Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Reviews: Someone To Watch Over Me

Someone To Watch Over Me seems to have gone over well with the critics:
Todd VanDerWerff, The House Next Door:

I’m sure there were a good number of fans as frustrated by “Someone to Watch Over Me,” the final script from David Weddle and Bradley Thompson and the final directorial effort from Michael Nankin on the series, since it featured very few major plot revelations, which were all crammed into the last five minutes, and since it was, again, a leisurely character piece, but I thought it was pretty terrific and maybe the best of the show’s “Starbuck episodes.”

...A real reason we’re able to go with Starbuck on this voyage into the subconscious is because the episode does such a good job of placing us in her frame of mind. The teaser is almost entirely hypnotic, edited to convey the terrible drudgery of Starbuck’s attempts to just keep getting up in the morning, to just keep herself and everyone around her going. One of Battlestar’s best character decisions has always been to play the thin line between Starbuck’s determination and her desperate depression, and since the fleet found Earth and Starbuck discovered her own corpse, she’s crossed over that line almost completely. She’s drowning. She has no purpose and nothing driving her forward, and she’s finding herself lost in resurfacing memories, in trying to deal with a past that she kept buried underneath her bravado and her constant attempts to push towards newer and bigger goals. To a real degree, she’s the best of the best, and now, she’s found Earth and found it lacking. Those opening passages expertly conveyed the dull monotony of just trying to hold out against the very real and creeping fear that there is nothing ahead for these people but death, as supplies grow short and the Galactica itself starts to fall apart. The words Starbuck recites to her pilots about how they’re going out to try to find habitable planets become a kind of liturgy, a thin chain that Starbuck clings to just to keep going. Otherwise, she’ll probably just die.

...On just about every level “Someone to Watch Over Me” was Battlestar at its best, and I’d suggest to any that think it’s moving too slowly that the series simply doesn’t have enough masterplot LEFT beyond ironing out these character stories. You either like the character stories on the show, or you don’t, but I still maintain that Battlestar’s dedication to illuminating every aspect of these characters is what has kept it from just falling into a trap where it tells the same stories, the same ways, over and over. “Someone” perfectly sets up the series’ final three episodes (spread over four hours), and it’s an absolutely terrific showcase for so many things the show does well.

Chris Dahlen, The Onion AV Club:
We don't find out what's really going on with Starbuck. But we do get to see her hang out with her dad. For me, the entire episode hung on how well they handled this. Because let's face it, we knew where this was going. We knew, from the moment she starts talking with the piano man, that he's probably a Cylon-style projection, a figment of her imagination. We knew that whatever's going on, this is her dad, especially when he started reminiscing about how he left his wife and child to go off and play piano. And we know that seeing him again will give her some catharsis.

Were they going to hammer us in the head with it? I would've been happy if they'd never given us certainty - if the piano man had just vanished, and they'd left us in doubt. But the way they tipped us off was still graceful, as Starbuck finally recognizes him, and she smiles, and she turns around and he's gone. We're also left with a clue about Hera, and that song the Final Five hear, but, that doesn't interest me yet. I'm just glad Starbuck saw her dad again. It's a cliche to say that she needed closure on the man who abandoned her to a terrible mother and a lousy childhood. It's sentimental to say that she needed the emotional reassurance she gave him more than the story clues. But I don't care. Starbuck hasn't had many simple, meaningful moments, and she earned this one.

Michael Hall, Galactica-Science:
The Battlestar Galactica episode “Someone to Watch Over Me” mixes hard-hitting emotions with amazing artistry, resulting in one of the best episodes of the series. ....Although there may have been minor defects, all in all, “Someone to Watch Over Me” was a dense work of art.

Tim Goodman, San Francisco Chronicle:
Normally I jump right into these minor deconstructions with some semblance of whether I liked the episode or not. I did like the episode, but only because the Boomer/Athena thing with Cavil pulling the strings and Hera getting kidnapped and Roslin possibly dying made it all the more important. I didn't really like the Starbuck storyline other than the fact that her father could be Daniel. But people were already guessing at that before we had to have this piano player vision thing. As I said recently, once she asked about the piano player I just thought it was going to be a deep-drunk vision. So this part was less intriguing than the Boomer part and really only did three things that I can think of: 1. Proved Katee Sackhoff should be the next kick ass big screen movie babe, filling a huge gap left by the likes of Sigourney Weaver. (Yes, there are others), but everything Sackhoff is in she steals. She made the piano playing father memories both sweet and painful. 2. Her musical notes and Hera's musical notes match. Yes, that probably means their DNA does as well. What am I?, asks Starbuck. You're a hybrid. And I hope you'll ultimately do a more rocking version of "All Along the Watchtower" that suits you better. 3. Her dad is probably Daniel, aka the Seven. Right? Don't we have enough to maybe go on there?

What's Alan Watching, by Alan Sepinwall:
Counting tonight's show, the time we have left with "Battlestar Galactica" adds up to five hours over four weeks. And I'm guessing that some of you -- maybe most of you -- aren't going to be happy that we just spent a good chunk of one of those hours on Starbuck re-learning how to play the piano.

And I might be troubled, too, if I didn't consider the characters -- especially people like Kara, Tyrol and Boomer, the center of this episode's two storylines -- weren't at least as important to me as the mythology and the dogfights, and if I didn't feel fairly confident that the writing staff are explicitly saving the remaining seismic events for the Ron Moore-scripted finale.

For that matter, there's a lot more to "Someone to Watch Over Me" than piano lessons. The hour makes it pretty clear that Kara's father (first name starts with D, artistic temperament, either composed "All Along the Watchtower" or at least taught it to Kara) was Daniel, the missing eighth Cylon. It puts Hera back into enemy hands, revealing along the way that Cavil was willing to sacrifice Ellen in exchange for getting hold of the famous Cylon/human hybrid. And it tells us that the sentient Cylon goop won't be enough to hold Galactica's crumbling superstructure together -- especially not after Boomer's emergency jump, done too close to the big ship, sends massive shockwaves throughout the hull.

Time Out Chicago:
Only three episodes left after last night and you can feel everything starting to fall into place for the big finish. Last night’s episode began seeming like intricate look into issues that Starbuck and Tyrol were dealing, but by the end, the plot rippled through the rest of the fleet in a resounding fashion.

...The entire Boomer storyline was incredibly brutal. I think in many ways, we feel that betrayal along with Tyrol. As he rushes through that imaginary house searching for Boomer and their child, only to find it abandoned, we feel that emptiness along with him. We wanted him to save her and them to live a happy little Cylon future together. It will impossible to ignore the actions she’s taken in the coming episodes. What will this mean for Athena and Helo? Is it even possible for the Galactica to try to chase Cavil and Boomer down with a big gaping hole in the side of their ship? What is Roslin’s connection to Hera? Will she die without her there? Are we coming close to the truth about those the visions of the opera house? And why does Starbuck know that same song that the Final Five do?

Paste Magazine:
Starbuck’s resurrection is still a mystery at this point, and we don’t actually learn why Hera was able to compose a Bob Dylan cover, but that wasn’t the point. This was a story about people, and the mythology once again took a back seat. The Galactica is a sitting duck right now, meaning a showdown with Cavil’s fleet is nigh inevitable. And the anticipation will make the coming resolution that much sweeter.

The Los Angeles Times:
Like a good basketBoomerball player, "Battlestar Galactica" lulled everyone to sleep, slowly dribbling the ball as we all tried to steal it. Suddenly, with the shot clock down to 5, it darted past us for a slam dunk. Two points, and even though many knew (or thought they knew) it was coming, there wasn't anything you could do to stop it.

...This whole episode was a great, very slow reveal, but because of it, just makes me more anxious for the building action to come. Will they mount a rescue attempt for Hera? That'd be interesting and could be the catalyst for the big confrontation everyone's waiting for. There are only a few more episodes left to lay out the mythology, and it seemed like not much of that was accomplished in this flashback-heavy episode. It still feels like there's a long way to go in the storytelling, but the end is, at least, in sight.

Brian Howard, Remote Access:
People have complained about this episode, that it was another “slow” one. It was slow, but not in a way that left me flat at all. It breathed. The power outages and ominous creaking kept up the resounding theme of Galactica’s looming death. The piano playing — with call-backs to the original series, I’ve heard — toyed with the emotional vibe nicely. And in the end we got action and as many questions and answers as we can usually expect.

As much as I want action and I want answers, I’m too sure that the finale will pay off to take issue if the lead-up to that point slows down at times. Four hours/three episodes to go.

John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer:
On Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck is easily the toughest character. She can beat any man either in a fist fight or a drinking contest. So it’s always strange when the episodes that focus on her are beautiful and emotional.

When Starbuck is put center stage, it’s because Battlestar Galactica is dealing with her emotional struggles. Episodes like “Scar” highlighted the cracks in her tough exterior as she did battle with a Cylon Raider to defend the memories of all the Viper pilots who had died. In Friday’s episode, the focus turned once again to Starbuck, and fans were dealt an unbelievable revelation

In “Someone to Watch Over Me,” Starbuck played the piano with a mysterious man. They played a tune she learned from her father as a young girl, and that melody was “All Along the Watchtower,” the same Bob Dylan song used to trigger the Final Five Cylons. Figuring out what this means was left for fans to decide.

For me, it seems obvious that Starbuck’s father was Daniel, the recently revealed Number 7 Cylon model who Brother Cavil had permanently disabled. Starbuck lamented the fact that her father mysteriously and suddenly vanished, and in “No Exit” we learned from Ellen Tigh that the entire Daniel line was destroyed, not just boxed, by Cavil, and that Daniel was artistic. Given that Starbuck’s father was a pianist, it’s very likely that he was Daniel.

...With only three episodes of Battlestar Galactica left, there are plenty of questions still unanswered, but this episode was definitely a step in the right direction.

Battlestar Galactica Review Blog:
This episode is a mixture of beauty and brutality, and in this instance, both are captivating. After the mess that was the previous episode, I was a bit worried that the writers were going to aim high and shoot low with the ending. This episode, however, makes it look more likely that the series will have a strong finish after all.

Other recaps and reviews from Marc Bernardin, Entertainment Weekly, CinemaBlend, TV Guide, TV Fodder, BuddyTV, Groundlings Review, The Guardian, Brad Ideas, Galactica Variants, Hitflix, Screen Junkies, Content Quake, Bostonist. And check out Sam J. Miller's 25 Word Review and Matt & Nat's video review on the BSG Cast.

A couple of items of note from the Battlestar Wiki:
The title of the tape Kara receives back from Helo is "Dreilide Thrace Live at the Helice Opera House."

* Helice, also spelled Helike, was an ancient Greek city which sank into the Corinthian Gulf in 373 B.C. It may have formed the basis of the myth of the lost city Atlantis.[4][5]
* Helice was the ancient Greek name [6] for the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear). Helice in Greek means "to spin" or "to turn"; it is the root of the modern word helix. Ursa Major revolves around Polaris, the Pole Star, hence the name. This may be a reference to the spinning of the maelstrom Kara flew into before her ship was destroyed, and it could also refer to the mandala found on the wall of her apartment and the Temple of Five.
* Helice/Helike was also the name of a nymph in Greek mythology who nursed the infant Zeus, along with another nymph, Melissa (which name itself means "honey" or "honey bee"). [7]
* Helike is also a newly-discovered moon of Jupiter.
* However, the appearance of the word Helice in the show may simply be a tongue-in-cheek reference to Bear McCreary's heavy involvement with this episode -- Ursa Major, and McCreary, both being "The Great Bear."[8]

The name 'Dreilide' is German for 'three eyelids' ('drei Lide') and refers to the inner (third) eyelid, regarded as the gateway to the soul and realms of higher consciousness. The third eye is often associated with visions, clairvoyance, precognition, and out-of-body experiences, and people who have allegedly developed the capacity to use their third eyes are sometimes known as seers.[2]

Friday Islanded In A Stream of Stars.


Eric H said...

Wow, what a tour de force of research and linking! Thanks for putting this together, Logan. You and ProgGrrl are so good to us.

The Battlestar wiki information about the ancient Greek connections of "Helice" iz particularly interesting. This can't be an accident, given the strong presence of Greek mythology in the show. Perhaps this is a clue that Starbuck and her father are the key to whatever connection the BSG universe has with ours.

ACyclcUniverse said...

Great collection guys! It's been a pleasure reading all the blog links you've collected during 4.5, thanks a million.

But, I'm really worried with the amount of bloggers and critics that are buying into the Daniel theory craze.

Seriously, WAY too much speculation has been based on a few lines of expository dialogue.

I doubt Daniel has any major significance in the series, seeing as he's a character who has had zero screentime and was introduced in the final hours. RDM himself has said that Daniel plays a relatively minor role in the endgame, (see No Exit podcast).

Speculation is great, and I immensely enjoy reading the theories created here and elsewhere, but I'm afraid people will be dissappointed in the end due to over-analyzing.

Lisa said...

Great collection of reviews. I loved this episode.

BTW, the constellation at the foot of Ursa Major is Leo Minor, which to the Arabs was Leo Al Thiba’ wa-Auladuha, "the Gazelle with her Young."

Before surgery Anders called Ellen the gazelle.

Eric H said...

Yeah. Composer Bear McCreary has just reinforced RDM's podcast comments indicating that Daniel is not going to be a major plot element in the conclusion. In a recent comment to his Part 3 blog post on STWOM, he said: "I’ve been keeping mute on this topic for 2 weeks, and I won’t say anything specific now… but I’d highly recommend all of you take a deep, calming breath and listen to what Ron’s telling you. :)"

However, I don't necessarily see the widespread Daniel theorizing as a result of hyperactive fan analysis (although it's certainly gotten to that point by now). Rather I think fans could reasonably infer, albeit incorrectly, that Daniel could be a major clue and not just an elegant retcon to fix the inadvertent cylon numbering problem. His existence was revealed in the context of epic-scale revelations, and the bit with Starbuck beggging Anders to name the 7th cylon was probably a little tease to get us to suspect a Starbuck connection to him.

Logan Gawain said...

That's an interesting catch, @Lisa.

@ACyclcUniverse, fair enough. But something is certainly up with Starbuck, her dad, Cylon music, and human destiny. How it all shakes out remains to be seen.

@Eric H, thanks!

fanboy d said...

hmm....opera house

General Boy said...

Tigh always has the best lines, in my book: "Weaponshh hold!!!!"; "D'Anna will back down if you threaten to flush meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee out an airlock". This "What the frak?" is a superb example. I love watching it over and over. You see it in his eyes long before he even says it.

[Long pause. Tigh looks bewildered. Pause continues]

There are so many more examples. I love Hogan's delivery. He reminds me a little of Robert Shaw in "Jaws". Just a little.

Logan Gawain said...

That's a great observation General.

I could see Hogan with the beard and knit cap from New Caprica, having a smoke and delivering Quint's long monologue about the USS Indianapolis from Jaws. That would be awesome to see.

Along with the great Tigh lines you mentioned, I think his latest "What the frak?!" ranks up there at the end of Crossroads, when he walked into the room to find Tory, Anders, and Tyrol, and just said, "Whoa!" That was perfect.

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