Friday night's Battlestar Galactica episode was the first of a two-parter called "Daybreak" which will bring the show to its conclusion next week. And it took a weird turn into the past. Spoilers ahead!
I won't mince words: There was something disappointing about Daybreak. The pacing was choppy, and the narrative choices it made - delving into Baltar and Starbuck's last days before the nuclear holocaust - seemed an odd place to go as the series is coming to a close. Why go back to the past and fill in details about Baltar's relationship with his dad when we need to tie up all those loose ends with the human-cylon war, what's up with Hera, how the Fleet will find a planet, and he fate of Baltar's girl army (among other things)?
To be fair, it's hard to say whether the episode felt weak because it was the first hour of a three-hour story which will ultimately pay off. However I think it's reasonable to ask that the episode feel meaty on its own, and advance the story forward without showing us that Baltar's family relationships looked sort of like a sadder version of the show Frasier.
There were two major developments in the show last night: One that was central to the episode, and one that was happening in the background but was no less important. The first was that Adama at last decided that the Fleet should send a chunk of people after Hera and the Cylon Colony. Basically he was able to do this by plugging Anders into the naked hybrid goo interface and prying the coordinates of the Colony out of his ramblings. Turns out the Colony is awesomely located right above the singularity of a black hole. I can only hope that this will lead to many jokes about how the singularity is near, or how the Fleet is on the cusp of a post-human singularity, or many other things that are possibly only funny to futurists and Vernor Vinge.
In a dramatic scene, Adama and Starbuck tape down a red line in the ship bay and ask for volunteers to stand on one side of the line if they want to join the showdown with Cavil and Co. As we watch people trickle and then pour over that line, the scene grows its emotional power. It's the kind of final battle prep you'd expect to see as a story reaches its climax, and it bodes well for this week's finale.
The other major development, which I feel was rather glossed over, was Baltar's power as a leader of the burgeoning girl police force of the Fleet. As the episode is coming to a close, we see him walking through the Galactica with the woman who ran the cult in his absence. He's tasked her with getting a lot of weaponry, and she's reporting back that the sex cult is now one of the most powerfully-armed organizations in the Fleet. Baltar is set to position himself as a major player in the post-Galactica Fleet Order. Where is he going with this? We don't know, but his Head Six is pleased.
The rest of the episode felt bloated, though at times emotionally intense, as we were tugged back in time to the last days of New Caprica. We learn that Roslin's entire family - two sisters and her father - was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver right after her sister's baby shower. We discover that Baltar had a cantankerous old dad who was a working class radical and that he spends a ton of money trying to keep a nurse to care for him. Six endears herself to Baltar by finding an old folks home that Cranky Dad loves. Also we at last meet Lee's brother/Starbuck's fiance Zak - yes, he's hott - and discover that Kara used to cook. Plus, Lee has always had a dangerous, alcohol-tinged crush on her.
I have nothing against flashbacks per se, nor these flashbacks specifically. But I did think it was a weird and probably wrong choice to bring them in at this point in the show's arc. I understand why showrunners Moore and Eick wanted to do it, because it helps give us an emotional context for the terrifying war that is sure to come this week. But we already have an emotional attachment to all these characters, and some last-minute backstory isn't going to change that.
What this episode left us with for the finale this week is a seemingly-impossible task: Filling every outstanding plothole, plus staging a dramatic singularity fight, all in two hours. Can it be done? Or will this series end not with a bang, but with a fail?