NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Three: “Exodus (Part Two)”

Altitude…99,000…falling like a rock.

Air Date: 20/10/2006

Director: Félix Enríquez Alcalá

Writers: Bradley Thompson & David Weddle

Synopsis: On New Caprica, the Resistance makes its moves as Tigh comes to terms with his wife’s betrayal. In orbit, the Galactica enacts the rescue plan despite overwhelming odds. Baltar comes face-to-face with his destiny.

Review

“Exodus (Part Two)” opens, and to a certain extent closes, with Apollo, which is not something that I had expected. You’d really consider this one an Adama or Tigh story primarily, but that opening scene is Lee’s, and it is he who rides to the rescue of Galactica later. I think this was a good decision overall, even if it perhaps ties into my thoughts on “Exodus (Part One)” on unevenness in editing, with the opening scene here feeling more like a continuation than its own establishing moment.

It’s good in another way, because it allows us to examine the entire rescue of humanity first from the perspective of the guy who didn’t even want to try it. The younger Adama is at sea in the first scene, emotionally pent-up and unable to focus on his current duties, never mind the idea that he is now the shepherd of humanity. It comes down to a question of hope: is it worth grasping in the case of Galactica and New Caprica, or is the Pegasus better off looking ahead? Apollo seems caught in that crossroads, knowing the logical choice is to start looking for Earth, but unable to let go of his father’s preference for believing in a re-united future. I thought re-watching this episode now of that repeated refrain in BSG, of humanity needing to prove that it’s worthy of survival: I think that Apollo’s decision to break from the plan and go back to New Caprica himself is part of that theme, a demonstration that he believes in hope, that humanity is worth saving, and that his father’s courage in making the attempt deserved to be honoured with similar courage, not just remembrance. In the last episode we saw the Adama’s reconciled, here we see the happy outcome of that reconciliation where Apollo chooses to stand with his father.

Given how much it has been a part of the previous few episodes – it was the plotline of the very first scene of this season in “Occupation” actually – it comes as a bit of a surprise to see the Tigh’s only get two scenes here really, but what we do get is amazing. What we might call Tigh’s loving execution of Ellen is one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the entire show so far. Just about every time Ellen has been on-screen since she first showed up in “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down” we’ve had reason to hate her, but here, at the end (well, from a first-time perspective anyway), we finally have a reason to sympathise with her fully. I think she really does love Saul: it would have been easy for her to give up on him once he was arrested by the Cylons, but instead she used what she had at her disposal to get him out, at the cost of what was left of her dignity, and then gave up what was left of her soul when he was targetted again. Yes she’s been a manipulative, self-serving, duplicitous malcontent, who hasn’t thought twice about the idea of cheating on her husband, but such people can still love, in their own way. This revelation, as it kind of is, is enough to leave Tigh speechless: he’s bowled over by how far Ellen was willing to go for him.

Ellen’s decision to essentially commit suicide and take her death out of Tigh’s hands as much as she can do is surprisingly noble. This whole scene is written great and acted great – Ellen’s need to confess her sins fully is so well realised by Kate Vernon, and Hogan will never do better wordless acting in his reaction – and I love that in an episode so packed with action it was given all of the time that it needed to fully breathe. I actually think it would have been better to end “Exodus (Part One)” with this scene, that would have rounded off this whole sub-plot better, but that’s just a small criticism.

For Baltar, “Exodus (Part Two)” is where he faces into what seems like the final vortex. We open with him drunk and maudlin on Colonial One, and then everything goes to hell. He’s left paralyzed as things spiral out of control for the Cylon occupiers, a Quizling when the Germans aren’t going to be able to save him. For a man who has spent months wallowing in his own self-hatred, who has clearly contemplated a final end, this is a low moment. But then something very important happens.

He gets offered a way out. With pictures of winding up with a noose around his neck presumably playing in his head, suddenly Baltar is offered a place on a Cylon ship leaving the planet and the change in him, in terms of his will to continue, is remarkable. Baltar always, always looks out for number one, and as soon as this lifeline is offered to him, he grabs at it enthusiastically. If that lifeline wasn’t there, he would probably just lay down and let Gaeta shoot him. Instead he turns back into his manipulative best, taking a few cues from Head Six, and manages to convince an overly-idealistic Gaeta that he just wants one more shot at redemption, lines that the messed-up Gaeta – whose role in this episode could form an essay on its own, but I will relent – buys hook, line and sinker. I’ll never believe that Baltar sets off from Colonial One trying to stop a nuke from going off: he talks Gaeta down because he has a way out of what seemed like an impossible situation before. It’s sheer self-preservation.

But I suppose we should accept that there remains a degree of feeling in Baltar, otherwise he wouldn’t be as concerned as he is when he discovers Hera. Baltar always does best with “God’s plan” when he gets hard evidence of its reality in his face, like when his blind guess was correct in “The Hand Of God”. Here, after a long time of being told he and Head Six’s child was going to drop into his lap and reacting in increasingly snarky ways to the idea, suddenly, well, Hera drops into his lap. Baltar’s faith is always a fluid thing, but in this moment at least he’s prepared to shoot Biers when he thinks she might be a threat to Hera. He won’t always be so devout.

The climax of the Starbuck/Leoben mindmelt also occurs here, in suitably dramatic circumstances. We get some decent tension created from Starbuck’s initial rescue, as Kacey gets inadvertently left behind, and this is a clever enough way to keep things ticking over in the sub-plot as the remainder of the episode passes by. Because we need to see Starbuck confront her abuser and win, otherwise this would be significantly flat as a finale. The scene where Starbuck does that is rife with a twisted sexual tension, as Leoben actually seems to believe that he has won out, that Thrace has actually fallen in love with him. The episode takes its time with this moment, allowing us the chance to squirm as Leoben takes what he can from Starbuck, before the resolution we have been waiting for: one last kill, and a successful escape. In truth I do feel like this whole sub-plot was never able to quite live up to what was presented in “Occupation”, maybe because it just wasn’t able to get the time that it needed, especially in the last episode. But it’s still gratifying to see its conclusion play out like this, given BSG’s previous weakness with such sub-plots as depicted in “Pegasus”. I suppose in a way it’s a metaphor for the entire Cylon occupation of New Caprica: wanting humanity to conform to expected behavior, and acting shocked when it fights back.

But now we have to talk about the Battle of New Caprica, which is one of my very favourite sci-fi set-pieces ever. Since the arrival of the Cylons in “Lay Down Your Burdens (Part Two)” I had been expecting something huge in terms of a rescue effort, what with the Colonials so outnumbered. In an episode called “Exodus”, we needed a Red Sea to be parted. I was not disappointed. From the chaos on the ground to the space battle in orbit, it’s a masterpiece of execution.

The ground stuff is basic, but I do feel like the episode does really capture the sense of chaos that was set-up as the goal in “Exodus (Part One)”. The bombs, the firing, the people rushing too and fro, the attempted rescues and the unseen ticking clocks of the departing ships and the Cylon nuke, they all combine to create this brilliant tension, that the production team had no real right to claim given what they had to work with. Look a little closer and you’ll see the seams: the limited number of extras, the repeated shots, the use of dim lighting to hide some of the less impressive details. But the correct use of what was available, combined with the set-up work that the last three episodes had done for the characters involved, really is among the very best at this level of television.

Oh, but the Galactica, and the Pegasus. I’ll never forget the “Adama Manoeuvre”, that’s for sure, an utterly thrilling use of a battlestar that more than provided the “something huge” I mentioned above. Everything about it is amazing, but it’s just the appetizer for what comes next. In many respects the CGI work done for the subsequent space combat is basic enough, especially by modern standards, and if you look closely enough, or think too hard about some of the details, you might spot similar seams to that on the ground. But BSG covers it all up masterfully, with a veritable hurricane of emotional story-telling. The looks on the faces of the CIC crew, Adama’s heartfelt final words, the slow pan away from a bereft Galactica (how amazing is that?), the sudden arrival of the Pegasus to save the day, eucatastrophe style, it all works so well and hits all of the right notes, before you ever consider Bear McCreary’s stunning score that backs it all up. The final sacrifice of the Pegasus, going out in a literal blaze of glory, is the cherry on top of a mesmerising series of scenes, that constitute what we can probably call BSG’s best action moment.

The aftermath is one of the show’s most powerful scenes, as the enormity of the Colonial victory is balanced against the enormity of what so many have lost. As we sweep around the Galactica hanger deck, the wild celebrations fade away into the background of so much loss: Apollo, who lost his command; Gaeta, who lost his dream; Starbuck, who lost a daughter; and Tigh, who has lost his wife at his own hand. Another great score moment from McCreary helps to make the point that New Caprica is a gaping wound in the hearts of so many characters, and all that grief and all that pain is not going to be washed away by a return to Galactica and a few cheering crowds.

The other aspect of victory mixed with defeat is Hera. Roslin loses her, and Maya, but the child of destiny lives yet, now firmly in the hands of the Cylons. It was foolish of Roslin to think that she was in any kind of position to fight back against destiny. What comes next, if you haven’t run through the series before, is anyone’s guess.

Permission to come aboard sir

Notes

-Dee is focused very much on what comes next, discussing future jumps and meetings with ship captains. Despite later words, she sounds like someone who thinks Pegasus is on their own now.

-Her pep talk, wherein she draws a line between the elder and younger Adama, is still a sweet moment, as she tries to ease what may seem like an inevitable heartbreak.

-Apollo’s own words to Dee are surprisingly affectionate, given the apparent distance between the two in Season Three so far. We might note he mentions her as an officer before a wife though.

-I did like Anders’ full outline of how serious Ellen’s transgression was, as the human race was nearly doomed because of it. It explains his vehemence as well.

-The teaser montage here spoils the best part of the episode, namely “the Adama Manoeuvre”, which always amazed me.

-Ellen struggles to be frank with Tigh initially in a really heartbreaking manner, describing her efforts to garner Cavil’s compliance as getting him “to notice me…the way men notice me”.

-Oh, that moment when Ellen tells Tigh “I could use a drink”. I don’t think there is much of a debate over whether she knows it’s poisoned. Anyone could see it in Tigh’s eyes as she takes the cup.

-The music of “Exodus (Part Two)” is a wonder, and starts here with this emotive string piece, which I think is a section of the later used “Refugees Return”.

-Gaeta, with nothing better to do, is doodling on Colonial One. The picture appears to be a sword on a grove of trees. I’m not sure what the meaning could be, perhaps a representation of Gaeta’s disillusionment over what he thought New Caprica was going to be.

-I love Baltar’s drunken schadenfreude as he literally says “I told you so” after the execution goes wrong. This is a man who really has nothing to live for.

-I also love his simple answer when Biers asks what he wants them to do: “Leave”.

-Biers response, wherein she paints a picture of a humanity that will “nurse a dream of vengeance” before they go hunting for the Cylons perhaps gives a better indication of why they are there than anything else, as well as tying into the Cycle: “All of this has happened before, all of this will happen again”.

-The bombs start going off around New Caprica City as the Cylons and Baltar look out the windows. All you’re missing a reprise of Head Six’s “Judgement Day” from “Lay Down Your Burdens (Part Two)”.

-They re-used footage for this initial look at gunfire on the ground, some of it was part of Roslin’s diary monologue in “Occupation”.

-I love that glimpse at Galactica coming out of the nebula clouds, looking like a shark hunting prey.

-The drone operation that Adama got so angry about in “Occupation” gets its fruition here, a clever deception designed to trick the Cylons into thinking Galactica and Pegasus are in a different place.

-Baltar despairs that it was “all for nothing”, which may lead a viewer to wonder what is “nothing” meant to be instead? Is Baltar still pining for Gina?

-Let’s give a hand to Bear McCreary’s “Storming New Caprica” which begins at this point, a seven minute drum-heavy rollercoaster of a tune that might be the single best example from the BSG soundtracks.

-Leoben’s knock-out of Starbuck does come as a surprise in a sense, but fits with the relationship he really has with her, where his control is never too far away from being obvious.

-Roslin is only leaving New Caprica one way, and that is on “my ship”. Taking it back is important for her.

-Jammer is accosted by Zarek, and his first words are “I didn’t do anything”. A little on the nose maybe, but it’s good to see him here, ahead of his role in what comes next.

-One of the Simon’s, when Adama’s subterfuge becomes clear, decides to ask Baltar “Where’s Galactica?” It’s a bit of a stretch that Baltar would know.

-You always knew that the Colonials would have to pull something special to rescue the people on New Caprica, and I’ll never forget when I saw that FTL flash and realised what it was.

-Hot Dog is calm and considered in the tunnel – “This ought to be different” – at odds with the incredible way his Viper explodes out of the end of it.

-Galactica jumps away with a literal bang, as its sudden absence creates a vacuum that air rushes to fill. Such a cool idea, and very well portrayed.

-I love the jumpy DRADIS console that Adama stares at, slowly revealing that the Galactica is facing double the odds it expected. It’s like something out of Alien.

-The mixture of horror and despair in Olmos’ delivery of “No. We can’t hold off four” as he realises what is about to happen is something else.

-After a quick act break, we return to see the CIC in a mess, with Adama even helping to patch cables. I think that was a great choice, to emphasise how screwed the Galactica is.

-The moment when Helo confirms the FTL is offline is so powerful. He and Adama share a very similar look in the eyes, that gets across what this means before Adama makes it clear. “That’s it then. It’s been an honour.”

-That slow pan out as we see Galactica hammered with missiles, the mournful fading music, you almost feel like the show might actually do it as the ultimate surprise. It’s a beautifully captured moment of despair.

-Surprise! The missiles streak through space, and here comes Pegasus to save the day. The intensity of the misery that precedes only elevates the joy at seeing her.

-Adama is pissed that his son has disobeyed orders, but has enough happiness to murmur a very heartfelt “Thank you Lee” to himself if nobody else.

-Baltar gets an invitation to join the Cylons in their withdrawal, and Biers justifies this by calling back to Cavil’s previous thoughts on Cylon willingness to admit mistakes: “You were right and we were wrong. That has to count for something. ”

-It’s a sight to see, the ships jumping away just above the streets of New Caprica. It’s humanity’s victory manifest.

-Lee’s plan for the Pegasus is extreme, and one can certainly consider why it’s so. Why not jump away once the Galactica has, why throw away the more advanced battlestar? But such thoughts get swept away in the emotion of the moment.

-Gaeta has been waiting for a while to dress down the President. “No, you believed in the dream of Gaius Baltar” which included the brilliantly phrased “hot and cold running interns”.

-Baltar’s manipulation is so clever, right down to his “I’m begging you to shoot me”. It’s the perfect display of suicidal contrition.

-The Pegasus has never been a ship we have regarded with much affection, but it gets a very heartfelt “Thank you” from Apollo before he abandons her. This may be a nod to a similar scene in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “The Changing Face Of Evil”, which shared some writers with BSG.

-A play on “Wander My Friends” comes on for the conclusion of “Storming New Caprica” as we witness the last ride of Pegasus, a lovely building piece reaching a literally explosive finale. The Pegasus’ sacrifice is one of the CGI moments of the show so far, and I liked that it gets the reward of taking out two basestars for the effort.

-We get a glimpse of what is now an empty New Caprica here, I suppose to remain this way until the end of time, and it is a very lonely, desolate glimpse.

-How creepy is Leoben’s “You know what I want”?

-About as creepy as his “And now the rest” The resulting kiss treads the line between toe curlingly awkward and just a little erotic.

-Starbuck’s last kill – and she knows that it is the last one – is one that she obviously takes a lot of pleasure in.

-Hera and Baltar finally meet, and it is a mirror image to what we saw in his dreams of “Scattered”, minus the surrounds.

-Colonial One gets retaken, and Roslin gets a very nice moment where she sits in her chair and gets to proclaim “I’m ready to leave”.

-The truth about Kacey comes like a gut punch, and is the perfect mixture of happiness and disaster that the last scene is meant to represent. Starbuck had accepted the child.

-Adama welcomes civilians onto the Galactica, and they grasp at his hands like he’s a King or God. The name that first came to my mind at this scene was very easily “Moses”.

-Adama and Apollo embrace, and that is something that I think we all needed to see.

-Adama and Tigh stand before each other, and it’s such a powerful reunion. The formality mixed with the ache on both of their faces, it’s stirring as hell.

-“You did it. You brought them home Saul”. “…Not all of them”. Heart breaks, every time.

-Adama is carried away on the shoulders of his crew, but his eyes are only on Tigh. I loved that little bit of character for him, and the way the camera lets him fade away as we focus instead on Tigh in his misery.

-The full heartbreak of “Refugees Return” gets its play here. It’s utterly devastating, this juxtaposition of the celebration with Tigh and Starbuck’s misery, and the tune really captures that well.

-Upon being told that Hera and Maya are missing, there’s a very pregnant moment where Roslin considers the implications silently. I think here she realises it isn’t for her to be trying to actively direct the course of prophecy.

-Adama shaves off the mustache, presumably a ritualistic shedding of the man who allowed his ship to become “sloppy” and has now redeemed himself.

-Our last shot is of the Admiral, surrounded by crewmembers on a now bustling Galactica, walking off happily. Welcome back.

Overall Verdict: This episode goes straight into the top tier of BSG’s offerings. It’s a beautifully constructed pay-off to the New Caprica arc, that blends emotive character moments with stirring sci-fi action, and does it with top-botch score work and excellent direction. Everything is firing on all cylinders for “Exodus (Part Two) and if we, as many think, have reached the high water mark of BSG, it’s at least a hell of a summit.

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27 Responses to NFB Re-Watches Battlestar Galactica Season Three: “Exodus (Part Two)”

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