Battlestar Galactica

Season 4 Episode 11

Sometimes a Great Notion

Aired Friday 10:00 PM Jan 16, 2009 on Syfy

Episode Fan Reviews (21)

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  • All hope is lost when the fleet discovers Earth is nothing more than a charred nuclear wasteland. Frustration turns to nihilistic despair, and the harried survivors find their faith put to the test in this beautiful yet bleak storyline.

    The makers of Battlestar Galactica have always been experts at mind-blowing plot twists which alter the very fragile and limited moments of normal order in the fleet, but the revelation of the charred & nuked remains of scorched Earth may turn out to be the greatest test of faith the human survivors have ever faced. If anything has been a constant within the show, it has been the undying faith and hope in the existence of Earth, the home of the mythical Thirteenth Tribe of Kobol, as the one shining light piercing through the dark & hostile atmosphere of endless trials & tribulations. Now, the remaining 39,000 survivors of a once prosperous society have found their travails were all for naught, and a thick fog of despair hangs in the air over the disturbing revelations. Even more frustrating is the perplexing mystery of Earth itself. The discovery of some unusual Cylon remains on the planet raise more questions than answers over who, or what, the 13th Tribe really was.

    It proves to be too much. Upon their return to Galactica, Roslin and Adama face a hanger deck full of hopeful crewmates, anxious to hear the news of their mythical refuge. Normally, the steely-eyed Roslin never shies from a moment to step up to a challenge, but here she can only shake her head subtly, frozen with the prospect of destroying the last bastion of hope for the weary travelers. "Get me out of here," she mutters to Adama, and the place is in uproar with anxious questions, only to find their beloved leaders retreat into a dark depression.

    The visuals of lost hope are powerful and stunning, anchored by the consistently solid score of Bear McCreary. Ponderous & discordant variations on the once soaring themes of the show echo the fear of the unknown displayed through the tense interactions of the characters. All of the answers they seek reveal more frustrating questions. The mood is emotionally provocative and wears very heavily. The crisis of faith, the loss of social order, the gray bleakness of Earth's nuked skies all paint a vivid and beautiful portrait of the collapse of the human spirit, but it takes its toll through watching it unfold. Perhaps this is more to the show's credit that it evokes so powerfully the very emotions it portrays onscreen, but for viewers it amounts to being stabbed in the heart a thousand times, or as Ronald D. Moore puts it, an emotional sucker punch.

    Some of the storyline feels clumsy and forced. Bill Adama's confrontation of his friend and ex-o, newly discovered Cylon Saul Tigh, falls for all of the usual clichés associated with depression in Battlestar Galactica. The Admiral snags a sidearm from a guard and drops in uninvited with a bottle of booze. Pouring enough to kill a small horse, Adama tosses the weapon on the table and barks, "Sit down, Cylon!" at the somewhat bewildered Tigh. The scene stands well enough on the outstanding acting talents of Edward James Olmos (Adama) and Michael Hogan, but the dialogue sounds crude and forced, a bit clumsy considering the show's typically high standards. Those standards certainly were not applied to revealing the identity of the final Cylon, tacked on to the last five minutes like an extra edition of the news. It comes in so unexpectedly, it feels as though the writers did it by accident. Nothing frustrates more with this show than the flubbing of key plot points, especially considering the hype many of these revelations get through the constant repetition throughout the show. In going for the surprise, the scene skipped creating the appropriate tension to buildup to the revelation, which is why it comes off as flat and uninspired.

    Despite its flaws, Sometimes a Great Notion gracefully probes the ends of the human spirit, seeking an answer to the greatest tests of faith. Highs: Provocative & powerful imagery reflected through McCreary's musical variations; post-apocalypse is where Battlestar lives; emotionally gripping

    Lows: Emotionally exhausting; frustrating revelations only raise more questions; clumsy & forced in places; one-dimensional character presentation.

    The Verdict: Powerful, relentlessly dark probe of the human spirit