(spoilage factor: take a trip down to your local dump - any ol' day will do)
What a crushing way to open a new - and the last - season! (I've said it before and I'll say it again, as much as they want to call this 4.5, as far as I'm concerned, if it's kicking off a year after the season initially began, then this isn't just a hiatus and this isn't 4.5 - this is season 5, fellow toaster-lovers)
D's suicide was a shocking moment. But only for a moment. I then began to reflect on the fact that Dualla's survived the near total annihilation of her species, lived in a pretty much constant state of siege for several years, has seen her marriage crumble and then, when she finally arrives at Earth, humanity's last hope, it's a somewhat radioactive cemetery. Seen in that light, her depression and feelings of hopelessness are not surprising. Sure, she appeared to pick up at the end, but it's not uncommon for those who are suicidal to display an apparent change in outward attitude once they've made their decision to end their life - her last date with Apollo could be seen as putting her affairs in order and allowing herself to be happy knowing she would not be allowing her self to continue in a bleak tomorrow. A very sad end for a likable, and very human character.
And then there's the Earth issue. Yeah, they're calling it Earth, but is this 13th Colony really Earth? Our Earth? I suspect the answer is no. Bear with me here... At the close of the season last spring, when the Fleet finally arrived in orbit, there was a suspicious little part of my mind that doubted this planet was the real deal. Not just because that would be too fortunate for a group of people beset by every turn of ill luck imaginable short of alien anal-probing (unlike the old series - I mean, come on, what do you think was really going on in that glowing white ship in the "War of the Gods" episode?). No, part of me was doubting because the space scenes showed no shots of the moon, nor was there any sign of it in the ever-cloudy sky. Nor did we see any other pix of recognizable real estate from the home system.
Now, you might point out that the Fleet was in pretty close orbit, and the moon's kinda out there, so it wouldn't necessarily be visible in the space scenes. And you might note that because the jump drives bring the ships instantaneously to where they want to go (usually), of course we wouldn't see any shots of the Tharsis volcanoes rearing up from Mars, or Jupiter's great red spot, or Saturn's rings, because there would be no need for a leisurely tour through the solar system in a long sunward orbit, and no direct flights in, and no aerobraking maneuvers in the Oort Cloud or some gas giant's atmosphere. And you'd be right on both accounts.
And yet, if we don't see any of the other familiar land (er, space) marks of our solar system, how can we really know that this is Earth and not some other little blue wet rock zipping around a cheery little yellow star in any ol' corner of the galaxy? We can't.
Here's my theory, for what little it's worth: During the exodus in the wake of whatever mysterious disaster befell Kobol (now green and quiet and probably a perfect home if anyone thought of doing the unexpected and turning around and deking around Cavil and his cabal and making the long trek back towards where they started, but I digress), the last-cycle Cylons went west and set up the 13th Colony on "Earth". A millenium or two of relative peace and prosperity passes, then there's some trouble and some nukes and history repeats itself. Refugees leave the 13th Colony and head out some unknown distance across the stars where they find another reasonably hospitable little blue planet and set up shop. Fondly remembering the home they left behind, they probably named the new planet Earth or New Earth or something to that effect - just as the homesick colonials named their first attempt to settle down "New Caprica". In short, I don't think the ruined "Earth" we've just been shown is the real deal - the final stop, the actual Earth - our Earth, is probably a little way down the road and will likely be found and fought over in the coming episodes. This would allow for a nod towards the old series (as the writers like to do from time to time) where the real Earth would be ours as it is now - except, in the vein of the new series, we would be the descendants of the 13th Colony Cylons. And my theory can't be that out to lunch, because Adama suggests as much at the end of this first episode where he says the people of the 13th Colony would have set out to find a new home, just as the new-era Colonials have over the past five years. That's my two bits. Make of it what you will.
Of course, the whole issue of mega disasters and refugee migrations across the stars makes me wonder about something... What's happening back on the 12 Colonies? We haven't seen anything of life there since Starbuck rescued Anders and the other survivors. At the time, the Cylons were definitely working hard to restore the Colonial worlds so they could live there themselves. Then we don't hear anything else from them except for the ones aboard the basestars chasing the Fleet across the galaxy and subsequently engaging in civil war. But all of the Cylons didn't just pack up and leave the Colonies to help with the extermination efforts, did they? There's gotta be some still behind on the Colonies continuing the home-renos, right? If so, would they have been embroiled in the civil war, or would that have only been their space-bound brethren? Would they spawn a human-like civilization on the 12 Colonies, now that the Resurrection Hub has been destroyed? (And how stupid would a machine mind have to be to think that it was safe putting all of its reincarnation eggs in one basket? Wouldn't there be other hubs? What about the Cylon homeworld that they used as their base of operations between the end of the last war and the attack on the Colonies? No spare parts or Ikea-style blueprints there?) Is the idea behind this series that there would ultimately be human and Cylon-as-close-to-human-as-makes-no-difference civilizations existing in isolation (but sometimes simultaneously) all over the galaxy - humanity and its children accidentally seeding the cosmos with life one disaster and war at a time? But if so, over time, it might get to be a crowded place if every disaster spawned an exodus as well as stay-at-homes (whether conquerors or survivors who never made it off-world and began to rebuild). Granted though, there's no evidence that the culture lasted on Kobol too long after the Colonials left thousands of years previous (unless they did something really cool and became post-human). But I digress...
The other big question this season-opener presents is who the frak is the final Cylon? For a big chunk of the episode, it sure looked to be Starbuck, especially with the discovery of the downed Viper and the blond-haired pilot's body with a wedding band and Kara Thrace dogtags. And yet, if nothing else, this series has repeatedly slapped audiences around with the hard lesson that appearances can be deceiving. So was it Starbuck, and is she the final Cylon? But things get complicated at the end where Tigh has his regressed vision/repressed memory, where his dead wife Helen is a part of his old life on the 13th Colony. Could she be the final member of the Final Five?
Last year, I was leaning towards Gaeta being most likely to be the last Cylon. But tonight's revelations throw that into question.
I now have a new theory: the final Cylon isn't a person/character per se, it's a artificially-designed, possibly quasi-intelligent piece of deliberately self-replicating genetic code. I'm thinking the final Cylon is an organic program of sorts, created who-knows-how-long-ago to periodically rebuild a group of the original Cylons. They're born, they live their lives, they have children and thus pass the code along, then die, and every so often, possibly every lifetime, somewhere among the population, this genetic program cobbles together a new copy of one of the original Cylons to resume the life cycle and continue to spread the genetic program throughout the gene pool so it can continue to replicate over time. Included in the program might be memories of the original (perhaps several of) former lives/incarnations/models that might be either time-released or dormant (possible for several generations/versions) until triggered by specific circumstances. In a sense, at some point in the deep past, the proto-Cylons/last-cycle Cylons figured out that they didn't need a huge Resurrection Hub ship in space that could be blown to pieces, if they just tricked biology into doing what they wanted they could still have immortality and without putting all their eggs in one basket. Sounds like a wacky idea, I know, but it would certainly explain why Saul Tigh (for example) has always been Saul Tigh, but doesn't remember living for 2,000 years, but suddenly dimly remembers a life with Helen (who might also have been from the Cylon gene pool and thus occasionally reprogrammed and relaunched every few generations) on the 13th Colony.
So what's your take on the big BSG questions? Is this Earth or will they find a true Earth elsewhere? What's your guess for the final Cylon? What's going on with Starbuck (the million dollar question of the entire series)? And are there any other mysteries that are nagging you?