Battlestar Galactica: Bastille Day

With the water shortage solved, the fleet needs workers to go and get it. The prisoners aboard the Astral Queen, after being asked to volunteer to go get it, get a little feisty, which has some interesting results. Helo and not-Boomer run around some more. Starbuck and Tigh fight, kind of makeup, but then think better of it.

A note to first time BSG watchers; these aren’t the reviews for you. I plan to write about the show with the ending in mind. If you haven’t seen the show, you will be spoiled on stuff that happens at the end. You’ve been warned.

The most significant thing about “Bastille Day” is that we get to meet the infamous trickster Tom Zarek: A terrorist to some, a freedom fighter to others, a mystery to all.

I will say straight up, I never liked the guy, mainly because I’m instantly distrustful of anyone who will use violence to get their way, but I do like what the character brings to the show. Zarek is a leader, a shameless manipulator, but he’s also a much-needed voice of dissent. To indulge in a clich, he is a voice for the oppressed, and since he will listen to them, it’s no wonder the people follow him.

And while we *know* that Adama and Roslin are “good” people who won’t abuse their power, the people in the fleet don’t; they have unlimited power, and the resources to use it in any way they want, and Zarek is a man who is not afraid to call them on it.

Granted, not everything Zarek calls for is in the best interests of the fleet; after a Holocaust, something tells me short-notice elections are just not what the people need (and Roslin finishing up Adar’s term follows the law too, Zarek). Eight months down the road, sure, but could you imagine trying to hold elections when the Cylons are bearing down on the fleet every 33 minutes?

“Bastille Day” shows us both sides of Zarek’s character. On one side, he is a man who uses his notoriety and persuasive skills to secure better lives for his people. Yes, they are prisoners, but keeping them in small cages until Earth is found would be inhumane. On the other side, he is a man who is ready and willing to let his people (and himself) be massacred to achieve a greater goal, a man who would rather win than do what’s right.

Zarek is an enormously complex character, mostly because you never know what he’s going to do. I never thought that he would try to save Roslin’s life, or that he would murder an unarmed man just for doing his job, but he is the man who did both. 

Like most of us, a hero and a villain in one package.

Another interesting player in all this in Lee Adama; from the beginning, Lee is the most malleable character in the fleet. He knows what’s right and what’s wrong, but he is always listening to people and their stories and forming conclusions from them. Later on, we’ll see just how easily manipulated he is, but here, he takes the best ideas of the three leaders and comes up with a plan that is the best of the options.

Only Captain Apollo could do that. That political career of his is suddenly making a lot more sense.

“Bastille Day” also showcases one of the themes of the series, the need for forgiveness. The Cylons, angered how the Centurions were created and then abused, decide to kill their *parents* to cleanse the universe of humanity’s taint. Both sides eventually learn they need to let go of the crimes of the past and move on, together.

Here, the Colonials need to see the prisoners as people, not animals to be kept in cages. The people on these ships are the only ones left, and they are all in this situation together. Those men were in prison, they committed crimes, but after the end of the world, everyone deserves a chance for rebirth. It’s time to move on. Together.

Next up: “Act of Contrition”