Top positive review
38 people found this helpful
Takes TV Sci-fi to realms never before seen - a must-own set
on May 21, 2007
Warning! Spoilers ahead!
Buying all of this incredible series on DVD is a more confusing undertaking than it ought to be. Grouping both halves of Season Two into this single package definitely simplifies things somewhat. The set also comes with a friendlier price than when each half was sold separately.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA after three seasons has established a critical reputation unprecedented in the history of TV Sci-fi. A host of mainstream reviewers and publications have named it not merely the best Sci-fi series on TV, but the best series of any genre. And we are not talking low-profile critics and publications. At one time or another TV Guide, Ken Tucker, Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Matt Roush, the Chicago Tribune, Maureen Ryan, the San Francisco Chronicle, Entertainment Weekly, and a host of others have praised the show as the best on TV. It was only one of two shows to make the American Film Institute's list of the Ten Best Shows on TV two years in a row. To top it all off, in 2006 it won a prestigious Peabody Award. And all this for a Sci-fi series!
But there has never before been Sci-fi like this. Normally Sci-fi TV is associated with escapist entertainment, clever perhaps at its best, but never truly challenging. A few series have previously challenged this, in particular FIREFLY and FARSCAPE, but all other series to some degree kept looking over their shoulders at imagined teen viewers, determined never to get either very dark or very outrageous. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA was the first Sci-fi series targeted more at intelligent grown ups than young male teens (even if those "teens" were in their thirties or forties). BSG went dark and stayed dark, became grittier and grittier, and had a cast of characters who were sometimes heroic but where more often simply messed up.
Narratively BSG will, in the end, contain more or less a single narrative. It is best to think of the show, like LOST, as a long novel that contains individual chapters. Arcs overlap from season to season and year to year. For instance, in the Miniseries we are introduced to a Cylon sleeper agent known as Lt. Sharon "Boomer" Valerii and in the first episode of Season One a Cylon who is identical to her who is another Sharon (usually referred to merely as "Sharon" though later as "Athena"). Over the course of the three seasons we gradually see these two Cylons basically trade places. Season One focuses more on Boomer, but in Season Two and Three the focus is almost exclusively on the other Sharon. But their stories are not contained neatly in this or that season. Similarly, we learn in Season One that the Cylons believe that Starbuck is "special," that she "has a destiny." In Season Two that is expanded upon a bit, but it comes to full fruition in Season Three. It is, therefore, a tad meaningless to say something like, "Season One is the best season of BSG" or "No, Season Two (or Three) is!" All the seasons hang together. In the end it will be one long story.
While insisting that BSG must be judged as a whole, Season Two is nonetheless remarkable in its own right. Not that every episode is golden. In a recent interview BSG creator Ron Moore revealed that over the first three seasons the network had often insisted on stand alone episodes that they hoped would attract new viewers who are otherwise intimidated by the complexity of the overall story. As a result, the writers were forced each season to insert some episodes that didn't really carry the story forward and were something of a drag on the series as a whole. The first half of Season Two was not plagued by this problem. In fact, few of the first ten episodes can truly be considered stand-alone. "Final Cut" and "The Flight of the Phoenix" are stand alones, but both of these are utterly remarkably episodes. But in the second half of the season the series hits something of a dead spot. "Black Market" is widely regarded (even by Ron Moore) as perhaps the weakest episode in the entire series, but it is followed by other episodes that are considered below par, including "Scar" and "Sacrifice." Luckily, the stand alone "Downloaded" is one of the season highlights and the two-part finale "Lay Down Your Burdens" even better.
The first seven episodes of Season Two really continue major events of Season One. These include the fallout from the attempted assassination of Adama in the Season One finale, what happens after Starbuck arrives on Caprica, her and Helo's meeting members of the resistance movement on Caprica, the determination of Roslin and Lee to lead whoever will follow them to Kobol, what happens to Boomer after everyone realizes she is a Cylon, and the reaction to the arrival of Helo's Sharon and what she does to keep herself alive. "Final Cut" and "The Flight of the Phoenix" are stand-alone episodes, but "Pegasus" introduces the battlestar of that name and its commander Admiral Cain. I would, however, caution viewers not to watch the version of "Pegasus" that appears on the 2.0 disc, but instead to watch the Extended Version on in the 2.5 set. It adds a lot to the story.
The second half of Season Two, with the exception of the amazing Pegasus trilogy of episodes, doesn't carry the story forward as much as the previous season and a half had. No doubt the network's desire for stand-alone episodes played a role here. There were, however, a number of plot developments, many of them centered on what to do about Sharon's pregnancy (indeed, what to do with Sharon in general). The latter part of the season deals with Baltar's challenge of Roslin for the presidency in the upcoming election. But I would hasten to add that even at its weakest, BSG remains riveting entertainment. I will admit that I usually skip "Black Market" and "Scar" when I rewatch Season Two, but I don't skip anything else.
I want to close by stating that BSG is actually a series that might be better suited for fans of other quality TV shows more than those viewers who normally watch nothing but Sci-fi. There is certainly nothing wrong with watching only shows of a particular genre, but my own experience in talking with others, making recommendations to others, getting their feedback, and spending considerable time on various BSG boards that this show appeals more to people who focus less on genre and more on quality. If your favorite shows of the past decade include such shows as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, THE SOPRANOS, SIX FEET UNDER, THE WEST WING, ANGEL, LOST, THE WIRE, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, THE GILMORE GIRLS, and VERONICA MARS, you are almost certain to love this show. Not all fans of the Star Trek or Stargate franchises, on the other hand, always do. This series breaks down and reconstructs what we expect of a Sci-fi series.