Well, the Battlestar Galactica forums certainly aren't replete with complaints this week. Far from it, in fact: 'The Oath' seems to have generated the kind of infectious buzz unseen since our four friendly Cylons crawled out of the woodwork at the end of season three. The general consensus, it seems, is that 'stuff happened' in this episode and, as a result, that equals good. While the logic is flawed at best, the outcome is certainly on the money: Mark Verherden's script is a delectable flurry of chaotic activity, throwing the entire Galactica world up in the air and letting it shatter into a thousand dark, ugly pieces. Far more than the revelation about Earth, the events that occur in 'The Oath' change the shape of the narrative in seemingly unreconcilable ways. Will anything ever be the same now that around two thirds of the fleet has mutinied? Now that innocent Galacticans have been murdered by Gaeta and Zarek's 'revolutionaries'? Now that a political and military coup has occurred? They're locking up Cylons and Cylon 'sympathisers' for Christ's sake! Gaeta's taken command of the damn fleet! They arrested Adama and Sol! And now, they're about to fire on the President's ship! Holy mother of frack, just what in the name of Pithia is going on?!
Well, the aftermath, that's what. This is what loss, disappointment and the fanning of bigoted flames will yet you. There is absolutely no way that the events of 'The Oath' could have believably taken place if we had not had the kind of narrative development that occurred in 'A Disquiet Follows My Soul'. Last week's quiet examination of the nature of fear and loathing was absolutely needed to allow for the developments in this two parter. In fact, I'd argue that it is still possibly too sudden. Major changes do occur rather quickly: virtually the entire crew of the Galactica is ready to turn on those they've worked closely with for the past few years. We perhaps could have used an additional episode to show just how Gaeta won around his cohorts... but this is a minor criticism. It could be argued that the hour quite admirably reflects the social climate often needed for revolution to occur: after all, so many are sprawling, chaotic and, most importantly, sporadic. Verhedern does an excellent job of demonstrating the wealth of variables that can intrude on even the most well laid plans: Gaeta's struggles in the CIC are particularly reflective of this.
'The Oath' is certainly an addictively tense episode. Everyone is at the top of their game and at the height of their emotions, which keeps things permanently on edge: check out Starbuck as she threatens to lay waste to Racetrack and did you see Adama in the coup scene in the CIC? Props to Edward James Olmos for a fine, fine performance that really allows the viewer to buy into the seriousness of the situation. It's largely the script that is responsible for the nail-biting atmosphere, however: predicating the narratology on a sequence of timed occurrences gives the plot a disquietingly laconic feel, allowing events to 'puncture' the story rather than for the story to belie the events. This structure gives the viewer a prominent sense of urgency and acutely reflects the sense of concern that is inherent in the reactions of the characters on both sides of the political fence. And as for that final sequence, well, we all know that Adama and Sol are gonna make it to the end of the series but even so, this is a maddeningly intense moment to leave us hanging on. Let's hope part two can live up to the lofty highs promised by its predecessor. Another triumph.