Friday, August 8, 2014

31 Day Battlestar Galactica Challenge, Day 8: Character I Loved That Everyone Else Hated

Ellen Tigh, "No Exit"
Despite being a fan of the show, I never got involved with fan forums on it or anything, so I had to go look this up online. Not surprisingly, there really wasn't a consensus on who was the Most Awful BSG Character, but I think the person who could possibly be the closest to winning that title would either be Lee or Ellen Tigh. Since I don't really have an issue with declaring Lee as The Worst, as seen in my previous post, I will say that I do get the Ellen-hate. The first time I watched "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down," I was very, very uncomfortable with the character, and as the show went on, I found myself wishing that Tigh would just divorce her or throw her out of the airlock. When Ellen was revealed to be a member of the Final Five, I was furious. For real furious. Like, screaming "What the absolute shit, Moore??" at the television. I held onto that throughout the rest of the series without any qualms. That's just not how I would have done it, you know?

Because I wanted to go into this challenge afresh, I watched all of the episodes again, and you know what? I one hundred percent love Ellen Tigh. From the first dinner she shares with Tigh, Adama, Lee, and Roslin ("Boo! Did you see their faces??") to reuniting with Saul on the new Earth, she fascinated me. First, I love that she was the one who figured out how resurrection worked. And yes, I'm bringing feminism into this. Tyrol was working tirelessly on the idea, but Ellen succeeded where he could not. Even for a show that presents its best fighter pilot as a woman, having Ellen be both intelligent and motherly was a big step forward in equality of the genders. She was both, and it wasn't ever remarked upon; it just was. Second, I understand that her relationship with Saul was a big reason as to why he drank: she slept around, deviously plotted her and his survival (mostly her own, but hey, a girl has to do what a girl has to do) using whatever means came to her, usually involving the first attribute. I'm not condoning her behavior, since it caused a lot of fucking trouble, particularly when she manipulates her husband into a power play that resulted in the death of four people. But here's the thing: this very aspect of her kept the story moving. You just knew you could count on her to raise the stakes and ardently support them with her rationale. She was doing it for them. She gave the Cylons intel to keep her Saul from being killed; she goaded him so he could assume what power she thought he (and, of course, she) deserved; she befriends Tom Zarek in an attempt to secure her place in what she considers to be the direction their society is heading. Third, her transformation into her true self, with her total memory restored, reveals her to be almost an Anti-Ellen - although she still retains her voracious sexual appetite and love of booze - one that makes decisions based upon the whole group: she refuses to give Cavil the information on how to restore resurrection and is only saved from a monstrous procedure (as punishment) by a calculating Boomer. Then, with the help of the other Final Five members, she starts to give the other Cylons the technology for resurrection in exchange for the life of Hera (and the lives of humanity), although the transfer is disconnected when Tyrol removes his hand to snap Tory's neck (thank God). It's an incredibly interesting paradox to witness. Regardless of what persona she's entertaining, she is still a major player in how things happen and when. Fourth and finally, her love of Saul is never questioned. Kind of how Head Six tells Baltar that he can screw whatever woman he wants; as long as he knows that his heart is hers, she couldn't care any less. Ellen's heart is truly Saul's, in both her human and Cylon forms. She knows this, probably subconsciously, of course, and treats her extramarital sexual liaisons as mere physical needs, even if it does drive Saul's bad habits. I've always had a hard time separating the two, sure, but it's not so for everyone else.

Basically, Ellen is one of the more self-aware individuals within the story's universe. Her motivations are clear and defined, almost to the point of predictability, and she rarely, if ever, displays any remorse for the fallout of her choices. She's amoral, sure, at least until she discovers that she's a Cylon, but that is what makes her unforgettable. And TV is where you have to be just that. If she had been a pious wife, devoted to following her husband's every order, she would have just melted into the background as a trope. Hell, they might have not even introduced her or had her killed off, to be just another plot point in Saul's life (hi, Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer!). Battlestar Galactica would have been the lesser for it.

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