As I’ve mentioned before, it’s always difficult to review only part of an episode, and in this case, it’s clear that the story was written as a two-hour block that could be split in half more or less intact. Still, the pacing is more appropriate to the longer format, so this episode suffers from the same issues as “Exodus: Part I”. It’s all leading to something massive, but this is the setup, not the true resolution. That reality leaves the episode with a distinct lack of identity.
I’ve also mentioned that Michael Taylor is a writer with a spotty track record, especially when it comes to “BSG”. This time around, I’m not sure that the fault lies with the primary writer, however. The main problem with this episode is the same issue that has plagued the third season from its inception: the lack of proper establishment of plot-critical elements.
Take, for example, the revelation that Roslin is once again suffering from cancer and using the kamala drug as a treatment. Nothing in previous episodes hinted that this was the case, so it comes across as disingenuous. In fact, it would be easy to interpret this as deception. Roslin’s demeanor after the revelation, particularly to the press, felt directed, as if meant to gain sympathy after a courtroom setback. If that were the case, then it would be easy enough to dismiss the issue.
However, Adama’s reaction to Lee’s line of questioning suggests that he knew the truth all along, and sought to conceal it. Between Tigh’s revelation of his wife’s murder and Roslin’s admission, Adama is a wreck by the time his son comes calling. His emotional attack on Lee is not the response of a man trying to score a political point; it’s the pain of a man living with deeply unpleasant truths. So that makes Roslin’s revelation feel like a genuine plot point, and that’s simply not good writing.
For the first time in a long time, it’s possible to sympathize with Lee, because he’s walking a difficult path. Of all the things he’s done to push Dee away, his defense of Baltar is the tipping point, and it comes across as incredibly unfair. To the writers’ credit, the trial of Baltar is turning out to be more complicated than expected. The audience has come to see Baltar as a weak and evil man, a traitor to mankind, but the truth is a lot more complex. As Romo and Lee demonstrate, none of the self-righteous members of the “emerging aristocracy” are innocent, and their judgment of Baltar comes across as personal and smug.
Add to that the revelation that Baltar is becoming a cult symbol within the fleet (perhaps a prophet of “God”?), and there’s a huge potential for Baltar’s acquittal. This could quickly lead to a civil war, which the Cylons would happily use to their advantage. Cally called it in the previous episode: the Cylons could have been hanging back, waiting for the right moment to strike. With the fleet coming close to the next marker leading to Earth, the Cylons are on the move.
The simple assumption would be that the “song” heard by some characters, suspiciously familiar, is a sign that they are Cylons. If so, at the very least, Col. Tigh (I called it after “Rapture”!), Anders, and Tori are now on the list. The question is how this intersects with the impending arrival of the known Cylons. It’s highly unlikely that the known Cylons themselves are “activating” the Final Five; the known Cylons don’t even know what the deal is with the Final Five anyway.
Instead, it seems more likely that the Final Five are something very different from the known Cylons, perhaps a faction that was opposed to the genocide of the Colonies (a long-held position of mine). They could be the key to Earth, survival, or both, and while it would be devastating for these characters to discover their true nature, it would also bring up major questions about what it means to be Cylon. And of course, there’s the massive open question regarding Kara Thrace and her possible role.
It’s far too early to say how well this episode prepares for the big finale, because so much is at stake. The series was already on the brink after the apparent death of Starbuck; now it is quite clear that the series will rise or fall based on how the Final Five revelation plays out. Whatever the case, this season seems to be capping off the ramifications of the New Caprica plot element, so perhaps the fourth season will manage to close the door on the identity and nature of the Cylons. By that point, viability may no longer be a concern, but closing out the