Don’t read past the jump if you’re not interested in discussing the last couple Battlestar: Galactica episodes.Via Robert Farley, Jonah Goldberg makes a very good point — credit where it’s due, yeah? — about Tom Zarek’s failed coup:

The brilliance of Zarek’s night of the long knives was that he understood better than anyone what they were doing. He was the consummate revolutionary and former terrorist, who understood at every step that victory mattered more than anything else (note: as a moral matter, I think this is all nuts) because he day dreamed about power while pretending to be a democrat. What I like about the characters on BSG is that they are flawed, deeply flawed, sometimes idiotically flawed. The notion that  Zarek wouldn’t cross that line stems from a misguided belief that people with good intentions don’t end up doing terrible evil.

Indeed. The most riveting parts of the coup were the ones where Zarek grows impatient with Gaeta’s sentimentality. Is Gaeta willing to do what’s necessary or isn’t he? Indeed, the relationship between Adama and Zarek — A and Z, get it? — is one of the best parts of the series, because they mirror each other so well: both consider themselves to be men of action willing to do what others won’t for the security of the fleet. Both take an entirely transactional view of the law (hence Adama’s season-two coup; the plot device with his estrangement from his lawyer father). And both prefer to misunderstand the other as being motivated entirely by personal aggrandizement rather than face the deeper, mirrored truth about themselves.

Perhaps one of the smartest moves the BS:G writers made was to not to align Zarek with the Cylons, like that odd cult of fellow-travelers did in Season Two. But in the episode when we meet Zarek, leading the Astral Queen prison break, he gives a brief soliloquy about how without free will "we’re no different" than the Cylons. Rather than try to cut a deal for himself with the occupiers on New Caprica, he lands in prison, slated for execution next to Laura Roslin. He works with the Roslin administration and the Quorum, even after Lee outfoxes him to become interim president, and his breaking point — back to the old ways, as it were — comes when the fleet is ready to embrace the alliance. The easier read on Zarek is that the Cylons are just an opportunity for him to take what he’s always wanted. But Zarek’s integrity is integral to his self-regard, which is exactly how Adama is able to pressure him with the faked allegations that he’s corrupt. He’s a true zealot, a perfect left-wing demagogue, incapable of separating himself from The Cause.

Meanwhile, Rob thinks that Zarek murdered the Quorum too early. That seems to miss the point though. He was consolidating control, and sending a message to sweet-like-licorice Gaeta as well. 

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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