Dionusia (dionusia) wrote,

Deadlock objections: final thoughts

I read the latest Mo Ryan interview with the writers and some things in the question and answer session gave me pause. I thought I'd clarify my thoughts here, as I wasn't very coherent in my last post -- and also explain why I liked "Someone To Watch Over Me" far better by contrast.

**Warning: spoilers through "Someone To Watch Over Me."

This question from Sepinwall to the writers in particular bothered me a little:

Alan: A portion of the fandom has gotten upset with episodes like "A Disquiet Follows My Soul" and "Deadlock" for what they perceive as a slow pace, not enough answers about the mythology or forward plot advancement, and not enough about what they consider "the endgame." Now you guys have written an episode where large chunks are about Starbuck remembering how to play the piano, and while I liked it, I suspect you may have the barbarians at the gate like they were for Jane last week. Anything you want to say to reassure them about what's coming? Is a lot of the endgame stuff being saved for the finale proper? Or do you feel like fans who only care about the plot and the mythology are missing some key component of the show?

I felt like I wanted to post about this, because I don't think this accurately represents the sum of fans' objections to the last episode at all. Some people DO have those objections, sure, but not everyone. There's more to it than that.

Rising and Falling Action: where's the 'after'?

Now, I understand and appreciate that not all episodes are as action packed as, say, "The Oath." This is a long-form story, and longer buildup time makes for greater payoffs in the end. It makes adrenaline rushes like "The Oath" possible. I love this about Battlestar. I thought it was devastating and fitting that SAGN be entirely about the aftermath to Earth's discovery and how it affected each character; there was little to no plot, but I rank it as one of the finest hours of drama the show's ever produced. I also loved DFMS because I could sense it was all buildup to the mutiny. But the number one objection I have to "Deadlock" (and also saw reflected in many people's comments elsewhere) is that fallout for the mutiny simply wasn't sufficiently addressed. There was rising action and climax, but almost no time spent on the aftermath.

Some gaps I can and should be expected to fill on my own. Time passes offscreen; events move forward. I get this. But some gaps can be too big.

Thanks to podcasts and interviews -- which we shouldn't really need to explicate all this -- we are now given to understand that all the mutineers were shipped off to the prison ship (with or without trial is unclear) and that the Galactica is so understaffed there are large parts of it not under Adama's control. I gathered that they were shorthanded. I understand that some things need to be cut for time. But there needed to have been at least one or two lines of dialogue addressing the fate of the mutineers. If there had been, I suspect there would have been far less grumbling or questions of "Why are we spending so much time on Cylon love drama?" For my part, when I don't get enough of a very, very important plot point from what I see onscreen -- especially when it's crucial to understanding so much of the characters' motivations in what is shown -- I start looking at the scenes that did make it (long affirmations of epic bromance, Adama staring at the ship) and wonder why they didn't get cut instead. The scenes with Tigh moved me, but many could have been cut or shortened to make room for more important material.

And this is what really gets me: it wouldn't have taken much.

Character-Driven Drama: good vs. huh?

Secondly, there's this notion in the interviews lately that fans who objected to "Deadlock" object to it because they don't like character-driven drama. Well, I call foul on that. I like character-driven drama; I just don't think the last episode was a particularly good example of it. For every moment that worked for me and felt emotionally moving, there was something else that felt off and contrived. I wanted to get into that episode, but things that struck me as strange were constantly pulling me out of it.

I didn't like the vacillation of Tigh's affections being the thing that seemed to determine the fate of the baby. Though I would never have wished it on Caprica, I would have been fine with the miscarriage if it had just happened. It would have felt more genuine and true. Instead, Caprica losing her child because Tigh loved more people than just her, or didn't love her enough, seems just repellant and cruel. I never expected the Cylons' theology to be taken so literally. (In fact, I'd assumed that Liam's conception debunked the "love makes babies" theory, because the whole time he was with her he saw Ellen's face.)

Then there's the matter of Ellen's characterization. I get that she and Tigh bring out the worst in each other, and she returned to form once she saw him again, but I know I wasn't the only viewer feeling a bit whipsawed by the difference between Ellen of "No Exit" and the Ellen of "Deadlocked." I expected more of a middle ground between old and new. I'm glad that the Ellen we knew is still here; indeed, it would have been strange if that aspect of her entirely disappeared, given that she has all her old memories. But she has two sets of them. If she had just retained some element of her "master scientist who can see the bigger picture of the cycle of time and want to prevent it for the humans' sake" persona she seemed to have on the baseship, I would have been happy. Furthermore, tactically, I didn't understand why she wouldn't remember that Cavil was out there (the reason the alliance began in the first place). I could also understand her being jealous and upset, but upset because she'd always wanted children of her own, too? I would think the Ellen we knew would have been too selfish to ever want to have kids. The "original" Ellen may have wanted them, but she'd actually made children in other Cylon models, too. Wouldn't that have been enough to lessen the sting? I understand that the Five are flawed individuals, not gods, but Baseship Ellen had more serenity and wisdom. It seemed like her character became less of a strong leader and parent figure to the Cylon and was momentarily reduced to a jealous, spiteful wife using her power of the swing vote to lash out at those who'd hurt her.

In the end, she came back around to the more positive aspect of her character. But I couldn't help feeling that her character changes were what the plot required rather than the character's natural actions fuelling a believable plot.

All of the events in Deadlock may turn out to be very important and more fully explained down the line. But as it stands now, that episode felt uneven to me.

What I'd rather see

Which brings me to this latest ep, "Someone To Watch Over Me": it's heavily character-driven, and I liked it a lot. Kara, Chief, and Boomer rang true to me. All the mystic elements fit extremely well into the previous mythology of the show, and nothing seemed to come out of nowhere. Though it would have been nice to get more of Laura and Lee (or Kara and Lee -- yes, I feel your pain) that's the kind of stuff I want to see.

I also adored Unfinished Business, which the writers also took a lot of flak for (I think unjustly). I think Ron has a right to be proud that that hour of sci-fi television wasn't about spaceships. I thought it was sublime. UB wasn't just about romantic entanglements, either, though some have called it soapy. It fit the arc of the show thematically -- it was all about the aftermath of New Caprica and all that their time there had once represented. It was about the fantasy of rest and the seductive idea that they might just all be able to be ordinary people again, and why they'd seize what chances at happiness they could. All of it was told very much within the frame of the grim and unhappy present, where everyone is still living with the NC trauma and the rifts it caused; cutting back and forth between "then" and "now" only sharpened the sense of agony at what had been irrevocably lost. It filled in a backstory that had been skipped over and gave us insight into the characters' current motivations. It set the stage for events moving forward. It was good, character-driven drama, and I firmly believe that he should never have to apologize for that. (I even wrote a crackfic to that effect, and I stand by it!)

All in all, I feel good about Battlestar and where it's going. I know that all these episodes are part of a larger whole. I'm eager to see where it will end up, and I'm betting it will be tremendous and emotionally satisfying. There are parts of this season that I feel have been less successful than others, but more character-driven drama is what I want to see. Without it -- even with action-packed space battles -- BSG just wouldn't be BSG.

PS LJ ate my mostly-finished draft of my Kara love post yesterday, but it's still coming. :) Huzzah. And thank you again for the comments-backlog patience.
Tags: bsg, s4.5

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