Battlestar Galactica – 2×14

I only got to watch this yesterday as the carrier pigeons who were delivering it got swept up in a mid-Atlantic squall and ended up diverting via Norway.

Battlestar Galactica – 2×14 – Black Market

In conclusion: not outstanding, but unusual enough to be interesting.

48 minutes earlier…

Another standalone episode, with a premise clearly designed to check off an entry on the list of “problems the fleet should have to deal with”. We haven’t properly seen this aspect of the show since the water and resource issues in season 1, so it’s a welcome attempt to cover some day to day reality.

It’s also an Apollo showcase which casts him in the unlikely role of a detective entering an underworld of prostitution and racketeering. It’s a premise ripped straight from film noir: everyone is corrupt, crime is endemic, and the detective himself is compromised by a hooker with a heart of gold. Such is the strength of the influences that many shows would have played this as a deliberate pastiche, but Galactica thankfully does not.

Apollo is such an unlikely choice for the role that it’s a wonder the story doesn’t founder from the outset, but his newfound weariness is an archetype which plays well in this context. He’s damaged, but still trying to do the right thing. What’s less successful is the sudden infusion of new facts – for weeks or months he’s been seeing a prostitute/escort whom he treats more as a lover, and before the Cylon attack there was another relationship which ended badly. We should have seen at least some of this in previous weeks, and it all feels tacked on rather than organic. I did like the sudden shift in our understanding as his girlfriend asks for a fee, though.

Thanks to his conflicted state of mind Lee proves to be a surprisingly compelling lead. The plot is hackneyed, but it’s unusual and quite welcome for TV SF to tackle a criminal environment this murky. And his decision to pull the trigger, however loathsome the victim, is a significant departure for his character. It’s something we see carried through into his face off with the President: a combination of the old self-righteous idealist with something a little more bruised and pragmatic. The other aspects of Lee’s story are occasionally revealing but not particularly startling; quite early on we grasp the nature of his two relationships, and it’s not hard to guess how it will play out.

Meanwhile Baltar is enjoying a run of successful episodes. Here he subtly tries to undermine the President, and then goes on the counter-attack when accused. I like Baltar best when he’s just a shade less bonkers than usual, and this episode strikes the perfect balance. His scene with Roslin is superb.

The rest of the cast don’t really get a look-in; indeed most don’t even get a cameo. Fisk’s murder is unexpected, with his early scenes misdirecting us nicely, but ultimately we haven’t seen much of the man so it’s hard to mourn him. I’d also have preferred to keep an antagonistic commander aboard the Pegasus. Still, if Tigh ends up with the posting that could prove interesting.

In conclusion: not outstanding, but unusual enough to be interesting. The banality of the Apollo material is what lets it down, but I think the show needs these occasional glimpses into the way colonial society works, and the pressures which exist at all levels. This is not a monolithic military fleet like Star Trek, it’s a complete functioning city with all the nobility and venality that implies.

Oh, and note to production team: I know you don’t have a lot of black characters but maybe a black underworld boss wasn’t quite the way to redress the balance. 🙂

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