In the wake of the Cylon sneak attack, the ragtag fleet of human survivors is forced to play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with their pursuers. Every 33 minutes, they make a jump to a new location. And every 33 minutes, the Cylons manage to find them. The pilots are on the brink of exhaustion, relying on artificial stimulants to keep fighting, and the civilians are beginning to doubt the leadership of Commander Adama and President Roslin.
*** SPOILERS ***
This episode’s taut and intense action, picks up directly after the pilot/mini-series, and sets up an enormous chunk of what comes after.
We see ‘The Plan’ and its insistent pursuit, we see the setting up of the dynamics that ultimately lead to Baltar seizing power, we see the setting of Sharon and Helo to fall in love and create ‘The Shape of Things To Come’. Of course, much more.
The most compelling moments for me, are the ones with Roslin and Billy, and with Baltar and Head Six.
Head Six (I still have so many questions about Head Six) plays Baltar perfectly… engaging his always ready hedonism and his terror of being discovered, to get him to connect the whole story to what’s happening to and with Baltar.
It seems so self-absorbed, and of course we’re meant to think this a manifestation of Baltar’s narcissism, but Head Six’s long game is evident even here in this first episode.
Her asking Baltar if he wants a child, and then skillfully maneuvering him into a state of ‘repentance’ (but not like S03, E07 when D’Anna made him really repent) and very conveniently dispatches the Olympic Carrier for him. Because despite the effect of the Olympic Carrier on the whole fleet, we are clear, this is the beginning of Baltar’s conversion we are witnessing.
And speaking of the Olympic Carrier. This brings me to the other big ground laying we see in this episode, that I personally love. Roslin’s alternate detachment from and embracing of her role as leader of this fleet.
We seen it in the beginnings of The Count, and how she is tracking the people in her care.
It brings me to highlight the finals scene of this episode, when Billy tells her that she can add one to The Count, and she takes the news with stoic reserve while Billy is still in front of her.
However, the joyous triumph and hope that Mary McDonnell put into that almost silent final scene, is not only one of my Top Ten moments of this entire show’s run, but it is without a doubt the core of Roslin’s character, and an amazing testament to the skill and talent McDonnell brought to the character. When I first saw this episode, it brought water, stinging, to my eyes.
This episode, is among the finest of the entire show’s run. Not just because it so perfectly pitches the tension, or for its character development (quite impressive for a first episode), but because it manages to remain relevant to the story arc. To have not seen this episode and trying to understand the significance of Daybreak, is to have wasted any effort with this show.