Battlestar Galactica

“The Son Also Rises”

3.5 stars.

Air date: 3/11/2007
Written by Michael Angeli
Directed by Robert Young

Review Text

"The Son Also Rises" is that rare BSG episode where a guest star can come in and virtually steal the show away from the regulars — building a character from scratch who is compelling, charismatic, and endlessly watchable. The writing and directing are also a big part of why the character works so well, but once you've seen "The Son Also Rises," it's hard to imagine anybody but Mark Sheppard in the role of Romo Lampkin.

It's also interesting to note how, since "Rapture," we have not seen the Cylons at all, and what that has meant for the structure of the show. In place of what has often been a war- or mythology-based series is, in the second half of the third season, a show almost exclusively about the characters and internal fleet dynamics. The result has been a much more introspective Battlestar Galactica. Whether that's better or worse is a matter of personal taste, but I've enjoyed many of these human-based stories, which have put the people under the microscope at a time when there's no enemy to fight.

In the opening minutes of "The Son Also Rises," Baltar's lawyer is murdered in an explosion. With Baltar's trial fast approaching (for which, coincidentally, Adama has been randomly selected to serve as one of the five judges on the tribunal), Roslin scrambles to find a replacement. The man who accepts the task is one Romo Lampkin (Mark Sheppard), a former Caprican attorney who is willing to represent a hated man for the sheer fame and glory. Or perhaps infamy, as the case may be.

What drives a man to represent someone so reviled, and, more specifically, at the risk of his own life? The thing about Romo Lampkin is that before we even get dialog that lets us in on the way he thinks, there's so much presence in the way he holds himself. His demeanor is edgy, but also cerebrally inquisitive. He has a raspy voice and an Irish accent (although "Irish" is a term that does not apply in the BSG universe) and a few days' worth of an unshaven beard. And those damn sunglasses. He always wears sunglasses. But it's not because he's hiding something. He's too accomplished a liar to need them for that. (Perhaps the sunglasses are a nod to Ron Moore's former boss, DS9 head writer Ira Steven Behr.) Lampkin is your classic maverick.

The other story of "The Son Also Rises" is its focus on Lee, Adama, and the impact of Kara's death. In the opening scene, Adama pages through Kara's file (with page after page of written disciplinary reprimands). Ultimately, he comes across a birthday card from her saying, "You were always like a father to me." It's a heartfelt scene, with more sentiment than typically allowed on this series. The show has earned this scene, and it's affecting; it's not every day that one of the main characters dies.

Kara is gone, but not forgotten. Notes Tigh, of Viper chatter: "Never thought I'd miss old Starbuck's yakking." Anders is a drunken wreck on the flight deck, in a scene of loud but forgivable public display. It's sad to watch, and we're in sympathy with him. In the pilot ready room, Racetrack makes a smart-ass comment, and Lee slips and calls her Starbuck. It's not the sort of mistake to be making as a leader in front of the troops.

Sensing a possible meltdown, Adama pulls his son off CAG duty and puts him on security detail to protect Lampkin from assassination attempts while keeping Lee closer and safer. (I wasn't sure, however, why protecting a man targeted for assassination would be viewed as "safer" than being a pilot with the war idled.) Lee: "Dad, I'm fine." Adama: "No, you're not. Because I'm not." When there's another bombing attempt and Lee and Lampkin are nearly killed, Adama is furious that Lee put himself in the situation so carelessly.

The performances here of Edward James Olmos and Jamie Bamber are much more raw and emotional than you typically see, and when they discuss their loss, the pain is palpable. While it's too early to say whether Kara's death will pay off in the long run, this scene demonstrates how the death of a character can be a dramatic catalyst in the short run. (By the episode's end, Lee keeps his promise and posts Kara's picture next to Kat's, and we also sense a shared bond between him and Anders. Of course, the question becomes whether Kara's removal from the series is worth the short-term benefit of this type of characterization.)

What this episode is about is Lee's gradual seduction by the idea of being a part of the legal process. He's also in no small part seduced by the power of Lampkin's charisma. Lampkin knew Lee's defense-lawyer grandfather on Caprica, who taught him everything he knew, and that intrigues Lee. Lee was always mystified by why his grandfather would take the abuse that came with representing the scum of humanity. Now, in Lampkin he begins to see clues into that mindset.

There are fascinating scenes of dialog and behavior, where Lee (who is our entry point as observers into Lampkin's legal strategy) watches Lampkin lay the groundwork of his case by asking the right questions and then responding with exactly what needs to be said. In the scene where Lampkin first meets Baltar to take over the case, we realize that Baltar — no stranger to manipulation — is easily manipulated by Lampkin, who quotes from Baltar's manifesto, encourages him to write more, then steals his pen without his knowledge. Why does Lampkin steal the pen? Because, he tells Lee, the perception that Baltar has been silenced by the authorities may engender more support for him.

Lampkin also meets with Caprica Six, who has already agreed to testify for the prosecution. Knowing the bond between her and Baltar, he exploits those feelings masterfully. He gives her the pen as a token of Baltar's love. Lampkin is a brilliant tale spinner and student of human nature. He tells Six exactly what she needs to hear to make her question her cooperation with the prosecution. Lampkin even cites his own personal lost love as a way of reaching out to Six with empathy.

All the while, we wonder what motivates this man. He cites his love for the capacity of verbal deceit, but we sense it's more complex than that. He believes in ... something. The system, or perhaps the futility of the system. Either he's a complete cynic or an idealist pretending to be a cynic. Perhaps he's just good at something at wants to use his skills. He has an ability to take the truth (Baltar's love for Six, for example) and readjust it into just the right message to get the right reactions to make his case better. It's all about the case. He is simply doing his job as well as he can because he wants to win. With Baltar, the deceit was always self-serving. With Lampkin, the deceit always serves the case.

Ultimately, I think that's why Lampkin becomes so likable. It's about the case, plain and simple, and his manipulations always start with what's already there. He doesn't try to rig the game; he simply uses the rules of the game to his best advantage. When it's clear that Lee is becoming somewhat seduced by the legal games, Lampkin tries to warn him off (calling him a sudden "serial contrarian"), even as he seems to know exactly what he's doing to further suck Lee in. And then he utters colorful lines like, "Now if this cross-examination is over, I'd like to take a crap."

The story reveals still more to Lampkin when he's injured in a second attempt on his life. Lee visits him in sickbay, where the story lets us further into Lampkin's mind (at least so far as what Lampkin is willing to tell Lee about himself, assuming it's true). I liked the character touches here: He's a pathological pickpocket ("I borrow things") whose parents were murdered when he was nine. It's something that explains his desire to understand the criminal mind.

The would-be assassin turns out to be Captain Kelly (Ty Olsson), and his confession provides another solemn example of how life aboard Galactica has taken its slow mental toll. When people like Baltar are allowed to live when military officers are sent to die, people like Kelly take matters into their own hands.

Honestly, the plot involving the assassin is an afterthought merely to give the story structure. The reason I like this episode so much, even though it's light on plot, is it's complete investment in its characters and dialog. Lampkin is easily one of the best guest characters this series has had. Meanwhile, we get a new look at Lee that we might not have expected. With Lampkin injured, he wants to assist on Baltar's defense team. Suddenly, we have Lee shaking up his career to pursue a lost dream. His father is understandably against it. It's madness. Is Lee hopelessly naïve? Are we seeing a new rift opening between father and son? Is this a new direction for Lee?

"The Son Also Rises" asks intriguing questions. It does not have all the answers. Lee's behavior is ill-advised and perhaps difficult to justify. Lampkin is a mystery wrapped in an enigma obscured behind sunglasses. Behavior has reasons, but not full-blown explanations. The truth is in the characters' gut feelings, and not necessarily in plain view. What does it mean that Lee wants to defend Baltar? Is he trying to say that individuals must stand up in favor of the constructs of society, no matter how distasteful it may be? Does he simply no longer want to be his father's son?

The episode's conclusion is ominous: Lampkin, through Lee, returns Baltar his pen, along with a note: "There's no greater ally, no force more powerful, no enemy more resolved, than a son who chooses to step from his father's shadow."

That's a statement worth absorbing. Coming from Lampkin, you wonder if he's actually a chess master, or simply passing himself off as one.

Previous episode: Maelstrom
Next episode: Crossroads, Part 1

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28 comments on this post

    That atrocious fake Irish accent really detracted a lot from this episode for me...

    So am I, and it sounded pretty bad to me. I looked him up online after watching the show and apparently he grew up in London.

    This must be one of my favorite episodes. Is it me, or is the scene with Six and the pen one of the best filmed love scenes ever, how can one convey love (or obsession?) better than that? Lampkin/Sheppard brings a magic touch to every scene he's in.

    I couldn't help but wonder whether Caprica Six brought her own wardrobe to Galactica? In the cold, harsh looking cells she seems always to be dressed impeccably in slinky evening wear.

    "...she seems always to be dressed impeccably in slinky evening wear."

    Actually, she appears to be wearing the exact same outfit she was wearing in "Rapture." You have to wonder why she wasn't issued a prison jumpsuit, like Sharon.

    I'd have to say I've been disappointed by most of this season, with many weak episodes that give a hint of developing mini-arcs but have no payoff, and main characters acting as if their lines were suddenly penned by a part-time writer for hire. Something feels wrong in the characterizations. Despite the well played psychological manoeuvres here, Lee's sudden move to "the enemy" smacks of writers who no longer have much to say. On a practical level, it could at least signal a serious mental breakdown. And once again, the scenes between Lee and his father are well acted but stop short of any real payoff or development, positive or otherwise.

    "You have to wonder why she wasn't issued a prison jumpsuit, like Sharon. "

    Because the clothing-issuers were aware that at least half their audience had a y chromosome and a pulse. :)

    On Lampkin's accent, I wonder if it's meant to imply he's from Airelon. When Baltar was doing the Airelon accent it didn't sound Irish, but it was certainly raspy. Like Lampkin.

    Anyone ever wonder how Baltar smuggled the stainless steel pen into his cell? Every time I watched Six and Lampkin play with that pen, I can't help to wonder where it's been...

    Baltar's natural accent was a working class Yorkshire accent, not Irish. James Callis went to university in York.

    I've never heard Sheppard interviewed, so I couldn't say what his real accent sounds like, but his character on Firefly had something of a Cockney flavor to him.

    OMG Why does he have a cat? Why is he allowed to bring the cat around? And why is it allowed out of its box all the time? Might as well be the Great Gazoo! I have been looking for somewhere to voice my heartbreak over BSG: how can a show with so much promise turn into such a scooby doo circus! The first season and a half was soooo strong. Makes me want to swear off Sci-Fi for good!!!

    I'm not Irish, but the first thing I thought hearing Lampkin's accent was "Aerilon". I think that's probably what he was going for rather than "Irish" or "fake Irish", which as Jammer said have no meaning in the BSG universe.

    Nope, still doesn't do it for me. Too much yakking about nothing, too much contrived conflict (that bust-up between Adama and Lee: Did anybody buy that either of them felt seriously about it?), nothing really interesting happening in any respect. (Is that fleet even moving toward Earth or what?) The "counsel" was just weird (the Lee Marvin voice and the shades) and I'm not quite sure what his purpose was other than to plug something different into the show lest it stand out in absolutely no way whatever.

    A filler episode in anticipation of the trial. Bring it on.

    By far the weakest season following nothing short of stellar seasons 1 and 2. I still have great faith it will pick up though.

    Am watching these on DVD for the first time! Love it so far, and love these reviews.

    I enjoyed the episode, especially Lee's speech on the stand. Perhaps it is too idealistic, but I still liked it, as he described them as what they really were - a gang on the run - and enumerated their many crimes as they tried to survive. I liked it because it really felt like Lee's speech. So often he feels weak, too ready to yield to argument and the point of view of another - but in this episode that character trait became a strength instead of a flaw.

    Kill my comment, please; it contains spoilers! I bought the DVDs and usually hit the "play all" option and so the episodes merge.

    I thought the interaction between the father and the son was fairly realistic. These are two men who have both lost a tremendous amount; who have been forced to step up to the plate, day after unrelenting day. Is it any wonder that they would break down and snap at each other?

    Great episode! Good return to form. FINALLY.

    I too enjoyed the new guest actor as the lawyer.

    On Mark Sheppard's accent:

    not only does he have the same one on Firefly, he also sounds the same in an episode from season one of the X-Files(his character could set people on fire or something like that, can't remember the name of the episode.) So either that's just his voice, or he just uses that accent a lot.

    Ok, had to look it up. the name of the episode is, amazingly, "Fire". :)

    It is not very surprising that Lee is seduced into preserving the integrity of the system. Recall that he is the one who went against orders and did not fire on the president, when the marines were sent to Colonial One. So his current interest in defending Baltar is not out of his character irrespective of the Kara trauma. John Adams defended the British soldiers from the Boston Massacre. Contrary to Bill Adama's opposition, there is nothing dishonorable with a vigorous defense of the accused. There are many facets of the defense. One relates to Baltar maintaining that he did not knowingly conspire with the Cylons, and the prosecution seeks to show otherwise.

    Re: Mark Sheppard's accent

    I remember having a net conversation about it when BSG was originally airing. I suggested that it was Irish and an Irish person replied that it didn't sound anything like Irish to him/her.

    I think it could be his actual accent or close to it. I remember reading somewhere online that his parents are Irish but he grew up in the Cockney-speaking part of London. BTW, most people seem to think that his accent in Firefly is cockney (to my non-native English speaker's ears that suck at recognizing English accents).

    As for everything else: This episode left me a bit confused. I didn't really "get" what the writers were trying to convey, but I agree Sheppard steals the show and has truckloads of screen presence and charisma. Final verdict: I don't necessarily get it, but I like it. I was certainly interesting, and it introduced an interesting, complex character.

    Random thoughts:

    - This episode is gold. It is one my favorites. And cracks me up everytime. From the way Baltar reaches into his burlap prison pajamas to get a pen to the whole crew chasing a cat around the hangar only to not catch it because...well, it is a cat, this was lols all the way for me.

    -Im tired of the whole sex kitten thing they got going on with Caprica 6. I get why she was scantily clad in Gaius' fantasies/hallucinations but in real life? As someone observed in the comments above, why is she allowed to waltz around in the brig in a slinky jumpsuit? She's been there at least a few weeks, has she been wearing and stinking up the same sexy jumpsuit? I get that Tricia Helfer has been first and foremost cast to sex up the routine and up ratings, but come on, this is directly cutting into the believeability of it all. Just have her wear an orange jumpsuit like everyone else stuck in prison.

    -Adama insisting on listening in on the rog while also serving on the jury and then telling Lee "too bad, this is how I am gonna do it" when he points out the unethical aspect of this is typical of this ass of a tyrant and makes the next item gleam with irony:

    -Adama: "I am capable of listening to the evidence and make an ethical decision" --> LOL. FUCK YOU!

    - One of the smartest things anyone has ever uttered on the show is Cally's comments in the room after they discovered the bomb: the cylons dont need to do anything to us, we will finish ourselves off.

    Indeed. In fact, if I was a cylon i'd just leave these fools alone and let them kill each other. And you know it will happen sooner or later with the dynamic autocratic duo Adama/Roslin in charge. In just a few years time they will have reduced their numbers so much that all the cylons have to do is come in and pick up the rest. if there is one thing I am getting out of this show then it is that the biggest threat to humanity is humanity.

    Baltar's lawyer had to be a something of a character and Lampkin is just that -- though I find his accent hard to decipher at times, I like this character and the actor. It's clear he's making an impression on Lee and this really stirs the pot.

    So Lee and Lampkin become interesting to watch together. The scene with #6's interrogation was pretty cool. Turns out to be appropriate with having a klepto like Lampkin defend Baltar. Lampkin plays her so well.

    As for the Adama/Lee histrionics -- they're well-acted but nothing we haven't seen before. There's the father/son thing, of course, which really paid more dividends in S1 but also the line Lampkin writes to Baltar at the end speaks to Lee's decision to disagree / disobey Adama and work on Baltar's defence.

    Curious that BSG didn't do a big ceremony for Starbuck's death but there are some good reflexions here from Anders, Adama and Lee. But she was such an important character that her mourning gets lost among the prep for Baltar's trial and the Lampkin show.

    The bombings were pretty stupid I thought and I don't recall this Kelly deckhand or whatever he is so I had a some suspicion that it was him and that this "terrorist" element would pop up due to the nature of Baltar's crimes. But did it need to or could it have been omitted from this plot and have things more focused?

    3 stars for "The Son Also Rises" -- this is really the Lampkin show - odd to get an obviously important character for the remainder of the season introduced at this stage, but also Starbuck is gone. It's a real change of pace without her. The chess pieces are moving ahead of the season finale and Roslin's eavesdropping comment (something about things falling apart) during the #6 interrogation might be telling.

    Atrocious guest character and maybe the worst episode yet. What the fuck were the writers thinking? Lampkin is the most ridiculous thing in the show yet.

    First off, really appreciate these reviews. Not many thorough ones exist for BSG (I'm making my way through it for the first time) and Jammer often has insight that helps me clarify my thoughts.

    I have to say though i strenuously disagree on this ep, basically because I completely disagree about the Lampkin character (so far at least).

    Whether the accent was real or not, I found everything about this guy to be way too over-the-top in terms of trying to be a cool/slick/cerebral character. Right down to the sunglasses. But even more than that, I thought that basically everything he said was pseudo-insightful nonsense that meant nothing. He'd go on a long flowery spiel to Lee or 6, and at the end I'd think "What the hell was any of that supposed to mean?" It's b.s. masquerading as depthful insight.

    I also think its a cop-out that we have no distinct sense how Lee actually feels about Baltar. That kind of matters alot. And finally, they've taken so long to get to the trial I've started to think: Is it even as big a deal as they're playing it as? Like compared to everything else they've dealt with, ultimately is the outcome of one man's trial that important? He's not going to be re-installed as President if he's acquitted is he? And if they find him not guilty and there's an uprising... well no offense but that's their own fault & doing.

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