‘Battlestar Galactica’: Look Out for Private Pyle

"Seriously, does anyone else smell earth?" Photo: Courtesy of Sci Fi

There are flashier, more compelling characters on Battlestar, but deep down, the one we most admire is Helo. Noble, loyal, and levelheaded no matter the latest emotional ringer he’s being put though, he’s a good guy who’d make a great leader, except he doesn’t have the ego for it — which, of course, only makes him more appealing.

His steely calm was put to the test in “The Road Less Traveled,” trapped as he was between the increasingly kooky Starbuck and his concerned Demetrius crewmates who wanted to remove her from command. This season has been pitched a little too high emotionally, so it was a relief to watch Tahmoh Penikett (who plays Helo) deliver another terrifically modulated performance, balancing Starbuck’s nuttiness, the crew’s paranoia, and his own doubts about the wisdom of their wild-goose chase to find Earth. The episode was all about how people manage to maintain their basic decency in impossible situations, so who better to shine than the quietly heroic Helo?

They Have a Plan
After a few episodes of sitting around, Baltar got back to doing what he does best: making us wonder just what the frak he’s up to. The sincerity of his “one God” message still seems doubtful — isn’t he just doing it for the attention and for another chance to make Roslin’s life miserable? But just when we were ready to write off his snake-oil-salesman routine, he reached out to Chief, who was seriously threatening to go Private Pyle on us with his shaved head and suicidal manner. Their scene in Chief’s quarters was so affecting that it gave us pause: Was Baltar’s genuine display of humility and compassion toward a man who hates him just an act? And by this point, does Baltar even know when he’s acting?

Love Boat Galactica
Friday’s episode brought the return of Starbuck’s probable true love: Leoben, a.k.a. Number Two. Struggle as Anders and Lee might to win her heart, what they don’t get is that the least effective strategy for trying to make her happy is … trying to make her happy. Number Two’s style of wooing is a clever combination of cocky certainty in their compatibility and a sly ability to declaw her by preying on insecurities. Previously, he’s pounced on Starbuck’s complicated relationship with her abusive mother and manipulated her buried maternal instinct by tricking her into thinking they’d had a child while she was imprisoned on New Caprica. And yet, as she lurches closer to the abyss, he seems to be the one person who can pull her back with his vague promises about helping her discover her destiny. Even more troubling, he seems like he really cares for her. No wonder we relate to Helo: He’s one of the few characters we know we can still trust. —Tim Grierson