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Thoughts On the BSG Episode, “Maelstrom”

Big frakkin’ spoilers ahoy. Proceed no further unless you’ve seen the latest BSG episode, or you don’t mind be spoiled. You have been warned.

So after watching the latest episode of BSG, Maelstrom,, I was left wondering, “What? Why?”.

What is Starbuck’s destiny? Leoben keeps referring to it and egging her on to find out what it is and to not fear death. But he never explains what her destiny is exactly. This makes Starbuck’s actions all that more selfish and ignoble.

Why did she kill herself? And make no mistake, in this article on Entertainment Weekly, on of the commenters states that Moore says in the podcast for this ep that Moore hints that Kara really dies, but that more is in store for her. This supposed destiny I guess. What ruined the episode for me was the, given the lack of information, apparent senseless suicide. We don’t know what her destiny is. I’m not sure Starbuck knows either. So we’re left with concluding that Starbuck killed herself to prove to herself that she wasn’t afraid of death. Well, that’ll show death! Or possibly she just couldn’t handle being the ‘screwup’ and decided to quit. This isn’t heroic, its selfish surrender. Again, more info about her destiny would have cleared up the doubts about Starbuck’s actions, but we don’t get that.

As far as Starbuck returning, I fully expect to see her again. I’m sure Moore will pull some hoary old SF cliche out his hat, something like a Starbuck clone (remember, the Cylons have some of her eggs and one would guess some of her DNA). Maybe Moore has some theological reason and plan for Starbuck’s death. I hope so. But we’d better get something approaching answers rather quickly. I don’t think BSG can keep going with out Starbuck, in some form. Just please don’t let it be as a clone or as a Cylon.

Oh, and one more thought. This episode felt rushed, in the sense that the producers were thinking, “Crap, we need something to increase ratings. I know, let’s off Starbuck!”. This ties in with the almost complete lack of build up to this episode. Kara just seemed to be Kara, and then she goes off the deep end. It felt like desperation on the part of the creators. But that could be just me…

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

9 Comments on Thoughts On the BSG Episode, “Maelstrom”

  1. After passing on the show for a couple of weeks, I decided to tune in and watch this “must see” episode.

    I agree, JP. It sucked. Big Time. Maybe I’m stating the obvious (or missing it as an impossibility) but it seems like Kara is one of the Cylons, no? Leoben was guiding her to “other side” (i.e. Cylon rebirth) so I fully expected her to wake up inside the regeneration tank.

    The bottom line is this show has now entirely lost me after 2 fine seasons. It’s funny, I did a total 180 on both BSG (which I used to love and now am officially giving up) and Heroes (which originally annoyed me and now rocks — mostly).

  2. Fred Kiesche // March 7, 2007 at 8:42 am //

    I’m beginning to wonder if “everybody is a Cylon” is the ultimate backdrop to the show. If that’s the case, I’m otta here!


  3. JP, you hit the nail on the head:

    “This isn’t heroic, its selfish surrender.”

    Absolutely spot on. We want to see heroes, not victims, and not quitters (or quitter victims, if there are such things).

  4. Not that I want to play devil’s advocate here, but isn’t it quite possible that the stress of everything these folks have been through that sometimes suicide (while ignoble) is the only option they feel they have? I won’t claim it to be a great way out, but maybe she was not cut out to be “heroic”. I saw parts of this episode and I always though Kara was not quite wound tight enough. I also just finished World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and the stories there were all about desperation and how so many folks would just “quit”.

    As to BSG sucking, I cannot comment on that since I have not watched the show very much lately. I think the biggest problem was that the first season was so good and then the writers started to get “creative” – maybe that is not the proper word, but now they are scrambling to regain viewers. I know they are supposed to have a show outline that documents where they are going, but I wonder if they had it planned out this far…

  5. espedair // March 7, 2007 at 12:40 pm //

    Listen to Ron Moores podcast about the show. It makes a lot more sense then. Also this show is constantly challanging the ‘norms’ for episodic tv. I mean we all hate it when our fave character dies, but in life and espeically war these things do happen. I was upset they killed her but she is only 1 character and her death frames the way for lots of changes ahead I think, heading into the last series.

    It will work out. After all as the credits say ‘they have a plan’

  6. I’m not upset they killed her, just the way the went about doing it. I felt they did a poor job of setting up Starbuck’s story in the preceding episodes and, instead, crammed everything into one episode. It felt like a rush to kill Starbuck in an attempt to garner ratings.

    And I still don’t think BSG sucks, its just not as good the first season. I think they’ve gone away from what worked then (tense, taught episodes where each one was a battle for survival) to the much more introspective ones we have now. A risk, yes, but the show is suffering for it. I guess that’s what happens when you become successful and suddenly don’t have an ‘end’ date, just some ambiguous time called ‘the final episode’. Note that LOST suffers from this as well.

  7. Jeff VanderMeer // March 7, 2007 at 3:37 pm //

    Ann and I have stopped watching it. Just lost interest. And I used to love it.

    Jeff V

  8. dingosatemybaby // March 10, 2007 at 10:32 am //

    My wife was never a sci-fi person until BSG came along and I tricked her into watching an episode with me waaaay back. It turned into a Friday night ritual date night for us, and both of us looked forward to riveting episodes every week.

    Maybe thats the problem – the writers cant top S1 and almost all of S2. After a couple of episodes this season though, she gave up. I’m still hanging in there, but I’m really disappointed with the new direction that BSG and most of the rest of television is going these days (make it up as you go and act like you have an enormous backstory mythology, then spoonfeed viewers with only enough info to force them to watch next week).

    The only show that doesnt seem to have fallen prey to this IMHO is Heroes. The last few eps of that have been kick-ass.

    Anyway this episode sucked. It made no sense whatsoever. I went and listened to Moore’s podcast like I do each week hoping that he’d illuminate what I’d so obviously missed. I disagree with one of the other posters here – it still makes no sense. All he kept saying in the podcast was that she had a ‘special destiny’ and he tried to explain it away but I kept saying ot myself “What special destiny? To explode?”

    Moore makes a comment in the podcast how nice it is now that they are in the 3rd season that he doesnt have to be so hands on with the writing. Unfortunately for all of the fans, it shows.

  9. I think Moore and his writers have put a lot of thought into the presentation of Starbuck’s suicide. Putting aside speculations about her supposed “destiny”, the writers have deliberately tackled the very human tragedy of suicide head-on with this episode as part of their efforts to create and develope realistic characters and a believable story line.

    Starbuck’s decision to kill herself came as no surprise. The story lines have been building her death by suicide as a real possibility since the beginning. Starbuck has displayed many signs of someone who is at risk of suicide including erratic behaviour and mood swings, increased use of alcohol, depression, sense of worthlessness (the “screwup”), agression, giving things away (the statue of Athena given to Adama shortly before her death), isolation from loved ones, and previous attempts (the dual with “Scar” was clearly more than just an enemy threat elimination or a competition with Kat to be the top gun). Let’s not forget also that we’ve been told she has a history of childhood physical and emotional abuse (Leoben’s cross examination in the interrogation room and the doctor Cylon’s medical analysis on the Caprica “farm”) which she constantly surpresses. And then there’s the added stress of the annihilation of the Colonies and possible accompanying survivors’ guilt, imprisonment and personal violation on the “farm”, imprisonment and psychological torture on New Caprica, the loss of Apollo as a potential lover (during the conversation in the hanger where Lee says things with Dee are great, Kara looks like she’s trying to hide the fact that she feels like she’s been kicked in the gut), and of course, frequent, intense battle with the enemy. The manipulations of the apparent Leoben who appeared to her in the cockpit were just the last straw. The writers have been showing us a very fragile, much pained Kara Thrace for a long time.

    Given this long history of building stressors, the pacing of the episode was entirely appropriate. Once Starbuck began moving in the direction of suicide, things proceeded very quickly. The pacing also puts the audience in the position of many of her friends who may not have seen the suicide coming, or who may not have suspected that she was hurting that much and who are thus all the more shocked at the apparent suddeness of the death.

    As to comments to the effect that Starbuck’s actions are “selfish and ignoble” or that she is a “quitter”, while these are commonly-held opinions about suicide, it’s important to understand that suicide is not about death, it’s about finding a way out of pain. People who attempt or complete suicide are in so much emotional pain that they’re desperate to rid themselves of it and they can’t see any other way out. This is why most people who die by suicide send some kind of warning first – at some level they’re looking for another option that they can’t see. The problem is whether others understand the warning in time, whether they can get the person to help, or whether they see the warning at all. In Starbuck’s case, Helo seemed to have some sense that she needed help (he suggests she see the psychiatrist he’s taking Hera to) though he didn’t see the imminence of the danger. When Kara gives the Athena statue to Adama, that’s a warning too, Adama just doesn’t see it, especially given Starbuck’s quick shift from being downcast to buoyant. In this sense, Starbuck was trying, on some level, right up until she got in the cockpit, to get help. In real life, of those who die by suicide, some are people who we call heroes – police officers, members of the military, firefighters – people under increadible stress, usually on a daily basis. While we, as survivors, are upset when a person kills him/her self, it’s important to remember that everyone, including our heroes, has different tolerances for stresses and different degrees of support to overcome those stresses. Moore and his writers have realized this, and in presenting Starbuck as someone in a highly stressful job who dies by suicide, they have created a painfully human character who has reached her limit, doesn’t feel she can talk about it, and can’t see another way out.

    In the end, I think Moore and his writers are to be praised for tackling the issue of suicide in “Maelstrom”. They presented Starbuck as a real human being struggling with, and ultimately overwhelmed by, real problems. In dealing with the subject, they have not glorified her death – the crew (even Tye, who’s come to blows with Kara) are visibly shaken and grieving, and whatever this “destiny” alluded to is, the fact that it’s pushed on Starbuck by Leoben in a time of emotional fragility should make us highly suspicious. We may ask, what is this supposed “destiny”, but ultimately, does that make any difference to grieving shipmates who have just lost a friend? In dealing with suicide on BSG, Moore is helping to remove the stigma our culture has placed on its discussion. By talking about the causes and effects of suicide, we become more aware of the problem and are in a better position to stop it. We can reach out to others and offer to help them help themselves overcome these feelings. To that end, SF Signal is to be credited too for bringing this discussion into the open.

    If anyone reading this thread is considering suicide, remember that you can get help to overcome these feelings; there are people out there who will listen to you and who will support you and help you explore other options. If you need help, call your local distress line/crisis centre, speak with your doctor, a counsellor or someone you can trust to help you get to safety. If you are a person who is worried a friend or relative may be suicidal, talk with them, ask them if they are thinking of killing themselves, listen to them without judging them, get them to help (such as a doctor or counsellor) who can help them overcome these feelings, do not leave them alone without making sure they have help, and you can also call a distress line/crisis centre for assistance.

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