Following a month's break over Christmas, BSG returned for the rest of its third season. Following in the footsteps of the rest of the season, this latest batch of episode has continued BSG's insistence on being extremely and frustratingly variable in tone and quality.
Rapture picked things up from the mini-cliffhanger, with the Colonials ready to nuke the Temple of the Five to stop the Cylons from finding their way to Earth ahead of them. This cliffhanger is resolved in a fairly logical although surprisingly subdued manner (I was expecting Galactica to just nuke three of the Cylon basestars with no warning). Down on the planet there's fighting between the Cylons and Colonial ground troops and Dee mounts a rescue attempt to recover the wounded Starbuck, whilst Athena boards the Cylon basestar to get her daughter back. There is some very good stuff in this episode (Six breaking Boomer's neck after she goes a bit nuts; Tyrol decking Baltar) but in the main it struggles to make much sense. The explanation for the Eye of Jupiter at the end of the episode feels unconvincing and the supernova sequence, although visually spectacular, doesn't work scientifically. However, the episode is saved by Three's death scene, which is very well acted by Lucy Lawless and Dean Stockwell.
Taking a Break From Your Worries is a much better episode, a real return to form as Adama and Roslin pull out all the stops to get Baltar to confess his crimes, only for Baltar's impressive ability to pin the blame for his mistakes and weaknesses on others to become absolutely awe-inspiring as he twists and lies his way past Adama's best efforts to expose him. James Callis, always one of the show's best actors, is absolutely outstanding in this episode.
The Woman, King, is a much weaker episode, tieing with Hero as weakest episode of the season to date. A lot of characters behave very oddly in this episode, displaying racist sides to them that we've never seen before, and after everything Helo has done to save the fleet in the past it seems highly unlikely that no-one would listen to his concerns. However, even worse is the fact that Helo turned out to be right. Actually having him fall apart and start fantasising about menaces where there are none would have been far more interesting. A very disappointing episode.
A Day in the Life sees Adama confronting memories of his wife whilst Cally and Tyrol's lives are put in danger. This episode is better, with some strong CGI in the rescue sequences and a nice look at Cally and Tyrol's home life. Given how their story was emphasised in the Season 2 finale, it was strange that their relationship hadn't been explored again since the start of the season (although a couple of scenes in Unfinished Business did refer to it).
Dirty Hands is more of an old-school, Season 1-feeling episode showing how life in the fleet actually works. The episode is a bit of a downer, actually, showing that post-New Caprica the fleet is an absolutely appalling state, even compared to what it was before, with people working 12+ hour days, seven days a week, with no breaks or any hope of time off. Its examination of the class structure in the fleet, of the dangers of an inherited caste system unintentionally developing, and of how this can be exploited by an opportunistic politician (or in this case a political prisoner trying to win support and gloss over his past crimes) is surprisingly sophisticated. However, the episode is sunk somewhat by very inconstant characterisation of Roslin (who turns 180 degrees through this episode with no explanation) and through Adama's unusual attitude (do we really believe he'd murder Cally?). The idea from the first season that both characters would at least try to obey the law has long since disappeared by this point, leaving little doubt that the fleet is now under the control of a dictatorship (Roslin, it should be remembered, has never been elected by a public vote), benevolent and well-meaning though it may be. I hope this fact is remembered by the writers as they map out Baltar's trial.
Next week: allegedly the most shocking episode of the entire series to date!
312: Rapture ***
313: Taking a Break From Your Worries ****
314: The Woman, King **
315: A Day in the Life ***
316: Dirty Hands ***
Forthcoming: Maelstrom (04/03/07), The Son Also Rises (11/03/07), Crossroads Part 1 (18/03/07), Crossroads Part 2 (25/03/07).