One of the great things about Ronald D. Moore’s reimagining of Battlestar Galactica was that it wasn’t just a typical space opera. Sure, there were lots of spaceship battles and alien robots and things of that nature, but it’s also full of political intrigue, social commentary, relationship issues, and wartime spying. One thing it should never have been, though, is a murder procedural or a gangland drama. Oh, GODS, should it not be that. But the 14th episode of Season 2, “Black Market,” attempted both and failed all kinds of miserably. But, hey, it does give Lee Adama an excuse to be dour and contemplative for a whole episode; that never happened…
As much as the writers tried, I just never cared very much about Lee Adama as a character. He was generally pretty whiny and misanthropic and was far less interesting than just about any of the other crew members of Galactica, or any of the political or resistance people on board any of the ships. Even as early as the second season, each character proved to be more interesting than Apollo, which is probably why the writers felt like they had to give him a whole episode where he’s the main character and he has anything approaching a storyline of his own. Unfortunately, they give him a story that flatly doesn’t fit into the Galactica formula, as broad as it is, and tries to be way too gritty for this show.
We begin with Lee dealing with his near-death experience from the previous episode. He’s begun sleeping with a prostitute named Shevon aboard the Cloud 9, who reminds him of his dead pregnant fiancé who died during the Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies. Shevon also has a young daughter named Paya to whom Lee gives presents and things. Shevon seems to like Lee but still makes him pay for it, and double because he spent the night. It’s a super healthy relationship, the whole thing, and it means Lee’s shunning his budding romance with Dee. Remember that incredible love story for the ages? So, basically, Lee’s life is going incredibly well so far.
Meanwhile, President Roslin is trying to crack down hard on black market trading, which has been taking medicine and food away from people who need it. Commander Fisk, newly-commissioned CO of the Pegasus, says he’s all for this, but he’s secretly a key player in the black market, which he discusses with Vice President Gaius Baltar following their meeting. Later, Fisk is garroted in his quarters and a gold ingot is shoved in his mouth, a message to someone from a vicious gangster we never knew about, played by guest star Bill Duke. Roslin asks Bill Adama to have someone look into this murder quietly, and Adama chooses his son to take point on the investigation, hopefully to restore some of the trust they once had.
Lee very quickly, and with only the tiniest bit of investigating, discovers that both Baltar and Colonel Saul Tigh were involved in Fisk’s trading activities: Baltar for medical supplies (and the backbone he gets when talking to Head Six), and Tigh for fresher food and the good things in life for his wife, Ellen Tigh. Turns out the black market is actually pretty integral to a lot of people’s well-being, it’s just wholly unmonitored and dangerous if the commander of a cruiser can get murdered just like that. Roslin finds out about Baltar’s activities and asks him to resign, which he firmly denies, stating that he’s never wanted to be Vice President more than in this moment. While the Baltar scenes aren’t really important to the episode, I’m mentioning them because they’re a million times more compelling than anything else.
Shevon calls Lee with an emergency and he goes rushing to the Cloud Nine to help, only to find that the gangster has the drop on all of them, having smacked Shevon but good. The gangster has his man put the garrote around Lee’s neck and tells him that his investigation needs to stop. Lee gets knocked out, and when he awakens, he finds Shevon and Paya gone and the hitman dead with a bullet wound in the head, giving the impression that Lee must have killed him in self-defense after finding the real killer. Everybody’s favorite criminal turned resistance leader turned council member Tom Zarek arrives and tells Lee that he had nothing to do with Fisk’s operation, and that the assassin’s corpse is meant to be a message that everything’s good. Lee won’t be dissuaded, though, and Zarek eventually tells him that the gangster he’s looking for is named Phelan.
Aboard Phelan’s ship, Lee discovers that the black market is hoarding antibiotics and is also trafficking children, one of which Paya has become. This will not stand, and Lee goes into the main bar area to confront the criminal. Phelan, who has Shevon with him, tells him he needs to leave and everything will be okay, but Lee counters that Phelan has to let Shevon and Paya go, stop trafficking children, and then he and his men will escape with their lives. This doesn’t work for Phelan, of course, who explains that Paya has been paid for all fair and square, indicating that Shevon sold her to Phelan outright. While one of Phelan’s men pulls a gun, Lee is able to take the gun and incapacitate the thug. He points the gun at Phelan who is certain Lee won’t fire, which is about the dumbest thing anyone who wants to remain alive can say to someone. Of course Lee fires, killing Phelan. He then tells the other criminals their activities can continue, but with restrictions, because society needs the black market to survive.
Lee tells his father and the president about what he’s done. Roslin isn’t happy and wants the black market to end, but Adama says he put Lee in charge and will stand by his decision. Lee later goes to Shevon who tells him that they can’t see each other anymore, and that she’ll never be his dead fiance, nor will Paya ever be his daughter. All alone, and without even Dee to flirt with, Lee Adama is back to being a sadsack, just as he always was.
UUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHH who cares?!?!?!?! Lee Adama is such a boring, lifeless character, and this episode really exemplifies that. They tried to make him the roguish bad boy after he was the goody-two-shoes the first season and it just doesn’t work. He’s a boy scout! Leave the badassery to Starbuck, who isn’t even in this episode at all. And how many times are we going to see the flashback to his fiance? If you answered “a billion” then you are correct. Battlestar Galactica isn’t and shouldn’t attempt to be a cop drama, but it tried for this glorious failure. And the show had some nice fat turkeys in its history, but very few were as superfluous or as boring as this one.