Chief Tyrol gets caught up in a labor dispute aboard the tylium ship when the workers begin some minor machine sabotage. Roslin and Adama are not amused.
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.
And no, I don’t just mean we’re back to the reviews, although I do hope you get as much enjoyment from reading these as I do from writing them. I mean we’re back to form; after two weaker efforts, my beloved show is back to creating the complex and realistic drama the writers and actors are known for creating.
Here, we get to see some of the real-world problems infecting our characters. On one side of the conflict are the laborers on the tylium ship; they are in vital positions that they are not allowed to leave; they are not allowed time off (because the work always has to get done); and they are tied to their jobs to the point where their children will inherit the jobs when the older generation dies (and at that job, death is a likely possibility).
On the other side are our heroes, Roslin and Adama, who are mostly removed from the peasant class; they say they care about the people’s problems, but really, they don’t have the time to care unless something is going wrong; they have a war to fight (and win), and they can’t afford to try to please everyone; lots of people are suffering, so what makes the tylium ship people so gods-damn special?
Again, yikes. But what makes this episode soar is the weight the writers are willing to give to both sides of the argument. They are not afraid to make our heroes be pragmatically evil, or to make Gaius frakking Baltar look like a good guy with all the answers to fix society’s ills, or to reverse course and show that while Roslin and Adama aren’t being the leaders they should be, they are not unwilling to listen to their opponents.
In some ways, “Dirty Hands” displays some of the tone-deafness of “The Woman King,” where suddenly everyone we love was acting like a jerk to make Helo look awesome. Sure, they ARE acting like jerks, but it’s an evil that’s been sneaking up on them ever since they left New Caprica. They are so focused on the big picture of finding Earth and avoiding the Cylons that the people just stopped mattering.
The transformation is a bit jarring for us because it’s a bit jarring for Tyrol, who has always loved and respected Roslin and Adama, but when he sees what’s happening to the tylium ship workers, who live, work and die outside the scope of the Galactica and Colonial One, he cannot just let it go. He’s been on both sides of the leader/worker gap, and he knows things are as bad as they because no one will make the effort to make them better.
But see, like his Papadama, he takes things too far too. A strike is really all about getting management’s attention, and he certainly got it, but in the military, strikes are not permitted. Among the civilians, it’s a strong statement, but the military folks are different; they made a vow to abide by their leader’s rules, and Adama was in his rights to order the executions of the strikers.
It was a callous (and well-calculated) move on Adama’s part to push it that far, and it’s also a sign of just how far he has come when he’s using overwhelming force as his only way out of a conflict, but he’s right. He cannot tolerate mutiny, and like he will with Gaeta and Zarek down the line, he ended it. But, fortunately for those of us who still love him, he’s also wise enough to see that Tyrol isn’t going to let it go, and he gives in as much as he can without appearing weak to his men (or his woman).
But end of the day, everyone’s happy, right? Tyrol gets his union back up and running, with probably little-to-no progress on freeing up those workers from the machine’s clutches. Roslin gets to appear to be a “woman of the people,” without having to make any real concessions. And Seelix gets to be a pilot.
Yeah for victory!
I will probably never be able to watch this show without severely disliking Baltar, but damn it all if the man doesn’t have this society pegged down. He’s always been the outsider, even when he was a member of the elite, and now he’s at the perfect place to affect real change in this society desperately in need of it.
And he’s totally right about the emerging aristocracy in the fleet. Case in point: At the end of this season, Lee Adama is allowed to quit his job and go in to politics just because he wants to. Think any of the tylium workers, or the deck crew, have that option?
But, this is the same Baltar who ignored the working men and women when he was running the show on New Caprica. Sad as it is, the short-term memory of the fleet members may be the most realistic part of this episode.
Mary McDonnell! It’s no secret she’s my favorite character, and one of my favorite actors, but this is really one of her finest hours in a series of superb acting achievements. When she’s warm, she’s calculating her next move. When she’s smiling, she looking for a place to strike. When she’s conceding the battle, she’s finding ways to win the war. Really, it’s an astonishing portrait of a leader who has lost faith in her people but not in herself as a supreme leader. And it’s why I love this season (and this show) as much as I do.
Be sure to say goodbye to Starbuck, cuz, you know…
Next up: “Maelstrom”