Saturday, April 12

Galactica Station's Review of He That Believeth in Me

Gooby Rastor collects his thoughts on the long-awaited season 4 premier.

Right, before we begin, I don’t know what to make of the new opening text. I want to say it’s too much of a departure from what they’ve done before; but then again, after how clueless Season three made the Cylons look, maybe it’s for the best that they don’t mention that vaunted plan, eh?

Anyway, away we go! For many, after the year-long break that we’ve had from new Battlestar Galactica (no, I’m not counting “Razor” right now), "He That Believeth in Me" is going to seem way too short. Really, very few questions get answered... not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. The decision to avoid certain storylines allows the show to maintain a needed level of focus. This episode is about Starbuck, the Final Four, and Baltar. Let’s address each in turn.

Kara’s return is the story that offers up the most questions, and what BSG gives us is a deftly-crafted non-answer. Okay, we do find out that she’s not all in Lee’s head. That’s something. But her first words on screen begin to beg more questions. When Lee says he saw her ship blow up, as he and we did, she says “‘fraid not.” Oh dear. The questions just keep piling up from there. What’s most interesting about these scenes are the amount of questioning done by the characters. Starbuck’s resurrection struck me very unfavorably at the end of last season. I’m now a bit less bothered by the whole thing, simply because all of the show’s characters are asking the same questions we are. No one is just accepting any of the weirdness here, which means that we’re not being asked to, either. It’s nice when a show respects you like that. Kara herself begins questioning herself as the episode progresses, but it’s interesting that she doesn’t seem to really notice all of the oddities, such as her brand spanking-new Viper, until others bring it up to her. She obviously believes that she’s been to Earth and seen their destination, but it’s equally obvious that there’s something going on with Starbuck’s noodle. Now that she’s committed her first criminal act since her return, let’s see how far away from the old Starbuck she really is.

Most of the scenes involving the Final Four were fairly solid, but took a back seat to Kara’s A-plot. Really, we only get a real look into the (robotic) psyches of two of their number tonight. For me, looking at Colonel Tigh’s reaction provided the one scene from the episode which I could have done without: Tigh shooting Adama in CIC. Is it a shocker? I guess. Personally, I felt the scene did not communicate a single thing we didn’t already know, and felt so over-blown that it snapped me out of the reality of the show, if just for a moment. We knew that Tigh’s biggest fear would be being forced to betray his friend Bill, especially by pulling a Boomer. I felt the same message could have been portrayed much more subtly. And without dropping the documentary style of the show, which I maintain should be avoided if at all possible. Unless... this is a prelude to Tigh and co. discovering the Cylon ability to “project.” I gotta admit, I kind of wondered if Sam was having a similar “waking dream” when that Raider slowly turned to scan him during the dogfight. Since it wasn’t, I have to wonder if Tigh’s scene was there merely for the shock value, in which case it wasn’t worth it.

But on to Sam. Anders’ response to discovering his nature was one of the episode’s greatest strengths. He seems to be scared, sure, and uncertain as to what this means for him, but he’s coping. And he’s beginning to ask questions which would seem to lead to his accepting what he is. Particularly in his last scene with Kara. Are his words a defense mechanism, designed to protect him should the truth come out? On one level. But we don’t doubt that he’s in some ways changed for the better because of this. He’s being forced to reevaluate not only identity, but love. And when Kara shoots him down (figuratively... for now), we can see the gulf between them, as if we needed yet something else to come between these two. It’s interesting to see how far Kara has come since Kobol, where she accepted Helo and Sharon’s cross-species love, to this point, where her judgment of death is quick and final. It kind of makes sense given what happened on New Caprica, but last we saw, Lee was the one becoming somewhat bloodthirsty towards Cylons. And now he’s the one wondering about all the shades of grey, invoking the memory of the almost-forgotten Zak in a particularly nice scene with Adama.

I’m starting to digress though. Getting back to Anders also brings us to the spectacle of the night, the Battle of the Ionian Nebula, which has been rightly hailed as a triumph for the effects crew. This battle is easily the most riveting seen since the miniseries: Confusing, violent, and oddly beautiful. The shot of Galactica protecting the fleet was especially stunning, with its flak barrage moving around its hull in a gorgeous wave pattern. Also, I think I hardly need mention the most story-laden shot of the night; Anders’ eye. Creepy effect, and if anyone had any doubts about the four being Cylons, the eye ought to put paid to that.

It was also nice to see the seriousness of the situation driven home by the loss of one of the RTF. I mean, not to sound happy about it or anything, but it occurs to me that with all the running which the fleet’s done, we haven’t really seen the effect of the Cylons catching the fleet until now. Had they not gotten the message that the FF are in the Fleet, it’s obvious that the humans would have been annihilated.

The last major plot thread is Baltar’s. I was a little bit disturbed by the casting of Baltar’s new cult—largely pretty, lithe young ladies—it seemed almost like the casting director was... well, Baltar. But ah, good for him I guess. What’s really interesting is to see a new side of Gaius Baltar brought to light throughout the episode, regarding the sick little boy. Gaius’ initial assurances that he is praying for the boy are the empty words we’ve come to expect from the man. But then Gaius actually prays, and prays correctly. There’s a genuine feeling of “thy will be done” throughout it, and his offer of sacrifice is genuine. Before now, throughout all of the many faces of Gaius Baltar, the one constant has been his all-encompassing self interest. This was a truly selfless act, and one that speaks to the possibility of Gaius finally realizing his great failings, and thus to the possibility of redemption. God, I hope this doesn’t mean he’s the Final Cylon, cause that would suck.

All told, this episode took a few minutes to find its feet, the battle not withstanding, but then began to ratchet up the tension for the upcoming season. It’s frustrating, just because there’s so much for this show to get through, and they pick their battles, which necessarily means that other battles like what’s been happening with the Cylons since the Algae Planet, or anything to do with Hera, are left for another day. At the end of “Crossroads pt. 2,” I noted that it was impossible to judge it completely, given how many questions were left unanswered by it. Now with “He That Believeth,” the jury’s still out, and part of me is very encouraged by what seems to be the return to a style of TV-making where the questions linger from episode to episode. This is a very good episode, if not an instant classic, and I’m very excited for the (half) season it ushers in. Good to have the ship back in our lives.

Episode reviewed by "Gooby Rastor"

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