The Suckening continues, as chapter two of what I'm hoping is only a triptych of spec script bullshit gives Colonel Fisk an abrupt personality makeover, then kills him brutally. Roslin has noticed a shadow economy taking place right under their noses that everyone else has been aware of since, like, "Bastille Day," and decides that it's a bad idea. Investigation of Fisk's murder leads Apollo to a leader of the underworld, a scary dude who runs his rackets from the off-grid freighter Prometheus. We also learn about not one but two retroactively established fake girlfriends for Apollo. The first is his baby mama, who was presumably killed during the Big One after she told him she was pregnant and he told her to go to hell. (Isn't that dark? Can you even believe Apollo would do something like that? It's so deep.) But wait! The second just-invented girlfriend is a single-mum prostitute on Cloud 9, who is boring as hell and, you know, gets in over her head after trying to get black-market antibiotics for her kid or whatever. (At the end of the episode she actually says, out loud, that she is naught but a replacement for Girlfriend #1, that she will never be that girl, and that he is only trying to assuage his guilt over leaving her in the lurch by trying to father her child. Out loud, she says this.)
Oh, and the reason I haven't mentioned anybody else in the cast is that they only got about five seconds of screentime between them: it's all Apollo, all the time, living some tool's adolescent fantasy of what it would be like to be really, really badâ¦but also a hero. In other words, Sin City in space. Like, Apollo gets a pass for shooting the underworld boss guy, because he's worth killing, because he's running a child slavery and prostitution ring. You ask why I hate science fiction? This crap is why. That's the emotional depth of what we're dealing with here. The whole episode is like that: a weird mishmash of barely-remembered '80s cop movies, the very, very crappiest Frakes and Garibaldi and Kenicki episodes of TNG and Babylon 5, and a bunch of unnecessary bullshit that not only ignores but outright contradicts previously established emotional continuity. I say: why use or even reference established character continuity and plot points from less than a month ago to explain Apollo's continuing decompensation, when you can impute mysterious appearing pregnant and disappearing hooker girlfriends, cold-blooded murder, two-dimensional cardboard underworld crap, and a complete lack of emotional arc? And next week? Same deal, but with Starbuck. For frack's sake.
"How do you keep raising the bar?" I said. "Story logic is secondary to the emotional tracking," I said. "Jacob would make twenty-four pages of kissy noises about this show if it was forty-five minutes of various spaceship exteriors followed by Colonel Tigh repeating the phrase 'what the hell' over and over for fifteen minutes," you said. We were wrong, we were wrong, we were wrong. There's little to no emotional resonance here, and of what there is, only maybe 30% proceeds from what's come before. Bad story logic is replaced here by simply bad storytelling. Good acting is marred by nonsensical plot and unreadable dialogue. The politics I promised to talk about this week have disappeared from the show for the week. And to disclaim -- this is no "my show is broken": as I wrote to a friend earlier today, the slack we cut is that we keep watching at all, and that the trust and love of the show continues into next week. But in order to earn the glassy-eyed adoration I normally give you here, I have to be honest about the downside, too: it lends gravity to the entire enterprise. What this means, though, the end result, is that there's no in, no personal connection, which promises to make this what they call in the West Wing a process story. Which is fine, but stop me if you've heard it before. Like any precious Anglophile Diana-obsessed Americans, my family's motto is "Never complain, never explain." Sorry, Grandma. I'm doing both this week.
The mandate for this episode is simple, and welcome: simultaneously address Apollo's building tension and moral development, the economic confusions of a society in crisis, and the relationship between the military/government and the civilian world in a time of relative wartime respite. Start looking at those private apocalypses we talked about last week, both in Lee Adama himself and in the entire Fleet. See what opportunism arises in the civilian quarter when the walls come down and the world ends. Take a little shine off that halo, get a little seedy. Take Apollo's "man of the people" routine to its logical, scary terminus. Rebuild a relationship with the Admiral that has never existed before -- that literally took the end of the world in order to gain meaning. Continue Apollo's development into some kind of space-noir detective, which is variably interesting but at least gives him a purpose beyond getting dicked around by the authority figure du jour. The elements are there, the elements are good. The execution is beyond shoddy, with occasional glints of that familiar brilliance. It takes a concept that would have benefited the entire mass of current stories and themes, and cuts it off from them all, as effectively as bombing the Resurrection Ship. It could have mirrored Helo's and Gaius's continued distancing from human concerns, Boomer's willingness to trade personal freedom for the safety of her loved ones, Roslin's post-resurrection euphoria and aggression, Fisk's inability to regain his humanity, Six's ongoing inability to distance herself from the otherwise-occupied Gaius, Gina's quadruple-agency, Billy's and Dualla's fragile new relationship, Chief's newfound drifting compass-free lovelessness. Instead, it parallels a bunch of shit invented five minutes before this episode begins -- and they're crappy sci-fi pulp staples, all, at that. This is not the party we were invited to; this is not what it said on the box.