Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"Revelations"

****

Air date: 6/13/2008
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Michael Rymer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

D'Anna knows who the Secret Four Cylons are. And she's not telling. She's a narrative wild card. She wasn't part of the alliance negotiated between the Colonials and the rebel Cylons. She came late to this game, and she's setting new rules. And because she has leverage and uses it, the situation quickly becomes a standoff that threatens to spin out of control.

D'Anna holds the Colonials, including the President Roslin, hostage aboard the basestar. She makes an announcement: She will hold the hostages until the Secret Four are turned over to her. But this creates a real problem for Admiral Adama and President Lee Adama. They don't even know who these four Cylons are. The only ways this stalemate can possibly end is either in bloodshed or with the secret Cylons turning themselves in.

Now let me quote myself from my review of the second-season BSG episode "Sacrifice": "At this point in my movie- and TV-viewing life, I'm almost willing to say that any pitch that can be summarized as 'hostage situation' should be thrown out by whomever is potentially producing it." Good thing I used the word "almost" in that sentence, or else I'd have to eat those words. "Revelations" is the most riveting hostage standoff in recent memory. Old conventions can be made to work in your favor if there are real stakes involved. And the stakes here couldn't be bigger: Lives of major characters hang precariously in the balance, as does the secret surrounding Earth.

And because this is a BSG hiatus launcher, there's no telling what will happen or where the story might end up. The season-ending cliffhanger used to make me groan because it was an obligatory cliche. But BSG has for me single-handedly revitalized the cliffhanger with its track record of shocking unpredictability. The suspense level is amped up in "Revelations" in part simply because I knew it was a midseason finale.

One interesting point worth pondering: D'Anna says four Cylons are in the fleet. Not five. Does that mean the final Cylon is not in the fleet? Is the final Cylon a character on the basestar? Or is D'Anna lying?

When D'Anna makes the rules of the game clear, it creates a real nail-biter. She knows who the secret Cylons are. They know who they are. And we know who they are. But all the other characters must play this deadly chess game in the dark. Immediately, the secret players start quietly jockeying for position. Tory, the other wild card here, craftily gets herself aboard the basestar by offering to take Roslin her medication. Tigh tries to stop it, but he can't without giving himself away. (Once aboard the basestar, Tory swiftly burns her bridges. When the president tries to reason with her, Tory's response is: "I'm done taking orders from you.")

Tigh immediately becomes the key player here, because he's in Adama's inner circle as the rules of engagement are being established. It puts Tigh in the bind of all binds. The screws continue to tighten and options diminish: D'Anna proves she means business and airlocks a hostage, promising more will follow. (There's an inspired extreme long shot where a tiny body goes flying across the screen amid the fleet.) It could be that in this chess game, the only way to ward off the disaster is if Tigh outs himself. Watching this unfold is deliciously excruciating.

Meanwhile, Tigh, Anders, and Tyrol try to figure out how they might know the way to Earth. Supposedly they do know, but they have no more information about Earth, until...

The radio static and musical signals return in the minds of the Secret Four, like at the nebula in "Crossroads." They are drawn to Kara's Viper. They don't know why. So they must solve the mystery before the hostage situation explodes. To buy time, Tigh marches into Adama's quarters, where he...

In one of the most edge-of-seat scenes on this series, Tigh confesses everything he knows to Adama. "I am a Cylon." Adama tries to explain it away, using all the facts that we as viewers would ourselves use to debunk this belief. It's a fruitless endeavor. Tigh knows he's a Cylon. And with this knowledge he puts himself forward as the most possible valuable leverage to use against D'Anna. It's brilliant. It's selfless. It could very well cost him his life. And it's 100 percent Saul Tigh.

The ensuing Adama emotional nuclear explosion that occurs is a raw and heartbreaking performance by Olmos. It depicts nothing short of utter devastation. This man has a breaking point, and we've passed it and then some. Tigh's outing turns Adama's world upside down. Not only is Adama's best friend of 30 years a Cylon, and not only has every military decision Adama ever made now the punch line of a cruel cosmic joke, but now Adama has to put Tigh in an airlock and use him as currency. "I can't kill the bastard," Adama sobs to Lee. He literally cannot do it. So Lee steps up to address the crisis in his father's stead.

On the macro tier of the story, the brilliance of "Revelations" is how fate assembles a big picture from the jigsaw puzzle of all the characters in order to not simply point the way to Earth, but force the humans and Cylons to do it together. In addition to the Secret Four, this puzzle can only come together with the involvement of Resurrected Kara and her Viper (which begins receiving a mysterious signal, and is the only piece of equipment that does so); the renegade Cylons; and even Baltar, who reasons with D'Anna long enough to cause a crucial delay. And, of course, a higher power to make all of these coincidences play in perfect concert. Sure, this is all a construction of clever writers, placing the available pieces where they best make sense. But it's done well and done organically, and the spell of the story is never broken.

Ultimately, Tigh is in an airlock with Lee's finger on the button, who demands D'Anna stand down — and it doesn't look like she will. I honestly didn't know whether Tigh would live or die — I really didn't. Airlocking Cally in "The Ties That Bind" made possible this scene's palpable sense that anything could happen. It generates unbearable suspense, even while making use of that old standby: crosscutting back and forth to a character who's desperately running through hallways with crucial information to stop something awful from happening.

And how awesome is Saul Tigh? He has no regrets whatsoever about his choices here. He stands up straight and prepares to face death like the man he always has been. As the moment is drawn out, Tigh looks straight at Lee and says, "What are you waiting for, Apollo? Do it." It's a great line that elevates this character (and Michael Hogan, who plays him) into a stratosphere of awesomeness.

But Kara's word of her discovery stops everything at the last possible moment. As quickly as the crisis seemed headed beyond the point of no return, it's completely defused. She has found a signal leading back to Earth. Lee negotiates a halt to hostilities with a Yes We Can speech; everyone can go to Earth together. In a way, for this brief moment, Earth has saved everyone.

I must also admit I was blindsided by the idea that once this agreement is reached, we are going to Earth right now. I really didn't see it coming. I expected another clue to Earth, not the full solution. Again, it's a testament to this series defying expectations. The moment of truth has arrived, Earth is in reach — and yet here's a character kernel not to be overlooked: Adama is still deflated, his spirit crushed. It takes Roslin to lift him back up.

But we're not kidding around. We're going to Earth! We get it all: the spine-tingling epic sweep, the dramatic musical score, the shot of the fleet in orbit of a blue planet, Adama making a grand fleet-wide announcement, characters celebrating and hugging. Nice stuff. Even nicer: Tigh sits alone with a bottle. Even Earth is not going to solve all our characters' problems. And then...

There's that doozy of a final shot of a devastated Earth. Adama picks up that first handful of dirt, and a Geiger counter clicks away. In addition to the implications of this scene, I must praise the technical skill. It's a tour de force of stage direction that gathers all the characters in a single, wordless tracking shot. I could easily write another 500 words on just this shot and how it breaks down all the characters and silently, implicitly comments on all of them. But why do that? You get the picture, and can form ideas of your own. One thing is certain: The dejection is palpable.

What happened to Earth, what does it mean, and what do we do now? This ending is not a cliffhanger; it's another brilliant, giant question mark — the biggest one yet on this series. If there's a major statement being made here, above all else, it's that there is no quick fix in the Battlestar universe. For this extended journey, the destination, and all hope, has resided on Earth. Now they have found it. But apparently finding it has resolved nothing.

Earth may have allowed the Cylons and Colonials to come together, but now they are here, and they are going to have to deal with each other. Earth is not going to save these people. They will have to save themselves.

Somehow. I don't know how.

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Next episode: The Face of the Enemy (webisodes)

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37 comments on this review

Megg - Fri, Jan 16, 2009 - 5:41pm (USA Central)
Jammer! Perfect timing and a wonderful review. I agree with everything you said. Thanks for all your hard work.

Hope you enjoy tonight's episode.
Robo - Fri, Jan 16, 2009 - 6:27pm (USA Central)
Brilliant, you did it! Go Jammer!!
Occuprice - Fri, Jan 16, 2009 - 7:56pm (USA Central)
I love this line in your review:
"Earth is not going to save these people. They will have to save themselves."

That message really is one of the best parts of Revelations.
misterd - Fri, Jan 16, 2009 - 8:38pm (USA Central)
Solid review as always. Great point on the sudden end to the Earth storyline. I feel the same way, but doubt I would have thought to comment on it. If I may, this also comes across as Ron Moore's final (probably unintentional) poke in the eye to Voyager, which ended, unsatisfactorily, with everyone reaching Earth, and never really finishing the story. If BSG ended the same way, it wouldn't be satisfactory. Even if Earth were a paradise, we couldn't even accept "happily ever after" as an answer, or at least not without being shown how that's possible in this world. I love that the final 10 episodes will essentially be serving as an epilogue that wraps up all or most of the mysteries and character arcs.
Jason - Fri, Jan 16, 2009 - 10:28pm (USA Central)
Ah, if only Voyager had had the courage to get the crew home mid-season 7 and take a dozen or so episodes to tell the stories of the crew re-adapting to life on Earth. It might have saved the series, in my book. This writing team is so ballsy, anything goes. Amazing half a season!
Vylora - Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - 1:21am (USA Central)
"The ensuing Adama emotional nuclear explosion that occurs is a raw and heartbreaking performance by Olmos. It depicts nothing short of utter devastation. This man has a breaking point..."

I actually cried watching that scene and tears are forming just reading that statement. Plus the part where they finally get to Earth and it's a post-apocalyptic setting...the reactions on everyone...the lack of dialogue (what can be said?)...the sweeping angles portraying everything.

Beautiful ep from start to finish. Absolutely amazing. Thank you, Jammer, for your reviews. This show has been the best show I have ever seen in my life since the 2nd ep of season one and continues to amaze me nearly every step of the way.
Vylora - Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - 2:29am (USA Central)
Btw...I just watched "Sometimes a Great Notion". I'm not going to give anything away but have to say watch for some huge things in the final stretch. The last half of the episode completely ripped me apart.
Occuprice - Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - 2:33am (USA Central)
This episode is an excellent story with superb character beats underlying it.

Part 2 is an excellent character study with superb story revelations underlying it.

Revelations and Sometimes a Great Notion make for one hell of a package. Both get perfect scores in my book.
Josh - Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - 3:27pm (USA Central)
Quickly, Jammer. Get the review out for Sometimes a Great Notion. We need to hear your thoughts on it and preferably before they're contaminated by the revelations for the episode that will follow.
Jammer - Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - 4:13pm (USA Central)
What, three reviews in a week aren't enough for you? Gimme, gimme, gimme -- that's all you people say. ;)

Kidding, of course. The idea is that now that I'm caught up, I will be posting every week prior to the airing of the following episode. After how much these reviews have dominated my life the past few weeks, I don't intend to get behind for the rest of BSG's run.
Hisham - Sun, Jan 18, 2009 - 8:41am (USA Central)
I have got to bring you to the attention of Tyrol's reaction in that last scene. He's the only one that shakes his head SMILING, emitting a very strong "Well, that figures!" aura about him. Which in turn made me thought, "Well, that figures!"
Jason - Sun, Jan 18, 2009 - 8:54am (USA Central)
Well, I have to say, Jammer, having been a reader of yours since the very beginning, it is so great to read reviews of a show your are actually enjoying weekly. Compared to the hits and misses that were Voyager and Enterprise over the past few years, BSG seems to have rejuvenated you!!
Brendan - Sun, Jan 18, 2009 - 11:48pm (USA Central)
Yeah... 5 bucks says this site would be retired if BSG was a Voyager clone
Jester - Mon, Jan 19, 2009 - 12:25am (USA Central)
You forgot to mention the most interesting exchange in the entire episode:

D'Anna: "All of this has happened befor--"
Lee, interrupting: "But it doesn't have to happen again!"

Wow. A great scene, a great exchange, all leading up to that handshake. It was masterful. Now we see if Lee and the others really can break the cycle. ;-)
Paul - Tue, Jan 20, 2009 - 8:24am (USA Central)
"And how awesome is Saul Tigh? He has no regrets whatsoever about his choices here. He stands up straight and prepares to face death like the man he always has been. As the moment is drawn out, Tigh looks straight at Lee and says, "What are you waiting for, Apollo? Do it." It's a great line that elevates this character (and Michael Hogan, who plays him) into a stratosphere of awesomeness."

I agree. Rarely have I seen a show where practically all the characters are such a joy to watch - but Tigh I have grown the most attached to. Michael Hogan has been turning such fantastic performances whenever in spotlight, especially in the Kobol arc, New Caprica arc and, of course, Tigh-as-a-Cylon storyline. That guy is absolutely fantastic.

Have you watched a Tigh impersonator on one of the conventions? Incredibly funny. Check it out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qxbiqjz64Yw
Jason K - Tue, Jan 20, 2009 - 8:33am (USA Central)
I agree Paul. Tigh has become my favorite character and Hogan probably my favorite actor on the show.
Jason K - Tue, Jan 20, 2009 - 8:44am (USA Central)
Trailer for Caprica if anyone cares"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQlhlHwXjj0&feature=related
Occuprice - Tue, Jan 20, 2009 - 6:38pm (USA Central)
That reminds me: Jammer, are you planning on reviewing Caprica?
Jammer - Tue, Jan 20, 2009 - 8:41pm (USA Central)
From what I've read, Caprica won't go to series until 2010. After the BSG and TNG reviews are done, I'm not sure what the future of this site will be. I've thought about trying to spin it off into some sort of blog, but it's really too early to say.
Jack Bauer - Wed, Jan 21, 2009 - 3:53pm (USA Central)
Im not sure if its appropriate to mention it here, but last weeks episode was without a doubt, the finest acted episode of Galactica they have ever done. Each and every character was on the money and the acting with just superb. I also love the storyline of how the place went to shit when Earth was a bust.

For more reviews Jammer, would you consider doing a Stargate series? Stargate is not quite as complicated as a story-arc, but they are good fun. The new Stargate series "Universe" starts soon.
Occuprice - Wed, Jan 21, 2009 - 7:16pm (USA Central)
I apologize for this digression, but I really do think "Stargate Universe" is kind of the hoakiest name they could have come up with.
Jammer - Wed, Jan 21, 2009 - 10:41pm (USA Central)
I won't be reviewing "Stargate," past or future.
Jammer - Wed, Jan 21, 2009 - 10:50pm (USA Central)
By the way, for general questions that go off the topic of a given review, I've opened up comments at the end of the FAQ, and I encourage everyone to post those general questions there.

http://www.jammersreviews.com/info/faq.php

As a side note, I monitor all comments on all reviews (which any of you can via the RSS feed, BTW), so if you post anywhere, I'll see it.
zerkalo - Sun, Jan 25, 2009 - 8:47pm (USA Central)
Jammer's description of the long, sweeping shot on earth is accurate. What he may not have realized is how much this shot owes to the cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky, the great Russian film director who died in 1983.

BSG's shot would have been right at home in the Tarkovsky's films such as The Sacrifice (1981), Nostalghia (1979), or Zerkalo (1974). Even the sepia tone in the BSG shot is taken right from Tarkovsky.

My guess is that someone in the BSG production team is knowledgeable about Tarkovsky's work, and this shot may have even been an hommage to him.

So I say, Bravo to the BSG production team, and to Jammer for recognizing the strength and beauty of this magnificent shot. It owes powerful debt to the great Russian film master, Andrei Tarkovsky.
Ian Whitcombe - Mon, Jan 26, 2009 - 12:27am (USA Central)
That's a really cool find, Zerkalo.

However being an animé geek, I was instantly reminded of the closing credits to the Gundam SEED series.

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=VBeszQL1aJ4&feature=related

Entirely coincidental I'm sure!
Alexey Bogatiryov - Sun, Mar 1, 2009 - 11:30pm (USA Central)
Imagine how could it would have been for Voyager to reach Earth only after it had been assimilated by the Borg? I know Trek was never as bold in terms of changing its premises as BSG - but I certainly got the sense that BSG is what Voyager could have been had Ronald Moore been in charge of it.

Although this should have been a series finale and dragged over more episodes, the chill of seeing Earth in an apocaliptic state was truly powerful. Certainly had a "now what" feeling at the time! I wish that they would have visited more historical places - or at least found a few survivors.

But in the end, it was a great "Bait and Switch" - considering if they had found an inhabitable Earth - the Cylons would have caught up to them anyway.
stallion - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 5:12pm (USA Central)
You have to feel bad for that guy that got vent into space. After this whole situation was over they made it to earth. Talk about a tough break. I wonder if the crewman got got vent into space was named Joe Carey.
Grumpy - Mon, May 25, 2009 - 12:23am (USA Central)
Vylora: "the lack of dialogue (what can be said?)..."

"You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

Either that or, "Don't worry folks. Not all of Earth is Canada."
Bread - Fri, Apr 23, 2010 - 10:45am (USA Central)
No, I don't get it. As powerful as that final sweeping shot was, why is this result so completely devastating? Maybe they expected to arrive at Earth and finally get a decent latte? Even if there's nobody there to welcome them, well, at least there's a livable planet where they can start again and not keep running through the universe.

Or is the Geiger counter meant to tell us the radiation is too high? So why are they all standing around unprotected? Maybe a few lines of dialogue would have helped here.
Brendan - Wed, Aug 11, 2010 - 4:28pm (USA Central)
Bread,

Do you not recognize a nuclear wasteland when you see one? It's clearly uninhabitable. The Geiger counter, the sky, the monochrome cinematography, and the ruins in the background are more explanatory than any dialog they could have put in. A picture says a thousand words, as they say.

It was devastating because, well, this was the hope of the entire show from day 1, and now it's a grotesque carcass flaunting the misery in their faces as if some kind of cosmic practical joke. They didn't know what to expect, but a livable planet was probably the least they were hoping for, while the actual living civilization of the 13th tribe would be the dream.

As for protection, well it's not hard to surmise that the radiation levels are low enough to stand around for a few hours with no real issue, but that prolonged exposure would be deadly.

You really think that haunting, wordless, scoreless shot at the end would benefit by Mr. Gaeta appearing and saying "sir, the levels of radiation render the planet uninhabitable, but we should be okay for a short time with no protection, so feel free to stand around looking melancholy for a while longer! I must return to the ship though, my cane sinks into the sand here."
bigpale - Sat, Mar 19, 2011 - 12:25am (USA Central)
Just finished rewatching this for the I-don't-know-how-many-times time.

Once again I caught something I'd missed before. Early in the episode Kara and Lee are looking at a picture of "The Temple of Aurora" ("on Earth" as Kara points out to the audience). It's a reuse of the Opera House picture in Laura's Bible from Kobol's Last Gleaming, but it was specifically stated to be something else (we can assume that in the story the 13th tribe copied the design).

Anyway, during that final shot of ruined earth, there is a devastated building that looks exactly like the domed temple.


*spoiler for future episodes...*

It's maybe a subtle hint that this earth is not OUR Earth -- the one they will find in Daybreak. Since our Earth doesn't have such a structure.
Nick P. - Mon, Aug 1, 2011 - 10:25am (USA Central)
Agreed on being on of the finest episodes of the series.

But I somewhat agree with Bread. Frankly, I don't see how earth looked worse than New Caprica? Since there already is existing (though damaged) infrastructure, it is probably a heck of a lot better.

Now, I am not a radiologist, but I thought the implication of the low reading on the counter, and everyone standing around without suits was to imply that radiation wasn't that bad, it just looked kinda bad. Maybe I didn't "catch it" first time around, I may have to watch that one again.
Nic - Mon, Nov 7, 2011 - 8:59am (USA Central)
Oh man. I should have known things were going to go downhill as soon as the epic uplifting music ("Diaspora Oratorio") started. I feel so bad for these poor characters being tortured by the sadistic Plot Gods.

The Tigh/Adama scene was good, but it would have been better if it wasn't for their stupid fight scene in "Sine Qua Non". In fact, it seems that Adama has been constantly angry for the last season-and-a-half, which is getting tedious. I like Adama angry, but it has to come in small, unexpected doses (like his speech to Tyrol in "Litmus", or when he winces in "Pegasus") to really have an impact.
Michael - Thu, Dec 1, 2011 - 1:32pm (USA Central)
Oh baby, I LOVED this show: The B.S.G. I knew and adored in Seasons 1 and 2 is back!!!

The twists and turns the plot took--at least in the first two thirds of the show--were awesome. No visions, fantasies, and all that junk; just good hardcore action and scenes faithfully conveying drama and inner personal conflict.

The impasse was palpably tense and, to my mind, unpredictable.

It's a pity it all revolved back to some mysterious powers and divine revelations nonsense at the eleventh hour. Much as I like Tigh (he's my favorite character, I have to say), I was looking forward to seeing him airlocked and finding out how that situation would develop.

The corollary was quite underwhelming for some reason. I didn't feel elation or any kind of emotion; the scenes of jubilation did not resonate with me. Dunno why... Their shock at the sight of a devastated Earth didn't impress me either, although I'm deeply curious what's next.

I highly appreciate Jammer's closing observations, viz, that (1) B.S.G. ends superbly with a major question mark, possibly the biggest since the attack on the Twelve Colonies, and (2) there are no quick fixes in B.S.G. The latter, in particular, is what made this show so stupendous and contrasts it favorably with so many shows of both this and other genres.

Initially, I was going to say that though by far one of the better Season 4 shows, I didn't think this one was worthy of 4 stars. However, despite my complaints, I leave this episode not feeling satiated. Unlike with Star Trek, it's not because the show was bad, but because the conclusion made me genuinely vexed and pensive, and those sentiments are still with me hours after finishing watching it. Given that after pretty much every other show I switch off my computer and forget all about, this is quite an accomplishment. So yeah, four stars :)
Elphaba - Wed, Oct 3, 2012 - 3:39am (USA Central)
When I first saw this episode, I was in tears, amazingly happy for the crew that they finally made it to Earth. That they finally found the mythical planet they were looking for, that things would finally turn up.

And than there was that final shot. And I was emotionally devastated as everyone else was on that ship.
Togah - Fri, Nov 2, 2012 - 3:08pm (USA Central)
Tigh's reveal and Adama's subsequent reactions (denials, anger and his scene with Lee) really, really killed me. I could barely watch.

A powerful and emotionally draining episode for sure. Y'know, I kind of had a feeling that that wasted land was all they would find on Earth. I was really hoping humanity would prove me wrong but, really, I'm not surprised.

So much for my exam-revision timetable. Onwards to the next episode!

Nebula Nox - Sat, Feb 2, 2013 - 10:12am (USA Central)
I thought Jamie Bamber playing Lee Adama was simply fabulous. The tenderness he shows when he realizes his father cannot handle the situation is touching, as is the stern approach that he takes with the three Cylons.

Tigh is honorable, of course. Tyrol's role is small, but I love his look of resignation.

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