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148 of 171 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ideal State of Flawed Perfection, October 29, 2008
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This review is from: Battlestar Galactica - Season 4.0 (DVD)
Battlestar Galactica has, over the last four years, proven to be a new milestone for the very idea of sci-fi television and, outside of "genre" standards, has still shown itself to be one of the strongest shows on television through consistently powerful acting, writing, and directing. Over the seasons, the show has always pushed the envelope when it came to reaching beyond the limitations placed on it by the network and the high level of quality it continued to place on itself. The third season faltered slightly due to all of this growing pressure, as the network forced the show to turn to a story format that didn't suit the overarching plot at all, conflicting with the show's natural evolution. Fortunately, the network took the blame, and for the first time since the show's conception, the writers had full creative control. And how they embraced it.

In turn, the show's fourth season is the perfect realization of Battlestar's miraculously coherent half-planned, half-winging-it plotting style. The ten episodes shown so far are the first large group of episodes since the beginning of the show's second season that can be seen working as a whole, each episode contributing to the core plot, slowly implementing important movements for the main players. The difference here though is that back in the second season, the writers still had to pair each major development with a weekly plot, making easily discernible story chunks. But now, finally at the end, the show has moved far past that phase, ambitiously linking episode to episode by bringing what were previously undercurrents to the foreground, creating the sense of a visual novel with no distractions or fluff. Each moment is even more necessary than ever, as the show has truly become aware of the power of its main narrative, shedding off the structure that other shows have settled on after great ambition. Battlestar dared to go past what was proven to work and has reached its ideal state.

As one might realize, if a show were condensed to its most relevant materials and its excess removed, the viewer is left with very concentrated bursts of development. Luckily, Battlestar's entire cast and crew seem to have been trained for this season through the show's progression, and each episode not only works to hold together the whole, but is a gem of television in its own right. An episode such as "Escape Velocity" shines for handling character growth perfectly through masterful writing and direction, while "Faith" will shine for immaculate performances and gorgeous, revelatory writing most of all. Even an episode like "Sine Qua Non," the only noticeable hiccup this season, still shines for the episode it is, its incongruity tempered by its importance to the full season.

Any viewer of the show can acknowledge the odd notion that, for such a beacon of hope, Battlestar is a dark, challenging, and at times outright depressing show. Season 4 continues dark and heavy, but with a new and refined perception towards the sense of each character, has shown palpable thematic brilliance, each emotional trench, realistically heart-breaking, each rare moment of hope, poignantly uplifting. Just as the characters of the show are flawed and are perfect for all of their faults, so is this fantastic season, in this once-in-a-lifetime show, worth watching unfold.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 29, 2008 5:23:47 PM PDT
a reader says:
This is a really beautifully written, thoughtful and insightful review. I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for writing it!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2008 3:17:13 PM PDT
Yen Nguyen says:
Thank you very much! I enjoy raving about Battlestar, so I decided to - why not - write an Amazon review. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Posted on Dec 10, 2008 11:21:16 AM PST
H. Boyd says:
This has never happened before! I go to check out a DVD set on Amazon, and as I usually do, I scroll down to check out the comments. Who is at the top of the list? My friend Yen! How exciting! Enjoyed your very through, well-written appraisal of this set. Thanks, Heidi

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2008 9:13:34 PM PST
Yen Nguyen says:
I actually think that you have me confused with somebody else. This name is very common, and I wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't the only Yen Nguyen in Bethesda. Either way, thanks for reading the review!

Posted on Feb 13, 2009 6:06:37 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 13, 2009 6:06:53 AM PST
Paul says:
You're operating on a misconception. The network didn't force the show's creators to make more stand-alone episodes. In seasons one and two, they had ongoing subplots that tied all the episodes together. In season three, they found at the last minute that the conclusion of the season 3 subplot had a giant hole in it, so they had to strip it out and didn't have time to put a new episode-spanning subplot in its place.

The result of this is that the episodes feel disjointed and disconnected because they don't have that subplot tying them together. If you look at the episodes from seasons 1 and 2 without the subplots, you get the same "stand alone" feeling you get from season three.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 27, 2009 4:59:31 PM PST
C. Ruby says:
Paul - I'd be interested to know what Season 3 subplot you're talking about that had to be removed. I hadn't heard of anything like that before.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 28, 2009 10:47:32 PM PST
Yen Nguyen says:
He's referring to a subplot that focused heavily on the civilian fleet, in that there were many differences and ultimately, prejudices, between the different colonies. You can see leave-overs from this goal in the plots of "The Woman King" and "Dirty Hands." The subplot would also culminate during Baltar's trial where it would become part of the testimony against him, and was also scripted to be the original secret that Gaius had of Gaeta's in "Taking a Break From All Your Worries." Paul's completely right about how that disconnect happens, but I still remember a few podcasts in Seasons 2 and 3 when Ron Moore brought up the issue of network creative control more frequently.

Posted on Feb 1, 2011 4:47:56 PM PST
Saxette says:
Thank you for your intelligent commentary. I am only on Season 2 so appreciate your restraint on details. Beautifully written. You capture the essence without the spoilers.

Posted on Sep 18, 2012 9:00:48 PM PDT
I tried to get into BATTLESTAR during the original run, in the middle of season 4. I had NO IDEA what was going on. Since they said at the beginning of hte show, that "one cylon would be revealed", I thought it would be that show. I didnt know it was a "soap opera". So, i had NO idea what was happening. And, i didnt "get it". I didnt watch any more. (but i do remember thinking the show was strange, and very severe with its set design, probibly from seeing the inside of the cylon death star.) I have watched the whole show, from the first to last episode, twice now, and I'm about to do the third time. THIS SHOW IS AMAZING. The production quality, the acting and directing, the music, the scripts, everything is amazing. However, i think a show like this, demains you need to watch it from the beginning, or you'll be lost. Maybe that was at once the great artistic achievement, and yet, the lack of support, that a show with this much plot, subplot, and "layered" characters. (ie, Sharon, Boomer, Athena, etc...or...Caprica 6, Natalie, 6, etc.) I wonder if another SCIFI show will EVER be produced as good as this show. I doubt it.

Posted on Dec 26, 2012 11:58:07 PM PST
Graeme Britz says:
Thank you for your exceptionally written and insightful review!
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