My sister Chris said she might watch the "What's Happened So Far" special and then see about watching the show itself, so I sent her an email with a few tidbits not really covered in the special. In my first sentence, I said:
Keep in mind that there will seem to be obvious parallels between the world of BSG and the "real" world. In particular, some things will seem like "America" and some will seem like "Arabs" or whatever. But this only goes so far, because the parallels shift ... "America" will be on different sides at different times.
How true that was tonight. You could get dizzy making connections to events, current and historic. I noted in my essay for the upcoming anthology that the end of Season Two had the odor of Vichy France, and that stink was even more obvious tonight. The occupying power, the collaborator's in-name-only government, and always, the visuals: toaster centurions as storm troopers. Meanwhile, there were the even more obvious references to current affairs, but who was who? The powerful Cylons do what they do in the name of their God (although it would seem that they are starting to lose sight of what their religious morals mean), which makes them seem like crazed terrorists. Except by virtue of their power, they're much more like a bloated entity such as the United States. And so there they are, occupying a land where they aren't wanted, using force because they have no other way of connecting with the people, while the humans commit acts of terrorism (suicide bombs being only the most frightening) and fight their seemingly losing battle against the Cylons.
Meanwhile, we got to revisit the favorite characters of the past. Some were much the same ... Edward James Olmos' Admiral Adama and Mary McDonnell's Laura Roslin still operate under the rules they've established for themselves. But others ... whoa! Tigh has turned into a pirate, single-mindedly using every possible weapon to achieve the tiniest objectives, innocent people be damned. Before he seemed too weak to be in a position of power, but now, we see how he rose as high as he did.
And oh, our Starbuck. This was the one character where newcomers to the show are not going to appreciate what's happening. Starbuck ... the role that was a man in the original, the gender change that pissed off a lot of fanboys of that original ... Starbuck, the toughest, bestest, fucked-upest pilot, Starbuck, with her butch haircut and her stogies ... Starbuck, under detention, being brutalized not with violence but with kindness, and she does what she knows best, she kills her enemy over and over again ("Fight 'em until we can't," indeed), and then the really unfair introduction of a child into the mix. In a crappier show, this would be a cliche, but not here. Starbuck knows what is being done to her, understands not only the reality of the child in front of her, but also the symbolic value of that child. When she grabs the hand of the Cylon at the end, it should make longtime viewers want to retch ... that's the idea ... and that's what I think newbies won't feel in their bones, you have to have lived with this annoying prick of a woman with the great smile, the great laugh, and the killer instincts, loved her more than all the other characters for her very existence as a woman in a role that was "supposed" to be a man. And to see the Cylons use the maternal instincts against her, that hurt.
Battlestar Galactica isn't quite as dark as The Wire ... there is a crushing inevitability to events in The Wire, while BSG still holds out hope that heroism will succeed. But tonight, that heroism wasn't making much headway. This was one of the darkest episodes television has thrown out in a long time ... next to the vision of life presented here, Dexter's serial-killer "hero" seems like a lark.