I am *not* going to give any spoilers, but if you haven't seen the series up until now, I strongly suggest that you just stop reading as I'll mention things leading up to tonight's episode.
Last chance. Be strong. Turn away now. It will all be worth it. Trust me.
First off, it turns out that Captain Picard is, in fact, a cylon.
Whoops, wrong series. But I'm sure at least one of you was trying to remember which character Captain Picard is, and who plays him. Hint: ST:TNG.
Now that I've shamed the last of those who aren't following this show like it's the Second Coming (and frankly, I think it's probably more interesting than the Second Coming, at least if you're an unapologetic apathist like I am), you're probably wondering whether the show has lived up to the hype. Of course, we won't really know the answer to that until the series has run it's course, but I will say that this was a very satisfying episode in many ways, and there were surprises at every turn. I'm not one to follow the fan-based forums (or the official ones, for that matter), but I will say that there were several developments that I never saw coming. Not even a little.
When we last left the cast, they had finally found Earth, in conjunction with a splinter group of Cylons who had broken with their brethren for the simple fact that they felt that immortality robbed them of treasuring their lives. If every time you die you are resurrected into a new (but identical) body, you start to wonder what the point is. Which is ironic, because I'm sure a lot of people who are getting up in years start to wonder what the point of their lives has been if it's going to be so short.
I can answer that question in a heartbeat, and it's called your offspring.
So here they are on Earth, but it's a wasteland, and has been for some time (as the latest episode will reveal). Some other things that are developed further are insights into the people who were living on the Earth (which was, of course, the "lost tribe" of the human culture), who the four "final five" cylons who were outed close to the end of the first half of the season are and where they might have come from, how Starbuck could have had her ship explode yet return in a brand-spankin' new Viper after finding Earth, and what happens when the thing that has kept you going for lo these many months and years, that you have fought tooth and nail to achieve, suddenly isn't at all what you thought it would be.
And that last topic is really where the meat of the episode is, as with all well done drama. It's not really about spaceships or skinjobs or funny-shaped paper. It's about us, about how we respond under pressure, how we grieve, how we love, and all of the other things that make us human. Flaws and all, because if nothing else, B-star G shows just how deeply flawed we all are. That's part of why Lost has been so good (when it's been good, which is most of the time) - the characters all make mistakes, sometimes knowing full well that they are sacrificing their ethics to serve the greater good. And sometimes to serve the immediate personal good at the expense of others.
As we get close (oh, so very close!) to the end of the Bush administration, I find this sort of removed soul searching to be very cathartic. After all, I didn't drive out to Washington, D.C. after the botched Katrina relief efforts and protest in the streets. I didn't write letters to my congresscritters telling them that they must oppose the invasion of Iraq, that we must stop torturing for any reason, that we must stop selling our souls just so that we can maintain an illusion of prosperity and decency. It's pretty clear that the main players in the Bush administration, starting at the very top, are spending a great deal of time trying to convince us all (and failing utterly in the attempt) that they really did a very good job. In the end, however, it's pretty hollow to say that we haven't been attacked since 9/11 when we hadn't been attacked *before* 9/11. If your only accomplishment is that no one has snuck in a suitcase nuke and detonated it when no one has even *tried* to do it (and believe me, they trumpeted every single tiny "success" of disaffected crazies who would struggle to hold up a Mini-Mart, it happened in Portland), then you really haven't done much at all. at least to the good.
So it is that we sit on the edge of hope for a return to decency in America, watching a mirror of ourselves on what I am convinced may have been the best television series of all time (The West Wing came very close, had it not gotten *so* lost around season 4) in what are clearly the darkest ethical and economic times in decades. B-star G showed us all sides of the Iraq War, the War on Terror, our use of torture, the leverage of individual differences for political gain, the dangers of stepping outside of our ethics in the quest for a "greater good" when all you really gain is the loss of your own soul. And they did it using a franchise that was known primarily for it's cheesiness (look! the Cylon is dressed like a Sheriff!) and made it into commentary on living in America during the Bush years, and did it in about as evenhanded a way as anyone could hope for.
We've got nine episodes to go, and I've got to tell you that they could probably have dragged this out for at least another year (unlike Lost, which really has me starting to get a little worried that maybe we're going on a very long ride that will end up with Wallyworld closed for renovations). There were some major surprises in the episode that look to end this ride on a very tight and well-done note. What a great series. It, along with The Daily Show, has kept me sane for the last eight years, and I will miss it terribly when it's gone.