The reason people like the American Film Institute keep calling ‘Battlestar Galactica’ one of the best shows on television is that it does something almost none of its competition is able to manage. When the show is at its best, it works on at least two levels. Every great episode has at least two separate conflicts working against and with each other. The first is action and story oriented, with the crew finding one of the keys to the next step in their journey to Earth, or in some cases simply fighting for survival. The second is personal, with personalities and relationships colliding, pulling people apart from each other or bringing them together in times of stress. What’s brilliant about this is that ‘BSG’ develops both conflicts all at once. Other science fiction shows like ‘Stagate SG-1’ might manage great action sequences, but if they bother with more personal conflict at all it’s only as a break in between bits of action. Other dramas may nail down personal conflict, but if they bother with action at all, it’s only as break from all the he-said-she-said soap opera they already have going on. ‘Battlestar’ does both in concert with one another and because of that it’s completely brilliant. Never has this proof of the show’s brilliance been more evident than it was this week, in the finale to the first half of season 3.

“They Eye Of Jupiter” begins where last week’s episode left off; with the fleet still in orbit around the “Algae Planet” collecting foodstuffs needed to save themselves for starvation. One small thing though: Kat seems all but forgotten. If there’s any criticism to be leveled at this installment, it’s that after making such a big deal over the sacrifice of a well known character last week, this week it’s as if she never existed. The crew has gotten over Kat pretty quickly, but with all the tension flying around in this episode let’s face it, there’s no room for grief.

Though the show picks up where last week left off, thematically this is more of a direct follow up to the episode before last, ‘Unfinished Business’. The Galactica’s young couples are all down on the surface supervising the civilian efforts at algae collection. Apollo and Starbuck made up two episodes ago, and apparently there’s something sexy about beating each other up because it’s only minutes before they start making out in a shuttle, with Dualla and Anders working unawares just outside the door. Riddled with guilt Apollo suggests they both get divorces. Starbuck, though she’s happy to cheat, refuses to ditch her husband. Apollo refuses to continue cheating on Dualla. They’re stuck.

Neither has much time to dwell on this difficult development in their affair, since right about then four Cylon base stars show up. On board the lead Cylon ship, Baltar is grappling with relationship problems of his own. The threesome between Baltar, Caprica, and D’Anna has apparently developed from a roll in the hay into a full blown relationship. Except D’Anna and Baltar have slipped off on their own to explore their grand destiny, while Caprica is left out in the cold.

Meanwhile on the planet, the Chief has stumbled on to an ancient temple containing the Eye of Jupiter, an artifact discussed in the prophecies and according to the texts, their next marker pointing to Earth. This is of course, what the Cylons are doing there. The coincidence of both groups converging on this same place at the same time is almost too much to dismiss, leaving Adama and Roslyn to again question their lack of faith in religious mumbo jumbo.

The Cylons are there for the Eye, and since Galactica stands between them and the planet, they send over a group to negotiate for it’s surrender. While there, one of the Boomers tells Galactica’s model the truth: Her baby is alive. They’ve bring Baltar with them, and it’s not long before the Brother Cavill is offering him up in exchange for the planet-bound artifact. Gaius is surprised. To him, the Galactica is still home, but one he can never go back to. He knows that if he’s lucky, this will be the last time he sees any of his own kind, and the thought of that, tears him up inside.

Adama throws the Cylons off his ship, threatening to nuke the entire planet rather than let them have it. The first half of the season ends in one of the most intense and incredibly complex standoffs seen in the series so far. Cylons are raiding Apollo’s camp on the ground below. Starbuck has been shot down by Cylon Centurions. Anders reveals that he knows what Apollo and Starbuck are up to, and ends up screaming at Apollo to send a rescue mission into the hills for his wife. Dualla is somewhere near Starbuck’s crash, scouting Cylons. The Chief is somewhere in the temple trying to come to grips with his dislike for religion while trying to figure out the puzzle of the Eye of Jupiter before they all get fracked. Baltar and D’Anna declare their love to Caprica only to ditch her and take off for the planet to meet what they think is their destiny. Boomer and Helo have just found out the truth about what Rosalyn did with their child. Adama has his nukes pointed at the planet prepared to launch and everything, and I mean everything, is about to go straight to hell.

See you on January 21st.

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