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Madame Airlock and Mother Revolt: Revolution and Resolution on "Battlestar Galactica"

"When liberty comes with hands dabbled in blood, it is hard to shake hands with her." - Oscar Wilde

What price does freedom have? How far are revolutionaries willing to go to overthrow the status quo? When does the overthrow of the status quo become nothing more than mutiny, tyranny, and anarchy?

These are the questions posed by this week's superlative episode of Battlestar Galactica, written by Michael Angeli and directed by Wayne Rose, in which Gaeta and Zarek's overthrow of the Adama-Roslin administration kicked into high gear, the Quorum of Twelve had their final meeting, and Roslin proved just why she earned the nickname "Madame Airlock."

If you thought that the coup engineered by Felix Gaeta and Tom Zarek would end peacefully with everyone hugging and singing a round of Kumbaya, you're clearing watching the wrong series. No, this coup ended as it began: with bloodshed, enmity, and punishment for wrongdoing.

Let's discuss.

Over the past few seasons, Felix Gaeta has emerged as quite an interesting character. He dabbled with Baltar's puppet government on New Caprica, seemingly aided the Resistance during the Cylon occupation, and went a little cuckoo following the loss of his leg aboard the Demetrius. It's this phantom pain which seems a symptom of Felix's generate unease. (It also didn't help matters that he was the last person to see Duala alive before her suicide and discovered her body.) The loss of a dream, of an ideal, of a belief in the system can propel people to do things to change the status quo.

In Gaeta's case, it's to take a stand against what he believes in his heart is wrong: the alliance with the Cylons, responsible for the nuclear holocaust that destroyed the Twelve Colonies. Gaeta's radicalization has been a smoothly developed one this season and his desires dovetailed quite nicely with the dissent being seeded by Tom Zarek, the incarnate opportunist who uses the matter of Cylon technology as a flashpoint for a revolution.

And yet it's Zarek's thirst for power and his posturing as a true revolutionary that doesn't sit well. Does he need to brutally murder the Quorum in order to achieve his ends? No. Yet he does because it's a way to consolidate power, a power that's he reluctantly shares with Gaeta because the military is loyal to Gaeta. And yet Gaeta is at his heart an idealist; he wrongly believes his revolution is happening for the right reasons, even if he's got to do some bad things to make it happen rather than the instrument of vengeance it really is. (He did institute a kangaroo court to prove to naysayers, I suppose, that his mutiny was justified and orderly rather than sheer chaos.) Zarek, on the other hand, is a pragmatist who knows that Mother Revolution is steeped in the blood of the murdered. Gaeta may never have agreed to "this" but it's the nature of mutiny.

Sadly, Gaeta remains naive to the bitter end and twisted by revenge. Could he have called off Adama's execution? Absolutely. But if he thinks that killing the Old Man will exorcise his own personal demons, he's very, very wrong. The "confessional" scene between him and Baltar was absolutely poignant and reminds us just how very human Baltar is. For a man responsible for the destruction of the human race, he remains magnificently in touch with his emotions, offering Felix his compassion and understanding.

And I was glad to see that Gaeta doesn't accept that pity ("Please no religion") but only smiles wanly as Baltar speaks after listening to him tell his story. Despite the tragic figure he becomes, I'll miss Felix Gaeta immeasurably; "Blood on the Scales" gives Alessandro Juliani the perfect showcase for his acting talents, portraying Gaeta as a man pushed into something that he doesn't quite understand and attempting to hold onto the power he's usurped. ("I hope people realize eventually who I am.")

At the very end, Gaeta's phantom pain dissipates in the moments before his death, possibly as he accepts his fate and limitations. Is it hubris that leads to Gaeta and Zarek's downfall? Did you hope for human compassion from the reunited Roslin and Adama (BTW, how beautifully emotional was their tearful reunion scene?) that would save Gaeta and Zarek from a traitor's death at hands of a firing squad? Or do the reinstated duo realize that death truly is the cost of revolution?

Even after believing that Tigh had been killed, Adama maintained his stoic demeanor during the hearing. I thought that Edward James Olmos was absolutely fantastic in this episode, filling each of his scenes with the requisite amount of gravitas, sadness, and simmering rage. ("I want to take back my ship.")

I also loved that Romo got to kick some ass as well... with a pen, no less. Echoes of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, perhaps? Starbuck being Starbuck? Just frakking awesome. Baltar finally realizing how ridiculous his "fanclub" is but also knowing innately that he has to go back, that he can't keep running from everything. (Still, his dream about Adama's death? Prophecy? Or warning?) But poor Anders... I'm hoping he emerges from this in one piece.

Roslin's "I'm coming for all of you" speech from aboard the Cylon base ship? Absolutely chilling. ("Not now, not ever!") There's a reason that this former schoolteacher earned the respect of the fleet; she may have lost her path in recent days with the discovery of Earth but this crisis within the fragile future of humanity sparks the old Laura we know and love to come back out of her shell. She may be dying but there is no way that she is going quietly into the night.

To live is to fight, to continue to struggle in the face of adversity. D'Anna didn't quite understand when she chose to remain on Earth that what the humans and Cylons are doing isn't running from Cavil, but running towards something. Their destination might be unknown, it might be terrifying, and it might be frakking impossible to make sense of it, but living means moving forward. It means building, rather than destroying; it means making hard choices and trying to keep a people together rather than ripping them apart. Being alive means being in pain, something that Gaeta didn't understand until the very end, and striving to get past that constant ache.

It's something that both the humans and Cylons could stand to learn. The question that remains is where do they all go from here?

Later this week on Battlestar Galactica ("No Exit"), Anders' critical condition causes a flood of memories about his life before Caprica to come out, leading to some revelations among the humans and Cylons; Ellen Tigh returns after being missing for 18 months.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Another fascinating and chilling episode. Roslin's threat echoing out from the Cylon base ship was terrifying. She is definitely still a force to be reckoned with and it's great to see that flame ignite once more!
Unknown said…
I ... don't know. Personally, I'm glad everyone wasn't forgiven. It's about time someone realized how dangerous traitors are, especially when they nearly succeed at mutiny and murder most of the government. I wonder how many Marines were airlocked. I was more with Kara than Adama when he forgave his former captor and accepted his changing sides (again).

I'll keep an open mind about Ellen, but the writers have their work cut out for them to make this fit together.
Anonymous said…
Good episode. Well executed. Roslyn shone. Glad this story arc is over though.

6 episodes left. Time to get back to the endgame.

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