316[BSG] Jammer's Review: "Faith"
- Dec 31, 2008Note: This review contains significant spoilers.
Battlestar Galactica: "Faith"
Roslin finds her religious views challenged by a fellow terminal
cancer patient who has found solace in Baltar's words. Kara attempts
to forge an alliance with a group of renegade Cylons and learn
details about her destiny from their Hybrid.
Air date: 5/9/2008 (USA)
Written by Seamus Kevin Fahey
Directed by Michael Nankin
Rating out of 4: ****
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Faith" tells a story combining religion and science fiction about as
successfully as I've personally seen it done. In that way, it's a
legitimate rival for my longtime benchmark, 1997's "Contact"
(although they're admittedly apples and oranges). The result is an
hour full of probing questions that will likely strike different
people in different ways. This is a sophisticated and emotionally
resonant meditation on life and death, struggle and pain, coping and
humanity, and, yes, faith.
The key reason "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's" issues of faith never
truly worked as an allegory for the real world was because Bajor's
prophets were tangible beings that could be physically observed and
performed physically tangible miracles. The existence of the
Bajoran "gods" was a simple fact; the only question was whether or
not one believed the wormhole beings actually *were* gods. As a
result, the religion issue on DS9 lost a lot of its real-world
resemblance and relevance. BSG, however, resembles our world
precisely because the existence of God (or the Gods) cannot be proven
with evidence. It must be taken on faith.
Before I get into all that, let me first pick up where last
week's "Road Less Traveled" left off, with the situation on the
Demetrius about to go sideways (as they're always saying on "The
Shield"). Sideways it quickly does go, with Kara getting relieved of
duty, Kara refusing to stand down, Sharon subduing Kara, Helo
ordering the ship to jump back to the fleet, Anders taking Kara's
side and pointing a gun at Gaeta and ordering him to halt the jump,
and eventually Anders shooting Gaeta in the leg to take the situation
over by force. Poor Gaeta. What did he ever do to deserve all he's
gotten? (As Clint Eastwood once said, deserve's got nothin' to do
with it. Later when Gaeta says, "Don't let Cottle take my leg," we
know his fate is sealed; he's gonna lose it.)
Kara, realizing things are quickly spinning out of control, agrees to
step down but instead says that she will go herself in a Raptor with
Leoben to find the damaged basestar. The rest of the Demetrius can
wait here and jump back to the fleet if they don't return. Anders
goes with her, along with, interestingly, Sharon, who just seconds
earlier was holding Kara in a headlock. Kara needs a Cylon who can
provide interfacing help. Plus, the story needs an additional reason
to make Helo squirm as the deadline of 15 hours until the rendezvous
counts down. Also volunteering for the mission is someone who
believes in Starbuck -- a crewman named Barolay, who should probably
be wearing a red shirt.
"Road" and "Faith" are two separate stories, which merely use the
cliffhanger as a jumping-off point for the real story about Kara's
bizarre and eye-opening dealings with the Cylon renegades (if indeed
it is they, and the not the Cavil camp, who are the "renegades").
Finding the basestar is its own challenge; fortunately, Kara can
sense which way to go, and to her own surprise realizes the comet she
saw orbiting a planet in her visions was actually the basestar.
Nifty, but it again begs the question: Who and what is Resurrected
Starbuck? It's worth noting that we are now six episodes into
Starbuck's return and essentially know no more about where she went
than we did in the first episode. The writers have done a good job
putting off all answers to the mystery while distracting us with
character analysis like her realization in "Road" that she has lost
the person she was and may never get it back. Ultimately, that's the
right choice, because this is about characters more than it's about a
plot answer that ultimately will have to be somewhat arbitrary.
Once aboard the basestar, we see the formation of a precarious
alliance. Renegade Six has no better options with her basestar
crippled, but she is not especially happy about giving Kara access to
the Hybrid, nor pleased in general about the Leobens' obsession with
her. Meanwhile, in what is as amusing an idea as it is interesting,
Athena is instantly accosted by a horde of Eights that timidly ask
her to lead a mutiny against the Sixes that mutinied against the
other Cylons. "You guys make me sick," Athena replies. "You pick a
side and you stick. You don't cut and run." The Eights were once
called a weak model; perhaps this is further evidence. Bunch of flip-
floppers. They should heed Stephen Colbert on the virtue of having
There are a couple of terrific key scenes in this storyline. The most
psychologically compelling is when Crewman Barolay has a run-in with
a copy of a Six in the docking bay. They get into a brief verbal
exchange, and the Six kills her. Just like that. Turns out that
Barolay had killed this copy of Six on New Caprica, and now she takes
her revenge. Evident here is the ugly cycle of violence that begets
violence. Like the best aspects of BSG, there's a real-world message
to be found here, but it's elevated into the what-if realm by the
ever-so-slight sci-fi tweak: Because this Six had resurrected, she
was able to later face the woman who killed her. And she just
couldn't let it go.
The point of the scene is how the Cylons *are* indeed very much
psychologically affected by the violence inflicted upon them: Despite
all this Six's counseling and her struggles to put being killed
behind her, she couldn't do it: "I still see her face when I try to
sleep." So now this Six faces her end at the hand of Renegade Six. In
an act of "justice" to make a point and provide an answer for
Barolay's death in the interests of the fragile alliance, Renegade
Six shocks everyone by pulling the trigger and putting down one of
her own sister models. There is no resurrection ship; "She's as dead
as your friend." Fascinating and powerful -- it's a statement of what
she sees the stakes are.
The other big moment here is when Starbuck finally gets to visit with
the ever-cryptic Hybrid, who at first doesn't say anything remotely
relevant or even react to Kara but instead seems to exist somewhere
in her own world halfway between a "Star Trek" engineering deck and
your office's IT department.
Eventually, when it seems the Hybrid isn't going to say anything
useful, and they're about to pull the plug, a strange series of
events occurs. A Centurion shoots the Eight that is about to unplug
the Hybrid from the basestar's control, causing the Hybrid to let out
an endless, disturbing shriek before finally seeing Kara and
imparting some information that makes for some of BSG's most
significant mythology material yet. I'll simply quote it: "The dying
leader will know the truth of the Opera House. The missing Three will
give you the Five who have come from the home of the Thirteenth. You
are the harbinger of death, Kara Thrace. You will lead them all to
their end." Wow. It's not just in what is said, but how it's said and
how it's lit and shot and directed and scored and edited. Absorbing
stuff. And what's said is surprisingly decipherable.
(By the way, I must do what I think I've somehow failed to do in
every review up to this point and mention that the Hybrid is played
by Tiffany Lyndall-Knight. Her performance is effective -- creating a
presence that is profoundly creepy and yet at the same time strangely
Within the basestar storyline are some smaller touches that are also
nice, both involving Anders. One comes when he moves his hand toward
a basestar interface panel but ultimately doesn't follow through.
What would happen if he, one of the mysterious Final Five, were to
attempt to interact with Cylon technology?
The other comes later; when the Eight is shot and lies dying, she
reaches out for a kindred hand, hoping to be comforted as she dies.
Her sister Eight, Athena, reaches out but just barely balks, as if
she can't bring herself to do it. When Athena demurs, Anders steps up
and takes the dying Eight's hand. Good stuff worth pondering: Why
can't Athena bring herself to go there? Is she so disgusted with her
origins and sister Eight models? She seems so much now to identify
herself as being human. Meanwhile, Anders tries to oblige this dying
Eight, as if trying to step into the Cylon role he now knows he must
So, yes, "Faith" is extraordinary stuff, and I haven't even delved
into the storyline that's of probably more significance to "Faith's"
real intentions -- the stuff dealing with the faith. After last week
featured no Roslin or Adama at all, we now get a story all about
Roslin and her battle with cancer as it takes place in the Galactica
ICU. Season four is proving that it can leave entire plot lines and
characters off screen for whole episodes at a time and then bring
them back with unhindered effectiveness. I have no structural qualms
with that whatsoever.
Okay, maybe one. There's an early scene where we finally we see Tory
and Roslin talking on Colonial One. I'm not positive, but I don't
think we've scene such an occurrence yet this season, and only now in
retrospect do I notice how much of an oversight it might've been.
Roslin praises Tory's job performance for stepping up (after falling
apart in "Crossroads"). I wish we'd seen more of this, because from
what we in the audience have seen, it's less than apparent that Tory
has been doing any job at all, let alone a good one. (But I suppose
the point here is that they made the point.) Some meaty Roslin/Tory
intrigue was something that seemed like an obvious wealth of material
when we found out Tory was a Cylon. So far it hasn't materialized
(but it's not like there hasn't been plenty else going on instead).
Anyway, Roslin lands for an extended stay in the ICU, where she
shares times with another terminal cancer victim, Emily (Nana
Visitor, of the aforementioned DS9-prophet-worshipping Bajoran
persuasion). Roslin has lost all her hair from cancer treatments. But
the more direly ill Emily (who is mere days from death's door)
ominously warns her: "It's gonna get a lot worse. Be prepared for
The two bond over their shared experience of illness. Emily listens
to Baltar on the radio, who preaches his One True God sermons that
eschew the traditional Lords of Kobol that Roslin has always prayed
to. Roslin wonders what Emily sees in Baltar's ramblings, but therein
lies the key to the episode. Emily experienced firsthand what she
surely believed to be God and the afterlife, and Baltar's sermons --
not the traditional religion -- mirror what she is certain she
The question here becomes: Could the truth of the afterlife actually
be about the one true God that Baltar speaks of? Is that one true God
the same as the Cylon God? And is faith in one true God a heresy
against the Lords of Kobol? If so, what does it mean that this
movement is now taking place among humans after having had such a
foothold among the Cylons -- and perhaps been their impetus for
destroying humanity in the first place? Certainly in our real world
religion lies in the eye of the beholder. Is the eventual overthrow
of the establishment simply an question of numbers?
Sometimes it has nothing to do with the establishment. As the dying
Emily says, "I don't need metaphors. I need answers." She's not the
only one. A dramatic highlight in the episode is Laura's tale of her
own mother's death, which to her revealed merely emptiness and
nothing else. For Laura, at that young age, she saw only devastation.
No comfort or reason to believe her mother was going to a better
place. And it's a tough thing for her to talk about, all these years
later. As Emily astutely points out, that experience was filtered
through what *Laura* saw, not what the truth might actually have been
for her mother. And that's the point here about faith. It's about the
individual more than anything else.
Later, Roslin has an experience where she apparently witnesses Emily
crossing over into the afterlife. It's not a dream. It's ...
something more. Faith. These are powerful images, despite their utter
simplicity. "Faith" has things to ponder about big human questions.
When Roslin wakes up and Emily is gone, in her bed is only Baltar's
voice, on the radio. It really gets inside her head. Maybe there's
actually something to what he's peddling.
That this episode can raise so many recognizable real-world questions
even though it exists in its own sci-fi universe is a testament to
how truly it embodies the mission of science fiction. It is really
about its characters, about us, about society, about issues in the
And I absolutely love that the ending of this episode is about
emotions and characters and *not* about the plot. Yes, there is,
previous to the final scene, a lot of plot-based buildup and a
ticking clock that counts all the way down to zero. But, ultimately,
the episode's send-off has nothing to do with any of it. The writers
know that we know that the deadline crisis has been averted, and so
they turn the ending inward to the characters.
This attribute is a virtue of "Faith" that does not call any
attention to itself whatsoever. But I must herald it, because it
instead simply believes in its characters to connect with the
audience and drive home the emotional points. It does so superbly.
The final scene between Adama and Roslin -- which reveals Adama's
emotional abandonment and how Roslin may be the very essence of his
remaining soul -- is so straightforward and yet so moving. Here's an
episode that knows it has enough plot to be a game-changer, and yet
puts all its final efforts into finding just the right understated
words, tone, and feelings between the admiral and the president.
That's how it should be. This is an example of why the first 10
episodes of BSG's fourth season are among the series' very strongest
batch of shows.
Copyright 2008, Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is
Jammer's Reviews - http://www.jammersreviews.com
Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...