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.