Spoiler: If you don’t know the identity of the final cylon on Battlestar Galactica, stop reading. Otherwise… (and I’ll be removing this “jump” in a few weeks…)
Waiting to find out that Ellen Tigh was the “final” of the final five (I put “final” in quotes since she isn’t necessary a special or unique model within the final five — she’s just the last one we found out about) has basically been a five-year delayed orgasm.
I cannot think of any other show where there has been such delayed gratification. Sure, shows like Lost are extremely complicated and full of mysteries, but the nature of those questions are more ontological in nature. The matter of the identity of the cylons who look like humans are just a matter of fact. You could write essays (and many have) trying to understand some of the larger questions that shows like Battlestar and Lost and Twin Peaks and Heroes, etc. raise, but in regard to the final cylons, it’s a simple, one-word answer (not even an explanation).
We’ve been teased about the existence of these human-like cylons since the miniseries that preceded the show itself and trying to figure out who is really a cylon (and the paranoia and issues that causes) have been a major part of the show. So finally, with just 10 episodes left, we know know the identity of every humanoid cylon.
The only similar situation that I can think of off the top of my head is the whole “Who Shot JR?”on Dallas phenomenon. In the spring of 1980 we saw JR get shot. We had to wait all summer to get one-sentence answer: Kristin Shepard (JR’s sister-in-law, who he was, of course, having an affair with) shot him. Unlike most complex shows that I watch, the answer didn’t produce more questions (which, don’t get me wrong, I love). Likewise, after 4.5 seasons of Battlestar, the Ellen reveal at the end of “Sometimes A Great Notion” provided us with the one-sentence answer: “The identity of the only not-yet-revealed humanoid cylon is Ellen Tigh.”
This kind of a cliffhanger (that started during the miniseries) drives me nuts (in a good way!). For the entire week before “Sometimes A Great Notion” aired, I was going nuts trying to find spoilers and looking for clues (see also: The Final Cylon? A Gay Cylon?). Sure, the revelation opens a whole bunch of questions (e.g. “What does it mean that she’s dead?”, “So cylon love spans lifetimes?”, “What’s the deal with 2000-year-ago Earth?”, etc.), at least we have one concrete answer.
So now that we know that Ellen is a cylon, how do I feel about it?
To help me consider my thoughts, I went back and re-watched the episode in which we first meet Ellen, season 1’s Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down.” The awesome thing about his episode is that it basically reveals that fact that Ellen is a cylon. When she first arrives on Galactica, Adama gives her blood to Baltar to be tested using his cylon detector. After some obnoxious behavior at a dinner party, Roslin and Adama are convinced that she is indeed a cylon and I remember when I watched it for the first time, I was pretty convinced, too. Like the other humanoid cylons, she basically appeared out of nowhere. And at this point early in the series, I think we were expecting that all of the humanoid cylons would be revealed fairly quickly and without too much drama.
When Roslin and Adama go to Baltar to receive the test results (and get caught by Ellen and Colonel Tigh in the process), Baltar tells them that she isn’t a cylon. By this point, Baltar had decided that he wouldn’t really use the cylon detector and just tell Roslin/Adama that everyone is human (after Boomer is identified as a cylon). When HeadSix asks him what the test really said, and he responds, “I’ll never tell.”
This raises the intriguing possibility that Baltar knew her cylon identity quite early in the series.
(A disappointing side note: In an interview with the Chicago Tribune Ronald D. Moore, the creator of Battlestar, reveals that the idea for Ellen-as-a-cylon came about during season three and wasn’t finalized until season four — so any clues that we got during that season one episode mean pretty much nothing. Now that Ellen is a cylon we can gleam some meaning, but the intention of the episode was just to play around with the “anyone could be a cylon” theme.)
Overall, I’m actually happy knowing Ellen is a cylon.
I’m glad that the “final cylon” isn’t yet another class of cylons. We already have the “significant seven” and the “final four” that were revealed during “Crossroads, Part II,” so I’m glad that we now know that the “final cylon” wasn’t revealed during “Crossroads” because she was dead. It wasn’t because she was some super cylon that was immune to the music or yet another type of cylon. The whole, “Ohhh the final cylon must be a big special deal since we don’t find out until near the end of the series!” was manufactured on the part of the fans.
I also think that the Ellen-and-Tigh-both-being-cylons adds a sort of sweet love story to the show. We learn at the end of “Sometimes A Great Notion” that they were lovers 2,000 years ago, and they were lovers in the current timeline, so you have to wonder if they really are literal soul mates. I’m rarely a fan of sappy romance creeping into shows, but I like this since they are sort of star-crossed and fucked up lovers.
Throughout season four I kept worrying that once I found out who the final cylon was, I would lose interest in the show. The suspense and desire to know the identity of the humanoid cylons were definitely some of the things that kept me so obsessed with the show. I’m happy to report that now that I do know, I’m still just as obsessed with Battlestar as ever. I think one of the things that has made the show so enjoyable over the years is that unlike Lost it doesn’t answer every question with another question — we actually got some definitive answers. The combination of the two types of mystery kept me interested without getting exhausted.
Here’s to some great final episodes!