TV Review: Battlestar Galactica Season 4.5 Premiere - What Did You Think?

After a torturous wait, Battlestar Galactica is back with the first of its final ten episodes. If you're not caught up, or not watching the show for whatever reason, I suggest you get on it. Seriously folks, television isn't supposed to be this good.

Find my SPOILER FILLED review after the jump.

The return of Battlestar Galactica reminds us why it's so often considered one of the best shows on television. When we last saw our heroes, they had landed on Earth together with the Cylons , only to discover that Earth was a nuclear wasteland. It was a typically great (though not entirely unexpected) reveal that left fans speculating for the better half of 2008, and I was glad to see that Ronald D. Moore and crew are plumbing the emotional depths of that discovery for all it's worth.For the most part, this episode is dedicated to the death of a dream. The quest for Earth was the driving force for the show since Adama's rousing speech in the mini-series, and what was once merely a symbol for hope eventually became more of a reality as things progressed. For a show that's often criticized for being too bleak, the quest for Earth also represented a possibility for the audience that everything may end up just fine for the human fleet.But of course, that would be far too easy.In making the discovery of Earth an empty victory, the show pushes its characters to the brink—giving us an episode that accomplishes little plot-wise (save for a few big reveals), but explores some incredibly human reactions to having your hopes and dreams crushed. There's no character who depicts this better than Lt. Anastasia "Dee" Dualla, who was always my "constant" (to pull a Lost reference) in the show. No matter how frakked up the situation, Dee could always be counted on as being the level-headed voice of reason—which is admirable in a universe where humanity is facing extinction every moment of every day.She was never promoted, and she only had a few sub-plots of her own, but Dee's presence in the bridge was always reassuring. I got the sense that as long as she and Gaeta were running things smoothly in the bridge, everything would be "okay"—at least, until the next disaster. Her troubled relationship with Lee Adama fell apart due to his stupidity and inability to love anyone but Starbuck, not by any fault of her own.She was just an average woman. One who did her duty, and sought out what minuscule bits of happiness she could find. Her sweet and relatable personality, along with her phenomenal portrayal by actress Kandyse McClure, made her one of my favorite characters on the series—so of course she would be the one to put a bullet in her head.Her death most closely reminds me of a certain major Firefly crew member who meets their end in the last act of Serenity. Once that person died, all bets were off, and nobody was safe. The shock of that death brought a level of tension to the rest of the film that raised the stakes measurably, and I'm confident Dualla's death will serve the same function. It was the catalyst for some of the best scenes in the episode—Lee and his father at the morgue, Adama's drunken suicidal confrontation with Tigh—and it will surely have some devastating dramatic repercussions as the series moves on.Aside from Dualla's suicide, we also get to see the breakdown of hope and heroism all across the fleet. Roslin is speechless upon her return from Earth, which is just unsettling for a character who generally always knows what to do. Adama falls apart when confronted with Dualla's death, and shows us one of the characters darkest moments when he confronts Tigh.Then there is Starbuck, who learns that she really did die at the end of season three, and manages to freak out the typically all-knowing Leoben with the news. I'm actually finding her ambiguous explanation for existing far more compelling than the reveal of Ellen Tigh as the final Cylon (although that will get juicier over time, I predict). Her silhouetted funeral pyre scene where she cremates her own body is one of the most haunting scenes in the series, both visually and symbolically.I think her existence may have something to do with the fact that the thirteenth colony of Earth was made up entirely of Cylons (another reveal that will end up rewarding us over time). What if somebody translated the Cylon resurrection technology for humans? What difference would there really be between Cylons and humans at that point?Bear McReary described this episode as "an assault on the psyche" in a recent blog entry, and I would have to agree with him. There is no hope this time around, just our heroes falling and grasping at whatever they can to survive. Dualla's death won't be the last, and maybe humanity will spend generations finding a suitable planet to settle, but the recent truce with the remaining Cylons should make things less violent for some time (despite an impending war with the Centurions).And perhaps eventually, they will find peace.

Other Observations

  • The long tracking shot where Adama proceeds from the morgue, orders an underling to give him a gun, and then heads to Tigh's bunk amidst chaos in the hallways is perhaps one of the tensest and best executed scenes in the series.
  • I'm glad they brought the population whiteboard back from the mini-series and early season 1, but was somebody really updating that thing by hand this entire time? Seems like a really inefficient way to track deaths and births. Hopefully they have a better system in place, and the whiteboard just remains to serve as a constant reminder to Roslin how many people depend on her.
  • Another similarity between Dee's death and the aforementioned Firefly character (and a small condolence)—they both died happy.
  • I can't imagine the series getting darker than this. I saw The Strangers the same night I saw this premiere, and this episode was by far more bleak and at times terrifying.
  • There are tons of great responses and interviews on this episode. I recommend checking out Maureen Ryan's massive interview/analysis post, Alan Sepinwall's review, Bear Mcreary's blog entry on scoring this ep. (with some great anecdotes from cast/crew), and Ronald D. Moore's commentary on Hulu.Discuss: What did you think of the premiere, and what are your thoughts on the reveal of Ellen Tigh as the final Cylon?