Sunday, October 08, 2006

Battlestar Galactica Season 2

[Now Experiencing] [TV]

I finally finished watching through the second season of modern Battlestar Galactica. The following thoughts are free of specific spoilers but if you haven't watched it yet and you really don't want any indication at all of what to expect you may want to look away.

The first half of the season was very slow and unfocused. I never really enjoyed the Caprica storyline in season one, and the early season two episodes feel like "Helo's Exile On Caprica, the Extended Director's Cut". Battlestar always seems to lose a certain something when it goes planetside, at least for me.

Final Cut (episode 8) goes a long way to making up for what the opening lost, with a fantastic performance from Lucy Lawless guest-starring as a character about as far from Xena as you could hope to go.

Flight of the Phoenix
(episode 9) continues the season's improvement, with a wonderfully heartwarming and well-told story to balance the fairly unremmiting misery of the early season two episodes. Definitely one of my favourite episodes of Battlestar so far.

Pegasus (episode 10) begins a three part arc in fantastic style with a story that contrasts well with the season one climax, reworking a familiar situation with a new spin and new characters. It's thought provoking and promises a powerful conclusion. Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to that promise, with Resurrection Ship Part I & II (episodes 11 & 12) largely pulling their punches with a series of cop-outs and deus ex machina, culminating in an underwhelming resolution of a fairly major plotline that had been running since the first episode.

Epiphanies and Black Market both have the feeling of filler episodes. Black Market in particular sees an about-face in character for Apollo, who begins to act in a much murkier and less interesting way for no particularly good reason whatsoever, a change that continues through the remainder of his role in the season.

Scar is a fantastic story about Starbuck and Colonel Tigh - despite the fact that Tigh doesn't appear in the episode, is only mentioned once, and plays no part in the plot. It's a great character story for viewers who've been watching since the miniseries, but if you're coming in with less backstory then it might seem a little tedious.

Sacrifice (episode 16) is filled with unlikeable characters, but still succeeds in being powerful, and has a couple of major developments that I certainly didn't see coming.

The Captain's Hand (episode 17) is science-fiction at its best, using futuristic settings to say something relevant about contemporary issues. In this case, it's abortion, and it does the job superbly, exploring the issue in a sensitive and even-handed manner from a perspective that could only be achieved because of the genre. One of the most noteworthy episodes of any modern science-fiction that I've seen in a while, and a good reminder of what the genre once aspired to.

Episode 18 (Downloaded) is just packed full of major revelations, and for my money is the best story of the show so far. Tricia Helfer (Number Six) once again gets the opportunity to demonstrate that not only does she look great in an evening dress, but she's also a very good actor. If you're watching on TV, make sure you do NOT miss this one.

The two final episodes are a mixed bag (Lay Down Your Burden Parts 1 & 2). They feature, among other things, more time spent on planets, and the presidential election. The election plot is fantastic, and is more of Battlestar doing what it does best - asking hard questions about our society. It's a pity that it gets suborned beneath the truly bizarre finale, which just leaves you wondering exactly what the hell the creators were thinking. I had the consistent feeling during the last episode that I was watching one of those Star Trek episodes where it turns out it was all a holodeck simulation - except when Battlestar writes itself into a corner it doesn't get out quite so easily. Even with the brilliant episodes leading up to it, that last episode makes me wonder whether I want to bother watching season three.

Anyway, I'll go check out the webisodes that the official website is running leading up to the season three pilot now. If you want to comment, please try and avoid specific spoilers in consideration of those who are still watching!

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