"Resurrection Ship, Part 2" is an episode that has great images, great dramatic moments, and great examples of characters facing tough emotional situations. This is a powerful episode with a clear message. I only wish it could've ended on a note that was a little more messy and a little less pat. There are people here that go through hell, and the only thing holding the show back somewhat is that the plot doesn't seem quite willing to go through hell with them. It yearns for tidy resolutions (although, to be fair, it's not completely tidy).
The central question in "Resurrection Ship" is this: Is our survival worth it if we have to jettison our morality and human decency in the process? For Admiral Cain, the answer appears to be yes, although she'd surely argue that she's doing the best she can under the circumstances. Cain is not evil, not crazy, not even selfish. But she does do and permit evil things. When balancing the moral scales, she's in the wrong. She condones torture. She has ordered the execution of innocent civilians. She rules with an iron fist. Democracy is basically unheard of. It's all about martial law, steadfast obedience and order, all serving the bottom line — survival. What Cain perhaps has not stopped to really ask herself is whether it's all necessary. The Galactica has survived just as long as the Pegasus under similar circumstances, and has managed to bend morality without completely breaking it.
There's a scene early in the episode where Cain calls Kara in for a discussion that hints at what makes Cain tick. She doesn't believe that a moment's disobedience can be tolerated. She orders executions because she believes she has to — because without the chain of command, there is chaos. She implores Kara not to flinch when crucial difficult decisions must be faced. The irony of this speech is that by the time it comes, Kara has orders from Adama to take Cain out. Cain is unknowingly telling Kara not to back down from the mission to kill her.
Lee is assigned to provide Kara with backup during the assassination. Lee is understandably appalled at the notion of taking out a superior officer, and one could argue that he holds the most crucial emotional pieces in this episode. After being demoted by Cain and having his flight status revoked, there's a scene where Lee visits his father's cabin to hear for himself that Adama has actually ordered Kara to assassinate Cain. Adama confirms it, but the punch in the gut to Lee is not only that Adama plans to go through with it, but the fact that the president is the one who suggested it. "She's made of sterner stuff than people give her credit for," says Adama.
That may be true, but it's of no comfort to Lee. Jamie Bamber's performance nicely conveys Lee's saddened isolation; it's like he's been abandoned by everyone he cares about. No doubt he understands the pragmatism of this order, but that doesn't make it an easier pill to swallow; it's as if humanity has been chipped away from everyone around him — including the president, who used to be the one who stood for democracy and civil decency, and now is ordering the killing of a Colonial Fleet admiral.
What's perhaps most interesting about the story structure of this episode is how the assault on the Cylon fleet and the resurrection ship almost becomes secondary to the drama unfolding between Adama and Cain. I say "almost" because it isn't so much secondary as it's played as a dramatically charged foregone conclusion, while the showdown between Adama and Cain is played for genuine suspense. Even so, the battle sequences are impressive, both in visual design and emotional impact.
There's a lead-in to the battle where Adama asks Sharon why the Cylons hate humanity so much. Sharon uses Adama's own speech from the miniseries — where he posed the question of whether humanity was worth saving — as the case against him. (It's worth noting, however, that the Cylons are even more guilty than their creators, because they took their beliefs to a final conclusion of all-out genocide.) From Sharon's words we cut directly into the middle of the battle sequence, which is an interesting editorial choice; I like that we don't witness the battle start or end, but only see it in its broader middle strokes, because the story knows we're already familiar with the plan's details from part one.
Lee's mission to destroy the resurrection ship's FTL drive is successful, at which point he's hit, the Blackbird is destroyed, and he's ejected into space. In a bold and effective visual choice, we see the battle through his eyes as he floats helplessly in space, waiting either to be rescued or to die. The methodology here has an almost poetic artistry; the continuing battle unfolds in silence before Lee's eyes, with the atmosphere and music providing a counterpoint to the brutality. (Although I'm really starting to wonder just how many times Bear McCreary's scores from previous episodes can be recycled with virtually no alteration.)
This is terrific stuff. It's almost enough to make me overlook logical questions like: How is it in the past a battlestar was always considered no match for a base star, and yet here we have two battlestars and two base stars going head-to-head and it seems now that the Cylons are completely outmatched by the Galactica and Pegasus? And shouldn't this battle result in a lot of human casualties? It sure doesn't seem to here.
The battle is a major victory for the humans, who destroy the resurrection ship and chase the surviving Cylons into a retreat. This also means it's time for the show's central drama — the dual power plays of the two battlestar commanders — to play out. This is milked for some truly agonizing suspense, especially concerning Starbuck; it's a tense moment that has the audience on the edge of its seat because anything is possible. It's noteworthy, then, that neither commander has the stomach to go through with their respective assassination plans. As Adama puts it to Starbuck: "It's not enough to survive. One has to be worthy of surviving." — which is the story's message in a nutshell.
So, then, how is all the brewing conflict between Adama and Cain resolved? Not inappropriately, it comes down to Baltar and Six. There's a brilliantly performed scene where Baltar turns his back on the fantasy Six by using her own words against her to simultaneously gain Pegasus Six's trust. Rather than helping her commit suicide, Baltar helps spring her from her cell in the interests of "justice" (i.e. revenge). And justice she gets, by hiding in Cain's cabin and shooting her. One could argue that maybe Cain gets what she deserves, but let's also not forget that Six has more than her share to pay for as well. Baltar gets her off the Pegasus and finds her a place to hide.
And yet ... I can't shake the feeling that on a plot level this is all too neatly resolved and lets characters off the hook so they don't have to take definitive actions. Essentially, Adama and Roslin are saved by good fortune rather than having to take the desperate measures they were fearing. Cain dies at the hands of a Cylon that the entire fleet already reviles. Meanwhile, Baltar is apparently scot-free because there are no witnesses (also because no one thought to put video cameras in the prison cell of Pegasus' No. 1 enemy). Just how many times can Baltar get away unscathed?
If the plot is perhaps a bit neat, there are plenty of character tidbits worth mention. For starters, there's Lee's confession that he didn't want to come back from his mission alive; the episode shows that he possibly even avoided rescue. Here's a man who has been pushed to his limits. Kara makes an intriguing speech at Cain's funeral service that seems to side at least partially with Cain — although it reveals Kara has perhaps been too quickly swayed by Cain's unofficial mentoring program. And never have Adama and Roslin — who have been through so much — seemed closer. She promotes him to admiral, which, if you think about in terms of a cosmic joke, might've saved everyone a lot of trouble had she done it before the Pegasus showed up.
"Resurrection Ship" asks tough questions and gives its characters tough assignments. If it doesn't completely follow through on its indicators of passing a point of no return, it's because the conventions of television require that we have another episode next week where primary characters aren't dead, imprisoned, or forever morally compromised. It's a dangerous universe out there.