"Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2"
Air date: 3/10/2006
Written by Anne Cofell Saunders & Mark Verheiden
Directed by Michael Rymer
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
I gotta say, the writers on this show have some serious balls. They don't screw around, and they don't hedge. They make decisions and are bold about them.
Barring a reset that I can't even contemplate, the season two finale for Battlestar Galactica represents nothing short of a complete retooling of the series. The writers, let it be said, have taken some serious risks in the closing 30 minutes of "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2." This is a show that attempts so very much that you can sense a tightrope act that's risking a fall from a very high place. It's the type of hour (actually 90 minutes) that will have some viewers announcing, "Brilliant!" while others are claiming, "Jumped the shark."
While you can count me in the "brilliant" camp, this may actually be an episode too ambitious for its own good. Yes, it changes everything. But I'm not convinced (yet) that it changes everything for the better in terms of the series' direction, and I don't think this is as purely satisfying a cliffhanger as either "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 2" from last season or "Pegasus" from mid-season. Those shows were more effective. Even though "Burdens 2" takes more risks, it's not a better-told story. Bigger, yes. As riveting, no.
Let's begin on Caprica. We rejoin our heroes amid the Cylon mortar assault that was under way in "Burdens 1," where it's looking now like a particularly bad case of the rescuers needing to be rescued. Then, suddenly, the bombing simply ... stops. The Cylons withdraw, with no explanation. Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell) appears on the scene and proclaims it's a miracle. But how can he be on Caprica and also on the Galactica? Oh, he's a Cylon. No one in Kara's rescue party recognizes him, which I can buy — but I guess we're also to assume that Cavil was among Anders' resistance group all along, because if he simply and coincidentally strolled up after the bombing stopped, wouldn't everyone be kind of suspicious? This is one slightly confusingly executed conceit the show makes. The reason the bombing so coincidentally stops (which I'll get to momentarily) is even more so.
Kara's rescue party returns to the Galactica with the rescued resistance fighters from Caprica, and they bring Cavil with them. He's recognized instantly by Tyrol, which thankfully eliminates any possibility of faux suspense games involving the uncovering of Cavil's identity, who willingly came back to Galactica to deliver a message. Because Sharon had not said anything and it's assumed that "of course she knew" Cavil was a Cylon, she's thrown back into the brig, in what seems like a never-ending cycle (albeit a justified one) of trust/non-trust on Adama's part. Her nihilistic frame of mind is somewhat understandable; following her baby's death (as most believe it to be) she's lost the will to care about anything, and had decided to simply let whatever Cavil planned to do run its own course.
Cavil is thrown into the brig along with the other copy of Cavil, who protests that he's not a Cylon right up to the point he sees the surrendering copy of himself already in the brig, at which point, he simply resigns: "Oh. Well, okay then." Dean Stockwell is memorable in this scene as two Cylons flawlessly integrated into one scene, explaining the Cylons' new epiphany: That the "war hero" copies of Six and Eight (Sharon) had managed to swing popular Cylon opinion to the conclusion that the occupation of the Colonies and the pursuit of the fleet were errors. (See the setup of such in "Downloaded.") "Cylon and man will now go their separate ways, no harm done," explains Cavil. (Aside from the billions dead, of course.)
This scene is executed so well and with such a sense of newfound curiosity and story development that I'm almost tempted to forgive the last-minute suddenness of how the story goes from Cylons bombing resistance fighters on Caprica to completely withdrawing from the Colonies. The timing — let's face it — comes off as totally contrived. But what's interesting in the dialog here are the suggestions of significant ideological and religious strife within Cylon society. They don't all agree, and that's going to undoubtedly be an interesting aspect to play out in season three.
For now, the main plot in "Burdens 2" is the election, which is going to be decided on the issue of whether to colonize the newly discovered habitable planet, now dubbed New Caprica. Baltar is adamant on using the issue of colonization as his new political platform. There's a scene where Roslin makes a desperate private plea to Baltar to table the issue of colonization until after the election because it's too important to go forward on it without a closer examination of the facts. She even goes so far as to call Baltar on his relationship with Six, which she witnessed right before the attack (but didn't remember until her hallucinatory state in "Epiphanies"). When it's clear that Roslin's election is in doubt, she recruits her campaign manager, Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma), into a plot to do whatever is necessary to make sure Baltar does not win the election. Roslin's wording is careful not to explicitly tell Tory to rig the election, but Roslin and Tory both know what's what.
On Election Day, we see the ballots coming in, and I appreciated the level of detail and heft the producers put on the electoral process, right down to the locked metal boxes containing the ballots that are overseen by the civilian auditors. Tory's plot to steal the election involves at the very least Dualla and Tigh (who swap out a crucial box of ballots) and most definitely not Gaeta (who notices and reports that a misprint has inexplicably been corrected on those ballots). There's irony in the fact that at the beginning of the season Tigh was locking Roslin in a jail cell, and now he helps her rig the election. It's a simple matter that everyone (except for the general population, of course) instinctively knows that Baltar as president would be an unmitigated disaster. An even bigger irony is that Baltar assumes upon losing that Roslin couldn't possibly be guilty of the corruption Zarek suspects.
And yet, the question becomes: Can Roslin actually do this? When Adama gets wind of the ballot discrepancies, he confronts her in a sad, quiet scene that somehow sums up everything about their relationship and yet is in no way predictable. They both know Baltar will be a disaster, and yet they work the issue through the larger issue of right and wrong. Is doing the right thing even prudent in the interests of survival? Maybe not, but maybe we have to live or die by what's right and not by what's prudent. They decide to overturn the corrupt results and bury the conspiracy. Baltar is suspicious, but Adama convinces him to let the matter pass. Amazing, how Olmos' tone of voice and a glance can communicate so much implied menace. And the fact he calls Baltar "doctor."
There are also many good character touches to be found here. There's a scene where Cally forgives Tyrol for beating her and breaking her jaw, and it plays as a mirror of the situation earlier in the season where Cally was seeking Tyrol's forgiveness for killing Sharon. And there's Kara and Anders involved in a drunken make-out display that's tacky as all hell because of its utter rudeness; they do it right in front of Lee, and you ask yourself what Kara's thinking. I'm thinking she's drunk. Much later, there's a scene where Adama is not only smoking a cigarette, but snapping off the filter before he lights up.
And there's a brilliantly written piece of psychological warfare where Six tells Baltar that she's not going to go live on New Caprica, and Baltar desperately explains that "every last single one of us" is going to live on New Caprica. We realize that Baltar's whole point for trumpeting the colonization agenda was, in a way, so he could start a new life there with Six. There's something sad and pathetic about that, and poignant and completely in the nature of Baltar's character. And then they have sex in a scene intercut with Baltar being sworn in as president; the sex plays like a long-awaited consummation, and it's haunting.
And yet ... I have some significant problems involving the nuclear bomb and all it represents from a plot accountability level. You recall the nuclear bomb, supplied to Baltar by Adama way back in "Bastille Day," which Baltar then gave to Six in "Epiphanies." Well, Six detonates the bomb here in what you could say is a Cylon suicide attack of the most unanticipated kind. She destroys the Cloud Nine and at least two other ships in the blast, and although the death toll is never mentioned on screen, one would guess it's in the thousands. It's a chilling visual and a powerfully tragic outcome, and yet the lack of fallout eludes me.
Consider: Adama gave Baltar the nuclear warhead, and now this warhead somehow has gotten aboard the Cloud Nine and has been detonated, killing thousands and potentially crippling the fleet, and Adama's reaction is to quietly presume that the Cylons somehow got their hands on it after it was "stolen from Baltar's lab"? Even after Roslin warned Adama that she believed Baltar was working with the Cylons? Somehow, I doubt it. Furthermore, when Adama warns Baltar that there could be more Cylon attacks and Baltar refuses to listen to reason and orders that colonization of New Caprica is to begin immediately, would Adama so passively just sit back and let it happen? Couldn't he assert "military decision" as he did with Roslin?
And, for that matter, wouldn't someone (the press comes to mind) be asking questions about why a nuclear bomb has just gone off in the fleet? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the people who have the answers — Baltar and, to a lesser degree, Adama — are also the ones in power, but the episode doesn't even consider the question. I guess what I'm saying is that the issue of the nuclear bomb as a plot piece has never seemed convincing to me, and seems just as unconvincing here, if not more so. When a nuclear bomb explodes, there should be hell to pay in the aftermath (political fallout, scapegoating, etc.), and there's zero indication of that here. Perhaps everyone is simply too tired of running. Perhaps the population doesn't even know the explosion was one of Galactica's own warheads because the fact was covered up. The episode doesn't tell us. Maybe we'll find out next season. For now, it's a frustration.
Then comes the episode's twist, in which we jump ahead to "one year later," where a colony has been established on New Caprica under Baltar's apparently seedy presidency (as hookers lie about his cabin on Colonial One, now docked on the planet surface). The last 20 minutes of the show play like an extended teaser for next season, offering character tidbits and plot pieces that will undoubtedly become new launching pads. There are a ton of pieces the episode throws at us, such as:
- New Caprica City has a population of nearly 40,000; a tent city in a frigid climate.
- Half the crews of the Galactica and Pegasus (in a very lax orbital defense mode) have moved to the planet. Adama urges Tigh to move down there: "Only one man per lighthouse," he notes. Would the fleet really get this lax?
- Roslin has gone back to teaching school. She stays close to Maya and the Cylon hybrid child.
- Tyrol stands next to a pregnant Cally in a crowded tent; he's a rabble-rousing union leader preaching about the evils of Baltar's administration.
- Kara and Lee are on cold, virtually non-speaking terms for reasons we can only guess.
- Lee and Dualla are married aboard the Pegasus.
- Kara and Anders are married on the planet surface. Kara has given up the life of a fighter pilot. Anders has potentially fatal pneumonia.
- Kara and Tigh are friends now, even hugging when they greet each other.
And then, out of nowhere, a Cylon fleet shows up. The Galactica, Pegasus, and rest of the fleet in orbit have to make an emergency jump away, leaving the planet defenseless. The Cylons — including a Six and an Eight (are they the "war heroes"?) — meet with Baltar, who offers an immediate surrender when they promise that no one will be harmed if there's no resistance. Centurions march into the streets, marking the first clear stage of an occupation. The Cylons explain that they found New Caprica because they detected the radiation from a nuclear explosion. The irony is so thick you could choke on it.
Poor Baltar. If he weren't the cause of all this misery for so many other people, you might almost feel sorry for the guy. Not only did he unwittingly help the Cylons in the first attack on the Colonies, his actions led directly to the destruction of the Cloud Nine and thus the Cylons finding New Caprica. He is truly his own (and everyone else's) curse. There's a true fascination to his character's arc. Here's a man driven to madness over the obsession with a woman, and just as he thinks he's re-attained her, she commits suicide, killing thousands and permitting the Cylons to find the fleet again. Maybe that's what Six had in mind. Maybe not. It certainly isn't what Baltar had in mind. He's like a sleepwalking, cascading, compounding, self-fulfilling tragedy.
There's a ton of material in "Lay Down Your Burdens," and tons of teaser pieces, including the mysterious return of Leoben, who's looking for Kara Thrace, for reasons loyal viewers will understand even though they'll have no idea what it means for the future. Clearly this is a compelling and ambitious episode, crammed with elements you could discuss ad nauseam.
And yet, there's this mild dissatisfaction here. The one-year gap leaves too much out and perhaps reinvents the series before we were ready to see the existing material jettisoned. Story threads that have been in development for two seasons are rendered irrelevant (or at the very least on hold) — and in some cases have been resolved off-screen. The one-year gap means more time has passed off-screen than in the entire first two seasons of the series, and that's an odd feeling. All existing momentum has been halted, and the train has been restarted with completely new cargo. We have no clue of the status of some characters. It's all a bit jarring.
But I'll be damned if it's not interesting — and awfully brave.
Previous episode: Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 1
Next episode: The Resistance (webisodes)
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42 comments on this post
Sat, Jan 24, 2009, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 26, 2009, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 7, 2009, 10:16pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 28, 2010, 7:37am (UTC -5)
Fri, Nov 26, 2010, 5:09pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 1, 2011, 5:24pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 28, 2011, 12:54pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 8, 2011, 6:41pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 21, 2011, 12:42am (UTC -5)
I can understand your giving part 1 three stars (even though, I prefer to grade 2-parters as one story), but this second half was breathtaking.
I think what I took away from your review was that you didn't like the flash-forward because we lose so many entrenched plot threads. I get that, even if I was a little more trusting in the writers that it didn't bother me.
Also you seemed to dislike the sheer AMOUNT of stuff thrown out there. As though the show just had too much going on. I get that too, but I think as a finale that was designed to move the show in a new direction, the plot elements thrown out all were relevant, intriguing and "cliff-hangery."
Personally I don't fault the writers (specifically Moore who thought up the idea) for the flash-forward, even at the end of the 2nd season (even before they knew the show was already half over). I think we need more PROaction in TV writing, and less REaction.
But I love the site and hope one day to read the rest of your TNG reviews!
Thu, Mar 31, 2011, 6:15pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 12, 2011, 1:56am (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 30, 2011, 6:05pm (UTC -5)
First thought on seeing Adama with a mustache: When will he make his first origami unicorn?
I, too, think I'm going to take a break before starting on season three. Whole lotta stuff to digest here.
Sun, May 22, 2011, 1:54am (UTC -5)
I will admit thought to another MAJOR inconsistency that no one else has mentioned. How did no one notice that the Cylons stopped their attack within days of the discovery of new Caprica? I found that somewhat ridiculous. But then again, i am still waiting for a mention of earth after a whole season, with nothing to come of that.
@duff duff and Jasper: Regarding Kara, her overacting, and non-sense over the top plot points turned me off from episode 1. There is almost nothing likable about this character, and although after 2 seasons I will admit finally to liking her, she is absolutely at the bottom of "liking" characters list.
Tue, Jul 12, 2011, 9:43am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 31, 2011, 10:03pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 20, 2011, 12:00am (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 12, 2011, 8:58am (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 27, 2011, 2:48am (UTC -5)
Sat, Nov 19, 2011, 5:00am (UTC -5)
Yeah, bitch, you LOST.
Adama with a mustache, LOL!!! Starbuck with long hair, like it!
Tyrol and Cally look like white trash.
* * *
Far more importantly: This was a breathtaking show. I watched it from start to finish with an open mouth. NEVER EVER saw the end coming! This was so powerful, I definitely second the others who said a break is in order before embarking on Season 3.
Sat, Jul 7, 2012, 11:23pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jul 7, 2012, 11:49pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 20, 2012, 12:21pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 4:47am (UTC -5)
That being said, I'm on the edge of my seat here. I thought I'd follow some peoples' example and wait a while for season three...but I have no willpower. Onwards to season 3!
Mon, Jan 7, 2013, 9:59am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 7, 2013, 7:51pm (UTC -5)
Did you completely skip the episode entitled "Epiphanies", or did you just not pay attention?
Sat, Jul 13, 2013, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
I know this might sound simplistic but they moved ahead too far too fast.
The decision reached by Adama to spill the beans about the election fraud was totally unrealistic. No normal logical person would put the whole human race at risk just to assuage their conscience.
By the end I was hoping and praying for a reset. This played like a nightmare from too much pizza last night.
Sun, Dec 29, 2013, 7:01pm (UTC -5)
I liked Roslin back as a teacher, Baltar as the president redefines sleazy and I was thrown with Adama's moustache, channelling Geraldo Rivera.
But they set up the next season nicely. I wonder why the Cylons want to rule over humanity instead of just killing them. But I know we are looking at a resistance movement on New Caprica along with the fleet returning to free humanity.
Season three promises to be good. But I'm sure in about six episodes we will be back to looking for earth. Which makes me wonder, why is everybody so sure they will be safe from the Cylons when they reach Earth?
Mon, Dec 30, 2013, 10:49am (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 31, 2013, 1:46pm (UTC -5)
Ordinarily on New Year’s Day, I’d be parked in front of the TV watching bowl games, but I’m going to use the day off to get started on Season three. I’m totally addicted to this show!!
Sun, Aug 10, 2014, 11:44pm (UTC -5)
Wonderful, bold twist. Four stars.
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 30, 2016, 10:03pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 21, 2017, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
"No normal logical person would put the whole human race at risk just to assuage their conscience. "
After watching it again this is the part that gets me the most. Roslin/Adama were willing to assassinate a fleet admiral 6 episodes ago because she was a threat to the fleet, yet in this episode, with the human race at stake, they raise their hand and salute the new President Baltar without even blinking AFTER his nuke was detonated and AFTER Roslin accused him of collaborating with the Cyclons.
I also dont get why the battlestars were so unmanned. You can have a manned military while not living on the ship. Just have schedules/tours.
I dont mind that they took a bold direction, but they could have gotten more out of the colonization storyline than what they gave us. Hell, considering the absolute drivel that was black market, you could have had many episodes on the subject of colonization.
Season 2 note: After watching this back with older (and "wiser" eyes), after Home Part 2 (which IMO is just the end of season 1.5) this season was a bit of mess with some sprinkles of brilliance with minimal guidance. This show was unable to develop convincing relationships between any of its main characters despite the characters being really strong. Colonel Tigh was relegated to the bottom of the character totem pole after starting the season in a really strong spot with the opportunity to have further stories based on his decisions. All in all, this season should have been 13 episodes with more thought put into the New Caprica story.
Sat, Sep 2, 2017, 7:06pm (UTC -5)
"Im going to wipe the floor with you"
"why dont you go fuck yourself"
Well why dont YOU try making some compelling arguments to win instead of thinking people owed you thw vote cause you got a vague gut feeling that settling on this planet may be doom for all.
And seriously, make up your mind lady: are you the president or despot? Are these extraordinary times that require suspending laws and the Constitution and rule of law or not? Cant have it both ways based on which way the wind blows at the moment and what suits you.
Like it or not, Baltar made some very good points about settling there. And at that point in time his guess about whether the Cylons would find them was as good as hers. Or anybody's. What makes these people think the cylons wont find earth too? In fact, the moment they find out about it, then suddenly they want that to be their new home too. Heck, they go there with them and make a home there.
Anyway, if this episode is supposed to make me wanna side with Roslin, especially in this "I told you so " manner given what will happen later (occupation) then it grossly backfired. Baltar wanting to settle here was not at all outrageous. It made sense. Roslin not being able to make her case and getting all nasty about it, didnt help. Whatever happens on Caprica Two later is not Baltar's fault either. I wanna see Roslin rebel while sitting on her chair surrounded by 6 cylons, one of whom holds a gun to her head and says "DO THIS" or I'll pull the trigger.
Sat, May 23, 2020, 11:11am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 1, 2020, 8:23pm (UTC -5)
Compare it to cliffhangers like Kobol 2 or Pegasus. One ends with a bummer ending, the old man is shot and left for dead. The other ends with tension turned up to 11, Adama marching down the hallway ready to go to war with Cain.
This ends with a bummer as well, but the tension, the operatic drama, the mood is a bit more "going through the motions" than in Kobol 2. I suppose it was a necessary evil since they decided on the time-jump. Once you do that, you're almost forced to lay a lot of pace-halting exposition down, showing us where everyone is and how they've changed.
You can't show all those changes after the Cylons find them, because then the normal New Caprica life they settled into over the past year is out the window. You can't hold off on the Cylons returning until next season because then you have no cliff hanger. All you can do...is both. So that's what they did and the pace suffered.
A necessary evil but one that I would still rather praise for its ambitions (balls, as you call it) over a lesser show that was too scared to take such lofty chances.
Tue, Aug 4, 2020, 7:50pm (UTC -5)
Separately, I'm surprised one or two vessels weren't deployed as part of an expeditionary force to find Earth.
Wed, Apr 6, 2022, 8:14pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 30, 2022, 1:19am (UTC -5)
I remember my first watch through, 15 years ago, I thought that I must have missed an episode because events seemed to make zero sense!
In fact, all the weak writing and illogic in the second half of season 2 culminate with this weak flop of a finale.
Pegasus Six: after milking her for torture/rape/feminism porn ('its so deep!') they make her the ultimate deus ex machina. She conveniently kills Kaine. She conveniently goes into hiding as part of the "peace" movement. Baltar gives her the nuke for LITERALLY NO REASON. He may be obsessed, but he's supposed to be smart. Giving a suicidal, damaged Cylon a nuclear weapon has one predictable consequence... an overly dramatic death. Seriously, Pegasus Six could have served her role far better by simply shooting herself. Instead there's one final Deus Ex Machina - the nuclear smoke signal to the Cylon fleet.
Baltar. Upon rewatching this series, Baltar's character gets drastically broken in the back half of season 2. With little explanation he goes from aloof to power-mad, from self-interested to Dickensian corruption. I think the new writers literally could not figure out if Head Six was God or actual schizophrenic delusion on Baltar's part and said "Ehh, fuck it, moar prostitutes!"
Fri, Dec 30, 2022, 2:18am (UTC -5)
What happened was that the only homosexual character on BSG called CAIN instituted a rape and torture horrorshow against her former lover who then kills her and afterwards kills thousands of innocent with a atomic bomb. Yeah, totally feminist virtue signalling.
Ok, Gaeta is also homosexual, as we find out very late in the show, not long before he is shot for treason. Nice.
Wed, Feb 22, 2023, 8:17pm (UTC -5)
Roslin trying to steal the election and nearly getting away with it -- watching this after what happened in 2020 brings a new potency to this subplot. The strongest part of this episode is the conversation between Adama and Roslin where they admit they could be criminals etc. The lead-up to the election with Roslin speaking privately to Baltar -- she realizes what he's all about given the vision of him with No. 6 on Caprica prior to the attack. But she's got no proof of it, as she admits to Adama. Some great acting here.
Thought it was pretty quick for the Cylons to take a new tack with the influence of Sharon (#8) and the #6 from "Downloaded" -- but the Dean Stockwell Cylon (what number is he?) lays it all out. The Cylons can admit to their mistakes and have new marching orders. So they leave humanity alone for a little over a year. What is their justification for starting an occupation then?
Bit excessive with Baltar drinking, philandering as president for like a year -- but he's grieving (in his own way...) I suppose the #6 rescued from Pegasus was always a suicide threat and had developed an intractable hatred for humanity. And the nuke explosion she sets off eventually alerts the Cylons to New Caprica and the humans.
3.5 stars for "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2" -- overall excellent although the tonal change was very unusual given the structure of this episode. A year elapses here and a lot of details get swept under the rug -- definitely would be some questions on governance, criminality etc. But the Cylons catch the humans unprepared, Baltar surrenders, the military jumps away, and Kara's ready to fight again. On to Season 3.
Wed, Mar 8, 2023, 9:17am (UTC -5)
Balls of steel.
With a streak of mediocre episodes in this season I was getting the feeling that we are not going anywhere, something's got to change...
And change it did.
I am on the fence. The twist was such a punch in the face, I still don't know what to think. Unusually much, even for this series. Felt a bit rushed, I would had loved to see more of this (the transition period) instead for example a hostage drama piece. But it's a way out and a good potential to inject new plotlines. I will definitely keep on going and see how this unfolds.
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