It is an inevitable fact that episode quality will vary over the course of a show’s run. Some episodes will be nothing short of brilliant, some will be somewhere on the not very good to horrible spectrum depending on the show, others will fall in the space in between good and bad. Then there are the polarizing episodes – the ones you either love or hate because there is no middle ground. They are usually the ones that feature some sort of risk, whether it be narrative, related to the structure of the story, or focusing on a controversial character. Whatever the cause, they result in strong reactions from both parties.
I’ve encountered many such episodes in my TV watching history, from Breaking Bad’s “The Fly” to The West Wing’s “The Debate” to the entire 6th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But there is none of these polarizing episodes that I love quite as much as I love Battlestar Galactica’s “Unfinished Business”.
As I demonstrated last week, I like Battlestar Galactica when it is breaking my heart. Katee Sackhoff in particular is good at making me hurt with her acting. Therefore, it is not too surprising that I love this episode since emotional pain is the theme of this bottle episode. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not complete sadness. There is quite the adorable scene of Bill Adama and Laura Roslin being cute and happy while getting high together. But mostly it’s just sadness.
For some people, the structure of the episode didn’t work. The show basically took a break from the main narrative to do a bottle episode centered around 2 boxing matches with some things that happened in the break between seasons two and three. I can see why that would be unappealing to some. For others, I think the problem was that the episode spent a lot of time on issues related to the Love Square of Doom and if that story wasn’t working for you already, this episode really wasn’t going to be fun for you to watch.
While both of those are legitimate issues, the use of the Kara/Lee flashbacks in juxtaposition with their boxing match plus Bear McCreary’s score all came together so that I was just a pile of emotions at the end. I will admit that within the truly terrible and sad Love Square, I am a Kara and Lee shipper so the flashbacks were both happier and more heartbreaking for me.
Kara and Lee do not make a functional couple, as this episode illustrates. There is so much baggage between them, even leaving out the entirety of this episode, that in combination with their individual issues it’s probably more than any one relationship can stand. They do make a compelling couple though because they are connected and have that history and baggage that others can’t touch. They may love other people but they will always find their way back to each other because they can’t and don’t want to stay away. They are the couple that has the promise of something beautiful but it’s always just a little out of their grasp. They are the couple who makes up from a fight that was based on Kara getting scared and running away from the promise of Lee by beating the hell out of each other until neither can do anything but cling to the other for support.
I don’t think there is anything in this episode that is sadder than the look on Dee’s face during this scene. No one deserves what Lee and Kara put her through emotionally. It would be hard to know that you’re not the only woman your husband loves. It would be even harder to watch it. Lee’s world got put back together by making up with Kara. Things were right again for both of them and that was clear to everyone who was still around.
I love how emotional this episode makes me. Very little of it is happy emotion, but it just creates this wave of intense emotion in me that I just love. I want that level of emotional intensity in my TV and this episode delivers perfectly.
What are some polarizing episodes/shows/seasons that you love? Or if you can’t think of one of those, what show/episode/character do you love that everyone else dislikes?