Okay, so not as game-changing as I made out to be. But now that I re-read the scuttlebutt from Ron Moore and David Eick, they suggest that “Maelstrom” only kicks off the changes of the final three episodes. Oops… Oh Don Piano, indeed. Still, there’s a fairly big character change.
Starbuck’s death is an odd one. The entire episode is devoted to her fragile state, as she begins to hallucinate a Cylon raider, dreams of Leoben and the ancient symbol from the Eye of Jupiter temple that she has painted since childhood, and flashes back in the final act to her abusive and tormented mother. There’s no discernible plot to speak of, and for all of Leoben’s talk since season one of her destiny, we still get virtually no clue as to what it is. Given Starbuck’s indisputable physical death (her Viper implodes), these mythology questions appear to have been raised and left unanswered once again. I foresee two possibilities.
First, Katee Sackhoff wanted to leave and this scuppered the writers’ plans for her arc. Not wanting to ignore the groundwork they have laid, they tie it into her demise in a fashion that implies an apotheosis of some kind.
However, Moore and Eick insist that her death (although not revealed at the time of the interview, of course) precipitates a drastic change in direction for the show. As central as Starbuck is to the ensemble, Sackhoff’s departure would not necessitate a course correction for the mythology, unlike say, James Callis’s Baltar. Which brings me to the second possibility: that Starbuck’s destiny has not yet been achieved, and that she will be back, looking like Sackhoff or otherwise.
Here’s my theory, which just came to me and I want to preserve here for prosperity. Unlike many other engaged TV viewers, I very rarely speculate about a show’s direction or the answers to its mysteries, either because I like to be swept along and surprised or because I have no creativity – one of the two. But I have something this time:
I don’t think that Starbuck is a Cylon. I think that this far into the show’s run, revealing any cast member as being one is going to be difficult to swallow, but Starbuck seems like a particularly big leap. But I do wonder whether she is somehow going to be reborn via the Cylons, perhaps as a Cylon-human hybrid ala Hera, and that her destiny is to bridge the gap between the two races (although where that would leave Hera, allegedly central to Galactica’s core questions, is unknown). How this eventuality can have its roots in Kara’s childhood – her mother’s insistence that she is ‘special’ and her painting the eye-like symbol – is an open question, but it’s not inconceivable that something done to her on the Caprican ‘farm’ or during her abduction on New Caprica has prepared her for downloading. After all, the Leoben we see guiding her through her flashback in this episode said that he would show her the majesty between life and death, or words to that effect.
I dunno, we’ll see. But Starbuck, Cylon-human hybrid… watch this space.
Nicely acted and written episode though, with Sackhoff going out (if she is) on a high with some meaty if well-worn material about her dominating, massively insecure mother. There was a very poignant scene between Starbuck and Apollo that almost made up for the quadrangle tripe earlier this season, and Adama’s final grief-stricken gesture is powerful, one of the only moments that we’ve seen this stalwart character enraged. Plus, Callum Keith Rennie shines as Leoben once again. This guy can deliver lines like nobody’s business, giving every sentence a creepy grandeur. He’s been a great recurring fixture since the series began, and I hope we saw more of him as this storyline continues, whatever it turns out to be.
If this is the end for Starbuck though, plenty will be pissed off, especially since the headstrong Kara Thrace essentially commits suicide. Even the immensely minor Kat, with her inexplicable special episode earlier this season, had a heroic death. I’m of two minds though. On one hand, I’ve never had the immense adoration for the character that so many have. I’ve respected the creation of a strong female character that eschewed the butt-kicking conventions that have become cliché in recent years, and Sackhoff has been a consistently great performer. But she seems to have existed on the periphery of the show’s central myths and meanings and consequently I won’t miss her as much as I would other characters (Roslin, Baltar, Adama). On the other hand, I’m a little unsure about what Galactica will be without her. Will her absence be more keenly felt than I suspect in terms of the show’s essential makeup? We’ll have to find out. Or perhaps we won’t…