Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2"

****

Air date: 4/1/2005
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
Story by David Eick
Directed by Michael Rymer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

As a general rule, I'm tired of cliffhanger season enders. Cliffhangers have long since become cliche. The newer template of serialized cable television — as evidenced by shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, or The Shield — has managed to get away from the network presentation of the cliffhanger season cap. Cable series now often treat seasons as book volumes where certain plot lines are resolved in some form, even as new plot lines are set up. Usually they end on a note of quasi-resolution rather than a note of "to be continued."

Not "Kobol's Last Gleaming." But I'm certainly not complaining. I'll take any cliffhanger as purely entertaining — and that promises to be as life-altering — as what we get in "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2." Not only does the episode end on a true "Mr. Worf, fire" moment of unexpected shock, it's like five cliffhangers all at once, united in the big quagmire that is the story. Just about every character ends up in the jackpot, and for some characters, things will never be the same (or at least I would hope not). This is a cliffhanger for which there will be hell to pay. How is this all going to play out? One legitimate concern is whether season two can pay off what has been set in motion here.

Let's start with Helo and Boomer on Caprica. Not the season's best story structure, I'll grant you. Basically, they've been running around in the background of 13 episodes. Dramatically, aside from Helo recently learning Boomer is a Cylon, this has been a long road of relatively inconsequential events. It has allegedly encompassed 51 days, but it feels more like a couple weeks. And what's Helo's brilliant plan? Still to get off the planet and get back to the Galactica. What in the world makes him think Galactica is going to be anywhere to be found after nearly two months?

Whatever. Helo and Boomer go to the museum that holds the Arrow of Apollo — the same Arrow that Starbuck has jumped all the way back to Caprica to retrieve on behalf of Roslin. Is it a coincidence that Boomer has brought Helo here? Or do the Cylons also have a plan involving the Arrow? If they do, why have they waited 51 days to go after it? And is it a coincidence that the Cylons have taken orbit around Kobol right after the fleet discovered it?

Aboard the Galactica, the situation quickly deteriorates. Roslin, having gone around Adama and betrayed his secret to Starbuck, admits her complicity. Adama immediately asks for her resignation. She refuses. Oh, and she's called the press to hear everything unfold. Noting that "she's dangerous," Adama intends to board the Colonial One and force her to step down. Both think the other is bluffing, but make preparations in case they aren't.

Who's to blame for this situation? In a way, everybody and nobody, but I guess this is ultimately about crossing lines. Clearly, Roslin crossed a line by going to Starbuck. But the choice, ultimately, was Starbuck's to make; Roslin didn't force her to do anything. By demanding her resignation and sending an armed party to arrest her, is Adama justified, or is he himself now crossing the line in bypassing due process of the law? One wonders how anything can ever be the same again when the head of the military sends guys with guns to arrest the head of the civilian government.

Don't forget — we also have a stranded Raptor team on Kobol and a Cylon base star in orbit. The new plan is to send a Raptor with a Cylon transponder to go nuke the base star. With Starbuck gone, Adama chooses Boomer to fly the mission ("I need every pilot") with ECO Racetrack (Leah Cairns). For obvious story reasons Boomer needs to be on this mission, but would Adama really send her in light of Boomer's suspiciously "accidental" shooting of herself? Perhaps this is what trusting your fellow soldiers is about, but one wonders if Adama asked himself the question.

The stranded team on Kobol is mainly concerned with basic military survival tactics, and I liked the story's continued commitment to character details. Lt. Crashdown is in command, but he's clearly not nearly as experienced as Chief Tyrol, who has better instincts about where the team needs to be going. There are early signs of some friction/competition here, even as Crashdown realizes he's wrong and Tyrol's right. Meanwhile, Six plays the part of guardian angel for Baltar, saving his life at one point, and then promising him answers. She leads him to some nearby ruins of the Kobol opera house, in a sequence that's visually and musically arresting.

Starbuck arrives on a very Cylon-occupied Caprica (although most of the Cylons seem to be in orbit), and there's a nifty FX shot of her Raider flying through a ravaged cityscape of damaged skyscrapers. She quickly finds the museum and the Arrow, but is just as quickly ambushed by a copy of Number Six. This leads to the best brutal beating between blonde babes that I've seen since the fight between Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill, Vol. 2. The stunt work isn't nearly as elaborate or inventive, but as a simple, dirty, dusty, grueling, violent slugfest, it's well done and entertaining. The music made me think of Black Hawk Down. Starbuck can't really go head-to-head against a Cylon, but that doesn't stop her from trying, and I enjoyed her spirit, even if the dogged underdog is nothing we haven't seen before. The fight ends the only way it can (and the only way Kara can win it), with a reckless, desperate explosion of Starbuck madness. Yes, Kara should probably be dead from such a fall, but I'm heartened by how on this show even the slugfests end in a way true to character.

Helo and Boomer happen upon Starbuck just in time to watch gravity become her (painful) best friend. Speaking of Helo/Boomer, Sharon reveals to Helo that she's pregnant, and that what they had together was important for spiritual reasons. The entire season on Caprica has basically been building up to this discovery, and the sci-fi/religious implications and questions are endless. What does this mean? Why do the Cylons want hybrid children? Do they require humans to conceive? Why destroy a civilization in order to replace it in the same image, complete with hybrids?

All of these questions are tantalizing. The one hesitation I have is that they seem like they could potentially have arbitrary answers (or, for that matter, none at all), like the X-Files conspiracy plots or Enterprise's Temporal Cold War. The Cylon master plan is either seriously flawed (couldn't they have engineered a love/sexual encounter in far simpler ways?) or spiraling out of their control. One interesting idea is that maybe Sharon is a wild card capable of more independent thought than the Cylons anticipated. There's certainly evidence to support that theory.

Like, for example, Sharon being capable of blowing up the Cylon base star orbiting Kobol. Faced with a malfunction, Sharon and Racetrack are forced to land their Raptor in the base star docking bay, and Sharon must remove the nuke from the side of the Raptor and arm it. While doing this, she's confronted by a small army of naked Sharon copies (who emerge from strategically placed shadows). This is a truly eerie scene, and Sharon's response ("This isn't happening") is pretty dead-on. The gentleness of the Sharons toward Sharon is especially disturbing, as if they're simply incapable of harming one of their own. Why do they let Sharon go? Do they even know that she's planted a nuke on board their ship? They don't appear to, anyway, until it's too late. Sharon gets into the Raptor and they leave. KA-BOOM.

Back on the Galactica, Roslin doesn't show any signs of standing down as the boarding party arrives, and the unfortunate prospect of the system collapsing is demonstrated through a nice touch where Dualla and Billy ask each other if their respective bosses are really going through with this. As if the Cylons weren't enough trouble, now human beings are suddenly on opposing sides of internal strife. Lee's major decision grows out of his speech on democracy in "Bastille Day"; he pulls a gun on Tigh at the last minute and stands not exactly with Roslin, but against a military coup that is terminating the current government. The volatility of the standoff prompts Roslin to back down. Adama has her put in the brig, in a scene of dialed-down straightforwardness and quiet regret.

And then, after all that, comes the shocker: About to be publicly congratulated on her successful mission, Sharon pulls a gun and shoots Adama in full view of everyone in the Galactica CIC, leaving him bleeding to death. It's so swift and unexpected that it could not have been predicted.

So, aside from the obvious drama circling the "will Adama die?" question (gee, what do you think?), the reason this works as a cliffhanger — and works so well — is because it cannot be undone. It has huge consequences for the characters, who by the end of this episode are scattered all over the place.

For starters, the cat is out of the bag — Sharon is a Cylon and everyone knows it. There's the added complexity that the Caprica Sharon seems willing to defect (and is pregnant, which has endless possibilities), even while the Galactica Sharon shot Adama on what looked like autopilot (will she even remember doing it?) after destroying the base star.

We have Adama out of commission, meaning Tigh will have to step up into full-fledged command. We have Lee in handcuffs for mutiny, having gone against his father, who now lies badly wounded. We have Roslin in the brig for willfully undermining a military decision. We have what appears to be no working government for the fleet.

We have Starbuck, Helo, and Boomer on Caprica, in possession of the Arrow of Apollo, which might or might not mean something bigger. We have a military team stranded on Kobol. And, as usual, we have Baltar off in his own little world, being taken on journeys of God and destiny by Six, who foretells Baltar as the one to watch over the new generation of God's children — the hybrids.

That all of this actually makes sense and holds together and seems to emerge from a single coherent narrative with a consistent through-line, and has artistic ambitions without coming across as pretentious, and has a large dose of mystery without seeming aimless — well, that's pretty damn amazing.

Heck, "Kobol's Last Gleaming" is enough to convince me that cliffhangers are still worth doing. This episode, and the season in general, makes me feel more like a cheerleader than a critic. So be it. The cards lie where they fall. Hopefully season two will not be afraid to fully confront this intriguing shuffled deck.

Previous episode: Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 1
Next episode: Scattered

Season Index

26 comments on this review

JK - Sun, Jun 1, 2008 - 3:57pm (USA Central)
Outstanding episode!!
Rusty Priske - Mon, Jun 9, 2008 - 2:31pm (USA Central)
I think you misunderstood why Adama sent Boomer.

It was BECAUSE she was suicidal. He needed someone to go on a mission that there was a great liklihood of not returning.
Occuprice - Tue, Jun 10, 2008 - 11:48pm (USA Central)
I don't think Adama would send Boomer out knowing she was suicidal, especially if he was using the fact that she was suicidal to choos her, as Rusty suggests.

I think that because there isn't actual proof she was suicidal, and she didn't admit, he chose to treat as she wanted, as if she wasn't.
Grumpy - Sat, Jul 26, 2008 - 7:14pm (USA Central)
Just watched the DVD...

Sending Boomer to destroy the Basestar undermines Roslin's dilemma in the previous episode. It was strongly implied (and stated explicitly in a deleted scene) that the Raider would not return from the mission. Except the Raptor delievered the nuke and returned safely. Therefore, Roslin had no reason to worry: the Raider could've destroyed the Basestar, returned, and then retrieved the Arrow.

Probably the biggest plot hole in the season, next to Baltar forgetting to tell anyone that he discovered Boomer was a Cylon.
Occuprice - Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - 6:52pm (USA Central)
Baltar not telling anyone Boomer's a cylon wasn't a plot hole.
Jack Bauer - Fri, Sep 26, 2008 - 1:00am (USA Central)
No, Baltar being able to determine Boomer is a cylon in 2 minutes, and then the next episode it takes 12 hours is the biggest plot hole of the season.
Josh - Fri, Feb 13, 2009 - 2:05pm (USA Central)
I just watched this episode again. Despite knowing exactly what was going to happen I was still open mouthed when the shot came. That's powerful direction.
William Matheson - Mon, Feb 16, 2009 - 9:56pm (USA Central)
Anyone notice that when Starbuck shoots the glass case holding the arrow, some of the video crew can be seen in the background? It kind of took me out of the moment.
Jammer - Mon, Feb 16, 2009 - 11:52pm (USA Central)
Never noticed. But now I'm sure I will next time. Thanks for ruining it for me. (Kidding.)
ghpilato - Fri, Apr 24, 2009 - 3:08pm (USA Central)
Obviously an amazing episode, but I think it's a bit frustrating as a stunt-filled event episode a bit more than a wholly substantial thought-provoker. The first part of the two parter here is the greater, in my eyes, with more to satisfy the return viewings. The final cliffhanger here is clearly not going to be the death of Adama, even as it's a major plotpoint in the short term for him and Tight, and massive series long-term plot point for Boomer, with this two-parter being perhaps the defining moments of her life. I can forgive anything that bothers me about this episode, though, except the silly/pretty fight scene between a kind of warrior Six and Starbuck. It's fun, but so damn silly. Suddenly, we're watching Aeon Flux. These two women are fighting just to look pretty. Not much has ever happened on this show solely for that reason. When Kara kills the Six with a fall on top of her, she should be similarly damaged at least a bit... but anyway... the weirdness of that scene bothers me while the massive bloody, organic insides of the Baseship with all the Sharons is another one of the most memorable, favorite scenes in the series. This episode's sensationalism is mostly okay, but the heights of epic-ness, of the Baltar vision at the end, of the total mess of the plot, the massive, massive cliffhanger, is still so very satisfying. It's still hard to imagine how anyone managed to wait all those months after this episode aired without completely going out of their minds in frustration. But it was part one that had me gripped beyond much else I've ever sat in front of a TV for.
Scoody - Sat, Oct 24, 2009 - 12:19pm (USA Central)
I think that Adama sent Boomer to destroy the basestar because he had complete trust in her. A trust surpassed only by how much he trusted Lee and Starbuck. From flashbacks through out the series and conversations he had with her and Athena, it is clear he had a fondness for her. One of the most touching scenes involving Boomer is the flashback to when Boomer is standing before Adama and Tigh and expecting to be washed out because she cannot make as good landing in her Raptor. Adama and Tigh tease her and do not wash her out and it is quite clear that they were not going to wash her out regardless. Looking back one of the most loyal pilots that Adama had was Boomer and it stands to reason that he would send only his most trusted and loyal pilots on this mission.
Nick - Tue, Nov 3, 2009 - 10:45am (USA Central)
Hundreds of nude Grace Parks...God really does have a plan.

Now, hundreds of nude Grace AND Linda Parks??? I would have the same look on my face as Baltar.

Just sayin'
Nic - Mon, Dec 20, 2010 - 9:47am (USA Central)
What an idiotically stupid fight scene. How is Six that strong with such skinny arms? And why would she go alone? They could send ten Cylons after Starbuck and she wouldn't stand a chance. It would have made more sense if Helo, Sharon and Starbuck had met up earlier and gone in together to retrieve the arrow, watching each other's backs. Also, as you mentioned, Starbuck should probably have been died or seriously injured from that fall. Same goes for the Adma shooting scene. What we see on screen makes it seem impossible for him to survive, yet we KNOW he will.

I don't want it to seem like I didn't enjoy this episode, because I did, but for some reason I thought that a lot more things would be resolved (maybe just because of my general expectations towards episodes whose titles end in 'Part 2').
Brendan - Sat, Feb 12, 2011 - 12:53am (USA Central)
Nic, Six is a cylon, it doesn't matter how skinny her arms are they are just stronger than humans. As for why she was alone, there's dozens of explanations for that, most likely being she was just in the area and happened across her.

And as for it being "impossible" for Adama to survive... says who? People survive being shot in the chest all the time. Even the head, as recent real life events have shown. And it's not as if he's up and in command again the next episide, there is an appropriately difficult recovery period for him.

Seems like you're nitpicking details on two of the best scenes of the season!
Brad - Sun, Apr 3, 2011 - 9:08am (USA Central)
Boomer's programming was not to kill Adama, or she would have shot him in the head - surely a cylon would execute its programming it that was the intention?
Nic - Sun, Apr 3, 2011 - 10:00am (USA Central)
I'm not nitpicking. I'm just saying that the ending of the episode taunts us with "Will Adama live or die?" when we know they would never kill off such an important character (and if they did, they wouldn't have left his survival in doubt over a hiatus, that's just the rules of TV storytelling).

This episode has a lot of similarities to "Chrysalis" from Babylon 5. Both show the characters heading off in new directions, both involve someone getting shot. Although I like BSG better than B5 in general, in this case I think I enjoyed "Chrysalis" much more.
Nick Poliskey - Wed, Apr 20, 2011 - 8:51am (USA Central)
WOW...Unbelievable.

Easy 4 star. I am not sure if this was better than 33, but it is at least equal. I agree with Jammer, there were so many plot points that could have turned cheezy, and yet they ALL worked.

And that last scene, OMG. I literally almost fell off my couch. yes, obviously we all know he is going to live (even though I haven't seen any episodes after this one yet), but the shocker of it, the way the direction played with our expectations. did anyone else notice that the question was Adama going to shake boomers hand? for a second it looked like he was going to cold-shoulder her, then his had comes out, then BOOM. I was just about ready to go to bed, but I had to sit there for 20 minutes for my heart to slow down.

This is the first time since "Mr. Worf, Fire", I have been blown away be the ending of a TV episode like this. And I gotta admit, Starbuck was not annoying this time out. That alone is worth 4 stars. I keep waiting for moley-duck-face to die, but is never happens.

As for the boomer-choice on the mission. I have to side with the "picked BECAUSE of the suicide" camp. I think it was almost glaringly obvious. Plus, some posters here seem to think Adama didn't know it was a suicide attempt. Are you kdding me? people don't accidentally shoot them selves in the face in a suicidal fashion as often as is commonly thought. Plus, I don't think she was trying all that hard to hide it. I mean, Balter walked right in on her. No, Adama knew it was a suicide attempt, and whether it was because he thought she had a death wish, or he wanted to give her a chance at vidication, or both, the suicide attempt was abosolutely the driving force behind his choice of her.

But then again, Adama has tended to pick injured pilots to do jobs they are completely unqualified to handle, HELLO STARBUCK.

But I digress, AWESOME EPISODE!!!!
Michael - Sat, Nov 12, 2011 - 3:10pm (USA Central)
Uh, did the coup against Roslin give me a hard-on, you guys have no idea!

A superlative episode.

Outstanding.

Breathtaking.
Ryan - Sun, Feb 12, 2012 - 9:12pm (USA Central)
Occuprice - July 30, 2008 - 06:52 pm (USA Central Time)
Baltar not telling anyone Boomer's a cylon wasn't a plot hole.

It absolutely is, and a huge one. The sole reason given for Baltar withholding the fact of Boomer's identity as a cylon was because she was sitting across the table and he was afraid she'd "go into cylon mode" and kill him.

So then why didn't he, after lying to her, wait for her to leave and then immediately contact Adama with the information? Baltar gets to show off a successful cylon detector, thus boosting his cred, and saves the fleet (and more importantly, himself) from the threat of a cylon agent.

Instead, he keeps the information to himself and lets a cylon agent walk freely among the fleet, after several recent incidences of confirmed sabotage, with nary a second thought.

Please explain how that's not a plothole.

Btw, I know this comment was made a while ago but I just started watching this show for the first time and, though I enjoy it, I'm having an increasingly hard time coming to grips with the many gaping plot holes.
Noony - Wed, May 30, 2012 - 4:24am (USA Central)
with Baltar, its all about him! He dosn't care one way or the other who is aboard with the fleet. He is also, so smart...he can see that human/cylon..not too dissimilar in the larger scheme of things.
Chalkwhite - Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - 1:54am (USA Central)
Terrific episode. I thought, though, that one of the best parts was actually Adama choosing Boomer for the mission to the basestar. He's a good enough commander that he knows that she attempted suicide (as opposed to the "cleaning my gun" crap). I thought that was why he gave it to her- he knew she had a deathwish, and he knew that this was a suicide mission. With that subtext, the scene between them is very powerful. Of course, it would've worked out better for Adama if it actually HAD been a suicide mission...
Chalkwhite - Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - 1:57am (USA Central)
Also, to Ryan's point, I don't think that it's a plothole- I think that it's everything that is loathsome about Baltar. I can't STAND the way some people make excuses for him, and that's the evidence I always use when people try to defend him. He has very consciously chosen to never have anyone fail his cylon detector because he doesn't ever want to be in a position where he might be compromised. So yes, he DID wander around without a care while sabotage was being carried out, because he's the world's most selfish dickbag. GOD I hate Baltar.
Rosario - Mon, Nov 19, 2012 - 8:50pm (USA Central)
Great episode! Though I am surprised that no one mentioned the 8 inches of rebar sticking through Six's chest that somehow didn't kill Starbuck when they fell chest-to-chest.
J - Thu, Jul 25, 2013 - 5:31am (USA Central)
Jammer: I'm surprised you didn't mention the whole Six + Baltar opera-house-baby/new-member-of-family-arriving-soon thing. I'm watching this series on Netflix for the first time, and I don't know where it's headed, but this plot point is significant with regard to your pregnant-Sharon-as-a-wild-card theory (Six + Baltar takes evidence away from that, clearly Six either happily knows about pregnant Sharon, or shares the same less-likely-to-be-wild-card goals with her).
Cureboy - Sat, Dec 21, 2013 - 12:28am (USA Central)
Just finished season one on Netflix. Even though I knew Adama would be shot (Netflix needs to be more careful, accidentally mousing over the wrong episode can be a spoiler "Adama near death after being shot") I still gasped and jumped when Sharon shot him.

The pregnancy didn't surprise me once Planet Caprica Sharon started puking a couple episodes ago. Indeed, has any woman ever thrown up on television and NOT discover she was pregnant?

But the show jumping between several key stories really had me in suspense and was just amazingly done.

Can't wait for season two...tomorrow night !
zzybaloobah - Tue, Nov 25, 2014 - 11:42pm (USA Central)
I think a reason Adama picked Sharon was to give her a chance to regain her self-respect. You don't send truly suicidal people on missions, even suicide ones -- they tend to screw up. And you certainly wouldn't send a non-suicidal ECO on a mission with a suicidal pilot.
I think Adama saw Sharon despondent. Obviously, he doesn't know why, but might suspect it's over her relationship with the Chief. An important, dangerous mission might be just what she needs.

Adama has an inner circle of people he trusts, and he'll ask a lot / give a lot to those people. Just don't betray his trust......

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