By the end of the first act, I understood the transitional nature of this episode, and I concluded that it would be better to sit back and enjoy the ride. After all, the introductory phase of the season arc had taken some time to build momentum, which finally came to fruition with "Faith", so it only makes sense that the complication phase of the arc would involve a bit of pawn-taking. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened.
That's not to say that the episode was without action; it's just that it was more about careful consideration of specific plot points. It's very much like a chess game between the Humans and the Cylon Rebels, played out on several levels. And like a chess game, the true intrigue and fascination is not in the checkmate, but in the quiet and delicate movements long before the endgame. Because this season is more serialized than ever before, the nuances require careful attention.
In the larger scheme of things, the proposed alliance between the Humans and Cylon rebels had to be contentious, and it's great to see all the complications emerge. It's now perfectly clear why the writers had to build up the tension between the Quorum and Roslin. Without that background, the depth of disagreement between them would have felt abrupt. Natalie's speech in front of the Quorum was one of the best elements of the episode.
The Cylon civil war, and the deep philosophical differences at its core, was also necessary to explore in previous episodes, because now there's no question that finding the Final Five is more important to the rebels than the promise of eternal resurrection. This, of course, ties into the many prophecies regarding Kara Thrace. Her role as the "harbinger of death" could very well mean her role in bringing true death to the Cylons. In turn, this makes them more human, and sets the stage for their eventual mergence (in my speculation) with the Colonial survivors.
The topic of Roslin's visions is also front and center, initially in terms of Baltar's sermons and then in a far more active role. It always seemed incredibly important that Roslin was sharing the visions with Athena and Caprica Six, but oddly enough, it never occurred to me that Hera would also be actively sharing them. Hera's dash through Galactica, leading to Natalie's horribly-timed death, was one of the more disconcerting elements. (The callback to Baltar's vision from "Kobol's Last Gleaming" is also a great continuity nod.)
Taken in context with Roslin's vision and Gaeta's endless singing, it could be interpreted that Galactica itself is the "Opera House". After all, if the Final Five are supposed to be in the Opera House, and the Cylon rebels know they're in the fleet, it all adds up to that possible conclusion. And that makes sense, because if there's any stage where the final endgame should play out, it's on the Galactica.
The sudden jump of the rebel basestar, with so many main characters now trapped upon it, should make for some interesting drama. The mission to the resurrection hub may still be viable, if the hybrid leaps to the previously programmed position, but the operation is no longer as relatively clean as it was. In particular, it puts Kara, Roslin, and Baltar all in a unique position to see their destinies unfold.
Kudos must be given to the writers for letting all of the character movements play out with subtlety. Some of the character interactions are more powerful than the snippets of action for a reason. This is an episode that delves into the complex emotions of a sudden and unexpected chance to level the playing field. It might have been a bit better to see some reactions from the command staff regarding the mutiny or the crew of the Demetrius regarding Cally's death, but there's really no time for it. The attention is better spent on the varying reactions of the newly revealed Cylons to the new status quo.
Kudos must also go to Mary McDonnell for her performance all season. I don't know if the actress is intentionally starving herself a bit to sell Roslin's illness, or if it's a masterful makeup job, but the effects of the cancer are pronounced. There's a visceral feeling, just from one look at Roslin, that the end is near, and it helps to sell the notion that her methods are truly driven by that relentless specter.