Battlestar Galactica & Caprica Reviews

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BSG - Season 4 - Episode 17

BSG - 4x17 - No Exit - Originally Aired: 2009-2-13

My Rating - 9

Fan Rating Average - 6.47

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Synopsis
To gain an understanding of the future, members of the Final Five and Kara Thrace listen intently to Sam Anders's revelations about the past. With a bullet lodged in his brain, he unlocks memories about Earth that occurred thousands of years ago. These realizations contain vivid details about the creation of both the Human and Cylon races.

He reveals that the Final Five all worked in the same research facility and that Galen and Tory were madly in love and planning on getting married. Ellen and Saul were also a couple, married on Earth as they were aboard Galactica. But most shocking is Anders's claim that the Cylons didn't invent resurrection. He explains that organic memory came from Kobol and the 13 tribes. To resurrect, they formerly used a ship that orbited around Earth and once it was destroyed they worked night and day to rebuild it. While Galen seemed to have made impressive strides in its rebuilding, it was Ellen who made the intuitive leap that brought the system back on line.

And so it begins. Eighteen months earlier, Ellen Tigh is resurrected aboard the Cylon baseship after being poisoned on New Caprica by Saul for conspiring with the Cylons, unbeknownst to him that both he and she are members of that very race. It seems that Cavil has been awaiting Ellen's return to the baseship yet he is less than happy to see her. She refers to him as John and we learn that he was named after her father and created in his image. But he feels resentment and not gratitude towards her, his creator, for making him in the visage of a human being, with weaknesses, limitations and flaws.

Presently, aboard Galactica, Tyrol and the Admiral are assessing the multitude of damages aboard the ship. Knowing that he needs assistance with the Galactica's repair, the Admiral pushes Cylon prejudices aside and reinstates Galen as the ship's Chief. Later, he will have to concede even further when obliging to use a Cylon resin to repair the ship — his last hope in saving their home.

A mend in relationships continues as we see President Roslin and Lee Adama on Colonial One grieving the loss of the Quorum of Twelve. Roslin concedes that though she will keep the formal title of President, she'd like to have Lee assist her in leading the fleet.

And though the insight to the future that Anders' condition provided is key to the remaining Final Five, his condition poses a threat to his own life. They find that the location of the bullet has caused a seizure and another could be lethal. At a crossroads, as his wife Kara makes the gut wrenching decision to remove the bullet from his brain, even though it may mean the loss of his foresight to speak and warn against events to come.

Concurrently faced with her own dilemma of loyalty to Cavil and the others and her feelings of personal choice, Boomer makes a brash decision and helps Ellen escape the sinister plans that Cavil and the Simons have in store for her.

Ultimately, while glimpses of the future have been revealed and more pieces of the puzzle are now aligned, the grander picture for the future still remains to be seen. [Blu-ray] [DVD]

Problems
- Why didn't the final five look younger in their flashbacks to Earth in Sometimes a Great Notion?

Factoids
- The title of this episode is taken from a 1944 existentialist play by Jean-Paul Sartre. The story is about three people trapped in a stately room with chairs and sofas, which represents hell. In the story, each character hates all the others.
- This episode establishes that Cavil's first name is John. He was both named and made in Ellen's father's image.
- Survivors, according to the main title: 39556. Down 47. More yikes! Total body count for the mutiny: ~87.
- This episode establishes that the mystery man who Ellen referred to as having "rescued" (I use the term loosely...) her in season one was in fact Cavil.

Remarkable Scenes
- Ellen's download. I like how she freaked out after the download. It must have taken a moment for her older memories to kick in.
- Anders' flashbacks and rambling.
- Cavil meeting with Ellen 18 months ago right after Saul killed her. I like the nice touch with Cavil dragging the chair the same way he did when he met with Tigh on New Caprica.
- Adama asking Tyrol to retake his position as Chief.
- Delusional Anders asking for Tyrol, Tory, Saul, and Ellen too. "I see everything," he says.
- Ellen to Boomer about Cavil: "What about the swirl, has he taught you that yet?"
- Anders telling the final five as much about their pasts as he can remember.
- Lee positing replacing the quorum of twelve with a new assembly based on representations of ships rather than colonies.
- Roslin asking Lee to unofficially perform her duties.
- Roslin: "You're so hell bent on doing the right thing, that you sometimes don't do the smart thing." Lee: "Well, then I'll try to be smarter. And wronger."
- Tyrol revealing the extent of the damage to Galactica to Adama.
- Anders continuing to tell as much as he can about what he remembers in his limited time.
- Cavil accusing Ellen of orchestrating the events at the Temple of Five.
- Cavil lamenting not being able to fully appreciate "one of the most glorious events in the universe" (the supernova) due to his limited human senses.
- The final five debating whether or not they're responsible for the destruction of the twelve colonies.
- Anders' word salad.
- Cavil confronting Ellen about the destruction of the hub.
- Anders revealing what Cavil did to the final five.
- Ellen revealing to Cavil that she knows he destroyed Daniel, the seventh Cylon model, and how he did it.
- Ellen trying to forgive and embrace Cavil and Cavil's enraged response.
- Tyrol revealing to Adama even deeper damage the Galactica suffers from, the kind you can't see.
- Ellen's escape with Boomer.

My Review
Exposition is projectile vomited at the audience in this episode at an unprecedented rate; a rapid fire sequence of answers we've waited for far too long delivered one after the other, which is strangely both too much at once and paradoxically also not enough to fully answer all the piled up annoying unanswered questions about the overarching story.

Most importantly, this episode paints a much clearer picture of the Cylon backstory. The oldest known account of the creation of Cylons occurred on Kobol, thousands of years ago. The twelve tribes created the thirteenth, a tribe of Cylons, which spawned a war between the humans and Cylons on Kobol. They then went their separate ways. The twelve tribes founded the twelve colonies and the thirteenth tribe of Cylons colonized Earth.

The thirteenth tribe was destroyed by some sort of civil war, so five members of the thirteenth tribe (the final five Cylons), the only (apparent) survivors, set a course for the twelve colonies ostensibly to rejoin their long lost brethren and warn them of the dangers of reinventing artificial life in an attempt to end what they perceived to be an inevitable cycle of violence. They traveled in an ancient FTL incapable ship, armed with resurrection technology.

The final five were the only (apparent) survivors because they all were working in secret to reinvent the resurrection technology, as their people had since abandoned it long ago when they learned to procreate biologically. They were somehow warned of the impending destruction of their society and programmed themselves so that when they died in the holocaust, their consciousnesses would be transferred to new bodies on the ship, which they had placed in orbit.

Their plan was successful and they were reborn aboard the ship. Because their ship lacked FTL, but traveled at very fast sublight speeds, time slowed down within the ship, but outside the ship thousands of years had passed by the time they reached their destination. (See theory of relativity for a long, boring, but scientifically accurate explanation.) When they finally arrived, the twelve colonies had already reinvented the artificial life (Cylon centurions) as the final five predicted they would. But the final five were too late, because the humans had already gone to war with the centurions they created.

The final five, intrigued by the reinvented centurions' novel notion of a one, true, loving god judged them capable of love and mercy and convinced them to end the war with the humans in exchange for giving them Cylon biotechnology and resurrection. Together they created Cavil and seven other humanoid Cylons. But Cavil turned on them, destroyed the entire seventh model (Daniel), boxed the final five, implanted them with false memories, and set them loose within the twelve colonies so they could experience humanity "up close and personal," as Cavil put it.

Cavil's motives are multifaceted and somewhat murky in places, but they seem to stem primarily from a combination of believing the humanoid models are fundamentally flawed creations compared to the centurions and his resultant bitterness and contempt for his creators for what he perceives to be their arrogance and naivete. He also resents their desire to end the cycle of violence, believing that the humans should be exterminated for enslaving the centurions. Clearly, Cavil's beliefs had sway, which is why he was able to convince the whole of the (rest of the) Cylons to subsequently massacre the twelve colonies.

Getting into the actual events of the story, there are a number of fascinating details worth noting about Ellen's year and a half with Cavil aside from the revelations about the overarching story. For example, Ellen made and named Cavil in her father's image. This means in a sense, Cavil is both her son and her father. This adds a whole new level of creepiness to Cavil's willful sexual exploitation of Ellen at the beginning of the third season.

Unfortunately, reprising its thematic vagueness, the one plot thread that seemed to make the least amount of sense was the series of revelations or perhaps lack thereof regarding the Temple of Five. Ellen says the temple was originally called the Temple of Hopes, built by the thirteenth tribe 3000 years ago when they left Kobol. They stopped and prayed for guidance on their exodus and then god showed them the way to Earth. Cavil calls it instead a monument to Ellen's vanity. He seemed to imply that the supernova which occurred in Rapture was somehow Ellen's doing and that she somehow orchestrated the events which revealed the faces of the final five to D'Anna.

Strangely, despite lacking in detail, Cavil's explanation seems to make the most sense because Ellen, however, claims she didn't plant any "carnival tricks" at the temple at all, but instead claims the one true god must have orchestrated these events. She does however admit having been to the Temple of Hopes on her way to the twelve colonies. And by this time in the story it is clear that Boomer's loyalties were wavering. Not to mention the fact that Ellen had been on the baseship for months now. It's possible she could have somehow done exactly as Cavil believes she did. Though if true, I would then question her motives for lying to him. Especially about the one true god. So I'm not really sure what's going on there.

Another curious line is Cavil's reference to the humans not knowing about "the colony" which supposedly has all of Ellen's equipment which she and her cohorts ostensibly used to build resurrection capabilities for the new Cylons. He believes the hub could be rebuilt with that equipment. What is "the colony?" The Cylon homeworld that they colonized after the first Cylon war? Or something else?

Also of curious note is that Anders appears to drop a possible hint about the head people. When the final five lived on Earth, the warning signs they got about the coming destruction were supposedly just like the Six in Baltar's head. Anders saw a woman, Tory saw a man, and no one else could see these people. How this is related (if at all) to Baltar's head people and Caprica Six' head Baltar remains to be seen.

Still yet, there are other pesky lingering questions. The show once again claims Kobol being the "birthplace" of all mankind, something which doesn't really make sense given the undeniable history of humanity having evolved on Earth. Is that a lost history? Also, why did Ellen and Cavil idly debate with each other for a whole year and a half before Ellen finally chose to leave? Obviously the hub incident and Cavil's resultant increased brutality was the true catalyst for Ellen's motive to escape, but even then another four months passed between Cavil announcing his intent to crack open Ellen's head and his decision to finally do it. Why? Because he needed to develop the technique first with the Simons?

Also, why did the twelve colonies take so many thousands of years to finally reinvent the Cylons if they had already invented them on Kobol? And who was fighting who on Earth? Why did their society destroy itself? Finally, what's the deal with Kara? Poor girl still gets no answers in this episode. Was I right to speculate in my review of He That Believeth in Me that one of Starbuck's parents was a Cylon? Thus is the destroyed seventh Cylon model Daniel Starbuck's father? Suffice it to say there are still many more questions to be answered.

Moving away from the exposition for a moment, the Galactica story had a number of interesting charms of its own. Is it possible that Lee will become the vice president now? Will he then assume the presidency if/when Roslin dies? Also, will the poor Galactica fall apart? It was just chilling to watch Tyrol and Adama examine all the cracks and breaks in the ship's hull. More chilling was Tyrol's warning not to jump the ship. That could prove problematic if Cavil chases Ellen when she arrives at the fleet! As could Ellen discovering Tigh's relationship with Caprica Six. I doubt anyone in the fleet will be all that thrilled to see Boomer either.

Overall, No Exit is an outstanding episode. There were minor blemishes, such as Anders' blurting out exposition faster than can be reasonably kept up with at times, some more vagueness (particularly with the Temple of Five), and even after all that some remaining very important lingering mysteries that weren't even addressed. But overall, this was an incredibly satisfying and necessary episode. If some of these answers had been deflated out of this story and had been sprinkled a little more slowly across previous episodes in order to focus more on the Cavil / Ellen dynamic in this story, No Exit might have even been worth a perfect score.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Lennier on 2009-02-14 at 10:34pm:
    This was a great episode; probably the most interesting of the entire series. However, far from the best overall. That honor would go to "Exodus Part II".

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