Air date: 6/13/2008
Written by Bradley Thompson & David Weddle
Directed by Michael Rymer
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
D'Anna knows who the Secret Four Cylons are. And she's not telling. She's a narrative wild card. She wasn't part of the alliance negotiated between the Colonials and the rebel Cylons. She came late to this game, and she's setting new rules. And because she has leverage and uses it, the situation quickly becomes a standoff that threatens to spin out of control.
D'Anna holds the Colonials, including the President Roslin, hostage aboard the basestar. She makes an announcement: She will hold the hostages until the Secret Four are turned over to her. But this creates a real problem for Admiral Adama and President Lee Adama. They don't even know who these four Cylons are. The only ways this stalemate can possibly end is either in bloodshed or with the secret Cylons turning themselves in.
Now let me quote myself from my review of the second-season BSG episode "Sacrifice": "At this point in my movie- and TV-viewing life, I'm almost willing to say that any pitch that can be summarized as 'hostage situation' should be thrown out by whomever is potentially producing it." Good thing I used the word "almost" in that sentence, or else I'd have to eat those words. "Revelations" is the most riveting hostage standoff in recent memory. Old conventions can be made to work in your favor if there are real stakes involved. And the stakes here couldn't be bigger: Lives of major characters hang precariously in the balance, as does the secret surrounding Earth.
And because this is a BSG hiatus launcher, there's no telling what will happen or where the story might end up. The season-ending cliffhanger used to make me groan because it was an obligatory cliché. But BSG has for me single-handedly revitalized the cliffhanger with its track record of shocking unpredictability. The suspense level is amped up in "Revelations" in part simply because I knew it was a midseason finale.
One interesting point worth pondering: D'Anna says four Cylons are in the fleet. Not five. Does that mean the final Cylon is not in the fleet? Is the final Cylon a character on the basestar? Or is D'Anna lying?
When D'Anna makes the rules of the game clear, it creates a real nail-biter. She knows who the secret Cylons are. They know who they are. And we know who they are. But all the other characters must play this deadly chess game in the dark. Immediately, the secret players start quietly jockeying for position. Tory, the other wild card here, craftily gets herself aboard the basestar by offering to take Roslin her medication. Tigh tries to stop it, but he can't without giving himself away. (Once aboard the basestar, Tory swiftly burns her bridges. When the president tries to reason with her, Tory's response is: "I'm done taking orders from you.")
Tigh immediately becomes the key player here, because he's in Adama's inner circle as the rules of engagement are being established. It puts Tigh in the bind of all binds. The screws continue to tighten and options diminish: D'Anna proves she means business and airlocks a hostage, promising more will follow. (There's an inspired extreme long shot where a tiny body goes flying across the screen amid the fleet.) It could be that in this chess game, the only way to ward off the disaster is if Tigh outs himself. Watching this unfold is deliciously excruciating.
Meanwhile, Tigh, Anders, and Tyrol try to figure out how they might know the way to Earth. Supposedly they do know, but they have no more information about Earth, until...
The radio static and musical signals return in the minds of the Secret Four, like at the nebula in "Crossroads." They are drawn to Kara's Viper. They don't know why. So they must solve the mystery before the hostage situation explodes. To buy time, Tigh marches into Adama's quarters, where he...
In one of the most edge-of-seat scenes on this series, Tigh confesses everything he knows to Adama. "I am a Cylon." Adama tries to explain it away, using all the facts that we as viewers would ourselves use to debunk this belief. It's a fruitless endeavor. Tigh knows he's a Cylon. And with this knowledge he puts himself forward as the most possible valuable leverage to use against D'Anna. It's brilliant. It's selfless. It could very well cost him his life. And it's 100 percent Saul Tigh.
The ensuing Adama emotional nuclear explosion that occurs is a raw and heartbreaking performance by Olmos. It depicts nothing short of utter devastation. This man has a breaking point, and we've passed it and then some. Tigh's outing turns Adama's world upside down. Not only is Adama's best friend of 30 years a Cylon, and not only has every military decision Adama ever made now the punch line of a cruel cosmic joke, but now Adama has to put Tigh in an airlock and use him as currency. "I can't kill the bastard," Adama sobs to Lee. He literally cannot do it. So Lee steps up to address the crisis in his father's stead.
On the macro tier of the story, the brilliance of "Revelations" is how fate assembles a big picture from the jigsaw puzzle of all the characters in order to not simply point the way to Earth, but force the humans and Cylons to do it together. In addition to the Secret Four, this puzzle can only come together with the involvement of Resurrected Kara and her Viper (which begins receiving a mysterious signal, and is the only piece of equipment that does so); the renegade Cylons; and even Baltar, who reasons with D'Anna long enough to cause a crucial delay. And, of course, a higher power to make all of these coincidences play in perfect concert. Sure, this is all a construction of clever writers, placing the available pieces where they best make sense. But it's done well and done organically, and the spell of the story is never broken.
Ultimately, Tigh is in an airlock with Lee's finger on the button, who demands D'Anna stand down — and it doesn't look like she will. I honestly didn't know whether Tigh would live or die — I really didn't. Airlocking Cally in "The Ties That Bind" made possible this scene's palpable sense that anything could happen. It generates unbearable suspense, even while making use of that old standby: crosscutting back and forth to a character who's desperately running through hallways with crucial information to stop something awful from happening.
And how awesome is Saul Tigh? He has no regrets whatsoever about his choices here. He stands up straight and prepares to face death like the man he always has been. As the moment is drawn out, Tigh looks straight at Lee and says, "What are you waiting for, Apollo? Do it." It's a great line that elevates this character (and Michael Hogan, who plays him) into a stratosphere of awesomeness.
But Kara's word of her discovery stops everything at the last possible moment. As quickly as the crisis seemed headed beyond the point of no return, it's completely defused. She has found a signal leading back to Earth. Lee negotiates a halt to hostilities with a Yes We Can speech; everyone can go to Earth together. In a way, for this brief moment, Earth has saved everyone.
I must also admit I was blindsided by the idea that once this agreement is reached, we are going to Earth right now. I really didn't see it coming. I expected another clue to Earth, not the full solution. Again, it's a testament to this series defying expectations. The moment of truth has arrived, Earth is in reach — and yet here's a character kernel not to be overlooked: Adama is still deflated, his spirit crushed. It takes Roslin to lift him back up.
But we're not kidding around. We're going to Earth! We get it all: the spine-tingling epic sweep, the dramatic musical score, the shot of the fleet in orbit of a blue planet, Adama making a grand fleet-wide announcement, characters celebrating and hugging. Nice stuff. Even nicer: Tigh sits alone with a bottle. Even Earth is not going to solve all our characters' problems. And then...
There's that doozy of a final shot of a devastated Earth. Adama picks up that first handful of dirt, and a Geiger counter clicks away. In addition to the implications of this scene, I must praise the technical skill. It's a tour de force of stage direction that gathers all the characters in a single, wordless tracking shot. I could easily write another 500 words on just this shot and how it breaks down all the characters and silently, implicitly comments on all of them. But why do that? You get the picture, and can form ideas of your own. One thing is certain: The dejection is palpable.
What happened to Earth, what does it mean, and what do we do now? This ending is not a cliffhanger; it's another brilliant, giant question mark — the biggest one yet on this series. If there's a major statement being made here, above all else, it's that there is no quick fix in the Battlestar universe. For this extended journey, the destination, and all hope, has resided on Earth. Now they have found it. But apparently finding it has resolved nothing.
Earth may have allowed the Cylons and Colonials to come together, but now they are here, and they are going to have to deal with each other. Earth is not going to save these people. They will have to save themselves.
Somehow. I don't know how.
Previous episode: The Hub
Next episode: The Face of the Enemy (webisodes)
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46 comments on this post
Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 5:41pm (UTC -5)
Hope you enjoy tonight's episode.
Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 6:27pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 7:56pm (UTC -5)
"Earth is not going to save these people. They will have to save themselves."
That message really is one of the best parts of Revelations.
Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 16, 2009, 10:28pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 1:21am (UTC -5)
I actually cried watching that scene and tears are forming just reading that statement. Plus the part where they finally get to Earth and it's a post-apocalyptic setting...the reactions on everyone...the lack of dialogue (what can be said?)...the sweeping angles portraying everything.
Beautiful ep from start to finish. Absolutely amazing. Thank you, Jammer, for your reviews. This show has been the best show I have ever seen in my life since the 2nd ep of season one and continues to amaze me nearly every step of the way.
Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 2:29am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 2:33am (UTC -5)
Part 2 is an excellent character study with superb story revelations underlying it.
Revelations and Sometimes a Great Notion make for one hell of a package. Both get perfect scores in my book.
Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 17, 2009, 4:13pm (UTC -5)
Kidding, of course. The idea is that now that I'm caught up, I will be posting every week prior to the airing of the following episode. After how much these reviews have dominated my life the past few weeks, I don't intend to get behind for the rest of BSG's run.
Sun, Jan 18, 2009, 8:41am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 18, 2009, 8:54am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 18, 2009, 11:48pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 19, 2009, 12:25am (UTC -5)
D'Anna: "All of this has happened befor--"
Lee, interrupting: "But it doesn't have to happen again!"
Wow. A great scene, a great exchange, all leading up to that handshake. It was masterful. Now we see if Lee and the others really can break the cycle. ;-)
Tue, Jan 20, 2009, 8:24am (UTC -5)
I agree. Rarely have I seen a show where practically all the characters are such a joy to watch - but Tigh I have grown the most attached to. Michael Hogan has been turning such fantastic performances whenever in spotlight, especially in the Kobol arc, New Caprica arc and, of course, Tigh-as-a-Cylon storyline. That guy is absolutely fantastic.
Have you watched a Tigh impersonator on one of the conventions? Incredibly funny. Check it out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qxbiqjz64Yw
Tue, Jan 20, 2009, 8:33am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 20, 2009, 8:44am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 20, 2009, 6:38pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 20, 2009, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 21, 2009, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
For more reviews Jammer, would you consider doing a Stargate series? Stargate is not quite as complicated as a story-arc, but they are good fun. The new Stargate series "Universe" starts soon.
Wed, Jan 21, 2009, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 21, 2009, 10:41pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jan 21, 2009, 10:50pm (UTC -5)
As a side note, I monitor all comments on all reviews (which any of you can via the RSS feed, BTW), so if you post anywhere, I'll see it.
Sun, Jan 25, 2009, 8:47pm (UTC -5)
BSG's shot would have been right at home in the Tarkovsky's films such as The Sacrifice (1981), Nostalghia (1979), or Zerkalo (1974). Even the sepia tone in the BSG shot is taken right from Tarkovsky.
My guess is that someone in the BSG production team is knowledgeable about Tarkovsky's work, and this shot may have even been an hommage to him.
So I say, Bravo to the BSG production team, and to Jammer for recognizing the strength and beauty of this magnificent shot. It owes powerful debt to the great Russian film master, Andrei Tarkovsky.
Mon, Jan 26, 2009, 12:27am (UTC -5)
However being an animé geek, I was instantly reminded of the closing credits to the Gundam SEED series.
Entirely coincidental I'm sure!
Sun, Mar 1, 2009, 11:30pm (UTC -5)
Although this should have been a series finale and dragged over more episodes, the chill of seeing Earth in an apocaliptic state was truly powerful. Certainly had a "now what" feeling at the time! I wish that they would have visited more historical places - or at least found a few survivors.
But in the end, it was a great "Bait and Switch" - considering if they had found an inhabitable Earth - the Cylons would have caught up to them anyway.
Thu, Mar 19, 2009, 5:12pm (UTC -5)
Mon, May 25, 2009, 12:23am (UTC -5)
"You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!"
Either that or, "Don't worry folks. Not all of Earth is Canada."
Fri, Apr 23, 2010, 10:45am (UTC -5)
Or is the Geiger counter meant to tell us the radiation is too high? So why are they all standing around unprotected? Maybe a few lines of dialogue would have helped here.
Wed, Aug 11, 2010, 4:28pm (UTC -5)
Do you not recognize a nuclear wasteland when you see one? It's clearly uninhabitable. The Geiger counter, the sky, the monochrome cinematography, and the ruins in the background are more explanatory than any dialog they could have put in. A picture says a thousand words, as they say.
It was devastating because, well, this was the hope of the entire show from day 1, and now it's a grotesque carcass flaunting the misery in their faces as if some kind of cosmic practical joke. They didn't know what to expect, but a livable planet was probably the least they were hoping for, while the actual living civilization of the 13th tribe would be the dream.
As for protection, well it's not hard to surmise that the radiation levels are low enough to stand around for a few hours with no real issue, but that prolonged exposure would be deadly.
You really think that haunting, wordless, scoreless shot at the end would benefit by Mr. Gaeta appearing and saying "sir, the levels of radiation render the planet uninhabitable, but we should be okay for a short time with no protection, so feel free to stand around looking melancholy for a while longer! I must return to the ship though, my cane sinks into the sand here."
Sat, Mar 19, 2011, 12:25am (UTC -5)
Once again I caught something I'd missed before. Early in the episode Kara and Lee are looking at a picture of "The Temple of Aurora" ("on Earth" as Kara points out to the audience). It's a reuse of the Opera House picture in Laura's Bible from Kobol's Last Gleaming, but it was specifically stated to be something else (we can assume that in the story the 13th tribe copied the design).
Anyway, during that final shot of ruined earth, there is a devastated building that looks exactly like the domed temple.
*spoiler for future episodes...*
It's maybe a subtle hint that this earth is not OUR Earth -- the one they will find in Daybreak. Since our Earth doesn't have such a structure.
Mon, Aug 1, 2011, 10:25am (UTC -5)
But I somewhat agree with Bread. Frankly, I don't see how earth looked worse than New Caprica? Since there already is existing (though damaged) infrastructure, it is probably a heck of a lot better.
Now, I am not a radiologist, but I thought the implication of the low reading on the counter, and everyone standing around without suits was to imply that radiation wasn't that bad, it just looked kinda bad. Maybe I didn't "catch it" first time around, I may have to watch that one again.
Mon, Nov 7, 2011, 8:59am (UTC -5)
The Tigh/Adama scene was good, but it would have been better if it wasn't for their stupid fight scene in "Sine Qua Non". In fact, it seems that Adama has been constantly angry for the last season-and-a-half, which is getting tedious. I like Adama angry, but it has to come in small, unexpected doses (like his speech to Tyrol in "Litmus", or when he winces in "Pegasus") to really have an impact.
Thu, Dec 1, 2011, 1:32pm (UTC -5)
The twists and turns the plot took--at least in the first two thirds of the show--were awesome. No visions, fantasies, and all that junk; just good hardcore action and scenes faithfully conveying drama and inner personal conflict.
The impasse was palpably tense and, to my mind, unpredictable.
It's a pity it all revolved back to some mysterious powers and divine revelations nonsense at the eleventh hour. Much as I like Tigh (he's my favorite character, I have to say), I was looking forward to seeing him airlocked and finding out how that situation would develop.
The corollary was quite underwhelming for some reason. I didn't feel elation or any kind of emotion; the scenes of jubilation did not resonate with me. Dunno why... Their shock at the sight of a devastated Earth didn't impress me either, although I'm deeply curious what's next.
I highly appreciate Jammer's closing observations, viz, that (1) B.S.G. ends superbly with a major question mark, possibly the biggest since the attack on the Twelve Colonies, and (2) there are no quick fixes in B.S.G. The latter, in particular, is what made this show so stupendous and contrasts it favorably with so many shows of both this and other genres.
Initially, I was going to say that though by far one of the better Season 4 shows, I didn't think this one was worthy of 4 stars. However, despite my complaints, I leave this episode not feeling satiated. Unlike with Star Trek, it's not because the show was bad, but because the conclusion made me genuinely vexed and pensive, and those sentiments are still with me hours after finishing watching it. Given that after pretty much every other show I switch off my computer and forget all about, this is quite an accomplishment. So yeah, four stars :)
Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 3:39am (UTC -5)
And than there was that final shot. And I was emotionally devastated as everyone else was on that ship.
Fri, Nov 2, 2012, 3:08pm (UTC -5)
A powerful and emotionally draining episode for sure. Y'know, I kind of had a feeling that that wasted land was all they would find on Earth. I was really hoping humanity would prove me wrong but, really, I'm not surprised.
So much for my exam-revision timetable. Onwards to the next episode!
Sat, Feb 2, 2013, 10:12am (UTC -5)
Tigh is honorable, of course. Tyrol's role is small, but I love his look of resignation.
Sun, May 25, 2014, 11:11pm (UTC -5)
New rule: The happier the characters are in one scene, the more they'll suffer in the next.
Fri, Jun 5, 2015, 12:29am (UTC -5)
I really like Tyrol's implosion and rebuilding of himself this season. He's had some truly great scenes, some of them virtually silent on his part where all his acting is in the eyes.
Mon, Oct 26, 2015, 4:00am (UTC -5)
What statement/idea am I talking about? When the/a cylon(s), in this case D'anna, get in sanctimonious mode and talk about how they tried to "live with" the humans on New Caprica, and since that turned into a mess and the humans turned to violence against them it shows how the humans can't be trusted (as she says here) or are bloodthirsty brutes, are inherently incapable of ever having peaceful relations with Cylons/etc. Here when she says it to justify her latest brutal behavior with the hostages after a Leoben protests once again nobody points out how ludicrous her judgment is, if that's how she really sees things, as though they the Cylons had been peaceful legal immigrants to New Caprica who were turned on and viciously attacked by the Neanderthal like humans for no good reason (except maybe as she admits how she thinks they will never forgive the Cylons for the near genocide of their race). I think from what we have seen about their natures the Leobens and the 8's would recognize her gross hypocrisy in that justification of how despite the alliance made by them when she wasn't around she now uses it to justify her immediate resumption of brutal behavior and lack of belief in the value of human lives as soon as she has the means to in taking the hostages and then executing some despite the colonial authorities cooperating.
Someone should say something like "Really, lady? They had been peacefully living there for a year, and therefore at least informally New Caprica was akin to their sovereign territory when we mounted an all out unprovoked invasion of their land and city, marched out army of centaurians down the street and forced their president to surrender upon threat of renewed genocide. From there we set ourselves up as rulers with the humans as our subjects, us the privileged upper class who decided the fate of all those living in THEIR city that THEY built by both forcing their president to order whatever we wanted and by using simple brute force along with torture and mutilation to enforce our "right" to live in the humans city uninvited and act as their overlords. You call that a legitimate attempt to live together? Sounds more like an attempt to get both sides dedicated to killing each other. And btw lady before you 'woke up' we were coexisting with the humans far better then we ever were on New Caprica." But they all meekly say nothing, and in other episodes when that same idea is expressed by her or 6 or whoever nobody ever disagrees.
I think it's part of the writers trying to cover for what for me (especially on a second viewing of the show) was the glaring missing plot in the New Caprica story line: we never saw what the Cylons especially Caprica 6 and Boomer were intending to happen by invading New Caprica and what not. Sure we saw them once protesting to Cavil's brutality and talking about how the whole idea of coming to New Caprica was to (paraphrased) mend the relationship between actions and humans and come together as one people. But from all we were shown on screen that looks about as reasonable as the Nazis expecting the French to befriend their soldiers and all get along after they occupied Paris. Perhaps Cavil deliberately took their idea and perverted it, wanting to continue the devistation of mankind but having to work around the influence of the war hero cylons, but if so why did we never see said war heroes using their influence to stop him, or even if they gave him the benefit of the doubt to make him stop being an idiot? I call it a plot hole because despite all the time devoted to New Caprica and the many flashbacks we never saw the early days of the Cylon presence and their actual plan and efforts made for it before things went to hell. I know plan would have been easy but I was curious to see the Cylons try to make friends with their new neighbors and see if their plans as "friends and allies of the twelve colonies" had any merit behind it and would have worked of humanity had given it a chance (which I know was not likely to happen but still would have made for a much more complete story to see their real intentions and plan). Instead it seems like once again the writers gave the cylons no real plan and just jumped to the actions after they had made a mess of things and were acting all pissed off humans were trying to resist their occupation (what, after their previous sins against mankind they thought an invasion and forced unconditional surrender was the way to start the process of moving in with the humans as their new neighbors?) And when that 6 on the baseship says "we went there to help these people" like she still doesn't get it? Give me a break.
The Leobens seem wise enough to me to tell the others that their "efforts" at "*ahem* 'peaceful coexistence' and helping the colonies as friends and Allies were a complete joke that was ill planed and doomed to fail. Maybe if they had started out more gradually, and actually helped them, it wouldn't be ridiculous to have the cylons be able to say such lines and keep a straight face.
Tue, Feb 21, 2017, 4:55am (UTC -5)
I really enjoyed this episode back when it was first on, and still do today. Upon re-watching, something did bug me just a bit: How did D'Anna/3 end up in command of this batch of Cylons?
What I heard, seemingly over and over but probably just a few times, was that they wanted to unbox her so she could identify the final five for everyone. She'd be helping :). But the next thing I knew, after her talk with Roslin, she is the one giving the orders and the rest are standing around letting her. 3 has no concept of what has been going on recently, or of what has lead to the civil war. What she does know is she wants to Brute Force everything and get her way. It seems they... let her have her way because only she can identify the 5, and are worried if she gets mad, she won't tell them. That's the only reason I can think of.
So the 2's, 6's and 8's all stand around, letting her take things to the brink, even though she just woke up. Allows her to space some redshirt. Allows her to make the nukes hot. And none of them say much more than "uhh...". They had their own type of guts to stand up to Cavil/1, but just let 3 run amok. Always had a problem with that. Later, President Lee talks to her about a truce and starting peace over again, shaking her hand to seal the deal, but none of the others are included.
Great episode that had me on the edge of my seat for certain, but I figured they decided they needed some confrontation, and had everyone bow to D'Anna so they could get it.
Have a great day everyone... RT
Fri, Feb 9, 2018, 8:50pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 25, 2018, 9:02am (UTC -5)
Revelations- I have to echo earlier comments. I felt sick to my stomach because I really though Tigh would get airlocked before Kara could stop it. Then the shock that they were going to Earth "right now!" Then the utter devastation that followed. All I could think was how were these poor people in the fleet going to take it when they find out that their hope of more than 3 years turned out to be a wasteland.
Thu, Jun 20, 2019, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 29, 2020, 3:18am (UTC -5)
Sun, Jan 31, 2021, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
Not descendants, more like brothers. The 13 tribes left Kobold around the same time over 3000 years ago. 12 settled on the colonies and the 13th settles on Earth.
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