It seems the second-to-last episode of a BSG season has become the slot where we get the progression of the ongoing plot, but also new developments of bizarre and disturbing ominousness.
Last season's "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 1" had an opening teaser where Sharon sensed a cold feeling, and Tyrol suddenly awoke from a nightmare and beat Cally to unconsciousness.
First season's "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 1" had Sharon, who had been teetering on the brink all season, shoot herself because she thought she was about to do something terrible. She survived.
Both episodes opened with musically scored montages of crosscutting. "Crossroads, Part 1" has no such opening sequence (a shame), but it does have what might be the creepiest portending to date, because it's not in what characters say or do, but in what seems to be in their minds. Helo, by the end of the hour, is sensing the doom in the air: "Weather's changing, Felix. We need to be ready for it. There's a storm coming."
Roslin's dreams might be predicting that forthcoming storm. For the first time since the cancer, Roslin has a mysterious vision. It involves Six grabbing Hera in the ancient opera house on Kobol. Anything imagined/envisioned/prophesied at that opera house — or more accurately, Opera House — has automatic meaning in the BSG universe.
In "Crossroads" we've also finally reached the beginning of the trial of Gaius Baltar. Tory tries to push the prosecutor, Didi Cassidy (Chelah Horsdal), into charging Baltar with genocide for the original attack on the Colonies. In classic Law & Order style, the prosecutor explains that she'll try the case she can prove, not the case that the political/societal machine might want.
The trial sequences are very much in the style of contemporary TV courtroom drama like L&O. The crucial difference, of course, is that the witnesses, judges, and defendant are major characters in the larger picture, and the details of the trial involve stakes that become deeply personal as well as legal and societal.
Those proceedings begin with the opening arguments. It's worth mentioning that Cassidy's argument isn't particularly compelling. Certainly, the numbers are significant — 5,197 went dead or missing on New Caprica during Baltar's presidency — but they don't get to the heart of Baltar's guilt or innocence. Certainly not the way Lampkin's defensive argument does. His fiery attack on the "justice of the mob" is far more compelling material, delivered with far more feeling. Indeed, Lampkin's defense makes a good point about Baltar's decision to surrender to the Cylons: He simply had no choice. The only other alternative would've meant death. (Cassidy's argument might've been better had she mentioned that it was Baltar's ill-advised decision to colonize New Caprica in the first place. Of course, no one knows the truth behind the nuclear bomb that took out the Cloud Nine, which was also Baltar's fault.)
The simple fact is that no one is going to out-lawyer Lampkin. Cassidy is competent but colorless. As audience members, we already have far more invested in Lampkin as a personality. It's an interesting way of setting our sympathies; even if we are in favor of Baltar being found guilty, our attraction to Lampkin's arguments help balance the scales.
Interesting things start to happen when the witnesses testify on the stand. Tigh gets on the stand partially drunk, and his guilt over Ellen — which has been brought back to the forefront in a memorable scene between Tigh and Six in which the interrogator has unexpectedly had the psychological tables turned against him — ends up with him confessing the killing of his wife in open court. The testimony has the effect of making Tigh's bitter hatred of Baltar look completely personal and not objective.
Meanwhile, a sense of dread begins building behind the scenes. A woman visits Baltar in jail and begs him to bless her son. She's the fifth such visitor. Why does she seem to worship Baltar? And is there a significance to the fact that she's the fifth visitor?
Down at the bar, Anders can hear mysterious music in the static of a radio. So can Tigh. So can Tory. But no one else seems to hear it. At one point, Anders and Tory share a stare that's chilling in its mysteriousness. What do they have in common? Is the music a warning? A strange Cylon communication? What?
Tigh's incident on the witness stand has launched him into a drunken mess. Adama helps the poor guy into his rack, who sadly notes that he can no longer smell Ellen's scent on her clothes. Tigh has become a tragic warning of a battered life of warfare. Let me quickly add the performances of Michael Hogan should never go overlooked.
Meanwhile, Galactica's tailing Raptor learns that the Cylons have discovered how to follow them and are catching up. The theory is that a radiation leak on the tylium refinery might be traceable by the Cylons. Before fixing the radiation leak, Lee comes up with a plan to throw the Cylons off track: Send the tylium ship on a different path before rendezvousing with the fleet. It's a plan that's as smart as it is simple.
So there's a lot of percolating dread in the background. The main drive of the story, however, is Lee, and what his association with Baltar's defense is doing to his relationships with his shipmates, his father, and his wife. Following Tigh's debacle on the stand, Adama and Lee have a conversation that shows just how quickly their relationship has deteriorated since Lee joined Baltar's defense. Adama doesn't trust his son anymore, and flat-out accuses him of having leaked Tigh's secret about Ellen to Lampkin. (Ironically, the truth is that Lee didn't even know about it.) Lee resigns his post, saying he won't serve under an authority who questions his integrity. Adama accepts his resignation, saying he has no integrity. As I watched this scene, it seemed to me that Lee was practically baiting his father into this course of action. It's such a cold, cold scene between father and son that it's almost painful to watch.
Why is Lee doing this, anyway? Is it merely to stick it to the old man, as Lampkin contends? Lee thinks he may have information about Roslin that could potentially damage her testimony over Baltar's signing of the New Caprica execution order, but he's loath to share it. Lampkin essentially tells Lee that it's time to put up or shut up: Either he's really working for the defense, or he's simply acting out a charade to annoy his father. Lampkin, a brilliant strategist, knows just what buttons in Lee to push to get the right reaction.
The episode's crucial turning point comes when Lee cross-examines Roslin. Seeing Lee in a suit rather than a uniform makes for an effectively jarring little moment. Jamie Bamber's performance is finely tuned in how it reveals Lee's obvious nervousness in standing up and cross-examining the president in court. (Unlike Lampkin, he has not done this before.) The power of this scene comes in its implications. It's not merely that Roslin is forced to admit that she has resumed taking chamalla and that her cancer has returned. It's that she's forced to admit this in open court when it's an attack on her credibility — by someone who was once close to her. When she whispers to Lee, "I feel so sorry for you," you realize just how deep a hole Lee has dug for himself.
The scene shows Lee passing a point he might never recover from, burying himself in alienation. That night, Dualla leaves him. When Lee attempts to defend his behavior on behalf of "the system," she frankly says the system should be taken apart, and we realize that this trial is not simply about one man, but a possible referendum on the legal system itself (such as it is).
I love how unflappable Roslin is in the face of an inquisitive press corps. She keeps her cool, and has a sardonic wit. Reporter: "Madam president, how long do you have to live?" Roslin: "How long do you have to live, Karen?" It's a cooler head than Tory's, who calls the reporters "vultures" to their faces. Later, Roslin tells Tory to get her act together and to relearn the functions of a comb. I love these little details. Yet they still service the ominous foreboding. What's wrong with Tory, anyway? And with Tigh? And Anders?
The episode ends with Tigh alone in his quarters, hearing that song and concluding: "It's in the ship!" The scene is eerie as hell, and proves that the confident setting of tone in storytelling can sell the notion that Something Big Is Coming. Even if we didn't have Helo telling Gaeta to beware the coming storm, we'd still be getting the point. Beware.