Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Hero"

**1/2

Air date: 11/17/2006
Written by David Eick
Directed by Michael Rymer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Three Cylon Raiders jump into the immediate vicinity of the Galactica, and as the Vipers close in to intercept, it becomes clear that one of the Raiders is running from the other two. The two pursuing Raiders are taken out by the Vipers, and the third Raider is escorted into the Galactica's hangar deck. The pilot of this stolen Raider is Lt. Danny "Bulldog" Novacek (Carl Lumbly), who served under Adama during Adama's previous command of the battlestar Valkyrie. Bulldog was captured by the Cylons three years ago and was held prisoner until his current escape.

It quickly becomes clear that Bulldog's disappearance involves a dark secret pertaining to a Valkyrie mission and, more specifically, Adama's role in it. After Bulldog's debriefing that seems to be going through the motions with little regard for brutal honesty, Roslin asks Adama, "Do you want to tell me what's going on?" Adama replies, "You're going to have to trust me on this one."

The message of "Hero" is one of taking individual responsibility. The whole issue of how Bulldog was captured by the Cylons digs deep into one of Adama's painful secrets and perhaps into his soul. The show's message is an admirable one, but it's not terribly convincing. Considering what humanity has been through in recent months (what with the Cylon occupation and all), you'd think that long-ago bygones would be bygones. Then again, Adama does have a soft spot for Individual Responsibility.

His dark secret is that the Valkyrie was on a classified mission about three years ago — before the Cylon attack — to investigate the Cylon border, peek across with a small fighter (Bulldog was the pilot), and see what the Cylons were up to. (There were rumors of a Cylon war machine at work. I suppose the intelligence was correct, but far too late.) When it looked like a Cylon patrol had seen Bulldog's ship, Adama ordered it shot down so its presence wouldn't be detected and construed as an act of war. Bulldog ejected before the Valkyrie's missile impact, and was subsequently captured by the Cylons, unbeknownst to everybody, although possibly suspected by some, including Adama and Tigh.

Dramatically, the problem with "Hero" is that it builds up to a big secret that simply isn't big enough. First of all, the new information that Adama commanded another battlestar so shortly before the events of the miniseries feels retroactively inserted into history solely for the sake of this episode and not like an organic or convincing piece of Adama's true backstory. Second, the story makes much of the fact that Adama is overwhelmed with guilt that this failed mission might possibly have been the catalyst for the Cylon attack on the Colonies.

Adama confesses this to his son and even breaks down into tears. I'm not so sure I buy it. The Cylons were clearly planning the attack for years before it happened (as evidenced by the sleeper agents). Adama's guilt over his role in something so much larger than himself does not strike me as believable, especially since we haven't seen a trace of it for the past two seasons (often a problem with inventing retroactive backstory). Yes, Adama has always been willing to question his choices and those of humanity — and I appreciate that — but for him to go from asking a few tough questions to blaming himself for starting the entire war is a stretch.

Adama is so shaken by Bulldog resurfacing that he visits Tigh in his quarters, who has locked himself away since that memorable scene at the end of "Torn" when he said he wouldn't be coming around anymore. If I don't believe Adama's characterization in this episode, I do believe Tigh's, whose deeply damaged psyche and believable screw-the-world response seems to be a selling point of a lot of episodes these days. This is a guy whose motivation I completely buy from week to week.

Meanwhile, the questions circle Bulldog and his escape from the Cylons. Just how did he get off a basestar? Kara reviews the flight video and becomes convinced that the two Raiders that were chasing his Raider simply let him escape when they easily could've killed him. She passes the information to Tigh, and during this scene I again found myself wondering: Just how did these two former-enemies become friends on New Caprica? Much the way "Unfinished Business" will explore how Kara and Lee became so deeply estranged, I hope to find out someday how Kara and Tigh became so amicable (even before their perception of shared suffering upon returning from New Caprica).

There's also a subplot on the basestar with Baltar, D'Anna, and Six, who these days share a bed, threesome style, which is somehow appropriate given Baltar. D'Anna's fascination with Baltar undoubtedly arises from that intriguing torture scene in last week's "Measure of Salvation," but we also get some further hints at her fascination with death — or, more specifically, the mysterious images that lie between death and downloading. Are there truths to discover? Is this the same D'Anna who was a TV reporter on Galactica? (There are flashbacks to her being cornered and machine-gunned in a corridor on Galactica.) Why does she have the Cylon Centurion delete its logs when she commands it to shoot her in the head? When she downloads, surely someone has to know that she died and transferred to a new body, right? Do Cylon bodies have serial numbers? Is this plot supposed to give us hints about something or simply provide half-baked pseudo-philosophical atmosphere? I confess that I don't know.

Back aboard the Galactica, Bulldog inevitably learns of Adama's role in shooting him down, which leads to a violent confrontation in which it looks like Bulldog is prepared to crush Adama's throat with a pipe. Tigh intervenes, and has a priceless little self-describing speech about self-loathing versus facing the truths that we deep down know but don't want to accept. "Sometimes surviving can be its own death sentence," he says. His speech is better than a 12-step program.

Bulldog knows he was shot down; he just doesn't want to admit it. Bulldog knows the Cylons let him escape; he just doesn't want to admit it. Meanwhile, Tigh knows that he would rather drown in self-loathing than face the fact that he killed his wife. The speech the writers give Tigh is great service to Tigh in terms of character development. I like that Tigh is in this place of pain, and is somehow able to burrow his way out. I also like that this leads him to finally bear his soul and confess his sin and reason for suffering to Adama at the end of the episode. In a less-than-stellar episode, there are still stellar moments like this to find.

On the other hand, I don't buy the rationale surrounding Bulldog. Apparently the Cylons let him escape because they knew he would find out about Adama's role in shooting him down and take revenge. If that's the Cylons' plan (and the opening titles assure us every week that "they have a plan"), my questions are as follows: (1) How in the world did Bulldog find the fleet? (2) If Bulldog can find the fleet then why don't the Cylons find the fleet? (3) Why don't the Cylons jump in and attack the fleet directly since they must therefore know where it is? Perhaps their need to find Earth supersedes their need to attack the fleet. Or perhaps the plot is a sieve.

After the past has been dealt with, where does Bulldog go at the end of the episode? He gets on a ship and it's not said where he's going. Apparently he's not staying on Galactica, and that's all we're intended to know. On a series that has had such a dearth of prominent black male characters, Bulldog's half-baked exit from this story is less than satisfying. (Not that his thus-far-mediocre character would've necessarily been a winning addition to the recurring cast.)

And the episode never convinced me of Adama's characterization of overburdened self-administered guilt. When Roslin tries to set him straight (i.e., he was one man in a war that had many, many reasons, etc.), it seems like common sense. That Adama would go so far as to submit his resignation to Roslin (which she rejects, naturally) borders on the ridiculous. You can be torn up inside, but for the sake of those around you and under your command, you can't afford to be so outwardly dramatic. Adama of all people should know that.

Previous episode: A Measure of Salvation
Next episode: Unfinished Business

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16 comments on this review

Odon - Sun, Jan 13, 2008 - 7:26am (USA Central)
It's mentioned in Exodus that the 'human' cylons are worried about their own robot revolution, which is likely why D'Anna told the centurion to erase the memory of it shooting her.
Bill T - Fri, Sep 26, 2008 - 1:00am (USA Central)
Just watched this one again on DVD. 4-star episode. Nothing more need be said. I suggest you watch it again as well (and compare it with some of the utter crap in later season 3 & season 4.0...)
Grumpy - Fri, Jan 9, 2009 - 11:54pm (USA Central)
"...the opening titles assure us every week that 'they have a plan'"

Turns out it's not as definitive as "-A- plan." More like, "They have some plans."
MP - Sat, Aug 15, 2009 - 12:35am (USA Central)
I strong.y disagree with Bill T.

For me, this is a 1/2 star, and that 1/2 comes from the acting. The story is a mess, the plot contrivances are blinding, and his guilt is far from credible, as you said, he couldn't have had any role to play. Plus, after watching 4.5, you realize that Cavil started the war.

Later season 3 and early season 4 are some of the best episodes of the series imo. I think Bill T somehow inverted what he was trying to say.
enniofan - Sat, Mar 20, 2010 - 8:32pm (USA Central)
popped in this episode for giggles.

not entirely bad, especially with D'Anna/ Balter and Tigh.

I agree with all the criticism leveled against the episode.

This is one of those "stand alone" episodes that SciFi really wanted RDM to make (he says that somewhere in a S3 podcast). It really is a testament to the makers of the show that even their weak episodes are still seemed pretty danged good, and Season 3 has the weakest episodes -- though "Deadlocked" has them all beat).
Max Udargo - Fri, Jun 25, 2010 - 5:24pm (USA Central)
The Tigh character seems to be carrying a lot of the episodes lately, but he's not central enough to save them.

I agree with all the criticisms and would add more. Unlike Jammer, I am not at all intrigued or impressed by the scenes depicting Baltar's life on the base ship. It all seems like filler to me, and worse, an excuse for some really pathetic "Austin Powers" style games with nudity. The painfully obvious effort that goes into posing actors and props so that Hefler, Park and Lawless can display maximum nudity without actually exposing any "naughty parts" would be comical if it wasn't so embarrassing.

And it seems to me that a fundamental part of Adama's philosophy of life, voiced repeatedly, is that you don't second guess your decisions. You do your best to make good decisions, and then you accept the consequences of those decisions and move on. His actions in this episode didn't seem consistent with that view at all.
Brendan - Mon, Jul 19, 2010 - 1:06am (USA Central)
This episode proves in a nut shell what's great about BSG. That is, that even when there's a mess of a script, poorly executed, with an implausible backstory, beginning, middle, and end, there are still many moments of pure awesomeness.
bigpale - Wed, Mar 2, 2011 - 1:42pm (USA Central)
This is one of only 3 episodes that I skip over when I rewatch the series every spring.

Black Market and The Woman King are the other two.

Even in this mess of a show, there's still some good moments, and some things that will be crucial to the rest of the show -- especially those involving the goings on on the BaseStar.

For me, the show is a 2 star episode, and the 2nd worst in the show.
Sanagi - Tue, Apr 26, 2011 - 3:04am (USA Central)
I liked this one. The weak points didn't bother me any more than the ongoing issue of the Cylons making no sense, which I've given up caring about. Really, the difference between "Hero" and an episode like "Black Market" is that this one is carried past the finish line by the show's most reliable lead actors, plus guest star Carl Lumbly who invests a lot of distinctiveness in what could have been a stereotypical character. (And for those who watched the Justice League cartoon: Pay close attention to his voice!)
Nick P. - Tue, May 31, 2011 - 9:57am (USA Central)
Gods, another horrible episode. But, I agree, the worst of this show is still light-years beyond most TV.

But I still can't fathom Adamas continual greatest command weakness...Personel. Now we know that he sucked even before Galactica. He sent a homeless looking Martian Manhunter on one of the most important missions ever?

And, I agree, I like the Baltar scenes when you feel like they are leading somewhere, but I am realizing now that this is simply Baltar fill time until I assume he makes it back to the Galactica. Of course I am guessing he will have some key piece of info, so they won't kill him.
Michael - Tue, Nov 22, 2011 - 12:41pm (USA Central)
Yeah, re Adama, seems not all that shines is gold. Dunno why I idolized him as much as I did (and still do, to quite an extent). He has made quite a few bad calls in his B.S.G. career and--now we find--beforehand, too. Thing are really bad when Adam needs a pep-talk from Roslin! I guess it's his hardass attitude and manner that sell it.

Kudos to Tigh for pummeling Bulldog; he's pretty agile for his age and state of body/mind.

Anyways, this was a very haphazard episode, neither here nor there, but it still made for compelling viewing.
Elliott - Wed, Jan 4, 2012 - 10:56pm (USA Central)
"Bulldog, sit down!"

haha. cute.
lvsxy808 - Wed, Jul 4, 2012 - 8:23am (USA Central)
As to the question of which D'Anna we're seeing here, I don't think it's Journalist D'Anna from "Final Cut." I'm pretty sure it's Manipulator D'Anna from "Downloaded."

In the flashes of memory between death and resurrection, we see clips forward to "Rapture" and backwards to "Downloaded," but we do not see any clips from "Final Cut." I think the dream sequence set on Galactica is just imagined - she was dreaming about death, and who would be more likely to kill her than Galactica marines?

In fact, I'm pretty sure the D'Anna we follow most closely throughout the rest of the series is the "Downloaded" one, not the "Final Cut" one. I don't think we see Journalist D'Anna ever again after "Final Cut" (except for in the deleted scenes of "Downloaded" itself).

(Just like we never see Caprica-Cavil again after LDYB2 - it's Galactica-Cavil who becomes the Big Bad. Although there are two Cavils in "Occupation," I think the one releasing Tigh is just a random veersion, and the one frakking Ellen is the main one.)

For that matter, we never see any reveal of Adama or Roslin finding out that D'Anna was a Cylon (which I imagine they'd be pretty pissed about, given how much they trusted her in "Final Cut"). By the time "Occupation" comes around, they obviously must know, because several copies of D'Anna are clearly part of the occupying force. But I would have liked to see that reveal.
Caleb - Wed, Jul 25, 2012 - 11:16am (USA Central)
I found it quite believable. The human mind has a pretty good capacity to bury guilt and disturbing feelings, only to have them come up to the surface in a big way when triggered.
chris - Fri, Oct 19, 2012 - 3:33am (USA Central)
A mediocre episode. Just a filler. I am gonna skip it the next time I watch the BSG series (just like I do with the Threshold episode in VOY)...

And Bill Adama character is going downhill in episodes like this one. I hate to admit that he is no longer my favourite BSG character and it's kinda difficult to find one after the last episodes. And that's the major difference between BSG and Star Trek. In ST I feel a bond to characters like Janeway, Tuvok, Picard, Riker, Data etc, and they hardly disappointed me while watching these series. But in BSG, the characters change feelings and attitudes so rapid. One time, Adama stands up against Admiral Cain or manages to save his people off of New Caprica and the next time he is walking unsuspected in his meeting with Bulldog and gets his ass kicked... :(
Nebula Nox - Thu, May 30, 2013 - 3:26am (USA Central)
I think Adama was suffering from so much guilt from his having shot down Bulldog - and then having abandoned him - that he blames himself for starting the was. He does not defend himself again when Bulldog attacks, again for the same reason.

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