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

There must be some way out of here, said the Joker to the Thief…

Air Date: 25/03/2007

Director: Michael Rymer

Writer: Mark Verheiden

Synopsis: Baltar’s trial heads towards its climax, with Lampkin attempting to use Apollo’s idealism and indignation in a last throw of the dice. Roslin, Athena and Caprica Six reckon with their shared visions of Hera. Four people come together at a moment of crisis as they uncover a shocking truth about themselves.

Review

“Crossroads (Part Two)”, a slightly extended episode, is all about Baltar’s trial as the centrepiece, with tension and dread radiating out from this often ridiculous spectacle. Things open with Baltar’s legal team in a bit of a tizzy: despite annihilating the credibility of the prosecution’s two witnesses to date, both Lampkin and Apollo agree that they are losing, since they are just pissing off the judges. In such circumstances the whole trial procedure seems especially shoddy, and almost pointless as an exercise. The drama of this particular episode is in seeing just how someone as smart as Lampkin will find a way to get out of this legal dead end.

He almost doesn’t get the chance really, thanks to the intervention of Gaeta. The figure that we see in the witness box is a changed man, one whose moral compass has been flung a bit out of alignment. We saw a bit of that in “Taking A Break From All Your Worries” of course, but to go from that to perjury is an extreme change. And not just lying under oath really, as Gaeta also does so with an eerie, self confident calm. This is a man who has no compunctions about flat out deceit, as long as it gets Baltar thrown out the airlock. His testimony blows the defence out of the water if taken at face value, and Lampkin is smart enough to know that cross-examination would be self-defeating. It’s left to Baltar to despair at what has occurred, with his words to Gaeta reflecting the complicated nature of their relationship.

With rapidly diminishing options, Lampkin plays one of the only hands that he has left, and puts his own “associate” on the stand. The prosecutor is right to point out how ridiculous this is, but then again the whole trial is a farce, so why not? What’s more interesting is Lampkin’s purpose in putting Lee under his questioning: nominally to push for a mistrial by undercutting Adama’s honesty as a judge, but in reality hoping that Apollo’s idealistic streak will swing things in his favour. It’s more manipulation, but manipulation with a very capable brain behind it.

Apollo and Adama are thus set against each other directly, though in reality this has been the state of affairs since Starbuck died in “Maelstrom”. Lee is clearly have some second thoughts following the events of “Crossroads (Part One)”, maybe to the extent of trying to find a way out: how else can you really explain his efforts to motion for a mis-trial? But as stated in the last entry, he’s beyond the point of no return really, he just needs to be reminded of that.

Lampkin is more than happy to do the reminding, with his closing gambit predicated on one simple fact: that Apollo is an honest man. Strip away all discussions of idealism, revenge, stepping out of his father’s shadow, and that’s what Lee is. It’s also what his father is of course, and you could say that Lampkin’s final strategy for the trial is based on both of the Adama’s being honest men: Apollo in that he will be able to carry an argument through a brutally honest criticism of the Fleet and its attempts at justice, and Adama in that he will be compelled to recognise the flaws in the prosecution, despite his own personal preferences. What follows is arguably the written highlight of the episode, this season and maybe the entire run of the show, and a testament to Mark Verheidan, Jamie Bamber and everyone else involved. In a monologue – very rare for BSG as a tool, but used superbly here – that stretches to the better part of five minutes, Apollo lays into the Fleet, its form of justice and the general hypocrisy of how what is left of humanity is choosing to live their lives.

He begins by succinctly summing up the reasons why Baltar is not guilty of the crimes he has been accused of, before reminding us all that Roslin issued a blanket pardon in “Collaborators” that everyone seems to have just decided does not apply to him. He goes on to outline a litany of mutinous and maybe even treasonous acts that people have carried out since the day humanity fled the Colonies, from Tigh’s use of suicide bombers in “Occupation” to the murder of Lt Thorne carried out by Helo and Tyrol in “Pegasus” all the way to Adama’s coup from “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)”, all of them “forgiven”. He continues with his own list of morally dubious activities, right down to his efforts to get the Fleet to abandon New Caprica entirely, and in so doing dubbing himself a “coward” mirroring the words he heard from his own father previously.

He winds down to a more philosophical discussion on just why everyone is in the position they are in. Humanity is no longer a civilisation, it’s a mob, and the reason Baltar has to suffer where so many others have been forgiven is because of the residual emotional scars of New Caprica: both the anger and desire for vengeance carried by those who experienced it first-hand, and the shame felt by those “who ran away”. Everyone falls into one of those two categories. We really haven’t moved that much further on from the events of “Collaborators”: the events of this episode are more dressed up, more official seeming, but it’s still a kangaroo court whose design is not justice, it’s payback where the inflictors are hoping it will settle their own feelings of trauma and pain. Baltar is just the scapegoat. Bamber is just brilliant here, turning what could be an unpalatable lecture into something really affecting and real, an outpouring of grief and disillusionment that we can tell has been building and building for some time. And, as a strategy to undercut the prosecution, it works.

The lead judge’s response, when the verdict is due to be read out, is interesting also. In many ways it’s basically an authors note to that verdict, a note that justice is inherently flawed, just before the controversial outcome of the trial is announced. It’s a bit strange in that respect, but speaks to the power of Apollo’s words previously, that now there has to be some kind of official response, which essentially constitutes an acknowledgement. The verdict justifies Lampkin’s strategy totally, and allows for this character, still an enigma in so many ways, to depart the stage in as ghostly a fashion as he entered: while he was probably designed as a character just for this trilogy of episodes, it was inevitable that he would be brought back in some fashion. He’s the stand-out of late Season Three, from the moment we first met him, to his oh so cool departure here, still leaving us dangling on some of his mysteries.

On Baltar, it is a remarkable transformation for him through the course of “Crossroads (Part Two)”. He begins it in the proverbial ha’penny place, insisting that his defence team push for a verdict, while looking utterly terrified of just what that verdict might be. But he does want a conclusion, which I think fits with the man who was so stuck in the morass of the New Caprica occupation, living this existence of seemingly perpetual misery: Baltar isn’t interested in doing that again, and isn’t interested in a cell.

And of course it all works out, to a point. Baltar ends up right back to zero, and his change in mood and outlook is immediate and wholesale. The man who trembled as he rose to hear the verdict is immediately proclaiming that he never had any doubts, and in the scene afterwards he is back to being the same cocksure would-be alpha male he was before New Caprica, whom we arguably haven’t seen since “The Captain’s Hand”. In this moment of triumph he reverts back to a very selfish, very self-serving “What about me?” attitude, but is left bereft when both Lampkin and Apollo just leave him to it: he’s stepped so quickly back into the role of being the victim that it isn’t in his capacity to consider a world where no one else really views him as one.

The idea of what Baltar’s life is going to be like now is certainly one to consider, but BSG doesn’t let the matter stay unresolved for too long. The truth is that Baltar living life out in the Fleet would be a dead man walking, but there’s another option. His quasi-abduction here, by people who seemingly think him some manner of divine presence, opens up new avenues for Baltar that are fascinating to comprehend, and ensure that he will remain a troubling presence onboard Galactica for a while yet.

Before we move on the crisis of the episodes finale, we have to have a brief word on the stuff involving the unlikely triumvirate of Roslin, Athena and Caprica Six. The three have a shared vision of chasing after Hera that leads to a “real life” meeting, but it’s just a sideshow in the episode really. This being the second episode in a row with such things, already my patience is wearing a bit thin if I’m being honest. What is the meaning of these visions? It’s tempting to think about the traditional three faces of femininity – definitions vary, but here I might go for crone, mother and harlot, with apologies to Caprica Six – but that might just be coincidence. Right now it seems like nothing more than a representation of the forces that are acting around Hera with her at the centre: as a part of a grand prophetic cycle in the case of Roslin, as a daughter for Athena and as the culmination of the Cylon obsession with pro-creation and love for Caprica Six. But we already knew that Hera held that role for all these people, so this stuff seems superfluous and, if we’re being honest, more like padding than good story-telling.

And speaking of questionable story-telling, we have to talk now about four of the “Final Five”, as they are revealed here. “Crossroads (Part Two)” does as good a job as you could reasonably expect bringing all of these characters together at the pivotal moment, with a few wrinkles – Tigh’s deteriorating mental state, this new Sam/Tory relationship – to sweeten the pot. The sense of something momentous, and at the same time dreadful, is excellently captured as the Music takes over, draws them all into that one space and, as Tyrol puts it, flicks a switch.

But what sense does this make, honestly? We’ll get into it more in Season Four as we examine the past lives of these four Cylons in greater detail, but for now it suffices to say this revelation will only cause raised eyebrows that rapidly become furrowed. To take Tigh alone, the idea that he could have some kind of programmed personality that somehow explains his service in the First Cylon War and everything that came after it – all presumably with a level of documentation and witnesses that could not be reasonably manufactured like it could have been for Boomer and Tyrol, or Tory – seems far-fetched. Then you have Sam, who was a sporting celebrity back on the Colonies, the kind of thing that you would imagine would be difficult to pull off for someone who never had a childhood or upbringing. Season Four, as I recall, will attempt to answer some of these questions, but it already has a very steep hill to climb. It suffices for now to note that the Final Four are separate from the other Cylons, that’s already been made clear by Biers’ death quest in “Rapture”. But the power of this episodes revelation is undeniably hamstrung by the fridge logic nature of it.

Swirling around it all is Bear McCreary’s version of “All Along The Watchtower”, performed by his brother Brendan, which gets its near-full airing at the conclusion. Bob Dylan’s song is of a kind whose lyrics have been subject to endless interpretation and re-interpretation, but the only real link to the BSG mythos that I can see is the sometimes posited idea that the song’s narrative exists in something of a loop, with the “two riders” of the last verse the same as “the joker” and “the thief” of the first, existing in a cycle that matches up to the idea of “All of this has happened before, all of this will happen again”. “You and I, we’ve been through this”, etc. Other than that it is a link to Earth, at least at the present time, aside from just being a good song whose inherent mystery adds to the feeling the episode is going for: it draws a line between our world and the world of BSG, even if it made plenty of people at the time wonder sarcastically if Dylan was the last Cylon.

All of this leads into the final crisis of the episode, occurring as Adama declares, with more than a hint of meta commentary, that it’s time to look forward and move on. The Ionian Nebula comes into view, the power goes out, the Cylons arrive and suddenly humanity has much bigger problems than Baltar’s trial. The questions build and build: is this power cut supernatural in origin? How did the Cylons find the Fleet? How can Galactica hold off the Cylons long enough for the Fleet to escape, even with the use of nuclear arms? I’ll admit it is a very good set-up for a cliff-hanger finale, before you get into the decent way it is interspersed with the reveal of the Final Five (well, four of them anyway).

And then we get two additional surprises. The first, in the form of a returning Starbuck, ties into my thoughts from “Maelstrom” on how the writing team was starting to clutch at straws a little, now deciding to treat actual death – not just death with resurrection, as established with the Cylons – as something that can be overcome with a hint of the fantastical. We don’t get too much time to really come to terms with the sudden re-appearance of Thrace and what it portends – or won’t, as the case may be – before we are whizzed off through the universe to get a confirmation that Earth exists and is out there somewhere, waiting to be found. It’s a cool visual and ends Season Three with a bang, but why now, in this moment? Does this not remove one of the more tantalising mysteries from the show, as to whether Earth exists at all? In retrospect it really does feel like a short-sighted effort to get the audience talking about a plot point, as opposed to using that plot point properly.

As with other things, it all feels somewhat stylish over substantial, especially with the benefit of hindsight. It’s a pattern BSG has been embracing more and more as time goes on, and one naturally fears that Season Four may not hold up well in my estimation. We have some side-roads to go on before we get there off course, but for now we can say that the jury’s out on the future of BSG, even after a typically excellent effort with its season finale.

Kara?

Notes

-Adama’s facial hair has always been a metaphor for the state of things onboard Galactica, so you know something is wrong when he cuts himself shaving.

-Roslin and Adama are very intimate in this moment, it has to be said, she calling from her bed, and the two engaged in a very informal conversation. The affection between the two is reaching new levels.

-Tyrol is the latest to hear the Music, and in this moment there is nothing to definitively tie him to Tigh, Sam or Tory. Mysteries, mysteries.

-The kiss shared between Sam and Tory is very passionate, almost more passionate than what we saw between him and Starbuck in Season Three. Is this anything more than a fling?

-Seelix has a betrayed look when she realises that Sam was with Tory, but she is barking up the wrong tree really.

-When Apollo outlines his fathers comments on Baltar not deserving a fair trial, Lampkin pounces quickly: “He said that, he actually said that?”

-“Right, so now, because we’re winning, we’re losing, actually?” Baltar sums up the inherent oxymoron of this whole set-up nicely.

-He briefly grasps a bit of his old confidence when he declares “There will be a verdict”, but it’s of a fading kind. Even as he says it we can tell he’s picturing what that verdict will look like.

-Both Sam and Tyrol describe the Music as “like something from childhood” simultaneously, which is an interesting way of putting it, considering.

-Our first of many examples of lyrics being dropped into conversation, as Sam tells a shouting Racetrack “No reason to get excited”.

-Caprica insists that a shared projection between her, Athena and Roslin shouldn’t be possible. “Add it to the list” is all Athena can say. She’s right too.

-Tigh gets in on the lyrical act next, telling Adama “There’s too much confusion” before saying to himself at the end of the scene “There must be some way out of here”.

-“Oh Felix…” Baltar says, this look in his eyes a mixture of anger and disappointment at seeing Gaeta perjure himself. One can’t help but think of A Man For All Seasons: “Profit a man nothing, if he gains the whole world but loses his soul. But for a guilty verdict Felix?”

-Love that moment when Baltar gets angry, reminds everyone that Gaeta tried to murder him – might have been worth Lampkin bringing that up actually, if just to discredit Gaeta a little – and follows up with “And you missed! Butterfingers!”

-Lampkin demonstrates some more of his intelligence when declines to cross examine Gaeta. He only needs to look the man in the eyes to realise it’s pointless: Gaeta has decided to lie, and won’t be broken by the defence.

-Romo then puts Apollo on the stand, and is quick to claim he can “cite seven precedents off the top of my head” when challenged as to the appropriateness of this. I’ve always wondered if he was just bluffing, smart enough to know that if he makes it sound good he’ll get away with it.

-There’s a moment when Adama and Apollo are staring at each other here that is so powerful, the act a challenge, an inquiry, a connection all in the same moment.

-Apollo finally breaks: “What frakking system?” he shouts when challenged on defending the “system of justice”. He only needs one more push.

-“I for one would like to hear this witness testify”. Adama isn’t going to let Apollo off the hook that easily.

-Apollo gives a rote, clinical answer to the question of why Baltar deserves an acquittal, and Lampkin gives a somewhat disgusted sounding “Come on” as a rejoinder. Now is not the time for textbook quotation.

-The monologue starts off with Apollo turning things back on his questioner and the audience with an almost desperate sounding plea: “What would you have done?” This calls to mind the aftermath of World War 2 in occupied Europe, and similar plea from convicted collaborators.

-Love that repeated use of the word” Forgiven” as punctuation for the many crimes and other not so great actions of the cast over the last few years, it really makes it stick in your head.

-“And me?” Apollo reams off his own list of apparent failings: the shooting down of the Olympic Carrier in “33”, raising a gun to a superior officer in “Kobol’s Last Gleaming (Part Two)”, choosing to cut and run from New Caprica in “Lay Down Your Burdens (Part Two)” and trying to convince Adama to forget the place entirely in “Occupation”. He doesn’t even list it all really: how about making a deal with a convicted terrorist in “Bastille Day”, fermenting mutiny in “Resistance”, letting criminal networks survive in “Black Market”, arresting a superior officer in “The Captain’s Hand” and the adultery of “The Eye Of Jupiter”? All forgiven.

-Apollo doesn’t shirk from self-criticism in his accusations of Fleet hypocrisy, in one of his speeches most powerful moments: “I’m the coward. I’m the traitor. I’m forgiven.”

-He lays it on thick by describing humanity as “not a civilisation anymore” but instead “a mob” forced to “improvise” a legal system. This sentiment was first spoken out load by Zarek (conspicuously absent by the way) way back in “Colonial Day” but is now a very clear theme of the ongoing show.

-I just love when Apollo turns to Baltar and attempts to explain why humanity wants him thrown out the airlock. “You have to die, because, well, we don’t like you very much. Because you’re arrogant, because you’re weak, because you’re a coward…You should’ve been killed back on New Caprica, but since you had the temerity to live, we’re gonna execute you now, that’s justice!”

-He hits the nail on the head by describing how, ultimately, the case is “built on shame”, especially by those like him “who ran away…who ran away”. It’s all in the delivery.

-Apollo closes by indicating his belief that people think they can get rid of their negative feelings over New Caprica by killing this one man, but it won’t cut it. He’s left with just a a sad final word: “That won’t work…that won’t work”.

-Lampkin has played his hand, all that is left is for everyone to reveal their cards. But he still has the gumption to land a blow on the farce that has been the trial: “I don’t wish to belabour this any longer”.

-The Chief Judge – “Franks” in the script – knows what they are about to announce will set off a storm of protest, and her efforts to forestall this by nothing that justice is imperfect aren’t going to cut it really.

-“Not guilty”. And there was much rejoicing and violence.

-Things fall apart quick after the verdict, with people literally throwing themselves at Baltar. Apollo calls out for the Admiral to restore order, but Adama washes his hands and just walks away, seemingly happy to witness this brawl on his ship.

-Lampkin compliments Baltar on his “boundless confidence”, which really has returned in spades after the verdict was read. He’s a new man, or rather an old one.

-And that “boundless confidence” is enough for him to state his wish that he could have seen “the Admiral squirm a bit more”, which Apollo isn’t willing to tolerate. Lee might respect the concept of justice and think Baltar innocent, but he’s still “lowlife pond scum”.

-“I think you’ll land on your feet” says Lampkin to Baltar, and I love the pan out from the good Doctor that follows, he left looking very small and lonely in that room.

-Lampkin has just the best exit: leaving his apparently needless walking stick behind, sunglasses on, strolling away to the point of vanishing. If we never saw him again I’d say it was perfection.

-The look that Adama gives Roslin here, as he admits that he voted to acquit Baltar, is just perfect. I can only describe it as a mixture of soft and hard, as he is forced to acknowledge that “the defence made their case, the prosecution didn’t”.

-Roslin isn’t having it though. “Gaius Baltar is a traitor” she declares, and we can tell this isn’t a verdict she is gong to be willing to respect all that much.

-Love that look of Baltar in the hallway, carrying his entire life in a box and getting murderous glances from everyone he passes.

-The power cut is worth considering. It could be something to do with the nebula, but is more likely the result of a higher power. Is it necessary to “activate” the Final Five?

-The manner in which Baltar is taken seems needlessly spooky, but at least offers a half-decent fake-out as we suspect he might be about to be murdered. I believe there was filmed material where he dodges an assassination attempt here.

-“The Shape Of Things To Come” gets what I think may be its final airing here, as we return to the opera house one more time.

-The four now recite the opening lyrics of “All Along The Watchtower” in sequence, but it’s hard to read any significance into who gets what lines beyond the very obvious.

-Handy, that this room the four end up in has an appropriate number of entrances.

-“So that’s it. A switch goes off…” Tyrol could be commenting critically on the writers really.

-I like that moment when Tyrol, Tory and Sam are humming along together, and the more down-to-Earth Tigh just snaps and tells them to shut up.

-Tyrol puts it all beyond doubt, and raises more questions in the same breath: “We’re Cylons…and we have been from the start”.

-Of course, this presumably makes Nicky Tyrol the second child born of human and Cylon. Unless…

-Even from just a quick look on DRADIS the Fleet is facing odds greater than it has ever faced, and all with just a battered old battlestar to offer in response. It’s no surprise the nukes get released.

-“That’s the man I want to be” Tigh says as he prepares to take a stand in the CIC. “Man” is a deliberate choice.

-Apollo’s choice to put on a flight suit and get in a Viper is a natural one to make. In a crisis this large the argument with his father has to wait.

-In the original cuts, Starbuck actually appears to Apollo here, onboard Galactica, rather than in a Viper outside. Wouldn’t have had quite have the same impact.

-The camera makes clear how pivotal this reveal is as Tigh takes his place next to Adama and Tory stands next to Roslin. These people are very close to the seats of power.

-A nearly full version of “All Along The Watchtower” commences here, and it is a version I just love: the exotic feeling of the instruments really adds to the lyrics in terms of creating a sense of mysticism and strangeness.

-Starbuck’s Viper appears to be brand new, and lacks a nameplate.

-“Don’t freak out”. You’ll excuse me if I choose to do just that. At this point the only rational explanation is that she’s a Cylon.

-“It’s OK. I’ve been to Earth. I know where it is. And I’m going to take us there.” So, is this Starbuck’s destiny then?

-Our look at Earth doesn’t betray any juicy details: with the North American continent the only one visible, and in daylight, it’s impossible to tell if any modern civilisation exists.

Overall Verdict: Whatever about my reservations about where all of this is going, Season Three ends with a fine episode in “Crossroads (Part Two)”. The trial drama is good enough, but is capped with Jamie Bamber’s truly mesmerising monologue, and anytime we get to see more of Romo Lampkin I’ll be happy. The stuff dedicated to the cycle and the Music isn’t quite as good really, but is passable at worst. BSG doesn’t go wrong with its finales, three for three on that score. Can it keep it up?

We’ll take a break from this series next week before we return to Pegasus for a bit.

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 Three: “Crossroads (Part Two)”

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