Sunday, April 13, 2008

"Six of One" : The disturbingly delicious part

The last episode of Battlestar Galactica I saw, "Six of One," was both deliciously and subtly disturbing (in a good way) and yet also disappointing (in a bad way, obviously, and which I'll deal with in the next post. HINT: The notion of automatic anthropomorphic free-will and human-like desire in the Cylon toaster-style robots takes us back to a pre-Asimov conception of robots. It's Frankenstein and Karel Capek's R.U.R.. They've taken science fiction backwards to the days before it was informed by Alan Turing's essays, the growing field of AI, and Asimov's stories).

In this post I'll deal with the good stuff which, as usual for me, involves Baltar. It starts when the 4 Cylon sleeper agents, Tigh, Anders, Tory and Tyrol, decide they want information from Baltar about why they might be here and who the 5th Cylon might be. Tigh says, in his most I-am-a-fucked-up-badass voice, "Baltar's good at two things: lying in a jail cell and lying in a woman." Thus it is implied that Tory Foster, the only female among them, should sleep with Baltar to see what kind of information she can get. Tory, at first objects, saying only "There's no way..."

I would have had Tory tell Tigh, "hey, you frak Balter if you want information." She should feel that Tigh, Tyrol, and Anders were essentially trying to pimp her out for information. It's not what I'd expect from Tyrol and Anders, but they didn't really suggest it. It didn't feel right on several levels but that wasn't the deliciously disturbing part, that was just a feeling the writers had lost track of the characters. For a group that just wants to live their lives like nothing has happened they are already starting to compromise themselves. I had a hard time imagining Tory, Tyrol and Anders going along with Tigh's idea without putting up a more significant protest. Tyrol and Anders are married men with a high regard for their wives. However, it did seem in character for Tigh to say it. Tigh was willing to let others do suicide bombing on New Caprica. And Tigh's wife, Ellen, flirting with Lee at a dinner party... playing footsie, and then what she did for Tigh when he was in prison on New Caprica. Even then Tigh backed down saying, "You don't have to get on your back for him."

Tory slept with Baltar eventually, on her own. It might have seemed out of character for some of the Galactica women, but Tory's character hasn't been strongly explored yet in any of the episodes I've seen. What we do know of her is that she will try to steal an election and how vital she was for the New Caprica escape logistics. Still, using sex duplicitously is beginning to seem like a very Cylon thing to do. The women in the Galactica universe that have used sex to dishonestly manipulate people were Caprica 6 using Baltar and Sharon/Athena sleeping with Helo to gain his trust, at least initially. In both cases the Cylons MAY have actually fallen in love with their victims. And then there was Ellen sleeping with Cavil to get Tigh out of prison. And in the end it was Ellen who got more used by Cavil.

I don't think Tory had any intention of following through with the 'suggestion' to sleep with Baltar when she started spying on him. She barely flirted with him. She just asked the kind of general questions a reporter might ask, and she noted how things like the "miracle" with the cured boy from the last episode always seemed to center around him. She got him talking and it was Baltar who went in for the seduction. Baltar is apparently a clinical sex addict. It was when Baltar began to claim to believe in "the one true God" and then, whether by luck or "divine" intervention Baltar also hit on the way the "Watchtower" song seemed to haunt the 4 Cylons when they first gathered. Baltar talked about "... a distant chaos of an orchestra tuning up and the grotesque, screeching cacophony... as if someone waved a magic wand, music emerges from the chaos." This got a brief "moment of recognition" reaction from Tory. Did she think Baltar might be the 5th Cylon at that point? Did she think maybe he too had heard the music? Soon after, Tory says something like, "I can't be seen with you," and leaves and then Gaius talks to himself, literally. He talks to his "head Baltar," a Giaus Baltar look-alike that no one else sees but Baltar. It gets as typically creepy as with the "Head 6" dialogue, but it's a bit more like madness now.

His "Head Baltar" tells him that Tory is special, "she's fragile," and to treat her with care. Maybe Tricia Helfer couldn't show up that day, but I think it meant something that Balter was seeing himself rather than her for the first time. Perhaps it's a signal that his internalization of Caprica 6's message has happened and he has now reached the stage where he believes what she was preaching. Baltar doesn't argue with himself like he argued with his "Head 6."

Bear McCreary, the composer who does the music for "Battlestar Galactica," even singled out this scene for discussion on his blog. He wrote that he lavished more time and attention on Baltar’s conversation with himself than any other scene and that he "raise the musical stakes." It seems to have worked, it was the most surreal Baltar scene in a long time. But this still wasn't the deliciously disturbing part.

We don't see what happened between Baltar and Tory that made her decide to sleep with him. There are a lot of reasons she might have decided to do this, but it seems Baltar pursued her and she gave in.

This is when things, finally, as I promised, got deliciously disturbing. While Baltar and Tory are having sex, Tory starts to silently cry. Baltar was on top of her and enjoying himself when he noticed Tory just lying still beneath him with tears forming in her eyes. Baltar asks "Am I hurting you?"

Tory says, "No. It's just something I do when I have sex."

Now, my first impression of this scene was that the writers and director had screwed up somehow. It didn't seem emotionally real at first. It wasn't until I went to check on the Galactica forum I like best and noted that I wasn't the only one who was baffling over the scene that I realized it was actually quite a brilliant bit of artistry. It had baffled people in good way. They were disturbed by it and asking if this seemed in character, and what exactly happened here?

I'm not particularly sexually active, so, I can't say that I've had a lot of sexual experience, but one thing is for sure, I've never had a woman gently, and quietly, weep while I was inside her. Seeing as how the emotions I usually see are things like loving smiles, pleasurable moaning and an occasional animal grunt, I think having someone tear up and just lay there would throw me off. It would undercut my confidence too. I would think I was doing something wrong even if she said it was "just something I do during sex." But not Baltar.

It's as if there was this emotional abyss separating Baltar and Tory and Baltar tries to cross this emotional chasm with an insight and understanding I don't have. He compliments her on her depth of feeling, calling it a blessing. Tory asks "Do you suppose I could be a Cylon?" Baltar indicates that she could, he says that Cylons have feelings. It looks like Baltar might have at least a shred of decency, insight and empathy.

But was Baltar really honest with Tory? The scenes I saw of Baltar with the Cylons didn't give the Cylons much emotional depth, in my opinion. On New Caprica they were argumentative and cold-blooded killers without empathy. When the Cylons took Baltar back with them to their basestar, Caprica 6, the woman he thinks he loves, was voting for killing him. At one point the two women who slept with Baltar decide to torture him for information. How the frak does Baltar come up with the impression that Cylons feel things all that deeply after that? I suppose they still treated him better than the humans did.

And why was Tory crying? She said that it was just something she did during sex. But I didn't believe that because she's hiding a lot of what she knows about herself. She hasn't told Baltar that she's a Cylon and she's testing him to see if he can figure it out.

She may also be releasing all the emotion she had built up after finding out she was a Cylon. After all, she has to keep it hidden and she can't express her fears to any but the other three Cylons and they're not particularly sympathetic -- they failed at that test when they let Tigh ask her to sleep with Baltar and didn't stand up for her. If she's held the emotion associated with her new self knowledge inside her body, then when her body relaxes and she feels safe enough to be vulnerable, a physical release might trigger the emotions she's holding back, emotions larger than she can handle. I've heard that some people cry when they get massages for that reason.

Maybe it was having intimate sex with Baltar and realizing the guy is crazy. After all, Baltar also started telling her that, "The one true God has been giving the Cylons emotions," which should sound crazy. At least it sounds crazy to me, maybe not to Tory. Are the screen writers actually going to make God an active character in their story? Are these the kind of people who think God is active in this world too? Are they going to let this be credible to Tory? Will she investigate the possibility the boy's cure was a miracle or not to check him out? Baltar isn't, he seems ready to believe.

In the end the emotions didn't connect to any obvious reading of either Baltar's or Tory's thoughts. Both characters have secrets that could get them killed and they don't trust each other - but maybe they could. Tory is still hiding the truth she learned about herself and Baltar hasn't told her anything about having had a working Cylon detector and then lying about knowing who is a Cylon. It's this kind of intense emotional ambiguity, mystery and suspense that keeps me going back to Galactica to see what happens.

Here's the disappointing part 2 of my review.

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