Battlestar Galactica


2.5 stars.

Air date: 2/3/2006
Written by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson
Directed by Michael Nankin

Review Text

First things first. I need to get something off my chest: The word "frak" needs to go away. "Frak," "frakked," "frakker," "frakking," "frak you," "frakked up," "motherfrakker," "frakkity-frak-frak" — whatever — they all need to get the fuck off my Battlestar Galactica.

And, no, I did not say they need to get the "frak" off my BSG, because I don't use "frak" in my reviews except as a quote because, goddamn it, "frak" isn't a word. I'm willing to cut "gods damn it" some slack, because it at least makes sense in the polytheistic BSG universe. "Frak" is more and more a distraction — an arbitrary, made-up word that started as an homage to the original series and has since gotten really, really old because of its overuse. In "Scar," the word must be uttered at least two dozen times, and it just sounds stupid. Enough already. Cease. Desist. Stop. Please and thank you.

But on with the review of "Scar," in which it is now Kara's turn, rather than Lee's, to implode. Whereas Lee imploded quietly, Kara implodes publicly and noisily. It's not an explosion because the cause is internal and not outwardly revealed, but as implosions go, it sure has a way of being obvious to everyone else. I doubt Starbuck would have it any other way.

"Scar" is frustrating because there are things about it I really like, and it has the distinction of being a story in which the central character actually has a bona fide arc that showcases a change in her attitude. The problem is that those changes are built on a flimsy foundation I couldn't believe in, as much as I tried. Can I recommend a show that has good scenes and good character development (not to mention good CG space battles) but emerges from a faulty starting point? I guess in this case, I'm going with that standby scoring phrase, "near-miss." It's BSG's third near-miss in a row.

It's also the fourth consecutive episode to use some sort of timeline/flashback narrative framing device. Strange; I wonder what the writers' deal is. Consider my feelings on the matter to be neutral observation (although the framing device in "Black Market" was pointless). Throughout the episode, we cut between the ending, where the payoff is unfolding, and the events leading up to that payoff.

Galactica, on a mining operation crucial for the long-term benefit of the fleet, has been forced to wait for the operation to finish. Pegasus has jumped ahead, protecting the fleet. Who's in command of the Pegasus and what kind of internal mayhem is unfolding in light of Fisk's murder in "Black Market" is one question that "Scar" does not so much as attempt to address, but in all fairness I suppose the show is called Battlestar Galactica and not Battlestar Pegasus.

While in this holding pattern, the Galactica fighter pilots have been forced to hold the line against a small squadron of Cylon Raiders, one of which has taken on the reputation as the Cylon's top gun, dubbed "Scar" by the Viper pilots because he's been in a number of scrapes but never killed.

The story is about Scar and the way he takes on an almost larger-than-life mystique as a lethal opponent — and how an increasing number of Viper pilots have been killed by his skilled, often sneaky, assaults. But the true character core is about Starbuck's implosion, which happens just as Louanne "Kat" Katraine (Luciana Carro) is becoming a force to be reckoned with.

To say Starbuck and Kat have a clash of the egos would be an understatement. The fact of the matter is Starbuck is very close to being replaced as Galactica's top gun by the brash and aggressive Kat. I particularly like that Kat, who was one of the nameless trainees back in "Act of Contrition," has become a full-fledged character, never more evident than here, where she gets in Starbuck's face and challenges her in front of the flight crew.

They place a wager on who will take Scar out, in the midst of a rowdy drinking binge with all the Viper pilots. Starbuck does a drunken dive over a table that everyone finds amusing, although Starbuck's own amusement is fleeting; she laughs that she may not cry.

The source of Kara's pain is the trouble point of the episode. We're supplied flashbacks that explain, and those flashbacks are in regard to resistance fighter Samuel Anders from Caprica (see "The Farm"). She promised to return to rescue him and his resistance group, and she hasn't been able to keep that promise. Her feelings of guilt, combined with her apparently having fallen in love with Anders in less than a week, have sparked her implosion. My problem is that I didn't buy that Kara could fall for Anders as fast as she did. I didn't buy it then, and I certainly don't now.

There's a scene here where she goes so far as to try to use Lee for a "good lay" in lieu of Anders. It's one of those moments fans have thirsted for — where Kara and Lee finally succumb to their attraction — but it ends in drunken pain and argument. Lee quite frankly has a right to feel used, in no small part because the writers have forced this whole projection scenario upon Kara's character.

Subsequently, Kara drinks herself into oblivion, oversleeps, and assigns a pilot to replace her in the flight rotation. That pilot, BB, makes a particularly idiotic tactical move and is killed by Scar on a mission where Starbuck would've been his wingman. Kat calls Starbuck on this fact in full view of the other pilots in the ready room. Is Kat right? Certainly, yes; Starbuck's drinking is starting to run out of control. But Kat is also trying to make her mark in the most forced of ways, for the simple reason that her own mortality is palpable enough that she'd rather be sure she's remembered as a hotshot in case she dies.

Do these two pilots eventually come to blows? Do they even more eventually overcome their doubts about each other and team up to kill Scar? Gee, what do you think?

Still, there are plenty of good things about "Scar." I enjoyed most of the Starbuck/Kat conflict, no matter how close to cliché the ego games came. I also enjoyed a scene between Kara and Sharon, where Sharon explains how Raiders think, and where Kara comments on how she sometimes forgets that Sharon is a Cylon. There's a sense of empathy here from both characters that hasn't been evident since Sharon was revealed as a Cylon. And as I said before, the battle sequences, with all the rocks and debris and cat-and-mouse games, are very well done.

There's also a moving scene where Kat thinks she's going to finally get the glory she's been seeking, and Starbuck instead uses it as a toast to the memory of all the pilots Galactica has lost. It could be seen as a brutal way to deny Kat's moment, but it's also honestly a moving and appropriate tribute first and foremost. Kat gets her toast, but it comes with the reminder that the glory comes with a price.

Kara goes through a definitive transition here, from a hotshot who might've previously been happy to die for glory to someone who now would prefer to give up the glory so that she can live and keep a promise. There's actual character growth to here, a legitimate arc on behalf of the writers.

And yet, the impetus for it all, to me, is not convincing in the slightest. Kara has a long history of buried feelings for Lee (not to mention she was previously engaged to Zak) and we're supposed to believe her big growth was brought on by Anders, of all people? I just don't buy it. Not from what we saw in "The Farm." Too bad, too, because the only thing lacking here is motivation. The action and the conflict are the parts that work.

Previous episode: Black Market
Next episode: Sacrifice

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24 comments on this post

    Warning: Comments below include MAJOR SPOILERS in redacted text. If you don't want to read the spoilers, do not highlight the redacted text, which looks like this:

    This is a spoiler.

    A reminder to all: Do not post spoilers on future episodes in the comments for past episodes, as some may be watching behind you.

    "Scar" ***1/2

    Wow, Jammer the new look to your site is excellent. I have always found your reviews quite engaging. I think I've read most of them at this point in time. And I must say, it's amazing that you have been doing these reviews since HS, if I understand correctly.

    However, I think you missed it with this episode. Indeed, "Scar" has a firm plot foundation on top of incredible special effects for a TV show (which you concede), great acting (as usual), and unrelenting tension between the characters who we really care about, especially Kara. Kara has unimaginable pain, angst, and confusion swirling in the core of her life. This plays out later in the series.

    What you fail to understand about the Kara/Lee relationship is how complicated it really is. Come on, think about it. Kara was basically married to Lee's brother who was killed in a devastating accident. Of course there will be insurmountable relational barriers that will most likely never be broken through. The two often relate to each other as big brother and little sister.

    The Kara/Kat conflict is also intriguing. Maybe a bit formulaic like you suggest, but very well done. One angle that comes through in a subtle yet effective way, is how a student eventually can match and even pass the competence of their mentor. This is a difficult thing for many teachers to embrace. Ever since "Act of Contrition," we have seen Kara's junior fighter pilots grow by leaps and bounds. It was inevitable that one would challenge her greatness.

    Perhaps the most powerful part of this episode is its ending. Toasting the fallen comrades of the war and the very realistic dialogue between Kara and Helo was emotionally compelling and underscores Kara's dedication to Anders(it would be interesting to know more about their apparently long friendship). The pensive music from the movie "The Deer Hunter" also added to the feeling and impact of the ending.

    So Jammer, take another look at "Scar" and I think you will bump up your rating. It is easily the best stand-alone episode of the season.

    I totally agree with viewjet. This is the best standalone of the season. What a great fighter pilot episode. Kara can take this kind of twisty stuff, I think. Lee's previous artificial darkening in Black Market never worked, while Kara is (as always) totally intriguing and believable here... at least as I see it. Her promise to Anders, all of the uncertainties she has about leadership here, the conflict between Kat and her -- it's all built up so well before this and pays off so well too. I say. The only stuff I don't like so much is Lee's automatic return to sex-bunny yet again after the Many Loves of Lee Adama episode just last week. Even though it's believable and their drinking scene is so good, the actual sex scene and the edit with Anders in it too... that was really awkward. I didn't like it, even if that was the point. Titillation should happen there. A little. But it was just damn messy.
    But this was still a beautiful episode, at least as good as its first season predecessor in format, Act of Contrition.
    9/10, yo.

    I felt the love for Anders was thrown on us abruptly and given the sophistication of BSG it is sub par. But while there time together was short, I can believe that in such drastic situations two people can fall in love in a short period of time and that Kara could be consumed and obsessed with that love. Love can be a good bandaid for pain. And I think to some extent that is what has happened here.

    I agree with Jammer 100%. The first time I watched Scar I was thinking "This is a perfectly done episode so why am I not enjoying it?"

    BSG has had such incredible character consistency that an episode based upon something so inconsistent is ridiculous to me. Kara has barely mentioned the civilians on Caprica (moreso in the extended cut of Pegasus) and I haven't heard Ander's name since The Farm. If they were going to do a Kara piece that focused on Anders they needed to mention in the intervening ten episodes.

    As a standalone episode it is fantastic and I understand why chose to offer it for free. For people who had never seen BSG this is a great advertisement for it... but for those of us that value it for the story it's telling this episode is a bit of an aberration.

    Like viewjet, I think this is a * * * 1/2 star episode. I think that score is perfect for exactly everything you said Jammer, as long as you can believe Kara's motivation. I do. Anders was the first time she let herself be vulnerable with someone since the attack, and more important since Zac. And now she's essentially lost him too. The foundation, I admit, isn't as believable as it should have been (should have been built up a tiny bit more), but that's part of why this isn't a four star episode.

    It's one of my favorite BSG episodes. There are many episodes where I feel you're off by about a half star, but, if I could only change one rating you've assigned, it would be for Scar.

    So, I'm rewatching everything from the beginning during the break, and reading Jammer's excellent reviews as 'recaps' as I go.

    Reading the comments above, now that we know Anders is a Cylon, does it make sense to possibly revise the estimate of this episode if one's main dissastisfaction was believing Kara's behavior regarding Anders?

    Personally, I did buy into Kara's love for Anders the first time through, no problem. Maybe I'm a softie romantic type who 'wants to believe' this sort of thing in my drama and so I'm a pushover for the writers, I don't know. I mean, sure, the Kara/Anders thing was abruptly pushed on us, the audience, but I often find myself filling in offscreen events where there are narrative gaps, and so I interpreted things as not being so "abrupt" for the two characters while on Caprica. ::shrugs::

    Anyway, given that Anders was eventually to be revealed as a Cylon, it seems we can assume that perhaps there's some manipulation of Kara going on here--just as Helo was "supposed" to fall in love with Caprica Sharon. Can't we? And then do we go back and rate this episode higher? I know some say that what matters is the viewer context at the time, but then it seems "unfair" as regards rating any episode in a long-running series with heavy continuity arcs to me personally. Sometimes things happen for reasons which are to be revealed later. So I personally hold such responses I might have to content like this as "open" to evaluation given what may come later.

    Anyway, "Scar", IMO, is one of the best standalone episodes if perhaps not the best so far. Watching it a third time yesterday, I was completely engaged and I think it's really a beautiful blend of emotional drama and action/suspense.

    I thought the ending was very powerful in a way I have not seen addressed. Kat called Kara out and the feeling (at least I got) from most of the other pilots was that Kara was detached - in fact the talk with Lee where she said she did not remember their names when he said he could not recall their faces gave a lot of weight to that. When Kara said each of their names, slowly and with emotion, it showed she not only remembered them, but felt each loss. Very powerful. That made the episode for me.

    I don't think Anders being a cylon matters to this story as it seems pretty likely he and the other "Final Five" are separate from the other cylons and genuinely did not know what they were until they heard the music etc.

    I can go along with Starbuck's issues over Anders here because it doesn't have to be love. It's can simply be a case of possible love and an opportunity lost to see if it was. Finding something you think you love and then losing it almost immediately can surely be as powerful as true love in the way it might haunt the mind.

    A 3 star episode for me. Enjoyable without the wow factor of so many other BSG episodes. Also for shame calling for the removal of Frak. It's their swear word and they are entitled to it. Grows on you if you ask me.

    Thanks Guys!!! I am watching the series for the first time now and reading Jammers (quite excellent by the way) reviews and David goes and gives away that Anders is a Cylon. Have a bit of consideration for those of us who are watching behind the rest. Jammer already asked you once in previous reviews not to spoil it for the rest of us.

    Wait! Anders isn't a Cylon! He's a Pylon! You don't know yet, Londonboy. The Pylons become very important later on. You're not spoiled, you're not. He's a pylon. Keep watching.

    Its an ok episode, but try as it might (even though some of its themes are different) it certainly isn't anything like being up to the standards of "The Angriest Angel"

    This is the third disappointing episode in a row, and at least the second episode that feels like it was taken from a box in the corner of the writer's room containing discarded scripts. It might be the third such episode, but, for the life of me, I can't even remember what Epiphanies was about, and I watched it less than 48 hours ago.

    Helo tells Starbuck that Kat is a hot-shot up-and-comer "like you were before you met Anders." What? Starbuck has been the Viper-pilot wunderkind since the first episode. She's been training pilots and planning, organizing, and leading crucial missions since long before Anders showed up.

    I don't like writing that makes everybody excessively cranky and tactless as a way of generating cheap drama. One Catholic nun with a ruler would have resolved most of the conflict here within five minutes. Everybody just needed to behave themselves and act like adults.

    As far as I'm concerned the generic plot and "character arcs" and conflicts could have been plugged into just about any wartime drama produced on television since the 1950s. This could have been an episode of Baa Baa Black Sheep as easily as an episode of BSG.

    Couldn't disagree more with your feelings about the word Frak. It sounds a bit awkward but it should, because it's not supposed to be a normal word. It's how they say Fuck on TV. It should carry that response of it being a word not meant to be used in normal speech.

    Also, BSG is supposed to capture realism, and how are they supposed to do that without cursing? Would you prefer lame ass PG13 words put in there? That would be even more distracting.

    Just curious why everyone assumes that Starbuck is actually hung up on Anders? It seems to me that it was framed by the writers as just her latest excuse to build walls, bury feelings and drink. She had a fling and thought he was dead: perfect excuse to indulge her inner demons. I don't think it was love at all. I think it was another revelation of one of her many, many issues.

    There was a deleted scene from Pegasus (which was restored in the extended version) where Starbuck presents her Caprica rescue plan to Roslin and Adama and you see how determined she is to keep her promise. That gives Starbuck a LITTLE more motivation, but like you Jammer I still don't buy it. Starbuck has never allowed herself to get close to anybody, so in my mind she shouldn't be any more hung up on Anders than she is with Baltar.

    I also don't buy the fact that Cylon Raiders have "personalities". If one Raider was better than they others, couldn't they make a zillion copies of that one raider and be better for it? Oh, and Kat is just too annoying.

    I am also sick of the flash-forward structure. Seeing the ending first takes all the tension away. I didn't like it in "Act of Contrition" (an otherwise great episode) and I don't like it here.

    Still, there were a few great scenes: the Starbuck/Boomer scene, the toast to dead crewmates, and the final Starbuck/Helo scene.

    Great show, great show. FAR better than 2.5*; like others, I'd give it 3.5*.

    The flash-forwards are annoying, I agree with Nic there. They create confusion, eliminate suspense, and do not actually aid in the experience in any way.

    Kat's abrasive and crass, but so is Starback (or used to be). Plus, I find Kat quite cute, AND she's a fellow New Yorker, so she's forgiven.

    Awesome final scenes with Helo and Starbuck and especially the toast before that.

    The Scar backstory doesn't add up.

    At first I assumed he was all scratched up because he was the survivor - killing humans but getting beaten up.

    But then we get the reveal that raiders are resurrected, and in fact Scar's personality develops from his frequent "death". All well and good. But if this is the case, why is Scar scarred? Doesn't he get a shiny new body each time? Or does he smash into a few asteroids when resurrected to maintain his bad-ass persona?

    So forced! The episode is over cooked. Scene after scene that you just want to end. Zero tension due to this ridiculous flashback storytelling kick the writers are on.
    This whole crew comes across as more and more and more unprofessional. Even though he has had barely any face time in the last few episodes I'm beginning to dislike Adama for the sole reason that it's HIS ship. He let's these overgrown children into command positions. There seems to be almost no discipline on the ship.
    Frustrating to watch a show that is getting increasingly fake and forced. From previous read reviews and comments I had the impression that this show was something special but it's getting more and more like Star Trek Voyager in plot and soap opera in execution.

    Rewatching this, and I'd rate it higher. I just had a thought, though, about how this episode could have been about Starbuck's trouble after shooting Cain (if that had happened). There's a lot of mess associated with that to clean up (although maybe you have a lot of Pegasus people relieved, and you get an episode where Fiske has to manage these two groups. Maybe a scene with him appealing to Adama for help and coming clean with Cain's Case Orange plan.). But, you could get good motivation for a story like this.

    And then have a volatile situation on Pegasus lead to the Fiske's death instead of black market, and then have Garner try to really be a conciliatory figure trying to lead a way forward before also dying and Lee providing stability.

    Hard mess to work through for sure, but BSG loves the mess and honestly, episodes like Scar or all the turnover with Pegasus commanders seem like writers wanted to go there anyway, just with less pressure.

    Ramble ramble.

    On second thought, I think Adama's "it's not enough to survive, you have to be worthy of survival" decision not to kill Cain is too important to the show to go down that road. Maybe Starbuck could have been with Cain in her quarters or somehow made a decision not to stop Gina killing Cain. And she has to wrestle with that guilt even though she knew it was the right thing that had to happen.

    So if I understand the timeline here...

    1. Starbuck shoots down a raider in Act of Contrition
    2. Starbuck guts the raider's brain and flies it home in You Can't Go Home Again
    3. The Raider is flown back to Caprics in Kobol's Last Gleaming and is subsequently stolen by the Cylons soon after she lands
    4. The raider is given a new brain, which I assume is the resurrected consciousness that Starbuck shot down previously.
    5. Said Raider, scarred and bitter and wise in how Starbuck (and those she teaches) flies, becomes a one man (one cylon) killing machine

    Is that how it went? The show never goes into it but I think that's the implication

    Just not the type of episode I like and only the ending redeemed it a bit -- just ongoing pissing matches between Kat and Kara, Kara's drinking and thinking of Anders on Caprica, and what a mess she has become.

    Once again the use of revealing a conclusion and then going back and showing what got us here -- bit much to do that in 2 or 3 straight episodes and it didn't need to be used here. Just tell the story straightforwardly.

    Didn't care to see all the stuff Kara's going through -- although some folks might. I did like one scene where she and Lee admit they don't remember any names/faces of the pilots they've lost. But then in the end, when Kara pours a drink for Kat, she lists all those names.

    Also interesting tactically from the Cylons now (as Sharon reveals) -- they are no longer going in for mass attacks after the loss of their resurrection ship. It's just hit and run stuff and "Scar" is apparently the master of it. And he reincarnates and grows more hateful given the bitter memories of being shot down.

    2 stars for "Scar" -- Kara's obviously seriously messed up, but she sets up Kat for the kill of Scar after Lee paired them together. It's kind of ho-hum stuff, but the honoring of the dead pilots was well done and the scene with Helo where Kara is told she has reason to hope is a good way to end. But I'd skip this one upon a re-watch -- just too much catfighting and emotional toll affecting Starbuck.

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