I admit, about 4 episodes in, I was a bit worried. The show seemed to be fragmenting and the plot looked like it was going to balloon out of control. Plots began to spin off sub-plots and the intrigue of the last episodes of season 1 branched out in unexpected ways (for me, at least).
I was a bit worried because season 1 was unadulterated sci-fi greatness. I found no flaws in any aspect. I love watching it. BSG is taking TV sci-fi (and on-screen sci-fi in general, arguably) in new directions with a stripped-down, gritty reality that many sci-fi shows eschew for well-oiled super technologies and smoothed-out space societies. Even so, season 2.0 is a different beast. From the intro score to the crushing realities of life in a fleet on the run after global holocaust, this was proving to be a very a different season. But as the episodes progressed and narrative threads split and merged, I think the show came out stronger, if a bit less consistent.
Spoiler warning: While I avoid revealing too much key information about season 2.0 (the first half of season 2 before the break), I’m going to assume you’ve seen all of season 1 and know the resolution of the Adama plot brought into play in the season finale. If not, read on at your own discretion.
With Cmndr. Adama out of commission for the first chapter of the second season, the show lost one of its center points. I’m honestly not sure if the writers fully understood the ramifications of taking Adama off the table that way, but they sure ran with it when they did. Col. Tigh is no Adama, and as time progresses we’re given fewer and fewer reasons to sympathize with him. This destabilizing of the plot and the finely-balanced world of the characters saturates the series immediately and completely. The upside is the realism, depth, and freshness of the approach. The downside is that the contrast of the lean tough scrapes with the effusive, earnest, and joyous celebrations and esprit de corp of humanity is gone.
Some of the pitfalls they avoided so skillfully in season 1 proved too great to span in the first half of season 2. The show became difficult to watch because they held back the positive releases of the first season. The pacing of the plot began to stretch and the story began to break apart into smaller sub-plots as alliances were formed and betrayals surfaced. I feared that the writers were getting lost in their own world, and allowing it to drive them too much, instead of herding the plot along and avoiding a morass of self-involvement.
Fortunately, a turning point arrives, perhaps a bit later than I would’ve liked, and the characters (and the show itself) seem to find their feet. I have to say, in spite of my initial discomfort with some of the directions they chose, I have to give it to the BSG team, when they go in, they go all in. But this intensity and depth of drama and peril was offset by a few rebound episodes that seems to swing to the opposite end of the spectrum, participating in a bit of the maudlin self-adoration of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show’s rhythm is more severe and less predictable now. In one episode in particular, the plot device involves an exposé on the crew of the Galactica by an investigative journalist, and it sets up an opportunity to really humanize them and show, not tell, the strength it takes these characters to function day-to-day in that environment. Then, at the last moment, the show buckles under its own gaze and gushes to itself over top of a melodramatic score, succumbing to the flimsiest and silliest of devices. We didn’t really need that. But again, the show seems to have its own emotional/psychololgical integrity, responding much as a person’s psyche would to emotional extremes, even if it means veering away from stronger storytelling. Or that’s my theory, at least.
A related note here on the music. Oh man, I don’t know what’s up with the music direction, but someone needs to get back a steady hand on this show. The first season was pitch perfect: poignant, unique, minimalist, so powerful. This season? A little too Enya, a little too obvious and noticeable. Also, I think I heard some softcore porn music towards the end there. What’s with that? Bring back the scores of the first season! The rumbling drums as the Cylons appear, the subtle cues as the characters face danger, victory, and relief. Seriously, somebody do something.
But man, the last episode of the 2.0 DVDs had me crying out loud with my arms in the air by the end. I thought season 1 left us hanging with a stunner, but this time there’s no telling what will happen. The stakes are higher because the lines are greyer than ever. It’s a twist no one saw coming and it had me floored. And that’s the real strength of BSG so far: they don’t give you the easy answer, and they strive for realism in ways I just didn’t expect. When they want to plumb into the dark depths of humanity (or the Cylons) they cut to the bone. Without giving too much away, at this point there’s no easy way to say “Oh, well of course they’ll do X because Y would destroy the show.” My only misgiving is the speed at which they introduced such a huge element to the show’s direction. It has the feeling of an accelerated plot thread to make it before the break in the season. But it sure has me hooked and ready for more.
Man, I wish a la carte cable was available. I’d be all over the Sci-Fi channel so fast… I guess we’ll just wait for the DVDs, unless the siren song of the Apple Music Store is too strong. If you’ve seen season 1, don’t hesitate to check out 2.0. It’s something new and ultimately it’s something bigger than we’ve seen thus far. The BSGuniverse is playing for keeps, and it’s stunning.