by Marc Bernardin
Our hands tell us who we are. At least that's what I got from the opening scenes of the Battlestar Galactica season premiere. Colonel Tigh, frustrated hands shaking as they mark time in a prison cell. Ellen Tigh, wedding ring glistening, still catting around. Laura Roslin, lighting prayer candles. Chief Tyrol, connecting feeds to a detonator. Admiral Adama, futilely trying to plan a rescue. And, most intriguingly, Kara Thrace, Starbuck, serenely setting a dinner table.
In this world, we all do what we must, whether it's frakking the bionic bejesus out of a ''Cylon of the cloth'' or becoming a terrorist or playing house.
Man, what a difference 134 days under the Cylon boot makes.
When last we checked in with the remnants of humanity, the Cylons had found the Colonial survivors' tent city on New Caprica. President Baltar had surrendered to the toasters' will. And the two Adamas — Admiral Bill and Commander Lee — had beaten a hasty retreat, leaving those on the surface of New Caprica to fend for themselves. Oh, and Kara was married to her pyramid-playing hunk Anders, who was suffering from pneumonia.
Now, we're in full-blown New Caprica-as-Iraq mode. Anders, fully recovered from his illness — you have to wonder just how Starbuck managed to talk the meds out of Apollo, when he seemed so reticent in the season finale — and Tyrol blow up a Cylon heavy raider, another strike in what Roslin angrily calls a futile insurgency, especially when the Cylons they kill never stay dead. Even she knows that they have to up the ante. But she's so not prepared for what Colonel Tigh has in mind.
The first time we see Tigh, he's in a Guantánamo-like prison compound, being held on charges we never learn, and it never becomes clear that they were anything more than suspicion of being an insurgent. And, clearly, he's been tortured, since he finally emerges without an eye. He's now a much more militant man than we've ever seen, willing to send a suicide bomber to take out the traitorous President Baltar — and kill human beings in the process. (He's become a sort of Zarqawi-cum-Nick Fury. ''We're on the side of the demons,'' says Tigh, when asked which side he's on. ''We're evil men in the gardens of paradise, sent by the forces of death to spread devastation and destruction wherever we go.'' In other words, he's the perfect guest for a tea party.)
And isn't the very idea of the New Caprica police force — humans trying to police themselves so the Cylons don't have to do it, equipped with ski masks and night vision — a riff on the Iraqi security forces that are, eventually, supposed to be able to care for their own country so that we don't have to do it? (And if you're wondering how Jammer could've become one of these ''traitors,'' check out the BSG webisodes, which show just how he was wooed by the dark side, and how sad Duck's death really is. Then again, the line between dark and light is always so blurry on this show. And you've gotta love the producers' willingness to cast Brother Cavil as a holy man who thinks that the only way to truly bring the word of God is through public executions. Jeez, is there a button that this show isn't willing to push?)
Once you leave the New Caprica hot zone and get back on the ships, it's clear that all is not well among the stars either. Apollo is waddling around in a relatively convincing fat suit, unwilling to get on board with his father's risky attempt to head back to New Caprica. (Best line of the series so far — Adama to his Stay Puft-marshmallow son: ''Get your fat ass out of here!'') But you've gotta give Dualla props both for sticking with her ever-expanding man and for pointing out that, yes, he is getting soft and has lost his edge.
Am I wrong in thinking that Grace Park is, perhaps, the most surprising actor on the show? Not only does she have to play, like, 48 different permutations of the same character, but she's gotta be able to hold her own with Edward James Olmos. And she does, especially when telling him that he's got to forgive himself for the things he's done, and not done.
There's just too much to mention, too many moments of brilliance: from Kara's cold disposing of Leoben to the reappearance of that devil in a red dress, Gaius' hallucinated Six, when he signs the execution order for more than 200 people. This is the way every show should start a season. With both revelations and answers. With shock and awe. With truth and consequences. With cast-iron balls.
Oh, so many questions. How do you feel about our heroes' use of suicide bombers? Is Gaius Baltar really evil, or is he just the victim of a sad mixture of ambition and circumstance? Could there, should there, ever be a peace between Human and Cylon? Is that little girl really Kara's daughter? Or is Kacey (short for Kara-Cylon, perhaps?) just another trick by Leoben to try and break her spirit? Can Adama truly trust Sharon Agathon (they got married — yay!), or was it a mistake to make her the first Cylon officer in the Colonial? (Reminds me a little of Worf, am I right?) What's gonna happen to poor Cally? And Jammer? And just how much will Ellen have to pay for stealing that map and betraying everything her husband believes in?