Air date: 2/3/2006
Written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Directed by Michael Nankin
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
First things first. I need to get something off my chest: The word "frak" needs to go away. "Frak," "frakked," "frakker," "frakking," "frak you," "frakked up," "motherfrakker," "frakkity-frak-frak" — whatever — they all need to get the fuck off my Battlestar Galactica.
And, no, I did not say they need to get the "frak" off my BSG, because I don't use "frak" in my reviews except as a quote because, goddamn it, "frak" isn't a word. I'm willing to cut "gods damn it" some slack, because it at least makes sense in the polytheistic BSG universe. "Frak" is more and more a distraction — an arbitrary, made-up word that started as an homage to the original series and has since gotten really, really old because of its overuse. In "Scar," the word must be uttered at least two dozen times, and it just sounds stupid. Enough already. Cease. Desist. Stop. Please and thank you.
But on with the review of "Scar," in which it is now Kara's turn, rather than Lee's, to implode. Whereas Lee imploded quietly, Kara implodes publicly and noisily. It's not an explosion because the cause is internal and not outwardly revealed, but as implosions go, it sure has a way of being obvious to everyone else. I doubt Starbuck would have it any other way.
"Scar" is frustrating because there are things about it I really like, and it has the distinction of being a story in which the central character actually has a bona fide arc that showcases a change in her attitude. The problem is that those changes are built on a flimsy foundation I couldn't believe in, as much as I tried. Can I recommend a show that has good scenes and good character development (not to mention good CG space battles) but emerges from a faulty starting point? I guess in this case, I'm going with that standby scoring phrase, "near-miss." It's BSG's third near-miss in a row.
It's also the fourth consecutive episode to use some sort of timeline/flashback narrative framing device. Strange; I wonder what the writers' deal is. Consider my feelings on the matter to be neutral observation (although the framing device in "Black Market" was pointless). Throughout the episode, we cut between the ending, where the payoff is unfolding, and the events leading up to that payoff.
Galactica, on a mining operation crucial for the long-term benefit of the fleet, has been forced to wait for the operation to finish. Pegasus has jumped ahead, protecting the fleet. Who's in command of the Pegasus and what kind of internal mayhem is unfolding in light of Fisk's murder in "Black Market" is one question that "Scar" does not so much as attempt to address, but in all fairness I suppose the show is called Battlestar Galactica and not Battlestar Pegasus.
While in this holding pattern, the Galactica fighter pilots have been forced to hold the line against a small squadron of Cylon Raiders, one of which has taken on the reputation as the Cylon's top gun, dubbed "Scar" by the Viper pilots because he's been in a number of scrapes but never killed.
The story is about Scar and the way he takes on an almost larger-than-life mystique as a lethal opponent — and how an increasing number of Viper pilots have been killed by his skilled, often sneaky, assaults. But the true character core is about Starbuck's implosion, which happens just as Louanne "Kat" Katraine (Luciana Carro) is becoming a force to be reckoned with.
To say Starbuck and Kat have a clash of the egos would be an understatement. The fact of the matter is Starbuck is very close to being replaced as Galactica's top gun by the brash and aggressive Kat. I particularly like that Kat, who was one of the nameless trainees back in "Act of Contrition," has become a full-fledged character, never more evident than here, where she gets in Starbuck's face and challenges her in front of the flight crew.
They place a wager on who will take Scar out, in the midst of a rowdy drinking binge with all the Viper pilots. Starbuck does a drunken dive over a table that everyone finds amusing, although Starbuck's own amusement is fleeting; she laughs that she may not cry.
The source of Kara's pain is the trouble point of the episode. We're supplied flashbacks that explain, and those flashbacks are in regard to resistance fighter Samuel Anders from Caprica (see "The Farm"). She promised to return to rescue him and his resistance group, and she hasn't been able to keep that promise. Her feelings of guilt, combined with her apparently having fallen in love with Anders in less than a week, have sparked her implosion. My problem is that I didn't buy that Kara could fall for Anders as fast as she did. I didn't buy it then, and I certainly don't now.
There's a scene here where she goes so far as to try to use Lee for a "good lay" in lieu of Anders. It's one of those moments fans have thirsted for — where Kara and Lee finally succumb to their attraction — but it ends in drunken pain and argument. Lee quite frankly has a right to feel used, in no small part because the writers have forced this whole projection scenario upon Kara's character.
Subsequently, Kara drinks herself into oblivion, oversleeps, and assigns a pilot to replace her in the flight rotation. That pilot, BB, makes a particularly idiotic tactical move and is killed by Scar on a mission where Starbuck would've been his wingman. Kat calls Starbuck on this fact in full view of the other pilots in the ready room. Is Kat right? Certainly, yes; Starbuck's drinking is starting to run out of control. But Kat is also trying to make her mark in the most forced of ways, for the simple reason that her own mortality is palpable enough that she'd rather be sure she's remembered as a hotshot in case she dies.
Do these two pilots eventually come to blows? Do they even more eventually overcome their doubts about each other and team up to kill Scar? Gee, what do you think?
Still, there are plenty of good things about "Scar." I enjoyed most of the Starbuck/Kat conflict, no matter how close to cliche the ego games came. I also enjoyed a scene between Kara and Sharon, where Sharon explains how Raiders think, and where Kara comments on how she sometimes forgets that Sharon is a Cylon. There's a sense of empathy here from both characters that hasn't been evident since Sharon was revealed as a Cylon. And as I said before, the battle sequences, with all the rocks and debris and cat-and-mouse games, are very well done.
There's also a moving scene where Kat thinks she's going to finally get the glory she's been seeking, and Starbuck instead uses it as a toast to the memory of all the pilots Galactica has lost. It could be seen as a brutal way to deny Kat's moment, but it's also honestly a moving and appropriate tribute first and foremost. Kat gets her toast, but it comes with the reminder that the glory comes with a price.
Kara goes through a definitive transition here, from a hotshot who might've previously been happy to die for glory to someone who now would prefer to give up the glory so that she can live and keep a promise. There's actual character growth to here, a legitimate arc on behalf of the writers.
And yet, the impetus for it all, to me, is not convincing in the slightest. Kara has a long history of buried feelings for Lee (not to mention she was previously engaged to Zak) and we're supposed to believe her big growth was brought on by Anders, of all people? I just don't buy it. Not from what we saw in "The Farm." Too bad, too, because the only thing lacking here is motivation. The action and the conflict are the parts that work.