Holy frak, that was a lot of information in last night's Battlestar Galactica. I'm talking the entire history of the Cylons, every question we've been wondering about the Final Five since four were revealed, and a new way of looking at, well, the entire series. It was the kind of episode sci-fi fans crave all series long, and usually end up disappointed. Like that season 3 Alias episode where it turns out Syd's 2-year disappearance has a pretty lame explanation. But not this time. By coming up with cool answers to the big questions and telling them in a dramatic way, "No Exit" ranks among BSG's best episodes. Puts all the more pressure on Lost to do as well in its final season.
So first off: The History of the Cylons. It seems Final Five Ellen, Tigh, Tyrol, Anders, and Tory worked in a research facility on Earth. When they knew the nukes were coming, they reinvented resurrection so the five of them could survive the blast. Returning to the other colonies (slowly) to stop the First Cylon War, they made a deal with the Centurions: stop killing humans and they would create eight (eight!) new Cylon models. The first one, John (aka Cavil), helped create the rest. But he was jealous, bitter, and envious, so he not only killed Daniel (#7), but set the Final Five up to be downloaded with false memories, and witness the Second Cylon War as humans. Now he wants them to recreate resurrection.
Yeah, that's a lot. Aside from being a cool story though, it all makes a lot of sense. The Final Five seem different from the rest because they created the rest. They seem like good guys because they tried to stop the Cylon attacks. And I think we can now unequivocally state that Cavil/John is the villain of the entire series. He masterminded the attacks, he neutralized the Final Five, and he will spend the rest of the series trying to find them to recreate resurrection. Helps give a new structure to what's been going on the past four seasons.
This history came about in two stories: Anders sharing new memories before surgery and Ellen's interactions with Cavil/John over the past 18 months. The Anders side was basically straight-up exposition, but still managed to feel dramatic. There was the deadline of "how much can Anders say before going into surgery." There was Starbuck, torn between wanting answers and wanting her husband to live. There were Tigh, Tyrol, and Tory, lingering around the sick bay like impatient children. And then there was John "I'm a PC" Hodgman as the brain surgeon. Like Darrell Hammond on Damages, he was kind of distracting, but the episode could use the comic relief.
The more interesting side was Ellen and Cavil/John. Both were different from the last time we saw them, as Ellen had her memories and Cavil/John showed his real face. Yet the relationship between them was so well established right away they might as well have been playing off each other the whole series. Their scenes were less about the information learned than the power dynamic between them, as John tried to bend her to his will while she acted the benevolent, omnipotent mother figure. I initially found the reveal that Ellen was the Final Cylon a bit disappointing, but Cylon Ellen is awesome enough that I take that back.
There was also a break from the information overload in the subplots, which led to some nice moments. Roslin passed the torch to Apollo, naming him the real leader while she retired to figurehead. Tyrol got to be Chief again, and got Adama to compromise on his ban of Cylon technology to save Galactica. And Tigh got to hear his baby kick. So going forward: Which blonde will Tigh choose when Ellen returns? Who nuked Earth in the first place? Will we ever find out what's up with Starbuck? And who is Daniel? I guess that's why we've got five more episodes.