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Battlestar Galactica season four episode reviews

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Movie. "Razor" A needlessly muddled - and somewhat confusing - narrative is helped by strong leading performances from Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen and Michelle Forbes. The story, such as it is, is told on three fronts: the framing sequences take place in the past of the regular TV series, some of it takes place ten months before that, and a large chunk takes place a few decades before that again. Sheesh! Tricia Helfer is at her duplicitious best, and Edward James Olmos steals his few scenes (especially the last one). A few blanks are filled in, a few hints are made about the end of the whole story, and there is a good bit of doing-what-has-to-be-done-no-matter-what-the-cost. It is these sequences that lift the story and allow the series to do what it does best: hold a mirror up to the world that we live in, here at the dawn of the 21st Century. Because of this, I know that while this is not one of the best episodes, I'm still watching one of the best shows on TV.

Season 4, Episode 1. "He That Believeth In Me" This show hasn't missed a beat and hits the ground running with this fantastic season opener. Edward James Olmos is the best actor on deck, and the fact that he completely doesn't blow Katee Sackhoff off screen during their head-to-heads only serves to emphasise what a truly great actress she is. How she was born for this role. And how great it is to watch her in a well-written show again (and not that hideous mistake Bionic Woman). It's great to have Starbuck back in the show, and dominating an episode. However, with the long break between seasons, it's hard to remember that she was out of the show for a while. The fun of watching Starbuck goes hand in hand with the fun of watching Baltar (apparently) starting out on a new chapter in his life. Is the little weasle about to redeem himself? What the frak? No matter. James Callis can make it work. That guy can do anything. He's been stealing scenes since the show began. We are so so spoiled with this cast, it's ridiculous. But, yeah, if anyone can make Baltar's redemption work, it's Callis. And Tricia Helfer, of course. When she looks at Baltar as if her heart is about to break, it makes the viewer's heart want to break, too. Wow.

So, lots of fun to be had watching Starbuck and Baltar in their respective storylines.

And, then, there are the four revealed Cylons. Four popular characters (two of them beloved) wrestling with the shock revelation (to themselves) that they are Cylons and have been from the very beginning. That storyline produces some of the best drama that the show has thus far delivered, and - also - some of the best irony ever seen in televison fiction. Scene after scene is littered with double-edged dialogue. Delivered without a hint of self-consciousness by one of the best casts ever assembled for a TV series. At one point Adama ponders whether Starbuck is a Cylon while he and the humans by his side are cheerfully outnumbered by Cylons. It's delicious.

And even better.

There is still one to be revealed...

Season 4, Episode 2. "Six Of One" Another winner. Focus shifts to the Cylons in this episode. Tricia Helfer (playing her third ongoing character) is simply superb. And has never looked more beautiful. The developments within the Cylons are stunning. As are all the scenes between Adama and Starbuck. Some of the most intense drama this show has ever delivered. Likewise, the scene between Adama and Roslin. Who am I kidding? Every frakkin' scene was intense and dramatic!! Particularly the end with Adama and Starbuck. I loved it.

Season 4, Episode 3. "The Ties That Bind" Gut-wrenching television. A beloved character dies a brutal death. Horrific. I really loved this character and I'm sad to see death claim them. But, unlike what Prison Break did this season, this is a death that makes sense within the show, and feeds perfectly into where the show is going. I don't like it because I adore the character, but - apart from that - I have no problems with it. Having one regular character kill another regular character is always going to be exiting, but having the killer be one of the undercover Cylons makes the viewer wonder about all of them. Are they all capable of this? Are they really cold-blooded killers? Just machines? All of them?

BSG is having a fantastic season. So many scenes are now underscored by what we know (that the characters on-screen don't) and it looks like that is going to continue for a while longer. Can't wait. (But why do they have to kill the characters we love so much?)

Season 4, Episode 4. "Escape Velocity" There is a scene at the end of this episode, where Baltar is preaching to his people (and others, too) and it's one of the most remarkable scenes I have ever watched. Not only in terms of writing, but also in terms of acting. James Callis has always been a scene-stealer on BSG, but now that the character has evolved in a completely new direction Callis is doing - what must be - his finest work on the show. Wow.

It's another amazing episode. Baltar, Tyrol and Tigh take center stage, with only the Tyrol storyline being a bit disappointing. Basically, Tyrol goes through the exact sort of meltdown that you would expect him to (following what happened in the previous episode). The acting is great, but the few scenes devoted to this storyline are the least interesting in the entire episode.

Tigh's storyline blew me away. As he suffered a meltdown of his own, sought out the help of a Number Six and was haunted by 'ghost' of his murdered/executed wife. Watching Tigh was fascinating. In many ways, this is the man we have always watched and admired. In many ways, he is now a new person. This is an amazing concept to pull off (for writer and actor) but they make it work. And it is flawlessly done. I never imagined I would see Tigh and a Six in conversations such as these. Never imagined I would see Tigh in such pain. Ironic that he had to become a 'machine' to discover his 'humanity'.

Baltar's transformation is arguably the most exciting thing about the new season of BSG. From scum to hero? In - basically - one episode. How could they be arrogant enough to think they could make it work? And how could they be talented enough so that it works so perfectly? It defies belief. But it is working. And I freely admit that I had a tear in my own eye as I watched Baltar weeping his heart out in the closing seconds of the newest episode.

Season 4, Episode 5. "The Road Less Travelled" One of the most intense and satisfying episodes thus far. Aaron Douglas does some amazing work as (the now bald) Tyrol gets proactive with his grief over Cally. His showdown with Baltar is particularly gripping (James Callis continuing to give stunning performances).

Over on the Demetrius, tempers flair as the crew grow tired of Starbuck's strange quest to find earth. Katee Sackhoff and Tahmoh Penikett are typically superb, but guest star Callum Keith Rennie blows everyone away. The scenes between him and anyone pull you into the screen like nothing else on TV. And so much that happens between the crew members (they attempt a mutiny at episode's ending) is underscored by the knowledge that Anders is a Cylon. Even better (even more ironic): so is Athena. Not that that bothers anyone anymore. Awesome writing.

Season 4, Episode 6. "Faith" So much for that! A few minutes into the second hour of the story and someone throws a racist comment at Athena! Never mind, Ander's secret is still safe. And wasn't it fascinating to watch him in this episode?

Most of the stuff with Roslin and the sick lady bored me to tears. It was good stuff, yes, and it makes for significant character development but it was dropped into the wrong episode. My interest lay with Starbuck's crew and their time with the rogue Cylons. Everything time the episode moved away from that storyline I totally lost interest.

This was an amazing episode. Again. The death of Jean Barolay was probably the highlight. The underused (but still great) Alisen Down is a favourite of mine and the follow up to her character's death was remarkable. Tricia Helfer (playing two characters) does some of her best work. Later on, Grace Park gets to do the exact same thing: play two characters, while one of them is dying a violent death. Extrordinary television, very affecting.

Then, there is the whole business with Roslin. What the frak is going on? Who is right? Kara or Laura? Who will lead them all to their deaths?

While Lost and Battlestar are very similar in many respects: both have large casts, lots of mystery and ambiguity, a clearly defined story-arc and end-point, and lots of twists and turns along the way, Battlestar seems to wear it's heart more on it's sleeve. This is clearly a show about redempton and faith. So is Lost, but I think the depth of Lost will only be fully apparent when the journey is over and all of the characters have found their place. Battlestar is telling us now what is happening. Baltar has changed, Starbuck has changed, Adama has changed, and - in this episode - Roslin seems to be about to change, too. Yet, at no stage is the show preachy or whiny about anything that it has to say. In fact, at times, it is rather inspirational and affecting.


Season 4, Episode 7. "Guess What's Coming to Dinner" Watching Battlestar Galactica... You sit there: body clenched, eyes wide, lips dry, taking in every layer you can of everything that is happening on screen. And there is a lot to take in.

When I watch Roslin and Lee talking about her shared visions, I think back to how they first met at the start of the series and how there seemed to be a bond between them from the moment they met. How I wanted to see where that would lead. So much has changed over the run of the series and now they are far from close, often at opposite ends of debates. When I watch Roslin and Starbuck talking about her shared visions I'm reminded that at the start of this very season they were face-to-face with a gun between them and now they are forging an alliance to get some answers. So much has changed over the run of these few episodes.

In many ways this is a completely different show from what we had last year. Starbuck is a different character. Tyrol, Tigh, the others. The Cylons are different. At least some of them are. The conversations between the three rebel leaders in this episode are unlike anything we could have imagined the show being able to do in previous seasons.

Truly, Battlestar Galactica is painted on a very large canvas and you really do need to keep your eyes wide open to take in as much as you can...

Season 4, Episode 8. "Sine Qua Non" What a strange, unsatisfying episode. I suppose when the Big Cylon Ship jumped away at the end of the previous episode the last thing I wanted the show to do was stay with the fleet for the next chapter. Yet, that is what has happened. We stay with the fleet and Lee (who has been marginalised this season) takes centre stage. Mark Sheppard makes a welcome return but (while most of his scenes are great) his "big scene" with Lee was just plain awful. A real what-the-frak-are-the-writers-doing moment. In general this quest the two of them were on was boring and predictable. There's nothing at stake that the audience at home cares about to any large degree. Really and truly this episode could have been resolved in the first big conversation between Lee and Tom Zarek and it would have been much better (and packed a bigger punch) if they had done it that way. Sure, it's great character development, but to build a whole episode around it?

It's amazing how one duff episode can take the shine off something. Don't get me wrong: I still love this profound show with a passion, but - taking a step back as I watched this episode - I reflected for the first time ever that it's no bad thing that the show is in it's final season. How many more times can we watch different permutations of characters go through the same motions as others have done? How many more times can Adama reprimand someone he clearly loves? How many characters are going to leave the fleet to go on a quest of some sort? How many times can best friends have a fist fight? How many flight deck farewell scenes can there possibly be?

Battlestar Galactica is a great story. But it's definitely time to bring this story to an end.

Season 4, Episode 9. "The Hub" Finally we get to see what happened when the Cylon Ship jumped away. What happened? Well... space battles, visions, hints and epiphanies. The usual stuff for Battlestar Galactica.

Visually, this is an impressive episode. Not just the space stuff either (which was nothing short of majestic) but all of the interior stuff too. And the visions Laura was having during the jumps. Lots of low wide shots and big empty rooms and corridors. Very striking.

As wonderful as that final minute was (and it was wonderful) it has to take second place to the "revelation" that Laura is the final cylon. That was frakkin' funny. Deanna playing with the president, and the show love playing with us. Ballsy. And I love it.

Season 4, Episode 10. "Revelations" Truly satisfying conclusion to many of this seasons ongoing plot threads. Finally, after weeks of (wonderful) torture the hidden Cylons are revealed to their friends in a sequence of wonderfully orchestrated scenes. Seeing Saul Tigh tell Bill Adama was just amazing. And watching Bill's meltdown was painful. The whole episode (every revelation, every confrontation) was equal parts amazing and equal parts painful. Baltar was funny again (the "I knew it!" bit) and Lee finally grew a pair! Who would have thought?!

In this episode, you can see the show preparing to finish all it's ongoing storylines, wisely choosing (in the final shocking seconds) to avoid introducing any major new ones. It has also left enough mysteries dangling to bring fans back in 2009.Photobucket

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