While the WGA strike has no end in site, at least we had BSG: Razor to watch. From the couple of promos of Razor and the flashback sequences of a young Adama on the Scifi Channel, I wasn't sure how this would turn out. Was this movie about Cain and the backstory of her prior to Galactica or was this about Adama who is thinking about his younger days before taking command; perhaps shades of Caprica the spinoff series? I still don't know other than the focus on the artwork appears to be of Cain. Before going further, this has got to be one of the most confusing flashbacks episode I have ever seen on BSG.
Any fan will know how notorious BSG episodes can be when the start of a show begins in the middle of the action and then a title card appears to let us know how many hours the story will jump back before the said action scene. In Razor, this episode takes place just after Lee take command of Pegasus back in Season Two. We meet Kendra Shaw who becomes the new X-O to Lee and then we learn about her in her flashbacks 10 months prior. From this point on, we go back and forth on the now Kendra and before. Later in the story, we see a Present Day title, I just assumed the events were after Season 3; no, we are back in Present Day Season Two. Half way through, Adama comes along to show us his flashback to the day as a young officer "Husker" which is 41 years even further back. 'Nuff said, let's move on.
We can start off this review on a positive note on the potrayal of Lt. Kendra Shaw as played by Stephanie Chaves-Jacobsen. According to IMDB.COM, she was born in Hong Kong which would account for her alluring and exotic looks despite the harsh BSG environment we have come to expect. As she starts off as an aide to Admiral Cain who on the first day gets lost on her way to the CIC. Cain played by Michelle Forbes has a delicious time ripping her a new one but when the shipyard is under attack by the Cylon she takes her under her wing. The attack on the shipyard was not only spectacular but serves to remind us the show’s thought of, “All this has happened before and all this shall happen again.” The parallels to the Pearl Harbor attacks works well here to echo the sentiment mixed with the horrors of war and the loss of innocence.
Through the insane course of action, Admiral Cain looks like the hero who saved Pegasus by ordering the FTL jump to Kendra to go anywhere but here. Later, it is Cain again who serves as the rallying cry “So say we all” to exact revenge on the Cylons for the attack on the colonies. Up to this point, we can see the Admiral making the hard choices but there has been this undertone of losing her sanity and her control over herself by way of the pocket knife. We see this opening and closing of the knife by her in the opening shots and during some meetings which serves as a motif for this character. For example, the opening shot of the knife caresses the skin but does cut. The knife is then closed and you think you’re safe until the next time the knife is brought out and then opened. You’re always wondering when will this cut happen much in the same way Cain will lose her rationality and when it happens it’s not only huge but has a profound effect on Kendra.
As we learned about Kendra through the grilling of Cain, that her mother died of cancer. Does Cain become the new psuedo mother to Shaw? In some ways, yes. After the attack, Shaw apologizes to Cain for her inexperience and fear but Cain reassures that since Shaw was not fearful at this point, she needed to hold on to her anger as it will tell her what to do the next time she afraid. (Shades of Palatine at work, hmm.) Another example is Kendra seeing the execution of the X-O by Cain. When we switch back to Kendra as the X-O to Apollo, she doesn’t take lightly the threat from Starbuck when she questions her authority. I have no doubt that Starbuck would have be CAIN-ED had not Lee broke it off. Later in another flashback, Kendra mirrors the same coldness by killing the civilian female in the head when the group did not cooperate when they were boarded. Even Fisk was suprised by what she did. Cain then gives a life lesson to Kendra and how the war did not give them the luxury of being simply human. While I understand this view, this does not justify the committed horrors of war even on their own people. Lee said it best as he took over the Pegasus that just because we can’t always choose our circumstances we can choose how we handle them. Cain and Shaw chose poorly for the right reasons.
Cain’s first X-O Belzen had been the right person for the job but at the wrong time. The question posed to you, what was the catalyst for the execution? Had Gina played up Cain’s fears? If so, this would explain the hatred she had for Gina once it was found out the she was a Cylon. Gina did praise Cain during the first seat down dinner which by the Admiral’s reaction they shared more than just her bed and pillow talk. Next, the order to Thorne to do whatever he wanted to Gina including humiliation and degregation was another part of Cain’s inability to handle the situation on its own merits. Everything with Cain was pushed to the extreme edge and this is where the knife cuts deep into her as if the pain could be surgically removed from her. In the end, the only relief from the hell Cain was in was the revenge Gina had on her which makes more sense now knowing that they used to be lovers. On a side note, in IMDB.COM, there was an entry for a young Lucy Cain and Helena Cain’s father. While they were not seen, I am hoping that the DVD release will show more about the upbringing of Admiral Cain in those scenes.
With Shaw, Cain was her guiding light and an example to not only behave but to emulate. However, in choosing to do so, she ran the risk of growing up to soon to quick. As we later see with Adama as a young man, he had years of experience before taking command to rely on whereas Shaw relied on her anger to get through life aboard the Pegasus on the short term. Enculturation would dictate how one is brought up and in this sense Cain as the new mother of Shaw seeks for her approval and mimic Cain to the extreme.
From this point on in the review, the rest of the Razor movie sort of goes downhill with the viewing of the old model Cylons. This is where the 2 minute mini movies on the Scifi Channel comes into play, sort of. Adama remembers a mission where this old Cylons were experimenting with humans and tried to put an end. However, the Armistice the Cylons had signed ended any chances of Adama pursueing the matter further until this event. Jump back to present, a small Pegasus crew led by Shaw is sent out on a mission to rescue survivors and end the Cylon Superweapon as Adama suspected.
This whole rescue bit was poorly conceived as I was still not clear about the old Cylons motive. When one of the officers are hit, the Cylons dragged his wounded body back with them to continue their experiments. While Shaw did the right thing in killing the officer off, she gets hit in the process. Injured and the with the nuke needing a manual detonation, Shaw would sacrifice herself. This was telegraph well before the scene took place. This then begs the question, Admiral Cain did not prevent her death by Gina’s hand as this was the price she would pay ultimately. Was Shaw sacrifice the price she had to pay for her crimes?
Just before the deed was done, there was a throw away scene that tried to tie in to the events after Season 3 ended. I really hated this bit as it served no purpose other than just filler about the role Starbuck will play in Season 4. By this time, I really didn’t cheer for Shaw as she took out the Cylon Base Ship. I was really let down by the conclusion and the storytelling with so many flashbacks.
One theory about this type of movies outside the norm of the regular episodes is simply this, they don’t work. Babylon 5 is a prime example of being one of the top scifi series that worked well within the story arc of each season. The Babylon 5 movies tried to break away from the story arcs with a separate and stand alone story. To date, no Babylon 5 movie worked except of the Lost Tales which I recently reviewed. This was due only in part of fortelling a new potential storyline. With the Razor episode, if I compared this to the first three episodes of Star Wars and the rise of Vader, this movie fails. We do get to see the events on Pegasus before they meet up with Galactica but this is not enough to see why Cain goes mad. We know she rose through the ranks rather quickly but why? Also, the focus should have remained more on this side of the story rather than forcing to including the Galactica cast which served up very little bits to the story with the old school Cylons.
I will say this, I will be buying the DVD when it comes out just because its still better than some of the crap that is still on the air. However, as Season 4 keeps getting pushed further and further away, the WGA strike seems to have nullified the writing campaign. The Scifi Channel will now have the justified reason to do what they want with the last season. I just wish there was a better future for this series.