Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Battlestar Galactica" (2003) Season Two [blu-ray]

"Battlestar Galactica" (2003) Season Two [blu-ray]
Starring Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell and Katee Sackhoff
Developed by Ronald D. Moore and David Eick

As we pick up with the ragtag human survivor fleet, things are looking dire.  A Raptor mission is trapped on the surface of the ancient world of Kobol, with Cylon forces combing over it.  Commander Adama has been brutally shot in the chest by the traitorous Cylon sleeper agent Sharon "Boomer" Valerii.  Starbuck has gone AWOL back to Caprica to find the Arrow of Apollo, and stolen an important piece of technology to do it.

The season starts out right at the moment Season One ended and doesn't stop to catch its breath until nearly midway through.  The storylines get more complex, relationships more complicated, action sequences bigger and more beautiful.  The drama is ratcheted up on all counts, with political intrigue and the battle between rights and security begin to take a more prominent role in the story.  Episodes in Season Two explore crime and punishment, mutiny, freedom of the press and abortion, all in the guise of a space-bound military drama with excellent performances and epic action sequences.

The cast is expanded with a number of important new characters, such as Sam Anders, former professional ball player now leader of the human resistance on Caprica; Tori, political adviser to President Roslin; and D'Anna Biers (Lucy Lawless) and Brother Cavill (Dean Stockwell), two new Cylon models who play big roles in the progression of the story.  These characters are fascinating, and in the case of Lawless and Stockwell, exceptionally well-played.  Lawless gets to use her native accent, and we find that she's much more attractive now than she was back in her "Xena" days.  Stockwell, as always, is a joy to watch and can deliver sarcastic dialogue with few equals.

Season Two extends its length to twenty episodes (twenty-one if you include the extended, alternate version of "Pegasus" included on this blu-ray set) and as a result, isn't quite as tight in the storytelling department as Season One.  After running headlong through the lengthy Kobol storyline, the show stumbles a little with a handful of standalone episodes that just don't gel as well as they should.  "Black Market" for example, while interesting in its premise, is somewhat messy and dull.  "Sacrifice," as well, featuring Dana Delaney as a woman who takes a number of hostages, including Ellen Tigh and Apollo, to get revenge for her husband's death.  There's also the problem of the ridiculous succession of commanders for the Battlestar Pegasus, but that's dealt with quickly enough, even if it is a little absurd.

Still, though the show stumbles a little in these episodes, the rest of it is pure gold.  The show is still dramatic, well-acted and highly entertaining.  The shocking events of "Pegasus" and "Resurrection Ship" to the jaw-dropping final moments of the season finale "Lay Down Your Burdens" are absolutely worth watching a few lesser episodes that set them up.  The Season Two finale is a game-changer in every way, with the status quo of the show radically upended in a move that's just pure, ballsy storytelling.  The ramifications of these last few moments will play out through the rest of the show's entire run, changing character dynamics and storylines forever.  It's simply not to be missed.

The presentation on the blu-ray is a step up from Season One.  Though still artistically loaded with artificial grain, everything looks much sharper overall.  Colors are bold, and the CG special effects (kicked up a whole shit-ton of notches - the battle in "Resurrection Ship" is one of the finest examples I've ever seen, on TV or anywhere else) look fantastic.  Textures pop, from skin to clothing to the dirty sets and props, "Battlestar Galactica" looks excellent in high-definition.

Sound is just as good.  Bear McCreary's excellent musical scores are well-represented.  Though dialogue can sometimes get lost in all the noise, (characters often whisper a lot, or speak with accents) for the most part it's all very clear.  Bass levels are also excellent.  Crank up the surround sound during the battle in "Resurrection Ship" or the corridor-by-corridor boarding party sequences in "Fragged" and you won't be disappointed.

"Battlestar Galactica" has a few lesser episodes in this second season, but for those minor faults, it's still an utterly fantastic show.  The finale is one of the finest episodes of television ever created, with a cliffhanger ending that's just frakkin' amazing.  Watch this show.