I love this show! In addition to being a great sci-fi series, it works perfectly well as a gritty drama. In the wake of the attempted genocide of the human race, a fleet of 50,000 survivors have left their homes in an attempt to escape their oppressors, the half human/half machine Cylons, in an attempt to find refuge on a little planet called Earth.
Led by President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), who is dying of cancer, and Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos), the fleet was last seen about to do battle with... fellow humans? Yes, after the discovery that the Battlestar Pegasus has also been on the run in the 7 or so months since the Cylons attacked the 12 Colonies of Kobol, a disagreement about leadership has Adama and Roslin looking down the figurative barrel at Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes), the commanding officer aboard the Pegasus and Adama's superior. The two-parter "Resurrection Ship" shows that the immaculate pair of Adama and Roslin can sink very low if they need to in order to protect the fleet. The two episodes also contain a huge revelation regarding the Cylons that may allow the humans to actually begin to have a chance at combatting their enemies.
As the second half of the second season progresses, the characters that we've grown to love (or in some cases, love to hate), are put through more trials as they deal not only with the Cylon threat, but also each other. Vice President Gaius Baltar (James Callis) has his loyalties divided due to the discovery of a captured Model No. 6 (Tricia Helfer) aboard the Pegasus. Of course, the twist is that they are divided three ways; to his fellow humans, to the corporeal 6 (known, possibly as a joke to a group of people who dislike the show, who call the show GINO, or Galactica In Name Only) as Gina, and finally to the mental 6 that he sees in his head. Capt. Lee "Apollo" Adama, the commander's son, is given more responsibility as his role as pilot and CAG is expanded to do gritty missions, including shutting down a black market ring. Of course, the now Captain Kara "Starbuck" Thrace acts tough as usual (but then, we wouldn't have it any other way), though her position as best pilot/biggest b**** aboard Galactica is challenged by one of the pilots she trained in season 1. And the love triangle of Sharon "Boomer" Valerii/No. 8 (Grace Park), Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas), and Karl "Helo" Agathon (Tahmoh Penniket) is further strained by the arrival of the cylon/human hybrid baby as well as the creation of a kind of "love trapazoid" when Cally (Nikki Clyne) begins to express her feelings for Tyrol. Even another love triangle forms when Lee begins to become the object of affection of Dualla (Kandyse McClure), much to the disappointment of her boyfriend Billy (Paul Campbell).
Unfortunately, these 10 episodes contain some of the weakest of the show's run. Episodes like "Scar" and "Black Market" are only ok by comparison to some of the show's episodes, most of which are amazing. Still, the weakest episode of Galactica is still 10 times better than the best episodes of most of what's on television these days. There are many really good episodes in this set, including "The Captain's Hand", and "Sacrifice". Also, the two-part "Resurrection Ship" is wonderful, as is "Downloaded", which is told from the point of view of the Cylons on the planet Caprica. However, I must say that "Lay Down Your Burdens, Pts. 1 and 2" have ousted "Pegasus" as my new favorite episode(s). While the season finale does share a slight similarity with the season 1 ender (the discovery of a planet), it is handled much differently this time around, and there are numerous other things going on. By the year's end, another Cylon model will be revealed (taking the total to 7 known models and 5 to be discovered), a few characters in the military will be promoted, and, in the second part of the season finale (which is an extended episode), there will be more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at, especially in the last half hour.
The writers continue to impress as the characters are taken in great new and terrifying directions. This show is unpredictable, and it revels in going places many shows fear to tread. Every character is flawed in some way, and the people inhabiting the universe of BSG are some of the most human characters on television. Sadly, we didn't see much of Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon), the insane wife of Galactica's executive officer Col. Saul Tigh (Paul Hogan). On his own, Tigh is a self-destructive alcoholic, but Ellen serves to take all his worse tendencies and amplify them, as well as planting ideas of ambition in his head (think Lady Macbeth crossed with 24's Sherry Palmer). Ellen is despicable, but she is part of what makes this show great; she forces Tigh to confront his demons in the most twisted ways imaginable.
The stories are also amazing; the show is very much a product of a post-9/11 America, and that is reflected in the grim, survivalist nature of the fleet. The humans once thought that nothing could touch them, but now their entire way of living has been obliterated, and they must scrape by living on crowded ships with meager rations to sustain them. Furthermore, the lines of good and evil aren't drawn clearly; the Cylons view their actions as just and right. Even though they claim not to condone murder, in this case, the ends justified the means. And of course, no human is completely good or evil. Even Baltar, who can't seem to pick a side, can't always be blamed for his actions, as he is certifiably insane. That doesn't make his horrible decisions and actions right, but he isn't doing them because he is "evil". In a clever twist, the writers even reversed the roles of religion on the show; most of the time in film and television, the protagonists are monotheistic (unless they live in a time/place in history where a polytheistic religion is practiced), but here, the "good" humans are the polytheists while the "evil" Cylons worship the "one true God".
Battlestar Galactica is without a doubt one of the best series on television. While many people tend to look down on science fiction series as trivial and childish, this is anything but. The messages that are found layered within the plots of the story accurately reflect the state of the world today. If you don't want to take my word for it, look at the numerous mainstream critics who love the show, such as Time Magazine (which listed it has the best new show of 2005) and Entertainment Weekly, which is trying to get the show nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Drama (which, unfortunately, it probably won't get due to the academy's phobia of sci-fi; but then again, LOST won, so I guess anything's possible). If you have yet to check this show out, buying season 1 should be a top priority for you!