Yet again this episode hasn’t aired in the UK, but while I was asleep last night a troupe of magical elves whispered the entire thing into my ear.
Battlestar Galactica – 2×03 – Fragged
Frankly, they could use this episode title every week; here it refers not just to the unravelling of the fleet’s situation, but also the act of murder itself. Six tells Baltar that it’s murder which defines humanity, although we see ample evidence of other defining flaws, and virtues.
This episode is much more narrowly focused than previous weeks, choosing to dump Starbuck, Helo and Boomer entirely and concentrate on Tigh, Roslin and the stranded team on Kobol. The first six episodes of this season were written as a block before the show was even renewed, and the serialised storyline is a real strength. The characters’ various predicaments are given time to breathe, and we get to see different facets of individuals as the story progresses.
Here, the Chief’s simmering conflict between devotion to the chain of command and dismay at the Lieutenant’s disastrous decisions comes to the boil. Pleasingly he sticks by his CO until nearly the very end, despite all his concerns, and only when his hand is forced does he break ranks. This feels far more realistic to me than having a junior officer mutiny at the first bad decision.
Meanwhile Tigh’s success in a taut military campaign last week is quickly deserting him, as he increasingly fails to fill Adama’s shoes. I was too quick to worry about the missed opportunity with Tigh in this storyline, as his return to the bottle and erratic behaviour are all the more believable for being spread over several episodes. His wife continues to be a one dimensional provocateur, encouraging her husband’s more venal tendencies.
Baltar meanwhile is increasingly losing his battle of wills with Six, who seems to be expertly breaking down his sense of identity in order to groom him for the future. Never very balanced at the best of times, Baltar is caught between his own cowardice, his desire to survive, and his potential fatherhood. In some ways his actions at the end of the episode let the Chief off the hook dramatically, but in other ways they’re very interesting.
The episode ends with Tigh doing something he swore Adama would never do, and although Adama must take a large part of the blame for the erosion of democracy in the fleet, it’s clear that everything is going horribly wrong. Even better, it’s hard to say whether Tigh’s hard-nosed militaristic approach or Roslin’s evangelical one is more unnerving. So much Science Fiction television is resolutely black and white that this show stands out all the more for its shades of grey.