Review: Battlestar Galactica 4.15 – "No Exit"

The reveal of Ellen Tigh as the fifth Cylon—the last of the final five—was met with quite a bit of grumbling last month. Many diehards who I spoke with had pretty much the same reaction: Great, Ron just threw it away. It could have been a great reveal, but instead, we get Ellen?

I preferred to reserve judgment. Just like the Cylons believe in their one God, I have faith in Ron and David (Eick).

And in tonight’s episode, they completely paid it off. Revealing that the “final five” are more like the “first five” was an excellent plot twist that I did not see coming. The flashbacks on the basestar between a newly resurrected Ellen and Brother Cavil a.k.a. John were very exposition heavy, I know. However, they did get out a lot of information in a short amount of time. And did so with beautifully written scenes. Something new-to-BSG writer, Ryan Mottesheard can be proud of.

So, now that we’re working with a more complete puzzle, let’s recap, shall we? Apparently, the “final five” cylons: Tory, Tigh, Tyrol, Anders and Ellen arrived in the colonies forty years ago, offering the Centurions the ability to create skin jobs if they agreed to leave the colonies and stop the war. The Centurions took them up on this offer and the final five provided them with eight skin job models. (Yes, I know this gets us to 13 total models, not 12, but I’ll explain.) These eight models, save No. 7, are the models we now know and have known about since season one: Cavil, Doral, Leoben, Simon, Six, D’Anna and Boomer/Athena.

The idea that the final five not only created these models, but also “reinvented resurrection,” as Sam says, is intriguing. Are the final five truly cylons then? We know that Eights can plug into machinery. Can Tigh or Tyrol? Or are the final five more organic? Sam explains that Ellen was the one who figured out “organic memory transfer.” This implies that if it’s the memories that are being transferred, the necessity for the same body isn’t quite as great. Could memories be transferred from anyone to anyone else?

Which brings us to the missing No. 7. We know his name is Daniel and we know Cavil killed him, apparently out of jealousy, as he felt Ellen was playing favorites. We know he was very sensitive to the world and an artist. We know that Cavil poisoned the amniotic fluid that was allowing all of the Daniel models to mature. We know none of them survived.

We don’t know where Daniel went. If there was one Daniel model alive when Cavil carried out his murder, then it stands to reason that Ellen could have successfully transferred his organic memories to someone else. Or, is Daniel simply gone and we’ll only get to know him through flashbacks and memories? Or, is Cavil holding a trump card that is Daniel, in the eventuality that he will need to bribe Ellen or others?

At this point, we don’t know. I could posit until the cows come home as to what I think will happen, but I’d rather let you all make those kinds of predictions. That’s what comments are for.

Now, more about the episode; the symbolism was unbelievable throughout. Ellen presenting the apple to Boomer (the apple of knowledge, if you will) and then taking a bite of it, similar to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, smacked of significance, especially in light of the reveal that the Cylons basically consider Ellen to be their creator. Brilliant. Also, in the opening titles, markedly different this week, it is written that one cylon model—Ellen—was sacrificed. It’s possible to interpret her as Eve, the woman whose innocence was sacrificed so man could gain knowledge.

The idea that Galactica is literally falling apart is worrisome and speaks to a deeper issue. Galactica will not survive without an infusion of Cylon “blood” (okay, resin) and that seems to be the one line Adama cannot cross. Despite reappointing Tyrol as the battlestar’s Chief, the admiral finds it difficult to make the final concession to the Cylons—that their technology might indeed be better and might indeed save humanity. It is the height of irony that after running from the Cylons and nearly being destroyed by them on numerous occasions, it is the Cylons that will save the flagship of the fleet. Of course, Adama capitulates, because he loves that frakkin’ ship … and the show is not called “Colonial One.”

But perhaps the biggest theme of this episode was something we’ve been hearing from Cylons and humans alike for quite a while. Parents have to die in order for their children to become what they were meant to be.

We are seeing this theory proven over and over again: Roslin steps down from the presidency, appointing Lee in her place who, let’s face it, is all but her “son;” Ellen returns to discover that her “children” have attempted to override their initial programming to become more machine—Cavil’s even managed to stop sleeping; earlier in the season, it was evidenced by Adama’s actions and Lee’s reaction to them—the Old Man decides to hang out in the middle of nowhere for Roslin to return, while Lee all but takes control of the Fleet. And in previous seasons, including season one, Head Six has imparted this wisdom to Gaius, while we know Leoben has shared it with Kara.

A couple of other interesting points that I don’t want to miss: Ellen admits that Cavil/John was actually made in the image of her father (which makes their relationship on New Caprica a little creepy); Kara is so desperate to discover answers regarding her own existence that she almost risks Sam’s life to get them; Boomer has an apparent change of heart and aids Ellen in her escape from Cavil/John’s scalpel; Cavil/John, the Dorals and the Simons, who have split from the rest of the Cylons, appear to be harboring a severe dislike of humanity, resenting the fact that Ellen’s programming, which has made them more human, also makes them more deficient.

Then, of course, there’s our girl Kara who just can’t seem to catch a break. While trying to do the right thing, she screws herself and the final four out of answers from Sam’s apparent fount of knowledge. Her whispered, “I need to be something” was heartbreaking.

My issues with this ep are few, but fairly significant. It’s considered the heart of trite to provide a character with all the answers and then dispense them over the course of an episode. In “No Exit,” this would be Sam and his running history lesson of the final five.

Now, I’m willing to let it slide for a few reasons: 1) I actually don’t mind exposition; 2) Sam did have a bullet lodged in his brain, so why couldn’t it have unlocked some secrets?; and 3) We’ve only got five episodes left! I want Ron Moore, David Eick and the rest to wrap up these loose ends.

And, while I know technically that such a high level of exposition may be “wrong”, I can’t say that it felt all that false. As a viewer and fan of the show, I find it fascinating—still do, as I am busy concocting theories and dissecting lines with other fans. Trust me, I’ll be trolling the message boards for quite a while.

One of the other great things about this episode was the return of camaraderie among Galactica’s crew. Who didn’t have a little tear in their eye when the Admiral and the Chief mended their fences and Tyrol retook his rank? I was a little misty. Also, having Roslin tell Lee, point blank, that he can and should do the job of president was just great. Her zinger about his inability to always make the “smart choice” was also right on the money.

I’m still a little wigged out by
Six and Tigh’s seeming domestic bliss. Last week, their behavior with Cottle and the sonogram was laughable; this week, with feeling the baby move and Tigh pressing kisses to her pregnant belly was cringe-worthy. Are we really supposed to believe Tigh is that okay with all of this? I’m not sure I do. Also, if Boomer’s coming back, she better get back with Tyrol—and Tory better keep her mitts to herself. I don’t care what happened 2,000 years ago on Earth, she and the Chief are NOT together now.

In truth, my head is still spinning from this episode and I’ll probably have a million more theories before next Friday’s ep and a million more after it. For now, these were my impressions of the episode. So, let’s talk about it.

Because discussions regarding the meaning of life and the existence of God are precisely what good television should inspire.

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