Saturday, April 19, 2008

Circuitry is thicker than Blood: Spoiler review of "The Ties that Bind"

Again, there was good and bad to this episode. On the bad side, no Baltar and Tory's transition into a full blown monster seemed to abandon the promise made by last week's episode, "Six of One." On the good side, there was an almost shocking, and still very scary, TV death scene made possible only by abandoning that promise. I wouldn't have seen it coming except for the previews and the fact that people over at Galactic Water-cooler interpreted those previews and saw it coming and I, of course, read them and had the shock spoiled.

The major event in this episode was the death of Cally, and except for broadcasting what was going to happen to her in the previews the whole thing was well done. It was the only game that started and finished in this single episode. The other events in this episode were all part of slower moving games that have been going on for awhile and where we see only one or two moves made per episode. By the "slower games" I mean things like the Cylon civil war, Starbuck's quest for Earth and Apollo's involvement in law and politics.

I'll get to the other elements of this episode, like the Cylon civil war, Apollo's new role and what's happening aboard the Demetrius after a bit more of those games have played out. But I will say that Starbuck's and Anders's relationship is getting interesting. I don't know what it means yet. Starbuck might be going insane and they seem to be foreshadowing a mutiny to come, but then, like Tory's tears with Baltar, it's quite possible I'm misreading the clues.

Here's the recap on Cally's death game to see how it's played:

We start with Cally being all strung out, taking some pills, wondering where her husband, Chief Tyrol, is. Then we cut to Tory and Tyrol in a bar. Tory tells Tyrol how she is being flooded with new sensations and how she never liked the taste of ambrosia till now. She's beginning to like her change into a Cylon. Not Tyrol, he says he doesn't like change. It appears Tory is trying to seduce him. She puts her fingers on his elbows. He's stern and resistant to her seductions. Cally enters the bar and sees Tory with her husband. She makes a scene and Tyrol leaves Tory to go back to his wife and try to convince her he's not having an affair with Tory.

Thus part of Tory's potential motive is set up, sexual jealousy.

Cally next finds a note about a meeting in a weapons locker hidden inside the hinge crevice of the door to their apartment. She sneaks out to spy on whoever is in the weapons locker, hiding in some crawl space near-by. She hears her husband, Tory and Tigh talking about being Cylons. They're even clued into the fact that it's possible she might find the note.

After learning this, Cally runs back to their apartment, puts the note back into the crevice, before Tyrol comes home. She tries to pretend she knows nothing when he arrives, keeping her back to her husband as her face plays out the emotions she can't hide. Tyrol promises and promises to love her and be there for her. She can't believe him. She suddenly attacks him with a huge heavy wrench, knocking him out but not killing him.

Then she makes a really stupid, very human, move, torn up by her emotions she heads towards an airlock, apparently planning to commit suicide and take her baby with her. It's heart breaking, the actress does a good job. Then Tory appears and walks into the airlock. Cally shuts the door threatening to take Tory with her.

"Stay away from me!" Cally yells at Tory. "You all used me!"

Tory tries to explain herself, "We didn't know... We're still the same people. We're not evil."

Cally starts to understand, though still suspicious. Tory knows what Cally is planning and says, "Don't do this to your child. Don't do it to yourself."

"What have I done?" Cally begins to change her mind and realize how crazy she's been acting.

Cally gives up the child.

Tory seems to have saved her from her irrational and emotional decision. At this point it's not obvious that Tory will kill Cally unless you saw the previews and even then it's not clear how it will play out. Then, quite suddenly and without warning, Tory whacks Cally with a powerful one armed back hand and sends her flying backwards about ten feet.

From an adjoining, glass walled room next to the airlock Tory holds the child and begins to prepare to eject Cally into space. They look at each other, Tory seems to enjoy this situation, and then Tory pushes the button and -whoosh!- out Cally goes.

I was sympathetic to Cally's suffering and it seemed Tory was, at first, helping her and offering some understanding, but it turns out that Tory was a monster, full of coldblooded deceit. Is her humanity only a convenient lie? I noted in my review of "Six of One" that during Tory's sex scene with Baltar that her emotions didn't connect to any obvious reading of her thoughts. Both Baltar and Tory had secrets that could get them killed and they didn't trust each other with them. But it seemed maybe they could in the future. Tory wasn't telling Baltar she was a Cylon and Baltar wasn't telling her everything either. The scene offered an intense emotional ambiguity, mystery and suspense that keeps me going back to Galactica to see what happens. However, this change in Tory seems to preclude ever learning what Tory's tears meant, if anything. She's long past crying it now seems (or maybe not).

The fact that she cried back then helped add to the surprise this time. Yet, I'm disappointed because there's more to it than just the show itself that influenced my desire to see those tears explored. As I noted in my previous review, the scenes sparked an interesting discussion on this Galactica forum.

Some people on the forum started displaying really sexist attitudes saying things like "Are there any women out there who have not poured on the charm (and not, necessarily, gotten on their backs) to try to get their way at some point? It's not unusual. In fact, it's pretty common interpersonal interaction." Alas, nothing in this show contradicts that view and it should be contradicted.

That view misses the point I think. And that's when I began to think I understood what the tears meant in the last episode. They didn't understand what kind of game Tory was really being asked to play by "sleeping with Baltar" and I thought the writers might show us the cost of such deceptions. Frakking someone is not going to get you "darkest secret" information they couldn't torture out of Baltar. They call it sleeping with someone, but it really means playing a risky (for humans) emotional game where you get the other person to trust you so much, make them think you love them, that they'll honestly share secrets that confront with their deepest fears.

People don't open up like that just because they've had sex. Psychologists work long and hard to get there with patients. People open up because they trust you with their lives and darkest secrets. Tory has no problem with such betrayal now it seems, she quickly got Cally's trust, but those tears from the previous show said, yes, maybe, just maybe, she did have a problem with lying to Baltar. And it appears that Head Baltar was wrong when he said that "Tory was fragile" and "handle with care." So far it seems that scene between Baltar and Tory... that moment, lost like tears in the brain -- the brain of screenwriter Michael Taylor.

If Tory hadn't understood that human side of the risk, then Baltar would have more likely figured her out before she figured him out. Now it's apparently Baltar who is in trouble if he continues his relationship with Tory. Besides that, I lost an implied bet with Gooby Rastor over at Galactica Station when I commented on his review of "Six of One."

In the end, it was Tory who made the seemingly "rational," if monstrous, decision to kill Cally while pretending to risk her life to help her. If Tory hadn't done that there would have been no real way to assure herself that Cally wouldn't reveal their secret to other humans. Tory could have asked Cally to keep their secret, trust her husband, and trust her since she was helping, include Cally in Cylon meetings so she knows what they're dealing with. But that probably would have been a mess considering Cally's emotional state.

In the end, if Cally was really going to kill herself and her child, then the net result of all Tory's actions were to save the child (but for what end? Tory risked her life for the child.)

Cally on the other hand was stupidly human. She would, herself, had to have become cold blooded and kept her cool to win the game against the Cylons. She could have, if she were emotionally able, went along with her husband's promises, hugged him, then collected evidence, until she had enough to give to the Doctor, Adama and/or the president. But you know those humans, they're just not all that rational. They often let their feelings tear themselves apart instead of acting rationally.

Even when it came to attacking her husband Cally left the note, the only evidence she had, behind when it was no longer prudent to do so. And if she wanted the Cylons dead, she should have kept hammering at her husband's skull until his brains splattered out. Nothing she did was smart. But, it's like Nietsche said:

"Those who fight monsters should take care that they never become one. For when you stand and look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you."
-- Frederich Nietsche

And that seems to be the overall theme of the new Battlestar Galactica. How monstrous do the humans have to be? Can they ever find any shared "humanity" with their enemy? Will they ever try?

Maybe they shouldn't. If we keep seeing Cylons lying and taking pleasure in killing people, then how can the writers expect us to sympathize or side with them? Tory happily turned into a monster and that makes me less sure of what to expect from the rest of the Cylons? Some people think humans and Cylons are meant to get together in later shows. Maybe the Cylons are the embodiment of evil? Supposedly they're just not "human" in the same emotional sense. Yet humans have "enjoyed" torturing and killing Cylons (like Starbuck did, and Cain's crew). Could it be that there are just some "bad apples" in both bunches? Or are all Cylon women homicidal sluts?


Was Tory always a monster?

An interesting comment on the water-cooler forum from bkitty:

Tory never was ethical. If she wasn't as a human, why would she be as a cylon?

She is drunk on the power of the baseline change she sees in herself. A sober person has reason and social taboos for guidelines to behavior. A drunk person is freed of those inhibitions.

This is Tory as she always was. Uninhibited, she is realizing her terrible potential.

Drunk or sober, a person is accountable for his/her actions. The only difference in decision-making is the amount of personal/social inhibition.

She is who she alway was with NO BRAKES!

I have a feeling she may be "stopped" by one of the others. Possibly Tyrol? He flat out said he doesn't take change well. Once he recovers from the shock, and eventually finds out the truth, what will he do?

This incident makes Chief a wild card.

Was Tory ever a human? If she was Cylon from the beginning that's how they made her, hiding her true identity until they wanted her activated. If she was always Cylon and not replaced by one, then yes, this side of her has always been there. Unlike Boomer, it doesn't seem to bother her. I think she's happy to be playing for the other side now.

Still, trying to steal an election isn't the same as murder. Also, the motives for stealing that election were, supposedly, for the "greater good." And Tigh, another secret Cylon, helped her try to steal it, so maybe there was a "greater evil" behind the good hidden unconsciously in their intent from the beginning. Killing Cally wasn't for any greater (or human) good. It just protects the hidden Cylons.

And a drunk may be deprived of reason, social taboos and inhibitions, but Tory still has plenty of reason and purpose, though certain social taboos, inhibitions and moral sentiments seem to be gone. And that reason and purpose seem to revolve around Cylon goals she wasn't directly informed of, like saving hybrid babies.

Saying a person is accountable for his/her actions assumes there is someone to hold you to account. And who, exactly is going to hold Tory to account? Indeed, from where we sit as viewers, Chief could go either way. You hope, on some level, that he still has some humanity left, but deep down you know you want more scares and conflict. If their problems can be resolved simply by Chief holding onto his humanity, then you'd start getting bored with Galactica.

Nicki Clyne's blog entry on Cally's passing.


Nicholas said...

I think at this point Tory is going to have to answer to the Chief, and (in my opinion) her Cylon God.

normdoering said...

"Tory is going to have to answer to the Chief,..."

She'll answer to Chief only if he learns the truth. That probably won't happen for awhile. The writers will use it when they need it.

Tory will, in all probability, lie to Chief. She'll tell him most of the story, Cally in the airlock, Tory tries to talk Cally out of suicide, handing over the kid -- but then lie and say as she was walking out of the launch tube, Cally closed the door behind her and ejected herself into space.

"...and (in my opinion) her Cylon God."

Do you think there is a Cylon God?

Nicholas said...

I think there is. Head six has done a very good job at guiding Baltar in to his new faith. Whenever Baltar fails to follow "God's plan" things seem to fall apart and when he does what he God would want him to do he survives.
I'm not saying that the Cylon God is like the Christian God, he could be the final Cylon. Whoever he is, I think he's an active force in the show.
As far as the Chief goes. I'm starting to think that if he does find out the truth, there will be little he can do to avenge his wife. This event could push him in to being destructive.

Aziyade said...

Even though I don't think it's the likely storyline, it would be interesting if these 4 weren't really Cylons at all, but were being played/tested by the Cylons or their God.

Since Tory seems to have had the easiest time "embracing" her Cylon nature (and probably views killing Cally as just part of her Cylon programming) it would be interesting to have that belief ripped away from her, and make her confront what she's done without having the excuse of "it's in my programming" or "I did it to protect myself from discovery and thereby save my own life."

Again, I think it's unlikely, and it's hardly a new idea, but I was kinda sorta hoping that these 4 weren't REALLY Cyons and were just being mindfraked, but I can't explain the Raiders' behavior after scanning Anders and Tory's superhuman strength otherwise.