Battlestar Galactica #42: Flesh and Bone

"Each of us plays a role; each time a different role. Maybe the last time I was the interrogator and you were the prisoner. The players change, the story remains the same."
SO SAY WE ALL: Starbuck interrogates Leoben.

REVIEW: Call it Galactica's version of a "24" episode or its take on Guantanamo Bay, Flesh and Bone has Jill-of-all-trades Starbuck tasked with torturing a Leoben model so he gives up information on a bomb he allegedly hid in the fleet, and in which the metaphorical foundation of the Cylons is revealed. In the real world, enemies are routinely dehumanized so we can kill, bomb, deport, and torture them. In Galactica, the Cylons started out as "toasters", no need for dehumanization, they were never human. With the humanish models, the Cylons seem to have decided to humanize themselves so they can no longer be perceived as enemies to be remorselessly destroyed. Is it part of a cold manipulation - as the Cylons we've met are very manipulative - or is their goal to be at one with humanity? There's certainly evidence of this as well. How well this taps into post-9/11 anxiety. The Cylons' religiousness is part of it, though no direct allegory to 21st-Century Earth is necessarily drawn. Leoben paints a picture of a new humanity, the Cylons', one guided by a faith that means to destroy all other faiths. Do the Cylons hate humanity because it sinned against the true God? In that sense, they are closer to early Christians snuffing out pagan religions in the Ancient world, or Christian Crusaders warring against Islam in the Middle Ages. All this has happened before and it will happen again, even if our roles may not be the same. Leoben's words telling us there's no direct parallel, but plenty of indirect ones.

That's very high level stuff, but bringing it down to the personal, we have the first interaction between Starbuck and Leoben, forging a relationship that will be important to the series. Though Leoben can't be trusted - Roslin, to her credit, sees that, despite the seeds of doubt still planted in her head - he does successfully humanize himself in the eyes of Kara. Physically stronger than humans, he shows that he's there by choice, that he wants to have this conversation. That smile while he's being drowned says it all. If the Cylons are God's agents, and thus akin to angels, is Leoben the equivalent of Satan luring Eve to the apple? Or is he a legitimate prophet, as indeed he has the ability to see the future, or at least divine patterns and come to the correct conclusions thanks to his computer mind. Is he the conduit through which God speaks to the Cylons? Or are they just on predestined track? Galactica is a world of science fiction, yes, but it's mystical as well. Leoben may be truly psychic, and may be telepathic as he appears in Roslin's weed-inspired dreams just before he is captured, or both his visions and the President's may be divinely inspired. It's pleasantly ambiguous. Also ambiguous is whether Kara has been turned to the Cylon cause in some small way, at the end. While some viewers may wonder why the Cylons aren't attacking, given how we're still finding their agents in the fleet, it may be that their goal is conversion, not destruction. Kara-Leoben is only the latest human-Cylon pairing.

One of these is Sharon-Helo back on Caprica, a relationship that may have gone wrong, from a Cylon perspective. Instead of turning Helo, it seems to have turned Sharon. Again, ambiguity reins, but Six at least hates her for being too close to humanity. She seems to have been built that way, specifically as a sleeper agent or infiltrator, but by the end of this episode, she's off running from her own people. Meanwhile, Boomer is flirting more and more with revealing that she is a Cylon, but she's not actually aware of the truth. She makes Baltar give her the test and is visibly relieved when it comes up negative. Except it doesn't, it's just Baltar's fear that makes him say otherwise. Now he knows she's a Cylon, but she doesn't. He could still report her, but that's not likely given his track record. He's sure to make the wrong decision. Ironically, the resolution of her doubts will probably make her programming assert itself again and push her towards her humanity.

CAPRICANADA: Robert Burnaby Park plays the Caprican forest (in Roslin's dream too).

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: If Leoben is a prophet, we should keep a look out for a future relationship with Kara, him interrogating HER, and of course, the discovery of Kobol eventually leading the fleet to Earth. The last part is in fact something that happened in the original series.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: The President's white board says the current population is 47,954, up 13 from the previous count of 47,941. Either a miscount has been corrected, or the birth rate has added lives to the fleet. At the end of this, of course, Leoben's discovery and destruction should make the count drop to 47,953.

VERSIONS: Deleted scenes include a Cylon transponder being found on another ship (Starbuck doesn't recognize it but sends it up the chain of command), and Six being all proud of Baltar for taking God's name in vain, singular.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - These early episodes kind of do the same thing with different characters, but this is definitely one of the strongest ones, asking some intriguing questions and setting up plot points that pay off later.



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