Battlestar Galactica season 4 episode 14 review

You'll quite literally be watching the clock as Battlestar Galactica chalks up another outstanding episode....

The survivor count takes another battering this week as the Galactica crew continues to tear itself apart following the events set in motion by Zarek and Gaeta’s uprising.

But what started out as a revolution, for Gaeta and a select few at least, has quickly become a bloody coup. The action picks up from last week’s humdinger of a cliffhanger offering up the fates of the President as well as Adama and Tigh. Predictably, they all survive and what I love about BSG is it doesn’t beat around the bush in letting us know.

Far from simply bowing to the audience’s lust for knowledge, these moments of instant gratification set the action in motion straight away, ensuring there is no let up in the show’s continued assault on everything we’ve held dear for three and a half seasons. Adama and Tigh’s last stand is futile rather than the Butch and Sundance-like firefight we may have expected and they are quickly subdued. The President’s fate, however, plays out in a far more interesting sideplot that sets the tone for the episode to come. And that tone is doubt.

In this case it’s Hotdog who is reluctant to shoot on the President’s Raptor despite a direct order from Gaeta. It’s not the final moment of indecision we will witness either, as marines, officers and eventually leaders within the revolution, face their own moments of uncertainty. If last week’s episode showed us the speed at which the wheels of revolution can be set into motion, this week’s shows us how quickly they can turn. To that end, the clock, a not too common occurrence in BSG, becomes a regular reminder that the action is unfolding in hours and minutes rather than the weeks that the audience has to wait between BSG fixes. There are also constant reminders that the Galactica is far from secured with screams and echoes of gunfire continually rattling throughout the ship.

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Zarek’s plans for the Corum unravel at equally breakneck speed as they are quickly transformed from pawns for his political manoeuvring to obstacles, which are brutally and bloodily removed from his path. Their cold-blooded massacre at his behest is a brutal reminder of the real Tom Zarek, in case we had forgotten his true qualities during his ascension to office. It also marked the fracture between him and Gaeta who is understandably appalled by the lengths to which the vice-president will go in order to claim power.

The rest of the episode becomes an assassination of the character whose smarm, cowardice and desperation are logged in equal measure as he proceeds to murder or circumvent those people and practices which the revolution sought to protect. And, unlike Gaeta, he is not even offered a chance at explanation, let alone redemption, at the show’s brilliant conclusion. It is a measure of how differently we have been led to view the two instigators of this bloody uprising as Gaeta’s motivations and doubts are repeatedly explored, symbolised in the recurring imagery of the irritation of his stump and pondering on the admiral’s pins.

It’s, without doubt, a phenomenal episode and other standout moments include the Chief’s Die Hardesque ventilation shaft scuttling which reveals some curious scars on the wall of the engine room (serious damage or signs of foul play?) and another superb moment of self-indulgent realisation from Baltar who, in the arms of Tricia Helfer, is once again a beautifully acted collision between arrogance and childlike fear.

There were moments I didn’t enjoy, though. The President has been grating me in recent weeks, not only for her reluctance to muck in, but also for her continued whininess. Granted, she is dying and has been furnished with officially the worst hairpiece in the fleet (a tribble would have looked better), but gone are the powerful speeches and moments of brutal political movement and they seem to have been replaced by high pitched whelps or gurgle-y mutterings. I’m not sure if this is a deliberate ploy on the part of the show’s direction or a transgression to be placed at the feet of the normally reliable Mary McDonnell, but it just doesn’t sit well.

Another that drew a tut of derision was the admiral and co’s march to wrestle back command of Galactica towards the end of the episode. On this occasion we were treated to a showing of crew of all walks of life from marines to firecrews, backing up the old man. It was the sort of sentimental free-for-all that reminded me of that saccharine scene in Spiderman where the New Yorkers take on the Goblin and I half expected an empty coke can to come flying across screen, freshly flung by some cab driver who wanted to give Zarek a piece of his mind. You mess with the old man, you mess with all of us!

Still, I’m notoriously grumpy and these faults are easily forgiven in the face of such continued grade A entertainment. 

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Check out a review of episode 13 here.