I love how this show plays with genre while maintaining its own identity. It’s been able to encompass space adventure (last week’s raid on the fuel station), hardass drama (the interrogation episode), comedy (the reappearance of Tigh’s wife), and now it goes into West Wing territory and actually pulls it off.
This show should be a lesson to other SF producers, that this is the way you do it. Last week’s show, with all the space battles and effects, would have been fairly expensive; this week’s show, from a practical production standpoint, is a dialogue-and-character hour designed to keep costs balanced and under control. The most expensive thing in this episode was simply hiring all the extras for the crowd scenes, some location work on the new set, and a little extra time to shoot the fisticuffs; otherwise this is a comparatively low-budget hour. (Note how even on Caprica the most elaborate effect was the Cylon ship coming down onto the pad.) And yet it turns out to be one of the most compelling episodes so far, where all the dramatic threads are being woven tighter and tighter, because they’re focused on the story instead of cutting corners on the budget. (Compare the unbelievably crappy Enterprise episode “Carpenter Street,” the one where they time-travel to modern Detroit, to see how you don’t save money.)
Laugh-out-loud moments: When the reporter emerged from the stall and said “Wow!” after Roslin left. Baltar’s “exclusive” was the button, but it was the appearance of the reporter and the perfectly stunned delivery of her one word that put me on the floor. Also great: the look of death Roslin gave Baltar when he seconded the motion to nominate a successor. McDonnell has just been aces on this show; her reactions are priceless. Remember her flinching when Adama said “frak” to her a few weeks ago? This is more of the same pure gold. Casting her was a real coup for the show.
I’m also really impressed with Richard Hatch. The years have given him a weight and gravity he lacked when he was a younger leading man, and he’s playing it for all it’s worth. He’s really embraced his role in this new incarnation; far from stunt casting, he’s truly making a contribution and making the show better. Just great stuff.
It says a lot, I think, about how good this show is that we didn’t notice the almost total absence of Cmdr Adama, easily one of the most compelling characters, until he shows up at the very end. It’s like, wait a sec, he hasn’t been in this at all. And for this hour, at least, we didn’t miss him, because there’s so much other stuff going on.
(One tiny, tiny nitpick: It bugged me a little bit that the pundit guy used “frak” on the air toward the beginning. How offensive a curse is it, anyway? How would people react if Sean Hannity said “no fuckin’ way” on his show?)
Two more episodes to go, and then only a short wait before the second season starts this summer. Man, I hope they don’t frak it up.