Battlestar Galactica

Season 4 Episode 14

Blood on the Scales (2)

Aired Friday 10:00 PM Feb 06, 2009 on Syfy
out of 10
User Rating
528 votes

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Episode Summary

President Roslin seeks refuge on the Cylon base ship after Tom Zarek and Lt. Gaeta take control of the Galactica. Gaeta is determined to break away from Adama's policy of cooperation with the Cylons but even he is disturbed by Zarek's violent actions.

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  • BSG explores the dark side of humanity in this tale of mutiny and revolution. A so-called "freedom fighter" like Zarek is far more terrifying than a six-eyed alien or a cartoonish action-movie villain. This story shows what real terror is.moreless

    (Spoilers below)

    BSG takes a break from the mystical questions about the Final Five Cylons to return to the hard-nosed political side of the series in this episode. Tom Zarek plays a featured role. He's been a mysterious and eerie figure ever since the character was introduced early in Season 1. In the previous episode, he and Lt. Gaeta led an uprising against President Roslin and Admiral Adama because of the alliance with the rebel Cylons. The two learned that others shared their ongoing hatred of the Cylons, enough to help them take over the Galactica and capture Adama and the Cylons onboard the ship.

    I won't cover all the plot details here since it plays out much better onscreen than in mere words. But I will say that I'm glad that Zarek and Gaeta got executed at the end. (I'm assuming they actually were shot.) It was a necessary close to the mutiny. Gaeta's actions were consistent with his character. He acted similarly on New Caprica when he thought he could do some good as Baltar's assistant. I know he turned and began helping the Resistance. The failed experiment on New Caprica is what turned Baltar against the idea of cooperation with the Cylons.

    I hope Gage was executed. There was already enough reason for him to be imprisoned before (because of his actions on the Pegasus). Now that he was one of the prime actors in the mutiny, I don't see how he can escape the firing squad. He's clearly in favor of raping human-form Cylon prisoners so the audience is meant to hate him. This was clear when he made the comment to Helo in "The Oath" about having fun with Athena, a clear reference to the near rape of Athena in the "Pegasus" episode. Fighting for survival and killing deadly enemies is one thing. But to relish the rape of one's enemies, whether a personal enemy or an enemy of one's country or people, is another matter entirely. To enjoy rape displays a moral depravity unnecessary even in fighting a war.

    Back to Gaeta, I know he was doing what he thought was right but I grew to despise the character in the last two episodes. He should know that the fleet is too fragile to withstand a mutiny and yet another division. He also had to know that a mutiny would involve a lot of bloodshed. That's a fundamental part of revolution. I'm glad that this part of the mutiny was not played down like it is in many other shows. The uprising was portrayed as something brutal. Students of history know that most revolutions in real life turn out to be extremely bloody, with the American Revolution being among the few exceptions.

    Yes, there was an extended war but there were no mass executions and extended slaughters associated with the American Revolution, not on the scale of other major revolutions in modern history. The French Revolution, which started out with such lofty and noble ideals as liberty, equality and brotherhood, turned into the "Terror", with thousands of people being killed for not following the new regime. The Russian Revolution was meant to free the working classes and foster a new era of the classless society. Instead, it turned into a feeding frenzy led by the paranoia of Stalin who ended up murdering and starving out millions of his own people. The Chinese Revolution ended up with tens of millions of deaths from forced starvation and mass executions along with the cultural cleansing of "counter-revolutionaries". The same thing in Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge killed off over 20 percent of the population of the entire country in just three years. I think it's useful on occasion to show exactly what being a revolutionary means. For some reason, figures like Che Guevara have become fashion statements for 20-something hipsters nowadays but he and others like him (on both the left and the right) represent repression and the unleashing of powerful forces of bloodlust and mass murder, all in the name of supposed ideals of liberty, justice and equality.

    Tom Zarek was a chilling portrait of the revolutionary and supposed "freedom fighter" at work. He's always been a complicated character. He was intended to be a mix of real-life figures like Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-Tung, Joseph Stalin and others who fought against oppression but mixed it up with some more nefarious elements. Before anyone jumps on me for including Mandela in the list, keep in mind that he associated with some questionable figures like Qaddafi and the PLO (before they somewhat reconciled with Israel).

    Much of what Zarek has said in the past has made sense. For example, he fought to make the Colonial government a true democracy, with open and contested elections. However, almost from the start of his new political career in the Colonial fleet, he has been willing to do almost anything to achieve his ends. He planned assassination attempts against Roslin and Lee Adama in the past. He did help to fight the Cylons on New Caprica but that ferocity turned to the dark side again after the shock of finding a devastated Earth.

    I'm really glad that Richard Hatch played such a controversial and powerful character. I think most viewers always felt uneasy when Zarek was onscreen because they always knew he was plotting and calculating. He had monstrous tendencies that were never far from the surface. This was clear when he had the entire Quorum assassinated in this episode. Richard Hatch ties in this series to the original BSG series in a significant way. The previous BSG was not as dark, dramatic or paranoid. It was a great move to cast Hatch in one of the most dark and paranoid characters on the new series. Hatch was one of the early critics of the new BSG series but when he finally came around, he came through with the scary character of Zarek, scary because his character is so real. There are a LOT of people like him in real life, and not just in places like North Korea, Afghanistan or in the former Soviet Union. You can see aspects of Zarek in many political, economic and social figures in the U.S., left and right. I'm not saying that they are brutal killers like Zarek but I wonder if they were put in desperate situations like the Colonial fleet is in, would they also resort to savagery like Zarek did? I've been around some people who I think have more than a little Zarek in them and they are supposed to be "respectable" and in positions of power. Now THAT'S really scary, more scary than a stuntman in a zombie suit in some supposed horror movie.

    Gaeta's feelings about the alliance with the Cylons can be seen as an exploration of the situation in the West immediately after the Cold War. It took a while before many people were comfortable about calling the former Soviet states, allies of the U.S. Likewise, Gaeta, Zarek, Narcho, Gage, Racetrack and the others were unwilling to move on past the war with the Cylons. They have good reasons to harbor resentment towards the Cylons but they have even more reason to try to get past those feelings, to help ensure the survival of the remnants of Colonial civilization, especially now that Earth did not turn out to be the Promised Land.

    I'm enjoying the flow of this final half season of BSG. I'm also glad I didn't spend too much time speculating on the identity of the final Cylon and trying to sort out all the twists and turns of Colonial and Cylon history. I'm interested to see how it all gets resolved but that has never been my main interest in the series. I like the powerful dramatic stories that cover both the personal and the political (without getting too preachy). So much of the political content is chilling on this show because it reminds me so much of various real-life situations from history and the present day. The conflicts are shown in a harsh, unvarnished manner. War, politics, coups, assassinations and revolution are not pleasant, not like they were sometimes portrayed in some of the lesser James Bond movies of the past. They are bloody and savage. It's not usually portrayed this way on TV. That's why I find the BSG approach refreshing, if unsettling at the same time.moreless
  • Blood on the Scales

    Blood on the Scales was a perfect episode and follow up to what was happening in the Colonial Fleet. There was action, suspense, drama, intrigue, and some great character moments. I couldn't believe that many men and women would stand with Gaeta and Zarek, but it was interesting to see those who were still on the fence. The President was aboard the Cylon ship making broadcasts and when she threatened to come after each and every traitor I was in awe of how powerful she sounded, as were the Cylons. There were some shocking moments, and things were pushed to the limit, though in the end the world has been turned right side up, and things seem to be back in order. There were heavy losses, and it was sad to see people treat their own this way. I wonder why the President or anyone didn't reveal the larger truth of Earth, or why it's not discussed more. I look forward to watching the next episode!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • Another tough forty five minutes then but like all good car wrecks, you just can't look away.

    Michael Angeli picks up quite admirably from where Mark Verherden left off with the second instalment of this two parter and continues Battlestar's current trend of high quality episodic entertainment. Much of the strength of 'The Oath' is inherent in 'Blood on the Scales': the continuing use of time as a predicate for narrative progression works wonderfully in keeping the dramatic tension levels stoked. The wealth of action is also encouraging. We are barely given a chance to pause for breath as first Adama is being given the most hokum trial known to man, then the Quorum are ruthlessly slaughtered by a completely barking Zarek, then Anders is shot and lies bleeding to death after Eugene Tooms murders a rebel with a pen and then Bill is before a firing squad, facing summary execution for his apparently 'treacherous' activities. This is unrelenting, difficult stuff, refusing to bow to narrative convention or attempt to sugar coat the brutality of what is truly going on. Kudos to the production staff for being brave enough to take this complete about turn in the mechanics of the plot to its logical conclusion and not 'chicken out', if you will, from presenting the viewer with the consequences of a failed revolution. One gets the distinct impression that nothing will ever be the same on the show now that two thirds of the crew have rebelled against their leader and he's back in power. Racetrack doesn't simply bow to Adama's will: he is reticent, holding firm in his beliefs. And Zarek and Gaeta... well, we all knew Tom would hold out until the bitter end but Felix? That was a surprise, but a pleasing one. He doesn't atone, there are no epiphianic, revelatory speeches. Instead, Angeli gives us a quiet, reflective scene with Baltar that somehow manages to encapsulate the essence of the character... and then shoots the poor bugger dead, execution style. It's a harsh fate for someone so misguided, perhaps, but then, it's the only logical one within the confines of the show's pre-established militaristic politics. To have merely reprimanded him just wouldn't have seemed right. You may not want him dead but you know it's what you should get.

    The writing staff certainly weren't exaggerating when they said in pre-season interviews that this would be a climate-changing, gigantic curveball of a decathlon and that, at times, it may make for somewhat harrowing viewing. However, it's all executed so elegantly, with such poise, style and sophistication, that you just cannot help but be swept along for the ride, regardless of just how damaging to your mental health it may be. Another tough forty five minutes then but like all good car wrecks, you just can't look away. Even when Roslin screams "I'm coming for you!" in the most unnecessarily hyperbolic tone imaginable.moreless
  • Why bother?

    These last two episodes feel like too much of a waste of time and I felt like the producers/writers were treating the viewers like idiots.

    Rebellion - decent idea. Gaeta running it? You've got to be joking.

    Rebellion execution - garbage. Rebels who are afraid to shoot and kill any main characters (the important ones to kill!), last second reprieves, Lee and Starbuck saving the day almost single-handedly, rebel marines so weak that they can't escort two unarmed men without being distracted and disarmed by their "Oh, you're making a mistake, marine" chatter. Come on, total crap! The one bit of balls the writers had in having the Quorum executed was badly let down by the rest of the plot. You knew, absolutely knew through both episodes, that none of the main characters were actually in any danger because the writers wouldn't have the balls to follow through with actually killing them off. It makes for very boring and predictable watching.

    Adama's march through the ship to reclaim CIC, gaining supporting stragglers as he went, was cringeworthy to watch. Utter cheese.

    With only a limited number of episodes left, these two were almost a complete waste of space story-wise, we're just about back to square one. Give us some proper cylon interaction! Move the story forward! Give us a storyline that's believable in that it follows through with it's threat!moreless
  • Forces loyal to Adama and Tigh attempt to re-take Galactica.

    This was an astounding episode - truly gripping, painful, and wrenching to watch. The entire episode had me on the edge of my seat, terrified at what was going to happen. It took quite an emotional toll on me over the course of an hour. One of my favorite episodes this season, easily. Very well acted, brutal pacing, incredible acting (as expected) - quite the emotional rollercoaster. The ending is beautifully and unexpectedly staged. It wasn't until the end of this episode that I appreciated the whole mutiny story arc, which at first seemed like an annoying distraction from the events of the season designed to engross the audience in something other than the critical plot lines (which, still doesn't seem that far from the truth), however it ended up being extremely potent and a powerful reminder of how this show has achieved greatness.moreless
Richard Hatch

Richard Hatch

Tom Zarek

Recurring Role

Aaron Douglas

Aaron Douglas

Galen Tyrol

Recurring Role

Michael Trucco

Michael Trucco

Samuel Anders

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (4)

    • Roslin: No one believed that we would survive the Cylon nuclear holocaust, or the hell on New Caprica, or the 50,000 other crises we've lived through. But we did, we're here. We've made this veritable habit out of defying the odds, particularly William Adama. And he is alive. He is alive. And he will take command of this fleet again. And when that day comes, he's gonna know... who stuck with him and who ran. Now, who do you want to be? Who do you want to be?

    • Gaeta: I just hope... I hope that people realize eventually who I am.
      Baltar: I know who you are, Felix. I know who you are.

    • Tom Zarek: (to Gaeta) The truth is told by whoever is left standing.

    • Zarek: It's done, Laura. You need to think about the people of this fleet now and surrender.
      Roslin: No. Not now, not ever. Do you hear me? I will use every cannon, every bomb, every bullet, every weapon I have down to my own eyeteeth to end you. I swear it! I'm coming for all of you!

  • NOTES (3)

    • As of the beginning of this episode, there are 39,603 survivors in the fleet, which means 40 people could have been killed during the mutiny from the previous episode, "The Oath".

      Note that in "The Oath", the whiteboard in President Roslin's office indicated that there were 39,644 remaining survivors while the main title sequence displayed 39,643 as the number of survivors.

    • Alessandro Juliani read the "Previously on Battlestar Galactica" line for this episode.

    • The Faster-Than-Light (FTL) drive on the Galactica was shown for the first time.