Sunday, August 3, 2014

31 Day Battlestar Galactica Challenge, Day 3: Favorite Male Character

At first, I thought that this was going to be difficult because there are two male characters on Battlestar Galactica that I adore: Chief Galen Tyrol and Lt. Karl "Helo" Agathon. But as I started my annual rewatch of the series, I made up my mind pretty quickly on the subject.

Chief Galen Tyrol
Via BBC America
I am willing to say that a good portion of my love for Tyrol comes from the actor, Aaron Douglas, who has such a natural approach to acting, but really, the character is just so wonderful. He's a reluctant yet effective leader, both aboard the Galactica, as a the head of a union* down on New Caprica, and as a high ranking member of the resistance during the Cylon occupation of New Caprica. His compassion for his crewmates is seen as early on as the miniseries, where he is distraught over the death of 85 of his men; he lashes out about Col. Saul Tigh's decision to Com. Adama, who is quick to put him in his place, saying that he would have made the same choice to close off the damaged area of the ship, even if it meant that close to 100 people would lose their lives. This difficulty in detaching from those under his command continues throughout the rest of the series and is probably something that I would have a problem with if I were in his position.

His character arc - from knuckle-dragger boss to father (in theory) to one of the Final Five - is probably one of my favorites; it's so frakking (ha) dynamic, but the core of who he is doesn't change. That's what makes him so appealing to me (it's also why Helo is my second favorite male character). He knows who he is, no matter what he is. This doesn't prevent him from making mistakes, of course. His involvement with the Death Jury in Season Three bothered me, although it made sense, as he was prominent in the resistance, and I was immensely thankful when he ended the witch hunt after Gaeta was almost airlocked.

His relationships with the rest of the crew is also another major part of why I love Tyrol so much. The admiration he has for Com. Adama in the miniseries is played so perfectly against the barely masked, long-standing hatred that Lee Adama has for his father. He even shows signs of modeling his "tough love but be cool most of the time" attitude he takes with his subordinates after the commander. He works well with Starbuck and even helps her after she injures her leg back in "Act of Contrition," letting her work on the Cylon Raider she commandeered to escape and return to the colonial fleet (even though it was partly to his own benefit, as he just could not get the damned thing to work) as a form of physical and mental rehabilitation. After pretending to chastise Socinus, Jammer, and Cally for rigging a distillery in secret, he lets them know that he'll help them learn to do it correctly, later referring to them as, "Children."

Which brings us to Sharon "Boomer" Valerii. Sigh. There is just so much here that I could probably write a dissertation, but I won't. I love seeing them together in the first season; the tenderness that Tyrol has when he's alone with Boomer is just so sweet, which only makes the demise of their relationship that much harder to witness. Watching the storm of emotion when Caprica-Sharon comes on board, pregnant with Helo's child, just killed me. And it's not like he ever forgets that love that he had for Boomer. It clouds so many more of his decisions, particularly when Boomer, resurrected, kidnaps Hera, using Tyrol's feelings for her to her advantage.

As far as his relationship with Cally goes, I see that as one of the more tragic stories throughout the series. Even from the beginning, it was obvious that he viewed her more as a little sister than a possible romantic partner, and Cally mooning after him like a lovesick puppy, however realistic it might have been, just made their pairing all the more sad. The beginning of their romance was unfortunate, although I'm not sure it's as problematic as it's been made out to be. Tyrol was woken from a nightmare and, in his stupor, violently beat Cally, but he felt wretched afterward, even going as far as seeking religious counsel for his nightmares of committing suicide. Granted, Cally's decision to marry him later on was something I wouldn't have done**, but it fits with her character, someone who is blinded by her crush on the Chief. What makes the whole thing even more depressing is that their entire relationship is built upon lies. Cally tells herself that her love for Tyrol is strong enough to sustain them, and, only after Tory*** sends Cally out of the airlock, does Tyrol admit to Adama that he settled for Cally after his true love, Boomer, was revealed to be a Cylon (oh, irony). The only physical thing that keeps them together is their son, Nicholas, and even that is a lie, since the child's real father is Hot Dog (probably my favorite Viper pilot, by the way). Her death actually made me cry, because, in his own way, Galen really did love her; it was more of a platonic love, sure, but it didn't diminish the anguish he felt when he found out that she had died. Also, one of the most gratifying sequences was at the end of the series, where Tyrol discovers that it was Tory who killed Cally, and he strangles her out of righteous anger.

Despite knowing who he is as a person, Tyrol still has the most difficulty adjusting into his role as a Final Five Cylon. As such, at the very end of the series, makes the decision to depart from the rest of the colonials and Cylons. I think that because he had such a firm knowledge of who he was that it's that much more difficult for him: everything that he built (or that was built for him) was now hanging in the balance. Unlike Tigh, who had Ellen, Ellen, who had Tigh, Anders, who was essentially a zombie, oddly had Starbuck (who had told him before that she would shoot him right between the eyes if she found out he was a Cylon), and Tory, who embraced her inner evil like nobody's business, Tyrol didn't really have anyone. Boomer (killed by Athena), Cally (killed by Tory), and Nicholas (not actually his son) are taken from him, his rank within the fleet is stripped from him following his connection to Boomer escaping with Hera, so he has no anchor, nothing on which he can rely - a sad notion, really, considering what an anchor he was for the general populace throughout most of the series. To go through a transition like that without at least something there for you is a truly difficult, if not nearly impossible venture, save for the strongest of people. He tries his best, of course, even acting as an intermediary between the humans and Cylons, but it's just not enough.

Much like most (if not all) of Battlestar Galactica's characters, Galen Tyrol's story is a bittersweet one. I have to credit Aaron Douglas again here because, due to his portrayal of the character, he was kept on the series**** and was developed into a very complex person who was just trying to figure out his role in this new society. He saw his world go from safe to exceptionally dangerous to somewhat familiar then to brand new territory, both in a personal and a literal sense. This kind of characterization is something that I hope I can achieve with my own writing, and you know what? I've got some great examples, Tyrol being one of the best+.

* Because I'm a nerd - although I don't think I need to tell any of you that - I watch all the behind-the-scenes stuff and listen to all the podcast extras on the DVDs, and apparently, the speech given by Tyrol was pretty much Mario Savio's speech from the late 1960s, and Douglas watched video of Savio giving his "gears of the machine" speech, choosing to model a lot of his gestures on Savio.
** Cristina from Grey's Anatomy dealt with this a little more realistically in her relationship with Owen, who began choking her while in one of his PTSD episodes. She was understandably afraid of him and only agrees to get back together once he makes progress in therapy. But then again, Cristina isn't Cally, so I guess the comparison is kind of moot.
*** The revelation that Tory and Tyrol were madly in love in the past really makes Tory's actions that much more sinister, as she subconciously sees Cally as competition for Tyrol. I also love that the Chief finds his and Tory's past relationship to be hilarious.
**** He originally had, like, fifteen lines in the miniseries, but Moore liked how Douglas could just ad lib lines perfectly within the character, so he expanded Tyrol's role.
+ I know I keep on bringing up my writing in my posts, particularly when I do these, but the challenges, for me, are examinations of influences of mine. To dissect them and to see what I enjoyed most (and least) about them is kind of like homework, but in a fun way.

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