NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Two: “Resurrection Ship (Part Two)”

That’s just it Kara…I didn’t want to make it back.

Air Date: 13/01/2006

Director: Michael Rymer

Writers: Michael Rymer & Ronald D. Moore

Synopsis: The joint attack on the Cylon fleet goes ahead, with Adama and Starbuck agonising over the intended assassination of Cain. Apollo faces a near-death experience, while Baltar goes to extreme lengths to help Gina.

Review

I think that this concluding part of the trilogy started with “Pegasus” and continued in “Resurrection Ship (Part One)” revolves mainly around the respective commanders justifying to themselves the decision to try and off the other. Most of this is centered on Adama, who has the twin moral compasses of Starbuck and Apollo to prod him, but Cain does get a bit of a look in too. More than the attack on the titular vessel, it’s this very human quandary that drives the entire episode.

Adama is never gung-ho about the call, and bit-by-bit he climbs down here. There’s guilt over getting Starbuck involved I think, there’s the sting of having to justify himself to his son and not quite being able to do so, at least in a convincing manner. In the end, he goes to what his nominally his greatest enemy, a Cylon whose model previously shot him, to ask the question. The reminder of his speech in “Part One” of the Miniseries is very potent: then Adama questioned mankinds worthiness for survival because of its inherent faults, its all-too-easy turn to self-destruction and violence, and now here he is propagating that same kind of self-destruction. Sharon reminds him that “people still kill each other over petty jealousy and greed”, and I’m sure Adama is left wondering if that is what his grudge with Cain comes down to. Is humanity worthy of survival?

On the other side, Cain, in her conversations with Starbuck, takes a different tack in her self-justifications. Her pure militaristic fervor has no room for self-doubt, no room for weakness. If there is a problem in your way, you excise that problem. If you don’t, you wind up with more “kids in body bags”. Cain justifies her intended assassination of Adama by imagining it as a case of greater good, just as she has probably justified every morally questionable decision she has made since the attack. To do anything else, to veer from the path of a “razor”, is to invite disaster. But she is starting to crack too.

In the end, in a moment of supreme drama and tension, both officers step back from the brink. Adama realises he has to be better than assassination if he wants to renew his faith that what is left of humanity is worth saving. Cain perhaps realises that there is more to be gained with Adama alive than Adama dead, especially in the aftermath of their successful assault on the Cylons. Whatever it is both silently come to the same conclusion, that the triggers don’t need to be pulled this time. Adama’s choice is more affecting, based as is on a more philosophical bedrock, but what’s important is that they both pull back. Maybe humanity doesn’t deserve to survive. Maybe it does.

But of course one of the big complications of that choice – just how are Adama and Cain going to co-exist – is taken away by the death of Cain. I know a lot of people criticise this choice as mere plot convenience, but I never had too much trouble with it myself. The manner of Cain’s death forwards the plot insofar as she dies by the same sword she used to beat Gina with, and it also elevates Fisk to command after his vital role in this episode. I think I would rather this relatively quick resolution to the larger question than for it to be expanded out unnecessarily, and at least this example of sudden character death allows for further plot potential to be realised.

Both of Adama’s children, biological and surrogate, take up big sections of the episode, and the more surprising is Apollo. He’s been mostly a background player in this trilogy so far but is suddenly made a main focus in “Resurrection Ship (Part Two)”. He displays his idealistic streak in confronting his father about the assassination plot, not willing to accept that the political and military leaders of the Fleet would be so under-handed. It’s the same man here who bargained Zarek down in “Bastille Day” and then later played a key role in the mutiny of “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)”, and it’s actually good to see this character trait emerging again.

That trait might play a part in what happens later in the episode, that comes a little out of left field but is engrossing nonetheless. Left drifting in space after the destruction of the Blackbird, Apollo appears to accept death when his suit has a breach, giving in to the calm oblivion of the idyllic lake we see him floating in at the beginning of the episode. What prompts this isn’t clear, but you can well imagine a fatal disillusionment with the structures of the Fleet might have been at least a small part, making Apollo a Javert-like character. Lee likely finds something attractive in the idea of escaping the circumstances of humanity, and with a little push from oxygen deprivation, chooses not to fight the looming darkness too hard. His unlooked for and, in some ways unwanted, escape from such circumstances gives us plenty to mull over in future episodes, though as I recall the pay-off for some of this isn’t quite as good as you would expect.

Starbuck has her own choices to make in “Resurrection Ship (Part Two)” and is paired with her assassination counterpart Fisk from a narrative standpoint. Both are accepting of the missions they have been given, barely, but both have doubts, albeit they come from radically different places. Starbuck has more than enough of a moral compass to know what Adama is asking her to do is questionable, and we might think back to “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part One)” and her cvhoice to follow Roslin’s lead into insubordination. But more than that she appreciates Cain in a way nearly everyone else doesn’t. Thrace, a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants, act first, think it out later style of person, sees in Cain someone who gets aspects of their situation others don’t, or at least has a same value set of sorts with Starbuck. Fisk, on the other hand, is a traumatised individual who perhaps has seen a bit too much violence under Cain’s command, and is loathe to be the point man for another round of executions, ala the Scylla. The way he breaks up the beating of Helo and Tyrol calls to his respect for the Colonial uniform despite the actions of whomever is wearing it, and that sort of loyalty is put to a serious test when one uniformed officer asks him to kill another.

The doubts of the two drive the episode. It would be easy for Fisk to a be a gung-ho “razor” as Cain wants him to be, but his conflict, mirrored in Starbuck, really grounds “Resurrection Ship (Part Two”) in a very human drama. The relief they both feel when the assassinations are called off – Fisk especially, who looks like a man who got a last minute reprieve from his own death sentence when Cain lets him off the hook – is palpable and powerful. In the aftermath, both speak fondly of Cain in different ways: Fisk promises to lead the Pegasus as Cain led it, and Starbuck goes even further, offering a verbal absolution of Cain for the choices she had to make when Pegasus was alone in a very striking eulogy. Starbuck, at least, came to understand Cain better than most.

The other big plot point of the episode is back to Baltar and Gina, with nearly all of their scenes taking place in Pegasus’ brig. There’s some really fascinating stuff here, as Baltar’s infatuation with Gina goes into overdrive, and ties into a rejection of Head Six. She literally disappears here as Baltar declares his love for the physical Six in front of him, as if that love, now transferred, was the only thing keeping her in Baltar’s head. It doesn’t hurt that Head Six’s militant fundamentalism compares unfavorably to Gina’s more forgiveness-focused theory. It’s like Old Testament God and New Testament God are having a fight over Baltar, and for now NT gets to win.

But of course it is all based on a succession of lies. Gina is not the woman that Baltar claims to have loved, and the story he tells to seal the deal as it were is one he has stolen from Head Six. Baltar was never the man who would pine for Six to be next to him at a pyramid game, and claiming to be that person now is just another facet of his manipulative personality. Baltar clutches at Gina like she’s some sort of life-raft for his damaged moral compass, a way to redeem himself perhaps, but the warped nature of this relationship is pretty clear: it can only end in bad ways. That becomes manifest at the end of “Resurrection Ship (Part Two)” when Baltar puts a gun in Gina’s hand and tells her to go and seek justice: we won’t mourn for Cain, but Baltar is not the person we want being the facilitator for this cosmic re-balancing of the scales.

“Resurrection Ship (Part Two)” is also a great example of BSG being able to input a number of small sub-plots to augment the bigger stuff. I count three here: there’s Dee’s pining for Apollo, evident in the manner in which she calls out to him after he ejects from the Blackbird and then later waits outside of his door; Helo and Tyrol’s brush with the “Sunshine Boys” and later the re-union with Sharon, where Tyrol makes good on his plan to move on; and lastly the final interaction between Adama and Roslin, where the Commander’s affection for the President is made even more obvious, even as he begins, essentially, to mourn her. That last one, where Roslin practically anoints Adama as the leader of the Fleet in the process of promoting him, is very important, coming ahead of one of the most emotional closing moments of the entire series: Adama’s badly hidden tears at the deteriorating health of Roslin set us up nicely for what is to follow.

What you need…is justice.

Notes

-Thank the Gods for this episode: “Resurrection Ship” was originally meant to be a single episode, but they had enough material to break it up. This meant a planned clip show episode later in the season got pulled. Phew.

-The lake where Apollo is floating was filmed at Indian Arm, a glacial fjord to the north-west of Vancouver. Looks nice! Love that effect of the Raider coming out of the sun too.

-The dreaded “XXX hours earlier” opening rears its ugly head. To paraphrase Rick and Morty “Maybe you should cut to 48 hours earlier when you were alive!”

-Apollo is, despite his reservations, onboard with helping Starbuck in his mission. He places a priority on the trust between them, even over murder. That’s a bond right there, that we perhaps haven’t seen much of since “Home (Part One)”.

-I love Tyrol’s challenge to the “Sunshine Boys”: “I can’t hear you…the glass. So, why don’t you open the door, come in, and we’ll talk about it in here?” Also like Helo’s insistence on adherence to rank: “You, you call me sir”.

-Despite Pegasus and Galactica nearly getting into a shooting war in the last episode, the count remains unchanged.

-The beating that Tyrol and Helo take is whats known as a “blanket party”, heavily influenced in its depiction here, I would say, by the film Full Metal Jacket. It’s a not uncommon military hazing ritual /unofficial corporal punishment.

-Fisk might not be willing to watch Tyrol and Helo get beaten, but he isn’t on their side, a sentiment delivered by this icy cold last line of the scene: “You can’t rape a machine”.

-Strange, intentionally I would say, tonal shift between scenes here, as we go from Fisk mandating that even imprisoned officers may not be abused, to Cain positing, in relation to Starbuck punching Tigh, that sometimes such things need to be done.

-Cain’s defence of her actions is a warped version of Adama’s treatment of his crew like his family. Cain is similar, but there’s no real affection evident, and her statement about kids in body bags comes off as more selfish really, as if Cain’s action are about preventing her from feeling pain.

-A little on the nose I suppose, Cain’s advice to Starbuck: ” I want you to promise me that when that moment comes you won’t flinch. Do not flinch.”

-Apollo is surprised to learn the assassination was Roslin’s idea, but she’s been making hard choices for a while really. Does he not remember her being happy to blow Sharon out the airlock?

-Like that “Arming up” montage that cuts between Starbuck alone and Fisk with the marines, both with their doubts, and both hiding what they are going through from the other.

-Starbuck takes a long look at her dress uniform and its Colonial insignia before heading out. Apollo is more open about his idealism, but she has some too.

-Maybe a bit on the nose, Tigh’s words to Fisk: “Last thing we need is Colonials shooting at each other.”

-“Amen to that” is Fisk’s reply to the above, around 150’000 years before the birth of Christ.

-Before speaking to Sharon, Adama inspects his body and its surgery scar. Interesting that he would contemplate his physical weakness ahead of an emotional and mental trial.

-Adama cuts right down to it: “Why do the Cylons hate us so much?” He suspects why but he needs to hear it from the veritable fountain of authority.

-Sharon is fairly blunt in her turn, as she infers the worthiness of humanity for survival: “Maybe you don’t”.

-Apollo is unusually clumsy in the manner he gets taken out, looking the wrong way and colliding with a Raider. I suppose he was looking for confirmation of the destroyed FTL drives. Either way, bye bye Blackbird, we hardly knew ye since “Flight Of The Phoenix”.

-This is the first time we see Colonials and Cylons engage in ship-to-ship combat where the Colonials aren’t just trying to run away (like in the Miniseries’ “Part Two”). The impression is that battlestars pack way more of a punch than basestars, that are very dependent on their Raider contingents for defence. Pegasus and Galactica, once their fighter superiority is established, can use their flak screens to interfere with Cylon missiles and Raiders, and concentrate their enormous firepower on the basestars one at a time, annihilating both.

-Adama orders his batteries to change to “Salvo fire”. This presumably means he’s calling on them to fire at the same target at the same time, indicating that they were engaging at targets of opportunity beforehand.

-The battle is seen only in a brief and distant sense. Apollo’s perspective, inspired by the experience for a downed American pilot who saw the destruction of the Japanese carrier fleet at Midway from the sea, is a pretty interesting one, that emphasises how massive it all feels.

-What an exchange in the cell, that cuts to the heart of Cylon religious fundamentalism matched with a more loving view. Head Six proclaims that “God will not forgive” the Cylons dying in the battle. Baltar asks Gina “Do you think God will forgive us?” She doesn’t hesitate: “God forgives all”. It’s these little cracks in the Cylon religion that make you wonder, and sets up the later schism nicely.

-Love Callis’ performance as he delivers the pyramid monologue, those tears get me every time. Perfectly pitched also is the sudden disappearance of Head Six, like a demon being excised.

-In what may be his last moments, Apollo thoughts stray to the person closest to him in so many ways, that he regrets letting down: “I’m sorry Kara”.

-The destruction of the Resurrection Ship looks both fascinating (love the way the Vipers fly sideways to maximise their damage-dealing), horrific (the way the bodies spill out of the damaged ship) and haunting (the re-use of the track “Bloodshed” from “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)”. Great visual effect too.

-Like the cuts between Starbuck and Fisk, both drenched in sweat, ahead of those fateful phonecalls.

-“That’s all”. Oof, the release of tension with those words.

-Baltar’s profession of love to Gina might mean more if he hadn’t just helped her kill a guard. It starts in violence, and it will end the same too.

-The music that accompanies that scene is “Gina Escapes”, a sort of evolution of the previously noted piece “The Cylon Prisoner”. The quiet off-tune instruments that defined the broken Gina suddenly rouse themselves, add a militaristic flavour and become something new, different and dangerous.

-Oh, all of the things you can read into Gina’s “You’re not my type” as a response to Cain’s final words of “Frak you”. We will get into it.

-For all of the bluster in Cain, Michelle Forbes still gives us that hint of fear in her face as the Admiral realises Gina is going to pull the trigger.

-Starbuck’s eulogy for Cain is startling in so many ways, practically an endorsement of the Pegasus’ way of doing things. The idea that the Fleet was safer with her around seems, being frank, rather laughable.

-Apollo’s near death experience goes beyond an unexpected brush with the end, and is definitely stated as a suicidal ideation: “I didn’t want to make it back”.

-Poor Dee, she’s left listening at the metaphorical keyhole as Apollo outlines his nihilistic feelings to Starbuck. She’s carrying the torch but she’ll never be Thrace.

-The beautiful music that plays over the final scenes is “Roslin And Adama” and it gets me every-time. Reminds me a bit of “The Steward Of Gondor” from The Return Of The King soundtrack.

-Really like that Helo/Sharon reunion. In an episode, and three-parter, filled with so much darkness, it’s good to close things with an unadulterated happy moment.

-Well, unless you’re Tyrol. Aaron Douglas does a great job in this scene, looking on wistfully at the happy couple and then departing.

-As I said in the last episode, military promotions in the situation the Colonials find themselves in seem a little superfluous, but I guess it’s good protocol for the CO of two ships to be an Admiral. But then, shouldn’t Galactica get its own Commander then?

-The kiss Adama shares with Roslin was apparently an Edward James Olmos ad-lib. You wouldn’t get away with that nowadays, but it works well enough.

-Oh, those tears at the conclusion from Adama. Another thing that gets me every time.

Overall Verdict: “Resurrection Ship (Part Two)” is a suitably epic way to end this three-part saga. It maintains the examination of key characters and themes from the first two parts, and skillfully introduces the Apollo stuff to keep things fresh. It’s great from a visual perspective, and is a really well-pitched introduction to the second half of the second season. There follows, as I recall, a succession of more once-off stories, and one hopes BSG can keep the momentum going.

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

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