Battlestar Galactica brought us some of the best television that we'd seen up until that point. There was no Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Orphan Black, or Justified, and finding quality shows at that time was a difficult task, at best. This is not to say that there was no good scripted television at the time - Veronica Mars, Rescue Me, The L Word, Samurai Champloo, etc. - but there was something special about BSG that a ton of people noticed, myself included. To go through each episode, one by one, and determine which one was my favorite was a difficult task, but here it is:
"Exodus, Parts 1 & 2" was BSG at its peak. Not only does it result in one of the most amazing action sequences ever put to film, it puts the whole series into motion in a way that hadn't been done before on the show; nothing after that was ever the same. The cracks within the Cylon unity are beginning to show; humanity is looking at final options just to survive. Darkness creeps into the show that never really left, something that seems more true to life than any of us are willing to admit.
But I digress. "Exodus" was An Event. I remember, the first time the two parts aired, I could not get out of my seat, even when commercials came on, because I didn't want to miss anything. That's a rarity for me; only Orphan Black (side note: yay a third season will come!!) currently has that honor at this time. From the moment that the Colonial Raptor made contact with the resistance on New Caprica ("Occupation"), I got excited about what was going to happen when the fleet finally rescued their comrades, but I wasn't prepared for how it actually made me feel: exhilarated, triumphant, intrigued, and ready for more.
Everything about these two episodes works. Three dreams that Hera is still alive; Baltar has sexual issues (can't get it up, can you, Gaius?); Sharon Agathon helps prevent the deaths of those scheduled to be executed; Saul has to kill his wife for collaborating with the Cylons*; Starbuck connects with a little girl, supposedly her daughter, who ultimately turns out to be another one of Leoben's lies; the Galactica careens to the planet's surface to let Vipers off to kick some ass and then jumps away; Lee, in a rare moment of awesomeness, comes to his father's rescue and sacrifices his ship to save everyone; the Cylons get Hera. I mean, it's just incredible.
Of course, it isn't perfect. Adama wears his Unfortunate Mustache, and Lee wears a fat suit, because as we know, weakness and fatness are synonymous (eye roll). Also, while it's certainly plausible that the Cylons thought the launch codes were safe and therefore didn't have them as guarded as they should been, Athena being able to infiltrate the compound and only run into one Three seems a little far-fetched. All in all, though, those are more nitpicky than they are true criticisms of the episodes. Well, except the Fat Lee part, but I covered that on Day 7. "Exodus" showed what the crew of the show could accomplish, and damn, if they didn't succeed in blowing our socks off. It's one of those episodes that I can watch over and over again and not get bored with it. It doesn't tie everything up in a neat little bow - which it shouldn't, since it's the fourth and fifth episodes of the third season - but it does resolve several threads**, which only opens up the rest of what the series turned out to be, for better or for worse. I argue that it is for the better, since this finally gets the fleet back onto their original goal of finding Earth.
In contrast to the previous seasons, this victory doesn't have the same ring to it. So many have died, some by their own choice and others not, and everyone shows the scars of their New Caprica "adventure." Unlike other episodes, which end on a high note so the deeper, sadder issues can be addressed later, this one has Tigh uttering that they didn't save everyone, obviously referring specifically to his deceased wife, so it's more obvious that the writers were going for a much darker tone in the following episodes (where they totally deliver, unfortunately - "Collaborators," anyone?). It's a more realistic portrayal of the atrocities of war. This no longer is some propaganda piece from the 1940s. Oh, no. This is real sci-fi life, you guys, and things are just getting started.
* Despite the darkness of this scene, it's probably one of my favorites. Michael Hogan's performance is simply perfection, and Kate Vernon expertly plays Ellen's resignation to die at the hand's of her husband.
** The end of Baltar's shitty presidency, the supposed real death of Ellen, the loss of the Pegasus, and ultimately the rescue of the refugees, just to name a few.