Reviews

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA REWATCH: Season 2 (2005) – #SciFiMonth

ARTWORK by Tithi Luadthong from 123RF.com

Where Season 1 of Battlestar Galactica focused mainly on the survival of the few humans who escaped the genocidal attack of the Cylons, this second season showcases in a dramatic way their inability to set aside petty concerns even in the face of imminent annihilation: once this kind of life on the run, plagued by short supplies and the dread from constant incursion, starts to become the “new normal”, the lack of hope turns people into the uglier version of themselves and seems to answer a question Commander Adama asked himself when he wondered about the human’s race worthiness of its survival. In this season, no one seems able to escape from their darker side rearing its ugly head at some point.

This new season begins where the previous one left off, after the shooting of Adama at the hands of the sleeper Cylon agent Boomer: as the Galactica’s commander battles for his life, leadership shifts to his XO Colonel Tigh – a man more comfortable with following orders than issuing them, and a drunkard to boot. As his own deep-rooted uncertainties flare up in the wake of a series of problems he’s not suited to resolve, Tigh over-reacts and only manages to make matters worse, pitching the military against the civilians in what can only result in a bloodbath.  President Roslin causes further divisions by insisting on a detour to the ancient planet of Kobol, where clues to the location of Earth might be found: her actions, and her open confrontation with Tigh, who lacks Adama’s skills at mediation, cause a split in the fleet that mines resources, defensive capabilities and, above all, morale.

Ironically enough, though, the main players orbiting around Galactica find again a common ground when the appearance of another Battlestar, the Pegasus, fills everyone with hope only to destroy it at the discovery of the true price of survival: Pegasus escaped the initial attack and under the command of Admiral Cain has been harrying the Cylons ever since, but she and her crew have sacrificed every remaining shred of humanity for their mission, and the clash between Cain and Adama threatens to become as cold-blooded as the atrocities perpetrated by the woman and her crew.  The Cylons themselves are starting to experience a very humanlike lack of cohesiveness as some of them now believe the attempted genocide unleashed on the Twelve Colonies might have been unwarranted, and are in favor of attempting a mediation. In other words, for both contenders the enemy seems to be present both on the outside and on the inside, and the recurrent theme in this season seems indeed to be the heightened danger coming from within…

The show’s creators took a bold path in portraying their “heroes” in their lowest moments, as they are ready to sacrifice integrity in the name of a higher purpose, which would of course be robbed of its ethical foundations if such acts were carried out to the bitter end: so we see Adama prepared to order the assassination of Admiral Cain to preserve the fleet from taking a dangerously inhuman direction, involving Starbuck as his hand in the plan – the moral struggle of the pilot as she wrestles loyalty to Adama, revulsion for Cain’s merciless acts and admiration for the woman’s accomplishments, is one of the finest acting feats of the series so far.  President Roslin faces a similar choice when she tries to rig the presidential elections that would otherwise see Gaius Baltar succeed, and it’s impossible not to feel dismay when she backs off and Baltar’s inevitable win looks like the first step toward the survivors’ downfall.

Ironically enough, it’s Baltar who takes a contrary journey: his brief moment of redemption, when he finds a miracle cure for Roslin who’s dying of cancer, is shortly undermined by the decision to run against her in the presidential race, not because of a higher calling but for selfish, petty reasons, thus squandering what looked like the last chance to atone for his guilt.  Baltar keeps appearing as congenitally unable to shrug off the mix of self-importance and self-loathing at the roots of his character, a combination that engenders equally opposite reactions: you pity him one moment and despise him the next, the latter feeling always being the strongest one.  So it’s not surprising that it’s under Baltar’s presidency that the survivors’ worst hour comes to be: first he endorses the decision to settle on a barely habitable planet that does not offer much in the field of resources (or pleasant environments, for that matter…), the lesser choice of people who have lost the hope of a better future; then he reveals himself as an inept leader, more concerned with idleness and debauchery than with the running of a colony; and finally, when the Cylons find them and invade the planet, he caves in far too easily, driven by his usual fear-fueled ineptitude. 

The remnants of humanity reach the proverbial bottom in this final segment of the season: living like refugees in a dismal lineup of temporary shelters separated by muddy paths, under a perpetually cloudy sky that adds a further note of misery to a depressing existence, trying to make the best out of a disheartening situation. But it’s with the arrival of the Cylons that this fragile illusion is shattered: the image of the mechanical Centurions marching through the settlement, a picture starkly reminiscent of the Nazi army entering Paris, closes the last episode with a feeling of doom and heartbreak that will certainly carry over in the next season.

And to underscore this feeling of unease, here is my usual pick from Bear McCreary’s soundtrack for the season, One Year Later

My Rating:

16 thoughts on “BATTLESTAR GALACTICA REWATCH: Season 2 (2005) – #SciFiMonth

  1. Bravo! This post encapsulates the whole season so perfectly. As I was reading this I kept flashing back to my time when I watched this and the memories crashed right down.

    It WAS so disheartening to see them act the way they did even while understanding it. But Baltar? I continued with my zero sympathy stance for him 😀 I knew from the old series that he was going to be the continuously running badguy on the inside, but I kept hoping form episode to episode that he’d either defect to the Cylons and let the humans alone OR that he’d die. I have to admit, the writers of the show did a fantastic job of keeping me hooked while writing some very unpleasant stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do vaguely recollect the figure of Baltar in the original series, where he was an out-and-out traitor – not many nuances to his character back then… The “modern” version of Baltar is more nuanced, but also much more annoying! His see-sawing between sides was nothing more than his self-serving attitude toward the only person in the galaxy he was faithful to: himself… 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yeah, this was the season that saw me wave goodbye to BG – but I did come back to it later on, when my husband told me it’s watchable again 😉 It was depressing, and infuriating at the same time – a bit like this year around the world 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, I’d forgotten almost all of this, but I remembered each bit as I read the review. The shooting of Adama, the drunken Tigh, the arrival of Pegasus, Baltar’s presidency, the founding of the colony and then the Cylons taking it over. Looks like I’d watched through this entire season. Maybe it was the next season where I started losing interest. Thanks much, I really enjoyed looking back at this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome! It was fun revisiting the series – and I had forgotten much as well, so it was almost like a new story in places. The third season is indeed the one where the tightness of the series shows the first missteps, but still it’s a good one… 🙂

      Like

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