Saturday, August 2, 2014

31 Day Battlestar Galactica Challenge, Day 2: Favorite Female Character

From the time that she showed up to manipulate Helo Agathon while he was trapped on a nuked Caprica, I was intrigued where the writers would go with Caprica-Eight, who would then go on to become Sharon "Athena" Agathon. So far, we hadn't seen much individuality in the Cylons, at least in terms of within the groups of the different models: Twos (Leoben) were almost always manipulative, Fives (Doral) were militant believers in the destruction of humanity, and Sixes* were infiltrators using their sexual prowess. But then this new Sharon came around and turned everything on its head.

Lt. Sharon "Athena" Agathon in "Sine Qua Non"
Played by Grace Park
Individuality and humanity are Athena's themes throughout BSG. Not only is she trying to prove to the rest of the humans in the fleet that she is her own person - and that she is, indeed, a person - she has to prove it to herself. Her romance with Helo definitely plays a part here, since he is the reason she decides to defect to the Galactica, knowing full well that she would be suspect. The depth to which this goes eludes her, as she seems surprised that they see her as a thing, a tool to be used until they can discard her, but it doesn't deter her in any way. She even refuses to help her fellow Eights, saying that until they learn to be people, individuals with their own desires, and to be steadfast in their convictions, they will be nothing more than they are.

Why Athena chose this path sometimes baffles me. Why she feels the need to be included in a group that detests her makes no sense, contrasting Boomer's eventual decision to accept her role as a Cylon - although she initially has problems with it, of course - more understandable. Both are chained, both are beaten and ridiculed, both are in love with human men (well, both Boomer and Athena thought that the Chief was human), both end up integrating into their respective societies ... and yet they opt for different sides, each with her own rationale. It's what makes them exceptional in their group: the others seem to want to belong to something but are more akin to fair-weather friends, altering their allegiance to whomever benefits them at the time. She's such a strong person, stronger than most people in the Colonial Fleet, enough so that Adama starts seeking out her advice on matters, starting with their discussion on why the Cylons hate humanity so much. And despite explaining that his speech in the miniseries about humanity being a flawed creation that hadn't proven as to why they should be saved, she still maintains her desire to be one of them. That's either incredibly misguided or a sign that she believes that, yes, humanity does deserve to continue.

The romance between Athena and Helo - and the result of their union, Hera** - reminds me of Saga, with two people on opposing sides falling in love and producing a child that threatens the status quo. In Saga, the people of Landfall and of Wreath consider Marko and Alana's baby to be a harbinger of the end of this war that has benefited them in the long run. They don't want to destroy the little girl, but they don't want everyone to know that the fighting does not have to continue. Roslin makes a similar choice: she fakes the Hera's death and then gives her to a caretaker. The Cylons, on the other hand, view Hera as a miracle of God and seek to kidnap her for study, since Cylon procreation has eluded them as of yet. Hera, a product of love and acceptance, becomes the solution to the struggle, and Athena, being her mother or not, believes in protecting her, even if it lands her in the brig.

While rewatching the series, Athena's the real reason that the fleet wasn't destroyed, which wasn't really something I'd considered on its first run. I mean, I'd seen the episode where she sends the virus planted by the Cylons right back at approaching Raiders, and it is only through her that the Colonials are able to conduct a rescue of the humans marooned on Caprica, but it still kind of surprised me. Maybe because it had been several years since watching the show, but I was inspired by her sacrifices and trust that, someday, she would be accepted and respected. Seeing Hot Dog provide her the call sign of "Athena" brought tears to my eyes, and even the other silly options - "Chrome-Dome," for example - made me realize that she had made it. Of course, she faces plenty of other problems throughout the rest of the season - her daughter being kidnapped like every five seconds, finding out her husband slept with Boomer thinking that she was Athena, being incarcerated during the mutiny, etc. - but ultimately, she becomes one of the ancestors to all of the new human race on the unnamed planet (Earth). Not a shabby ending for a woman trying to assert her own personhood, if I do say so myself.

* As the show continues, we see that the Sixes are more varied than their counterparts. They tend to show wide ranges of emotion, depending on who and what they are.
** Oddly enough, both of the children's names start with an H. Hazel in Saga, and Hera in BSG. Coincidence??? Yeah, probably.

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