Battlestar Galactica – “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”

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“A Disquiet Follows My Soul”

January 23rd, 2009

After last week solved what we would consider to be the series’ biggest unsolved mystery, the identity of the final Cylon model, this week is suddenly faced with a very different question: if the identity of the final Cylon isn’t going to be the lynchpin of the second half of the show’s fourth and final season, then what is it going to be?

It’s more or less the same question that the show’s characters are trying to deal with: if, in fact, the supposed path is now entirely out the window, what should they be doing and how should they be achieving it? The problem they face is that, while Team Adama is ostensibly right about their plan to move forward, it is a plan more progressive than some people in the fleet can handle. The episode brings to light that dichotomy that we are always forgetful of: while we might see the logic to Adama’s plan based on our experience with these Cylon models, the rest of the fleet hasn’t had that opportunity, and spurned on by a political force like Tom Zarek they are potentially in a position of something approaching a revolution.

But “A Disquiet Follows My Soul” is in itself an exercise of omission, grounding us very strongly in the experience of William Adama as he faces a true test of his health and determination. With a euphoric Laura Roslin risking her own death in favour of living in the moment staring him in the face, Adama has to ask himself that question: does he believe enough in his own vision to be able to push forward his own agenda, or is the sheer uncertainty of it all a justifiable reason to sit back and find solace in the present?

The episode never particularly answers this question, but the very posing of it serves as a launching point into the rest of the season.

In Ronald D. Moore’s directorial debut, there is very little action: no explosions, no imagery from the mutiny aboard the Tillium ship, not even a scene with Zarek being captured. We never see the meeting on the Cylon baseship about whether they are interested in sharing their technology, and we barely get to see anything outside of the confines of Galactica (although we do get a press conference and a quorum meeting aboard Colonial One). For some, I’m sure this was frustrating, but I’m always intrigued by the political side of things and felt that the episode did a good job of internalizing Galactica in such a way as to explain, if not justify, the political moves taken by Adama in the episode.

But first, let’s deal with the two scenes regarding the future of the Cylon race that, ultimately, felt more insignificant than they should have. First and foremost, we have the opening scene wherein we see Caprica Six’s baby as she and Tigh seem very close together as they look at it. The scene is bizarre for a few reasons, but mainly because we never got to see their relationship blossom in the first half of the season; as a result, it feels incredibly rushed for us to be seeing them together in such a fashion. But the scene does serve a point: Caprica tells us, as we had always presumed, that this child is the hope and future of the Cylon race, and that it only needs to be born in order for it to serve as a true beacon of hopefulness for their people.

I think the problem is that the rest of the episode has nothing to do with this: we get such a narrow focus on Galactica and its crew that, while I understand the reasoning of dealing with this question now considering some of the other events in the episode, it ended up feeling tangential to the rest of the episode despite the fact that I don’t believe it to be tangential to the rest of the season. I think that their relationship is important, but shoehorning it into this episode didn’t do enough for me to forget that it was underdeveloped to begin with and that it will need more time in the future (especially if we consider what could happen if Ellen, in fact, reemerges).

The other development is actually a bit of a cop-out, the revelation that Tyrol is in fact not Nicky’s father and that Hot Dog, of all people, is the boy’s biological father. This ultimately simplifies the Cylon future: Hera is obviously still important considering the Opera House, but she is now the only hybrid that we know of. It does feel like a little bit of retroactive continuity here, but I understand the impulse: a lot of this episode was about cleaning house and putting the cards in place, so if you’re going to do it might as well do it now. I quite liked the scenes with Hot Dog, who truly knows nothing about being a father, but there was something too domestic about the scenes. Just as the Caprica/Tigh child was missing its larger implications, this too felt like the show was course-correcting to be less interesting and then decided to push it in our face for awhile.

There are some who would argue that the rest of the episode does the same, but I’d fundamentally disagree: I’ve always been fascinated by the fleet dynamics, and by the character of Tom Zarek, so the idea of Zarek leading some form of revolution against a weakening President and a tired Admiral feels like just the right trajectory for this series right now. The whole point of the episode was that everyone is tired: some of them are tired of trying, others are tired of having to make tough decisions, and others are tired of the ramifications of those decisions. It all ties back into last week’s premiere, really: Dualla’s suicide was about how she had nothing left to try for, and the destruction of Earth has had that effect on many within the fleet.

The reactions, though, run the gamut from Dualla’s decision to end her life to Gaeta’s decision to assist Zarek in the revolution. Without question, Gaeta is the most intriguing character turn within the episode, whether sparring with Starbuck over her relationship with the Cylons or questioning the sanity of the Admiral in terms of striking a deal with the Cylons which would grant them citizenship. I have yet to watch all of the minisodes which aired leading up to the season in December, but it is clear why they chose to focus on Gaeta: he has had quite a journey if we really think about it, and faced with a loss of hope he is the type who would be willing to do something about it. Here is a guy who was complicit in the political goings-on on New Caprica, nearly put out an airlock for it despite his information smuggling to the resistance, who would later attempt to kill Baltar out of sheer grief, who is now without a leg and without a hope. I quite like what we saw from Gaeta in this episode, and his uneasy alliance with Zarek should be an intriguing jumping off point.

Similarly, I really do like Zarek: Richard Hatch, who felt at first like a token cameo from the original series, has emerged as one of the series’ strongest supporting players from a guest star perspective. When he speaks to the quorum, we see that this man’s terrorism was not driven by sheer extremism but rather a personality capable of persuading people. Zarek’s position in the government has always been dangerous, but since he assisted Roslin to escape from the Cylon execution squad on New Caprica he’s been more or less a positive influence. I feel as if this is the natural course of both character and storyline: he had given to Lee key information to try to appeal to his democratic side earlier in the season, but Lee’s return to his father’s fold (in particular after D’s death) is inherently problematic for his larger plans. It would make sense that the plan, to have Cylons board civilian ships in order to upgrade their FTL drives to increase their capability, would be a lynchpin for his cause and result in the actions we see here.

It also gives us the great scene with Adam and Zarek, as the former bluffs his way into convincing Zarek (in the short term) that his less than shiny political reputation would destroy his attempts at serving as a martyr for his cause. Of course, Adama had no real evidence, but there was something very real about that conversation, and leaving that meeting Adama is not satisfied. He is tired, frustrated, and doesn’t see that Zarek is less beaten than he is momentarily silent. All Zarek needed was support: to hear that he has it, with Gaeta as their leader, opens the door to a true revolution. And while I understand that it isn’t quite as science fictiony or space operatic, I’ll be damned if I’m not excited about it: this has always been an overtly political world, and the idea that humanity in the face of little guidance would question their currently leadership is both realistic and dramatically interesting.

The whole point of the episode was showing us, mainly from the side of the ignorant, how much these leaders have for reasons personal, political, or psychological have taken their eyes off of humanity and placed it on themselves. Specifically, Adama and Roslin are both by episode’s end in bed together, laughing and tossing their cares away. The episode opens on Adama, waking up later than he had wanted and rushing to brush his teeth, put on his uniform, and prepare himself for his day. He does this twice in the episode, the second time waking up sitting at his desk, having fallen asleep poring over star charts. This is the life of Admiral Adama: a man without bearings, searching for purpose. While last week saw Roslin fall into a state of deep depression over the death of her prophecy, this week saw Adama go through a similar trend: after all, he fabricated this “map to Earth” in the miniseries as a way to give humanity hope, and I think that, more than he realized, it was a source of hope for him as well. But unlike Roslin, who is dying of Cancer and has an excuse for her own behaviour, Adama has none: he’s negotiating with Zarek, he’s watching the fleet’s fuel jumping away, and he’s dealing with the fate of humanity.

I love what Mary McDonnell did in getting Roslin to this stage, and for that matter Adama to where he is by episode’s end. The euphoric state, brought on by the treatments and resulting in her skipping the pain for his sudden burst of energy, was on occasion humorous but most often bittersweet: the shots of her running down Galactica’s corridors were haunting, knowing what they meant for her character, and while I loved her out of breath ramblings with Adama (“Alright, arrest me. Put me in the brig – I’ll run there!”) they were a sign of a woman who has given up the powerful person she used to be. What I love about Moore’s treatment of these two is that, in the fact of a political revolution against their power, they don’t want it: Adama’s “Sometimes I hate this job” when the Tillium ship jumps away is not just a figure of speech, and at this point he and Roslin would easily sleep the days away.

This isn’t a good character trait, nor one that can stay forever, but we can’t blame them: the episode was about exploring the human reaction to these events, and dealing with both internal questions and external pressures. One of the problems with the episode is that it can only focus so far: we get a lot of insight into Roslin and Adama, all of it extremely well acted and executed, but we get only tangential moments for Starbuck and Baltar. Here are two characters who feel integral to any future plans, each themselves linked to the Cylons and to humanity in a way we don’t understand, and we get only a stirring sermon from Baltar (which is clearly helping fuel a sense of revolution) and a quick (if really entertaining) interaction with Gaeta from Starbuck.

This is especially frustrating for Baltar, considering the level of importance I would ascribe to his character. His sermon seemed to indicate displeasure with his Cylon god, and the idea that it would treat them this way: but where is it coming from? We’ve gotten so little of Baltar that we had no real context, and it hurt the scene. Similarly, Kara is wracked with frustration over her discovery in the premiere, but we don’t get to see any of that here. It’s one thing to spend no time with the other two Cylon models (Tori was never bumped to series regular anyways and Anders would have been irrelevant), but it’s quite another to leave these two without a plan here.

The episode seems to indicate that our central characters are all too preoccupied to realize the mutiny of the fleet: Baltar is too wrapped up in his own world to realize the pot he is stirring, Starbuck is too wrapped up in her own identity crisis, Adama and Roslin are checking out, Tigh has a baby on the way, Tyrol is confusing pronouns left and right and has just found out his son isn’t actually his, Helo and Athena are being militaristic, and Lee is on his father’s side. They’re all in their own worlds, and often we are too, with our narrow little view into this fleet. Ever since Cloud Nine was destroyed, and the show’s budget went to more cast members and bigger space battles, our reasons for voyaging out into the fleet have been limited at best: now, the show is placing consequences on the decision for its leaders and our heroes to do the same, to forget about the people who depend on them for guidance and support as opposed to just orders.

I think this is a worthwhile avenue to explore, and while I think there were a couple of areas that could have either been moved to another episode or expanded for maximum impact I also believe that there is a reason that Ron Moore took on this particular episode. The balls are officially moving, and while it might not be an epic Cylon/human war that some impatient fans might be looking for, I think it’s a far more relevant and intriguing future for the series.

Cultural Observations

  • Any episode that evokes my favourite theme from the entire series, “Roslin and Adama,” is usually a good one for Bear McCreary, but the various reworkings of the theme in this episode were especially fantastic. It’s just such a beautiful piece of music, so haunting and powerful, so to use it here really labels this as their episode more than anyone else’s. You can read about Bear’s work scoring this episode at his blog.
  • I remain curious as to where we are heading from here: pre-season panels confirmed that there is considerable action in our future, but we’re a ways off from that. One has to presume that Cavil will return at some point, and considering that she was last seen running off on The Hub I believe we might be able to see Boomer again. The show has some time still to come full circle, and I really hope we get some good resolution for some of the characters currently on the backburner.
  • I swear, next week I’ll have this up on Friday night – I was away last week, and then proceeded to be really stupid about dealing with my current bout of illness last night and rendered myself in capable of watching it live. As always, though, you can check out Alan Sepinwall’s review and Todd’s Review at The House Next Door for timelier and likely more intelligent commentary.
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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Battlestar Galactica – “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”

  1. Myles, this is a wonderful review – very well thought-out and reasoned. It’s also a breath of fresh air from the comments I’ve been reading on other sites where fans are complaining about the slow-action/pace of this episode. Before the series resumed, I wrote an entry on my blog correlating BSG with a 5 course meal. Carrying on that analogy, I think fans should realize that this episode is that palate cleanser one needs after eating a heavy dish so you can better appreciate the tastes and textures to come.

    In any case, I replied to your comment to my review of this episode regarding the omission of the Head Six scene during Baltar’s sermon. And yes, I still have to disagree with regards to Zarek since the only viewpoint he’s offering is one to confront Adama and Roslyn, which is perfectly reasonable if not realistic. However, he has yet to provide an alternative of what he would do different and that’s why I can’t see him being anything more than someone trying to pick a fight simply to be heard.

    Looking forward to reading more of your reviews as well as your comments regarding my own reviews of the remaining episodes.

  2. joe

    Good review; I felt like this episode itself was a bit of a cop out. It felt like filler, which maybe would have been served better as a webisode. That’s just my opinion. I am willing to bet next weeks will be much more.

    Joe

  3. This is the type of episode that shows Battlestar Galactica is, and always has been, more than just a sci-fi show. It is a highly skilled drama filled with political intrigue, bits of comedy, action, adventure, romance, and more. It just all happens to take place in the science fiction genre.

    The question I would want to ask a character like Zarek, is what would you do the next time the Cylons show up, or in this case the Cavil led contingent?

    The best scene for me in this episode was Tyrol trying to keep track of the we/they/us etc. and Tigh asking him if he needed a chart to keep things straight.

    Speaking of Tyrol/Tigh, at the beginning of paragraph eight, I believe you meant Tyrol is not the father.

    Overall, I thought the episode was really good and as Tanveer said above, a “palate cleanser.” People always want the action, but need to remember that for that action to have any meaning, it needs a context and these types of episodes provide that context.

    If you go through the series with a little bit of a critical eye, you will probably see that many of the episodes that you thought were great, would not have been as great, if previous episodes that you didn’t like at the time had not taken place. I would say after having watched the whole series so far in the last month that there is very little “filler” in the entire run.

  4. Pingback: Battlestar Galactica - “A Disquiet Follows My Soul” | Hot Reviewz

  5. Tanveer, I totally love the idea of this as a palate cleanser – it’s a perfect description for this kind of halting character piece. Thanks for commenting, and know that I have every intention of heading over your way every Saturday.

    Joe, I can understand where you’re coming from, but I think Jason brought forward something very apt when he notes that often times “filler” is necessary to get to the good stuff. I do think that the show has had episodes that are filler, that didn’t work like they were supposed to or felt tangential, but this stuff is all way too integral to important characters moving towards the end of their journeys that I’d be VERY tentative to ever use the word filler about the episode.

    Jason, thanks for the typo fix, and for the depth of the comment on the whole – totally agree about the pronoun confusion, it was a scene that really reminds us how differently all the new Cylon models are taking this (which makes us that much more curious what Anders and Tory are up to, no?).

    Thanks for the comments, everyone – I’m not used to getting so many, so it’s much appreciated as we march towards the series’ conclusion!

  6. Wow, amazing review.
    I’ll definitely come back next week to read your thoughts on “The Oath”.

  7. Thanks for commenting, and know that I have every intention of heading over your way every Saturday.

    Well, I am looking forward to conversing with you both on my blog and here on yours. It’s always a pleasure to find someone who enjoys examining the impact events have on the characters that a story revolves on. By the way, I posted a reply to your follow-up comment on my blog – I blame the weekend for my tardiness in keeping up with this great conversation.

    Jason, I couldn’t agree with you more that BSG is as much a character drama series as it is a science-fiction one. Of course, the best science fiction works are not ones that obsess over the mechanics of some futuristic, imaginary device; rather, they are those that explore the human condition in an alternate reality of sorts. It’s like being some mad scientist creating these elaborate mazes or environments and dropping characters into them to see how they will interact with their environment or what they will do.

    I also enjoyed Tyrol’s identity confusion at the start as it felt rather natural after seeing that imprint of his former self on that bombed out wall. Tigh’s opposing reaction, of insisting on holding onto his identity as a human Tigh, is also noteworthy considering his revelation of seeing Ellen trapped under the rumble on Cylon Earth thousands of years prior. Of course, I still felt that the scene with Caprica Six was a bit out of place; if they had come back with a follow-up scene a third of the way before the end, perhaps with Tigh starting to see the bigotry being expressed toward Cylons, and by extension now to his unborn child, we might see that desire to hang onto his former identity start to erode.

    Joe, I know it’s easy to be disappointed by the quiet nature of this episode, but we do have to appreciate that there is a final destination already mapped out and that all of this is being done to help steer us in that direction. I think taking the time to fill in these kinds of details is going make that journey more enjoyable than if we were to simply zip past the scenery simply to get to the finish line faster.

    It’s been a wonderful discussion, everyone. Looking forward to more both here and on my blog as well. 🙂

  8. Tigh’s opposing reaction, of insisting on holding onto his identity as a human Tigh, is also noteworthy considering his revelation of seeing Ellen trapped under the rumble on Cylon Earth thousands of years prior.

    I agree with pretty well everything else you said, Tanveer, but I disagree with one part of this: I don’t think Tigh is “holding onto” his humanness, but rather embracing “Tigh.” Not as a Cylon, not as a human, but as something that is deeper than those descriptors. Tigh right now is identifying with himself: with his relationships (with Ellen, with Adama), with his emotions, and with his future. While it is true that he is not embracing his Cylonness as Tyrol is, I believe this is less about “choosing to be human” than it is “choosing to ignore the labels.”

  9. Actually, I don’t think we disagree as much as we’re describing the same picture using different adjectives. Watching this past week’s episode, it was clear that Tigh had no internal doubts about who or what he was; indeed, his actions and behaviour were pretty much in line with what we’ve seen of him over the last four years. And throughout that time, we’ve assumed that this man was a human and not one of the twelve Cylon models; hence the reason why I referred to his maintaining his identity as “human Tigh”.

    I don’t think Tigh is siding with anyone but “the old man” as his loyalty to his best friend never wavered. And yet, at the same time, he didn’t react with revulsion when Caprica Six said their child would be the salvation of the Cylon race. As such, I don’t think Tigh feels an obligation to take sides as he is what he is.

    Tyrol, on the other hand, I think is starting to feel his bonds or connections to the human race ebbing, with his son being his only real link for him to the life he knew onboard Galactica. With the revelation that he is not the biological father, that last bond has been broken and I think that identity confusion we saw at the start of this episode will start to clear with the subsequent episodes and his sense of what his identity really is solidifies.

  10. Andy

    Some of you are giving this episode a free-pass when it deserves none. I understand that politics has always been a part of the show but seriously guys we are 8 fracking episodes away from the end of the series, is this really the best use of one episode? Not to mention that this same story has been done before on this very show, I think I remember an episode where one of the ships refuses to follow orders and Adama sends in soldiers to impose an iron-fist rule. I mean at this point the show should be going all guns blazing. The Shield had its final season recently and it tremendous amount of momentum throughout and almost never slowed down. Could you imagine if LOST in its 6th season decides to have an episodes about the troubles and disagreements of the redshirts? It would be completely ridiculous and focusing on the fleet this late in the game is equally ridiculous. My big fear is that they are going carry over this “revolution” storyline over the next several episode which would be very disappointing as it would be a distraction from focusing on the mythology.

  11. But Andy, I think that you’re discounting one thing. While The Shield and Lost are both about a series of individuals, BSG has always been about humanity: about the people who lead it, the people who threaten it, the people who represent it, etc. “The Fleet” can’t be compared to the redshirts: they might not be present all the time, but they are the reason almost all of this is happening.

    To ignore them is to assert that all past actions have been isolated within this group of people, that Roslin made her decisions out of selfish egotism or that Adama cared only about his crew and not humanity when choosing his various paths. The fleet has been an omnipresent force in this series, and while there has been some backlash to episodes that focus more carefully on them I personally feel as if they are some of the show’s most eye-opening.

    That said, if you’re the kind of person who focuses more on the show’s sci-fi mythology than its broader political and sociological implications, I can see your point – but the whole point of this episode was how that very mythology, sold to the people as a way out of their dire situation, has collapsed in public perception and left them with nothing. And while that leaves us, who have faith in the mythology and know there’s a bigger story coming and whose entire families didn’t die in a nuclear holocaust a few years ago, waiting a bit longer for some answers, it nonetheless is a natural and logical reaction, something I like to see a show focusing on in its later episodes.

    Thanks for the comment, Andy – and just so we’re clear, if Lost spends an episode of Season 6 on redshirts, I’ll be totally with you.

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