We've had a chance to watch the premiere episode of Battlestar Galactica's fourth and final season, and it certainly didn't disappoint. To keep this spoiler-free, I will speak in vagueries about what's in store and why things are going to get ooky as well as spooky this season. Like the very best BSG episodes, this one balances out interesting character developments with seriously kickass space battles. And of course, there's the mystery we were left with at the end of last season: Why has Starbuck returned?
What was most interesting about the episode was watching the four new cylon deal with discovering that they are not human. As we learned at the end of season 3, some of the most unlikely members of the crew have turned out to be skinjobs.
The newly-revealed Cylons include Tigh, the ship's XO, who was tortured by the Cylons on New Caprica so brutally that he lost an eye. And there's Anders, Starbuck's ex, who was leading the human resistance against the Cylons on Caprica when Starbuck rescued him. Then there's Chief Tyrol, whose discovery that he's got toaster in him means he's also got a hybrid baby. Almost as an afterthought, there's Foster, the president's aide. Each plays a pivotal role on the ship, and each could easily kill the Admiral or President if "activated" from afar by the Cylons.
There's a lot of soul-searching among these Cylons, as they wonder if their memories are implanted lies and what it means to find out they aren't who they think they are. Will they be activated? Can they be sure they're in control of their actions? Things get especially interesting when Starbuck returns in a cloud of suspicion — she thinks she's been gone for a few hours, and the rest of the fleet know she's been gone for months and suspect her of being a Cylon or at least a spy for them. In a great moment, Anders tries to comfort her — and Starbuck, in her usual way, is a total dick about it. Yup, our beloved crew is back.
When they're not fighting Cylons, the humans are dealing with a new antagonist in their midst. Baltar goes all Jesus on everybody after being adopted by a strange band of nubile lady cultists. This is where the season's yuck factor comes in, and no surprise that Baltar is all over it. Will he become a creepy, fake-ass messiah to the downtrodden of the ship, willing to pretend to be anything they want as long as they give him protection, food, and sex? Or is he really starting to believe in his own godlike power, and to worship the Cylons' one god?
While it certainly wasn't the best episode of BSG I've seen, it was still a strong one. Most important, it set up some genuinely compelling tensions that will animate the final season as we come closer and closer to Earth. I like a show that can kick some toaster ass, and still find time to worry about the nature of human identity. And this episode does all that and more. Welcome back, BSG. We missed you.