In the sixth episode of the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
You cannot force me to choose a favorite episode of season four. You just can’t. Every final season of a show–and I do mean every one that I’ve seen–always has a small lull before it’s full steam ahead. LOST. The Wire. Six Feet Under. The X-Files. The pieces are set in place for their final movement, and then it’s all chaos until the end.
Not Battlestar Galactica. Look, the first five episodes of season four are unbearable. There’s so much death and tragedy, so much frustration and rage, and the narrative doesn’t feel like it’s resting before one last push. This show has gradually building to this final season, and thinking back on how many times I thought shit was “real” in season one is comical.
To give a great example of how fucked up everything is, and to give evidence that this show isn’t going to slow down: Within the first couple minutes of “Faith,” Starbuck ignores Helo’s demand that she step down and tries to back the jump to the basestar on her own. When Athena restrains her and Helo orders Gaeta to make the jump to the Galactica, ANDERS SHOOTS GAETA IN THE LEG. Even this show is normally “guilty” of following a pattern with two-parters: the second episode of a pair resolves the cliffhanger, and things settle into a slower pace until the end. NOPE. NOT “FAITH.” Instead, the writers choose to give us an even more awful moment, directly defying this common storytelling trope. There’s supposed to be a lull. There is supposed to be a moment of calm, bringing the tension down from a possible disaster. It’s just how cliffhangers work.
With this tonal frame of mind, as well as a clocking ticking down from fifteen hours, Starbuck gets her way (sort of) and heads off to the Cylon basestar with Anders, Athena, Barolay, and Leoben. TENSION. THE UNBEARABLE TENSION.
But before I dive into the main plot of this show, I wanted to talk about Laura Roslin’s story within “Faith.” Everything that we see in this episode, even if it is divorced from a religious meaning, has to do with characters taking a leap of faith. It’s always difficult to watch Roslin deal with cancer because I had to watch my own mother cope with cancer twice, so all of the small details are so familiar to me. Like “Maelstrom,” this show gets so many details right that for brief moments, it stops feeling fictional at all, so even seeing Laura Roslin bald is not shocking because she has no hair, but because I know what that looks like on someone you love.
In “Faith,” we see Roslin at her most vulnerable, fearing the inevitability of her death, but still doing the best to try and survive. She has an emotional moment with Tory Foster before she gets her last two Doloxan treatments, entirely unaware that Tory has stepped up to the plate and improved around Roslin because she is a Cylon. Fucking hell, Roslin’s going to be gutted when she learns Tory is a Cylon, isn’t she?
In the sickbay of Galactica, where Roslin stays while getting her treatment, she meets a fellow cancer patient, Emily, who initially is not too keen on making friends with the President. But the women have some common ground aside from their cancer: they both have had to deal with their mortality and their coming death, though Emily finds solace in the words of Gauis Baltar. Understandably so, Roslin wants nothing to do with the man.
For Emily, though, the solace of a life after death comes from a dream she had, one that only peripherally relates to Baltar, but enough for her to shed her belief in the Lords of Kobol. I was fascinated by the fact that Emily belief in the God that Baltar spoke of because it gave her comfort; it is a familiar idea, because when it comes right down to it, that is all I wanted from God when I tried to be religious. I just wanted to feel that warm, loving presence that she spoke of. What Roslin faces in her crisis of faith relates to her own mother’s death from cancer: Roslin believes her mother did not experience a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. She was not validated, she did not feel loved by some otherworldly spirit, and that her death was not some noble thing. (UGH THAT MONOLOGUE BROKE ME.)
I think Roslin held on to this idea that death had to be noble, or else it was pointless, and seeing Emily’s final moments and the violent way in which she had a seizure helped her at least face the fact that death is rarely pretty for anyone. The dream that she has near the end of the episode is the beginning of her acceptance of this. I was happy to finally see her mother, even if it was in such a sad context, but the dream that she has, in which Emily appears as well, does show one thing for certain: Roslin still has a few things she needs to take care of. SHE IS IN CHARGE, Y’ALL.
And even if it’s really small, the very last scene of “Faith” even shows us that Admiral Adama, who still has no interest in religion, has his own leap of faith. I had forgotten of the days when the search for Earth were just something to distract the fleet, but Adama admits that Roslin was the one who got him to make a leap of faith as well. NOW KISS. KISS YOU TWO. oh god what is this show doing to me.
It’s torturing me, that’s what it’s doing. Shall we talk about Starbuck and the basestar? HOW. HOW DO I TALK ABOUT THIS. HOW DO I EVEN PROCESS WHAT I’VE JUST WITNESSED. The mythology of this show just took a gigantic leap forward and in a HORRIFYING WAY. I DO NOT FEEL BETTER ABOUT ANYTHING AT ALL. Nevermind the constant tension of Anders being around a bunch of Cylons and always a second away from being discovered. That is bad enough. The entire story is so surreal because…look, there is no way months ago, I ever thought that the humans would be on a basestar working with Cylon rebels.
But before we even get to the basestar and my mind explodes from the final revelation given by the Hybrid, this particular episode includes some of the most beautiful and gorgeous shots of the entire series. When the Raptor jumps into the basestar graveyard, I was shocked by the attention to detail. Again, I’ve said it a million times, but the special effects on Battlestar Galactica slay me. It’s not just how detailed and crisp everything looks, though; there’s an emotional element to them all, in the way that we attach ourselves to the physical look of space, of the empty vacancy of it all. I’m so used to the dark color palates used on this show that when the crew on the Raptor comes upon the gaseous, ringed planet that Starbuck saw on her route to earth, I almost started to cry. The colors of that planet, the trail being left by the only surviving basestar…look, it is just so beautiful to me. Starbuck was right. She was here, and Leoben knew how to help her paint this scene because he had just left this place. Do I understand how this fits in with the full mythology? I don’t have a damned clue, but I was so excited to have Starbuck validated that I didn’t really care.
Oh god. The basestar. The basestar. Oh god, those fibers of muscle that help close the doors to the docking bay. Oh god, all of those Eights asking Athena to help them mutiny against the Sixes. Oh god, Anders almost touches that…wait, what is that thing called? The red thing in the water that the Cylons touch? Has it ever been named in an episode? Okay, so that water-touchy-thing. ANDERS ALMOST TOUCHED IT. What would have happened if he had? I NEED TO KNOW THESE THINGS.
Oh my god, Jean Barolay. I liked you so much. And I never said it until you were gone. It’s a rather ironic way for this story to address the fact that Cylons can develop the same “feelings” that come with being human, unfortunately using Barolay’s taunt to a Six to bring forth rage. We see how the memory of a death, brought back through the resurrection of a specific model, means something to that current version of the Cylon, who died when Barolay drowned her on New Caprica.
And with no Resurrection Ship nearby, this Six’s death is permanent, and the Rebel Six’s scathing remark about justice to Anders and Starbuck hit me hard. Were they better off without that Six living? Do they feel that justice was served?
The initial moments with the Hybrid were anti-climactic, but I knew that without some sort of physical contact, Starbuck wouldn’t get the Hybrid to actually speak to her. I noticed that in this episode in particular, the idea of touch between Cylons is incredibly important. This has been the case in the past, but I never stopped to think about it until “Faith.” We see one Six kiss another before she kills her, and the kiss is not really sexual at all; it’s an act of respectful affection. We’ve only ever seen the Hybrid speak to someone when she was touched; Tigh was only comforted when Caprica Six touched him; and even one of the Eights is rejected a physical touch by Athena, and is only comforted before death by Anders. AHHHH HOW DID ATHENA NOT NOTICE THAT.
It takes an Eight being shot by one of the Centurions, who caused the Hybrid to scream when she tried to disconnect her, that almost “activates” the Hybrid. Something about that moment, the physical touch, and an Eight’s blood is the right mix. And she speaks. And my head explodes. The dying leader will find the truth about the Opera House. The missing Three will be used to find the Five. The Five come from the home of the Thirteen Tribe. Kara Thrace is the harbinger of death and will lead everyone to this.
I started flailing about and my brain melted and I couldn’t even remotely figure out what this meant because I couldn’t even devote a second of my brain’s activity to this coded message. In hindsight, it was rather obvious what this meant, so I’m glad that the show didn’t drag it out as some sort of mystery. But seriously. Seriously. Laura Roslin will find out what the Opera House means. (!!!) Three will have to be unboxed. (!!!!!) Three will help them find the Final Five Cylons JESUS CHRIST!!!!!!! AND HOW THE FUCK CAN THE FINAL FIVE CYLONS HAVE COME FROM EARTH??? We know them!!! They have lived with these people for years! EARTH IS SO OLD I DO NOT FUCKING UNDERSTAND THIS. Oh my god ANDERS KNOWS HE DOES NOT HAVE MUCH TIME LEFT.
I am simply floored by “Faith,” which combines a complex and intriguing mythology with a whole lot of believable and emotional character development. Plus, Starbuck has now brought back a Cylon basestar to the fleet. Jean Barolay was right: she is forever a badass! I can’t even think of how Adama and Roslin are going to deal with the idea of SIDING WITH CYLON REBELS. On top of that, JESUS CHRIST Gaeta’s leg. HIS LEG. Oh god, Gaeta, I love you so dearly, and your scenes in “Faith” are agonizing to watch. Did Helo inherently doom Gaeta’s leg by waiting for Starbuck to return?
AH GODDAMN IT THIS SHOW.