Battlestar Galactica #106: No Exit

"I DON'T WANT TO BE HUMAN! I want to see gamma rays! I want to hear X-rays, and I -- I want to -- I want to smell dark matter! Do you see the absurdity of what I am? I can't even express these things properly because I have to -- I have to conceptualize complex ideas in this stupid, limiting spoken language! But I know I want to reach out with something other than these prehensile paws, and feel the solar wind of a supernova flowing over me! I'm a machine, and I could know much more, I could experience so much more, BUT I'M TRAPPED IN THIS ABSURD BODY! AND WHY? Because my five creators thought that God wanted it that way!"
SO SAY WE ALL: Through Ellen and Anders, we learn the history of the Cylons.

REVIEW: Woah. We're told so much in this episode that it's hard to keep straight. In the contemporary era, Anders has a bullet lodged in his brain that gives him access to the Final Five's back story, and through bouts of aphasia (which makes him sound like a hybrid), as his need for an operation becomes more and more critical, he spews it all out. At the same time, we go back 18 months (and from there catch up periodically until it's "2 days ago") and discover how Ellen downloaded, resurrected, and got all her memories back. She's basically been Cavil's prisoner since then. And through their conversations, we get more pieces of the puzzle. It's intensely fascinating, and the two dueling time lines help keep our interest in an episode that is really about people talking and dumping information. It just never really feels like that.

In short, the 13th Tribe of Cylons had become able to procreate normally and the ancient resurrection technology had been lost. The Final Five recreated it and it saved them from their apocalypse. They set out among the stars to find humanity in the hopes of ending the cycle they knew to be repeating, and limping along at relativistic speeds, found a Cylon race at war with the 12 Colonies. They put a stop to it by offering the Centurions their help in evolving into an organic race (based on their work with the hybrids) in exchange for peace. They created 8 models, one of which, the sensitive artist Daniel, was contaminated and irrevocably destroyed by the first model, Cavil, who was jealous of it. Cavil is in fact exposed as THE villain of the series, the one who killed the Five, sent them into humanity with fabricated memories so they would suffer and when they were vaporized in the destruction of the Colonies, would download with the realization that humans indeed do suck and they were wrong to make a race in humanity's image. (His speech about loathing the limits his form imposes on him, quoted above, is incredible.) Except they didn't die. Cavill doubled down, not only editing the memories of every model so they would forget their makers (boxing D'Anna when she remembered), forcing freedom inhibitors on the Centurions he claims to want justice for, and torturing the Five at every opportunity, especially his nominal father, Tigh, while knowingly banging his nominal mother, Ellen. Got all that?

A lot of our literature seems to reinterpret these events (if I'm allowed to hijack the ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE section), with echoes of Oedipus Rex, of course, but also Cain and Abel, Paradise Lost (which aphasic Anders actually quotes from), and as per the title, Sartre's No Exit. The opener with Ellen thanking a Centurion, for me, also evoked A Streetcar Named Desire, and the shot itself, the Sistine Chapel. In a world where divine beings are manipulating events from behind the scenes - the Temple of the Five and the supernova were not, for example, engineered by the Five - we also have a fallen angel (Cavil), a nihilist who wants to punish his parents for birthing him. By extension, he hates God (which the Five propose to be mortal agents of) for his existence. Ellen has given the newborn Cylons free will, the capacity for love and compassion, but for him they don't outweigh the negatives. He hates his own humanity, and ironically, it's those hated weaknesses that make him grossly misbehave. When Ellen refuses to bring him to the "Colony" where a Resurrection hub might be rebuilt (she claims it can't be done without the other Four), he thinks nothing of opening her up and drawing the information out of her forcibly. His mistake is bringing Boomer into the conversation at some point, and of course - OF COURSE - Boomer is going to betray him. That's what she does! Cue a raptor escape -  anything else would have been a waste of Ellen's potential.

It's interesting how different Ellen is without the memory implants. She still asks for a drink though, so I do wonder how much of her was baseline Ellen. Similarly, Anders is more spiritual than his jock human self, while the bullet interferes with the implants. From onscreen evidence, it would seem these memory blocks are physical, and that resurrecting in a new body restores access. It's not just a mainframe connection thing, or else Anders wouldn't have been restored. We may never really know what the other Three used to be like, as resurrection is now impossible, though we know Tyrol and Tori were an item on Cylon Earth. At the end of this, we expect Anders will not remember any more, so even indirect knowledge can only come from Ellen. Of course, we don't know if Anders survives at all. Despite the thoughtlessly chipper neurosurgeon's best hopes and Cottle's prognosis, it appears Sam is brain dead. But who knows how Cylons work?

Quick notes on the rest of the action. The two time frames are well used to create tension as to the 8th Cylon's identity, Kara despondently trying to find out if it's her. Roslin and Lee pick up the pieces after the death of the Quorum, and Lee has the pretty brilliant idea to name representatives based on ships rather than Colonies, a new acceptance of who they are now. And Tyrol discovers Galactica really is on its last legs, and may not even be able to jump again without falling apart. At first, Adama is adamant no Cylon tech be used to fix it, seeing their miracle resin as a contamination both social (they just fought off a mutiny fueled by fear of the Cylon) and physical (this is the man who refused to network his ship, after all), but in the end, there is no choice. We just need Galactica to get us across the finish line, but he can't know how close it is.

ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN: Already mentioned a lot of parallels with our Earth's literature, but from a behind the scenes level, there are too many Star Trek people involved not to recognize Cavil as the Lore of BSG.

HUMAN DEATH TOLL: The full recap at the top of the show reminds us the fleet started the trip with 50,298 people, and the opening sequence says we're now at 39,556, a difference of 10,742, mostly deaths as there have been comparatively few births. It looks like 85 people died in the 9-hour rebellion presented in the last two episodes (plus Gaeta and Zarek, executed later). No one dies in this particular episode. Jury's out on Anders.

VERSIONS: Deleted scenes include the Final Four talking about the life they don't quite remember, wondering if Ellen was stored in the Hub and killed again, and remembering how Cally sensed Tyrol and Tori had a connection; slightly longer conversations between Ellen and Cavil; same for Lee and Roslin

REWATCHABILITY: High - A lot of information to impart and process, but it's not unartfully done. Pretty crucial to understanding what's going on.

1 comments:

Will said...

I was kind of hoping that this "God" would turn out to be Count Iblis

Also maybe the 5 could the reboot version of the beings (ascended humans ?) from the light ship from the original series.

 

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