Friday, March 20, 2009

Top 10 BSG Episodes

Given that the series finale is approaching (less than 24 hours), I figured I'd come up with what I consider the 10 best episodes, in broadcast order. Should go without saying that spoilers for anything other than the series finale follow:

33 - Even though it was the first episode, I still consider this one of the more darker and gritty episodes, which is saying something. Between the sleep deprivation and the climax of shooting down the equivalent of a civilian jetliner (albeit one with over a thousand people on board) this episode encapsultes what the series is all about.

Flesh and Bone - Not only does this episode delve into the issue of torture, it sets up two major storylines: Starbuck/Leoben and the Cylon concept of a single God and all the other religious stuff. It also proves yet again that Laura Roslin has big brass ones.

The Hand of God - Outside of the miniseries, this is the first real big "space battle" in the show. It also shows that Starbuck is not only a good pilot but a pretty good tactician as well. Lastly, I love the lucky lighter scenes between the two Adamas.

Valley of Darkness - The tension of hunting down the Cylon boarding party is awesome, but more important is the use of one of Philip Glass' Metamorphosis pieces as background music for both a scene on Caprica and a powerful scene that closes out the episode. Also has a particularly moving scene involving some tough choices the Chief has to make with one of his wounded men. Finally, it includes one of my favorite lines of dialogue in the whole series:
Lee Adama: Sometimes you've gotta roll a hard six.
Jammer: What does that mean, sir?
Lee Adama: Uh, I don't know. It's something my dad says.
Scar - If I had to pick one episode that best illustrated the "fighter pilot" side of BSG, this would be it. Part of its allure comes from the fact that it followed the admittedly flawed Black Market, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it is a very good episode. Really, all I can say is that this is the "fighter pilot" episode of BSG. That should be enough.

The Captain's Hand - Similarly, if there was one episode that best illustrated the SWO/ship's captain nature of the show, this would be it. Lots of good leadership and personality conflicts. Plus you get to see Pegasus' forward batteries up close for the first time.

Exodus (Part II mainly, but we'll include both of them since I smash some episodes together below) - Don't think I really need to explain this one. Adama Maneuver. Pegasus fucking some shit up. Over at the CDR's place, one commenter described the "SWOner" he got when the Pegasus locked engines ahead flank and set main batteries to autofire. Can't say I disagree.

Hero - An expended pilot from a secret mission comes back from the dead. The question of just how far your duty as a military officer goes is raised. The guilt Adama faces for possibly provoking the Cylon war is revealed. Overall another episode that does a good job touching on some more military-centric issues.

Unfinished Business - A great episode in general, lots of good acting between the scenes in the ring and the flashbacks on New Caprica. Also has one of my favorite quotes from the series:
Bill Adama: "When you step on this deck, you be ready to fight, or you dishonor the reason why we're here. Now remember this: When you fight a man, he's not your friend. Same goes when you lead men. I forgot that once. I let you get too close, all of you. I dropped my guard. I gave some of you breaks, let some of you go, before the fight was really over. I let this crew and this family disband, and we paid the price in lives. That can't happen again."
Sine Qua Non/The Hub - This makes the list alone for the resolution of the Adama/Roslin relationship. Also worth it for the Adama/Tigh man fight, during which they immediately resolve their problems with each other. Baltar also admits to being the guy who is pretty much responsible for the nuclear holocaust. Oh, and they nuke the Hub. Just a minor detail.

Revelations - Besides the whole "finding Earth but its actually a nuclear wasteland" thing, this episode has Adama raging after finding out that Tigh is a Cylon as well as the very tense subsequent standoff between crazy Number Three and Lee. Lee punches Tigh in the face.

The Oath/Blood on the Scales - Don't think this one really needs much explanation either. Gaeta and Zarek mutiny, people choose sides, Starbuck and Apollo run rampant through the ship gunning down people (after raiding the mini-armory that Starbuck apparently maintains in her personal locker), and Adama and Tigh shooting from the hip standing their ground.

Daybreak - Series finale. 'Nuff said.

Even though Razor is technically the first two episodes of Season Four, I'm not counting it because it aired as a movie. If I was, it would definitely be on the list. I also lied, I guess it turned out to be 13 instead of 10. I think the only ones that might be a bit of a stretch would be The Hand of God, The Captain's Hand, and Hero. They're on my list because I've always thought BSG was at its best when the military/"aircraft carrier in space" nature of the show was at the forefront. These three episodes may not have been particularly noteworthy from a strictly critical perspective, but they got into aspects of the military side of the show that I enjoyed.

I should note that I had little trouble picking out the best episodes from season 3 (easily the weakest season of the show) and that I probably had the most trouble with season 4, primarily for two reasons. Number one, I've watched the episodes of seasons 1 and 2 many more times and have a better feel for which ones I particularly enjoy. Number two (and more importantly), season 4 has been rather mundane, in a good way. Where season 3 was just dumb (Helo stopping the murderous doctor from slaughtering the religious crazies? Really?) season 4 has been solid (even the Demetrius storyline wasn't that bad) although not many episodes really stood out, excepting of course the ones I selected.