Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Exodus, Part 2"

***1/2

Air date: 10/20/2006
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Felix Alcala

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

I called "Exodus, Part 1" the setup, and now I can call "Exodus, Part 2" the payoff. It's a worthy one —good but not flawless — elevated into the realm of the standouts by virtue of two potent character arcs fully realized by the end.

The rest of the time it plays like a highly entertaining — albeit highly telegraphed — action/adventure, in which all avenues must absolutely and unequivocally arrive at the predetermined solution because the previous episode made so very much of promising that solution's delivery. When "Occupation/Precipice" aired, I figured you could easily get ten episodes out of the New Caprica arc. But after last week's "Exodus, Part 1," it became very clear that New Caprica was quickly going to be left in the rear-view mirror. It's Galactica to the rescue or bust.

I'm not sure if that decision was a good thing, a bad thing, or a neutral thing. Clearly, an occupation is a storyline that could've sustained more than four episodes, especially when the series went so far as to jump forward in time and reinvent itself. At the same time, with all that had been accomplished in "Occupation/Precipice," the show probably needed to move along to keep momentum from flagging — which, by the way, I would argue is somewhat what happened in "Exodus, Part 1." And since so much already happened off-screen — both with the one-year leap as well as the four months of unseen occupation — the story's structure naturally had to be geared toward the escape. I just wonder if it could have been and done more.

Not that we didn't have enough. "Occupation/Precipice" had so many storylines and characters that I'm still in awe of it, and in terms of pure action, "Exodus, Part 2" pulls out all the stops.

Before the action, however, the story first deals with one of those many storylines/characters: Ellen Tigh. Anders tells Tigh that he'd better "take care of" Ellen for her betrayal — because if Tigh doesn't, someone else will. What follows is a scene of Shakespearean tragedy in which Tigh poisons his own wife. (When Ellen says that she'd do what she did again if it meant saving her husband, it reveals a mindset that's at odds with Tigh's soldier mentality — because the mission must be maintained at the individual's expense, not vice versa.) Can you agree with Tigh's mindset? Probably not, but you can probably sense a warrior's code at work. In Tigh's mind, this is a mercy killing carried out because he loves her and wants to be sure she dies on his terms and not someone else's. It's a character-defining moment.

Soon the bombs are falling, and we learn the nature of Galactica's rescue plan. Strictly speaking, this is not a rescue mission so much as an orchestrated diversion to keep the Cylons busy while the residents of New Caprica flee to their now-unlocked ships and save themselves. Adama's plan involves a series of clever tactical maneuvers that make for some entertaining, frenetic action and impressive visual FX sequences.

I don't know, however, if I'm quite convinced by from a plausibility standpoint. The use of FTL jumps as a battle tactic strikes me as a dangerous tech card for the writers to play; it has an arbitrary nature and opens a can of worms. In one scene, the Galactica FTL-jumps to a point high in the sky above New Caprica City, does a free fall while on fire, launches its Vipers, and then jumps away just in time to avoid crashing into the ground at terminal velocity. It's a noisy and cool scene, but isn't FTL being used here like a magical teleportation device rather than a function to explain interstellar travel? Don't get me wrong: The notion of FTL is pure fiction in any case, but when they draw attention to it like this, it seems like it's the writers' fictional tech that's outsmarting the Cylons rather than the plausible ingenuity of the characters.

As was said by Lee in the last two episodes and the beginning of this one, Adama's mission is a hopeless one, and a point comes where the Galactica is under heavy fire, outnumbered by four basestars with the FTL engines down, and the situation looks hopeless. Obviously it's time for the Pegasus to charge in for the rescue, in what's one of this series' most spectacular battle sequences. In keeping with the epic scope of the episode, the Pegasus is sacrificed in this battle — a tactical maneuver on Lee's part. (Wouldn't it have been a TV coup if the Galactica had been destroyed instead and next week the show was called Battlestar Pegasus? Kidding.)

It makes for epic drama, but it leaves out some of the more realistic aspects of this series. I found myself wondering: Can a skeleton crew really pilot a battlestar through such a crucible of fire? Also, given the levels of trickery on display here, couldn't a way have been devised from the outset that used both battlestars to carry out the mission, with the sacrifice of one ship drawn up as an acceptable outcome? Perhaps it would've been too big of a risk, but it seems like it would've caused more confusion for the Cylons and made more sense than the Galactica going it alone.

I quibble on logic, but the truth of the matter is that these scenes are exciting and well executed. Much like "Pegasus," this is an episode that's less grounded in reality, and a little larger than life.

There's plenty of action on the ground as well, nicely shot in the Saving Private Ryan cinema verite style. (Duplicating the feel of documentary footage, it seems to me that SPR basically set the visual format for all realistic movie war footage ever since. One wonders if it has become easier to stage war action simply by adjusting the shutter speed on the camera.)

On the character front, we've still got Kara and Leoben in a twisted situation where she has become somewhat more submissive to life in captivity simply because her maternal instincts have kicked in to care for Kacey, allegedly her daughter. Leoben, meanwhile, seems to want some sort of admission of love from Kara, no matter how staged. Kara ends up in one of the most skin-crawling kissing close-ups imaginable. For the life of me, I don't know what Leoben even thinks he gains by getting such a coerced and false "I love you" out of Kara. One suspects this is not about love and the Cylon procreation plan (cf. Helo and Sharon); this is more about power in the rape-predator sense. When Kara stabs Leoben in mid-kiss and then twists the knife, we feel simultaneously glad and unclean.

Meanwhile, Baltar is the ultimate Cylon stooge. As the Cylons plan their evacuation, he sits powerlessly until D'Anna invites him to join the Cylons as they leave (since the humans will surely want his head). There's a showdown between Baltar and Gaeta that manages to keep both characters alive and supply Baltar an avenue for dignity: He will stop D'Anna from setting off a nuke. I find myself wondering what goes through this guy's head. He's clearly been suicidal, yet he couldn't take a bullet to stop the executions in "Precipice." Now he's willing to kill D'Anna to save humanity. When that doesn't go as planned, he ends up joining the Cylons because he simply has nowhere else to go.

As with the good dramatic victories, this one does not come without a substantial cost. Specifically, Maya is killed during the exodus, hybrid baby Hera survives, and D'Anna finds her, in keeping with her premonition. Despite every dire warning being issued by Roslin and Tory, Maya and the child could not be secured, and now the baby finds its way into the hands of the Cylons. Just wait until Sharon finds out. I love how victories on this show include ominous failures that hint at future disaster.

There are character costs as well. The episode's celebratory shots aboard Galactica have substantial power, but not for the reasons you would've thought. Adama is raised up on the crew's shoulders and cheered, but the scene is really about Tigh and Kara, who have been left very damaged by what has happened. The music (a solemn counterpoint to the celebration) and the focus on these two characters says more than dialog ever could, or would need to. Consider: Tigh lost his wife in an even worse way than a random Cylon killing, and Kara learns that Kacey is not her daughter, but simply a random child that was kidnapped and inserted into a very elaborate and cruel deception. In its subtle way, you can almost see Kara's spirit break in this scene.

It's realizations like these that elevate "Exodus, Part 2" into something more than the action-packed conclusion of a plot. The residents of New Caprica have made their escape, but what happened while they were there will leave more than its share of scars.

Previous episode: Exodus, Part 1
Next episode: Collaborators

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24 comments on this review

Caradog - Mon, Dec 24, 2007 - 3:33am (USA Central)
From from a viseral, action point of view this is my favourite episode of the series.

From the tense decoy scene to the insane in-atmosphere jump to launch the vipers and finally the four basestars on one battlestar pounding. I seriously thought this would be the end of the Galactica, and the show would move on to Pegasus; quite ridiculous and unprecidented really, but for a moment I genuinely believed it. The pull away shot of Galactica seemingly going down followed by Pegasus charging in to save the day is the most satisfying action shot of the whole series run. Completely took my breath away.
Brendan - Wed, Mar 12, 2008 - 9:44pm (USA Central)
The Galactica dropping like a rock is the coolest action scene in any TV show, ever. How dare you say anything bad about it! Sacrilege!

Chris - Fri, Apr 18, 2008 - 4:00am (USA Central)
This ep is a total ripper. I knew something about it before it went to air here in Australia and had to stop myself from finding out too much.
Could watch the action scenes both space and ground over and over again.
Josh - Sun, Mar 1, 2009 - 7:43am (USA Central)
I think enough can't be said to praise the scene on the hanger deck. When you think about what has just taken place, the whole occupation on New Caprica, the elated cheers of most of the refugees, delivered from that horror, juxtaposed against the despair of Starbuck and Tigh for what they have gone through and lost, it just has such power to it. It's all the emotion of New Caprica concentrated in a single moment. Very moving.
Luke - Wed, Mar 4, 2009 - 6:10pm (USA Central)
Is it just me or did the Pegasus since its introduction into the season go completely under used? Besides the excellent Pegasus trilogy, we learnt very little about the people serving aboard her, we had no significant new cast members come from the Pegasus, and the people we did see seemed completely unlikable. While its destruction was visually exciting and quite moving, I didn't feel that a significant shift in the BSG story would have taken place because the ship never really came into the story that much.
Jason K - Thu, Apr 30, 2009 - 9:47am (USA Central)
Tigh to Tyrol: "Besides, the last thing your kid wants is Ellen and me for parents."

ROFLMAO
MP - Thu, Aug 13, 2009 - 5:56am (USA Central)
Jammer Writes:

"The notion of FTL is pure fiction in any case..."

That's kinda cutting yourself short, isn't it? While going Faster Than Light is impossible based upon current knowledge, there are many ways around that.

BSG's FTL Drives seem to bend space, i.e. create an artificial wormhole, which is a real-world theory which so far is plausible when it comes to the math, but unachievable due to our limited technology.

In fact, I remember reading somewhere that artificial wormholes are the most probable way space travel will come about in the future, as other concepts such as Star Trek's warp drive, which changes the laws of physics, and other series Hyperspace or Subspace, which depend on an alternate universe for which there is no proof of as of now, are mathematically impossible now. Wormholes are proven through math, however.

------------

Also, if you remember, the series has used the FTL as a plot point before. I.E. the Raptor's jumping into a very low Caprica orbit to avoid the Basestar's detection grid.
karatasiospa - Wed, Sep 2, 2009 - 5:45am (USA Central)
just for the record trek's warp drive does not change the laws of physics it just bends them and it is mathematically proven as theoretically possible just see: Miguel Alcubierre 1994 (The warp drive: hyper-fast travel
within general relativity)
bigpale - Thu, Feb 24, 2011 - 1:18am (USA Central)
Kobol's Last Gleaming is still my favorite episode of the series (both parts together), but the BSG jumping into the atmosphere and then jumping out DeLorian-style is my single favorite moment, with the ending to Crossroads being number 2.

I still can't get over how utterly amazing this show was. It's like a great book, you can just pick it up and read it every year and it won't get old.
Corrine - Thu, Apr 7, 2011 - 8:48pm (USA Central)
My favorite part of this episode was after Kara accepts Kacey as her daughter you can see her spirit crush when she finds out Kacey's not her daughter after all. I just love how heartbreaking it is. So sad. Glad your brought attention to that. I would have been very disappointed had you not. I find all your reviews give me exactly what I need from the episode. THANKS!
K+L Forever
Nic - Mon, Aug 1, 2011 - 8:20am (USA Central)
I almost cried during the scene where Tigh poisons Ellen. Neither is even close to being my favorite character but I completely sympathized with both of them in this scene.

As for the rest of the episode, it's hard not to draw comparisons with the Occupation arc that opened DS9's sixth season. When the Pegasus predictably arrived to save the Galactica, I was reminded of the Klingons in "Sacrifice of Angels".

DS9's arc was six episodes long at a time when this kind of storytelling on television was unheard of. BSG's arc lasted only four, at a time when it is much more common. It seems this limit was imposed by the network, but it still seems like a cop-out. Why take such a big risk and then set everything back to normal by the first quarter of the season? It was still a great episode, but a lot of it just feels a little too easy.
Dudits - Sat, Aug 6, 2011 - 4:38pm (USA Central)
When the Cylons asked where is the Galactica and then the next scene showed the gigantic and very powerful battle star coming out of FTL in the upper atmosphere and dropping towards the planets surfaces on fire blew me away and somehow it was a very emotional moment. It was like I was a prisoner myself on that planet and I looked up and seen a US Fighter coming to my rescue.
pegboy - Tue, Sep 27, 2011 - 1:11am (USA Central)
If this isn't a 4 star episode than nothing is. The reunion in the hanger deck ranks among the most heart-wrenching scenes in the entire series. Need I even mention the battle scenes and atmosphere drop? Also how badass is the final shot of Adama returning to duty with the fleet reunited?
Michael - Sat, Nov 19, 2011 - 4:51pm (USA Central)
The show just keeps reaching new heights. There's not a single show out there that ever provoked such intense feelings in me--despair one minute, elation the next--, or where I was drawn into it to such an extent that I both identified with the characters or even, in a way, became one of them.

This particular episode has awesome action sequences, masterfully done, as well as deeply moving scenes. Yes, many events happened too quickly and easily, but that does not detract from the enjoyability of it.

Adama shaves off his soup-strainer: We're back in business, baby!
Nic - Wed, Dec 28, 2011 - 10:03pm (USA Central)
Re: joke about destroying the Galactica and renaming the show Battlestar Pegasus. WHAM! All joking aside, that would have been one of the boldest moves in the history of television, one that would have elevated this episode to 4 stars in my book.
Nick P. - Sun, Jan 29, 2012 - 11:09pm (USA Central)
Surpised I never commented on this one. Just watched it on my second run through, and I must admit, this seemed far more powerful the second time. The Galactica appearing in the atmosphere to the relief of everyone below, the death of Ellen, the stunning space battle, and OMG that tragic final scene in the hanger deck. I cried as soon as Tigh walked out of the shuttle door. Funny, that i did NOT cry the first time (much anyways), but knowing what happens to everybody it is so much more relevant.

I personally think this is where Michael Hogan dramatically takes over this series.
Ryan - Sun, Feb 26, 2012 - 3:25pm (USA Central)
This story arc has been excellent. Great action, great drama, and Tigh's inner badass finally comes roaring through like I always hoped it would.

At the end of season 2 I had mixed feelings; sad that the "life aboard a fleet of spaceships" theme was ending, but excited about the possibilities of the new "occupation/resistance" setting.

Now, at the end of this episode, I find myself really bummed at the idea of everything "going back to normal." All I can say is that Tigh better not go back being the whipping boy or I'll be very disappointed.
Justin - Mon, Jul 9, 2012 - 8:44am (USA Central)
This episode definitely has its flaws, but I have no nits to pick. It was probably the most exciting episode of the entire run so far. And the gut wrenching scene in the end was so well done and supremely acted by Katee Sackoff. There are many empathy-invoking scenes in this series for many different characters, but I don't think I've ever felt sorrier for anyone than I did for Kara when Kacey was basically ripped away from her. It was an emotional punch in the gut and it was conveyed with no dialogue. Heartbreaking stuff.

I think when you combine both parts of Exodus as one episode, it is just shy of 4 stars. 3.9 stars, I'd say...
Caleb - Sun, Jul 22, 2012 - 4:10am (USA Central)
Wow... I was sad to see the New Caprica arc end, in my opinion it's been the highlight of the series (so far, I'm watching it for the first time quite late in the game), but what an episode. 4 stars for me. The hangar deck scene alone does it. The Tigh and Starbuck arcs were masterfully done, and masterfully acted.
Jason K - Wed, Sep 19, 2012 - 12:35pm (USA Central)
@NickP - "I personally think this is where Michael Hogan dramatically takes over this series."

So true. Tigh became the best character in the series following this episode.
J - Tue, Jul 30, 2013 - 6:26pm (USA Central)
I got the sense that Ellen overheard Tigh and Anders convo, and also understood Tigh so well, that she knew the glass was poisoned, and decided to take her own life in Tighs arms when she said "I need a drink". I got the sense that she understood, she knew it was her time, she told Tigh the truth about what she did for closure then took her own life so Tigh didn't have to, sticking with him and believing in him until the end.
Cureboy - Thu, Jan 2, 2014 - 9:26pm (USA Central)
Ok this one had me tearing up at the end. It wasn't until the review and comments that I realized Helen had to die. She would do it all over again.

I knew Pegasus would jump to the rescue but I still smiled when it happened. Pegasus died a brave death. I LOVED Gaeta pulling the gun on Baltar. Good for him.

Why'd he let Lucy Lawless take the baby? When will Apollo lose that spare tire? Talking to myself I know. But have to talk about the show with somebody :)
Andy's Friend - Sat, Jan 4, 2014 - 6:15pm (USA Central)
@Cureboy:
"Ok this one had me tearing up at the end. [...] Good for him. Why'd he let Lucy Lawless take the baby? When will Apollo lose that spare tire? Talking to myself I know. But have to talk about the show with somebody :)"

I'm right there with you, Cureboy! :)
I originally watched the first Galactica and TNG when they aired, but never really got to watch much of the later Trek series. I later watched every single episode of Star Trek on dvd with my now ex-girlfriend and her son; they both loved it so much that they also bought every series on dvd after we split up :) But ufortunately mother and child lost interest in BSG after the initial episodes; it just wasn't their thing. I kept on watching (how could I not, after "33"?), but just didn't have anyone to talk to about it. So frustrating...

So don't worry, we're right there with you - try googling "Shankly Gates" ;)

Thanks, Jammer, for this great site.
Anonymous - Thu, Jun 12, 2014 - 9:43pm (USA Central)
I think "frak" means fuck..

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