Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Resistance"

****

Air date: 8/5/2005
Written by Toni Graphia
Directed by Allan Kroeker

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Making one of the regular cast members a Cylon was a brilliant idea on the part of the writers, and even more brilliant was the idea that her Cylon nature was repressed so far down in her subconscious that she didn't even know it was there.

For the individual, this concept is terrifying. It prompts perhaps the most difficult questions this series has asked as it pertains to human existence: What's our responsibility for harmful things hard-wired into our nature? Can we overcome them? We cannot change the circumstances into which we were born; all we can do is take control of our actions. But what if we were like Sharon Valerii, who wants to be a good person, but is taken hostage by an alternate personality who inflicts harm on others? Who is the real Sharon, and who is the impostor? It's a question we sometimes ask about those with certain mental illnesses: Are they responsible for violence if they have no ability to govern their action based on its possible harm to others?

Personally, the feeling I have for Sharon, more than any other feeling, is pity. She's the most tragic figure on this series. Her character arc has moved her from fellow military comrade and Tyrol's lover, to suspected Cylon infiltrator, to reviled traitor and assassin, and now, finally, to a death that many, it would seem, welcome. At every stage in this arc, Sharon has been all but helpless — a victim in a universe designed to use her for its own purposes and then destroy her. Her only way out would've been suicide — which she tried, and failed, to accomplish in "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 1." Baltar told her then that life could be a curse. There's absolutely no doubt about that if you're Sharon Valerii.

What's so compelling about this character arc is how, in the powerful "Resistance," we see the uncompromising ugliness in how her former friends now regard her. With revulsion. With threats. With violence. With an utter lack of any sympathy or understanding for what we know is a more complicated situation than what the characters are permitted to see, either through willful blindness and disgust, or through having less of an entrance into Sharon's mind than we, as viewers, are permitted.

Of course they feel betrayed. Wouldn't you? If you were Tyrol, and found out you had been in love with a machine, would you be able to now extend forgiveness to that machine? Or would you assume the machine was simply playing you for a fool? The troubling thing is that she was ... and yet she wasn't. The tragic definition of Sharon is that she was played for a fool by a part of herself. She's as much a victim of herself as everyone else was.

Tyrol has a right to be angry. Because he was having an affair with Sharon, Tigh now suspects him of being a Cylon. In the opening scene, Tigh interrogates Tyrol and isn't the least bit nice about it. In Tigh's mind, Tyrol is guilty by association. One has to stop and ask oneself what law and order have come to when someone can be guilty solely for a relationship and not for any specific action or knowledge. Tigh openly drinks from a flask during this interrogation, perhaps suggesting that alcohol is his right in a room that has no rules.

Besides, Tigh has other problems. Ships in the fleet are beginning to protest martial law by refusing to make supply runs to the Galactica. Facing the prospect of civil unrest, he considers sitting down with the other ships' captains and giving them reassurances for why he had to declare martial law. But Ellen privately talks him into taking a more draconian tack. So Tigh sends Raptors to board the ships and seize the supplies, which results in rioting, and military officers losing control of the situation. On one ship, four civilians are shot and killed in a melee, which Roslin labels a "travesty." It's a travesty, all right, albeit a completely accidental one.

Interesting here is how Ellen goads Tigh into heavy-handed actions that he otherwise might not take. She manipulates him into being a stern hard-ass when, really, he's wracked with uncertainty and doesn't want to be in command at all. Yet Tigh willingly lets himself be manipulated. Their marriage is one of bizarre codependence, where sexual fireworks arise from angry alcoholic dysfunction and shouting matches. This cannot be healthy.

Tigh's drinking and questionable leadership lead other key members of the crew to start plotting ways to undermine him. It's a covert mutiny; Lee wants to break Roslin out of jail before things get any worse, and he has the support of Dualla and, obviously, the entire flight crew. With some quiet, careful maneuvering, they plan to get Roslin off the ship and hide her in the fleet. Even Tom Zarek is recruited for this effort, since he's likely to know enough nefarious people to get the job done. "So, the enemy of my enemy is my friend," Roslin notes dryly.

What I love about this show is how you can't predict exactly what's going to happen, or what the characters are capable of doing. There are nuances to be found and choices, big and small, for the characters to make. Take, for example, Lt. Gaeta. He doesn't agree with the prospect of mutiny or undermining, and he notices Dualla's off-log transmissions. But watch Gaeta's reaction when Tigh asks him if he's noticed anything unusual. Similarly, listen to Billy when he decides not to get on the ship with the president. What he says makes sense, but I wouldn't have expected it given his typical steadfastness.

Even Adama finally waking up took me by surprise. Just when things start to really look bad for Tigh (he knows he's made some bad calls), Adama walks in and provides reassurance, vowing that they'll "pick up the pieces together." The writers kept Adama out of action just long enough for his return to have a perk-up effect.

Or take the episode's dramatic highlight, where Baltar has been assigned to clear Tyrol with his Cylon test, and instead ends up interrogating Sharon. He injects the chief with a deadly toxin, and threatens to let him die if Sharon doesn't tell him how many Cylons are in the fleet. Sharon doesn't know. But, you see, she does know; the information is just hidden from her, retrievable only as a last resort. Faced with the prospect of her former lover dying, she finally cracks and reveals that there are eight Cylons in the fleet.

This scene is acted and directed with chilling urgency, and provides another example of the dark and intense places Baltar can go when he's sufficiently motivated. Interestingly, this also shows how using love/sex as a weapon can be a two-way street. After season one showed how the Cylons could manipulate humans — how Six manipulated Baltar, and how Helo could be manipulated into impregnating Sharon — this scene turns the tables, with Baltar using Sharon's love for Tyrol against her. It's cruel and heartless — and sublimely perfect.

Things get even darker for Sharon when it's revealed she will subsequently undergo mental and physical tests. "Like some kind of lab rat?" Tyrol asks. Yes. Baltar has a unique perspective on all of this given his own relationship with a Cylon. He tells the chief to be glad he experienced love at all — "even if it was with a machine." The notion of Sharon becoming a lab rat flirts with the depths of human ugliness when you stop to consider that this is a sentient being with real feelings and emotions, and at one point was a friend to many people on this ship. This is great, awful stuff. These are tough questions for impossible situations, and with scary answers.

Significantly less tough and less challenging is the adequate but far more obvious action-and-machine-guns material on Caprica, where Starbuck and Helo are shot at by humans who think they're Cylons. They eventually team up, and we learn that these humans are a part of a group of resistance fighters hiding on a base unknown to the Cylons. It's nice to finally see other people on Caprica. The story plants the seeds for Starbuck's obvious new love interest.

Possibly the biggest unexpected choice in the episode is Cally's, which is shocking in the same way that Sharon shooting Adama was shocking. Cally, after going through hell on Kobol and now watching the chief go through hell in being jailed, seems to have snapped. In a moment of venom and hate, she walks up to Sharon (as she's being escorted through the corridor) and assassinates her Jack Ruby style. Sharon's dying words are "I love you, chief"; Tyrol's anger is stripped away by the truth that he also once loved her. The moment reveals an honesty that cannot be denied.

Perhaps something to be pondered here is that guilt or innocence is a matter of intent. The puzzling question is what Sharon's intentions really were. Her intent might've been buried under what we only perceived as her real personality. Perhaps the person was a veneer and the Cylon programming held all the marching orders. And yet, when you look back at "Water," you see that Sharon could resist that voice and act on her own. It's an unsolvable puzzle, and the episode has no answers. The only hint comes in the form of a strong image — a drop of Sharon's blood hitting the floor, echoing a shot from the beginning where a drop of Tyrol's blood did the same.

The Cylons bleed, just like us.

Previous episode: Fragged
Next episode: The Farm

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17 comments on this review

Brendan - Mon, Feb 25, 2008 - 2:05pm (USA Central)
"The Cylons bleed, just like us."

After Crossroads part 2, the meaning of the blood is somewhat turned on its head I would say.
Grumpy - Sat, Sep 27, 2008 - 7:55pm (USA Central)
Why was Tyrol certain that Boomer was a Cylon? He could only be sure that she shot Adama. Beyond that, the evidence for her being a Cylon was exactly as strong as the evidence that he, Tyrol, was. He knew that wasn't true, so why did he believe it of Boomer? (Her failure to deny the accusation might be taken as proof, though.)

I'd be surprised if there really are 8 Cylons hiding in the fleet. Is there any reason to think Boomer's answer was accurate?

For that matter, I'm waiting for the revelation that everything we know about Cylon religion is bunk, because it was all dreamed up by Baltar based on nothing at all.
Random Guy - Mon, Mar 9, 2009 - 8:13pm (USA Central)
Note: Significant spoilers of season three finale "Crossroads" in this post:

From a post-Crossroads perspective, the scene where Tigh accuses Tyrol of being a Cylon is actually kind of funny.

Also speaking from that perspective, there seem to be at least six cylons in the fleet at this point besides Boomer, though there's no known reason why she would know about four of those.


Spoiler warning added by Jammer.
Odon - Fri, Sep 11, 2009 - 12:56am (USA Central)
Sharon probably said the first number that sprung into her head; it's interesting to note that Sharon is model number 8, a fact that would be known to her Cylon subconscious.
Durandal_1707 - Sun, Feb 14, 2010 - 1:38am (USA Central)
Random Guy: Argh, watch the spoilers!!

This is the third time this has happened so far... it looks like I'm going to have to stop reading these reviews, good as they are, until I've finished with the series.
Jammer - Mon, Feb 15, 2010 - 9:47am (USA Central)
Durandal_1707: I'd encourage you, of course, to keep reading the reviews as you go. But if you'd like to avoid spoilers in the comments, you can always hide the comments by clicking the "Always hide comments" link at the bottom of any review above the comments. This will hide comments on all reviews until you clear your cookies or unhide them.
Max Udargo - Wed, Jun 16, 2010 - 10:02pm (USA Central)
Ok, first, didn't Baltar already know how many human-like Cylon models there were? Didn't he slip an anonymous note to Adama early in the series telling him the number?

And why does Baltar suddenly need to know this number? For what purpose? Wasn't he trying to help Tyrol? How did this help Tyrol?

I didn't get that scene at all, and I basically dismissed it as one of the occasional scenes where people do things that make no sense for the character but serve only to a) advance the plot, b) manufacture artificial drama, or c) both. This particular scene seemed to serve the purpose of manufacturing drama without advancing the plot in any perceivable direction. Seriously, what was Baltar's motivation?

And I have to say the same thing about Billy's decision to sever himself from Roslin. What the hell? This is the kid who stood by her even when she suggested he excuse himself to avoid being shot by a boarding party. I can't see any logic in him remaining onboard the Galactica, where he will be mistrusted and we would expect him to at least be escorted off the ship since he has no business on the Galactica, having no military function. But this is obviously done for the purposes of some future plot development, probably involving his girlfriend. But it makes no sense for the character who has largely been defined by his straight-forward loyalty to his President.

I'm noticing these cheats more and more. Cylons appear in the woods for no reason other than to kill a character that the plot requires be killed, and then disappear without harming or seriously pursuing the remaining characters. Cylon ships show up, blow up, and the Cylons never seem to wonder why they don't call anymore. Baltar's Cylon succubus gives hints and instructions that sometimes appear to aid the humans, sometimes hurt them.

Some of this can be explained, provisionally, by the assumption that it is all part of "the plan," and that the Cylons are leading the humans exactly where they want. But not all of it, and the "God moves in mysterious ways" plot-hole Bondo is being applied a little too liberally.
Brendan - Fri, Jun 18, 2010 - 8:15pm (USA Central)
Max,

Baltar knows there are 12 Cylon models. He does not know how many cylons are in the fleet. There is a difference. (they could all be the same model, for example)

His motivation is that he wanted to know.

As for Billy, the actor was shooting a pilot when this episode and the next few were shot, so he was unavailable and that was written in to explain it.

As for the Cylons acting strangely, this is true. Remember though that the Six in Baltar's head though, may or may not actually have anything to do with the Cylons.
Max Udargo - Sun, Jun 20, 2010 - 3:11pm (USA Central)
Brendan,

It occurred to me after I submitted the above comment that Baltar was asking something more specific of Sharon. Not how many models there were overall, but how many had infiltrated the fleet.

And the explanation about Billy is actually the only thing that makes sense. If the actor was planning to leave the series, then I guess they had to write him off quickly.

And that raises a question in my mind: Did the actor's plan to leave result in the sudden budding relationship between Dualla and Lee? Did the writers say, "Hey, now that Billy's gone, we need to plug Dualla into another romantic interest." Then apparently the actor playing Billy decided to stay and the writers were all like, "Hey, what do you know, we've got another romantic triangle."

I don't buy your explanation of Baltar's motivation. It doesn't really answer the question for one thing, and it doesn't explain how it helped Tyrol.
Brendan - Tue, Jun 22, 2010 - 4:22pm (USA Central)
That was never going to be Billy's exit from the show regardless, they just contractually were obligated to give him time off for other projects.

Why they decided to do Lee/Dualla is a good question, but I don't think that's it.

Batlar's motivation for knowing how many Cylons there were in the fleet had nothing to do with Tyrol. He wanted to know. Remember the scene in Home part 1 where he tells Six "all I see are Cylon faces around me". He is concerned... the Cylons are his enemy too, you know.

He was tasked with studying Boomer and interrogating her to find these kind of things out. This was his extreme method.
Nic - Sun, Mar 13, 2011 - 8:06pm (USA Central)
I have had nothing but sympathy for Sharon (at least her human 'persona') since the beginning, and as such throughout the episode I was thinking "How can the Galactica crew be this stupid and mean to her? How can they not realize she has real feelings?". But reading your review I realize that perhaps that was the point of the episode, so I can only say 'good job'!

I agree with the comments above about Baltar's actions being contrived, but then his actions throughout the series have been contrived in my opinion - motivated more by the requirements of the plot than by accurately projecting a character who has unwittingly caused the destruction of humanity.
Michael - Sun, Nov 13, 2011 - 6:07pm (USA Central)
Tigh to Baltar: "Legally speaking, I have declared martial law; that makes you nobody." HEAR, HEAR, HEAR, HEAR!!!

Springing Roslin out of jail was a despicable act. It's amazing how easily manipulated people can be. She's a broad with no political or legal mandate of any kind (who ever elected her as president or as anything else??) and who--at a time existential emergency--issued orders that cost lives and resources in pursuit of some nutjob religious visions. I don't care how "antipatico" Tigh may be to some; I'll take him over Roslin any day.

The final shots with Boomer were moving. I felt really sorry for her, especially seeing as she hadn't really done anything detrimental to the Fleet... - well, other than shooting Adama, and even that was evidently without an intention to kill him.

Speaking of which, great to see Adama back! :)
Justin - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 2:05am (USA Central)
This is truly a rare and wonderful series. I thought I had figured out where this episode would go after watching the last one, but nothing I thought would happen happened. This episode completely threw me for a loop. Every scene was believable, plausible, and just plain good.

Onward...
Ethan - Mon, Jul 23, 2012 - 4:35am (USA Central)
Michael,

Martial law lacks legitimacy without the will of the people. The people want democracy, and Tigh, the military leader, is doing a bad job, at least in the common people's eyes.

Springing Roslin out of jail is an act of conscience and belief in the democratic and lawful process, even if this conflicts with the military and realistic problems involving the survival of humanity. As in real life, many believe in religion as an answer to their questions about life, especially a life under such duress that it threatens the survival of the human race, many people turn to religion for the answers.

I find it hard to believe that Boomer didn't intend to kill Adama. Maybe the "human" part of her personality which struggled to rise above her Cylon identity had no such intention, but putting two bullets through Adama's chest was intentional, even if she had a conflicted multiple personality, the Cylon part of her mind at that moment commited an intentional act of attempted murder.
Michael - Wed, Jul 25, 2012 - 7:18pm (USA Central)
Ethan:

Um, no. The whole point of martial law is that it is instituted and enforced at times when regular (democratic or otherwise) mechanisms are ineffectual or undesirable. A war -- especially an existential one -- is not conducted via democratic processes, but by a leader or group thereof who make bold and conclusive decisions, fast.
J - Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - 12:54am (USA Central)
Re: grumpy's old post

The seeds of Tyrols doubt were planted in his head in Water, and probably reinforced a bit through Sharon's interactions with the captured Raider. He also had knowledge of Sharon leaving the hatch door open in that episode with the suicide bomber, and even questioned her about it privately.

It wouldn't have been a huge jump for Tyrol to make to believe she was a Cylon.
Cureboy - Sun, Dec 22, 2013 - 12:39am (USA Central)
Just finished this one. I'm really hooked on this show. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought Cally shooting Sharon was very Jack Ruby-ish.

That business with Billy didn't seem to ring true with all his past loyalty to the president. Interesting that Apollo wasn't loyal to Adama either.

That shifty Dr Baltar knows how to get folks to do his bidding. I'm glad they've toned down that business with Blonde Cylon chatting with him. That joke was only funny the first 100 times

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