HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: SLITHER

CAST

Nathan Fillion (Firefly)
Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games)
Michael Rooker(Guardians of The Galaxy)
Don Thompson (Red Riding Hood)
Gregg Henry (Super)
Tania Saulnier (The Wicker Man)
Haig Sutherland (Valentine)
Brenda James (Stargate: Atlantis)
Lorena Gale (The Fly II)
Rob Zombie (The Devils Rejects)
Jenna Fischer (Blades of Glory)
Magda Apanowicz (Caprica
Lloyd Kaufman (Dead Love)
Ben Cotton (Staragte: Atlantis)

A meteorite housing a malevolent, sentient extraterrestrial parasite crashes into the town of Wheelsy, South Carolina. While frolicking in the woods with Brenda, local car dealer Grant Grant finds the parasite and is infected by it. The parasite takes over his body and absorbs his consciousness and memories. With the alien now in control of his body, ‘Grant’ begins to slowly change into a tentacled slug-like monster.

Many pets soon disappear, but Grant is not suspected. However, his wife Starla begins to question his health; he explains the initial changes in his appearance as an allergic reaction to a bee sting, saying that a doctor has already given him something for it, but Starla soon learns this is a lie. Starla contacts the police chief Bill Pardy – her childhood crush – who attempts to reassure and comfort her while not acting on his feelings.

Grant infects the lonely and neglected Brenda with hundreds of his offspring. He hides her in an isolated barn where she becomes massively obese to the point of inflating to the size of a wrecking ball as baby alien slugs grow inside her. Bill leads a small group of officers on a hunt for Grant; they find Brenda in time to see her explode, releasing hundreds of the alien slugs. Most of Bill’s group are infected by the slugs and become Grant’s puppets, speaking as if they were Grant and obsessed with bringing Starla home and holding her to her wedding vows.

Everyone in town is quickly eaten by others infected with Grant’s offspring, or absorbed into Grant’s hive mind except Starla, Bill, mayor Jack MacReady, and a teenage girl, Kylie, who had escaped from her family that were also infected by the parasites. She tells them of how she saw the slug’s memories; it moves from planet to planet, eating or absorbing all life it finds there. The parasite’s consciousness, however, is influenced by the real Grant’s memories and his love for his wife, Starla. The survivors try to escape detection and kill Grant. The townspeople attack their vehicle, capturing Starla and Jack. Bill and Kylie track Starla to her home, and find that the infected are melding into one giant creature. They must risk their lives to stop the infestation from spreading any further. Jack awakens in the house’s basement, where several of the infected are eating; he tries to escape but becomes infected by Grant as he reaches the top of the stairs and opens the door. Starla charms the monster by calling him “Grant” and telling him they can be together, but as they get close to each other, she pulls a mirror from her underwear and stabs him in the chest with the pointed handle. He slaps her with a tentacle and knocks her across the room.

Bill arrives; Jack begs to be killed, and Bill shoots him in the head. He tries to kill the monster with a grenade, but another tentacle knocks the grenade into the pool, where it detonates. The monster sends two tentacles to stab Bill and infect him; one is lodged in his abdomen, but Bill attaches the other to a small propane tank, filling Grant with gas, and Starla shoots the monster, causing it to explode, whereupon all the infected die. The three survivors walk away to find a hospital for Bill.

In a post-credits scene, a cat approaches to feed off Grant’s remains and is infected.

‘Slither’ is made unabashedly as homage to the ‘body horror’ films of the late seventies/early eighties. Think Cronenberg’s ‘Shivers’ and ‘Rabid’, John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, the eighties remake of ‘The Blob’, ‘Society’ etc. It reminds us of the joys of physical special effects rather than CGI stuff. Slither has no unreasonable aspirations to greatness; but on its own modest terms it is a small masterpiece of B-movie fun

REVIEW: WATCHMEN – THE DIRECTORS CUT

CAST

Malin Ackerman (The Heartbreak Kid)
Billy Crudup (Almost Famous)
Matthew Goode (Match Point)
Jackie Earle Haley (Human Target)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring)
Carla Gugino (Sin City)
Matt Frewer (Jailbait)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Rob Labelle (Jack Frost)
Garry Chalk (Dark angel)
Chris Gauthier (Smallville)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror)
Laura Mennell (Van Helsing)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
Jerry Wasserman (I, Robot)
Don Thompson (Slither)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Niall Matter (The Predator)
Apollonia Vanova (Man of Steel)
Carrie Genzel (Jennifer’s Body)
Frank Cassini (Timecop)
Sonya Salomaa (The Collector)
Michael Eklund (Arrow)
John Tench (Andromeda)
Jason Schombing (Sanctuary)
Colin Lawrence (Virgin River)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Sahar Biniaz (Blade: The Series)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on a Plane)
Michael Adamthwaite (Supergirl)

Malin Akerman and Patrick Wilson in Watchmen (2009)In the latter half of the 1980s, three illustrated novels challenged the mainstream perception of comic books. While the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Maus’ by Art Spiegelman introduced emotionally complex subject matter and established the genre as a viable literary format, Frank Miller’s ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns’ scaled national bestseller lists and demonstrated that superheroes struggle with the conditions of the world they feel destined to protect. When the 12-issue limited series of ‘Watchmen’ by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons was published as a novel-length comic, it stunned audiences with its commercial success and its innovative structure layout. The book’s narrative also took a radical approach, scrutinizing the concept of superheros and offering a sort of “deconstruction” of their being, one which has pervaded the comic book world, including film adaptations, ever since. Over twenty years later, director Zack Snyder finally brings to the screen what so many once thought could never be filmed.Matthew Goode in Watchmen (2009)Taking place in an alternate reality of America, where Richard Nixon is serving his fourth term as president after winning the Vietnam War. The Keene Act of 1977 has outlawed all acts of masked vigilantism, forcing many into retirement. One October night, the murder of Edward Blake interests Rorschach, a masked avenger seen by the public as more a psychotic criminal than a hero. His investigation leads him to discover that Blake was the man behind The Comedian, a fellow crime fighter turned government operative. Fearing a conspiracy against costumed adventurers, he sets out to warn his former comrades: the Batman-esque Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl, the successful businessman Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, an angst-ridden Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre, and the only true superhero of the bunch Dr. Jon Osterman/Doctor Manhattan. As the investigation progresses, the band of superhero outcasts uncovers a plot more sinister and gruesome than they initially expected, revealing an enemy no one would’ve anticipated.Matthew Goode and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Watchmen (2009)At the time of its theatrical release, the film version of the popular graphic novel was seen as a mild success, never coming close to expected box office figures. It was also heavily criticized by fans on internet boards around the globe for failing to truly capture the spirit of the series. Being one of those critics (yes, I am that kind of a nerd), the 162-minute adaptation felt rushed and heavily cluttered, as a wealth of information was quickly thrown at the audience with little time to digest it all. Those unfamiliar with the novel were alienated by the onscreen events, while the core fans saw a large amount of exposition skimmed over for the sake of time. Ultimately, what is now considered the theatrical cut seemed more concerned with reverence for its source, rather than a commitment to acting as a legitimate film that stood on its own. Much of the novel’s power and depth was lost in the translation.Jackie Earle Haley in Watchmen (2009)Now, in this Director’s Cut, Snyder is allowed to thicken the plot and create a better flow within the already-trimmed narrative. Arguably, Snyder shows more style over substance, seemingly imitating the original look of the comic rather than offering his own interpretation. But with 24 minutes of footage now added to the story, the film captures the comic’s dark, gritty appeal nicely, giving it more of a realistic feel and creating more human fascination. These masked vigilantes are confronted with contemporary real-world events, where they are frequently made aware of the Cold War reaching the breaking point and the fact that nuclear holocaust is imminent. As gloomy and pessimistic as that may sound, the idea posits these would-be superheroes against issues of power and the failure of salvation. They must cope with the world as it truly is: a dark and unpredictable existence, driven by fear and uncertainty of the future.This band of costumed avengers challenges what normally typifies the superheroics of their peers. They are flawed humans and deeply haunted by their pasts, primarily a shared experience of feeling unwanted from The Keene Act. Their interactions with one another and society at large expose questions about the limitations inherent to the superhero archetype trying to save humanity from itself. It’s the reason why fans are attracted to the two most complex characters in the series: Rorschach and The Comedian. While one idealizes his fight against injustice as a battle that must be won, the other possesses a harshly cynical worldview of civilization doomed beyond repair. The narrative also opens doors to discussions on power relations and politics, issues of certainty and doubt, metaphysics and existential nihilism, moral ambiguity, and Ozymandias’s actions bring to mind Nietzsche’s central theme of the “Master-slave morality”.Coming in at 186 minutes, ‘Watchmen: Director’s Cut’ may be daunting to some viewers, but for fans, this will be the closest we’ll ever come to seeing a faithful adaptation of the ragtag group of outcasts. Some of its drawbacks, I feel, are quickly outweighed by the overall sense that the comic book’s central conceit is maintained and clearly expressed with a genuine approach. Granted, certain aspects are still missing, but I admit they are necessary alterations to make the transition into film a success. As a long time fan of the illustrated novel, this director’s cut of ‘Watchmen’ easily bests the theatrical version, making it worthy of multiple viewings to take in its dense and complex implications.
After twenty years of hardcore fans hearing that the ‘Watchmen’ comics are “unfilmable”, Zack Snyder defies logic and gives audiences the closest we’ll ever come to experiencing the novel on film. In the ‘Watchmen: Director’s Cut’, Snyder is allowed to flesh out the details better and create a smoother narrative flow, offering an improved vision of this alternate reality.

REVIEW: WATCHMEN

 

CAST

Malin Ackerman (The Heartbreak Kid)
Billy Crudup (Almost Famous)
Matthew Goode (Match Point)
Jackie Earle Haley (Human Target)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring)
Carla Gugino (Sin City)
Matt Frewer (Jailbait)
Stephen McHattie (300)
Rob Labelle (Jack Frost)
Garry Chalk (Dark angel)
Chris Gauthier (Smallville)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror)
Laura Mennell (Van Helsing)
Robert Wisden (Highlander: The Series)
Jerry Wasserman (I, Robot)
Don Thompson (Slither)
Michael Kopsa (Fantastic Four)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Jay Brazeau (Bates Motel)
Niall Matter (The Predator)
Apollonia Vanova (Man of Steel)
Carrie Genzel (Jennifer’s Body)
Frank Cassini (Timecop)
Sonya Salomaa (The Collector)
Michael Eklund (Arrow)
John Tench (Andromeda)
Jason Schombing (Sanctuary)
Colin Lawrence (Virgin River)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Sahar Biniaz (Blade: The Series)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)
Kevin McNulty (Snakes on a Plane)
Michael Adamthwaite (Supergirl)

66262-ycoiuhbnkq-1503295178Watchmen was easily the most hotly awaited picture of the first half of 2009, and I’ll readily admit that the dynamic yellow-and-red poster billboards around town generated a charge of anticipation that Savant hasn’t felt in years. That the film was not considered a runaway success doesn’t surprise me. A movie about superheroes that is neither consistently feel-good nor entertainingly funny is a hard sell. Other writers have noted that the Watchmen are relative unknowns in comparison to icons like Spiderman and Superman; there’s less of a built-in audience for them. Describing the Watchmen movie also suggests expressions like “intellectual puzzle” and “non-linear”. Large segments of the audience have little use for narrative complexities and historical irony.

What movie audiences do care about is action, and to compensate Watchmen ratchets up the graphic novel’s considerable violence. Bloody content limited to a single comic panel or two, looks like gore porn when turned into a film sequence.  Even with a few subplots deleted, Watchmen is so complicated that it bears comparison with David Lynch’s noble 1984 attempt to film Dune. Lynch got lost in wall-to-wall exposition and characters reduced to walk-ons. Watchmen avoids the same fate by closely following the original’s highly cinematic structure. Moore and Gibbons’ comic book panels made heavy use of devices familiar to moviegoers — parallel cutting, associative transitions.Watchmen is a multi-generational story of costumed superhero crime fighters. They got their start in the 1940s as “The Minutemen”, later formed another association called “The Watchmen” and then were outlawed in the early 1980s. Most have kept their anonymity in retirement. Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman), Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) and The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) have no super-powers. The one Watchman who does is Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), an “atomic man” who glows a soft blue color. A research scientist transformed into a near demigod by an experiment gone wrong, Dr. Manhattan wins the Vietnam War for Richard Nixon, allowing the President to run for a third term by popular demand. Most of Watchmen plays out as a science fiction alternate history tale, although the film drops a major Sci-Fi element from the final act.In 1985 an unknown assailant murders The Comedian. Defying the ban on costumed vigilantes, Rorschach warns the other Watchmen and puts pressure on the underworld to find out who is responsible. Dr. Manhattan breaks up with Laurie Jupiter (secretly the Silk Spectre) and abandons humanity to meditate on Mars. The Cold War goes into panic mode, as the U.S. and the Soviets are already at the brink of nuclear war, and Dr. Manhattan was America’s defense insurance policy. Laurie and Dan Dreiburg (secretly the Nite Owl) become an item. Frustrated by all the bad news, they ignore the ban and reassume their roles as crime fighters. Laurie and Dan spring Rorschach from prison and begin an investigation that leads to the activities of the millionaire technocrat Adrian Veidt, formerly Ozymandias.That synopsis doesn’t begin to touch the intricacies of Watchmen or its pleasing assortment of superheroes, that collectively flesh out a pantheon of comic book traditions. The Nite Owl is a kinder Batman type, a quiet millionaire who has engineered a flying vehicle and other crime-fighting gadgets. He’s actually following in the footsteps of the original Nite Owl, a two-fisted hero from the 1940s. The Silk Spectre is a Wonder Woman- like beauty with identity issues. She was pushed into her role by her flamboyant mother, the Silk Spectre of the Minuteman years. The corrupt Comedian lost sight of his crimefighting ethics and became a murderer, war criminal, rapist and dirty ops agent for Dick Nixon. The highly intelligent Ozymandias is also a fabulously wealthy international businessman under the name Adrian Veidt; he’s put his crime-fighting past on the public record and even sells Ozymandias toy action figures. Veidt considers himself a modern Alexander the Great.The most interesting Watchman is Rorschach, a seedy misanthrope who wears a strange mask that forms mysterious symmetrical patterns identical to a psychologist’s inkblot test. Now considered an outlaw vigilante, Rorschach keeps a bitter Travis Bickle-like diary and refuses to compromise on his mission to slay criminals. Between them the Watchmen cover numerous approaches to the concept of “masked crusaders” trying to function in a complex world. Director Zack Snyder  epitomizes the modern director who prepares computerized pre-visualization sequences, directs the live action, and waits for his technician-artisans to deliver test composites to critique. Elements that the director once had to make “come together” before a real camera on a real set can now be added, subtracted or altered almost indefinitely; the director of an effects-heavy film now functions as a creative manager. Snyder openly admits that his goal is to faithfully replicate the visions of other artists, which has prompted some to question exactly what he contributes artistically to the show. To the extent that Snyder still casts and directs the actors and decides when and when not to follow the graphic novel, he is actually much more “involved” than were many old-school studio directors. Even the biggest Hollywood names sometimes worked from locked scripts and often had little contact with projects before or after the actual filming. Considering how little opportunity for personal expression the Watchmen assignment afford, Snyder’s done a fine job.In this case, closely following the original was Snyder’s only choice. CGI allows the presentation of almost any visual, and the leagues of Watchmen fans wouldn’t have tolerated detours from their story. Most of Snyder’s adjustments are good ones. The strange sidebar tangent involving a “Black Freighter” horror comic has wisely been spun off into a separate direct-to-video production. To get out from under a mountain of plot complications, Snyder drops Adrian Veidt’s elaborate hoax on humanity that involves murdering an army of technicians that mock up the corpse of a gigantic space alien.Watchmen was somewhat overpowering in the movie theater, precisely because it is so close to the original. Instead of being taken in a new direction, I felt like Snyder was holding the book in front of my eyes and turning the pages for me. But movies of this kind are no longer made to be seen only once, and on a second viewing it was easier to simply watch what was happening, admire the classy designs and marvel at the excellent casting.

REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004) – SEASON 4 (PART 2)

Starring

Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner)
Mary McDonnell (Donnie Darko)
Katee Sackhoff (Riddick)
Jamie Bamber (Marcella)
James Callis (Flashforward)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Aaron Douglas (Chaos)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Kandyse McClure (Mother’s Day)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)

Michael Hogan and Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica (2004)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Callum Keith Rennie (Impulse)
Rekha Sharma (V)
Kate Vernon (Heores)
Jen Halley (Red Riding Hood)
Don Thompson (Slither)
Sonja Bennett (The Fog)
Richard Hatch (InAlienable)
Donnelly Rhodes (Legends of Tomorrow)
Keegan Connor Tracy (Bates Motel)
Bodie Olmos (Walkout)
Sebastian Spence (First Wave)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Ty Olsson (War For The POTA)
Leah Cairns (Interstellar)
Colin Lawrence (Watchmen)
Vincent Gale (Bates Motel)
Craig Veroni (Dark Angel)
Mark Sheppard (Doom Patrol)
Michael Trucco (Sabrina: TTW)
Adrian Holmes (Skyscraper)
Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap)
Roark Critchlow (V)
G. Patrick Currie (Stargate SG.1)
Torrance Coombs (Reign)
Leela Savasta (Stargate Atlantis)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Tobias Mehler (Young BLades)
Kevin McNulty (Elektra)
Sarah Deakins (Andromeda)
Tiffany Lyndall-Knight (I, Robot)

 

Wrapping up a beloved TV series with an enormous cult following is no easy task. Sci-Fi devotees like me can be tough to please since we’re deeply invested in the characters and the final trajectories their lives take. Fortunately, thanks to the Gods (plus executive producers David Eick, Ronald D. Moore, and a top-notch cadre of actors, writers, directors, and production staff), ardent followers of the outstanding series, Battlestar Galactica, are provided satisfying closure with the must-see release of Season 4.5.
Based on the original series, created by Glen Larson and first aired in 1978, the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica (abbreviated as BSG or Galactica) began as a three-hour miniseries in 2003 and ran for four seasons ending in 2009. Its premise: a civilization of humans, who inhabit the Twelve Colonies, develop a cybernetic race (Cylons) to serve as workers and soldiers. The Cylons, who become sentient and monotheistic, eventually rebel, opening a can of nuclear-style whoop-ass on their sinful creators. With billions of people annihilated, the remaining 50,000 or so survivors are on the run, led by the last remaining warship, the battlestar Galactica. Humanity’s hope is to reach the fabled Thirteenth Colony (Earth) before the Cylons wipe them out.Jamie Bamber and Aaron Douglas in Battlestar Galactica (2004)In Season 4.5, the wounds of New Caprica (a would-be refuge overrun by the Cylons at the end of Season 2) fester among humans and Cylons alike. Trust and betrayal take center stage for both sides as new, tenuous alliances are formed and mutinous elements take hold. As with previous seasons, it’s evident that Larson’s Mormon beliefs, the post-9/11 War on Terror, and Moore’s agnostic, humanist views influence Season 4.5’s, context, characters, and events. The result is thought-provoking stories that make this sometimes passive viewer sit up, take notice, and consider how the show’s religious, political, and ethical issues are critically relevant today. For folks who prefer not to delve too deeply into the storytelling – no worries. The visuals (both actual and CGI) are frakkin’ amazing. The menacing, mechanical, chrome Cylons send shivers up my spine and several of the human-looking, “skin-jobs” are, well… really HOT! Throw in some heart-stopping CGI space battles and its hands down the best looking show I’ve ever seen.Not to be outdone by the special effects are the stellar performances. Edward James Olmos (Galactica’s Commander William Adama) and Mary McDonnell (President Laura Roslin), both 2009 Saturn Award winners, are outstanding in their respective roles as strong but flawed leaders who support and deeply love one another. With all the May – December romances depicted in film and television, it’s refreshing to see a strong, yet tender relationship between age/power-equivalent adults over 50. Katee Sackhoff (Captain Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace) is terrific as the hot-headed, ace viper-pilot who’s grappling with her past familial dysfunction and current romantic and identity crises. Sackhoff effectively and realistically balances the opposing sides to her character: the confident feminist action heroine and the abandoned, damaged woman. Jamie Bamber (Lee Adama), James Callis (Dr. Gaius Baltar), and Tricia Helfer (Number Six) all give remarkable performances as well. Also, since the series was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, I was pleasantly surprised to see other standout Canadian actors added to the Season 4.5 cast; especially Darcie Laurie (who played the chief lieutenant and down-to-earth henchman Bob in the series Intelligence).Battlestar Galactica expertly tells the tales of complex, flawed characters; however, Season 4.5 is not without its own faults. For example, I found the flashbacks in the two-part series finale, “Daybreak” to be needlessly slow and irrelevant in advancing the plot. The purpose might have been to further round-out the characters, but the few added details given are misplaced at a time when viewers are seeking answers to larger questions. In addition, some may be frustrated that Season 4.5 doesn’t solve all of BSG’s mysteries. But life rarely reveals all its secrets, and the closure that’s provided will likely be sufficiently satisfying to most.

 

REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004) – SEASON 4 (PART 1)

Starring

Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner)
Mary McDonnell (Donnie Darko)
Katee Sackhoff (Riddick)
Jamie Bamber (Marcella)
James Callis (Flashforward)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Aaron Douglas (Chaos)
Nicki Clyne (Saved!)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Kandyse McClure (Mother’s Day)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)

Aaron Douglas, Grace Park, and Michael Trucco in Battlestar Galactica (2004)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Rekha Sharma (V)
Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary)
Keegan Connor Tracy (Bates Motel)
Leah Cairns (Interstellar)
Jen Halley (Red Riding Hood)
Leela Savasta (Stargate Atlantis)
Callum Keith Rennie (Impulse)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Matthew Bennett (Stargate SG.1)
Sebastian Spence (First Wave)
Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap)
Bodie Olmos (Walkout)
Tiffany Lyndall-Knight (I, Robot)
Eileen Pedde (Juno)
Donnelly Rhodes (Legends of Tomorrow)
Richard Hatch (InAlienable)
Colin Lawrence (Watchmen)
Don Thompson (Slither)
Michael Trucco (Sabrina: TTW)
Laara Sadiq (Arrow)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
Lori Triolo (Smallville)
Nana Visitor (Star Trek: DS9)
Craig Veroni (Dark Angel)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Vincent Gale (Bates Motel)
Sonja Bennett (The Fog)
Kate Vernon (Heores)

Jamie Bamber and Grace Park in Battlestar Galactica (2004)For the Season 4.0, Universal has included the ten episodes that made up the first half of the final season: “He That Believeth in Me”, “Six of One”, “The Ties That Bind”, “Escape Velocity”, “The Road Less Traveled”, “Faith”, “Guess What’s coming to Dinner”, “Sine Qua Non”, “The Hub”, and “Revelations”. Those episodes are presented across three discs, but for some reason they have also included the unrated extended edition of Razor in this set as well. Its position in the boxed set promotes itself as the first disc, though in all frankness Razor doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot to do with these episodes. It feels out of place with regards to the continuity of the series and in all honesty, Battlestar fans probably already have it in their collections. I get that the episode was released in between seasons three and four, but even so it’s already on the market. Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber, and Rekha Sharma in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Regardless of Razor’s inclusion, it’s worth noting that it’s a damn fine episode. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Razor takes place during season two with a story revolving around the Battlestar Pegasus and Admiral Cain. It’s a compelling episode that brings about the Cylon hybrid in a way the series hasn’t quite presented it yet. It also brings us some nice flashbacks with a younger Adama on a recon mission during the first Cylon War. Michael Hogan and Tahmoh Penikett in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Battlestar’s fourth year has several themes that run through its ten episodes, but four big ones emerge during the course of the season. Of course there is still the quest for Earth, the hatred between Cylons and humans continues, Roslin is still dying of cancer, and all around there is talk of prophecy and religious visions. There are many familiar elements in this season, but there are some unfamiliar ones as well. Some startling revelations come about in these ten episodes as humanity and the Cylons march towards annihilation on the way to Earth.Aaron Douglas and Rekha Sharma in Battlestar Galactica (2004)One of the first things introduced in the opening episode “He That Believeth in Me” actually comes from the final moments of “Crossroads Part II” from the third season. Starbuck has returned from the dead and Lee soon realizes that it’s not just a hallucination. It seems to actually be her, but naturally since she’s been presumed deceased for months everyone thinks it’s a Cylon trick. She arrives on the Galactica spouting about how she found Earth and she knows the way, however, everyone on board thinks she’s not who she says she is and the fact that her ship seems brand new doesn’t help matters. This is compounded by her behavior because with every jump away from their previous location she screams and whimpers that they’re going the wrong way. She’s eventually given a ship with her own dysfunctional command and ordered to go find Earth. They don’t find exactly what they were looking for, but let’s just say it’s almost as interesting as their objective.Probably the biggest event to come about in the fourth season is the Cylon Civil War. The skin-job models are split right down the center, with the Ones, Fours, and Fives wanting to lobotomize the Raiders and the Sixes, Sevens, and Eights wanting to keep them the way they are. There are also some debates between them regarding the Final Five and what they should do with the D’Anna model. The shots fired are the sparks that ignites all-out war and it brings the power of the Cylons down a peg.Tahmoh Penikett and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)The splintered Cylon faction winds up coming into contact with humanity’s fleet and naturally there is a lot of distrust between them. Toss in the reactivation of the D’Anna models, a mission to destroy their resurrection hub, and Starbuck hanging out with Leoben again and you have one heck of a situation. Things only get worse with Tigh, Tyrol, Tory, and Sanders exploring what it means for them to be Cylons. Their relationships suffer, they are having a crisis of identity, and they also fear what they will become. Tory gets power hungry, Tyrol deals with a tragic loss, Sanders is confused, and Tigh struggles with his sense of duty, friendship, and who he is. These four are starkly different from the known Cylon models and it’s fascinating how the show portrays their emergence.Edward James Olmos and Michael Hogan in Battlestar Galactica (2004)And of course let us not forget about Gaius Baltar. In this season he finds himself a new little home with a cult of mostly women who want to follow his teachings about the one god. His visions allow for some near prophetic moments and he becomes an emissary of sorts to the cult which grows over the course of the season. Gaius still has some interesting roles to play in the show and I’m definitely interested in the path they are bringing his character down. Those are the major events that shape things to come, but even so there are plenty of little snippets of life among the Colonial Fleet. Each episode is packed with plot exposition yet the writers still found time to add in some solid character development as well. I won’t divulge the nitty-gritty details of what transpires here, but let’s just say that the writing and acting is every bit as solid as you’d expect it would be. Battlestar’s cast is one of the best on television and whether you’re a lover of drama or science fiction you’re going to be on the edge of your seat.Edward James Olmos in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Each episode of this season is seamlessly weaved together as the show begins a breakneck sprint towards the finale. All roads lead to Earth and each episode in the fourth season is full of climaxes and building pressure. Sitting through all ten episodes is an exhausting, yet rewarding, experience that will leave you salivating for January 16th and the beginning of the final episodes. Hopefully all of our unanswered questions will be resolved, but that seems like kind of a tall order to fill. Battlestar Galactica is a show that constantly raises the bar for itself and let’s just say that by the end of this boxed set that bar is pretty damn high. Consider this set highly recommended.

 

REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004) – SEASON 3

Starring

Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner)
Mary McDonnell (Donnie Darko)
Katee Sackhoff (Riddick)
Jamie Bamber (Marcella)
James Callis (Flashforward)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Aaron Douglas (Chaos)
Nicki Clyne (Saved!)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Kandyse McClure (Mother’s Day)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)

Callum Keith Rennie and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Donnelly Rhodes (Legends of Tomorrow)
Rekha Sharma (V)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Michael Trucco (Sabrina: TTW)
Callum Keith Rennie (Impulse)
Kate Vernon (Heores)
Matthew Bennett (Stargate SG.1)
Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap)
Luciana Carro (Helix)
Leah Cairns (Interstellar)
Dominic Zamprogna (Stargate Universe)
Colin Lawrence (Watchmen)
Richard Hatch (InAlienable)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Amanda Plummer (The Hunger Games)
Eileen Pedde (Juno)
Ty Olsson (War of TPOTA)
Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary)
Jen Halley (Red Riding Hood)
Erica Cerra (Power Rangers)
Emilie Ullerup (Sanctuary)
Bodie Olmos (Walkout)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
Sebastian Spence (First Wave)
Tiffany Lyndall-Knight (I, Robot)
Rachel Hayward (12 Rounds 2)
Carl Lumbly (Supergirl)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Don Thompson (Slither)
G. Patrick Currie (Stargate SG.1)
Bruce Davison (X-Men)
Gabrielle Rose (Dark Angel)
Lucinda Jenney (Rain Man)
Samantha Ferris (Shattered)
Jerry Wasserman (Watchmen)
Bryce Hodgson (X-Men)
Georgia Craig (Catch and Release)
Mark Sheppard (Doom Patrol)
Chelah Horsdal (You Me Her)
Keegan Connor Tracy (Bates Motel)

 

Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos, Jamie Bamber, James Callis, Michael Hogan, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett, and Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica (2004)When we left Adama and crew in the second season things had turned upside down to say the least. “One Year Later” took on a whole new meaning as the survivors of the Cylon attack settled down on a humble world that came to be known as New Caprica. The election of Baltar as President of the Colonies proved to be a rather large mistake as it was his own ineptitude that brought about the appearance of the Cylon fleet. The second season ended with the Cylons imprisoning mankind and the Adamas jumping away with both Battlestars. To say that the outlook was bleak would be an understatement and through much of the third season the show explores what life was like under Cylon rule.Jamie Bamber in Battlestar Galactica (2004)When season three begins it’s quite evident that this was a very different Battlestar Galactica. For one thing Admiral Adama had a killer moustache, Apollo got chunky presumably from eating too many Twinkies, and just about everyone else we cared about was stuck on the planet (aside from Helo and Dee, though we really don’t care about Dee). I didn’t think it was really possible considering the human race has been on the run from extinction but if the tone of Galactica could have gotten any more somber; New Caprica did the trick.Edward James Olmos, Grace Park, and Tahmoh Penikett in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Starbuck, Tigh, Anders, Tyrol, Cally, Roslin, Gaeta, and yes, even Baltar were all stuck on the surface with the rest of the colonies. They became an encampment under Cylon supervision though they were still allowed to congregate and kind of, sort of live out a normal life. At least as normal as possible with an artificially intelligent gun pointed at your head. For some strange reason the Cylons chose to use their resources to keep humanity alive. Their goal was never truly made clear but it certainly seemed that they’d rather have humanity under their metallic boots than erased out of the food chain.Mary McDonnell and Richard Hatch in Battlestar Galactica (2004)As the New Caprica storyline progresses there are some revelations that have resounding effects throughout the rest of the season. One of the biggest things to come about from all of this involves Gaius Baltar. As president of the colonies he has been forced into servitude by the Cylons and does all manner of unscrupulous things during his administration. The people loath him and they want him dead but little do they know that he did most of his devious acts at the wrong end of a pistol. He becomes a pariah before long and has found himself reluctantly siding with the Cylons.Grace Park and Eileen Pedde in Battlestar Galactica (2004)To be quite honest, so much happens on New Caprica that it would be difficult to discuss everything here. I will say that as interesting, and I suppose necessary, as this aspect was it did change the dynamic of the show. It was no longer the show that people had come to expect thanks to it being landlocked. Sure the characters were still the same and it allowed a lot of room for development but there’s no getting around the fact that it felt different, even if it only lasted for a couple of episodes. I guess it was designed that way so that the inevitable rescue of the colonies in “Exodus” was as climactic as it was. Trust me on this one, if you haven’t seen it this was one of the best moments EVER in Galactica.Edward James Olmos, Michael Hogan, and Grace Park in Battlestar Galactica (2004)From there the show returns to some form of normalcy. The people are trying to fit into their old roles from over a year ago and they struggle on many personal levels to accept what happened. The characters are scarred from the past and it’s enjoyable to watch as Galactica delves into that pain as the show moves forward. One episode that explores that is “Unfinished Business” which pits the crew of Galactica against each other in a boxing ring. This is essentially Battlestar’s version of Fight Club but it works on so many levels. Likewise towards the end of the season the two-part “Crossroads” takes a look at Baltar and the crimes he orchestrated against humanity. Without giving away details I will say that this episode features one of the greatest monologues ever delivered in a science fiction series. I got goosebumps watching this particular scene the first time and every time after it was just as satisfying.Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos, James Callis, Michael Hogan, and Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica (2004)In between “Exodus” and “Crossroads” there are plenty of other episodes that stand out and explore interesting components of daily life aboard the colonies. “Hero” brings a figure from the past to light and delivers some interesting tidbits regarding Adama’s actions prior to the Cylon attack. “The Eye of Jupiter” is fascinating as it delves deeper into the prophetic writings of the founding colony. “Dirty Hands” examines societal issues and class structure among the survivors in a very interesting way. And finally “Maelstrom” was definitely a great look at the character of Kara Thrace. Now, as with the previous season of Galactica there are many storylines that run through these individual episodes. The aforementioned New Caprica angle is probably the most prominent but others that play a role include Sharon and Helo’s child Hera, Roslin’s struggle with cancer (again), and the ever frustrating Lee and Starbuck relationship.James Callis and Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica (2004)As much as I didn’t like Lee and Dee getting together, I must admit that the way Galactica played Lee and Starbuck got obnoxious after a while. Due to Kara’s personal issues she closes up and becomes standoffish at all of the wrong moments. I suppose it’s a testament to the writing that you’ll feel the anger and frustrating that Lee does when this happens, but it’s annoying just the same. “Unfinished Business” was definitely a nice way for these two to work out their issues and resolve some feelings. I particularly liked the way Anders responded to their fight as it basically mirrored what I was thinking at the time.Edward James Olmos in Battlestar Galactica (2004)After the escape from New Caprica, the colonies and Cylons kind of go their separate ways. They are both still clamoring for Earth and seeking out clues of its existence and location but they spend a great deal of time away from each other. This kind of dulls the senses a bit and takes some of the core out of the series though some episodes towards the middle of the season and the end reunite these enemies gloriously. So much of the Cylon existence is called into question and you’ll be left scratching your head trying to unravel the mystery. It stands as a testament to the writing of Battlestar Galactica that this clue searching never gets old. That being said not every episode in this season stands out unfortunately. Some of the standalone tales such as “The Passage” and “A Day in the Life” falter at times and fail to delivery the familiar payoff we’re used to with this show. “Woman King” also comes across as somewhat weaker than the others but it does give Helo’s character a chance to shine. As with any show it’s necessary at times to flesh out the secondary characters and though it slows the series down somewhat, these moments still hold some merit.Lucy Lawless and James Callis in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Right up until the end, the third season is one that will keep you guessing and that’s a good thing. This is a series that makes you think and draws emotion out of you. There are many powerful moments scattered throughout these twenty episodes and to be quite honest when compared to the previous seasons, I feel that the third is the strongest. This is one of the finest science fiction productions ever to grace television and I applaud Ron Moore, David Eick, and the rest of the team for their creative vision.

REVIEW: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004) – SEASON 2

Starring

Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner)
Mary McDonnell (Donnie Darko)
Katee Sackhoff (Riddick)
Jamie Bamber (Marcella)
James Callis (Flashforward)
Tricia Helfer (Powers)
Grace Park (Hawaii Five-0)
Michael Hogan (Red Riding Hood)
Aaron Douglas (Chaos)
Nicki Clyne (Saved!)
Tahmoh Penikett (Dollhouse)
Kandyse McClure (Mother’s Day)
Paul Campbell (Knight Rider)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)

Tahmoh Penikett and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Samuel Witwer (Smallville)
Donnelly Rhodes (Legends of Tomorrow)
Rekha Sharma (V)
Callum Keith Rennie (Impulse)
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Matthew Bennett (Stargate SG.1)
Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap)
Rick Worthy (The Vampire Diaries)
Richard Hatch (InAlienable)
Lorena Gale (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Michael Trucco (Sabrina: TTW)
Michelle Forbes (Powers)
Graham Beckel (The Loft)
Leah Cairns (Interstellar)
Bodie Olmos (Walkout)
Luciana Carro (Helix)
Kate Vernon (Heores)
Alonso Oyarzun (Reindeer Games)
Jen Halley (Red Riding Hood)
Ty Olsson (War of TPOTA)
Aleks Paunovic (Van Helsing)
Malcolm Stewart (Jumanji)
Dominic Zamprogna (Stargate Universe)
James Remar (BLack Lightning)
Patricia Idlette (Ginger Snaps 2)
Benjamin Ayres (The Vampire Diaries)
Don Thompson (Watchmen)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
John Pyper-Ferguson (Caprica)
Sebastian Spence (First Waves)
Mike Dopud (Arrow)
Vincent Gale (Bates Motel)
Colm Feore (Thor)
David Richmond-Peck (Sanctuary)
Claudette Mink (Paycheck)
Bill Duke (Black Lightning)
Christopher Jacot (Slasher)
John Heard (Home Alone)
Kavan Smith (Staragte Atlantis)
Stefanie von Pfetten (Cracked)
Erica Cerra (Power Rangers)
Alisen Down (Smallville)
David Kaye (Beast Wars)
Colin Lawrence (Watchmen)

Some cynical individual, at some time, blurted out that “there’s always room for improvement” about an accomplishment or achievement that was fine in its own right. In the spectrum of film and television, it’s true that all material can be tightened, focused, and made even more compelling with practice; but oftentimes creative teams fall back into comfort zones and neglect to spit-shine where improvement is needed. Ronald Moore and David Eick, the creators of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, understand this concept. They accomplished something intriguing, thrilling, and dramatically magnetic with their initial 2003 miniseries and, later, a full subsequent season that grappled the structure of the three-hour introduction — characters, mythos, and stunning production merits through striking photography and convincing computer effects — and ran with it. However, there’s always room for improvement, and Battlestar Galactica’s second season finds a deeper focus and more thrill-inducing pace that fully ratchets the series into the stratosphere of superb science-fiction creations.Nicki Clyne and Aaron Douglas in Battlestar Galactica (2004)The first season constructs a “reboot” of the highest accord, taking the original content from the 1978 television series and shaping it into an edgy and modern production in the vein of “West Wing … in space”. Grecian mythology, military-heavy hierarchal bickering, and the relationships between people on the space ship Galactica — both tender and volatile — are all sparked into action when the Cylons, humanity’s slave-like machines evolved into enlightened yet vengeful beings, attack their creators after 40 years of recoiled hibernation. These attacks, which left around 50,000 humans alive, wiped out sixteen of the individuals in-line for the presidency over the “colonies”, which left Secretary of Education Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell, Dances With Wolves) as the next in line. Somehow, this all gyrates around the weasel-like scheming of Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis, Bridget Jones’ Diary), who inadvertently fell for the whims of a blonde-haired Cylon (Tricia Helfer) and revealed humanity’s defense secrets — and, now, follows orders from the sultry “machine” in the confines of his own mind, with her as little more than an illusion reminding him of his “importance” as one of God’s pawns. Monotheistic God, not polytheistic, but that’ll become important later on.After its thrilling two-part miniseries and a handful of tense cat-and-mouse episodes at the start, the first season (which should be viewed before continuing this review, as the context here relies on the fact that you’ve seen the first season) coasts along a stream of dynamic back-and-forths between Galactica’s Commander Bill Adama (Edward James Olmos, Blade Runner) and President Roslin — leading to a point where Adama is stretched out on the ship’s command center deck, bleeding from gunshot wounds incurred by an assassination attempt. Season Two picks up directly after the shooting, showing how the military hierarchy moves its pieces around Adama’s incapacitation. His XO (second in command) Saul Tigh (Michael Hogan) wrestles with his alcohol addiction as he tries to juggle an unwanted leadership position, shrug off his wife Ellen’s (Kate Vernon) passenger-seat manipulation of the Galactica’s workings, and make the colonies understand why President Roslin has been arrested for subordination. On top of that, we’re also watching the way Adama’s ailment affects his son, Captain Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber), as his allegiance to the Colonial fleet sways between loyalty to his father and his belief in what the theologically-focused President Roslin is trying to accomplish.Richard Hatch and Michael Hogan in Battlestar Galactica (2004)But, as Battlestar Galactica veterans know, that core quarrel really only scoops up the top layer of the conflicts that lie underneath the Colonial fleet’s hunt for a safe, habitable planet — whether it be the fabled planet Earth, the newly-discovered planet of Kobol, or beyond. Season Two also finds a deeper focus on Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff, “Nip/Tuck”), aka Starbuck, as more than a novel imitation of the classic series’ character, concentrating on the depth of her belief in the gods, her bull-headedness giving way to a need for deeper connections with others, and a particular point where she’s, dare I say it, made hopelessly vulnerable in the episode “The Farm”. This happens on Cylon-occupied Caprica, the colonies’ once-thriving central metropolis, where she and Lieutenant ‘Helo’ Agathon (Tahmoh Penikett, “Dollhouse”) are attempting to locate a way off the planet and back to Galactica with the “Arrow of Apollo” in their possession. There, they interact with a second version of the “Sharon” model of Cylon (Grace Park), pregnant with Helo’s child and rebellious against her kind. Along those same lines, we also see how the cluster of Colonial soldiers stranded on Kobol — deck chief Galen Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and his “knuckledragger” subordinates, as well as Vice President Baltar — find a way to survive until they’re able to make an escape attempt.Mary McDonnell and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Though the introductory season of Battlestar Galactica triumphs for establishing the storyline’s intricacies, a broad spectrum of characters, and suspenseful density, Ron Moore and David Eick still had a handful of creaks in the series’ bow that needed repair — such as tighter concentration on the political banter and more focused balancing between space warfare and non-CIC dramatics. Though intriguing to some, including myself, those elements also tended to bog down the pacing to a degree that could deter some from its deliberate concentration on policy. It’s important, and necessary, for a lengthy story to grow beyond its limitations, and the Moore / Eick team hone the introductory season’s successes into a poised, pulsating blend of drama and thrills that bolsters its initial successes forward two-fold. Everything that underscores the series’ quality — superb, straight-faced acting, slickly detailed cinematography ranging from cold and dark to acidic and overblown, and some of the best music on television, period — persists into the second season, now attached to a sense of obvious plot refinement.Jamie Bamber and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)

does it differ? Well, this season knows when and how to play its cards, where the initial season struggles in knowing exactly what to do with the substantially impressive content that it’s generating. The thematic density that it crams into this season is staggering; the complications of martial law (military control of the government), delicateness around following an idealist (dying) leader with religion as their driving force, technology’s advancement and control over our everyday activity, the necessity of black market trade, and, eventually, the power of government-mandated control over population control. All of these elements are timely and meaningful, even allegorical to conflicts present in modern society, and they’re handled with a specific panache in this second season that remains vigilant throughout. But they’re not overtly heavy-handed; sly incorporation allows us to view these elements merely on the surface for service of the story or as deeper insights — whichever suits the viewer.James Remar and Jamie Bamber in Battlestar Galactica (2004)On top of that, Moore and Eick have set sights on how to tie these heady elements in with the bustling activity of operatic space battles, and they’ve succeeded in a way that maintains the series’ accessibility. The hyper-elaborate technobabble prevalent in other series — such as bits and pieces about a ship that “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” and about “trionic initiators in the warp coil” — gets tossed aside to allow for a direct focus on human interactions, such as ebbs and flows between father and son in authoritative positions, the fear and fatigue within a crew that’s never given much of a chance to relax, and an affinity with Laura Roslin as she succumbs to terminal breast cancer. Emotion-heavy episodes, such as the excellent “Flight of the Phoenix” where Chief Tyrol finds distraction and a sense of hope in building a new fighter ship from scraps, are there solely for that purpose. They even work in cliché taglines like, “They can run, but they can’t hide”, and hokey plot points like a bona-fide love triangle to convincing degrees — well, with their own spins on the material. In that, the creators rope us into the emotional fabric as if we’re members of the crew, sharing their plights. We’re not forced to try and comprehend scientific jargon, aside from a few scattered discussions about firewalls, viruses, and FTL drives, but instead asked to unswervingly, and powerlessly, hold our focus on the shifts in power aboard the Galactica.Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos, Jamie Bamber, and Katee Sackhoff in Battlestar Galactica (2004)Then, with a flick of the writers’ wrists, they change the way that we perceive just about everything in the series with the episode “Pegasus”. Out of nowhere, another one of the colonial fighter bases, the Battlestar Pegasus, arrives unexpectedly within the proximity of Galactica’s location. Once both have confirmed that they’re friendly ships, we’re introduced to Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) — a strong, bloodthirsty woman with a very tight, dictatorial grip on her ship. Unlike the Galactica, the Pegasus is competitive, hardened, chauvinistic and far more stringent on policy, which creates a world of conflict once the two commanders begin comparing notes on Galactica’s personnel issues, power rankings, and the lenience in handling a Cylon prisoner. More importantly, Admiral Cain is Adama’s superior officer, and her iron-fist reclaim of power decidedly tears the fleet apart. In a matter of forty-some-odd minutes, the entire power structure of Battlestar Galactica is rearranged and tossed into volatile disarray, left for our characters to plot around and sort out. And it makes for thoroughly gut-swelling television because of it, stretching over an impressive three-episode arc (“Pegasus”, “Resurrection Ship” Parts One and Two).Lucy Lawless and Patrick Harrison in Battlestar Galactica (2004)It’s at this point, once the dust clears from the Pegasus incidents, that Battlestar Galactica begins to really claim a place in the annals of science-fiction as one of its finest creations — even with a few stumbling blocks that it still fights against. Ellen Tigh’s manipulation of Saul while he’s in command of the Galactica borders on the unbelievable, though one can certainly understand the swaying power of a significant other. A few character moments feel shoehorned into the mix, such as Lee’s character history revelations in “Black Market”, where the desire to beef up each and every character overreaches their bounds. And, quite simply, one or two of the episodes still fall a tad flat, whether they’re because of an unattractive character coming into focus, such as the hot-rod stem junkie pilot Kat in the ho-hum filler ep “Scar”, or the show simply attempting to do things that it can’t pull off, like the meandering MTV reality show style footage in “Final Cut”. Each of these faults are minor blemishes on otherwise successful, and thought-provoking, installments into the story arc, proving that even weak Battlestar Galactica episodes can be compelling to a middling degree.James Callis and Tricia Helfer in Battlestar Galactica (2004)With its continual and newly-sprung ideas bubbling at the cusp, Moore and Eick reach a conclusion to the second season, the masterful two-parter “Lay Down Your Burdens”, that focuses on the much-anticipated presidential race alluded to in the first season. Restoration of complete democracy and humanization become the weighty element at play, as the candidates — surprises aplenty — duke it out with the fleet’s concerns of safe planetary habitat and population boom as key driving forces. The interplay between all of the individuals is brilliant; however, it’s the outcome, and the legitimately shocking twist at the end of the finale, that’ll likely send one on a contemplative tailspin. With no less than three cliffhanger episodes in this season, it’s only expected that the finale in itself would be a weighty one, and Syfy’s heavy-hitting series doesn’t disappoint in that regard. It’s a brilliant way to swirl the entire season together, even if everything is turned upside down once again. That’s part of Ron Moore and David Eick’s game, a sci-fi neo-political chessgame that’s well worth playing.