“Deadlock,” written by Jane Espenson and directed by Robert Young, offered up the best and worst of Battlestar Galactica. Characters changed their minds on a dime in seemingly unrealistic ways (seriously, WHAT IS UP WITH TYROL (Aaron Douglas) this half-season?). The writers pulled Baltar’s (James Callis) strings a little too obliquely to force him into YET ANOTHER crazy new persona (with only a handful of episodes? Really?). And there was a long, probably too soapy plotline that was still pretty terrific just because of the layers and layers and layers of backstory that were laid onto it. I see the fandom is largely unkind to “Deadlock,” if not outright hostile, and, yeah, this episode both feels like a waste of time with only four episodes left AND strangely rushed, as though a lot of plot had to be telescoped, since there are only four episodes left and the show has bigger questions to answer than whether Tigh (Michael Hogan) ends up with Ellen (Kate Vernon) or Caprica Six (Tricia Helfer). But, Hell’s bells, sometimes you watch a show like Battlestar for the simple pleasures, and seeing Hogan act the piss out of that monologue about the love he feels for women and then collapse weeping in Adama’s (Edward James Olmos) arms was pretty damn pleasurable, even if the episode, overall, prompted a long, long period of head-scratching.
...I’ve speculated before that the Battlestar writers are interested in their mythology, but probably not as interested as their fans are. The “road to Earth” plotline was always handled rather perfunctorily, and in this arc, the writers seem more fascinated by Tigh and Ellen’s undying love than by specifically nailing down just how, exactly, Ellen rediscovered resurrection technology back on Earth. Shows with complex mythologies often foster love-hate relationships with fans because, as interesting as everyone may find it to examine the relationships between the characters, these shows tend to have big questions at their center, which leads to the fan demand for either more questions or big revelations. I suspect a lot of the fan anger over this one will stem from how last week’s episode was ALL big revelations (delivered in one, massive infodump) and THIS episode was almost entirely character stuff. Part of the problem was that the love triangle of Tigh, Ellen and Caprica just felt a little silly when compared to the monumental questions hanging over these people.
If it seemed as though Ellen was a slightly different person when she was having her odd conversation with Cavil (Dean Stockwell) last week, “Deadlock” just shows that she can be a queen/goddess to some, but she’ll always be “herself” around Tigh. She wears her royalty just a bit uneasily, so it’s a relief to see her husband, even as she learns that he’s conceived a child with another Cylon, both a miracle to her and a bitter disappointment. For, you see, we’ve been led to believe that Cylons can only conceive when they’re in love.
This whole “in love” conceit has always been the goofiest damn thing on Galactica (and this is a show with nonsense-talking human-robot hybrids who live in tanks). It’s one of those things I suspect will be explained in the weeks to come, but it’s also the thing I least expect to have explained convincingly.
it seems entirely possible that the show is setting us up to see that BECAUSE Tigh and Ellen could never conceive, despite their, indeed, eternal love, twoo wuv is not necessarily the way Cylons conceive. Maybe it has more to do with the plans of the One True God or with Simon’s experiments or something like that. Whatever. It’s still the one thing I expect to cringe at in the finale.
...The Baltar storyline, though, was a mess. To be fair, it feels like something that’s a setup for what’s to come. Why else would Head Six return after being gone so long? But Baltar’s cult was so fascinating in the first half of the season precisely because you could never nail down whether he believed what he was feeding his followers or if he simply was doing this as a way to stay one more step ahead of things. If he wasn’t quite sure of what he was doing at first, though, with Head Six’s help, he slowly gained a confidence and a clarity that made him seem as though he was born to be a religious leader. Sadly, in the coup episodes, Baltar too easily tossed aside what he had built for his own safety, and instead of indicating that perhaps he had been overwhelmed by his intense need to survive, the show continues to suggest that he’s only in the religious thing for what it can bring HIM, and that whoever is controlling Head Six is just using him as a conduit for whatever it wants to say. Also, a peek into the civilian life of the fleet (returning to the slummier sections of things with a visit to Dogsville) just feels a little unneeded this late in the game. As a brief plot point in Season Three? Sure. But as a major new development at this point in the final run of episodes? I don’t know that it feels organic, particularly when it leads to Adama randomly giving Baltar’s cult more guns than they’ll know what to do with. The Galactica writers can be guilty at times of jerking some of the characters around to get to a point they need them to be at, and, clearly, Baltar’s going to need a militia soon enough, so Adama’s going to have to go against much of his better judgment to arm the guy. Sure, the fleet is severely depopulated, thanks to the coup, but wouldn’t that be just as much of an incentive to deputize a few of the residents of Dogsville itself? The whole thing didn’t make a lick of sense.
Tim Goodman for the San Francisco Chronicle:
With 4 episodes left, I think anyone hoping for ALL the answers ought to take a long walk right now. Not happening. And that's OK. But during this episode I kept thinking, "For all the shots we have of Adama squinting at the Cyclon Goo that's holding his ship together, I think you could have closed a few loopholes. Even with exposition. I don't care."
Which brings us to the future, or to next week's Starbuck-centric episode (yes...thank you...) and the fact that she heard someone playing piano in the bar and that particular Billy Joel might hold some wisdom for her (not liking that on paper at all...4 eps left and you've got a piano player being a key character?). But wait - before looking ahead shouldn't we at least shrug and say that if the series wasn't ending so rapidly, there's no way Adama gives Baltar weapons? That happened too fast and too easy.
What fascinated me about “Deadlock” is that instead of focusing on these types of questions, it removes us from the show itself and places us into the minds of the writers, as they move the characters around like they’re playing checkers on a chess board (Yes, that was a “The Wire” burn). While it was understandable early in the show’s run to have blatant transition episodes like this one, where people start taking on new roles and where old trajectories are shifted into new directions, both this episode and “No Exit” are so blatantly the result of setup that one can’t fully engross themselves in this world. We are coming to the point in the show’s run where the audience is more engrossed in the fate of these characters than ever, and I find myself consistently being drawn out of that element of the series in favour of pondering just how blithely they are willing to state the obvious, linger on that which needs not lingering, and delve into the absolute wrong kind of opera at this late stage of the game.
I am aware, by the way, that my cynicism is growing for Battlestar at an alarming rate, and I really wish it wasn’t. For me, it’s been a period of escalation: it started with “Blood on the Scales,” which I felt moved too quickly, and then continued into “No Exit,” an episode that felt like too much exposition with not enough to show for it. The problem with “Deadlock” is that it only plays into my earlier concerns, rushing various storylines and entirely squandering the breadth of content that “No Exit” made available to it.
I equate it to playing checkers on a chess board, because “Deadlock” essentially takes an incredibly complex situation (made even more complex last week) and turns it into a series of simple jumps, diagonal movements where everyone follows the same rules and where things which before required a great deal of concentration now just require a few convenient leaps of logic. The funny thing is that, for all of the simplification that needed to happen in order to make the episode work, it doesn’t actually go anywhere: the pieces barely get halfway across the board by episode’s end, and to compromise the narrative integrity of the series for this seems extremely misguided.
...There are some interesting things in this storyline, including yet another viewpoint into the people of the fleet, something that I usually quite like to be honest with you. And ever since the end of the Mutiny, the show has been missing a face of the people, someone who can give us a better sense of what is happening on the ground level. This episode, on that front, attempted to do two things: to indicate the ship becoming “blended” was beginning to create tension, and that there was a need for an intervention from Adama and Roslin in order to fix this. And yet, in a roundabout piece of logic that I don’t quite understand, this ends up with Baltar returning to his harem and getting them armed with high-powered military weapons, becoming a sort of state-sponsored aide organization with giant guns.
And Adama’s decision to agree to arm his harem doesn’t make a lick of sense: sure, Baltar would argue that the non-military people have a better chance of getting the food out to the people as long as they’re protected, but I don’t think that positioning Baltar as the last human who is able to be amongst the people is really all that logical. It feels, to be honest, like Baltar is being forced into a role of prominence for the sake of the storyline as opposed to what would actually happen in this scenario: they have no reason to trust Baltar, and considering that Baltar started the episode without an honest bone in his body I’m finding it hard to buy it all.
...It just seems that, if these kinds of issues were going to pop up, that there were other ways to deal with them. None of this felt particularly novel or well-thought out, just as “No Exit” seemed like a hodgepodge of different ideas thrown together.
There were moments in the episode that fit better: Tigh and Adama sitting together, drunk, discussing the dependence they have on the Cylons and the effect on the ship. That’s the kind of scene that works because it plays into the legacy of their relationship, but the rest of the episode the only real content we got on the Cylon cartiledge of sorts was numerous almost identical shots of Adama staring at the construction and then staring some more. Those were moments that felt entirely unnecessary, moments that didn’t seem necessary.
“Deadlock” just didn’t do anything for me: the acting was pretty darn good all along, especially from Michael Hogan, Kate Vernon and Tricia Helfer, who did elevate this beyond the level of a daytime soap opera. But I think were to a point where this show can’t just be about good acting, and where an episode can’t quite indulge itself as this one does. There were some sharp little comic moments here (Roslin realizing that she’s never called Caprica by a name, Hot Dog remarking that space is filled with dead women from their past), but they never amounted to an episode that (like “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”) that was about establishing a mood, or preparing characters. Instead, it was about rushing characters into new roles, and about spending too much time setting up a Cylon storyline through base human emotions, a philosophical discussion that was played out last week and felt cheapened here by this particular portrayal.
Richard Vine for The Guardian:
This was probably the soapiest episode all season, but sometimes it's good to see how the characters are reacting to everything that's been thrown at them. In keeping with BSG's ability to take on any genre of TV and push it to the absolute limits, soap conventions are blasted throughout. Not only do we get someone coming back from the dead, it's a wife who finds out that her grieving ex has shacked up with one of the "children" for whom he never knew he was responsible AND that he's got her pregnant after years (well, centuries) of them not being able to conceive. Then, to top it all off with Ellen pushing Caprica to miscarry was devastating, yet another one of those moments you feel like they're dashing off in the mad race to get everything out of the way before the last episode...
Adama, meanwhile, appears to be so thrown off by the Cylon goop being plastered all over the Galactica that he hasn't had time to think through what it means to dish out a load of semi-automatics to the Sisters of Baltar. Maybe they lost so many marines in the mutiny that they really do need to get some kind of civilian police force in operation. What else could he do - draft in some Centurions?
Battlestar Galactica Review Blog:
Considering how much of the episode was actually focused on Ellen and her whirlwind tendency to disrupt everything, I haven’t said very much about it. That’s because Ellen has always annoyed the hell out of me, and I’m not convinced that her character logic adds up. Part of the problem is that the episode felt like it was edited using a blender. I can only assume that this is one of those episodes that had to be butchered to get it down to time. The producers made it clear at one point that many of the final episodes would need to run long or be cut dramatically, and based on the haphazard storytelling at play here, this would seem like a prime example.
Ultimately, this episode suffered from two fatal flaws. The focus on Ellen Tigh and her chaotic, destructive personality is off-putting and frustrating, especially when there is so little time left for resolution. But more importantly, the episode just felt like it was crammed into an hour when it needed much more time to tell its story organically.
Whatever the grand plan is, the episode's love triangle was beautifully sold by Michael Hogan (and his amazing acting eye), Tricia Helfer and Kate Vernon. People commented last week how different the post-resurrection Ellen seemed from the drunken trollop we remembered from episodes like "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down." But this episode makes clear that Cavil didn't invent entirely new personalities for his "parents" when he imprisoned them in new bodies. The real version of Ellen is smarter than the one we knew, and maybe more regal, but she's still just as frakked-up, just as trapped in the ring of fire with Saul as she ever was. And it was alternately hilarious and terrifying to see her shift from playing all-knowing mother to the Cylons to being consumed with her old jealousies at the thought of her husband knocking up one of her children.
...No, I had no problem with the A-story being a bit less mindblowing than the last few weeks have been. My problem with "Deadlock" comes entirely with Baltar returning to the harem and then somehow talking Adama into arming up his little Manson family.
...The problem is that he's now slipped into so many bogus roles that it's impossible to take the character seriously anymore, in any way. It feels like the writers ran out of ideas for Baltar around the end of the New Caprica arc. They were able to stall for a while by putting him on trial (and vamped in between by trying to establish him as an underground political hero), but the cult was only interesting to me so long as I believed that Baltar believed. Once it became clear that he was just screwing around (in more ways than one), then Baltar is just a comic relief character. As played by James Callis, he's wickedly funny comic relief, but he feels superfluous to the main action, and I can't believe anything that comes out of his mouth -- even in moments where he's supposed to be sincere.
This episode is one of the worst, for sure Woman King is worse, but it may be the second worst. This reimagined series of Battlestar Galactica is dying a very undignified death right before our eyes.
Mike Murphy, Press Democrat:
Now here's an interesting tidbit. Apparently a fairly important plot element was cut from last week's "Battlestar Galactica," a development that would have added a whole lot to the confusing and disappointing episode. Writer Jane Espenson mentions it in this interview, and so have online commenters on Television Without Pity.
The whole deal with Baltar and his cult giving out food and getting guns confused me. It lacked context. Turns out, in the episode's original cut, all was explained. But that cut was 11 minutes long, so it had to be trimmed for TV. Here's what I've been able to cobble together of what ended up on the editing room floor:
In the wake of three years of war and a failed mutiny, there are no longer enough Marines on Galactica to maintain order. Sensing a riot over food distribution, the outnumbered Marines retreat from Dogtown and the Sons of Ares swoop in with their guns and take over the abandoned food supply. But the Baltar-less cult manages to secure a stash of food, effectively letting them be self-sufficient.
Meanwhile, Adama and Roslin debate the merits of bringing Cylon centurions on board to provide security and patrol civilian areas. (Wow, huuuuge plot point there.) Adama's staunchly against it, even though his ship is slowly becoming assimilated with the Cylons.
...Effectively, the question for Adama is, allow a criminal gang to control the food supply, or allow Baltar's crazy cultists to control it. And Baltar's group, now armed to the teeth, would also serve as a civilian security force, which Adama figures is better than using centurions. In the end, the Baltar's militia is the lesser of two evils.
That would have been nice to know. Instead, we got repetitive scenes of Adama looking pained as he examined Galactica's structural failures. And that ridiculous "he loves you more" scene with Caprica Six losing her Cy-baby. For the life of me, I don't know why they'd cut such a critical plot development. With so few episodes left, each scene should be moving the series forward, showing the fleet's increasingly desperate situation. I expect a lot from this show because it's consistently delivered at a high level. This was no time to drop the ball.
In a far less interesting and much more absurd storyline, Gaius Baltar returns to his former followers hoping that his harem of women will bow before his feet. He’s a bit ticked off that they don’t all fall in line because they feel like he betrayed them, so a lady named Paula has taken up his role as leader. Baltar is desperate to regain his status as a prophet.
Baltar decides the best way is to give food to starving kids so he looks like a great humanitarian. It backfires when mercenaries show up and steal the food. Baltar hides behind his female posse and I’m starting to feel sad. This season was going so strong, and now they’re wasting our time with this wacky, pointless Baltar storyline. BSG has had absolutely no idea what to do with Gaius ever since the trial ended.
Baltar finally goes to Adama and asks him for guns by playing on his weakness, saying that he and his religious harlots are the last chance for humanity unless Adama wants to integrate the fleet with the Cylons. It makes no sense, but Adama’s ship is dying, he’s replacing it with Cylon goop, and his best friend, now a Cylon, is having a baby with another Cylon, so he’s more susceptible to Baltar’s trickery.
Jevon Phillips, Los Angeles Times:
Apparently, poor judgment carries over when a Cylon is regenerated, and even after thousands of years, Ellen Tigh is still annoying on "Battlestar Galactica."
...Speaking of Adama, he's having a hard time reconciling with the fact that his ship is falling apart and that he needs Cylon technology to fix it up. Touring the ship's bowels surrounded by groups of Cylon workers (hmmm, Cylons as day laborers. What could go wrong with that?!), the realization has hit him. And apparently made him a bit soft in the heart AND head when it comes to Baltar.
Crazy Gaius Baltar, who is back to seeing a subliminal Six in his head, returns to his flock of female followers only to find that they've gotten along fine without him. Well, we can't have that! In an altruistic move, he convinces them to hand out their food supply to those in need. They have guns for protection, but the Sons of Ares have more for raiding. Like a kid who is picked on and decides to bring a knife to school, Gaius runs to Adama for help ... and bigger guns. Somehow, Adama is convinced that arming civilians against other civilians is a good thing. We'll see how that works out.
Via the Battlestar Blog, irenadubrovna writes:
Instead of tying up the plethora of plot points that have been left dangling like Cavil's jowls, the last episode consisted of women at each other's throats (over this stud), and miscarriages (hardware malfunctions?). The entire series is coming to a close next month, and the last episode concluded with a Cylon giving birth to a stillborn raider while her figurative parents held each other at the side of her hospital bed. Meanwhile, the Commander of the ship is meandering about, watching Cylons spackle goo-murals onto the interior walls of his ship.
...It is blatantly apparent that the "final five" were literally plucked out of a hat. Even the actors were not entirely pleased by this method of selection, and I believe that it speaks volumes when even the stars of any successful show speak out publicly about the choices that have been made for their character. I feel strung along... It's far too easy to throw in a head chip here and a mutiny there, without putting any real thought behind it. Hence the need for unanticipated pregnancies and oh-so-convenient aneurysm epiphanies.
Speaking of which, I cannot believe that the episode in which we find out the meaning behind everything- the who the what the where the why and the when- was an episode filled to the brim with exposition characters. Showing us? Awesome. Telling us? BORING. Why would I want to dedicate an hour of my life to sitting and watching two characters I am completely indifferent to, discuss history? The writers might as well have typed up the script and let it scroll on a star-speckled background for the hour time-slot.
The last episode that actually managed to retain my interest was the mutiny episode, you know, when Starbuck was running around shooting people IN THE FACE. Which is what Starbuck does best (please, less bedside waxing poetic and more shooting people IN THE FACE). However, that episode, in which Caprica Six and the other Cylons on-board Galactica were locked in the brig (Helo is presumably still comatose), roughed up, and threatened to be raped, was followed up with an episode that included a tender moment between Caprica and "Daddy", cuddling at "home" in bed like little snugglemuffins, cooing over her ickle tummy wummy bump.
Okay, except where was Daddy when men with big guns were running amok threatening to play hide the bun in the toaster. Am I seriously supposed to give a "frak" about the relationship between these two people or their unborn child if even Tigh himself could seemingly care less?
We, as viewers, were forced to witness the trauma of a woman going through a miscarriage for no apparent reason at all, and have had no time- or any inclination whatsoever- to get emotionally invested in the plot in the first place. There is no time for love triangles or pregnancies...
...From Roslin to Cain, Six and Three to Starbuck, there have been countless examples of strong, driven women over the course of this series, and it saddens me to see that all falling to pieces now, in the final hour. Sure, if you have been waiting for Adama and Roslin to "hook up" after four years, I can see why you'd find yourself looking forward to Friday night, but I really abhor the fact that Roslin is no longer President- that she merely handed over the title that she fought for tooth and nail. All that she fights on behalf of now is a man, and that, to me, is not even remotely inspiring. Starbuck? When she isn't kissing Lee or fawning over Sam, she's had her moments, but those have unfortunately been few and far between. Dualla? Blew her brains out, after deciding that she'd like to spend the last hour of her life with her ex-husband, and Six? Six who?
I suppose this is only inevitable when Ellen Tigh is the brains behind any operation.
Kelly West, Cinemablend:
Oh, boy are things getting awkward on Galactica these days. Not only is the ship going through her very own identity crisis as she undergoes a Cylon-goop makeover, but half the main cast is having some kind of battleship version of Days of Our Lives drama, complete with crazed returned-from-the-dead wives, pregnant mistresses, returned old flames and a full-on bromance the likes this ship has never seen.
For serious, was Ellen Tigh not like one of those crazy soap opera ladies when she went to visit Caprica Six? And speaking of Sixes, can we get some new hairstyles and a wardrobe change or two on these girls? Were they just too lazy to get Helfer to change her outfit between takes because I had a hard time figuring out which Six was which. I couldn’t tell the difference between the Six who was all about leaving the fleet and Caprica. Same hair, same black outfit and lots of shots of her from the chest up, not allowing us to see the baby bump to confirm which Six we were looking at. A random Six or a significant Six? I’ve never really had a problem with that before but they usually make the other Sixes stand out. Even the one painting the goop on the side of the ship had the same hair.
Brad Templeton of the Battlestar Galactica Analysis Blog raises excellent points and posits good questions about Deadlock.
Other reviews and recaps from Nar Williams, Entertainment Weekly, Sam J. Miller's 25 Word Review, The BSG Cast, TV Squad, io9, TV Guide, Remote Access, and North By North Western.