Watch Out for Sarcastic Cylons

Friday's Battlestar Galactica episode, "Hub," reaffirmed my belief that Cylon politics are more interesting than human ones. We got to follow the rebel cylon Base Ship around, and find out even more weird things about cylon consciousness — as well as conscience. Written by former Buffy scribe Jane Espenson, who has been responsible for a lot of the best Battlestar episodes, "Hub" delivered goodness on all kinds of levels, some of which I would never have predicted. I mean, who knew that Baltar could be . . . funny? Or that a dose of humor was exactly what the show needed to get back on track? Spoilers ahead!

One of the big problems Battlestar has is its self-seriousness. I mean, it's hard not to be grim when the subject matter is the galaxy's last group of humans hanging on to species survival by a thread while being menaced by dangerous robots. But this season we've gotten a lot of egregious seriousness in episodes filled with Baltar's sermons and last week's abysmal cat-related brooding and Lee becoming the Emo President. "Hub," however, proves that you can have some pretty intense stuff happen while still taking the time to throw in some dark humor and cylon shit-talking.

As I said earlier, cylon politics are more interesting than human ones right now, and this episode explored why. Cylon loyalty is fragmenting as the bots move closer and closer to leading human lives — first, with several individual cylons refusing to do what others of their model do; and second, in this episode, with every cylon becoming mortal. The more ambiguous the cylons become, the more they seem to occupy an uncanny valley of character. They're human enough to arouse my recognition, and yet so clearly alien that I'm completely weirded out (but in a good way).

One of the best examples of this ambiguous human/not-human feeling the cylons are throwing off right now came early in the episode when Helo and a Sharon model are discussing how the fighter pilots should attack the Resurrection Hub, the giant ship whose tech allows the cylons to be born again. They're coming up with cool strategies when suddenly Helo gets some kind of crick in his neck. Sharon rubs his shoulders in some special way that Helo says only Athena knows how to do. Looking sort of embarrassed, Sharon admits she's been fascinated by his relationship with Athena, so she "accessed Athena's memories," and now those memories are hers.

I just love when Helo kind of backs away as Sharon says this, and then a distraught Sharon says awkwardly, "Sorry, I don't want this to be strange." It's like some kind of weird, future-robot-society version of meeting your ex — or meeting the memories of your wife in the body of a woman who looks exactly like her but isn't her and yet sort of is her. Is there etiquette for that?

Later, when Helo is arguing with the President that she shouldn't betray the cylons, we return to dystopian romantic comedy land. Apparently perceiving that Helo is being swayed by his growing affection for the cylon with his wife's memories, she snarks at him: "You are not married to the entire production line." I love that this line actually makes sense, and shows us that even in the darkest circumstances we can have a little sarcastic humor.

Speaking of sarcasm, this was the first episode in about 400 billion years that Baltar wasn't horrible to watch and listen to. Though he did get a little preachy when some flak ripped his stomach open in an explosion, most of the episode was a big giant reminder that Baltar is sometimes just a pompous windbag. At one point, he and Roslin compete to communicate with the hybrid cylon who controls the Base Ship and spouts nonsense. "I am OPENING MY HEART to her," Baltar whines grandly, then yells at the hybrid to prove how "open" his heart is. A few scenes later, he's earnestly trying to tell a Centurion about God. The big silvery lug, to its credit, just stares at him and tilts its head questioningly, as if Baltar is babbling nonsense. Which he is.

Of course, "Hub" needs a lot of sarcastic wit to counterbalance the treacly subplot where President Roslin has a vision of herself dying and gets a lecture from the Wise Sagittaran Priestess (read: Magical Black Lady) about how she needs to Love Somebody. Oh, and also she shouldn't kill Baltar either, even after he tells her in a drugged-out pain haze that he gave the cylons the passwords that allowed them to bypass the humans' defenses and kill everybody at the beginning of the series. I'm not crazy about the Adama-Roslin lovefest, but I would way rather have watched them do their prissy, non-kiss hugs for like 15 minutes than watch some priestess tell Roslin how she needs to be nicer.

By far the best part of the episode was the return of D'Anna, the cylon who was "boxed" at the end of last season for going nuts over God and Baltar and a bunch of other crap. She's the most-wanted cylon right now — by every conceivable side in the intra- and extra-cylon battles — because she's seen the final five cylons. Roslin wants to interrogate her, as do Cavil and the rational cylons, as do Leoben and the psycho new agey rebel cylons.

The great thing is that D'Anna could give a shit. When Cavil and the cylon he calls "my pet Eight" resurrect D'Anna, she comes out of the goo pissed and hungover. She promptly murders Cavil, then refuses to tell Roslin anything after Helo and Sharon rescue her. "I'm not giving you any names," she spits. When Roslin presses her, she snaps, "Don't you know that you are a cylon?" When Roslin looks stricken, D'Anna cracks up, hooting, "Oh you should have seen the look on your face." I'm liking the new, sarcastic D'Anna model. She's playing every side against the others, not trusting cylons any more than she trusts humans. And now the Resurrection Hub has been destroyed, she's the only one of her model left alive — so she has good reason to be a little crazy.

Ambivalent and ambiguous, the now-mortal cylons of "Hub" made this episode worth watching. Let's hope the cylons can continue to become more human while still retaining their robotic weirdness at the same time.

Also, let's hope that Adama and Roslin finally get to have sex. Give those shippers something new to sail on already.