Battlestar Galactica season 1 episode 8 review: Flesh And Bone

The most contentious episode of Battlestar Galactica yet, as Starbuck becomes interrogator...

8. Flesh And Bone

Probably the toughest episode of Battlestar Galactica to write about thus far, and certainly featuring some of the most contentious content, Flesh And Bone kicks off with the reappearance of an old face. In this case, it’s Leoben Conoy, whom we first met in the miniseries when he and Commander Adama were trapped on Ragnor Anchorage. Roslin has been getting visions of him, too, and they inform her actions as the episode progresses.

The decision to make everyone aware the Cylons can take human form thus soon proves to be justified to some degree, when a copy of Conoy is reported to have been caught on the Gemenon Traveller. The contrast between the military and political approach is quickly brought to the fore, as Adama orders his execution, which President Roslin overturns, choosing instead for him to be interrogated.

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But Adama is only too aware that that’s a tall order. And when Roslin selects Starbuck for the task, Adama is quick to sternly warn Kara that Conoy will use any trick to get instead her head. They prove to be prescient words.

Before we get there, though, there are a few further plot points going on here. The Galactica Boomer revisits the Cylon raider that’s on-board, and her own suspicions that she’s a Cylon seem to be enhanced. She eventually visits Baltar later in the episode requesting to be the first tested under his Cylon detection scheme. He eventually agrees, with a little help from Number 6, and the result comes back, inevitably, as a positive. But what to do?

Again, it’s the genius influence of Number 6 – and I’ve already concluded that she is an inspired addition to the series, one that makes Baltar’s already intriguing character quite fascinating – that convinces him to fake the result. For fear of Boomer turning on him, he tells her that she’s absolutely human. But, you suspect, this is a secret that can’t be held for much longer.

On Caprica, the version of Boomer down there disobeys orders from her fellow Cylons, and tries to lead Helo to escape. Again, this is a story thread that surely can’t end well. And we effectively have two different Boomers acting in two different ways, too. Hmmm.

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But then it’s back to Starbuck, whose cocksure opening gambit is quickly picked apart by Conoy. He knows her name, and several other things about her, and this seems to shake Starbuck, something she doesn’t really recover from.

Up until this point, Starbuck has, at worst, been an anti-hero, but primarily one of the characters you can’t help but root for. Here, the writers push her into more complex ground, as she escalates her torture of Conoy. Granted, that I’ve watched this after I saw last summer’s The Dark Knight leaves me having used most of my thoughts on this issue on the interrogation scene in that film between Batman and The Joker. But this is still uncomfortable viewing. To see Starbuck desperately trying to find a chink in Conoy’s armour, yet repeatedly failing, leads her – after taunting – to escalate her tactics, both suddenly and brutally.

It takes the ultimate intervention of President Roslin to bring things to a halt, and to leave Starbuck to ponder what she’s done, ending with her pressing her hand against the glass as Conoy is expelled from the airlock. By this time, Conoy has confirmed that the threat of a nuclear warhead is false, the information ironically that Starbuck has been looking to glean, but before he goes, he lobs a further grenade into Roslin’s mind: Adama, he asserts, is a Cylon.

But is he? Granted, I seem to have spent much of the first half of series one playing a game of who is and who isn’t, not helped by the fact that the characters we’re presented with each come with an abundance of flaws and failings. Adama, though? He’s not on my list at the moment, and I’m not sure he was after Conoy had dropped his bombshell. The impact on Roslin’s thinking, however, has to be of note.

This was an uncomfortable episode, and not one I particularly enjoyed watching. For a few reasons, though, I have a hunch that it may be a pivotal one, both for Starbuck and Roslin. Next, I get to see if any of the threads are continued in Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down.

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Check out our review of episode 7 Six Degrees Of Separation here.