Battlestar Galactica


4 stars.

Air date: 3/4/2007
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Michael Nankin

Review Text

There's a tendency with an episode that has an outcome like "Maelstrom's" to expect something slam-bang, heroic, and extraordinary. What happens here, however, is personal, introspective, and often quiet. In short, it's the way it should be, and not the way we might somehow want it to be.

"Maelstrom" is an episode with pitch-perfect tone and stellar performances. It observes its characters with a striking attentiveness that's, at times, hypnotic. Meanwhile, its outcome will, frankly, piss some people off. But any problems with this episode have nothing to do with its storytelling and everything to do with the unavoidable external hoopla that surrounds the departure of a major cast member — which, if you don't want to be spoiled about exactly what that means, you should stop reading right now.

This episode is, simply put, the story of the death of Kara "Starbuck" Thrace. Online speculation runs rampant: Why was Katee Sackhoff written out? Was the actress unhappy on the show? Is Ron Moore overly obsessed with shock value? Is Starbuck not "really" dead and coming back next season in some twist? Is she one of the Final Five Cylons? And so on. I have no idea if there were external, non-story reasons that led to this decision, or whether Sackhoff might come back next year, or what it means that the writers have left some sci-fi wriggle room surrounding her character's death. But I prefer it that way, because I have "Maelstrom" to examine and I'd like to look at it for what it is.

And you know what? "Maelstrom" is a terrific, absorbing hour of drama. The writers have constructed an appropriate exit for Kara Thrace that feels right given what we know about her and particularly what she's been going through this season. Is it "satisfying"? Well, maybe not if you were expecting her to go out with a conventional hero's bang. But, yes, in that the story the whole time points to where it's headed and arrives at the only place that it can and should — and yet arriving there is still shocking on some level.

But, really, the shock value is not even the true point of "Maelstrom." This story is about reading the telegraphed clues of Kara's behavior, and how the story's destination will be viewed through two different prisms. One prism is from within Kara's head. The other is through the people close to Kara, who are privy to her behavior but not her thoughts. Only the audience has the whole picture, and that's the beauty of the narrative. We know the reasons why, even as the characters closest to her do not. The question by the end is this: Is Kara's death pointless? Meta-question: Who is defining "pointless"?

As we join Kara already in progress, she's having strange nightmares involving the image of the Eye of Jupiter painted on her apartment walls, and bizarre sex involving Leoben and lots of paint. This prompts Kara to visit an oracle in the fleet, who has information she absolutely should not have about Kara's encounter with Leoben, and what he said (in "Flesh and Bone") about Kara, her mother, and her destiny. The oracle is disturbingly omniscient, and it throws Kara for a loop. Is there truth to Leoben's assertions? Does she have a special destiny that's in the master plan of the universe?

Kara is also hallucinating. She sees images of herself as a child, and the bad memories come flooding back. In one scene, she shares with Anders a story about her abusive mother's hateful tendencies, and Kara's method of revenge by putting fake bugs in her mother's closet. It threw her mother, Socrata (Dorothy Lyman), into such a rage that she slammed Kara's hand in a door and broke all her fingers. "It was worth it, though," Kara muses.

The hallucinations do not end there. The Galactica is conducting fleet refueling operations in the low orbit of a planet. While on a Viper patrol in the turbulent atmosphere, Kara engages a Cylon Heavy Raider, which she pursues through the clouds and into a violent maelstrom that forms a circular pattern resembling the Eye of Jupiter (although, admittedly, a lot of circular objects can resemble the Eye of Jupiter). Kara goes in too deep and her Viper is nearly crushed by the atmospheric pressure. She pulls out at the last second. Back aboard the Galactica, analysis of her flight recorder shows no record of the Cylon ship. Is Kara hallucinating in the cockpit?

Lee is concerned and conflicted. Should he ground her? He has an insightful conversation with his father that suggests one of the episode's key points of view: "Sometimes it's hard to admit that the best of us can burn out," Adama says. Kara has been through a lot, and to the other characters she has become increasingly unstable. She's always had self-destructive tendencies, but usually they've played themselves out in her personal life, not in the cockpit. Has it now gotten to the point that she's simply lost it? Is it a liability that's going to end up getting her or someone else killed?

It's a possibility. Even Kara admits it, telling Lee: "I'm not going back out there. I don't trust myself." Kara has always been screwed-up emotionally, and we've seen a lot more evidence of that lately, exemplified by the total mess that her relationships with Anders and Lee have been. She's angry and distrustful, and a big part of that distrust is of herself. Being trapped in that horrifying mind game with Leoben on New Caprica certainly exacerbated the situation, but one could argue that her difficult relationship with her soldier mother helped mold Kara into the troubled person she is today. (It's worth noting, however, that Kara's engagement to Zak would not seem to fit in with this character arc. Or perhaps one could argue that Zak's death merely fueled the anger.)

Obviously, as audience members, we have enough information where we can see the situation as more complicated than a case of Kara's psychological breakdown. With all the coincidences and foretelling of destiny, could it be there's something real going on that doesn't exist only in Kara's head? When candle wax drips on the floor and creates a pattern that looks like the Eye of Jupiter, is that a sign, or merely a coincidence? It doesn't much matter, because in Kara's mental state, it becomes a sign.

I always find Kara most interesting when the story reveals the vulnerability behind the tough exterior. "Act of Contrition," still the series' best Starbuck episode, knew this best of all. Kara's status as the resident hotshot is merely an attribute, not her definition. One of the best scenes in "Maelstrom" is a quiet one where Lee and Kara take a seat on the flight deck. When Kara asks, Lee says that his relationship with Dualla has improved. You can see that he's found something to hold onto in his personal life while Kara might never be able to. And you sense a resolution between these two characters and their relationship, once again defined by their professionalism and friendship. For Kara, there's a definite note of melancholy. She's stranded in a personal limbo. More than anything, this scene and the actors understand the effectiveness of restraint and subtext: Because we know the history, the scene knows it doesn't have to underline its own significance.

When Kara goes back on patrol, this time with Lee as her wingman, she sees the Heavy Raider again, and chases it into the maelstrom. She's pulled into an unconscious vision where she must relive a pivotal encounter with her mother — the day she learned her mother was dying. While flashbacks have sometimes been a problem this season (like in "Hero" or "A Day in the Life"), they work here because they tell us something about the character's past that informs the present.

It all comes down to Kara's final argument with a mother who was an impossible woman. Socrata took "tough love" to an extreme, and valued success above all else, constantly telling Kara she was "special" while berating her efforts as inadequate. Kara used a heated last-straw argument as an excuse to walk out and never return, but the real reason she never came back was she couldn't face her mother's impending death. Her mother died alone. It has been a regret that has haunted Kara ever since, and it planted a seed of fear that has given her pause about her own possible death.

Now, through a journey that can equally validly be labeled as spiritual or purely psychological, she's able to revisit that choice and envision a different decision. She finally makes peace with her mother's death and in the process conquers her own fears. Kara has flirted with death her entire life (hence her career), but she has always stepped away from the precipice after briefly staring over it.

The revelation of "Maelstrom" is that she is now able to throw herself over the precipice because she has finally resolved that fear. The image of the Heavy Raider might simply be death calling her in the way she finds most comfortable. And she decides wants to cross over to "the other side," wherever that may lead. Her "special destiny," it would seem, is to die (although there are suggestions that it's more than that). She seems comfortable, even welcoming, and tells Lee, "Let me go." The fact that she dies in a vortex that looks like the Eye of Jupiter cannot be a coincidence, but then it's not completely clear if the vortex is real or imagined. Leoben's role in all this is also of peculiar interest: He looks like Leoben but it's doubtful he's Leoben the Cylon. He's something else: a construct of Kara's subconscious, a spiritual guide, or perhaps a father figure. You decide.

So is this a tragic dramatization of a character in a psychological meltdown — who commits suicide because she no longer wants to live? Or is it indeed a story of a destiny fulfilled, where crossing over into death means something else and might even have sci-fi possibilities that ripple through the BSG mythology? Either reading is valid, and either way Kara's backstory sheds light on the matter. And either way, this is a satisfying and powerful tale about the cycle of life and death. This is an episode that engages the viewer's imagination and encourages fan debate.

A review of "Maelstrom" would not be complete without mention of the visuals. This may be an intimate character drama, but the show doesn't scrimp on its special effects, which make for intense, pulse-pounding scenes of aviation that rank among the best flight sequences on the series.

It all makes for an episode of compelling images, illuminating backstory, poetic (if cryptic) puzzle-piece arrangement, promises for future mythology development, and fine performances (particularly Sackhoff's). Not to mention the immediate fallout of having a major character snatched away. Whether Kara's exit pays off for the story in the long run remains to be seen, but it pays off here.

The final scene sums up the episode's emotions perfectly. Adama grieves privately in his quarters. He sits alone in anguish, putting some finishing touches on his model ship. And then in a stunningly effective moment, he smashes the model to pieces in a fury. A loved one has died, leaving the survivors with no answers and no resolution. And now what?

Previous episode: Dirty Hands
Next episode: The Son Also Rises

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Comment Section

47 comments on this post

    One of the best episodes of the series upon reflection. At the time I was too disturbed to fully appreciate it.

    Outstanding. Not just the series's best episode, but one of the most breathtaking, outstanding pieces of drama I've ever seen, and an incredible performance from Sackhoff. A masterpiece.

    I just re-watched this episode for the 3rd or 4th time tonight. I have to agree with all of the above....this is one of Galactica's finest moments. It contains one of my favorite scenes (Apollo and Starbuck's talk on the flight deck) and the visuals, as Jammer describes, are magnificent.

    I think Adama smashing the model ship is certainly in the top 5 BSG scenes, and the bit in the podcast about it makes it even cooler. EJO becomes even more badass, as he improvised destroying it; you can see the camera guy go "Whoa, what?" to get it all. Plus Ron Moore says it was a rental prop, and they ended up being hugely lucky that it was insured because it was a really expensive antique or something. Pretty awesome stuff all around.

    For me this episode also represented a huge turning point for the show, heading into the last 4 of this season and all of season 4, where only "No Exit" ever goes below a minimum of 3-star material IMO. The stuff season 3 put out between "Hero" and "Dirty Hands" was always competently done, but I thought it was the low point in the show in terms of overall quality, storylines (both the mostly lacking ongoing ones, and the un-impacting standalones,) and riveting-ness. I think I made up a few words in this paragraph, but that's why I don't have a review site of my own. ;-)

    ^^^I meant "Deadlock," not "No Exit," of course. The former was a huge let-down in a show's final moments a la DS9's "Extreme Measures," whereas the latter was simply amazing in scope and presentation. I hope no one goes Whaaaaa? before reading this addendum.

    I watched this episode for the first time and I was totally overwhelmed. The most remarkable scene for me was also the dialog between Apollo and Starbuck. I think the directors made awesome art here as you see Starbuck's face in a closed up shot and tiny red lights are reflected in her eyes and begin to glow. It totally scared the hell out of me. Is this a subtle hint that she might be one of the last five cylons? Best episode ever!


    I was surprised you did not mention one of the really good character touches when Starbuck died - the look on Col. Tigh's face. As Apollo was yelling for her to pull up you could see it was not the normal hard-ass Tigh, but the concern building, and then when Lee said the ship was in pieces...well, the total stunned confusion, sadness and even regret - all in about a second or two. Brilliant.

    Question I am curious to hear what you all think, I thought it was a good move NOT to have the funeral/memorial for Kara in this episode or "The Son Also Rises" and let the pain, acceptance and start of healing show instead of the big speech with tears and recollections. Thoughts?


    That's a REALLY good question, and one I honestly never considered. I guess I somehow didn't realize that we never see a memorial service for Starbuck; I think that not only makes "Maelstrom" even stronger in retrospect, but lends even more power to future scenes dealing with her loss like those in "The Son Also Rises." It's certainly to the show's credit that something like a funeral for a major character's death goes unseen but a) I don't notice and b) the resulting scenes are among the most powerful of the entire run. Good catch!

    I noticed a few things on DVD viewing.

    1) This really is one of the best of the series, I had somehow forgotten that and just remembered the... important.. plot elements.

    2) "The fact that she dies in a vortex that looks like the Eye of Jupiter cannot be a coincidence, but then it's not completely clear if the vortex is real or imagined."

    The storm is real, you see Lee's view of it, but the colors that make it look like the mandala are imagined by Kara.

    3) Just before she blows up, there's a shot of her reaching for the eject handle. She also says "they are waiting for me". I guess I had forgotten about these things. Do these actually imply something about future events, or were they just things stuck in there to give the writers flexibility on future story lines, and never paid off?


    "3) Just before she blows up, there's a shot of her reaching for the eject handle. She also says "they are waiting for me". I guess I had forgotten about these things. Do these actually imply something about future events, or were they just things stuck in there to give the writers flexibility on future story lines, and never paid off?"

    I just re-watched this episode (my annual Jan-Mar run through) and had forgotten about the eject handle shot too.

    My guess is the same as yours: The writers were giving themselves enough wiggle room to work with regarding how to bring her back (since bringing her back in the finale was the plan all along).

    Oh, and this is hands-down my favorite BSG episode.

    My top 10:
    3. PEGASUS
    5. 33
    6. EXODUS 1-2
    7. CROSSROADS 1-2

    Best part upon watching this episode on DVD, apparently Adama wasn't supposed to smash the ship at the end. It was the really expensive on and not the prop one, so people got very mad at him. Although I found it completely works, it makes me think that the actor was so into his character he could act out like that. Brilliant. I remain adamant that Kara can't die. She just can't.

    K+L Forever

    Anyone else think back to Benny Russell painting over his story in the asylum when Kara threw paint over the mandala in her room?

    Pretty good episode. aLthough I have a hard time saying this is one of the best of the series. Entertainment-wise, I thought "Dirty Hands" was superior, until the last 5 minutes.

    however, I like how Jammer described it as mesmorizing. It was by far the most memorizing episode of the series so far. And the visuals were hauntingly beautiful.

    I think I would have loved it more except for 2 things, her mother I think was poorly acted (outside of the last scene), and, frankly, I never really got into the StarBuck character to begin with. She always was to over the top for me. she has certainly been growing on me, definately in the last season, but it was to little to late.

    I have mixed feelings about this episode, which is different from saying that I didn't love it. It's definitely the best episode since "Torn" (which used to be the norm, but I have high hopes that the mid-season slump is over and done with!)

    So yes, it was a terrific hour of drama, and leaves a lot of questions hanging in the air (such as "Why did making peace with her mother lead her to commit suicide?") but that isn't necessarily a bad thing - it all depends on how it plays out over the rest of the series. But there's also a part of me that DID want her to go out in a blaze of glory, as cliched as that might be. At the very least I hoped the Heavy Raider she saw would turn out to be real and she would therefore have sacrificed her life to save the fleet from it... or something. So I guess that as great as this episode was, I'm not completely satisfied.

    No, sorry, I can't subscribe to all the plaudits lavished on this show. It was too weird, too messed up. "Boo ho, I had a tough childhood and my momma didn't love me" has been done to death and back already. The mind-games and symbolisms don't get me excited. Fantasy sci-fi I can do; the whole mystics, mysticism and pseudoreligious mystique I can't.

    The visuals were great but, frankly, I found last episode's plot with unionized labor and dealing with the threat of a strike far more intriguing and provocative than this.

    Anyway, she was one thoroughly screwed up broad, even before these laden dreams of hers, and Galactica is better off without her... - though I see from others' comments that she's not really dead. Oh well, figures...

    Excellent episode, definitely restarted the story engine for the rest of season 3 and 4. I've been rewatching the series, and it's in my top 5 for sure.

    Also, lot's of spoilers on the comments here, can we get that cleaned up please?

    @Michael: Bless you, sir. Reading through the comments, I was beginning to think that I was the only one who didn't think this episode was "OMG SO AMAZING"

    It was better than some, simply by virtue of not being full of plot holes, but was otherwise merely passable. The story was relatively well acted and had some exceptional moments, but ultimately went nowhere.

    I was annoyed by the fact that Lee was so reluctant to ground Starbuck. I understand but she's a really good pilot, but is she really SO good at that the fleet just can't function without her in the cockpit?

    Oh, well. Like you said, the fleet is better off without her anyway.

    This was boring and didnt make ANY sense.... I still dont think Starbuck has any special destiny, I used to like her, here she is just wasted.... :(

    After rewatching this episode, I like it better than I did the first time, and I came away with 3 observations:

    1) When Kara's mom calls her a quitter, it stings even more in light of Kara's tendency to sabotage her relationships. She cheated on Zak and on Lee and on Anders, because she was always afraid of fully committing or "plunging over the precipice" to borrow Leoben's metaphor.

    2) Lee's decision not to ground Kara is reminiscent of Kara passing Zak in flight training. In both cases, Lee and Kara made the decision with their hearts instead of their heads, and in both cases they inadvertently killed the loved one whose feelings they wanted to protect.

    3) As I watch this knowing Kara's eventual fate, this episode in retrospect feels like her Gethsemane, in which she has to go through the agony of facing death and accepting that it's destined and cannot/must not be avoided.

    One of the better episodes of the last several. I don't know that I can call it one of the best of the series, because I've been somewhat put off by the increasing reliance on the somewhat cliched metaphysical stuff. But this episode grabbed me, and the last few minutes are riveting and heartbreaking. Well done.

    4 stars for this episode? No way, it was rather boring and too much drama. I just hope the remaining 3 episodes will tense up a bit the plot, since it went downhill after Exodus and Collaborators episodes.

    I don't think I am gonna miss Kara that much (if she is really dead...), as she became rather annoying thru this season.

    I loved this episode in of itself, for the emotions and acting and character work on display, but I still don't understand the necessity of turning Kara into an Angel. It was a interesting choice, and led to some good moments, but overall I think it was a bad move. The move from realism to relentless focus on prophecy and destiny was not one I appreciated from this series overall. There's already more than enough of that crap. After so much effort to be original and grounded as a series, it's disappointing that they couldn't resist falling back on mythic cliches. The story was more than interesting enough without this.

    4 Stars? What the heck? I'm sorry, but I can't go along with you guys on this. I'm with Michael, Ryan, and Kieren. I thought this episode stunk.

    The acting was great. The special effects were good. But the story went NOWHERE! Let's break it down, shall we?

    1. A few prior hints about "Kara Thrace and Her Special Destiny" (this band coming soon to a town near you!).

    2. Starbuck starts having bad dreams and thinking about her mom.

    3. A bunch of religious, metaphysical mumbo-jumbo gets thrown out there by the writers.

    4. Starbuck kills herself. The End.

    How is that in any way satisfying? How is that by any measure considered a *good* story?

    I mean, examine all the pseudo-religious nonsense in this episode. Does any of it make any sense? No. Maybe in future episodes, but not in this one.

    I found this episode to be very annoying. I don't even like Starbuck at all. But to kill off a main character seemingly at random just doesn't seem right. Maybe at some point in a future episode there will be some payoff to this. But I'm not holding my breath for that. As it stands, it was meaningless and stupid.

    I really don't get all you people here raving about how great this episode was. "It's one of the top episodes!" Huh? I mean, you guys are certainly entitled to your opinion. If you loved this one, more power to you. But every time I read one of those positive comments, I just think, "Did I just watch the same episode they are talking about?"

    Like Nick P. said, I thought "Dirty Hands" was much more interesting than this one. And I wouldn't rate it 3 stars either.

    I am watching all of BG for the first time. So far, Season Three has been very disappointing. It started out fairly strong, but the story quality of the episodes has diminished greatly. I keep hoping for it to get back to the edge-of-your seat style storytelling that made up most (not all!) of Seasons One and Two. But it seems like the writers have lost their way.

    At this point the stories are going nowhere. Throwing in a bunch of religious nonsense merely obscures the fact, trying to show meaning where there is none. It is not making things better.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong. Maybe all this religious "destiny" junk means something in later episodes after all. I certainly hope so.

    There's still 3 episodes left in this season, and a whole other season to go. I sure hope the stories pick up the pace. I feel like BG is going through its death throes here. Starbuck's pointless and annoying death in "Maelstrom" is a good analogy for what the Battlestar Galactica stories as of late have become. And that sucks.

    What do we think about the fact that this episode places the onus of forgiveness on the victim of abuse?

    In my view, Starbuck did the right thing by walking out and not coming back. After the lifetime of severe abuse her mother meted out to her, she's completely justified in doing so. Yet the episode focuses on Kara's guilt at having left her mother to die alone, and climaxes with the scene in which Kara is given a chance to undo this by returning to comfort her abusive mother in her final hours. The narrative isn't about Kara's mother accepting responsibility for her abuse, apologieing or reforming - we see no evidence of any of this - it's all about Kara having to supposedly do the right thing by forgiving her mother and continuing to be the "good daughter" to her despite the abuse she receives in return.

    I love this episode, for the writing and direction and Katee Sackhoff's performance, but I'm really uncomfortable with this. This is a woman who emotionally and physically abused her daughter, yet the episode makes it the daughter's responsibility to make peace and forgive her mother.

    @Niall, I see what you mean and I have my own problems with the episode. I also think that Kara did the right thing in leaving her mother; it is good to get out of abusive relationships, especially if the other party shows no signs of changing. But I think the episode's focus is on Kara and not her mother because...well, Kara is alive (at least at the episode's beginning), her mother is not. Her mother won't change, and can't change, because she's dead. I see it as, it ultimately is important for Kara's own health to forgive her mother, because it is difficult for her to forgive herself without first forgiving her mother. And I think forgiving her mother is also a way for Kara to recognize that her mother can't hurt her anymore, rather than continue to be ruled by fear of her.

    I didn’t think Starbuck was really killed. They wouldn’t have an all-important character like that end with a maudlin suicidal death plunge while making peace with Naomi from “Mama’s Family”. She is supposed to fulfill her destiny and I don’t think that was her destiny. She’ll be back, from the space between life and death, just a matter of when. Although the end with Adama smashing his ship was pretty powerful, even more so after reading that it was done off-script by Mr. Olmos. Good for him!

    This was the first episode where I cared about Kara/was interested in an episode revolving around her. Brought me to tears at the end.

    Very good acting, particularly by Sackhoff.

    This is my first time watching the series. Three possibilities:

    1. She is dead. If Starbucks is dead, then her "special destiny" was suicide after a life fighting depression. Not particularly interesting, IMO, but as a study in self-destuction. Which, I suppose, should be part of this universe. Still, sadly, I must agree the fleet is better off without her. The series certainly is better off without the chaotic Starbuck generated Love Z... It would have been much more satifying to see he get her act together along the lines the XO. Don't tell me his life was a bowl of cherries, and he manages to get his act together.

    2. She survived. Well, there are no weird aliens in the series, per Olmos demand, so only the Cylons could save her. Which makes little sense.

    3. She is one of the Five. Which means, well, whatever that means.

    3.5 Stars

    Or one more possiblity:

    Destiny/God made her an Angel. Boring.

    If she is an Angel (remember, Angels are not necessarily good, they are agents of God) , then what does her character arc mean? Nothing. Because character arcs are all about the way the Greeks taught us how to tell a story. And the greeks railed against the deus machina.

    With good reason. If she is an Angel, or whatever, then who cares about Apollo and her Love Z?! I, along with many here, got tired of that, and now it doesn't really matter at all.

    The writers are being vary lazy.

    Gawd, this show is taking a turn for the worse.

    Just an anachronistic note about this episode...

    In the close-up of Starbuck's mother's ashtray, you can clearly see the word "Marlboro" printed on the butt of one of the cigarettes. A sign that Philip Morris is one of the Five??

    Completely agree with Clint. This is my first time watching BSG after my friend wouldn't stop hyping it up. I greatly enjoyed the first two seasons but the third has been very disappointing.

    I am in awe that this episode got 4 stars. I get that Starbuck was depressed and disturbed, but the way she went out was just ridiculous. Too many visions and metaphysical nonsense. Helo suggests that she see a shrink, and she shrugs it off only to daydream about Leoben and her mother? Then she hallucinates and sees a cylon ship, has some kind of realization and decides to kill herself? She almost brought down Lee with her - completely selfish, as usual.

    Her death made no sense to me. When her ship blew up I thought "umm... really?"

    I hope the show gets back to stories that make sense. Lately, there has just been too much religious and metaphysical nonsense for my taste.

    Here's where it became clear to me that BSG had jumped the shark.
    But they didn't just jump the shark, they brought in Evel Knievel (aka Katee Sackhoff) to jump Sharktopus. And told you for months that the jump was coming.

    And yet somehow managed to keep it interesting.

    It's at this point that I started comparing BSG to Lost. In both cases, the "plot" went on its own pre-determined path, regardless of what the characters did.
    "All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again." At which point, the characters may as well kick back, pop a cold one, and go along for the ride. Hide from the Cylons? Why bother -- they'll show up as required by whomever / whatever is pulling the strings. Fly CAP? Again, why -- the Cylons will do whatever damage is required to push Galactica into whatever action is required.

    BSG has made deus-ex-machina into a theme of the series.

    I lost all interest in LOST -- I neither cared where the plot was going, nor did I care much about any of the characters.

    I think BSG is going somewhere; I struggle with caring where. I'm mentally preparing myself for an epic FAIL, but maybe the writers will have a good resolution to this mess. And I do like the characters, so I care about what happens to them.

    Regarding this episode..... I have mixed feelings. If you buy the whole "Starbuck has a destiny" angle ("would you look at the size of that shark!"), then it hangs together well. If you don't, then it's about Kara's final descent into madness -- with WAY too much time spent on her private delusions. There should have been more aftermath -- how does Lee deal with his horribly bad decision to let her fly?

    Don't get me wrong.... I still love BSG (this is like the 4th or 5th viewing for me)...

    This was the start of BSG's absolutely epic late Season 3 - Season 4 arc. I really can't express enough how good this grouping of episodes were, how they just seemed like a dramatic juggernaut leading us to the conclusion.

    In terms of quality, in terms of characterization, action, thought-provoking scifi material, this was the best group of episodes on any series I've ever seen.

    So, rewatching B.S.G. and this is the first episode so far that I had mostly running in the background while having Facebook open in front.

    I was afraid this one was going to put me to sleep, but the more it progressed, the more my fears intensified it might end up in a full-blown coma. A character's weird head-trips and troubled childhood flashbacks do not a riveting sci-fi show make.

    This is where the show took a nosedive, becoming impregnated by endless mythology, fantasy, psychedelic visions, and the like. Similar to, say, Babylon 5, the latter part of Season 3 is where the show became almost unwatchable. B.S.G. did recove in the last few episodes, but the part from here through the first 2/3 of the final season were a bust.

    On another notion, should I hope that on this second watching it turns out Starback really did die and stayed dead? Hope springs eternal...

    Maelstrom through the first half of season 4 + 1 episode(sometimes a great notion?) was the best run of the series. Also, religion and the supernatural were right there in your face from episode was VERY prevalant throughout the first season. You just had to keep your eyes open... Sorry you didn't enjoy it. I agreed with Jammer. Absolute brilliance!

    I felt bored watching this, so started to play chess. I didn't even see her death or Adama crying, but now I'm going to re-watch the last 5 minutes or so. Peace out.

    In reply to what some said above about this episode having "metaphysical nonsense"; I actually really like having metaphysics/mystical elements mixed into scifi, so long as it is done well and creates themes and symbolism that has a beautiful-like symmetry, that may take some deep thought to discover and see at times, but that in the end is there and present. Here the problem is, I think, in how Moore and company refused to do enough planning ahead- deep themes don't work as well when certain events are thrown in to "keep the writers options open" so that next season they can see where their story telling current leads their "boat". The course of the "boat" needs to already be planned out as far as the mystical themes and symbolism are concerned (or pseudo mystical like Babylon 5's Vorlons and Shadows and First Ones) for things to really come together like a symphony; Moore tries to be too cute sometimes and is perhaps a little too stoned at times and mistakes vagueness and ambiguity for profoundness and artisticness, or at least settles for that since he and his staff don't flesh out where the complex symbolism goes. I think BSG's deeper elements would have worked better if they had disciplined themselves enough to slide their storytelling method's balance moderately more to the Babylon 5 method (not imitating it, and to be fair the Babylon method with JMS has its own issues). They just needed to go more into that direction and less having Moore start work on the finale by telling the writers that for some reason he got the image of a bird being shooed away by a man with a broom in his head, so let's go from there. Then when all was said and done in the pod cast even he said he wasn't really sure what the scene with the bird meant. I am sorry sir but that is not the way to make profound, cohesive symbolism and themes, or the "as above, so below" symmetry to the mystic elements that he should be striving for. To put such seemingly artsy and symbolism content as the bird scene in but not have it serve that cause and even the writer himself can't explain it in a way to make it nice to me seems a little too much like creating the facade of depth and the profound, and is even being something of a charlatan. Finally it just is a little too representative of "pothead" like thinking (Moore admits to smoking a fair amount of weed).. And sorry if this is controversial but if I was going to go further with the drug analogy I would say that it would be better if it was more representative of Ketamine thinking... (To be clear this is just an analogy/metaphor I'm not trying to say that to create deep thematic and mystically symbolic content writers would need to be experimenting with any drugs at all) I'll elaborate on that if anyone wants otherwise I'll just leave it at that for those who know what I mean.

    Great episode on multiple levels (acting, character arcs, series mythology, effects).

    I take it literally - I think through some power that transcends space and time, Kara really is back on Caprica talking with her dying mother - not a vision of her or even her ghost or an angel version. One of the great guilts of her life (her mother dying alone) is resolved not psychologically but through some unknown movement.

    As a general comment - I see over and over again people who don't like "the metaphysical/religious stuff." With all respect, and very seriously: you should find a different show to watch. It's like watching the NFL while endlessly complaining how you don't like football. Perhaps there are SOME elements of the show you like (low-tech, gritty scifi) and you wish the show was more tilted toward that and less tilted toward other aspects. But, it's not. Posting verbose rants won't change it, never would have, but certainly won't now that the show is complete. The "metaphysical/religious stuff" is a core of the show along with gritty low-tech realism, and always has been. Remove either and it's a different show. It isn't a crutch overall (though of course it's used as a crutch occasionally to speed up storytelling), but is one of the key aspects of the story this show wants to tell.

    To the person who said if it's all happened before and will all happen again, why bother ...

    Many faiths including mainstream Christianity perceive humans as having free will within a master plan controlled by God. My personal interpretation of what is going on in this series is that God is providing an opportunity for humans to take a step forward; God has probably provided the same opportunity or similar opportunities in the past and they were not fully accomplished; this time it is accomplished (we think) and that is the reason we're watching a show about this iteration and not about the exodus from Kobol or anything else that happened in the show's past.

    In other words, life is a crucible or a test or a learning experience. In this show, we see humanity come out of the crucible stronger, or pass the test, or learn important new things (pick your favorite analogy). God is making sure the opportunity is there, but people need to come through.

    Interesting to see the bifurcation of ideas about how the rest of the series is.

    These four episodes after the mid-season premiere really deserve better appreciation. As single character deep dives, they really catapult and build into the end of season three and the rest of the series.

    @Jack D

    I completely agree. I mean, all the way back to the miniseries the show was talking about God and his plan for humanity. While that certainly became more and more of a forefront that fit the show's overall plot not to mention storytelling. I mean, just how many episodes can we have about the fleet needing basic supplies? They did water, fuel, metal, food; do you really want Season 4: The Fleet Harvests Space Trees for Toilet Paper?

    An earlier comment argued that God's hand was showing more here; but in all honestly wouldn't that apply to everything? The fleet magically comes across water, a Cylon base with fuel, Kobol, New Caprica, ect.

    It might not even be God-god by the way. You can always choose to interpret it as a Ship of Lights or AI Singularity or Ascended future humanity absent the 4th dimension or whatever. The last scene of the series somewhat supports this view.

    I also agree with your opinion of the Free Will God. It did seem to be growing more interventionist as time went on, however. Shutting down the whole fleet in the nebula, resurrecting people, ect. Maybe it's grown tired of the cycle and wants it broken and is pushing the limits of its power. Maybe it's like a genie, it can bend space and time but not free will.

    I say all of this as an atheist by the way who has a rather negative opinion of religion. So I don't have any personal bias in my support here.

    If you interpret this episode and all the actions of "God" in this series as that of a higher being with a design, then perhaps there are some rules and roles.

    Starbuck accepted her fate in this episode, she either went into the cosmic storm/dimensional rift/wormhole or simply died, knowing her body is found on "Earth" in a later episode I tend to believe she went back in time, more than likely, her appearance in the past set about the destruction of Earth by the original Cylons.

    Perhaps Starbuck's journey is part of a predestination time paradox, she was always destined to go back. Yet, what does that mean about free will? In Starbuck's mind, her decision to accept her fate is shown as her choice, but what if it's not all her choice.

    It’s a pretty good episode but I didn’t buy for one moment that Starbuck was gone.

    Michael here (the one from 2011).

    I've matured (a bit) since then. I lost my Dad three years ago and am no more "over it" now than I was the day he died.

    I still think the episode was thoroughly weird, even nonsensical in the overall scheme of things, and the mystical mumbo-jumbo did not resonate with me at all. But Kara at her mom's deathbed really got me choked up, big time. Makes you wonder: What's the point of life? To it?

    I was glad to find this site. And impressed to see comments spanning so long a time. I watched BSG back when it was first coming out. Having been a fan of the original as a kid, I was just blown away by the direction they took with this new incarnation.
    I’m now having a rewatch of the series after all these years and having a good time with it. It’s been interesting to see how it feels now compared to back then. I do remember there being a point in the original viewing where it felt like something started feeling “off” and never came back. For me it seemed like the more we were taken behind the curtain with the Cylons, the more revealed about their “plan,” things became more confusing yet less interesting.
    One thing I really used to enjoy was visiting the reviews on The Onion’s TV club and reading the thoughts in the comments from other viewers. That no longer seems to be online so like I said I was happy to find this place and see all the comments people are leaving here for the episodes, as I work my way through the show again. So thanks for the good episode reviews and thanks everybody leaving comments!

    Starbuck is one of the main characters on BSG like Torres was on VOY and I feel this episode is like her "Barge of the Dead" -- it's clear the writers give her a lot of material and she delivers. Not a fan of the character but Sackhoff is a very good actress. But I find it hard to believe the character would be killed off at this point in the series although the way she went makes a ton of sense given what this episode lays out. I think it's a very strong episode.

    There are many Trek episodes where a character has visions that play off events from their past and the character has to sort shit out. No different for Starbuck here with her mom wanting to push her further. Now is Leoben helping her or weakening the humans by driving her to pursue what's between life & death? Should be the latter given he's a Cylon. Are the hallucinations Starbuck has of Leoben constructs based on their interactions on New Caprica? So I wonder if this is something the Cylons were able to do to Starbuck, i.e. mess with her mind. Who knows...

    Kara's final words to Lee are haunting -- about seeing him on the other side and to let her go. But in the first place, I don't get Lee encouraging Kara to go for another flight after she was just sitting there and her saying she's not going to fly. But I can sort of see where Lee's coming from when he tells Adama that her identity is as a viper jock is the only thing holding her together. Starbuck never should have been allowed to fly at least for some time.

    The symbolism of the Eye of Jupiter is quite compelling here, but who knows where it came from for Starbuck and what all this Starbuck destiny means. Are DS9's prophets messing with her like they did with Sisko? But I like how this episode ties things back to the Leoben interrogation and the New Caprica imprisonment. It's not just pulling stuff out of nowhere. I guess it is all setting up for Starbuck's departure for good.

    3.5 stars for "Maelstrom" -- certainly a jarring ending, a very complex character analyzed, and a turning point for the series. I don't think there's anything truly groundbreaking here but it's put to effective use a lot of "tropes" (relationship with mother, visions, drawn to a symbol etc.). So that's the end of Starbuck -- if the actress was done with the series then this is the way to do her exit. But if they somehow bring her back, it'll be hard to explain.

    @Geoff Hudson

    Yes, the cylons were very frightening at first. But that diminished the more we saw of them.

    The show was basically bent on making them incompetent squabbling humans, which drastically reduced their threat.

    I don't get why some sci-fi writers like that kind of theme, that the robots are just people too. Because then it's people fighting people, and what's the point of all the sci-fi trappings then?

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