Review: Battlestar Galactica 4.19 – “Daybreak, Part I”

Not tonight’s episode—I feel that given the unevenness of the past few weeks’ episodes, “Daybreak, Part I” started us on a great path that is obviously leading to a final showdown. I just hate the fact that after next week, I won’t have any new “Battlestar Galactica” to obsess over.

But, more about that in next week’s review. Let’s talk about this penultimate episode that brought about a lot of healing, answered a few questions and set up our crew for a veritable suicide mission. Yup, just another day in the Colonial Fleet.

The opening flashbacks to Caprica City before the fall, painted a wonderful and heartbreaking picture of some of our favorite characters before the exodus. Who didn’t get a little teary at the sight of Roslin laughing with her two younger sisters or Kara fretting over the perfect dinner party for meeting Zak’s brother, Lee? Watching these snippets of normalcy after so many weeks of despair and darkness, reminded us that not only were they all human, not only did they all lose something profound the day the Cylons attacked, but it reminded us of how far they’ve come and how much they’ve survived in spite of it.

I’m interested to see where the information regarding Gaius and his father will lead. It seems that in “Daybreak, Part II” we might get additional information surrounding not only this relationship, but how Caprica Six’s interference may have brought her and Gaius together. These last few episodes have spent a good chunk of time focusing on Gaius and his actions; focusing on how he has only performed self-serving acts throughout the entire series. When he accuses Lee of holding him to a holier-than-thou barometer, Lee fires back, “I don’t think you’ve passed the Gaius Baltar test.” And maybe that’s the truth of it. Perhaps Gaius is surrounding himself with these religious fanatics, because they believe in something he can only aspire to—him.

Earlier in the episode, Head Six speaks more directly to Gaius’ immediate future, stating, “Humanity’s final chapter is about to be written. And you will be its author.” It would seem that just as the war began with Gaius Baltar, it will, one way or the other, end with him as well. Whether Gaius finds redemption or damnation, external or internal, remains the question.

Adama’s call for volunteers and his announcement of the rescue mission to recover Hera can’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Sure, he was pretty hard on Helo last week, ordering the distraught father to move on, but Adama is a father and a compassionate leader as we have seen throughout the series and there was no way he was going to let that little girl pay the price. Plus, I do believe it pains him in ways we can’t imagine to just abandon Galactica. Allowing the “old girl to die in peace,” as Lee suggests would almost be an insult to such a formidable ship. Adama’s desire to have her go out in a blaze of glory is much more fitting.

Of course, the location of the new Cylon colony and its proximity to a black hole makes this rescue mission more than tricky. We weren’t expecting it to be easy though, right? I have to admit that my heart skipped a little beat when we saw Starbuck, Apollo (back in uniform, finally), Tigh, Adama, Tory and Ellen all circling the wagons and coming up with a plan. While I could do without Tory and Ellen, I’m very glad that Lee decided to follow his heart and join his father and Kara, instead of doing the “responsible” thing and staying to act as president of the remaining fleet.

The showdown next week promises to be bloody, exciting and more than likely fatal for quite a few of our favorites. It is my hope that Helo and Athena are reunited with Hera, although something tells me that regardless, their marriage is through. Kudos to Grace Park and Tahmoh Penikett for conveying such pain and grief in the few scenes they are allowed. I just want to hug them both.

Also, I have to take a moment to say a word about Edward James Olmos. While at times throughout the series I have found his Adama to be overbearing and slightly clichéd, Olmos has infused these last episodes with a gravitas and purpose that the story needs. His scenes with Mary McDonnell (Roslin) have been heartbreaking, while his moment tonight with Kara, reminding her that she’s his daughter was comforting. One of the joys of Battlestar Galactica has been watching such a conflicted leader make choices and decisions that often go against his conscience. Unlike Jean-Luc Picard or Captain Kirk, Adama doesn’t live in a black and white universe. His reality is shades of gray and while he may not like, he has never backed down from acting when his fleet depended on him.

I’m glad that Ron Moore has written these last two episodes. I think that as the show bows out, there is a real need for his guiding hand in not only the story, but in the character moments as well. While Lee and Kara had very few moments on screen together tonight, the interchange between Baltar and Lee, when Gaius says, “Does everything have to come down to your feelings for Kara Thrace?” spoke volumes of Lee and Kara’s relationship. The same could be said for the moment between Helo and the Chief, two men who have fought against each other as often as they have fought with each other. And Adama’s exchange with Cottle, when the latter volunteers for the mission, made me smile; Doc Cottle, as played by Donnelly Rhodes, is probably one of the best, most consistent and most integral members of the supporting cast. His gruff presence since the miniseries has always given Galactica an anchor and watching Adama acknowledge his importance was nice to see.

A lot of things are going to be nice to see before the end. It’s uncertain if next week’s finale will be everything everyone wants. Some fans are bound to be disappointed. But I think what’s going to be most disheartening is the knowledge that once the clock strikes 11pm, we will have just seen the last of humanity’s final chapter.

And in the instance of television, it’s doubtful that what has happened before—great storytelling, courageous characters, wonderful acting and beautiful direction—will happen again.

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