates patience with Fianna Fail had its limits, as de Valera would find out after the war.

No matter what, the neutrality policy would remain, and still is, a complicated topic. There were other things that are worthy of further discussion in relation to neutrality of course, some of which I will be covering very shortly. But for the moment we will turn back to the issue of the IRA. We have talked about the way the organisation was struggling on within Ireland at this time, with its position at least a partial consequence of the absence of Sean Russell. In the next entry, we will explore Russell’s activities aboard during this period, up to and including his sojourn in Nazi Germany.

To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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Review: Senior Year

Senior Year

Trailer

Oops, she did it again

In 1999, high school cheerleader captain Stephanie (Angourie Rice) seems to be on the way to a perfect life: popular in school, a trophy boyfriend and imminently to be elected prom queen…at least until an accident during a routine puts her into a coma for 20 years. Awakening in an unfamiliar body (Rebel Wilson) and a very strange new world, Stephanie determines to finish her senior year of high school and create the life she felt she was destined for.

Rebel Wilson has priors with questionable streaming rom-coms, having largely failed to impress me with 2019’s Isn’t It Romantic, a premise-heavy effort at making something out of a very overplayed genre. Now, three years on, she’s trying it again, and while this is less of a rom-com than a coming-of-age dramedy, the results are still largely the same: Senior Year relaxes into the absurdity of its premise a bit too much, at the expense of nearly everything else. In essence, it is a film that is trying to distract you from its shallowness by emphasising the yucks that can be mined from the idea of a near-40-year-old acting like a teenager, and mistaking Lady Gaga for Madonna. Even thinking about it for a few minutes you can see the potential in this sort of idea, like the comparisons that could be made between Mean Girls-esque high school elites of 1999 being replaced by faux-woke influencers in 2022, but Senior Year isn’t the film to work with that kind of dichotomy or make any worthwhile satire along those lines.

The reason why it even comes close to working is Wilson herself. I still think she has been pigeon-holed to a degree, expected to take on the mantle of Melissa McCarthy in terms of a female comedian prone to movies where she spends half the time pratfalling. But she has chops, timing and confidence in execution that is obvious. It was much the same in Isn’t It Romantic really, with Wilson again showcasing herself as a better comedic actress than the material she has been saddled with. At times, it can be quite funny – any scene with Mary Holland, playing Stephanie’s former friend who is now the principal of the high school, any scene with Chris Parnell as Stephanie’s dad and any of the few moments when you get a sliver of the kind of deadpan sarcastic wit that calls to mind Bridesmaids – but more often than not it is struggling with bland swipes at millennials and any number of physical comedy bits that Wilson is adept at but feels increasingly out of place in 2022. Think politically incorrect person meets political correct world and you will understand half of the film before you see it, with the other half consisting of weird shout outs to things like Tiger King.

Senior Year also livens up whenever Sam Richardson, whom I last saw and enjoyed in Werewolves Within and is here playing the mandatory love interest, is on the screen, with he and Wilson having an easy chemistry (we’ll just leave aside the implications of the 30-something librarian dating a woman with the mind of a 17-year-old: the film certainly does) and I suppose that it does have some half-decent messages regards the poisonous invasiveness of social media in the modern age and how arenas like education have never been more of a cultural minefield. But that isn’t enough to make Senior Year worth the effort. Caught between being a drama about a girl trying to live up to the warped expectations of yesteryear and the comedy of a past-it woman trying to be a cheerleader, the end result is something that is only passable at best. Not recommended.

(All images are copyright of Netflix).

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NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Four: “Faith”

Like it or not, we have to work with the Colonials. That means, Kara sees the Hybrid. Or you can kiss your asses goodbye.

Air Date: 09/05/2008

Director: Michael Nankin

Writer: Seamus Kevin Fahey

Synopsis: After a bloody resolution to the mutiny on the Demetrius, Starbuck leads a team to the rebel basestar seeking answers from the Hybrid. Continuing her cancer treatments, Roslin meets a woman with the same diagnosis who is close to the end.

Review

“Faith” very much wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s an episode about the different kinds of faith and belief that people have, and how they can be tested, changed or evolved. Starbuck has her destiny, or perhaps we can just call it her gut feeling, something she holds onto so tight she is willing to look past awful compromises in order to pursue it. Helo has his belief in his wife and the military, and its ability to get a mission accomplished. Sam still believes in his wife, and still believes that following her into the gaping maw of the Cylons is his only option. Back in the Fleet, Emily Kowalski has come into a new faith, that there is a positive afterlife waiting for her when she leaves her current existence. Adama, as always, believes in people, be they Starbuck or Roslin.

But there are challenges too. Jean, the medic, has a practical faith in Starbuck based on Thrace’s history, but it is a faith that leads Jean to her death. Athena is presented with a scenario where her model reaches out to her with a belief that borders on the Messiah-like, and rejects it. And Roslin is presented with a challenge to her currently nihilistic viewpoint of there perhaps being nothing but an “abyss” beyond death, and how she will need to have some measure of blind faith to get past this. At times “Faith” can seem like a bit of a jumble of ideas, but it aids its cause by having a throughline that it sticks to.

First things first though, we have to take about the resolution of the cliffhanger given to us by “The Road Less Traveled”. And, like much of my opinion of the Starbuck related stuff from that episode, I really don’t like it at all. Things escalate to a fever pitch, and someone pulls a gun. All well and good. That gun gets fired, and Gaeta takes the hit, with Sam left looking like a really powerful mixture of adrenaline-fuelled and remorseful in the moment. Even better. But then the drama of the whole thing gets undercut severely by Starbuck stepping in and giving us a middle ground that cuts the Gordian Knot presented by the cliffhanger, by saying she’ll head to the basestar in an available Raptor, and the Demetrius can just stay where it is and jump back to the Fleet when the time for the mission is up.

Seriously? Why is this only being brought up as an option now? Why doesn’t Starbuck consider it earlier, why doesn’t Helo suggest it? Why is it that “The Road Less Traveled” presents us what seems like a binary choice to build up the tension of the moment, only for “Faith” to pull this out of nowhere and make a mockery of the tension created? We’re back to “Starbuck is crazy”, but nobody is covering themselves in glory here, with numerous characters in a position to defuse the situation by suggesting the course that they all end up taking. I really think this is telling of a certain deterioration in the writers room, that this manner of resolution is written up.

Let’s take the resulting sojourn to the basestar from the perspective of the Colonials first. There’s three characters to note here, leaving aside the “She’s here to get killed” Jean Barolay. Starbuck is coming to the fulfilment of her mission, and I hope I’m not too wide of the mark to note that there were moments when she seemed to be more like the old Starbuck once she got on the basestar. Maybe it was just that the manic energy that has marked the character from “He That Believeth In Me” was less prevalent, which I welcomed. Perhaps less welcome is her role as a recurring compromiser here, sometimes in the face of monstrous actions. The most potent is her apparent willingness to let Jean be murdered without any recompense, with Athena of all people asking why she is happy to let that stand. But at least a Starbuck with a single-minded mission to speak to the Hybrid is better than “crazy” Starbuck whose actions undermine all the work that has been done with her thus far.

Sam is the one straying close to some manner of mental break, but at least in his case we have had a hell of a lot more time to build up to the moment. After the truly awful outcome of the mutiny where Sam seriously wounds another officer – which will have long-reaching consequences few can foresee – he also has to deal with being the first on the scene when Baroley is killed, and given she has been with him for a very long time it’s understandable that Sam would snap a bit. There’s only so far any psyche can be pushed, and Sam has been through the ringer in this season already. Now he’s graduating to being a guy who is just a little too quick to point a gun at his problems, even if in the second case depicted here it’s probably justified. Where we go from here with Sam, once we get back to the Fleet, is genuinely fascinating to me, as all four of the Five we have met so far deteriorate in their own way.

That leaves Athena, who gets her own Christ arc in one episode. While it was a little overdone I did find myself appreciating it a bit: the way that she has become a figure of adulation for the Eights, the manner in which she quickly tells them where to go when it comes to helping them betray others, and her final rejection of the kind of role that Boomer and Caprica Six happily took up in “Downloaded”, as individuals within the hive. A dying Eight literally holds out her hand to Athena, seeking something – absolution we might call it? – but Athena isn’t interested. Aside from the malcontent role she has taken up while on the Demetrius, Athena is a member of the Colonial military, and has worked very hard to get that position. She’s all in on that, and isn’t going to be swayed by some airy words from the model she once identified with.

On the other side of the equation are the Cylons, and we do get some fascinating glimpses at some of the aspects of what is now a fracturing society. “Faith” seems to indicate that a tendency towards betrayal just seems to be innate to the Cylon character: Leoben continues to stir the pot, the Eights’ try and get Athena to help them against the Sixes, one of the Six’s kills a Colonial even as they try to organise a truce and even the Centurions are opening fire at the humanoid models. They just can’t seem to help themselves: like the proverbial scorpion, treason is in their nature. We might remember that the very moment of Cylon self-awareness came with a violent uprising against their creators. They can’t hold their own alliance of models together, even sub-divided as it is here: what hope does this proposed truce between human and rebel Cylon actually have? It will require a basic change of nature to succeed, and it isn’t clear if the Cylons are actually capable of that.

The other thing is the sheer trauma they are experiencing, years into this running conflict with humanity. The rebel Cylons have both the built-up weight of numerous deaths and resurrections in some instances matched to their current reality, where resurrection is off the table and death is permanent. The Six who gets euthanised in this episode is at the centre of the best scene: unable to live with herself after she was killed on New Caprica, unable to let it go, the scar of what occurred robbing her of any joy in life or desire to keep existing. Even revenge doesn’t do anything for her. It’s nothing new to the show to suggest that resurrection is not the death-defying miracle it was made out to be initially, with the trauma of the passing still very real. But we never see the consequences in quite as blunt terms as we do here. If “Faith” does nothing else, it reminds us that the war between human and Cylon, from the bombs of the Miniseries all the way up to the the battle of “He That Believeth In Me”, is not some subtle thing the Cylons are able to let slide off their backs. And of course the cyclical nature of human/Cylon violence is evident yet again, though in this case the Natalie character is prepared to take part just to secure the needed alliance.

The real beating heart of the episode is the material dedicated to Roslin who, contemplating the end, meets a woman a little further on that same road. Emily is a bit of a convenient method for Roslin to be able to talk out her fears and expectations of death, but I still really enjoyed this interaction all the same. Roslin gets both a warning of what is coming down the line for her, but also a measure of hope. Their interactions, running the gambit between hostile to deeply connective, are a suitably deep meditation on death and what comes after.

Roslin, very naturally, is scared of what’s coming, remembering the undignified way that her mother passed and the terror that comes with the expectation that there is nothing waiting for you when you do pass. The President hasn’t allowed herself to show that fear before now, not even in “Epiphanies” when she got to the very brink of death, but it’s very much present in her thinking. “Faith” seems to tie this into the rise of Baltar’s cult in a way, and we can perhaps see it as Roslin doubting her own beliefs in the face of an ever more popular alternative.

There follows a brilliant conversation where Roslin and Emily brush on important topics, not least a conflict between literal and non-literal interpretation of the scriptures, that wouldn’t be out of place in any church in the real world. Roslin briefly tries to rally against the idea of the One God, but her argument holds little weight when put against a faith that insists Aphrodite herself comes to collect the deceased. Even if Roslin argues that such things are metaphors, she undercuts herself when remarking that her own mother was so terrified at her end, a terror Roslin shared when it appeared the “Fields of Elysium” were not opening up. And maybe everything that has happened since Rosin anointed herself as the “dying leader” of Pythia is making her second guess her own destiny.

What Emily offers Roslin in response is a very comforting vision, and here BSG takes things to new places. Roslin has had deathbed visions before of course, and other visions besides, ones dedicated to prophecy and destiny. But this is different. It’s personal, meant for her, and carries it with no messages of doom, no strange glimpses of things that will come to pass. She’ll cross the river, and be re-united with her loved ones. There’s ambiguity about whether this is a true vision of what comes next, or whether she is just mimicking a dream that Emily described so vividly, but I tend to think that the dying leader is getting a slight bit of less ominous foreshadowing. She’s not ready to go just yet, but she now has less fear of the moment coming. Emily will reach the other bank, but not today for Roslin.

If “Faith” can say nothing else, it at least points a bit more clearly to the road ahead, after a few episodes where the grand finale of BSG could be perceived as very much stuck in place. Starbuck has finally heard the same prophy that we all got in Razor, and the show doesn’t hang around in terms of characters picking it apart and coming to the conclusion of what they need to do next. The eerie insistence that Thrace is going to lead humanity to its end remains unnerving, but is easily interpreted in a positive way (not that Starbuck does that). At the end of it all we have a means for humanity and the Cylons to actually get on with the business of finding Earth.

At the conclusion of the episode Adama’s sums up the ways that he has attempted to buy-in to the idea of Earth recently, not least letting Starbuck go on her desperate mission, but it wasn’t any of that that made him really believe in the idea. That was all Roslin. She might have stumbled with her faith, but it is renewed now, and it is strong enough to bring Adama, a man who made up the idea of Earth in the Miniseries, along for the ride. Season Four has fluttered around a bit with what it is doing with the Final Five, with Starbuck, with Roslin, but Earth, the promised land, is at least back in the crosshairs.

You made me believe.

Notes

-For a season with episode titles full of meaning, this one has to be the bluntest.

-I’m not sure what part of McCreary’s score work the music in the opening is, but I like it, it’s like a faster-paced version of “Prelude To War”.

-While the conclusion of “The Road Less Traveled” showed the crew of the Demetrius seemingly all resolved against Starbuck to some extent, here Sam alters course drastically, which I did not like.

-Sam’s been a resistance fighter and is now a Viper pilot, but he’s never had to use a gun to make someone stand down before. Hence his decision to shoot Gaeta in the leg, ignorant of the myriad of ways this is far more complicated a choice than “non-lethal”.

-Love Gaeta’s repeated “What the frak!?” screams, it’s a perfect representation of the kind of shock such a wound incurs.

-Seelix (I think) throws a nasty comment Athena’s way here, saying “Let the Cylon go” as if she is naturally more expendable. Obviously the acceptance of her by the crew is not uniform.

-The timer set-up on the Demetrius DRADIS seems like a callback to similar timer used in “33” and “You Can’t Go Home Again”.

-The count is down one, reflecting the death of Mathias.

-Bald Roslin is presented here in a very matter-of-factly kind of way, I think to emphasise that it has been the norm for a little while.

-Roslin notes that Tory has changed recently, having gotten past her crisis that we saw in “Crossroads (Part One)”. She’s apparently been able to pivot this renewed confidence as a return to the person she was in episodes like “Lay Down Your Burdens (Part Two)”, and nothing else.

-Here’s a question: why not jump with a Raptor back to the Fleet with Gaeta? Or with the Demetrius, and then jump back to the rendezvous point? There are ways out of this problem that are not properly explored, with the insistence that the Raptor doesn’t have enough fuel making no sense at all.

-Leoben just can’t help himself, telling Athena that the “Eight’s talk about you all the time” in front of other Colonials. Stop stirring the pot man, do you want an alliance or not?

-She’s been such a part of the furniture that I had to be reminded that Jean Barolay has been around for a while, first appearing as a member of the Caprican Resistance in “Downloaded”.

-The wreckage of the battle we saw in “The Ties That Bind” indicates a total slaughter, and I liked the effect of Cylon ordinance going off.

-“Don’t let Cottle take my leg”. Gaeta may not be a veteran of up-close combat – not even on New Caprica in “Exodus (Part Two)” I think – but he’s not stupid. He knows how bad this is, and if there is one unifying fear among soldiers, beyond death, it’s mutilation.

-I do like that Helo doesn’t make any promises, saying only that he will be staying till the timer reaches zero. He’s smart enough to see what is coming.

-Leoben describes Starbuck’s connection to her destiny as “hearing music”, and all we were missing was a meaningful glance towards Sam.

-The comet of Starbuck’s paintings is revealed, as the stricken basestar leaving a trail behind it above a gas giant. I guess that’s a good inversion of what we would have expected.

-We get a sudden cliffhanger here as the Raptor gets into trouble and hits debris, and I wouldn’t say that the episode really needed it. Or maybe I’m just getting tired of seeing Raptor’s get into trouble, the last time was only a few episodes ago.

-Cylon airlocks are accomplished through the use of biological membranes, which make a very disgusting noise.

-Athena’s encounter with the rows of Eights in this moment is presumably a callback to Boomer’s similar encounter in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)”. Very different outcome though.

-Athena’s mission statement as she rejects the Eight’s plea for help is a defiant rejection of the Cylon mindset: …you pick your side and you stick. You don’t cut and run when things get ugly. Otherwise you’ll never have anything.”

-Two nods to Shakespeare very quickly in Baltar’s broadcast, referring to “this mortal coil” and “the undiscovered country”, both part of the famous Act Three, Scene One monologue of Hamlet.

-Emily is played by Nana Visitor, best known to us as Kira Nerys from DS9. She’s fantastic in this episode, enough to say it’s her best work post-DS9.

-While unstated here, Emily’s second name is “Kowalski”, which is Polish. There are plenty of Earth names in BSG of course, but this one naturally stands out as especially odd.

-Roslin has a very obvious arrogance in her these days, and just knows better when she tries to turn off Baltar’s broadcast. But this is one woman she isn’t going to browbeat.

-Cylon’s just have a predilection for betrayal, don’t they? Athena isn’t off the Raptor 10 seconds and they’re trying to embroil her in plots.

-Love that moment of Sam and the Cylon interface, with Anders both tempted and fearful of doing the obvious.

-“You killed me” says this Six to Jean, and it’s like a question and an accusation all in one go.

-Sam breaks a bit in the moment after Jean is killed, and I did love Trucco’s interpretation of a man pushed just a little too far.

-“I did nothing to her” this Six proclaims. Only, she did. The annihilation of the Colonies cannot be so easily dismissed. It doesn’t mean she deserved to be drowned in a septic tank, but let’s not act as if any Cylon is without stain.

-The trauma of the Cylon really is unique. Ever since Cavil informed us that resurrection gets more painful every time in “Exodus (Part Two)”, we’ve been building to a moment like this.

-Natalie gives the traumatised Six a full mouth kiss, which we might call a kiss of death. The vibes are undoubtedly incestuous, and just add to the idea of warped Cylon sexuality.

-She then refers glibly to “human justice”, of “blood for blood”, which is rich coming from a Cylon really. What was the attack on the Colonies, if not a massive, disproportionate retaliation?

-Emily gives Roslin the gift of a shawl, apparently made by someone on another ship. It’s a touching gesture, and I’ll admit I’m fascinated by the idea of someone doing this as a hobby/business somewhere in the Fleet.

-It’s hard to find much in the way of sense for this particular set of Hybrid utterances, though I think the “toy soldier” who becomes “pliant” might be a reference to Adama at the conclusion.

-Emily’s description of the “other side” is idyllic, peaceful, serene. It’s just what you want really.

-Emily describes an unseen “presence” in this vision, that presumably corresponds to the One God. This might be the only time a non-Cylon figure actually seems to indicate an interaction, and it’s positive: “Don’t be scared, Emily. I’m with you. Hold my hand and we’ll cross over together.”

-Baltar’s appeal to people remains of the insidious kind. Here his version of a very peaceful transition to the afterlife seems tailor-made for people like Emily.

-We get a few cutaways to the Demetrius during the course of “Faith”, and I think they do add something to thee episode, just in terms of raising tension.

-The Hybrid scream is something else, a strange mix of the biological and mechanical. Presumably it’s getting an extra input of air to explain how it can last so long.

-The centurion is set off enough by this scream that it opens fire on the humanoid Cylons, indicating it identifies more with the mechanical entities.

-“The missing three will give you the five”. Great phrasing there. It’s a nod to D’Anna of course, but I think also you could take it as Tory, Tyrol and Tigh being the “missing three”, with Sam presumably the odd one out because he’s standing in front of the Hybrid, who will give us the fifth and last Cylon.

-The President maintains a certain zero-sum game by declaring that Baltar’s God is “the Cylon God”, in a way that indicates this makes unworthy of worship. But that’s a weak argument really, if we’re acknowledging the entity exists.

-She brings up her mothers battle with cancer here, something that was first mentioned in “Act Of Contrition”.

-Roslin’s memories of her mothers final days are heart-breaking, but very real. It’s a terrible thing, to see the indignities that people can be subjected to with wasting illnesses, and how they can become a key part of the memory of such things.

-I do appreciate the comeback though, as Emily tells Roslin that it was she who was terrified, and potentially not her mother. We do tend to project feelings all too easily.

-There is a deleted scene that I think fits in around here, where an Eight asks Athena how she has lived without resurrection for so long, and Athena tells her it makes life worth living more. Perhaps it would have helped the following scene, in terms of drawing a further line between Athena and the other Cylons.

-Sam knows what it means to see people die – truly die, not resurrect – and remarks upon this very simply in consideration of the mortally wounded Eight: “She’s looking past us”.

-Said Eight reaches out to Athena in this dying moment, asking for forgiveness. It’s a very religious moment, tying into the Emily/Laura conversation on Galactica, but Athena refuses the call.

-Sam steps in here to provide comfort to the dying Eight, and we might even say that he is stepping in with his people

-The collected group, not unlike previous prophecies as depicted in “The Passage”, maybe figure out the prophecy given by the Hybrid a bit too quickly. It’s not much of a prophecy if it doesn’t need a bit of interpretation.

-The bright colours of “the other side” contrast sharply with Galactica’s medbay, that’s for sure, in this vision that Roslin has. That’s the point of course.

-“I’m not ready”. Roslin might have had a large part of her attention on the hereafter recently, but here she makes a decisive choice to not accept her impending death as Emily does.

-And of course when she wakes up, it’s to the sound of Baltar preaching on the wireless. I guess he must be on to something.

-Great use of increasing tempo in the music as the countdown reaches its conclusion, positively Hanz Zimmer-like.

-I love Helo’s anger as the clock ticks to zero. He knows what he has to do, but that doesn’t mean he can keep the lid on his frustration.

-I don’t know who tells Helo “She’s gone” here, it might be Seelix maybe? It’s a heartless thing to say to him anyway. It’s not some soldier, it’s his wife.

-It’s palpable relief when the basestar jumps in with a few seconds to spare. Helo had faith in his wife to get the job done, and it is rewarded here.

-In response to Adama waxing lyrical about Apollo’s absence and the whole thing with Starbuck and her crew, Roslin says “I’m right here”. She is a solid presence in Adama’s life. That can count for a lot.

Overall Verdict: “Faith” has its problems, with its resolution to the opening cliffhanger extremely weak and some continuing issues with Starbuck and other characters. But other aspects are very strong. I really enjoyed the scenes between Roslin and Emily, the stuff with Sam, Athena, Helo, even the small part given to Adama. There’s just those few elements that prevent “Faith” from being a stand-out. Season Four continues to be a bit hit-and-miss, but this episode points the way to a deeper progression that might make up for some of those shortfalls.

To read more entries in this series, click here to go the index.

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Ireland’s Wars: Plan W

We round of this trilogy of entries on the theoretical aspects of Ireland’s involvement in the Second World War with a look at that which both the British and Irish leadership came up with in the same period as Plan Kathleen and Operation Green. The fall of France and the imminent threat that Britain faced in terms of a potential German invasion had many in London attempting to rapidly formulate counter-strokes to German moves both likely and speculative, something all the more required with German planes engaging the RAF over Britain and the rest of Hitler’s war machine only just across the English Channel. The possibility of a German attack on Ireland was certainly raised. The question was what kind of countermeasures could the British military come up with for such an attack, and to what extent would the Irish government and military be involved with them?

British leadership suspected, before they got their hands on a copy of Green, that Germany was planning for an invasion of Ireland as soon as the campaign in France concluded. They were never going to idly stand-by while such an invasion proceeded: such an attack would bring the Germans to the only land border the UK had, and the entire island of Ireland could then be used to facilitate attacks on Britain from the west. Whatever about Ireland’s neutral status, its geographical position made it something that had to be factored into British defensive plans. The only question was how the British would intervene in the event, and if they would even wait for an invasion to tackle action.

There were certainly elements of the British political establishment and military that advocated for Ireland to be militarily occupied without German aggression, to ward off the opportunity for German attack and to give the Royal Navy access once more to the Treaty ports. Elements of the Belfast government certainly endorsed such an idea, reasoning that occupation then would be less bloody than if British soldiers instead had to fight an arrived German force on the same land. Even before Churchill, who has so railed against the settlement that handed over the ports, became Prime Minister, discussions took place as to the possibility of such a takeover, or perhaps just a more limited operation to seize the ports. One of the tasks appointed to Bernard Montgomery, who had some experience of the area from his service during the War of Independence, in the period after the fall of France was to plan for such an attack to seize Cork and Queenstown. There were shadier schemes too, with Richard Mulcahy, then a mere TD, approached in June 1940 by alleged representatives of British military forces in the North over the possibility of a Dublin coup to install something that would have less objections to British military presence n the 26 counties. Nor were such things completely theoretical: Britain would invade and occupy neutral Iceland in May 1940 for many of the same reasons bandied about regards Ireland, though with almost no resistance.

How a British occupation of Ireland would have worked out is open to speculation, but it is easy to imagine such moves having long-term negative impacts for the British position. Very pertinently for Churchill’s long-term aims, public opinion within the United States would presumably have been outraged. Any attack on Ireland – and it must be acknowledged that this is what it would have been – would have engendered some level of resistance, both conventional from the Defence Forces for a time, and then unconventionally. Seizure of the Treaty ports was possible but, as we will see in a moment, would not be easy. Britain would have had to face the rest of the war needing to maintain a costly, and potentially quite bloody, military occupation of the 26 counties, and when the war was over would be presented with the awkward aftermath: a western neighbour more deadset on an anti-British sentiment than ever. The IRA would have been emboldened, moderates squashed: given how Germany ended up being incapable of launching an attack across the Channel, it would have been a huge price to pay for a needless operation. Enough people in British leadership circles probably understood that, hence why it never happened. But British strategic interests did still intersect with Ireland, and that had to be addressed.

Ireland’s retained a steadfast commitment to neutrality, and an insistence on its own sovereignty in the face of any outside aggression, whether that aggression was German or British, but serious question marks remained regards the states ability to actually defend that neutrality. Plans to resist such attacks were basic enough, perhaps reflective of the Irish Defence Forces’ perceived inability to offer conventional resistance against either possible foe for very long. Ireland expected to first repel an attack from the North in the area of Leitrim and Cavan, with a secondary line of defence being drawn along the Boyne, with bridges and canals wired to blow ahead of time to impede the enemy, whomever it may be: beyond that, Irish Army units were directed to split into smaller units and commence a guerrilla resistance. If an attack was to come from the south, units were given more particular instructions: in Cork for example, motor torpedo boats and artillery pieces inherited from the British would be used on anyone attempting to take the port, which itself would be destroyed and otherwise blocked off with sunken ships in the event of capture. Dublin was not expected to hold out long against any attack, with de Valera’ government discreetly arranging for houses in Kildare and other areas to be reconnoitred as possible bases for emergency government work. Such plans carry indications of the predictable fatalism within Irish mindsets: if Ireland was attacked, prolonged conventional resistance seemed unlikely, unless of course it was being done along side a much more powerful military. The rapid manner in which Germany took a succession of relatively small countries in the Summer of 1940 focused minds greatly in Dublin. From this, and from British efforts to secure their western flank with as much preparatory moves as possible, came the meetings and subsequent arrangements that would create what became known as “Plan W”.

On the same day that the British decided to evacuate from Norway, the first meeting between representatives of the British and Irish governments, and their respective militaries, took place in London to discuss potential arrangements in the event that Ireland was invaded by Germany. There followed further meetings in Belfast and in Dublin. These events were not designed to agree specific details of British intervention in Ireland in the event of German invasion, but more to create an understanding of the joint threat facing both Britain and Ireland, and an understanding of how joint action between the two governments had obvious benefits. The discussions were largely done in secret, to avoid anything that could have exposed Irish neutrality. In the aftermath, the respective militaries began to create more concrete operational plans.

The resulting outline was based largely as the assumption of a German landing on the south coast of Ireland, possibly with an additional attack from parachuted troops, with British units in Northern Ireland advancing south to meet them. The 53rd Infantry Division would be at the heart of this advance, aided by elements of the Royal Marines who, operating from Wales, would have specific responsibility for establishing a beachhead in the south-east of Ireland and attacking German landing sites as quickly as possible. The larger British contingent would drive south along three routes, secure Dublin before German bombings could destroy bridges and roads, and then keep going. Addendums to the plan later involved the 61st Infantry Division entering Donegal to secure Lough Swilly.

The Irish Defence Forces would be expected to fight side-by-side with the British, though it is questionable how useful they would have been. A German landing on the south or south-east coasts would have run first into the Irish 5th Brigade, which was tasked with operating independent of division command and to react quickly to any amphibious invasion, before receiving additional support from the 1st Division, based in Cork, and the 2nd Division, based in Dublin. Other units were already receiving directions in becoming mobile columns in the events of an invasion, to maximise speed when dealing with invaders, especially those that could be dropped from the sky. The Reserves, better known as the “Local Security Force”, would be tasked with destroying vital transport links as German troops advanced, and undertaking ambushes and other small-scale impediments.

W contained other elements as well. In terms of logistics and supply, train lines leaving Belfast were prepared for the possibility of dozens of supply trips heading towards Dublin every day, with other lines set aside for the return of wounded; in the meantime Belfast Port would have to be ready to accept war supplies and reinforcements from Britain. The Royal Air Force was earmarked to take over Baldonnell and Collinstown Airfields with three Hurricane squadrons and units of light bombers with which to provide air support to fighting in the south of the country, with anti-aircraft regiments also assigned to defend these sites. Civilian boats were to be instructed to deport Irish ports to free them up for military activity, with submarines to immediately go into action off the Irish coastline. Refugee management was largely to be left to the Garda, with British military planners concerned about roads being choked up as they had during the retreat in the Low Countries.

What impact the Irish could truly have had is impossible to know, given the size of the Irish Army, it’s obsolete armament and lack of experience: more than likely the Defence Forces would see its primarily engagement with the Germans happening only in the opening days of an invasion, before they became more of a supporting force to the British. Still it must be noted that by the Autumn of 1940 the Irish military had added four brigades to its overall size, with additional motor vehicles and airplanes, indicating a belief that they would be willing to engage invaders if they had come.

A key element of Plan W was the matter of invitations. When the first meetings between the respective leaderships too place, the Irish were initially informed that British military forces in the North had been given orders to immediately proceed south in the event of a German invasion, with or without the consent of the Dublin government. Plan W amended this unilateral stance somewhat. The British military would only cross the borer heading south when Eamon de Valera formally extended an invitation. Such an order of proceedings would give the British an added sheen of legitimacy as they embarked on what would essentially be an armed occupation of the entire Ireland. It would also grant de Valera and his government the perception of being an equal player in events, with Ireland retaining its sovereignty in terms of who or who it did not grant access to the country to. Of course it seems extremely unlikely that such invitations would have had much practical effect if they were granted or withheld: if Germans invaded the south of Ireland the British were going to march to meet them, whether de Valera approved it or not. But Plan W at least set up a means whereby some awkward questions could be avoided, even if one suspects de Valera’s invitation wold probably end up being retroactive.

The invitation question feeds into the command question. If a battle with the Germans was happening on Irish soil, then could de Valera expect to be a key director of Allied forces? The question was not really answered very adequately in Plan W, which largely extended to military operations, and not to the political heads who would be the higher control of those powers. It seems extremely unlikely that de Valera would be in a position to dictate the manoeuvres of British military units, and may even have been obliged to essentially hand over command of the Irish Defence Forces to a higher British military leader if the two forces were to engage the Germans together in an effective manner. There were concerns aired in W about the collaboration of the Irish, with the term “if friendly” occasionally added to elements that referred to the Irish military units. At other points, it was written down that British military units should forcibly take over aspects of Irish infrastructure if Ireland proved itself hostile. This was beyond the realisation that elements like the IRA could be counted upon to enact some form of guerrilla resistance to the British that would have to be dealt with, and referred to fears that large parts of the Irish state, its organisations and populace, could act in a manner that was belligerent towards Britain.

The lack of clarity with such things reflected the lack of certainty over just what might occur if W had to be implemented. Certainly some part of the Irish citizenry, most notably the IRA, would have been hostile to Britain. Certainly others parts of the Irish citizenry would have been happy to assist the British given the larger circumstance of a British invasion. What size either would have been is impossible to know. A government-endorsed intervention by the British would have helped, as would the reality of the Defence Forces engaging the Germans on Irish soil, but one can easily see how a drawn-out British military presence in Ireland would have engendered resentment. The War of Independence was not yet two decades old after all.

It’s difficult to appraise how W would have gone if it had ever had to be implemented, so much would depend on what was occurring in Britain at the same time. Certainly the nominal advantage would have been with the defenders, with the British military, in combination with assistance from more limited Irish allies, more than capable of attacking and destroying what would have been a limited German invasion force operating far from reliable supply lines. But what would have occurred coming out of such a victory is very difficult to foresee. The Germans expelled, it is hard to believe that Churchill would have been happy to just order his forces back over the border, especially with the Treaty ports once again in Britain’s possession. Perhaps such things could have been warded off with the more long-term entry of Ireland into the conflict on the side of the Allies, but an extended British military presence on the entire island would have been inevitable. How that could have effected the lasting political situation on the island is so reliant on conjecture that I will leave the topic be. On the other hand, if W had failed to secure a quick victory, the possibility of an extended conflict on Ireland between Britain and Germany would have been evident, or worse a British defeat and German occupation. A victory of Nazi Germany over Britain, with a corresponding domination of Ireland, would have fundamentally altered the strategic picture of the Second World War, and potentially resulted in a very different outcome down the line.

In the end, Plan W was never needed. The threat of German invasion of Britain, and Ireland, receded as time went on and Hitler decided to look more to the east for further territorial ambitions. The Plan remained on the books for the duration of the war, and Allied military strength based in Northern Ireland would only increase, but by the Summer of 1941 it no longer seemed anywhere near as likely that W would ever need to be implemented.

The previous three entries have focused very much on the theoretical, even the fantastical. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, it might seems somewhat absurd that such plans were ever made. But they were borne of a time, maybe the only time between 1922 and the present day, when the existence of the Irish state seemed in danger. There was only so much that a policy of neutrality could do to ward off such dangers. It is to that policy of neutrality that we look too next, as we examine, from a general perspective, its successes, its failures and the ways in which Ireland proved willing to bend its own rules on occasion.

To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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Review: Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Trailer

Yes, the googly eye actually has a very important plot purpose.

Highly strung Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh) runs a struggling laundromat with her kind-natured husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), and faces into the stress of an IRS audit from inspector Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis) while caring for her elderly father (James Hong) and largely failing to connect with her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). When an alternative version of Waymond from a different universe inhabits his body briefly, it catapults Evelyn into a bizarre adventure, where she must harness powers and abilities from across an infinite number of universes in order to stop “Jobu Tupaki”, a being who aims to destroy the entire multiverse.

I don’t fully know yet if Everything Everywhere All At Once is the best film of the year. Even now, weeks after viewing it, I’m unsure, and might still rank Belfast higher. I might change my mind. Or maybe jump into a universe where it is my #1. But there is no doubt that it is the most unique, freshest and inventive film of the year thus far, and the odds of it losing those titles is rare indeed. Just a short time after Dr Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness did something fun with a similar concept, Everything Everywhere All At Once takes that ball and races into strange places. And what places they are.

How to approach this one? Everything Everywhere All At Once starts off fairly grounded. We get some well put together introductions to our cast, most importantly the put upon Evelyn, a woman at a point in what seems to be a miserable existence where she is questioning every choice she has made in her life thus far. Her husband is secretly planning to seek a divorce, her somewhat estranged father is over from China, her daughter has resentment owing to Evelyn struggling to accept her homosexuality. And then, an audit from the IRS. These early moments are as basic as the film will get, because once the “jumping” starts, things go haywire very quickly.

Once the promise of the premise kicks in (and try not to worry too much about the science behind it all), Everything Everywhere All At Once becomes a mind-bending absurdist comedy, mixed with a drama about existentialism and nihilism. That’s the simplest way to describe a film that deals with such heavy matter as someone so weighed under by the reality of a multiverse that they want to bring an end to the whole thing, that is put part-and-parcel alongside fight sequences where people gain martial arts powers by inserting objects up their anus (seriously). Having done similar work in Swiss Army Man, the “Daniels” – co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – walk a tight line between seriousness and ridiculousness, as Evelyn and her family bounce around an IRS building under siege, jumping from universe to universe in a bid to stop this otherworldly figure that has a deeper connection to Evelyn than she might realise. At the centre of it all seems to be a pretty simple hypothetical: if you could be anyone you wanted to be anywhere you wanted to be, who and where would you choose? And do you think those choices would make you happy?

This could all get very silly if the script went just a little bit of a different way, but Everything Everywhere All At Once avoids this. Instead it anchors itself with a very well-written and presented collection of human dramas, that amount to Evelyn attempting to repair the many relationships in her life, and not always succeeding, even while various shades of madness erupt all around her (that and a comparison between multiverse mayhem and the general insanity of daily life in 2022). So, even while the film does delight in doing outrageous things with the premise, the finer details of which blow by you so fast you are bound to be more than a little confused at points – one of the few criticisms I could make if I am being honest – you could strip all of that away and still find plenty worth enjoying. The cosmic nature of existence and the idea that destroying it all is preferable to living in every moment at the same time is a very grand theme, but in story-telling terms pales in comparison to Evelyn and Waymond coming to terms with whether their marriage has been a good thing for the two of them (or not) or whether Evelyn will ever be able to relate to her daughter. Amid the non-stop visual and comedy punches, a scene where Evelyn callously comments on her daughters weight at a critical moment is as likely to stay with you as anything else.

And all of this comes with a very healthy dose, even an over-riding focus, on humour. And it isn’t just the kind of absurdist stuff that sees people transform from clowns to ballerinas to anything you can think of from frame to frame, but a broad mix of styles, from Alpha Waymond’s assertion that Evelyn is the perfect saviour for mankind because she’s the version of herself that has made the most wrong choices, or a bit involving googly eyes on a rock late-on that had me in stitches. At times the Daniels are trying to shock you (that fight involving butt plugs), at times they are dedicating themselves big time to set-up/punchline jokes (Evelyn’s early misunderstanding of the Pixar movie as “Racoontouille” comes back in a big way later) at others they drift into a very strange wistfulness (a universe where Evelyn and Deirdre are involved in a tragic romance, while having sausages for fingers, is a recurring pop-up). The variety reflects the premise, and constantly keeps you on your toes, and laughing. At times Everything Everywhere All At Once might suffer a bit from the Marvel syndrome of not being able to take even apocalyptic situations seriously, but when the comedy is this good it is difficult to complain.

It might seem odd to say, but Yeoh is appropriately subdued here. Evelyn isn’t a hero on the rise, she’s a middle-aged mother who is exhausted with every aspect of her life, and she brings that to the role. In an amazing moment “Alpha Waymond” asks if she will become the person she needs to be in order to stop Jobu Tupaki or if she would rather just lie on the floor: Yeoh immediately accepts the offer of the floor. Over the course of the expansive runtime, we really do get a feel for a person who just wants to get through another day without an IRS audit becoming life ruining, and could do without different universes butting in. Alongside her is Quan, and it’s a welcome return to the mainstream for him, so long after his debut with Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. The beating heart of the film, his Waymond is a shining light of eternal positivity and hope in a humdrum and frequently hopeless universe, and the connection between this character and Evelyn is one of the best explored romantic plotlines I have seen in a while. And then there’s Hsu, who serves as both daughter and MacGuffin all at once: millennial despair is summed up in her, and in her failing relationship with a mother from a different era. Amid all of the philosophical musing and kung fu fights, Hsu manages to imbue Everything Everywhere All At Once with a vital exploration of maternal interactions through trying times, and indeed make this the key element by the conclusion.

I could go on and on about the cast, who embrace the insanity of the script and play it just right, whether it is Jamie Lee Curtisplaying the piono with her feet in the sausage finger universe, or James Hong in a universe where he is some kind Nick Fury-type. They all commit, and in doing so they keep the film from being some sort of camp Austin Powers-esque thing, and instead something closer to an Edgar Wright production, with a masterful showcase of comedic chops and comedic timing mixing with some very relatable and well-written drama.

The nature of this premise means that the word of the day when it comes to the cinematography has to be invention, and that is exactly what the Daniels bring. Individual scenes look like they have been in the mind for years, so full of details and colour as they are: the Wang home at the very start of the film manages to appear both warm and inviting, as well as muddled, packed and garish, without either aspect ever overriding the other. The seemingly bland stage of the IRS office becomes something so much more when the multiverse pops in, with every flight of stairs, drawer and donut a potential focal point for cool zooms, pans and slow-mos. And by the end of the film the Daniels will have easily wowed you with the art of the medley sequences, as we jump from universe to universe and back again, dissecting numerous lives and places in a matter of seconds, and yet never straying too far from the essentially human drama on display. Not even when Everything Everywhere All At Once becomes a martial arts film.

I don’t really know how else to put it, but the fight scenes in Everything Everywhere All At Once are bad-ass. From choreographers Andy and Brian Le, and presumably with some assistance from Quan who has plenty of priors behind a camera, the film really goes all-in, starting with an incredible “one against many” showpiece involving Alpha Waymond, a few security mooks, a handbag and some chewing gum, and then proceeding to a truly eclectic mix: the aforementioned hand-to-hand that revolves around a race to fill an anus with something; a hallway battle where Jobu Tupaki demonstrates the true absurdity of the multiverse and all it can offer someone in terms of ways and means to fight; a montage based around giving hostile people the thing that will make them truly happy, and not just the violence they are presenting you with; and a whole host of nods, homages and lifting from a variety of genres and martial arts movies. In line with the film’s excellent sense of self and pacing, the action sequences are all suitably placed high points that tend to come out of nowhere, last just long enough and leave you wanting more.

In closing, I feel that I need to talk about ambition. That’s something that can often feel absent from cinema nowadays, where attention spans are limited, most of the money is made with well-worn franchises and the willingness to take risks sometimes appears to be gone altogether. Well, Everything Everywhere All At Once takes a hell of a risk, an the payoff is enormous. It is enough to say that I consider it the most ambitious movie I have seen in years, in how it attempts to mixt the absurd with the serious, the action-heavy with the philosophically weighty, and with the long running time with a story that requires the audience to engage their brain every step of the way. Its cast is doing amazing work, it looks spectacular and it is a film that, once seen, seems bound to draw the viewer back again so that they can find something new and wonderful to see within it. In essence, this is a film that you are unlikely to ever forget once you do see it because there has never really been anything quite like it. It comes very highly recommended.

(All images are copyright of A24).

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NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Four: “The Road Less Traveled”

I can’t allow you to risk the lives of this ship’s crew.

Air Date: 2/5/2008

Director: Michael Rymer

Writer: Mark Verheiden

Synopsis: Starbuck’s declining mental state causes mutinous sentiment aboard the Demetrius, amplified when a stranded Leoben model is brought aboard with a message of truce. Baltar’s cult grows apace, as he turns his attentions to a grieving Tyrol.

Review

Starbuck is losing it. That’s been a theme of hers throughout Season Four thus far, especially “Six Of One”, and it’s the plot of her part of “The Road Less Traveled” (yeah, one “l”). And I hate it. I know what the writers are going for, I know what Sackoff is trying to do, but it just doesn’t work for me. “The Road Less Traveled” takes a nuanced three-dimensional character that we have seen grow and change for three years, and turns her into something that takes a metaphorical dump on much of what came before.

So yes, she’s going mad, seen in her demented laughter, her obsessiveness, her unwillingness to deal with her crew properly and then her actions with Leoben. As a CO, she’s dropping the ball to a spectacular extent, acting as Roslin does with the Fleet (a potential throughline denied to us by the President’s absence from the episode), leaving the actual commanding to Helo: think back to the discussions on command she had with Adama in “The Hand Of God”, or with Cain in “Resurrection Ship (Part Two)”, or her interactions with Kat in “Scar” and realise it’s all been for naught. And she is proving herself to be so easily manipulated by Leoben that one has to wonder if we shouldn’t just separate her entirely from the person we saw all the way up to “Maelstrom”, and even in terms of that episode Starbuck seems to not know relevant plot points (like her acceptance of death as a means of working out her hang-ups). This is not our Kara Thrace.

How about this Leoben stuff though? I consider it little less than a betrayal of the entire New Caprica arc for Starbuck, and I think Mark Verheiden might have too, given he puts such a sentiment in Helo’s mouth. To do a long-running sub-plot – four episodes worth, from “Occupation” to “Exodus (Part Two)” – about Leoben imprisoning Starbuck, faking a relationship with her, presenting her with a manufactured daughter and, if we’re being honest, forcing himself upon her in at least one way and then to pull what happens in this episode, is inexcusable. Leoben is an abuser, plain and simple, and here the new Kara Thrace lets him on her ship, puts herself alone with him and then starts getting a bit intimate. That’s what you have to describe it as. Her dreams of such things in “Maelstrom” were one thing, and could easily be described as nightmares. This is different. It’s a sub-plot where an abused woman makes good with her abuser, and it has aged about as terribly as you would expect. The excuses are easy to make – that a traumatised Starbuck would act unpredictably in such circumstances is the summation – but they aren’t good enough. “The Road Less Traveled” could still have gotten from A to B with Leoben without this treatment, but instead chooses something that I would describe as borderline-titillation bait.

In a brief moment of sanity Kara turns on Leoben, after Mathias is killed, but it doesn’t last. That scene ends with the two having an honest-to-God heart-to-heart, and what’s worse a heart-to-heart that essentially re-runs some of the main plot beats of “Maelstrom”, an episode that had such finality, physically and emotionally, for Starbuck that doing so just cheapens it. Leoben urges Thrace to come to terms with her past and find meaning in her destiny, Starbuck is reluctant but goes along with. It’s all so irritating.

We should also talk about Leoben a bit here, in terms of his goal and how he goes about achieving it. He’s always been an enigmatic kind of character of course, but you do feel that we have reached an extreme point. He wants to inaugurate an alliance between human and rebel Cylon and help Starbuck find her way to Earth, and his usual methods of mixing lies and truth isn’t going to help with either task. What Leoben offers is his usual thing: creating dissent, and watching on from the sidelines as said dissent plays out. The death of Mathias may not have been intentional, but just muddies the waters even more. I suppose what I am trying to say is that if the rebel Cylons want an alliance with humanity they send a strange ambassador for the task, and if it had to be Leoben you would think he would go about his business with more care. But then again he might just handwave away such criticism with talk of “destiny”.

Much better in the episode, the saving grace in many ways, is the arc for Helo. For a character that I find is often derided as a one trick pony, I’m seeing in this re-watch a lot of really great stuff, that follows on from the vastly under-rated “The Woman King” in Season Three. Helo gets his own significant sub-plot in “The Road Less Traveled” and it’s one that sees him lose faith in Starbuck bit-by-bit to the point of mutiny.

Helo is pressed hard in this episode. We have to remember that he and Starbuck have a bit of a connection, after what happened on Caprica. He’s been there for her, such as we saw in “Scar”, more than other people have, to the point where we might even describe Helo as the most positive male relationship in Starbuck’s life. Moreover Helo has something to prove as a subordinate officer coming off of his actions in “A Measure Of Salvation”. For these reasons, the idea that he would be the focal point for opposition to Starbuck in these circumstances is understandably difficult for him to accept.

Hence why he appears to put up with so much: Starbuck’s loosening grip on reality, her treatment of the crew, her willingness to play nice with Leoben and even her plan to jump into a potentially life threatening situation. Throughout all of this Helo backs up Starbuck, even as the crew of the Demetrius turn on her, and get more and more vocal about it. Even when his wife urges him to take action, Helo is hesitant, though we cannot discount the influence that she has on the final outcome of things. The final straw is when Mathias dies and Starbuck still does not deviate from her course – emphasising the respect Helo has for other members of the military, something we have known about him since “Precipice” – but even then we can see the anguish etched all over Helo’s face. His anger with Pike that results in the beatdown is just projection of that frustration.

And that frustration comes from the reality that Helo is the one best placed to do something, as Athena reminds him. Starbuck respects him of course, and even if that didn’t matter in her current state of mind he’s the XO. We’ve seen XO’s take action against their commanders before, most notably in “The Captain’s Hand”. Not only can it be done, but it can be done legally. Helo gives Starbuck every opportunity to act rationally, and when she chooses not to, he acts under that legality. And he is right. Of course with the benefit of hindsight it all works out for Starbuck and her destiny-driven actions, but in the context of the immediate situation and what Helo knows and doesn’t know, it’s hard to fault what he does. Other than to ask why it took him so long. “The Road Less Traveled” does a great job with this whole sub-plot, and even if it doesn’t redeem the Demetrius section of the episode it goes a fair way.

Of course there is also stuff back in the Fleet to talk about. Tyrol is undergoing his own significant change in “The Road Less Traveled”, and I don’t just mean the shaving of his head. He’s desperately looking for something to grasp onto, and he certainly isn’t finding it in his work, and he certainly isn’t finding it in his son. Obsession over how Cally died is something for him to focus on, until Tory expertly manipulates him into dropping that as a life raft, implying that she might have killed herself because of Tyrol’s true nature: a heart-breaking scene, that only underlines Tory’s continued turn to villainy.

Of course Tory has a bigger plan than just shaking Tyrol off her trail, she’s out to grab more followers for Baltar. Her words in the launch tube get the ex-Chief in the door, but Tyrol’s hesitancy is obvious. This is a guy who previously expressed only scorn for religion – well, the Colonial religion – in “The Eye Of Jupiter” so one suspects that Baltar’s mantra of humanity as perfection means very little to this subject, and not just because Tyrol isn’t actually human.

Maybe that’s why Baltar attempts to use Cally as a way to connect with Tyrol, doing so in a manner wherein he suggests she would have wanted Tyrol to forgive him. It’s quite strange really, that someone of Baltar’s intelligence would think this the way to go with Tyrol: we might remember that Baltar’s signature was on the death order that nearly ended Cally’s life in “Exodus (Part One)”, something that does not even get brought up here, at least not directly. Perhaps the idea is that Tory has prompted Baltar to use this approach, but if so we don’t really see it.

Tyrol clearly is looking for some measure of salvation, not unlike Tigh with Caprica Six I suppose, though this plot is far better carried out. His anger at Baltar is a manifestation of his own pain, guilt and rage, which leads to a moment where Tyrol impulsively appears to attempt suicide: a very powerful scene, one whose suddenness underlines the rapid change in Tyrol’s mental state very effectively. No longer human, turning on the other members of the Five, what is it that can save Tyrol?

Step forward Baltar a second time I suppose. He’s fully taking on the role of a prophet in “The Road Less Traveled”, and I don’t just mean with the outfit (although that is an amazing touch). It’s in his sermons to the masses, in his confidence over the wireless and in the way he seeks to constantly met and evolve the expectations of his flock. It’s the marriage of his old persona – the narcissist who desires to be adored as a figure of power, political and sexual – with this new figure, who actually seems to believe what he is saying and thinks it is his literal God-driven duty to get everyone else to accept the same thing.

This combination results in a man who both seems like a devout evangelical, but also someone who can engage in some rather cynical long term planning. Baltar makes sure that people who come to hear him talk get fed, he makes sure that the performance of his sermons is memorable, he makes sure that he maintains a secret link to the President’s office through Tory (though the manipulation is very much going both ways there) and he makes sure to create the right “media moments”. His actions at the conclusion of “Escape Velocity” put him on a major pedestal, and now Baltar seeks out more of the same.

The seduction of Tyrol – and again I don’t discount the very real possibility that it is a seduction based in genuine faith – is very interesting. At first Baltar seems to err by using Cally as a crutch. It’s hard to tell if this is just a major misjudgement or part of a more complicated plan to poke the bear for maximum effect: certainly Tyrol’s attack on Baltar only seems to swell the adoration of the crowd.

But Baltar isn’t done, leading to the remarkable second scene in Tyrol’s quarters. Having mollified the needs for his followers, Baltar approaches Tyrol one-on-one, to offer apologies and a justification. He explains that he’s been given one last chance for redemption, and he’s going to do what he can to grasp it, reflecting on the evolution he has gone through since the events of the Miniseries. It’s this, plus some rather bland compliments paid towards Cally, that goes through to Tyrol for some reason. Three of the four revealed members of the Five are at sea right now: Sam with Starbuck, Tigh with Caprica Six, Tyrol with what we have seen. They’re looking for something, anything, that will give them stability. Tory found it with Baltar. Now it seems like Tyrol has too, albeit in a different way: in a realisation that he should spend less time fighting against what he is in a grand cosmic game where God is “laughing his ass off” and perhaps do some embracing of his own. If the first step is to follow Cally in the forgiveness she offered Baltar, then so be it. As inherently insidious as Baltar’s cult is, and how could it not be with Tory at the heart of it, this is a much more positive place to leave Tyrol than we have at the end of other episodes recently, not least “The Ties That Bind”. The shades of grey are building and building.

A remaining thing I want to call attention to, in the good column for “The Road Less Traveled”, is the use of minor characters. This is accomplished because there are a few of the big players missing from the stage, namely Adama and Roslin, so others get the chance to make good with surprisingly little screentime. We’ve mentioned Athena a few times, and I do find her kinda fascinating in this episode, where she has characteristics that sort of match those we saw in “The Woman King”, not afraid to point the finger at others and not afraid to tell her husband what he should and shouldn’t’ be doing. But there are others too: Tory, who only appears twice but manages to give us a showcase of being the power behind the throne when it comes to Baltar and a burgeoning puppetmaster when it comes to Tyrol; Mathias, who joins the crew of the Demetrius in their unhappiness and later provides a potent focal point for their anger; Tigh, who appears only once as an angel on Tyrol’s shoulder but still advances his own sub-plot; and Gaeta, who offers Starbuck a olive branch, the rejection of which feeds into his own willingness to commit mutiny. There are all good examples of doing more with less: if only the production team had been able to follow through with the same level of ability for the main plot of the episode.

There are some sins that even your imaginary God can never forgive.

Notes

-The title comes from the Robert Frost Poem “The Road Not Taken”: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Making an unpopular choice would appear to be a reference to Starbuck.

-This is the only episode of the entire series where Adama doesn’t appear, and one of a tiny number where Roslin also no-shows.

-The Demetrius mission has gone on for 58 days, which seems like an alarmingly long time for the crew stuck on that ship and the Fleet left waiting for them.

-Helo’s concern about Starbuck is obvious from the off, just going by the look on his face, but also notable is his decorum towards a superior officer. He’s at pains to maintain that formality and respect, even as the situation devolves.

-Starbuck seems fundamentally off from the moment we first see her, and not in a well-constructed way. The way she puts on a leering grin for “Third time’s the charm” is like Sackoff was told to imitate the Joker.

-Baltar’s robes are something else. He’s not setting himself up as a prophet, he’s setting himself up as royalty.

-The woman speaking to Baltar expresses anger at “the politicians who provoked this war”. It’s an echo of the Cylon peace movement from “Epiphanies”, and one wonders how widespread the sentiment is in the Fleet.

-Important to note, I think, that Baltar doesn’t actually give this a woman an answer to her grief, he just goes off into his own tirade. He’s still a politician.

-Tyrol has shaved his head, and looks more than a little like Gomer Pyle. The cutting of hair has meaning on Galactica, and the ex-Chief is transformed somewhat here.

-Tyrol turns off Baltar’s speech. Nicky cries. Tyrol turns it back on. What are we to read into that?

-I like the set-up of having Vipers on Demetrius, accessible via EVA. Must be awkward though.

-“Kara…” How did Leoben find the Demetrius? I don’t think that is ever answered.

-Just as in “The Ties That Bind”, you can see the constellation Orion in this scene, but rather than pointing to proximity to Earth production crew have admitted it was an error.

-“I’m here for you, to offer a truce between Cylon and human. And a chance for you to complete your journey.” From the way it is filmed I suspect this line was ADR’d later.

-The count has increased by one, which must be a birth.

-Somewhat telling here, that Gaeta and Mathias are reporting to Helo, not Starbuck.

-Leoben starts his pitch to humanity by literally whispering in the ear of Starbuck, which seems unwise. Especially given his whispering is about how the Demetrius crew does not trust Starbuck.

-The way Tory walks into the launch tube, and how the camera follows her, in her first scene of the episode, I feel has to be a nod to the way Six is usually seen walking. She’s changing in many different ways.

-Tory’s pitch to Tyrol on monotheism includes the startling double-bluff of asking if Cally perhaps knew about his Cylon nature, and if this drove her “suicide”. It’s a hell of an emotional dagger.

-“Yeah, why don’t you do that” says Gaeta to Sam at the suggestion of interrupting Starbuck and Leoben. It’s an interesting way of putting it.

-The extremely intimate manner that Starbuck and Leoben are acting in the scene in her quarters is just revolting. She’s cosying up to her would-be rapist.

-They act as if this is the first time Sam and a Leoben model have met in this scene, but Sam hinted he had met one before, quoting him all the way back in “Resistance”.

-I’ll admit I did like Leoben’s recitation of his “This is not all that we are” as it related to a wide-eyed Sam. Does Leoben know what he is? That seems to be the implication.

-Leoben’s description of the Cylon Civil War fits his own poetic self, he calling it a conflict “between those who embrace their nature and those who fear it”. Ironically I think Cavil would say the same, but claim a different part.

-“Are you talking mutiny?” It’s under-noticed I think, how powerful Helo’s defence of Starbuck is, because he is saying this to his wife of all people.

-A belated, and too late, effort to lead appears here from Starbuck as she confidently orders the ship locked down in preparation for a jump. No one is buying it anymore though, not even Helo.

-While we only get the aftermath here, the sex between Baltar and Tory appears to have gotten more passionate and less weepy. I’m not sure how else to put it, other than that Tory just seems to be getting more satisfaction out of the act than she did before.

-Tory’s manipulations are something to see here, as she outlines how she has been encouraging the President to take a hardline against the cult in the hope it will increase its appeal. Who is this woman, and more importantly what is her end goal?

-Head Six doesn’t get much of a look in during this episode, and there was apparently an abandoned sub-plot that would have involved her saying goodbye to Baltar from this point because he no longer needed her. No thanks to that idea.

-The key thing, as always, with Baltar’s preaching is the message of positivity amid dire circumstances: being “in awe of what we might do” instead of focusing on the past.

-Tyrol isn’t messing around with Tigh, curtly dismissing the Colonel’s approach: “I don’t have anything to say to you”. There’s a keen sign of how far things have gone.

-Speaking of, Tigh’s private sojourns with Caprica Six are apparently becoming the subject of crew gossip. Another reason why they are a staggeringly bad idea.

-The EVA CGI could be better, but I recall they have a few big set-pieces coming up, so it is understandable.

-Good reaction performances from the crew to Mathias’ death, the right mix of shock, horror and anger. It’s needed to justify the turn that comes later. Mathias wasn’t a nobody.

-Baltar is ever the showman, and opens his sermon with a joke to his followers. You’re reminded of a similar good-natured flippancy in similar circumstances in “Colonial Day”.

-What is Baltar expecting when he uses Cally’s name to get to Tyrol? Does he think that she was one of his followers or something like that, and he can use a connection to convert the Chief?

-Tyrol tells Baltar that Cally forgave the former President for New Caprica, but “Some sins cannot be forgiven”. What’s he referring to there? His Cylon nature? Or the part he thinks he played in Cally’s death?

-The violence Tyrol uses towards Baltar is sudden and dramatic, and more than a little robotic: the last bit especially intentional I think.

-Tyrol with the gun to his head, trying to psyche himself up for the act of suicide, is a very powerful image.

-The music throughout the Demetrius plot is interesting, carrying a very Eastern flavour: it reminded me a bit of the Avatar: The Last Airbender soundtrack in some respects. It’s old themes being played with new instruments.

-Leoben describes Starbuck as “an angel blazing with the light of God” and now that they have gone right out and used the “a” word, I’m hoping we’ll get some more progression on this.

-Kara’s speech about Mathias’ death is just awful, claiming the Sgt died for “no reason” and she’s “just gone”. It’s not exactly what her comrades in arms would want to hear.

-It’s important that it is Gaeta who offers Starbuck the olive branch of jumping back to the Fleet. After the way he treated her in “He That Believeth In Me”, this signifies an important effort to reach a reconciliation, and it is one that Thrace totally rejects. Now Gaeta has one more reason for dissent.

-Helo’s anger, taken out on Pike, is brutal and a little unlike him. Yes, Pike is out of line and in a dangerous mood, but to be knocked down like this is something else.

-Baltar’s disguise for his visit to Tyrol’s quarters isn’t exactly very good. Come to think of it, shouldn’t Galactica’s hallways be teeming with people?

-His words to Tyrol when it comes to why he is doing what he does round down to an acceptance of fate, not a conflict with it. I wonder if we can take this as some form of belief in pre-destination as part of his religion?

-Is it all real though, Baltar’s conversion? His appeal to Tyrol here seems very sincere, but there is a performative aspect to it at the same time. What’s the ratio, maybe 60:40?

-“I don’t have any choice” says Helo, lamely. “…Yes, you do” says Athena. She, of everyone, knows how far Helo will go to protect people he cares about. And he cares about this crew.

-Helo is beyond reasonable at the conclusion, suggesting a return to the Fleet and reconnaissance in force to check out Leoben’s coordinates, but Starbuck just isn’t biting.

-Very easy to make comparisons to Razor for this moment. Starbuck was a pupil of Cain’s for a time, and we can well imagine a situation, in her mental state, where she pulls a gun on a dissenting subordinate.

-Does this work as a cliffhanger? Maybe it would have a bit more if it didn’t seem so clear that all of the crew were aligned against Starbuck, or so it seems. Even Anders isn’t gung-ho in her defence.

Overall Verdict: “The Road Less Traveled” is an episode that I wish I could like a little bit more than I do. The Helo stuff is quite good and while it is a little intangible to a certain extent, so is the Baltar/Tyrol sub-plot. But the Starbuck angle, the dominant part of the episode, is just dreadful. The direction the character has taken was already a bit of annoyance, but in buddying her up with Leoben the writers have made a decision that flies in the face of what has come before for Thrace and which in 2022 seems positively insulting to the idea of abuse survivors. This is nominally the first half of a two-part story, so we’ll see if it can be rescued.

To read more entries in this series, click here to go the index.

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Ireland’s Wars: Operation Green

The Nazi conquest of the Low Countries and France brings us to a critical point of the Second World War. Much of Ireland’s strategic position at the outset of the conflict was based around the simple reality that it was too far away from Germany to be in serious danger of invasion, something banked upon by Britain to a lesser extent. The events of May and June in 1940 altered that paradigm hugely. Taking the north-western most portion of France, German forces could now claim to be less than 500 km’s of sea away from the Irish coastline. As plans progressed for a potential invasion of Britain, even as the RAF and Luftwaffe engaged in their critical battle in the skies, the thoughts of at least some in the German military now turned to Ireland as a possible target. The result of their thinking was Case Green, better known to history as Operation Green: the German plan for the military invasion of Ireland. And unlike the IRA equivalent in Plan Kathleen, Green was a very serious affair.

The exact genesis of Green is mired in a bit of a fog. We don’t know if there was a specific individual who drove the idea or was its main author, or which specific department of the German forces were responsible: Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, who had responsibility for the western flank of planned operations against Britain, is thought a possible candidate, though we know that the order to prepare implementation of the plan was issued to Leonhard Kaupisch, at the time a General of artillery in the Army Reserve, perhaps chosen for the task on the basis of his involvement in the occupation of Denmark. More than likely Green was initially conceived sometime in the first half of 1940 as part of speculative long-term planning, but it wasn’t until August of that year that something more concrete came together.

At that time the German military was preparing for the possible implementation of Operation Sea Lion, the amphibious invasion of Britain to follow in the wake of the intended destruction of the RAF. It was perhaps only natural that extensions of Sea Lion, or we might even call them side operations, were theorised. An attack on Ireland had some natural attractions for the Germans: a successful assault and occupation would tighten the strategic noose around Britain even more by allowing for the possibility of launching an invasion on the west side of the island, while any military operation in Ireland would necessitate a response from the British, forcing them to stretch their resources in defending a wider area than just their own territory. Of course there were some very obvious disadvantages, which I will discuss below. It is enough at this moment to state that German thoughts towards an attack on Ireland were understandable at that time, even if it probably did not occupy a huge amount of attention within German command structures.

Whoever was involved and however seriously the project was taken, Operation Green would end up containing within its pages a surprising amount of detail. Some of it was provided by information gathered by German agents over the previous few years, sometimes from tourist trips to Ireland, or from contacts among those German citizens living in Ireland. Other elements were taken from publicly available information, such as Ordnance Survey maps, or from German companies that had undertaken work in Ireland, like Siemens who had worked on the Ardnacrusha powerplant. The work was apparently completed in days, a sign of the level of competence within whatever department had been asked to draw it up. At the end of this process, a five volume work running to several hundred pages had been produced.

Given the short timeframe, the level of detail reproduced in Green was remarkable. The document contained information on Ireland’s historical background, geography, weather, industry, transport network, detailed maps and sketches of most significant urban areas, a lexicon of standard Irish phrases along with hundreds of photographs of areas deemed important, such as beaches and coastal towns. Later versions of the plan, when it was updated in 1941, would include details on tides, notable geological formations and suggested routes that German troops could take after the immediate landings on the coastline. Later still, aerial photography taken by Luftwaffe planes would add considerable more detail of sections of the Irish coastline. The document was not a flawless font of information though, with some details written down obsolete, such as the insistence that certain railway lines that had shut down were still operating. There was also an element of what we may call optimistic framing, with Ireland described as generally having an “excellent network of roads”, which in 1940 could only be considered, to put it mildly, as inaccurate.

The military purpose of Green was in conjunction with Sea Lion. German military forces were to attack Ireland with the aim of tying up British forces in Northern Ireland, denying the use of Ireland as a base for Britain and of using Ireland as a base from which to launch future attacks on the north of Britain. German soldiers – expected to to include artillery, commandos, anti-aircraft and bridge-building units alongside general infantry – were to embark from ports in the north-west of France and enact an amphibious landing on the south-east coast of Ireland, in a region between Wexford and Dungarvan. Upon establishing a beachhead – a task that was expected to be contested, with German landing craft instructed to prepare forward facing guns – reservists would take up the task of occupying captured territory as the rest of the Germans advanced inland to the point of Gorey in the east and Clonmel to the west. The initial landing force was pegged at just under 4’000 troops, but over 50’000 were expected to be involved in the overall operation. Other landing sites all along the coast of Ireland, from the Shannon estuary to Lough Foyle were also discussed, but the south-east was favoured.

Just what the Germans would do once they had advanced to the Gorey/Clonmel line is less clear: Green gets significantly less detailed at this point, and we can surmise that additional operations would have depended hugely on what was happening with Sea Lion. Success with that operation and it is reasonable to expect that the Germans would maintain their advance and militarily occupy the whole island. Defeat, and the possibility of a withdrawal would have been very real, even likely. We know that instructions to round up dissidents were included with the Green plans, and that Dublin was pegged as a future administrative centre of a German occupying authority between Britain and Ireland, but there are no other hints of what a German-occupied Ireland would have looked like.

How the IRA would have fitted into the whole affair is up for speculation. Their involvement is not part of Green, and their appears to have been no input from any Volunteers into the document. Either German planners felt they had enough detail already, or the IRA was not deemed credible enough to provide any worthwhile inclusions. Presumably if the German invasion plan had gone ahead the IRA would have been expected to fight on their side against the Irish state, but this probability was not factored in formally.

Could Greeen have worked? The answer is difficult to come too, as any success of the proposed operation would have depended heavily on what was happening with Sea Lion. There are many roadblocks that any German invasion force would have to either get past, or hope would be alleviated by fighting in the south of Britain. The naval contingent would have to get past the Royal Navy and the RAF, possible if they were tied up in the English Channel. The initial assault contingent would have to establish a beachhead, an extremely difficult task if such a landing was in any way contested: whatever the limitations of the Irish Defence Forces, if troops were able to assemble to oppose a landing they had many practical advantages, and the Germans would have needed a substantial air contingent to assist. As well, it must be remembered that the Germans may have had experience of modern warfighting from the campaigns in Poland, Norway, the Low Countries and France, but they had no experience of amphibious landings. If the Germans had established a beachhead, they presumably would then need to seize a port in order to get supplies, vehicles and more troops ashore; probably not unlikely if the beachhead was secure, though it would have to be done quickly. If all of these things were accomplished, an advance to the proposed Gorey/Clonmel line would certainly have been feasible, as the Irish military would have been ill-equipped to combat the Wehrmacht outside of opposing an amphibious landing. However, before the Germans would have gotten to that point, British military assets stationed in Northern Ireland would have advanced south, and others may have crossed the sea from the east. From there, it is the outcome of the Sea Lion that would have decided things.

At the heart of it all is the possibility that Green was never intended to be implemented, and instead was designed as a wartime ruse. Speaking after the war some German commanders would claim that the threat of invading Ireland was designed more to panic Britain and get London to alter its deployment of forces, and that an actual implementation of the plan was never a realistic possibility. Given the many difficulties inherent in Green, this is not the most far-fetched possibility. Sea Lion was already difficult enough, but a concurrent operation intended to be implemented over a wider area of sea must have seemed an impossibility to the men in charge of the Kriegsmarine.

In the end, it didn’t matter. The Germans would prove themselves unable to neutralise the RAF, and without air superiority over the Channel the idea of transporting troops to Britain, let alone Ireland, was simply too much of a risk. Sea Lion would be postponed in October 1940, and eventually abandoned as an idea altogether. Green thus became irrelevant to German war planning. Eventually copies of Green would make their way into the hands of British intelligence, who were all too happy to provide copies of the operation to their Irish counterparts, in the hope that knowledge of such things might at the very least forward the cause of Anglo-Irish military co-operation, if not push Ireland into becoming a belligerent.

The latter course was unlikely, especially at that time in 1942. By then the most dangerous moments had passed for Britain and Ireland. But the co-operation of elements of the British military and Irish Defence Forces was ongoing, and had been for some time. In the next entry we will discuss this co-operation, and the counter-measures to a scenario like Green that the two sides came up with.

To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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