“…You are one of a small number of trusted BSG enthusiasts with whom we are sharing a review copy.”
While that statement from the letter that accompanies the mid-season premiere of BSG [Sci Fi, Fridays, 10/9C], Sometimes a Great Notion, doesn’t exactly hurt my ego, it does come with some hefty caveats. I can’t give away a couple of HUGE plot points – like they’d have to tell me that in the first place – and then there’s the scene that has been withheld from screener in the interests of maintaining “the secrecy surrounding an extremely sensitive reveal” [which only guarantees that I’ll be in front of my TV for the premiere – but I’d have been there anyway, the ep is that good].
What’s left? Forty-two minutes of pretty frakkin’ awesome stuff! [Remember, I saw it without commercials.] Which means you should set your TiVo for an extra three minutes or so…
In the past, I’ve been known to complain about episodes that are way too talky and slow – episodes where it’s all about exposition, or recapitulation of themes that maybe didn’t need to be recapitulated – or about the Messiah Baltar [James Callis] and his harem. Well, Sometimes a Great Notion is a talky episode – the one burst of unexpected violence [not counting a fist fight in one of the Galactica’s corridors as a major character walks by] is one of things I can’t talk about – but even without the violence, so much happens here that it will be one of the best television episodes of 2009 [and that’s without the missing scene]!
The episode begins mere moments after the conclusion of Revelations with the various human and Cylon characters wandering about in a daze. The only one who is actively doing something, really, is Starbuck [Katie Sackhoff], who is looking for something. Before the teaser is over, there have been answers to at least a couple of major questions, including one about the Final Five – not to mention… but that would be too much to say here…
Essentially, Sometimes a Great Notion is about what happens when your biggest and best hopes and dreams are dangled before your eyes then ripped ruthlessly away. Some of the responses are dire [see HUGE plot point #2] while some are just there – a kind enervation. Then there are those who see the situation not as an invalidation of their hopes and dreams, but an opportunity to be completely free from any expectations, or prophecies. The characters who fall into these categories might not necessarily be the ones you’ll be expecting.
Written by David Weddle and Bradley Thompson [they wrote Revelations - every resolution of a cliffhanger should be written by the same writer[s] who did the cliffhanger] and directed by Michael Nankin, Sometimes a Great Notion is an amazing example of how a mostly violence-free episode should be done. Nankin’s pacing is best described as deliberate – just slow enough that we can pick up on the many subtleties of the episode [watch the reactions of the crew in the background after the announcement is made about the state of the Earth] – even as we watch the main characters fall apart, go into shock, or buck up and decide to keep going forward.
The bleached palette of the bleak Earth scenes contrast with the much warmer palette aboard the Galactica [warmer tones that make that one burst of violence even more mind-boggling]. It’s partly because of contrasts such as these that we buy into most of the responses to the news about the Earth – though, as in real life, some will never be understood. Though I haven’t said much about the Cylons who allied themselves with the humans, they, too, are caught up in the situation with an equally wide range of reactions – especially Leoben [Callum Keith Rennie] and D’Anna [Lucy Lawless].
Because of the missing scene, I can’t give Sometimes a Great Notion an unqualified A+ – but it is close to perfect as it can be without that scene [and I can't wait to see what it is!].
Final Grade: A