To watch Open House, Andrew Paquin’s limp splatterfest, is to revisit some of the hoarier conceits marking the last half-century of the non-supernatural horror film. While the figure of the maladjusted psychosexual killer who likes to videotape his murders dates back to Michael Powell’s 1960 classic Peeping Tom, the image of a woman chained to a wall in an isolated room recalls the contemporary Saw series of gore-a-thons. Similarly, just as Paquin’s frequent recourse to the cliché of potential rescuers showing up unexpectedly at the house where the heroine is being imprisoned only to be summarily dispatched by the murderer will be overly familiar to viewers of any number of teenie-kill pictures, the film’s lingering shots of gaping wounds and brief interest in corporeal punishment are an all too common fixture in the post Eli Roth horror landscape.
Tricia Helfer (#1–10 of 19)
“Daybreak, Part 2,” the series finale of Battlestar Galactica, is about as audacious and ambitious a piece of television as I’ve ever seen. There’s basically no way the episode doesn’t end up being deeply polarizing (and, indeed, it already is), but outside of a few small moments, I found it pretty tremendous, first a fittingly epic action ending and then a sweet and enigmatic series of character endings. I suspect, as seems to often be the case with this show, that what I liked about the episode will end up driving the rage of those who hated it, but, as always, it really does come down to whether you’re more interested in watching the show for the characters or for the mythology. If you’ve been spending the last few weeks trying to figure out how discontinued Cylon model Daniel fits into things, you were probably sorely disappointed. If you’ve been spending the last few weeks, however, trying to figure out how the writers were going to close off the problematic Baltar (James Callis) character arc, then you were probably deeply satisfied. “I know about farming,” indeed.
(And I know we say it every week, but we really, really mean it this week. I’m going to spoil the hell out of this below the jump, so abandon this review unless you’ve seen the thing.)
Over my years of reviewing Battlestar Galactica for The House Next Door, I’ve found that the hardest episodes to write about with any authority are “Part 1” episodes. Generally, these are setup episodes where the payoff is uncertain. They tend to invite speculation rather than analysis, and it’s hard to see, exactly, where they’re going (or, at least, it SHOULD be hard to see that). So if “Part 1” episodes are hard to analyze already, then the first part of the EPIC, THREE-HOUR SERIES FINALE is probably going to be REALLY hard to analyze. So this might end up being a little short because, as much as I loved “Daybreak, Part 1,” written by series mastermind Ronald D. Moore and directed by series directorial head Michael Rymer, it’s still just the beginning of a story that will lead to the End of All Things Galactica, and that’s a little sad. So let’s talk about other things!
One of the smarter things I heard about the film Rachel Getting Married, my favorite of last year, is that in a lot of cases, most of the things that people who strongly disliked the film disliked about it are the sorts of things those who really liked the film liked about it. It’s the sort of thing where the exact same element can rub two people in very different ways for very different reasons. It’s not even about rejecting, say, a specific story element (as with the many who just lost it over the final third of No Country for Old Men); it’s about rejecting something that lies deep within what the film itself and the creative voices behind it were trying to do. And, in a way, that’s increasingly how I feel about the back half of the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, which had its final non-finale hour tonight in “Islanded in a Stream of Stars,” written by Michael Taylor and directed by series star Edward James Olmos. There are going to be a lot of fans of the show who rail against everything it did in this episode, which is basically a long throat clearing before the big, three-hour ending, and I’m going to be hard pressed to disagree with them. But, as with so many prior hours this half-season, I liked a lot of what it was doing, even if it wasn’t an all-time classic episode of the series. So when you say, “But it was slow-moving and there were no ANSWERS and where is this all GOING?!” I guess I’ll just have to agree and say that those were some of the things I LIKED about it. And a lot of this gets to some fundamental issues with how we watch and criticize television.
“Deadlock,” written by Jane Espenson and directed by Robert Young, offered up the best and worst of Battlestar Galactica. Characters changed their minds on a dime in seemingly unrealistic ways (seriously, WHAT IS UP WITH TYROL (Aaron Douglas) this half-season?). The writers pulled Baltar’s (James Callis) strings a little too obliquely to force him into YET ANOTHER crazy new persona (with only a handful of episodes? Really?). And there was a long, probably too soapy plotline that was still pretty terrific just because of the layers and layers and layers of backstory that were laid onto it. I see the fandom is largely unkind to “Deadlock,” if not outright hostile, and, yeah, this episode both feels like a waste of time with only four episodes left AND strangely rushed, as though a lot of plot had to be telescoped, since there are only four episodes left and the show has bigger questions to answer than whether Tigh (Michael Hogan) ends up with Ellen (Kate Vernon) or Caprica Six (Tricia Helfer). But, Hell’s bells, sometimes you watch a show like Battlestar for the simple pleasures, and seeing Hogan act the piss out of that monologue about the love he feels for women and then collapse weeping in Adama’s (Edward James Olmos) arms was pretty damn pleasurable, even if the episode, overall, prompted a long, long period of head-scratching.
“Blood on the Scales,” written by Michael Angeli and directed by Wayne Rose, wasn’t quite as good as last week’s “The Oath,” but it was still an excellent episode of Battlestar Galactica, taking the action-packed pacing of last week’s episode and layering on a few genuinely emotional moments amidst the panic. Battlestar is a show moving with confidence into its final hours (much like The Shield last fall), and that’s allowing it to carry out story turns with a sort of dread efficiency. Yeah, they didn’t kill Adama (Edward James Olmos), but there were other big moments aplenty. Also, Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) spent much of the episode crawling around in a pipe. So there you go.
The first five minutes or so of “The Oath” were pretty good Battlestar Galactica, if a little on the on-the-nose side of things (as the show can be every so often). But then, oh, then, “The Oath” turned into the awesomest thing that ever walked the face of this Earth. It had its flaws, and I want to pick on them, but, man, oh man, Starbuck shot a guy in the head, and Baltar and Roslin had to work together to help quell a growing mutiny in the fleet, and Adama and Tigh had their very own version of the impossible last stand of so many siege movies, and the whole thing just rocketed along like a leftover script from season one (when the series was most overtly an “action” show). I’d like to criticize the whole thing, but did you hear me? It was AWESOME!
“A Disquiet Follows My Soul” is probably going to piss off a lot of Battlestar Galactica fans, especially coming this late in the show’s run. Many of the big plot developments occur offscreen and are only alluded to, the episode tries to shove us into the point-of-view of the members of the fleet instead of our heroes, and the whole thing is more of a grim mood piece about a species giving up without its leaders instead of the razzle-dazzle space opera we’re used to.
The two times I watched “Revelations,” Battlestar Galactica’s mid-season finale for its fourth season (so-named only because all of the episodes were shot together, but the Sci-Fi Channel has decided to split it into two parts and air them almost a year apart), I did so under less than ideal situations. One time, I watched in a tiny box on my laptop monitor. The other time, I watched on a herky-jerky video tape recorded on an honest-to-God VCR (DVR, why hast thou forsaken me?). The tape, left over from the FIRST Bush administration (it formerly held a taped-from-TV copy of Rain Man), reduced much of the episode to indecipherable gibberish, jolting backwards and forwards, as though the whole thing were recorded on the deck of a clipper ship in the middle of a hurricane.
And, yet, both times “Revelations” kept my attention riveted. It’s a bold, gutsy piece of television that perhaps cuts a few too many corners but more than makes up for it with its raw ambition, its terrific script (by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle), its stellar acting (by pretty much the entire cast) and its wonderful direction (by oft-unheralded series mastermind Michael Rymer).
After two episodes full of deliberate but pulse-quickening pacing, Battlestar Galactica’s latest episode, “Sine Qua Non,” written by Michael Taylor and directed by Rod Hardy, feels a little scattered. Part of that’s by design (the fleet is thrown into chaos after the sudden disappearance of Roslin, Baltar and a whole Basestar), but some of it just feels like the show trying to cram a bunch of plot points in so it can get back to the basestar and answer the questions everyone has. Battlestar almost never exposes the hands moving its various chess pieces around, but tonight, those hands were too obvious in a few scenes. Still, the last act gave the episode a grandly epic feeling, even pulling back for a rare long shot (albeit, a CGI-enhanced one, but still). In its final season, Battlestar is almost taking on the feel of something romantic and sweeping, even as it remains committed to its vision of following a fleet full of people who are very, very frakked up.