The entire fall season of SciFi Channel's acclaimed humans vs. cylons show Battlestar Galactica was contained in a two-hour "television event" called Razor. In a smart move, show creator Ron Moore takes this episode back to an intriguing era during season two of the show when Galactica discovered Battlestar Pegasus, commanded by tough-as-shit Admiral Cain. Razor gives us rich, fascinating backstory on Pegasus and its fascistic commander, while also offering a peek at the mysterious beginnings of Cylon experiments with human-Cylon hybrid beings. Along the way we get terrific space fights, girl-on-Cylon action, and a reminder that Battlestar Galactica is still one of the best shows on television.
Probably the best part of the episode, aside from discovering that Admiral Cain is having girl-on-bot love with a Number Six model Cylon, is the character Kendra Shaw. A Starbuck-esque macho girl, Shaw becomes Cain's right hand after the Cylon attack. We watch a lot of the action in this episode unfold through Kendra's eyes: she sees Cain slowly degenerate into vengeful madness after the Cylon attack (and the discovery that her lover is a Cylon spy), and then she becomes Lee Adama's XO after he takes charge of the Pegasus in the wake of Cain's death. Wracked with guilt for her role in a massacre of civilians protesting the Pegasus takeover of the fleet, Shaw tries to honor Cain's legacy with bravery but not to fall prey to her appetite for violent destruction.
The episode centers on what happens when an exploration crew goes missing and Pegasus sends out a rescue mission to find them. Of course, they discover a hidden nest of Cylons — but not the ones you're expecting. They've come across a group of old-school Centurions who have survived for decades guarding a creature they call "God." This sets off Commander Adama's own flashbacks to the first Cylon war, when he found the lab where "God" was made during a series of experiments in human-Cylon hybridization.
You'd think all the flashbacks and digging into BSG's past would be boring fansturbation, but instead it makes for riveting, character-driven action. The legendary old Centurions and their God make for creepy-cool spectacle, while the sparks that fly when Starbuck argues with Shaw over battle plans are just plain good drama. Admiral Cain's shadow is cast across the whole story, as it should be. Her choice to embrace war over survival is the dark foil to Adama's more rational choices. What propells this episode into a brilliance that transcends space opera is that we come to sympathize with Shaw's loyalty to Cain, even as we reject Cain's idea of justice. This moral ambiguity is what has always made BSG such a strong show. Whether grappling with Cylon love or human cruelty, Razor delivers. It will renew your hopes for season four of the show, set to begin (hopefully) in April.