Cavil is a Human; or: What’s More Human than Genocide?
In the BSG episode “No Exit,” we got to spend our first bit of quality time with Number One, or Cavil, or John. Up to now we’ve just seen him be evil and manipulative in little fits and jerks – a cylon board meeting here, an interrogation there… we’ve never gotten an up-close look at who he is and what makes it tick.
The events of “No Exit” paint a picture of Cavil as far more evil and powerful than we ever suspected. He murdered the Final Five and blocked all access to their memories when they resurrected. He tortured them by giving them “front row seats” to the Fall of the Twelve Colonies. In fact, he is the closest thing we have to an “architect” of the Cylon Holocaust.
And yet… in this episode, I would argue that we finally see how human Cavil is. When he delivers his excellent soliloquoy about the limitations of the human body, its sense organs and its instruments of communication, his anger is utterly comprehensible. After all – what is more human than being frustrated with our own physical frailty and shortcomings? Men have always been angry that they can’t see x-rays or microscopic animals – that is WHY we created x-ray machines and microscopes! Man has always raged and wept about the fact that we must die, that our consciousnesses are so flimsy – that’s why we create great art, or hunt for technological means of extending and enhancing life! And in the universe of Battlestar Galactica, the human dissatisfaction with our own limits is what led to the creation of the cylons… to fight our wars, and dig our ditches, and bear our grudges, and want to grow up to be just like us… in all the worst ways.
Cavil’s complaints are very human, and the irony is that he can’t grasp the connection. He thinks he’s so different from the humans. He’s not. He’s scarily human. That doesn’t mean he won’t continue to pursue a genocidal course of action against the humans. Because the humans, also acting out of rage and fear, have a genocidal strategy of their own for the cylons.
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