Superior. After the let-down that was Revelations, this episode absolutely soared, and reminded us again why this is a great show. The series' two best writers, Bradley Thomspon and David Weddle, wrote this episode based upon a Ron Moore story. It's almost hard to describe just how good this episode was and how many orders of magnitude it was better than Revelations. Perhaps that was the intent with what was originally intended as a two-part episode ... the windup and the punch. What a punch. What a series of punches.
[Review amended - see below]
[Side-note: SciFi finally figured out how to tease Battlestar, as it turns out most of their promos and "clues" these past weeks and months were amalgams - snippets of images and sounds and dialog that did not match up - so they actually threw you off the trail but kept you interested. It's about time. They also finally realized it's better to run the eps online after the air on the telly]
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Fans of the show have already watched the episode and if you haven't you can catch it here on Hulu. I won't give the usual blow-by-blow account of the episode because it's simply better to watch it and absorb it. I'll highlight its special moments and single out a few actors for their superior work.
Mary McDonnell continues to amaze - like a world-class athlete, you find yourself asking while you watch her - how is it possible to do that? Kandyse McClure was simply amazing - her best performance in her most meaningful moments as Dualla. Touchingly written, beautifully acted. The perfect end for her character. Michael Hogan was stellar as Tigh, as always, and is becoming grounded again as the character we knew and loved from the beginning. The scene I feared would be a stupid mano-o-mano redux with Adama and Tigh was instead informed with real feeling and was transformative for both characters. Michael Trucco got to show new colors in his role as Anders as a flashback unleashed a different side to his character.
Fortunately we were spared the Baltar messiah subplot this episode and Gaeta's grinding and growing hatred for the Cylons simmered at just the right level (and the webisodes are most informative in fleshing out that backstory - if not all that entertaining). The tone of this episode is what was remarkable - it found that sweet spot on the tennis racket for maximum control and placement and power. Callum Keith Rennie was especially good this episode - and his surprise at finding the original Kara's body with the clone Kara was chilling. The scene I feared most - D'Anna's decision to remain on cinder Earth played out very well: she did what I had hoped the Cylons would attempt - to break the cycle of repetition - with her self-sacrifice ... and she foreshadowed the coming major conflict with the Cavil forces. I loved the D'Anna character and will miss Lucy Lawless doing terrific work in the part, but it was well written and works.
I was very down on Ellen as the Final Cylon but as written in this episode it works - the backstory of the Final Five in their earlier lives 2000 years ago on Earth in its pre-cinder days works. I still think a different story direction which would have had Baltar or Roslin as the 5th would have carried more weight, but I'll go with this Ellen choice for now - I'm sold so far.
There is a lot to resolve and it will be very interesting to see how they do it: who made the Kara clone and why? The Hybrid? Why is that particular place so important - Tory, Tyrol, Tigh and Anders all remembered their earlier lives in that specific place and Kara's burned out Viper and dead body were not too far off walking distance. The subplot with the Centurion artifacts (of a different type) and human bones which turned out to be Cylon was intriguing.
The malaise and bitterness which descended upon the people - as represented by slackers and fighters and graffiti on the Galactica worked and felt real. The crushed hopes were made manifest and one of my least favorite actors on the show, Jamie Bamber, delivered his best work this episode as well - with depth and nuance to his performance in his scenes with Kandyse McClure.
Wonderful episode. Hopefully this high standard will be matched in several more. Kudos also to composer Bear McCreary, who's score for this ep was perfectly restrained and evocative.
Amendment: Now that hours have passed and the entertainment value of the ep has worn off I am struck by how the reveal of Ellen as the Final Cylon completely re-frames the story. Elements that seemed so important now seem insignificant or diminished. All this hoo-ha about the Final Five pretty much evaporates in terms of their religious significance to the Cylons - in particular their mystical presence in the Opera House visions. The babbling of the Hybrid - of what value is it now? Cavil may be a menacing presence but he now operates from a position of ignorance yet we are told he is the "keeper of the keys." Weaving the story threads together into a cohesive whole that is elegant and beautiful will be quite a feat.