Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2"

***

Air date: 3/10/2006
Written by Anne Cofell Saunders & Mark Verheiden
Directed by Michael Rymer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

I gotta say, the writers on this show have some serious balls. They don't screw around, and they don't hedge. They make decisions and are bold about them.

Barring a reset that I can't even contemplate, the season two finale for Battlestar Galactica represents nothing short of a complete retooling of the series. The writers, let it be said, have taken some serious risks in the closing 30 minutes of "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2." This is a show that attempts so very much that you can sense a tightrope act that's risking a fall from a very high place. It's the type of hour (actually 90 minutes) that will have some viewers announcing, "Brilliant!" while others are claiming, "Jumped the shark."

While you can count me in the "brilliant" camp, this may actually be an episode too ambitious for its own good. Yes, it changes everything. But I'm not convinced (yet) that it changes everything for the better in terms of the series' direction, and I don't think this is as purely satisfying a cliffhanger as either "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2" from last season or "Pegasus" from mid-season. Those shows were more effective. Even though "Burdens 2" takes more risks, it's not a better-told story. Bigger, yes. As riveting, no.

Let's begin on Caprica. We rejoin our heroes amid the Cylon mortar assault that was under way in "Burdens 1," where it's looking now like a particularly bad case of the rescuers needing to be rescued. Then, suddenly, the bombing simply ... stops. The Cylons withdraw, with no explanation. Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell) appears on the scene and proclaims it's a miracle. But how can he be on Caprica and also on the Galactica? Oh, he's a Cylon. No one in Kara's rescue party recognizes him, which I can buy — but I guess we're also to assume that Cavil was among Anders' resistance group all along, because if he simply and coincidentally strolled up after the bombing stopped, wouldn't everyone be kind of suspicious? This is one slightly confusingly executed conceit the show makes. The reason the bombing so coincidentally stops (which I'll get to momentarily) is even more so.

Kara's rescue party returns to the Galactica with the rescued resistance fighters from Caprica, and they bring Cavil with them. He's recognized instantly by Tyrol, which thankfully eliminates any possibility of faux suspense games involving the uncovering of Cavil's identity, who willingly came back to Galactica to deliver a message. Because Sharon had not said anything and it's assumed that "of course she knew" Cavil was a Cylon, she's thrown back into the brig, in what seems like a never-ending cycle (albeit a justified one) of trust/non-trust on Adama's part. Her nihilistic frame of mind is somewhat understandable; following her baby's death (as most believe it to be) she's lost the will to care about anything, and had decided to simply let whatever Cavil planned to do run its own course.

Cavil is thrown into the brig along with the other copy of Cavil, who protests that he's not a Cylon right up to the point he sees the surrendering copy of himself already in the brig, at which point, he simply resigns: "Oh. Well, okay then." Dean Stockwell is memorable in this scene as two Cylons flawlessly integrated into one scene, explaining the Cylons' new epiphany: That the "war hero" copies of Six and Eight (Sharon) had managed to swing popular Cylon opinion to the conclusion that the occupation of the Colonies and the pursuit of the fleet were errors. (See the setup of such in "Downloaded.") "Cylon and man will now go their separate ways, no harm done," explains Cavil. (Aside from the billions dead, of course.)

This scene is executed so well and with such a sense of newfound curiosity and story development that I'm almost tempted to forgive the last-minute suddenness of how the story goes from Cylons bombing resistance fighters on Caprica to completely withdrawing from the Colonies. The timing — let's face it — comes off as totally contrived. But what's interesting in the dialog here are the suggestions of significant ideological and religious strife within Cylon society. They don't all agree, and that's going to undoubtedly be an interesting aspect to play out in season three.

For now, the main plot in "Burdens 2" is the election, which is going to be decided on the issue of whether to colonize the newly discovered habitable planet, now dubbed New Caprica. Baltar is adamant on using the issue of colonization as his new political platform. There's a scene where Roslin makes a desperate private plea to Baltar to table the issue of colonization until after the election because it's too important to go forward on it without a closer examination of the facts. She even goes so far as to call Baltar on his relationship with Six, which she witnessed right before the attack (but didn't remember until her hallucinatory state in "Epiphanies"). When it's clear that Roslin's election is in doubt, she recruits her campaign manager, Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma), into a plot to do whatever is necessary to make sure Baltar does not win the election. Roslin's wording is careful not to explicitly tell Tory to rig the election, but Roslin and Tory both know what's what.

On Election Day, we see the ballots coming in, and I appreciated the level of detail and heft the producers put on the electoral process, right down to the locked metal boxes containing the ballots that are overseen by the civilian auditors. Tory's plot to steal the election involves at the very least Dualla and Tigh (who swap out a crucial box of ballots) and most definitely not Gaeta (who notices and reports that a misprint has inexplicably been corrected on those ballots). There's irony in the fact that at the beginning of the season Tigh was locking Roslin in a jail cell, and now he helps her rig the election. It's a simple matter that everyone (except for the general population, of course) instinctively knows that Baltar as president would be an unmitigated disaster. An even bigger irony is that Baltar assumes upon losing that Roslin couldn't possibly be guilty of the corruption Zarek suspects.

And yet, the question becomes: Can Roslin actually do this? When Adama gets wind of the ballot discrepancies, he confronts her in a sad, quiet scene that somehow sums up everything about their relationship and yet is in no way predictable. They both know Baltar will be a disaster, and yet they work the issue through the larger issue of right and wrong. Is doing the right thing even prudent in the interests of survival? Maybe not, but maybe we have to live or die by what's right and not by what's prudent. They decide to overturn the corrupt results and bury the conspiracy. Baltar is suspicious, but Adama convinces him to let the matter pass. Amazing, how Olmos' tone of voice and a glance can communicate so much implied menace. And the fact he calls Baltar "doctor."

There are also many good character touches to be found here. There's a scene where Cally forgives Tyrol for beating her and breaking her jaw, and it plays as a mirror of the situation earlier in the season where Cally was seeking Tyrol's forgiveness for killing Sharon. And there's Kara and Anders involved in a drunken make-out display that's tacky as all hell because of its utter rudeness; they do it right in front of Lee, and you ask yourself what Kara's thinking. I'm thinking she's drunk. Much later, there's a scene where Adama is not only smoking a cigarette, but snapping off the filter before he lights up.

And there's a brilliantly written piece of psychological warfare where Six tells Baltar that she's not going to go live on New Caprica, and Baltar desperately explains that "every last single one of us" is going to live on New Caprica. We realize that Baltar's whole point for trumpeting the colonization agenda was, in a way, so he could start a new life there with Six. There's something sad and pathetic about that, and poignant and completely in the nature of Baltar's character. And then they have sex in a scene intercut with Baltar being sworn in as president; the sex plays like a long-awaited consummation, and it's haunting.

And yet ... I have some significant problems involving the nuclear bomb and all it represents from a plot accountability level. You recall the nuclear bomb, supplied to Baltar by Adama way back in "Bastille Day," which Baltar then gave to Six in "Epiphanies." Well, Six detonates the bomb here in what you could say is a Cylon suicide attack of the most unanticipated kind. She destroys the Cloud Nine and at least two other ships in the blast, and although the death toll is never mentioned on screen, one would guess it's in the thousands. It's a chilling visual and a powerfully tragic outcome, and yet the lack of fallout eludes me.

Consider: Adama gave Baltar the nuclear warhead, and now this warhead somehow has gotten aboard the Cloud Nine and has been detonated, killing thousands and potentially crippling the fleet, and Adama's reaction is to quietly presume that the Cylons somehow got their hands on it after it was "stolen from Baltar's lab"? Even after Roslin warned Adama that she believed Baltar was working with the Cylons? Somehow, I doubt it. Furthermore, when Adama warns Baltar that there could be more Cylon attacks and Baltar refuses to listen to reason and orders that colonization of New Caprica is to begin immediately, would Adama so passively just sit back and let it happen? Couldn't he assert "military decision" as he did with Roslin?

And, for that matter, wouldn't someone (the press comes to mind) be asking questions about why a nuclear bomb has just gone off in the fleet? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the people who have the answers — Baltar and, to a lesser degree, Adama — are also the ones in power, but the episode doesn't even consider the question. I guess what I'm saying is that the issue of the nuclear bomb as a plot piece has never seemed convincing to me, and seems just as unconvincing here, if not more so. When a nuclear bomb explodes, there should be hell to pay in the aftermath (political fallout, scapegoating, etc.), and there's zero indication of that here. Perhaps everyone is simply too tired of running. Perhaps the population doesn't even know the explosion was one of Galactica's own warheads because the fact was covered up. The episode doesn't tell us. Maybe we'll find out next season. For now, it's a frustration.

Then comes the episode's twist, in which we jump ahead to "one year later," where a colony has been established on New Caprica under Baltar's apparently seedy presidency (as hookers lie about his cabin on Colonial One, now docked on the planet surface). The last 20 minutes of the show play like an extended teaser for next season, offering character tidbits and plot pieces that will undoubtedly become new launching pads. There are a ton of pieces the episode throws at us, such as:

  • New Caprica City has a population of nearly 40,000; a tent city in a frigid climate.
  • Half the crews of the Galactica and Pegasus (in a very lax orbital defense mode) have moved to the planet. Adama urges Tigh to move down there: "Only one man per lighthouse," he notes. Would the fleet really get this lax?
  • Roslin has gone back to teaching school. She stays close to Maya and the Cylon hybrid child.
  • Tyrol stands next to a pregnant Cally in a crowded tent; he's a rabble-rousing union leader preaching about the evils of Baltar's administration.
  • Kara and Lee are on cold, virtually non-speaking terms for reasons we can only guess.
  • Lee and Dualla are married aboard the Pegasus.
  • Kara and Anders are married on the planet surface. Kara has given up the life of a fighter pilot. Anders has potentially fatal pneumonia.
  • Kara and Tigh are friends now, even hugging when they greet each other.

And then, out of nowhere, a Cylon fleet shows up. The Galactica, Pegasus, and rest of the fleet in orbit have to make an emergency jump away, leaving the planet defenseless. The Cylons — including a Six and an Eight (are they the "war heroes"?) — meet with Baltar, who offers an immediate surrender when they promise that no one will be harmed if there's no resistance. Centurions march into the streets, marking the first clear stage of an occupation. The Cylons explain that they found New Caprica because they detected the radiation from a nuclear explosion. The irony is so thick you could choke on it.

Poor Baltar. If he weren't the cause of all this misery for so many other people, you might almost feel sorry for the guy. Not only did he unwittingly help the Cylons in the first attack on the Colonies, his actions led directly to the destruction of the Cloud Nine and thus the Cylons finding New Caprica. He is truly his own (and everyone else's) curse. There's a true fascination to his character's arc. Here's a man driven to madness over the obsession with a woman, and just as he thinks he's re-attained her, she commits suicide, killing thousands and permitting the Cylons to find the fleet again. Maybe that's what Six had in mind. Maybe not. It certainly isn't what Baltar had in mind. He's like a sleepwalking, cascading, compounding, self-fulfilling tragedy.

There's a ton of material in "Lay Down Your Burdens," and tons of teaser pieces, including the mysterious return of Leoben, who's looking for Kara Thrace, for reasons loyal viewers will understand even though they'll have no idea what it means for the future. Clearly this is a compelling and ambitious episode, crammed with elements you could discuss ad nauseam.

And yet, there's this mild dissatisfaction here. The one-year gap leaves too much out and perhaps reinvents the series before we were ready to see the existing material jettisoned. Story threads that have been in development for two seasons are rendered irrelevant (or at the very least on hold) — and in some cases have been resolved off-screen. The one-year gap means more time has passed off-screen than in the entire first two seasons of the series, and that's an odd feeling. All existing momentum has been halted, and the train has been restarted with completely new cargo. We have no clue of the status of some characters. It's all a bit jarring.

But I'll be damned if it's not interesting — and awfully brave.

Previous episode: Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 1
Next episode: The Resistance (webisodes)

Season Index

29 comments on this review

StormVindi - Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - 12:20pm (USA Central)
Nice review. It actually helped me a bit getting over the shock this episode left me at the ending. I would have never expected a plot twist like this. I'm going to hold off season 3 for a bit to let things sink in a bit now! ;-)
stallion - Thu, Feb 26, 2009 - 12:24pm (USA Central)
After the events of download I wonder why Anders didn't freak out when he saw Sharon.
Nolan - Sat, Mar 7, 2009 - 10:16pm (USA Central)
Stallion- Anders had already encountered Sharon way back in the early episodes of Season 2, he knew all about her.

Jonas - Sun, Feb 28, 2010 - 7:37am (USA Central)
Also, Captain Lee has gotten a little fat. I laughed hard.!
mesa - Fri, Nov 26, 2010 - 5:09pm (USA Central)
I started watching BSG this September for the first time and have been following along with all of your reviews - they're great! This was an amazing episode, probably one of my favorites. The one year jump really took me by surprise as well, but I think I like it - I'm intrigued at the possibilities of where the series will head now.
duff duff - Sat, Jan 1, 2011 - 5:24pm (USA Central)
sackhoff was just too much in this episode. the degree of her overacting is getting to the point where the show becomes almost unbearable to watch. She is annoying, and she tries too hard to play the role, which just makes her less believable. it really just makes me sick when she does her kissing-laughing fake drunk scene about 20 minutes in (seriously it makes me physically sick to my stomach). her portrayl of the drunk whore girl who does whatever whenever is just annoying, because you cant relate and you just think she is obnoxious and stupid. That saying of never go "full retard" applies here.
Jasper - Fri, Jan 28, 2011 - 12:54pm (USA Central)
@duff duff: Are you kidding? She was superb in this episode. She was acting like a real drunk. Really, that scene made my insides turn because of the way she was treating Lee and how surrealistic it felt, but honestly, that's what drunk people do. Including making your insides turn.
Alec - Tue, Feb 8, 2011 - 6:41pm (USA Central)
One thing that I didn't like about the election plot line was the notion that Roslin's and Tigh's plan would actually work if the election results were given even the slightest bit of scrutiny. The ballots from one ship being so lopsided would certainly raise the question, "why?", and on a ship with only a few thousand voters it would quickly become apparent through word of mouth that something wasn't right. Its a minor issue in the grand scheme, but it does mar the efforts to make the election process realistic.
bigpale - Mon, Feb 21, 2011 - 12:42am (USA Central)
I'm rewatching the series as part of my New Years Ritual (all four seasons from January-March), and I can't fathom how you only give this show 3 stars.

I can understand your giving part 1 three stars (even though, I prefer to grade 2-parters as one story), but this second half was breathtaking.

I think what I took away from your review was that you didn't like the flash-forward because we lose so many entrenched plot threads. I get that, even if I was a little more trusting in the writers that it didn't bother me.

Also you seemed to dislike the sheer AMOUNT of stuff thrown out there. As though the show just had too much going on. I get that too, but I think as a finale that was designed to move the show in a new direction, the plot elements thrown out all were relevant, intriguing and "cliff-hangery."


Personally I don't fault the writers (specifically Moore who thought up the idea) for the flash-forward, even at the end of the 2nd season (even before they knew the show was already half over). I think we need more PROaction in TV writing, and less REaction.



But I love the site and hope one day to read the rest of your TNG reviews!
Corrine - Thu, Mar 31, 2011 - 6:15pm (USA Central)
My RA just got me into BSG and I LOVE IT! I started watching it non-stop and when I reached the season 2 finale I was shocked, appalled and to be honest quite mad. I wanted to say THANK YOU because your post has helped me understand quite a bit more and helped me get over the intense... feelings i had for the episode. I want to know what happened in that one year break! I thought that Season 3 would be them going back and going through the year in between (that makes me mad because the future is so ominous) but now I know that that won't happen and that makes me happier. THANKS SO MUCH and I absolutely love your posts!

K+L Forever
Chris - Tue, Apr 12, 2011 - 1:56am (USA Central)
Admiral Adama grew a mustache and Apollo got fat!!!

rofl xD

AeC - Sat, Apr 30, 2011 - 6:05pm (USA Central)
First thought regarding the rigged election plot: Battlestar Florida.

First thought on seeing Adama with a mustache: When will he make his first origami unicorn?

I, too, think I'm going to take a break before starting on season three. Whole lotta stuff to digest here.
Nick P. - Sun, May 22, 2011 - 1:54am (USA Central)
I gotta agree on this being the thrid straight 4-star episode. I actually do agree wtih Jammers (and others) complaints, but that applies to the series as a whole, and what we wanted to see (the missing year), but that being said, from an enjoyment of the individual episode standpoint, this was just brilliant. I LOVE that the creators of this show keep doing what we as the audience do not expect.

I will admit thought to another MAJOR inconsistency that no one else has mentioned. How did no one notice that the Cylons stopped their attack within days of the discovery of new Caprica? I found that somewhat ridiculous. But then again, i am still waiting for a mention of earth after a whole season, with nothing to come of that.

@duff duff and Jasper: Regarding Kara, her overacting, and non-sense over the top plot points turned me off from episode 1. There is almost nothing likable about this character, and although after 2 seasons I will admit finally to liking her, she is absolutely at the bottom of "liking" characters list.
Nic - Tue, Jul 12, 2011 - 9:43am (USA Central)
Great review. I agree with pretty much everything you said. It's a bold story move, and I love stories with plot twists that make sense (you know, the ones where you're kicking yourself in the head for not figuring it out). But this one doesn't make enough sense to be truly riveting. Adama was ready to remove Roslin from the presidency last season just because she talked to Starbuck. Now, the President is a suspected Cylon collaborator whose nuclear bomb was mysteriously 'stolen' and detonated on a civilian vessel, no doubt killing thousands of people and he just lets it slide. So far in the series I have complained about the stupidity of the Cylons, but in this episode it's the humans that take the cake. Maybe now they deserve what they got.
ka - Sun, Jul 31, 2011 - 10:03pm (USA Central)
Not sure anyone will answer this as I am writing several years after the first post, but can anyone explain why the colonists didn't just return to Caprica after the Cylon exodus at the end of "Lay Down Your Burdens"?
Jonez - Sat, Aug 20, 2011 - 12:00am (USA Central)
ka - it's explained by Adama that there is too much radiation on Caprica due to all of the nuclear attacks to safely resettle. I think he mentions this in the scene when the Cylons tell them they want a truce and were wrong.
Jennifer - Mon, Sep 12, 2011 - 8:58am (USA Central)
Nic, I too was kind of shocked at first about Adama being so passive with Baltar's ridiculous decisions/possible Cylon involvement. But if you think about it, this was their first democratic election -- for him to just get rid of Baltar in the same way he did Roslin would be incredibly alienating to the people in the fleet, since they voted Baltar in. Take the hysteria with Roslín's arrest and multiply it! Plus, I think Adama did learn a lesson from that experience (and the Pegasus' fleet experience), about the military staging coups against the civilians.
pegboy - Tue, Sep 27, 2011 - 2:48am (USA Central)
Game changing episode, one of the boldest moves ever for a TV show. The entire New Caprica arc ranks among the best series of episodes in the entire run. An easy 4 stars.
Michael - Sat, Nov 19, 2011 - 5:00am (USA Central)
Roslin: "So, that's it. I give it up? Just like that?"

Yeah, bitch, you LOST.

Adama with a mustache, LOL!!! Starbuck with long hair, like it!

Tyrol and Cally look like white trash.

* * *

Far more importantly: This was a breathtaking show. I watched it from start to finish with an open mouth. NEVER EVER saw the end coming! This was so powerful, I definitely second the others who said a break is in order before embarking on Season 3.
Justin - Sat, Jul 7, 2012 - 11:23pm (USA Central)
It's all Gaeta's fault. If he didn't have such a man-crush on Baltar he might have been smart enough to realize that maybe Roslin stealing the election was a necessary evil.
Elliott - Sat, Jul 7, 2012 - 11:49pm (USA Central)
@Justin: You have no idea...
Caleb - Fri, Jul 20, 2012 - 12:21pm (USA Central)
Sackhoff was brilliant. Yeah she was annoying as hell, that's the point. To the commenter who said it was overacting, and not relatable, seriously?? Spend more time around wasted 20-something women, and you'll get it.
Togah - Thu, Nov 1, 2012 - 4:47am (USA Central)
I undertand the need to make Starbuck a more likeable character, but how far are they gonna go? If they weren't living on such a cold planet, I'm sure they'd have her in a long flowy summer dress to match that lovely new hair of hers. I fear they're turning her into a mushy, quivering pile of goo; a far cry from the hard-assed daredevil she was earlier in the series just to make her more appealing. I hope we see the re-emergence of the soldier in the next season.

That being said, I'm on the edge of my seat here. I thought I'd follow some peoples' example and wait a while for season three...but I have no willpower. Onwards to season 3!
Tim - Mon, Jan 7, 2013 - 9:59am (USA Central)
Why would Roslin still be alive if she was told over a year ago that she only had a month to live???
Patrick - Mon, Jan 7, 2013 - 7:51pm (USA Central)
Tim,

Did you completely skip the episode entitled "Epiphanies", or did you just not pay attention?
Ducats - Sat, Jul 13, 2013 - 3:54pm (USA Central)
This episode was way over the top. It's as if the writers believed the show was at it's end never to be heard of again. It's as if they exclaimed,'Oh what the hell'.
I know this might sound simplistic but they moved ahead too far too fast.
The decision reached by Adama to spill the beans about the election fraud was totally unrealistic. No normal logical person would put the whole human race at risk just to assuage their conscience.
By the end I was hoping and praying for a reset. This played like a nightmare from too much pizza last night.
Cureboy - Sun, Dec 29, 2013 - 7:01pm (USA Central)
Wow. I didn't see the one year later jump coming and it was a really neat plot device. Oh I wish I wasn't so late to the BSG party and had someone to discuss this with.

I liked Roslin back as a teacher, Baltar as the president redefines sleazy and I was thrown with Adama's moustache, channelling Geraldo Rivera.

But they set up the next season nicely. I wonder why the Cylons want to rule over humanity instead of just killing them. But I know we are looking at a resistance movement on New Caprica along with the fleet returning to free humanity.

Season three promises to be good. But I'm sure in about six episodes we will be back to looking for earth. Which makes me wonder, why is everybody so sure they will be safe from the Cylons when they reach Earth?
Grumpy - Mon, Dec 30, 2013 - 10:49am (USA Central)
We're here to discuss it with you, Cureboy. However, you're the first I've seen to question the logic of the search for Earth. When it was set as the goal at the end of the miniseries, the assumption (I suppose) was that Earth would have a population that could fight back. But that was never a safe assumption, given that the Colonies couldn't defend themselves. I guess that's why Adama never treated Earth as a realistic goal, admitting all along it was false hope.
Cureboy - Tue, Dec 31, 2013 - 1:46pm (USA Central)
Thanks for being there Grumpy! As far as I can tell, we’ve identified 7 of the 12 Cylon models so far: Sharon, Number Six, Lucy Lawless, Dean Stockwell, the PR guy who looks like Kevin Spacey, the black doctor (aka Crewman Lessing from Voyager’s Equinox two-parter), and the guy from the radioactive nebula that Starbuck interrogated. There’s still five of them out there. I’m really suspicious of Anders, I think he might be one. The Cylons seemed to really want to impregnate Starbuck, but their experiments failed because there was no love involved. At almost the same time, she met her Mr Right, too good to be true? Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I’ll be keeping my eye on him. Maybe he’s a Cylon and doesn’t even realize it yet. I’ll also be watching for other special guest stars…They have a tendency to be Cylons as well :0)

Ordinarily on New Year’s Day, I’d be parked in front of the TV watching bowl games, but I’m going to use the day off to get started on Season three. I’m totally addicted to this show!!

Submit a comment

Above, type the last name of the captain on Star Trek: TNG
Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

Season Index

Copyright © 1994-2014, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of any review or article on this site is prohibited. Star Trek (in all its myriad forms), Battlestar Galactica, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc., NBC Universal, and Tribune Entertainment, respectively. This site is in no way affiliated with or authorized by any of those companies. | Copyright & Disclaimer