Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blood. Scales. Reviews.


For Time James Poniewozik writes:

Who Felix Gaeta is, and what this two-part story showed him to be, speaks to some of the things that make BSG so great. The show could have made him Zarek's craven toady or a slimy power-grabber, but we see—even while sharing Adama's revulsion for him—that he's finally a principled man too.

He may be morally weak (as we saw on New Caprica as well), he may be misguided, and he may be out of hiss depth, but he carries out his coup out of a genuine feeling that the fleet has gone wrong. And unlike his co-conspirator, it's important to him to do it in (as he sees it) the right way, getting justice rather than just grabbing power. Thus he insists on a trial, and thus he recoils when he realizes what Zarek has done to the Quorum.

And yet, rather than take the expected easy way out—having Gaeta see the error of his ways and turn on Zarek, redeeming himself at last—he sticks to his guns. He would rather fail than do things Zarek's way (he would probably have succeeded if he had done things Zarek's way), but that doesn't mean he stops believing in his original goal. Instead, he goes down, faces the firing squad and—in a final moment worthy of Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities—looks down at his leg and experiences one last second feeling whole and painless before he dies.

Richard Vine writing for The Guardian reviews The Oath and Blood on the Scales:
There's a definite sense that without the promise of Earth, there's little left to hold them together, that the same gnawing sense of the impossible bleakness and blankness of space that pushed Dualla over the edge has left them without anything but fear and hate to hold on to...

...Kelly's line about the Battlestar being "a helluva ship once" is beautifully affecting, suggesting that for many in the mutiny, it's simply that the journey has gone too far for them, that they can't understand who to back now that there's a Cylon ship bang in the middle of the colonial fleet.

Even minor characters like Kelly get to have convincing emotional journeys on BSG. He was third in command of the ship, tried to blow up Baltar and Romo Lampkin during Baltar's trial and here spends the episode wrestling with his conscience after the political bloodbath, eventually turning on the turncoats and backing up Lee and the gang.

Instead of a final meal, Gaeta gets a last smoke with Baltar. After all this time faking religious insight, he's now assumed, however inadvertently, some of the aura of a priest hearing a last confession – with Gaeta's "please, no religion" line only serving to drive home the irony, and how far these two have come together. Gaeta's reflections on his life is both proud and sad, the last words from a man who can see how far he came – and how far he didn't. "I discovered science and thought I was really, really good at it, until I met you …" The broken, half-smile on Zarek's face as he nods to Gaeta before Adama turns his firing squad on them is the perfect epitaph for their half-arsed coup, but for once, it's Baltar who offers the show's most moving line: "I know who you are Felix. I know who you are."

How does Edward James Olmos get his voice so low? It's like he speaks through a THX sub-woofer. When he throws down his Admiral's pins and growls at Gaeta, "Admiral? Admiral? You're the Admiral now, so you call up Roslin and make her laugh…" you can feel the whole ship rumble. He's just as terrifying when he doesn't speak, staring out the mutineers, daring them to maintain their ill-thought out position.

Alan Sepinwall:
There's a part of me that watches an episode like "Blood on the Scales" -- which managed to be even more moving and shocking and bad-ass than last week's "The Oath," which I didn't think was possible -- and recognizes that so much of what makes it brilliant is only possible because the show is coming to an end and the writers can throw caution to the wind. But there's a part of me that watches an episode like this and despairs at the thought of a TV universe without "Battlestar Galactica," because... well, you almost don't need me to tell you why this one was brilliant, do you?

But, really, I could pick out so many moments from this hour as illustrative of the show's greatness.

What about Baltar's confession to his latest Six conquest that he always runs away, and that maybe he's tired of it? I'm a little disappointed to get confirmation that Baltar was faking it the entire time with the cult, but James Callis sold me on Gaius' reversion to form, and then on his attempt to break his familiar pattern.

What about Tigh and Adama's bromantic moment after Lee and Saul saved Bill from the firing squad? Bill and Saul's exchange -- "They told me you were dead." "For a while, I was." -- is the sort of thing you might hear from reunited lovers at the end of some '50s melodrama, but Edward James Olmos and Michael Hogan made it entirely about the respect, trust, and, yes, love that these two comrades-in-arms share.

What about the image of Adama leading an ever-gathering army of supporters through the decks of the ship, until they overran Gaeta's people in the CIC like a swarm? No speeches necessary at that point; the image of the crowd, and the resolve on Olmos' face, was all that was needed to generate still more goose bumps.

And what about virtually every Gaeta moment throughout the hour, but particularly his final coffee with Baltar? As others have said, Gaeta was the perfect man to lead this failed coup, because of where he'd been when the miniseries began, and all the betrayals that we'd seen him suffer, and Alessandro Juliani did a masterful job of making you understand, if not agree with, Felix's point of view, even as he freed Zarek, enabled the Pegasus goons to arrest and terrorize Helo's family, ordered the death of both Adama and Roslin, etc. And how frakking brilliant was he in that coffee scene? Michael Angeli, who wrote this episode, told Mo Ryan that he hoped that scene would briefly fool people into thinking that Felix would get a pass for it all. I was never fooled, and, in fact, the scene worked much better for how obvious Juliani made it that Felix knew he was going to die soon, and how at peace he was with it.

Tim Goodman for the San Francisco Chronicle:
With six episodes left, things are tight alright. But here's what I like about "Blood On the Scales." There was resolution. The deepening evil of Zarek (the craving for absolute power) pushed him to wanton murder and created even more friction with the treacherous Gaeta, whose mutiny-leading gets ever-more complicated as events fray. And they did fray, thanks in large part to Lee, Starbuck and - best of all - Tyrol. I know there's lots to ponder over when considering exactly how bad Gaeta is (was there good there? Is being conflicted in the face of being evil an admirable trait that changes the opinions of others? If you do what you believe in, does that make you worthy of reconsideration, a reduction in the harsh judgment, even if what you believed to be right was actually wrong?) but I think the Tyrol storyline was more nuanced. Here's a guy SERIOUSLY conflicted, who doesn't truly know who or what he is, where his motivation and loyalties rest. But he reacts in this episode based on the pre-Cylon knowledge. He acts to help friends. To save the ship. And I love his minor ode to the good times aboard the good ship Galactica that ultimately saves his ass and allows him to stop the jump, buying time to save Adama and Tigh and even Roslin. That's hard to undervalue.

Todd VanDerWerff The House Next Door:
...As this episode went on, it managed to accumulate a certain power and a certain horror all its own. Despite the predictability of the moment, Adama marching through the ship and gathering supporters at every turn, only to overwhelm the CIC with his new army was a surprisingly poignant moment, trading in all of the goodwill we have for the old man and the folks who stayed steadfast at his side, including Tigh (Michael Hogan) and his son, Lee (Jamie Bamber). The Adama/Lee relationship has often felt more strained that it probably should be, as if the producers have always felt that Olmos’ and Bamber’s easygoing chemistry needed some fairly rote father issues tossed into the mix, but seeing the two reunited in episodes like this one and “The Oath” still packs a somewhat primal power.


The best work of the episode, on both the part of the actor and the writers, goes to Gaeta, though, who is given a somewhat predictable arc of having regrets but manages to make it somehow eerily redemptive—a redemption arc for a character who didn’t really need one, arrived at through having the character carry out very grave sins. Juliani plays Gaeta’s growing guilty conscience mostly silent, framed in tight close-ups by Rose, who seems to trust the actor’s face (Juliani doesn’t let him down, for the most part). Gaeta’s been waiting for a redemption for quite some time now, and he’s been acting out in some very interesting ways to get there, from leaving secrets to the New Caprica resistance to stabbing Baltar in the neck to perjuring himself to make sure Baltar would be executed (didn’t work), and that most of his attempts to win that redemption have come through doing very bad things is one of the show’s more sly commentaries on the natures of sacrifice and heroism.

Gaeta’s attempt to win redemption through the mutiny are unfounded, he suddenly realizes, but he tries to keep up the pretenses, tossing together a sham trial for Adama and trying to spare more bloodshed before his actions finally catch up with him. The resigned look on Gaeta’s face as Adama returns to seize control of the ship says it all, even as he realizes it will mean his end. The final two scenes, featuring Gaeta discussing his long-ago dreams of being an architect (fond of restaurants shaped like food) and then facing down a firing squad, suddenly realizing that the pain in his missing leg has disappeared (a bit writerly as a psychological device, but it worked so well here that I’ll allow it), an instant before he dies, were both intensely moving, and that’s saying something for a character who was a little ill-defined in the build-up to this arc. The best kind of character development on TV is that which throws seemingly disconnected actions by a character in the past into a new kind of relief, and these moments clarified much of Gaeta’s arc in Seasons Three and Four.

Brad Trechak for TV Squad:
Despite knowing how Gaeta and Zarek's treachery was going to end, it was still interesting to see how it got there. You could see control slowly slipping through the fingers of the two men. Zarek was an ignorant, arrogant nutjob with only a tenuous grasp of reality, but Gaeta struck me more as a good officer who went through some bad times but at his core was still decent and honorable (and kudos to Alessandro Juliani for pulling that off convincingly. Another winner of my own personal Emmys). When Baltar met with him, it took me a moment to realize that it was for his last rites. I also liked how his itching stopped the moment before he and Zarek were executed, as if his conscience were cleared.

Jevon Phillips in the L.A. Times writes:
The insurgency, and Gaeta's misguided attempt at justice, was a great way to reignite the fires that were a bit dormant at the cores of a lot of the characters. Roslin's leadership, Adama's toughness, Baltar's instability, Tigh's loyalty, Zarek's shiftiness, Tyrol's resourcefulness and Lee's soldiering and devotion to his dad were all qualities that caused us to follow this show unflinchingly.


Other recaps and reviews from Kelly West for Cinema Blend, Adam B. Vary in Entertainment Weekly, Jim Connelly for Screen Junkies, 411Mania, Sam J. Miller's 25 Word Review, Zap2It, Science Fiction Stuff, a recap quiz from Geek Sugar, Mania.com, Hitfix, i09 and Buddy TV.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

What an excellent collection of reviews, many thanks for such a great website, always a pleasure to read here (i stop by a lot).

Anonymous said...

just don't say anything too critical about the show or your comments will
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Anonymous said...

Indeed. Interesting how comments disappear like that.

Kinda disappointing actually.

Tighclops said...

Eh, I don't know about that. I've said some fairly critical things about the show in the past (particularly about Razor and the upcoming Caprica release) and I don't think any of my comments have been pulled yet.

You might want to try not just blatantly flaming the show - the blog owners seem to be more tolerant of comments that have an actual point and aren't just a collection of insults.

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