Monday, March 26, 2007

BSG Mondays, Season 3, Episode 57, "Crossroads, Part 2"

One of the great pleasures of long-form serialized TV is an episode when a long string of seemingly unconnected plot threads tie together to reveal something approaching a grand master plan. The build-up to these moments is often frustrating, and it can make even the most stalwart viewer question what he or she is doing wasting their time with a show, but when the payoff comes, if it’s any good, it can be an experience unlike any other in art. Certainly a well-crafted novel or film can have a twisty plot that resolves in unusual ways in the waning passages, but neither form requires the sheer investment of time that a television series does. A TV drama can take a whole season of 20-plus episodes to unfold a story (or, in the case of a very few, the course of a 100 episode-plus series itself). With a novel, you can skip to the end. With a film, you know it’ll all be over in two-to-three hours. With a television series, you’re along for the ride for months to years.

That makes a big payoff all the more important. When The X-Files fizzled to an end, it frustrated viewers so thoroughly because of the time they had invested in the series. Because of the time element, television fans tend to be unforgiving, which makes episodes like Battlestar Galactica’s “Crossroads, Part 2,” written by Mark Verheiden and directed by Michael Rymer, vital to a series’ success. Fan complaints about the series’ third season have been legion, ranging from the meandering nature of the plotlines to a new lack of menace in the Cylons (whom we learned much about before they disappeared for roughly a third of the season) to a long string of episodes that seemed to exist only to provide character development, instead of the plot momentum the series had blended with character development in its first two seasons. If “Crossroads, Part 2” didn’t negate all of those criticisms, it certainly made the case for the series as an intimate examination of the personal problems of a fleet at war, tempered by big action sequences and even bigger plot twists.

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