Monday, March 13, 2006

Lay Down Your Burdens

How well that title applies, not only to Battlestar Galactica’s characters, but also its creators, here able to put two season's worth of festering interpersonal issues through a brief period of respite.

There were moments throughout season two where I thought that moving from 13 episodes to 20 had put a real strain on quality control. There were a couple of episodes that were not as strong as they ought to have been, and one that was utter shite.

I think the reason for the lack of focus is that the second half of the season was too heavily loaded with stories. Every single second and third tier character seemed to have their own crises demanding screentime, and the show wasn’t always very efficient at doling it out. There have been too many notes, as it were, and not enough time to play them all - hence the two part Resurrection Ship (which at least saved us from a clip show), important developments taking place off-screen, large time-spans between episodes, cut scenes playing in the previouslies, apparently dropped storylines, and extra long finale.

However, the last three weeks have been BSG at its best, and Friday's audacious final act reminded me exactly why I watch this show. Its creators are fearless. Sometimes they over-extend, but when they hit the mark, it is thrilling.

The direction taken at the end of Lay Down Your Burdens pt 2 was bold, economical, and absolutely necessary to close certain arcs, move characters out of the ruts the show had put them in (and dig them some new ones), and provide new opportunities for season three. It wasn’t an out-of-the-blue, jump the shark moment; the way was paved thoroughly and logically. In a sense it was almost inevitable. I haven’t been so thrilled by a development since Crichton got cloned. Maybe when The Wire opened its second season with a completely different cast, or Angel got the keys to Wolfram and Hart. Whatever, it’s a bravura move.

But it's pushed fans out of their safety zone, and god bless 'em, but they don't like it. Dicks. Any and all shows have a duty to keep bringing in new viewers. Battlestar Galactica has been developing a hell of a rep, and if it's going to have a chance of "breaking out," it has to be able to rest up and refresh, to offer a jumping on point for newbies. Despite all their whining, the "betrayed" fans will be tuning in come October, but hopefully so will viewers of The Sopranos, The Shield and The Wire, wanting to know what the fuss is about. And that’ll be a pretty major triumph for a remake of a tacky seventies sci-fi series.

Category: Movies and TV

7 comments:

  1. I'm not so in love with it as you are, Lee - but I do have to give them kudos for making a ballsy move. You're right - they are fearless. Time will tell if it works.

    I felt that at times - I was watching a novel - where time jumps and introspection are more common than series television. The only time I've seen something similar work was in that miniseries on SciFi - TAKEN.

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  2. In a way, it's only such a shock because it took place within the episode. If the season had ended with them landing on New Caprica, and then taken up a year later when it came back in October, there wouldn't be half so much fuss.

    Plus, the show is about a bunch of people on the run from the cylons. I don't want to watch them spending a year falling out and getting fat. It's enough to tell me that they do, and then the cylons come back...

    And of course, the show is still called Battlestar Galactica. They won't be staying on that rock for long.

    I agree with the novel vibe - lots of characters, lots of threads, a lot of internal action. When you mentioned that, I immediately thought of Stephen Donaldson's Gap series, for some reason.

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  3. Dammit, still haven't seen a single episode of this, dying to check it out. I'll have to start renting the DVDs - although I'm still working through season 2 of CSI, and about to start season 4 of Alias. Speaking of which, Alias pretty much ripped up its own rulebook halfway through season 2 - just smashed the template and turned into a totally different show. Fantastic stuff.

    I need to catch up with the 5th season of The Sopranos too, before the new one starts. Haven't seen any of Hustle. And would you believe I've not seen a single solitary episode of The West Wing? Yeah, I know, I'm a deviant.

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  4. Out, heretic, out!

    Mind you, I've heard it said that busy people don't have time to watch much television, whereas it's very nearly all I can do.

    Taking down SD-6 mid-way through the second season was the bravest thing Alias ever did. It was also the last time it was any good - they smashed the template and had nothing to replace it with. I think the show has struggled dreadfully ever since. The season four finale is probably one of most ludicrous things I've ever seen.

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  5. I'm confused Lee - how are you watching advanced eps of BSG? I presume you're not watching on Sky. Have you special broadband access to the US? Or am I just stupid? Don't answer that...

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  6. I don't have Sky, and I can't use iTunes, so I cheat.

    I am amazed I've got away with it for so long. There'll be a knock on the door one of these days.

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  7. Totally correct. I thought most of Season 2 was plot filling shite and these self contained sub plots were dire and uninvolving in everyway, so Scar and that Hostage ep can go piss right off.

    And what was up with the recurring strange flashback structure, once ok, twice enough, but three bloody times.

    Back to your post, I blame the mid-late Season 2 rubbishness due to the fact that in dealing with the larger plot at hand (trying not to spoil) - that IS the focal point and the drive of the show, and by shifting attention away nothing quite compared to the brilliant scope in story for me, and so character advancing eps seem, well, a bit tame in comparison. They just couldn't find a middle ground.

    But what a final shot. They've created a fabulous universe, I just wish they'd do more with it.

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