This is some insanely taut storytelling, and while it tries to be clear what is happening at any moment–it’s only about the jump cuts during space battles, which is probably an appropriate place to do that–it’s happy to wait until later to reveal to you the implications of what you saw. Which I regard as a good thing–not assuming your audience is stupid is still refreshing.
As an example, we see Six on the space station, seemingly destroyed, and then we’re shown the same person with Baltar, and although we get that this is a signal that she is probably not one of the good guys (not to mention the incident with the baby–which I still can’t decide whether to interpret as mercy or as the equivalent of pulling the legs off a spider1 just to see what happens), they’re happy to wait half an hour to let us know that they can upload their consciousness–and we’re still not told whether the one on Caprica is the same one as on the space station.
Even the bits that could easily have seemed like off-the-shelf parts–I’m thinking of the exchange between Apollo and Commander Adama after their photo-shoot, where the rift between them starts to become clear–still resonate because the writers hold back You understand that Lee holds his father responsible, and you think you understand what happened, but still much is left unsaid–we’re not given any sort of infodump, even though they still didn’t know if they were going to get anything more than a miniseries at this point.
And, the actors are just so damned good. The moment near the end of the first half, where Lee explains to President Roslin that “Apollo” is just his call-sign–Mary McDonnell gives him this fleeting smile before telling him she knows who he is, it’s just amazing. The entirety of Gaius Baltar’s performance is so wonderfully…slimy. And the moment when Tigh decides to sacrifice people to put out fires is chilling…the way he hesitates, but finally acts without remorse.
Interestingly, knowing in advance how it’s all going to come out, Adama’s speech at the decommissioning ceremony for the Galactica seems to point to everything that the series ends up being concerned with–the responsibility of a creator toward his creations. They take a circuitous route, and I’ll be curious how well Ronald D. Moore actually holds to it over the long term, but it might actually be that they set out their ideas here, first thing.
1 I have never done this, if only because I find spiders way too creepy to want to be that intimate with. But the replicants systematic destruction of a spider toward the end of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep has always haunted me.