Air Date: 24/01/2005
Director: Michael Rymer
Writer: David Eick and Ronald D. Moore
Synopsis: On Galactica, Adama contemplates a coup in response to Roslin’s actions with Starbuck, while handing Boomer a critical mission. On Caprica, Starbuck, Helo and Sharon converge at the Arrow of Apollo. On Kobol, Baltar is led to a fateful revelation.
Now this is a hell of a finale, with a lot to unpack. “Part One” set-up a wide variety of sub-plots and while “Part Two” doesn’t exactly wrap up any of them, it does move them along very nicely. We’ll open with the coup in the Fleet, and that’s pretty much what we have to call it. Rymer makes this really tense right from the off in the conversation between Adama and Roslin, where the Commander is almost at pains to be as succinct and clear in what he is trying to get across, with no hyperbole or emotion. This belies one of the most tense moments in the show so far, as the insecurities and cracks in the civil/military relationship within the Fleet transform into an outright fissure.
The game of bluff that Adama and Roslin play – or perhaps we should say that just Roslin plays – really keeps “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)” ticking over nicely, even with all of the drama elsewhere. We have just enough doubt left in us to wonder if Adama will pull the metaphorical trigger, or if Roslin will somehow back down, while being presented with the irresistible force/immovable object problem in junta form. Roslin actually comes off as a little desperate in this episode, knowing deep down inside that she isn’t going to get away: to a larger degree the drama of the episode comes down to how much is going to have to happen before she throws in the towel, because Adama sure isn’t going to.
But this plot also works because of the personal touches, like the nature of the Adama/Roslin relationship that is being destroyed – they were only dancing with each other at the end of “Colonial Day” a few in-universe days previously – or the way in which it is Billy and Dee doing the actual communicating back-and-forth. And then there is Apollo. I did think that his turn here comes on a little too suddenly, especially since he has almost no dialogue in the episode up to the point where he suddenly pulls a gun on Tigh. Perhaps if the conversation between he and his father in “Part One” had been flagged a little earlier in the first season – say, during their conversation in “The Hand Of God” for example – so we could see Lee tackle it a bit himself before coming to this decision, then it would have seemed less jarring. As it is it’s a little convenient of a plot complication, but not a bad one at all: I suppose since this whole story arc is about splitting the Fleet up, it makes since to draw lines everywhere, even between father and son. Those lines extend to other relationships: Starbuck and Lee coming to blows, Baltar and Head Six, Helo and Sharon, even Billy and Dee are divided through their loyalty to other people. It’s a throughline to keep you invested, and works brilliantly.
Let’s loop a bit around the other individual plots of the episode. Boomer is a big focus of course, being granted a purpose to cling onto by Adama following the hopelessness that pervaded with her in “Part One”. You can certainly buy that Boomer would be all-in on such a mission, grasping at it like a life preserver, and it stands to reason that the Commander understands that dynamic as well. What follows is sort of like an arch-typical heroes journey writ small. Boomer gets the call to adventure and travels to another world, not unlike an underworld really, where she has some strange encounters and comes back to the starting point a fundamentally changed person.
The Cylon basestar is a thoroughly unnerving set-piece, despite our introduction to how Cylon ships work with the captured Raider in “You Can’t Go Home Again”: the fleshy interior, the strange constructs, the eerie sense of being ground zero for “the other”. And that’s before Boomer is finally forced to realise the full truth, through the appearance of dozens of copies of herself, in a moment that psychologists could probably write reams on. The other Boomer’s – should we just say the Number Eights? – are absolutely an otherworldly, almost fey, experience, naked, speaking in unison, and whispering secrets to Boomer in a manner that toes the line between seductive and terrifying. Boomer isn’t ready to accept the truth just yet, but the time is coming very shortly when she won’t have a choice (more on that in a bit). She destroys the basestar, and all of these copies of herself: I suppose another form of the suicide she has attempted and failed twice.
Baltar is the other really major focus. Following an apparent schism with Six in the Fleet in “Part One” we get a 180 here, where Head Six is suddenly a benevolent, angelic figure, here to save Baltar’s life and then guide him towards his destiny. It’s actually another heroes journey in a way, with Baltar travelling to the ruins of the Opera House and becoming what appears to be a very different person with his look at “the shape of things to come”: but is this child a future offspring of Baltar and Six, or is this angelic being using “family” in a more general sense?. It’s interesting that the Cylon’s purpose on Caprica – to manufacture a loving relationship in order to conceive a child between Cylon and human – and Head Six’s on Kobol are both on the topic of a “new generation”, a synthesis between human and Cylon that perhaps offers a way out of their eternal cycle of holocaust and vengeance. This indicates that Head Six is more in league with the “real” Cylons than later episodes will show, but it is still a fascinating confluence all the same: the “plan” of the opening titles i would seem.
Other than that the sections of the episode set on Kobol seem almost a distraction from the more serious stuff happening elsewhere, but work more when seen as laying the ground for some of the best parts of early Season Two. It’s only a single scene really, but all you need is an out-of-his-depth Crashdown struggling to stay calm next to a more grounded Tyrol to get the idea. Sam Witwer is great in this section of the episode, vacillating from explosions of annoyance to dismissive nonchalance. The character is so used to being the hero for doing not a whole lot – mostly stumbling onto valuable resources by sheer luck – that it isn’t much of a surprise that he might fall to pieces when faced with a real military challenge. Similarly, it’s not too surprising that Tyrol is relatively unflappable in the same circumstances.
Much of the episode, especially in terms of its last act drama, takes us to Caprica, where plots start to merge in form of Starbuck and Helo/Sharon. The latter is real soap-opera territory, as Helo goes off on Sharon and she decides to drop the pregnancy bombshell, but things take a turn for the viciously serious when Starbuck gets into it with the Six we’ve seen harassing Boomer. The fist fight is a really brutal one, very much like Adama’s encounter with Leoben in the Miniseries, with a lot of hard punches, people being flung into things, and humans only surviving when they get a little creative. Above it all is the larger Thrace plot, and here, in fact, there is a heroes journey here too, as Starbuck returns to where she started and finds that things have fundamentally changed.
I feel this part of things is more interesting for the Starbuck/Helo reunion. Sackoff is so good here: the way she immediately pulls her gun on Sharon when she sees her, and the despairing wail when Helo tells her that Sharon is pregnant. You could read a lot into that, but at the end of it is a realisation that Starbuck has been pushed a lot recently: her regrets in “Act Of Contrition”, her survival battle in “You Can’t Go Home Again”, the stress of leadership in “The Hand Of God”, protecting the President in “Colonial Day”, the Baltar/Apollo emotional mess in the previous episode, Adama’s betrayal, the fight with the Six. And, at the end of it, having to suddenly deal with the fact that one of her fellow pilots is a Cylon and, oh yes, the Cylons are capable of pregnancy, which she may perceive as a betrayal of her world view and religion. That cry of despair is one of the best acting moments of the entire show.
The varied plots mean that “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)” has a lot to get through, and there isn’t a scene that doesn’t seem pivotal in some ways. On this viewing I was surprised at how early in the episode Boomer arrives at the baystar, less than half-way through, which is a sign of just how much the writers and director are trying to include. But the episode flows well enough, helped by the lack of unnecessary action beats and its ability to let things breathe while remaining tense. Like the opening of the previous episode there are a few confluence sequences where we interchange between plots rapidly, with one centred around Baltar’s revelation in the opera house a real stand-out in the show overall. None of those plots feel superfluous or tacked on: everything is vital here, and when we move from one to the other it produces a positive feeling as opposed to a negative at the change.
That leaves us only with the episodes conclusion. Cliffhangers will always divide opinion but they are an obviously favoured plot point for Moore, and I like the way that this particular one is set-up and executed. It makes Boomer’s journey through the season have even more meaning, and adds an unexpected, but seriously affecting, complication to the Adama drama, and to the larger coup. Cliffhangers are designed to make you want to tune back in again a few months later: this one certainly did that, as the number of unanswered questions left hanging proved more tantalising then frustrating.
-The tune that is aired throughout this episode, a low but haunting string piece, is “Kobol’s Last Gleaming” and it is another one of Bear McCreary’s brilliant contributions.
-Six, wearing white and coming out of the sun, appears positively angelic compared to her earlier look. Indeed it’s the first time I would say she looks traditionally divine. Doubly so, given she helps pull Baltar from flaming wreckage we could interpret as hellish.
-Baltar collapses in the grass, arms outstretched. It’s another Christ allusion, and with his uniform and wounds, naturally makes one think of Platoon.
-I love Helo’s response when Sharon starts expositing on Earth and the Arrow of Apollo: “What are you talking about?” It must sound positively mad.
-How chilling is the line “I have to ask you for your resignation” with that slight pause beforehand? It’s so simple, yet so devastating at the same time, and Olmos deserves praise for how he approaches what is, essentially, the destruction of Colonial democracy.
-Adama refers to Starbuck’s FTL trip as a “Light jump” here, which I think is the only time that term is used. Just as well, feels a little too sci-fiy.
-We feel Starbuck’s joy as Caprica slowly swings into the view of her Raider. Bombed or not, we can understand the powerful emotional impact of such a moment: “I’m home…I’m home.”
-Helo doesn’t hold back on Sharon as she starts babbling about the Cylons’ great experiment, pointedly saying “I don’t love you”. I wonder if this is an effort to try and balance the scales between the two characters by making Helo look nasty, but for me I found Helo quite justified.
-Apparently Roslin has what you can only describe as a Secret Service detail. Have these guys been with her from the start, or are they recent hires? I don’t remember them being featured very prominently in later episodes if at all, so they are a bit of a plot convenience here. According to Ronald D. Moore the idea was that they were civilians chosen by Apollo to operate under Roslin’s sole command, but they had no time to make that clear in the show.
-Billy’s stand in backing up the President is an important moment after he expressed his doubts about her actions in the previous episode. It fits more as a turn than Apollo’s mutiny because Billy will always back Roslin up, even if he has concerns about what is happening.
-I love Sam Witwer’s delivery of “He’s a tough kid” when Tyrol updates him on Socinus’ condition. It’s so ineffectual and weak sounding, and sets up the conflict on Kobol very nicely.
-On the Raptor, Boomer is unable to work the bomb release, unexpectedly jammed. Makes you wonder if, like other things this season, Boomer’s sleeper personality did the damage so she would have to disembark the Raptor inside the basestar.
-Benevolent Six is out in force in this episode, showcasing a gentleness and an affection that was very much missing in the previous one. I’ve read some claim that this is actually a completely different aspect of Head Six, that should be considered as a different being to the one we see in the Fleet.
-A small but very nice moment for characterisation: Gaeta shakes his head in the CIC as the coup unfolds. He’s a idealistic man clearly uncomfortable with the idea of violently bringing down the government, but in a few seasons he’ll be on the other end.
-Dee and Billy really do give the coup drama a good personal energy, making the whole thing seem a bit more dramatic than it otherwise might have.
-We’ve seen Benevolent Six, now how about Antagonist Six? She pops up in a very creepy fashion behind Starbuck, presumably the same model we have seen a few times on Caprica, so we can have an all-out fistfight for our finale.
-Does Starbuck know that this figure is a Cylon? She didn’t meet Shelly Godfrey as far as I know, but I suppose the circumstances of “Six Degrees Of Separation” would have seen Six’s image circulated as a likely Cylon agent.
-I wonder if the manner in which statues of the Gods get blown to pieces by Starbuck’s gun is an intentional metaphor for how events are undermining the Colonial religion? Or maybe she’s a bad shot with a pistol.
-One of the interior aspects of the basestar looks like a volcano, a cone with a path of red light leading to the top of it. It’s very eye-catching, I’d love to know what its purpose is.
-Inside the basestar really is another world, a completely alien design in comparison to the functionality of the Galactica. The basestar design generally is a bit bizarre really, but I suppose that is the point.
-The fist fight between Starbuck and Antagonist Six is a little contrived I’ll admit, something thrown in to give the episode more of a finale feel. The Six here does sort of constitute a final boss in a way.
-Man, those #8’s all walking up to Boomer are unnerving as hell. BSG temporarily becomes a sort of Lovecraftian horror, between them, their actions and the environment.
-I don’t remember, from later episodes, the Cylons on basestars hanging out naked, but perhaps I’m misremembering. Here it adds to the sense that we are in a totally different world.
-Unable to beat the Six into submission, Starbuck gets a tad more creative. As a wise man once said, “It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the bottom”.
-I do love Penikott’s “Starbuck?” when he sees Thrace for the first time. Imagine being in that situation, thinking you’re the only human still alive on a planet for months, and suddenly your former flight buddy turns up from half-way across the universe.
-Apollo’s choice in turning on Tigh might be sudden, but the scene set-up is great: all of these guns pointed in different directions, a bizarre Mexican stand-off.
-I love Michael Hogan’s portrayal of Tigh when Apollo aims a gun at him. It would been easy for him to have some stiff upper lip, but instead he shows a bit of genuine fear, perhaps as Lee’s action is so unexpected that he thinks he will actually pull the trigger.
-“We love you Sharon”. Oh, chills.
-A lot of the special effects budget must have gone on the basestar explosion, which looks fantastic, even today. The finale generally appears to have sucked up a lot of the CGI team’s time, at least in comparisons to the terrible looking centurions from earlier in the season.
-Some have seen the reaction of Starbuck and Helo in their reunion, and the way that he’s holding her, as evidence of some kind of romantic connection, but I think they are mistaking a friendly intimacy for something more.
-Starbuck barely hesitates when she sees Sharon. You might think that she should: after all, presumably the more natural thing to wonder first would be “Why is Boomer here?” or “The Old Man sent Boomer after me”.
-The opera house is Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre. If it looks familiar it might because it’s been used in Arrow, The Flash, Legends Of Tomorrow, Supergirl, The X-Files, iZombie, Psych, Lucifer, The Magicians, The L Word, Fringe, Timeless and the Twilight movies. Cool location though. It also pops up in Caprica.
-“The shape of things to come”. Hey, they worked the song title in. Again, a brilliant piece of music, which gets played in full here.
-Baltar and Six kiss here, and it’s the first time you could say that there is any genuine love behind such an act for the two. Indeed, this whole set-up, from the colours they are wearing, to walking down an aisle, to the kiss on what is practically an alter, has obvious matrimonial qualities.
-Adama makes sure that he is the one to actually lock up Roslin. A bit dramatic, but I think it fit the character in a way: if he is to enact a coup, then he’s going to own it, and be responsible for the consequences.
-Something that always irked me: that quick zoom in/out as Boomer greets Gaeta ahead of the shooting, where it is construed as if Gaeta hands her something. Nothing comes of it, and I deem it an example of the production team manufacturing intrigue where none exists.
-Adama has no time for Lee’s conscientious stand and even if he doesn’t get the opportunity to say that directly, he certainly does indirectly, praising Boomer and Racetrack for completing their mission “despite any personal misgivings you may or may not have had”. All it’s missing is him raising his voice and glaring at his son, but I think the moment works.
-You’d wonder why Apollo was brought to the CIC at all, but of course it is for plot reasons: this way your focus is on the conflict between the Adama’s, so you are even more blindsided when Boomer pulls the gun.
-Oh, the shots. It’s a genuinely shocking moment, even if you could sense something bad was about to happen, and Olmos sells them so well.
-We conclude on cuts between the ruins of the opera house on Kobol and Adama prone on the DRADIS console, hand held by a distraught Dee and Apollo screaming for help. I’m not sure what the significance of this is, but on this occasion my mind drifted to Shelly, and his writing on the impermanence of everything: “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay, Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.” Are Moore and Eick saying that, like the opera house, Adama too will now fade?
Overall Verdict: A fine conclusion to the story begun and fleshed out in the previous episode, that expertly balances a heap of different narrative paths really effectively. BSG ends its first season very strongly.
We’ll take a break between seasons next week, so I’ll see you with more of this series on the 26th!
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