Battlestar Galactica Season 3 Review
I watched Battlestar Galactica differently than most people did. I dislike commercials, and I dislike long delays in between storylines. So what I did was wait to even start watching Battlestar Galactica until season 3 was complete - knowing at that point that season 4 was going to be the last season produced - and then I got all three seasons in their entirety and watched them pretty much start to end in a row. This meant I could see all the tiny references between shows and seasons clearly (since I literally watched them back-to-back-to-back). It also meant I had extremely high expectations going into the process because of all the loquacious praise being sung about this series.
I was let down by season 1. This season, like many first seasons, promoted stereotypical characters to help viewers differentiate between them. I was then blown away by season 2. The characters, their roots firmly established, now had the leeway to become "more human", to explore their failings, to become lived in and realistic. The actors had "owned" their characters now, and the writers had dispensed with all the introductory junk necessary in a show's launch. Everything shone.
I was really hoping that season three would then take off from there, to explore metaphysical ideas, to delve into the characters' souls, to reach new levels of meaning and development. I suppose the problem here was that I saw the progression from season 1 to season 2 and thought it was a steady up-ramp :) Like most things in life, what it really meant was that they had hit their stride, and would now maintain it. Or, as with when you sing a certain note, because they kept singing that same note, it began to sound a bit flat.
I do still really enjoy the series. The actors are great. The dialogue is often great! I think the visual effects teams do a miraculous job and some of the shots of space combat they pull off are a sheer pleasure to watch. There are many times over the seasons that I've just stared in awe at a series of space flight images. I love space combat :)
But that all being said, instead of pushing the envelope further, it is very much as if the writers started to fall into stereotypical storylines. We have a number of "let us focus on character XYZZY and learn more about their past" episodes. We have some storylines that are so predictable that I was reciting dialogue along with the character, knowing what they were going to say. It was almost as if some episodes were little "mini stories" that had little bearing on the actual goings on.
The trial of a certain character dragged on far too long. There are more than enough Law & Order type shows already out there if that was what someone wanted to watch. It took away from the intensity that is a hallmark with Battlestar Galactica.
And then we have the "Episode that changed everything".
I won't give away any spoilers here, but suffice it to say that when you listen to the commentary track and see both versions of this specific episode, you'll hear from the commentary personnel just how serious the fallout was to this particular episode. I almost wonder if the reaction to the episode had to do with them deciding to end the season after season 4 was done. I know in my household that this episode caused a lot of ripples, of serious discussions. Some watchers here lost most of their interest in BG after that episode.
So to summarize - yes, I definitely watched it through, I enjoyed watching it, I listened to all the commentaries and enjoyed the multiple versions. I went right through from start to end. But I wish it had been more like season 2, with that level of intensity and interconnectedness and meaning. I have high hopes that they'll rekindle that energy and have season 4 go out with a mind blowing experience.
If you have seen Season 3 you probably know the episode in question is the one where Starbuck and Apollo - both living with a partner and extremely serious with them - suddenly have sex together and decide to ditch their other partners. Then Starbuck jumps into a marriage with her guy, and Apollo promptly goes to his girl to propose. Neither admit to their partners that they could have just picked up sexual diseases from the other never mind the base dishonesty of cheating.
There can be all sorts of arguments made for "they were drunk" or this or that. However, we know from a previous situation that Starbuck HAD almost slept with Apollo - they were on top of each other - and she refused because of her emotions for her Pyramid Player. You could say she was lured in by Apollo. However, she was much more drunk in the previous situation. You could say she's a constant liar - but is she? If anything she is a constant *truth-teller* being in your face with how she feels and what she wants and she doesn't care what you think. She makes that brutally clear in many episodes when she says right to someone's face that she is using them.
On the Apollo side, he is very much a man of honor. There are *numerous* times that he refuses to take an action because honor guides him. He does some incredibly difficult things because honor drove him to do them. If he adored Starbuck, he would be the one to pick up his intercom and call his partner and say "I am breaking up with you - I want to be with Starbuck". Even though it was incredibly difficult, he would put himself into the knife and do it because he felt he had to. A drunk Apollo would probably be even more likely to make one of those notorious "drunken phone calls".
Once he found Starbuck had gotten married, he would have told his partner-to-be that he had cheated on her, because trust is so critical. He wouldn't lie (a lie of ommission is still a lie). However, he actually goes on to lie pretty much continually to his partner from that point forward about his motivations and everything else.
When I watched this, I remember the scene vividly when the two of them are together in the clearing. Apollo goes for Starbuck and she **pulls back**. I felt very upset at Apollo for putting Starbuck into the position. Then they give in and I had to sort of "give myself over" to the way the plot was going and plot-motivations for it, but it felt very wrong to me. Because I had this on DVD and had just watched all the other shows right beforehand, everything character related about their past was extremely fresh in my mind. I watched the episode through. Then I promptly watched the "extended episode" version of that same episode immediately. Then I promptly watched the "commentary track" version of that episode immediately. So I saw it three times in a row, literally. By this point my boyfriend was more than annoyed about the repeated extolling of cheating, lying behavior. I admit by this point I had become inured to it, I had just accepted it as the way the plot was and had pushed aside my initial feelings about it. I started to make the excuses about "oh well they were drunk" and "oh well it was easier to lie continually afterwards". But really, when you look at their characters, none of that was true. These guys drink CONSTANTLY and still make life-or-death decisions. Both of them are brutally honest, for very different reasons. It was as if they turned the corner into soap opera material and took the audience along with that.
Judging by the commentary discussions and by other discussions, Battlestar Galactica apparently lost a chunk of their fan base when they pushed their two leads into cheating and lying. A number of BG watchers felt they had done something with the characters that should not have been done. And, to be honest, I don't think it was "hugely necessary" to the plot OR the characters for them to have done that. They could have been desperately in love without the sex / cheating / lying and still had the emotional punch for later scenes. So in a very real way they damaged the characters' believability for an unnecessary reason.
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