Battlestar Galactica Revisited: 2.20 Lay Down Your Burdens Part 2
Ronald D Moore's re imagining of the 1970's sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica set a gold standard, both for sci-fi and TV reboots. The darker, grittier re imagining, that saw a fleet of human ships fleeing the dreaded Cylons in search of Earth, won a whole host of awards and critical acclaims over its seven-year run. With the series looking to go through another quasi-reboot under show runner Michael Lesslie, we look back at the first reboot that defined the early days of twenty-first century television. We conclude our look back at season two with Lay Down Your Burdens Part 2...
Lay Down Your Burdens Part 2 is a game changing episode of Battlestar Galactica. It's not necessarily its finest, though there is plenty to enjoy. It doesn't have quite the pace and energy of previous two parters on the show, though when it delivers on its big moments, it really delivers. With much of the set up achieved in the penultimate episode, the finale sets about tearing up everything that has been established to date.
Picking up where Lay Down Your Burdens Part 1 left of, the Cylon attack on Caprica comes to a sudden end, leaving Starbuck, her rescue party and the survivors in sudden silence. The reveal that the Cylons have upped and left is the first big surprise, ending the 'war' as quickly as it began. Naturally, the fleet is not so trusting, with Roslin noting rather pointendly that the Cylon's admittance of the mistake leaves the twelve colonies nuclear wastelands and most of humanity dead. The reveals of a second Cavill on Caprica establishes the last of the regular Cylons, with the mystery of the final five on hold until the end of season three.
There are plenty of mixed emotions in Cavill's proclamation of amnesty. Sharon, fuelled by rage over the 'death' of her baby, refuses to reveal that the Cavill on the raptor is a Cylon until he steps onboard Galactica. The pain of the events of Downloaded are far from forgotten, seemingly breaking Sharon and Helo as she withdraws permanently to her cell. But there's also plenty of joy too, with Starbuck a hero, complete with the love of her life at her side. Anders becomes a significant recurring presence on the show from this point.
With the survivors returned, attention turns to the election. Naturally there are plenty of twists and turns along with way as Baltar gains the upper edge with his decision to push for settlement on the newly discovered planet. Roslin revealing to Baltar that she knows of his association with the blond Cylon on Caprica before the attacks is a desperate gamble, one that does not pay off, forcing her to abandon democracy to save the fleet.
Tory, Dualla and Tigh engaging in tactics to steal the election is a shocking move, but Roslin admitting to Adama that she gave them their blessing is one hell of a twist. She is utterly compromised in her actions and she is powerless to stop Adama from doing to right thing and ensuring that Baltar wins the presidency. Even with her reveal to the admiral that the new president may be complicit with the Cylons, a line has to be drawn. Unfortunately it is a mistake that results in a catastrophic shift in the direction of events to come.
The tragic story of the Six tortured by Cain comes to a bleak, if inevitable end, Baltar finally indulges in a physical relationship with Six for the first time since the Cylon attack on the colonies, but this Six is so utterly broken, it's hard to know whether she finds comfort in their physical relationship, or whether it is another reminder of the horrors she endured. Her final act, using the stolen nuclear device to destroy Cloud 9 - and it seemingly hundreds , if not thousands, of people - marks the start of Baltar's presidency with a particularly dark moment; the first of many.
The cliff-hanger to season two is perhaps the hugest in the show's run. A thirty minute coda jumps forward one year to find Baltar now a drunken shadow of a man, more obsessed with sex and power than doing the right thing. Humanity has settled on New Caprica and things are tough. Tyrol is now a union leader, fighting for workers rights against the ineffectual leadership of the president, a pregnant Callie in tow. All the passion of Starbuck and Ander's romance - one she literally shoved in Apollo's face - has seemingly gone. Married on New Caprica, he is suffering with Pneumonia and Doc Cottle has run out of medicine. Her only hope is Commander Apollo of the Pegasus, who's relationship with Starbuck is broken beyond repair.
Tigh gives up his role as Adama's second in command, settling on New Caprica with Ellen, and all the hostile living conditions that come with it, while Adama himself walks the empty corridors of Galactica as the remnants of the fleet patrol humanity's new frontier. The lives of every character has changed, and not necessarily for the better. Only Roslin seems content, returning to her roots as a teacher, aided by Maya, the woman who adopted Sharon and Helo's half-Cylon child.
With enough time to establish the harsh realties of life on New Caprica, the return of the Cylons is a jaw-dropping ending. The sight of several base stars appearing above the planet - forcing the Galactica and Pegasus to flee - and Cylon troops marching through the new town, is a forbidding sight. Baltar finds himself confronted with the Six he once knew, and the Sharon who suffered so much at the hands of the Galactica crew. Their roles as new ambassadors of the Cylons is hinted with the withdrawal of the enemy from Caprica at the start of the episode and confirmed here, making season two's Downloaded more than just a peak behind the Cylons; in fact, it is an essential part of the mythology of Battlestar Galactica moving forward.
Lay Down Your Burdens Part 2 wraps up the epic second season in style, with a final act that shakes the very foundation of the show. The time jump, the change in power, the Cylon occupation of New Caprica and the struggles to escape it will shape the third season in new and unexpected ways. The show would never be the same again...