Belated thoughts on Friday’s Battlestar Galactica (and, sort of, Friday Night Lights) coming up after the jump:
First, a housekeeping note. Now that I’m not getting episodes of BSG in advance, it’s not likely I’m going to get around to blogging them over the weekend, let alone Friday night, owing to a combination of personal laziness, family obligation and life in general. By Monday, I figure that the BSG-fixated have gotten their discussion fix elsewhere; on the other hand, I don’t want to ignore the series’ last episodes. So from this point out I’ll try to post at least briefly on the show on Mondays.
Since I’m coming to “The Oath” late, I’ll skip over the overview of this harrowing episode and the mutiny. Instead, the one scene that stuck with me: Adama and Tigh sending off Roslin on the Raptor, then turning to face the mutineers who had them cornered.
I don’t often enough give props to Edward James Olmos, so let me say it here: the man is amazing. The way he carries himself in this last scene says more about Adama’s core and sense of honor than any scene of screaming and high drama. He kisses Roslin in front of his crew, sends her off to escape, then picks up his gun and gets ready for a last stand. And sits down. That, for me, was the beauty moment. Olmos is playing “the old man” as an old man. He’s strong, he’s resolute, he’s angry. But he’s also tired. He’s come this far, this is his gods-damned ship, and he is not going anywhere. (It reminded me of another great Olmos scene, when he sat alone in space in his Raptor, reading and waiting for Roslin’s return with the baseship.) He hunkers down with Tigh like a cranky old coot getting out his shotgun on his front porch.
The way Olmos conveys his determination, his honor and his weariness at the same time—I have no words. And it made me think: between BSG and Friday Night Lights airing at 9, we have back-to-back two rare, classical examples of a kind of manhood that Hollywood rarely manages to pull off anymore. Coach Taylor and Adama are different men in different situations, of course. But they are both examples of old-fashioned manly virtues—honor, loyalty, integrity—portrayed in a way that’s neither sentimentalized nor cynical.
They’re flawed; they can be deeply wrong and authoritarian. They can be stubborn and selfish and blind to their faults. But they are actual heroes, not antiheroes. Their dedication to these old values is not treated as something to be made fun of or subverted. They demand a great deal of those around them, but they will also give anything for their teams and their crews.
TV has done great things with antiheroes like Tony Soprano, who whined about the death of the strong, silent “Gary Cooper type” without realizing that he was himself part of the problem. But it’s even more rare, and difficult in this day and age, to portray actual Gary Cooper types in a way that seems neither phony nor snarky. Eric Taylor and Bill Adama are a rare breed. We should appreciate them while they’re still around.