NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Home (Part One)”

I’m not talking about anger. I’m talking about rage. I can feel it. Right here.

Air Date: 19/08/2005

Director: Sergio Memica-Gezzan

Writer: David Eick

Synopsis: On Galactica, Adama attempts to move on without those who have followed Roslin, but runs into immediate problems. Above Kobol, Starbuck returns to the renegade Fleet with Helo and Sharon, causing conflict ahead of a high stakes expedition to the surface.

Review

There was a Simpsons joke in my head when watching “Home (Part One)”: Two bad neighbors. Adama and Roslin are the Homer Simpson and George H. W Bush of BSG, both exhibiting bad behavior, and both struggling to get beyond their distaste for what the other represents to them. It perhaps hurts to see more because the two are so relentlessly similar, both stubborn, both single-minded, both completely assured that they are right about everything, and routinely worried about being let down by subordinates. Despite the fact that the two don’t share a scene or any dialogue, and won’t for much of the next episode either, “Home (Part One)” is all about this comparison. It’s the heart of an otherwise great episode of television, where director and writer do a stellar job of keeping a large variety of balls in the air when it comes to characters, and a lot of plates spinning when it comes to sub-plots.

Let’s start with the Fleet, by which I mean the one that Adama is in control of. Here, the Commander faces another betrayal, at least in his eyes. The family he has put together, whether it is the crew of the Galactica or the larger Fleet, is disintegrating before his eyes. Adama, following on from “The Farm”, continues to struggle with dealing with this setback, of the world he has constructed around himself being continually undermined. Boomer’s assassination attempt was a very personal betrayal he has no idea how to process healthily, but this is a much grander problem.

How to solve it? At first, Adama errs in trying to excise the emotional issue by basically giving up on Apollo, Roslin and anyone else who followed them. He dismisses their loss as something unworthy to be grieved, focusing more on lost “resources” and dismissing those who were disloyal and, now, easily replaced. In essence, it seems he wants to make a new family, one that is less likely to betray him. To that end we get a new CAG, the utterly hapless Birch, whose appointment flies in the face of any reasonable critique (the way Adama goes about it, not even consulting Tigh, is notable too: he’s not sure who he can trust). Adama never flat out admits that Birch’s appointment is a mistake, but the fact that he doesn’t issue a word of protest to Tigh and Gaeta’s public criticism of the man is remarkably telling. Loyalty overrides competence.

We really get into the crux of the matter when Adama is asked by a journalist if Earth is a lie. His reaction is one of barely restrained anger, as he essentially threatens to jail anyone who repeats such a “slander”. Why so angry? Well, because the journalist is right. Adama made it up, and even if he did it for the right reasons, it was a lie the moment it left his mouth in the Miniseries. And I think in that moment, and after, Adama starts to realise that he is not infallible. Starbuck left in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part One)” because of that lie, not because of Roslin’s machinations. Roslin split the Fleet because she was no longer satisfied with that lie, and found a better way to find a home for humanity: even worse, she’s actually co-opted Adama’s lie and turned it into her own truth.

In one of the best scenes of the entire series Adama can’t keep it bottled up anymore, and outlines his feelings to Dee who takes on the role of his conscience made human. No better person really: she’s always there, in the CIC, and it was her who held Adama’s hand when he was lying in a pool of his own blood there. Adama attempts to deflect his actions by blaming them on a cloud of rage brought upon by the betrayal he has suffered, but Dee cuts right through it. Adama isn’t where he is because people turned on him, he’s there because he was helpless in the midst of a crisis and now that he has the chance to do something, he’s breaking the unspoken pact is has with his crew and the Fleet at large. When Adama told the Fleet he knew the way to Earth it was a lie but it was also a commitment, to bring them all to this Promised Land.

Well, now a third of the Fleet is gone. To put it another way, Adama might have been betrayed, but he’s betraying the Fleet, his crew and his family as well. Kandyse McClure is simply stunning in this moment, elevating herself into one of the best of the cast, as her character dares to speak truth to power. The crew wanted Adama back in command more than anything, and it’s to her the task falls when their disappointment with that return becomes manifest. The end result is a joyous one, as Adama starts to break through the fog, and takes steps to right the wrongs of “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)”. Nothing will be right until the fracture is healed, until the “trust, understanding and love” that makes a crew is restored. This two-parter is about home, the future one for mankind but also their current one: it takes Dee to remind Adama that he has duty to the latter as much as the former.

Over with the Resistance, it’s a similar enough story. Roslin is counting the cost of separating from the rest of the Fleet and the issue of who to trust is at the fore. There’s her right-hand man Apollo, her would-be right-hand man Zarek, there’s the Cylon that she suddenly finds in her midst, there’s Elosha. Absent Billy, Roslin is also starting to wonder about betrayal, especially from Sharon. She’s remarkably cold-blooded in offering the Cylon her life and then ordering her executed anyway, a dictatorial action that would’t be out of place under Tigh-in-command or the Adama we have seen in this episode and “The Farm”. Roslin doesn’t seem much like herself in “Home (Part One)” in many ways. Her threatening Sharon is similar to her behavior with Leoben in “Flesh And Bone” but she goes beyond it here in threatening the life of Helo, and using Sharon’s love for her unborn baby as a manipulation tool. Like Adama there’s an “at all costs” mentality. By the end of the episode, though she still has Apollo she is more isolated than ever because of Elosha’s death, not unlike Adama in that corridor.

There’s plenty else to occupy our thoughts with the resistance, not least Zarek’s imminent powerplay. He remains a little bit of an enigma in the show: is he really this would-be freedom bringer, or is it a charade for a power hungry would-be tyrant? Here, he either allows himself to be convinced by his lieutenant that Apollo has to go if his dreams of bringing freedom to the Fleet are to be realised, or plays the part for the same subordinate. Maybe it’s subconscious, maybe it’s a bit of both. Either way, Zarek remains fascinating, a man very much with his eye on the prize, and that’s to be “the man with the guns”, or Adama in other words. He’s also interested in creating a home for humanity, but it’s more of a distant Eden, that probably has a lot of bloodshed along the way.

The other major plot of the episode is about Apollo and Starbuck, reunited for the first time since their brutal schism in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part One)”. Apollo approaches this reunion with a few different emotions, but all of them at extremes: kissing Kara, getting furiously angry to the point of murder with Sharon, then leaning hard into that jokey persona he shared with her in “Colonial Day”. Apollo is a bit of a mess here, but then again he did just abandon his father, maybe forever. That and coming face-to-face with another Boomer is bound to be a headwrecker.

Kara, for her part, is much more subdued here, in a reflective mood almost after what happened in “The Farm”. When Apollo approaches her to talk about that, she doesn’t. Instead, having previously expressed annoyance with Lee, she suddenly morphs into the same jokey person that he is trying to be. The walls have gone back up: there’s no mention of Anders or a resistance or anything. Is she burying the memory of him by stepping back into that previous role? And will it be for Apollo to try and batter those walls down? It’ll take a good while yet to come to any resolution.

“Home (Part One)” has plenty else to keep an eye on – the whole thing with Birch, the Helo/Sharon stuff, Elosha’s doom-mongering, and of course the shoot-out on Kobol, even a little scene to excuse why Baltar and Head Six aren’t a big part of proceedings – and does a good job with it all. It’s excellent foundation laying for what’s to come, as we reach the end of this story arc.

And those that didn’t board the galleon took the high road…the rocky ridge that led to the tomb.

Notes

-The title follows on from Starbuck’s last line of the previous episode – “Let’s go home” – and the idea that the various characters have to find one in the form of Earth, and create one in the form on a reunified Fleet.

-Memica-Gezzan is back after the decent “Fragged”, while Eick gets his first full-on writing credit.

-The count is up by one, with the Fleet still considered a single entity I guess. That one is presumably Helo, with Sharon not included (and Starbuck having never been subtracted).

-Right from the off, things are wrong on Galactica, seen in the unusual Dutch angle as Adama converses with Tigh and Dee, and the over-exposed lights in the same corridor. The disorientation is presumably intentional.

-Onboard the Astral Queen, Zarek wants to talk about arming the Fleet, with several ships apparently able to fire missiles and the like. Strange how that hasn’t come up before.

-Meier, Zarek’s right hand man, is played by noted character actor James Remar, best known for The Warriors and Dexter. It’s odd we didn’t see this seemingly pivotal character in “Bastille Day” or “Colonial Day”, but its good to give some life to Zarek’s entourage.

-Big outpouring of joy as Starbuck returns to the “Fleet”, with Roslin looking equal parts delighted and stunned. Even she might not have been confident Thrace was returning, but the faith has been justified.

-Apollo just comes right up and kisses Starbuck, in a moment that totally catches you off guard. What is up with that? Was Lee really expecting some kind of dramatic romantic moment at this reunion?

-Helo doesn’t hesitate one bit in this opening stand-off, putting his sidearm to Apollo’s head without compunction. I guess he is right back onboard the Sharon train.

-Roslin’s betrayal of Helo and Sharon – and, lets be frank, that is what it is, she makes a promise and then breaks it immediately – is cold as ice. She’s gotten very good at manipulating people to her advantage.

-I love seeing Kara’s indecision as Sharon is being dragged away and Helo is pleading for her to help. She’s not onboard the Sharon train anyway, and here stays awkwardly silent as it’s happening.

-Adama crushes some walnuts as he decides the new CAG. Usually a testicular metaphor, here it speaks to Adama’s rage and short temper. Every moment he seems to be thinking on how he was wronged. It’s also probably a nod to similar behavior from a similar character in The Caine Mutiny.

-I do like how Tigh, when prompted, quickly backs up Adama’s decision on Birch, without the slightest hesitation.

-Adama says he loves his crew as much as “I love my s…” before a pause and adding “my sons”. It’s clear he was just going to refer to Apollo, but then decides to include Zak, the son that didn’t betray him.

-When pushed by Tigh on Birch’s qualities, Adama goes with “honest and loyal”. That’s what the Commander values right now, but they aren’t the best qualities for leadership, not in the way Adama means them. He probably means “unthinking and subservient”.

-I’m fascinated by the mike not working when Adama goes to give a statement to the press, with Tigh trying to fix it. It’s an interesting choice, to put Adama in an uncomfortable spot and maybe highlight how shabbily things are going on Galactica.

-Man, Adama’s statement to the press bombs hard: starting with a meaningless platitude, continuing with a lament for lost “resources”, not people, and ending with a trite and uninspiring call to arms. This is how we know Adama is really off.

-The Fleet has an awful lot of journalists doesn’t it? The briefing is packed. Was there a group on their way to a convention when the Cylon attack happened?

-A rare panning segway shot here, as we move from following Adama to focusing in on a watching Baltar and Head Six. There’s a wistful otherwordly aspect to it.

-Their conversation is brief, and speaks to Six’s efforts to set Baltar apart from the rest of humanity, making use of his metaphor of fish trying to swim upstream. But mostly just explaining why we won’t see much of them here.

-Head Six describes humanity as “masters of self-destruction” before we cut right to Roslin chatting with Sharon. I suppose the implication, or insinuation, couldn’t be much clearer.

-Roslin infers that she might be willing to put Helo out of the airlock, so the Lt is already marked as being in the same class as the Cylons. Coming back to the Galactica is going to be interesting.

-Sharon doesn’t hold back on her critique of her captors. When Helo says he knew people would be suspicious, she replies simply “They’re human”. Cylons see very little positive about us in seems.

-Birch getting blamed for the missile training run incident seems a little harsh, as its clear the radios aren’t working properly. Seemed more like an honest accident, that could have happened to anyone.

-Love that brief shot of Kat’s eye as she realises the disaster she is heading into, real “deer in the headlights”.

-Zarek wants power, but not necessarily the Presidency: he wants instead to be, in an interesting simplification of the military role, “the man with the guns”. He’s smart enough to know that such a position is true power in the Fleet.

-Here’s how you know Birch is a real frak-up: even Gaeta is annoyed with him, and doesn’t mind saying so to Adama in blunt terms: “Sir, he’s too green”.

-Tigh doesn’t have any compunctions about criticising Birch either, and is doing it right in the middle of the CIC. That he and Gaeta are doing so publically is really telling for how much of a disaster this is.

-Birch is never seen again, though Wiki tells me his name is on a pilot list in the fourth season, so he makes it that far at least.

-I love that, when he learns the pyramid ball he has snatched from Starbuck is from Caprica, Apollo gives it a deep sniff. It’s easy to forget what the Colonials have lost, but little moments like that remind you. Apollo wants to be reminded of home.

-On the Astral Queen Kara plays with the pyramid ball she took from Caprica, and gets annoyed when it’s taken from her. That little sphere is a connection back to Anders, and it’s not something she’s going to give up easily.

-Apollo’s speech to Kara is about as bad as his dad’s was to the press. He doesn’t really know what to say, and doesn’t understand at all what she went through back on Caprica.

-The sound effects are laid on heavy for the ship collision, jarringly so given BSG’s usual propensity for echoy-like audio in space.

-I love how, as the Birch experiment goes from bad to worse, eyes in the CIC are locked on Adama. The Commander seems uncharacteristically frozen.

-Don’t think much of the tactical choices for the Kobol expedition: a bunch of them are wearing black leather in a forest, and even Apollo’s get-up is the wrong colour.

-I like the scriptures’ reference to a “Galleon” that took the tribes off of Kobol. It was some kind of spacecraft of course, but the name speaks more to ancient sailing ships, reflective of how the events are lost in eons of time.

-Elosha is killed by what is formally known as a “bounding mine”, the most infamous example of which was the German S-mine of World War Two, dubbed the “Bouncing Betty” by GIs. Vicious devices.

-I enjoyed the firefight here. Aside from a needed action beat, it had that unique hook of waiting to see what would happen with Sharon, so it wasn’t just shooty shooty bang bang.

-Starbuck is duel wielding guns like this is Halo 2 again. This doesn’t become a thing for that character, right?

-“You got to be fraking kidding me”. A bit of a dumb line from Apollo when Sharon turns out to be on humanity’s side.

-Adama tends to his model ship, with the air of a man who is looking very much to the past, the old way, for the correct method of doing things.

-He’s apparently asked Dee to come to his quarters to discuss his rage. Why her? Perhaps because he spends an inordinate amount of time with her so they have a deeper connection than the rest of the crew, or maybe he knows her feelings for Apollo, so thinks she will join in his rage about betrayal.

-“You let us down”. An absolute crushing statement from Dee to Adama. He’s supposed to be their surrogate father, and he blew it. Dee is just the one brave enough to tell him.

-Dee’s final admonition to Adama, about families being split apart and his failure of leadership had me thinking of Abraham Lincoln in Spielberg’s Lincoln, as he confronts an almost defeated Confederacy: “Shall we stop this bleeding?”

-Apparently there was a rather critical swap in the editing room here, as Dee’s conversation with Adama was written as happening before Birch’s tanker screw-up (you can see Dee following Adama into the CIC for that moment). Birch’s incompetence was the original last instigating point for Adama’s about-face. A vital change in my opinion, that elevates the episode.

-Adama literally comes to a crossroads in the corridors of Galactica, and we hear the faint strains of “Wander My Friends” getting louder and louder in what is a very powerful moment. Is it the visual metaphor of two different paths, or the lack of people in the corridors that does it? Either way, Adama comes to a dead stop, and a realisation.

-“I’m putting our family back together”. It might be the happiest moment of the show since before last seasons finale.

-That’s reflected in the CIC crew, who are suddenly beaming with smiles. After a period of imbalance and misery, all is coming right with the world again.

Overall Verdict: “Home (Part One)” is a good set-up for the resolution of this general arc in the next episode, balancing a lot of plots and moments very well. The key contrast between Adama on the one hand and Roslin on the other is undertaken very well, there’s spicy moments of character drama elsewhere, a little bit of action and a very definite sense that things are driving forward at full tilt now. As the first part in a two-parter, this certainly makes me want to see the conclusion.

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

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7 Responses to NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Home (Part One)”

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