Battlestar Galactica – 2×12

Battlestar Galactica – 2×12 – Resurrection Ship, Part 2

And so with the misleadingly titled “Part 2”, we reach the final part of this mini-arc. It’s an odd beast: more subtle and surprising than expected, but moving too quickly for its issues to be examined in depth.

At heart this episode is a dark rumination on a question which the preceding two episodes have raised more superficially: to what extent is it possible for a society to hold on to moral principles and ideas of justice when it is pushed to the brink of extinction?

Sharon’s conversation with Adama addresses this point directly (and far too briefly), harking back to his musings in the mini-series. The decision to assassinate Cain and her reciprocal decision to kill Adama both play into this theme, but more surprisingly the episode asks us to re-evaluate the morality of Cain’s actions. Through Starbuck in particular we’re presented with an alternative view of human civilisation in which the ends justify the means, and survival at any cost is the most pragmatic and even necessary choice. While Cain remains something of a two-dimensional villain, this episode is to be commended for refusing to soften her but instead trying to show us her philosophy through her own eyes. This might have been more effective had her actions not been so cartoonishly brutal, and yet we can now counterpoint Cain with Roslin and Adama choosing a morally “wrong” path for the greater good. Starbuck’s closing eulogy, while it goes too far, shows that humans in general are not so far from endorsing Cain’s methods as we might like to think.

The attack on the Cylon resurrection ship is the same issue writ large. This is the kind of decision which is taken in wartime and the Cylons are guilty of worse, and yet this suspension of moral principles when survival dictates is what troubles our characters on an individual level. Adama personally consults one Cylon who has been saved from abuse and opts not to take a single human life, even while wiping out countless Cylon lives. It’s an interesting contrast.

Kara finds herself in a compelling dilemma as the soldier resolving to follow questionable orders, particularly during the obvious but well-executed scene in which Cain’s pep talk is read on an entirely different level. Meanwhile, Lee is troubled by his father’s decision, and even more so by Roslin’s involvement, but still resolves to back up his friend. His philosophy, that trust between individuals is all that they have left, is life-affirming but ultimately despairing; he above all is conscious of how much their society is losing in their desperate bid to survive. I can only read his suicidal mood at the end of the episode in this light, because typically for this series he never manages to discuss his mental processes. Hopefully this story thread will see a lot more exploration in coming episodes.

On a stylistic note we get one of the show’s trademark dialogue-free openings; all music, mood and off-beat visuals. It’s something the series does extremely well and which lends it a sense of artistry. The remainder of the episode is oddly paced, with a lot of talky scenes followed by a cut straight into the middle of the combat. This lack of build up, combined with Lee’s dreamlike observation of the action and the lovely musical conclusion, lends a strangely muted tone to what might have been an exhilarating set piece. I’m not sure that it entirely works, but it’s better to sacrifice the action scenes than the drama, especially given the moral ambiguity of the action.

The episode’s resolution can hardly be accused of being optimistic, but having both Cain and Adama choose morality over pragmatism adds a muted note of hope. To have Six be the one to assassinate Cain (on one level a convenient piece of plotting) is the perfect way to give power back to the abused Cylon prisoners. The other pleasant surprise was the Pegasus staying around, hopefully for the long term. Coupled with the physical presence of Six this spins the status quo off in interesting new directions. Producer Ronald D Moore was strongly critical of the way Voyager’s Starfleet and Maquis crews were integrated without a ripple, so I’m hoping the show takes full opportunity to wring drama from the two crews.

Overall, while the episode does skate on the surface of issues that deserve much deeper contemplation – and the characters continue to have frustrating half-conversations – this episode is a great deal more successful than I was expecting.

EDIT: Oh, I didn’t say how I came to see this episode. I’m sure there was a very good explanation, almost certainly involving goblins, but I forget.

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