The meandering season premiere of Battlestar Galactica (along with a few meandering episodes late in Season 3–yes, I am looking at you, “The Woman King”) has taught us something important: humans need Cylons. When the Cylon threat is imminent, the remaining ragtag human population finds a way to bind together, to overcome their fears and weaknesses, to embrace each other (often literally) in order to face the onslaught. When the Cylons are off on their own, deciding they want to find Earth, too, or doing naked tai chi or sleeping with Gaius Baltar, the humans revert back to their bickering, petty ways. Left to their own devices, the humans start mooning over past loves we’ve never seen before, giving Lee “Maybe I’ll Be Less Boring In A Suit Than I Was In A Uniform” Adama five-minute standing ovations for leaving (apparently the Colonies never had a stop-loss policy), and sleeping with Gaius Baltar. They need the Cylons to spur them into being more than they otherwise would be on their own.
The Cylons, on the other hand, might be better off on their own. When their former slavemasters are around, they get all obsessive and weird over both genocide and wanting to be like what they’re trying to obliterate. When the humans are off on their own, deciding that Helo must be the only non-bigot left in the fleet or listening to Cally screech or sleeping with Gaius Baltar, the Cylons are forced to look in the mirror and try to figure out, as Six put it last night, what their place in the universe is. They’re forced, as a species, to grow up, and that’s hard work to do under the best of circumstances, let alone when you’re trying to mop up the last 40,000 humans in the galaxy. “Six of One” asks the Cylons more directly than ever before if they have become like humans–too much like humans, if they’re enslaving other mechanical lifeforms (One’s “they’re tools, not pets” is one of the more chilling statements out of a Cylon’s mouth in the last couple of years). They have a hard time seeing the answer to that question with any clarity when the humans are right there in their faces.
Given all of that, where do the last 18 episodes of Battlestar Galactica go? Is that why the Final Five are so important–can they bring the humans and the Cylons together in some way that resolves this divide? Or has all of this happened before, and will all of it happen again, implying that they will always be locked in this dance toward but never reaching equilibrium? If so, could they maybe dance a little faster?