Jammer's Review

Battlestar Galactica

"The Face of the Enemy"

***

Release dates: 12/10/2008-1/12/2009
Written by Jane Espenson & Seamus Kevin Fahey
Directed by Wayne Rose

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The three stars I award to "The Face of the Enemy" should come with an asterisk alongside it. Stars are awarded here on a relative scale, and should not be seen as necessarily "equivalent" to other three-star BSG outings (like, say, "Razor") in terms of gauging usefulness in the BSG universe. The three stars here are webisode stars on a webisode scale, and should perhaps be more directly compared to my previous webisode rating for "The Resistance" (two stars).

It's sort of an apples-and-oranges situation. Both webisode series more or less fall under the category of "bonus content." They are not required viewing, and must stand alone in such a way that missing them is not a big deal. It's an inescapable fact that they have a sort of filler-like feel. Both are/were viewable via low-quality Internet download (as compared to HD through a cable provider). It's hardly my ideal choice for watching a sci-fi drama series. If the future of video content is the Internet, the quality issues (by way of bandwidth issues) are going to have to be addressed. Until then, cable and satellite content providers it is.

There's also the annoying fact (because I watched all the webisodes in a single sitting) that I was forced 10 times to watch a trailer for Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Two things I learned from this trailer: (1) The line "We can be slaves, or WE ... CAN BE ... LYCANS!" is this year's predictably overblown attempt at "THIS ... IS ... SPARTA!" (2) An Underworld movie minus Kate Beckinsale strikes me as about as pointless as an ice cream cone minus ice cream. (I saw about 40 minutes of the first Underworld and never felt the need to see the rest of it, even with Kate Beckinsale.)

Now, having been a churl and said all that, "Face of the Enemy" is a much better effort compared to "The Resistance," and as a promotional preseason tidbit that must operate under certain standalone constraints while being chopped into 10 mini-acts, it's pretty good. It has a much more solid and complex narrative than "The Resistance" and feels more legitimate. It's got relevance to its main character. It also finally answers that age-old question: Is Gaeta straight or gay? (Answer: Yes.)

The story takes place nine days after the discovery of Earth (and therefore after "Sometimes a Great Notion"), as Gaeta is ordered to take shore leave. He's in a Raptor with two Sharon copies and three other nameless crewmen, which should give you a hint about their fate. The Raptor becomes stranded when there's an emergency fleet-wide jump and the Raptor's FTL drive malfunctions. They don't have the coordinates to get back to the fleet and instead have to wait for an improbable rescue. There's a limited supply of air and thus a ticking clock. And then, during this wait, one by one, people in the Raptor start dying mysteriously, like in an Agatha Christie novel.

That's really all there is to plot. It's a fairly simple disposable standalone. But what makes the webisodes work is its backstory and a reasonable amount of relevance to Gaeta's character, including the establishment of his drug abuse. We learn that one of the Sharons here was a double agent who helped Gaeta on New Caprica when he was feeding information to the resistance from behind enemy lines. He and the Sharon had a relationship during this time. When people start dying, he thinks he can trust her. Clearly, he's wrong.

The 10-act structure of "Face of the Enemy" is of course a distraction, but the overall story feels much less fragmented than "The Resistance." It does, however, necessitate some excessive filler; there's a subplot where Lt. Hoshi (Brad Dryborough), the guy Gaeta's in a relationship with, embarks with Racetrack on a desperate and low-odds-for-success mission to search for Gaeta's missing Raptor. There are too many needless cutbacks to the Racetrack/Hoshi Raptor that don't really add much to the storyline.

But what does work are the flashbacks to New Caprica and the revelation that Gaeta's Sharon copy was playing him all along in order to help the Cylons find the most important names among their list of prisoners. I especially appreciated that this throws into question Gaeta's own sense of culpability. He thought he was playing the role of hero during the resistance, but now he learns he may have been playing the equal role of patsy. Perhaps this informs Gaeta's opinion on Baltar; in a clever little moment that ties things together, we learn what Baltar whispered into Gaeta's ear in "Taking a Break from All Your Worries," prompting Gaeta to stab him with a pen.

For Gaeta, the whole experience serves to undermine his likelihood of trusting any Cylon on an individual basis; those who once seemed trustworthy may simply be hiding their own agenda. The ending indicates that Gaeta is not going to be okay with taking orders from Tigh, an outed Cylon, anytime soon. The webisodes also hint that Gaeta may be planning his own answer to the specter of Cylon deceit. It will be interesting to see if this plays into the upcoming episodes.

"The Face of the Enemy" makes for some very solid bonus material. It accomplishes what it sets out to do. The story is by definition straightjacketed, but the makers work admirably within their constraints.

Previous episode: Revelations
Next episode: Sometimes a Great Notion

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27 comments on this review

Occuprice - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 12:37am (USA Central)
I thought the biggest problem with the short structure here was that there wasn't enough time to adequately express the revelations at the end and Gaeta's thought processes. The last webisode or 2 were semi-lost on me, but fortunately this review cleared things up.

Interesting note, though: these webisodes were the last things produced for BSG (I think that might also include the telemovie "The Plan")
Jammer - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 12:55am (USA Central)
These webisodes were the last things produced for BSG? Interesting. Where did you get that fact? It makes sense, I suppose. I was just thinking the other day that I hadn't heard anything about the telemovie since I'd read that Jane Espenson was in the process of writing it ... but, hell, that was probably six months ago. I guess in the interim of the dearth of information I've heard about it there's been plenty of time for it to be shot and finished and that all things BSG are a wrap.
Brendan - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 1:43am (USA Central)
It was filmed simultaneously to "The Plan". Jane Espenson mentioned that that was why they couldnt use CIC, because it was being used for shooting that, they couldn't use Eddie Olmos because he was directing (so they used Tigh isntead), and those nameless red shirts on the raptor were all auditionees for the movie that didn't get a role.

And regarding the trailer for Rise of the Lycans, yes, I think we all agree. I actually had that trailer memorized by the end of the viewings. Pretty bad marketing strategy.

As for the actual webisodes, I thought they were really cool. The structure has inherent drawbacks but it accomplished alot for what it was. And I just loved all the flashback material and Baltar clips.
Sarah M - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 2:25am (USA Central)
Oh, god, the Underworld ad. I watched all ten episodes in sequence as well and it made me want go deface its movie posters. But I remember the damn thing. I doubt I would've thought twice about it otherwise. I suppose that's a marketing "win."

I very much enjoyed the webisodes themselves for what they were. Not a promising note for Cylon-human relations, or Gaeta's future. It does make me wonder how they'll use the Eights as things wind down. The Sharon model has had both great highs and bitchy, horrible lows. They may be key to how things play out, and not in a positive way for the humans or rebel Cylons.
Sam - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 2:29am (USA Central)
First off, if you put an asterisk by the three stars, wouldn't that make it look like four stars?

Anyway, the two things I thought while watching these(besides wondering if I really need to see the Rise of the Lycans trailer once every three minutes) were that Gaeta is probably going to be pretty significant in these last episodes, and that this was quite a bit better than the resistance webisodes.
Occuprice - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 2:30am (USA Central)
I watched the "enhanced webisode" with commentary for the first 1, and Espenson said that right after they finished their scenes on Galactica, the sets were torn down.

Brendan- agreed about the Baltar clip. I was so happy to finally discover what he said since the original idea was abandoned.
Jeff - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 9:10am (USA Central)
Just for future reference - If you have a account on hulu you can set up a queue that plays one episode right after another. Biggest bonus, you don't end up watching the Rise of the Lycans trailer over and over.

Thankfully I figured that out after watching the first two webisodes the other way.
lookmark - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 9:21am (USA Central)
iTunes also just released the web eps (in HD, no less), without those mind-gnawing ads.

A great pleasure to see Jammer's reviews back in swing! You were much missed.
Brendan - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 4:20pm (USA Central)
Just because they were tearing down the Galactica sets doesn't mean "The Plan" wasn't still shooting. They might have even had to build Cylon sets in its place to finish the movie.
WE CAN BE SLAVES... - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 7:57pm (USA Central)
OR WE CAN BE.... LYCANS!!!
Occuprice - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 9:28pm (USA Central)
She said it was the last thing written, and that when they finished on the raptor, it was called a wrap for the entire show.... so... take from that what you will...
GregT - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 10:00pm (USA Central)
In Canada, the Space TV network was good enough to air the webisodes back to back (well, with regular commercial breaks) in the hour before the restart of the series last week. So the whole trailer and quality issue is news to me. (I'd seen no reason to view them online before that.)
Todd - Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - 11:21pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed the little bit of backstory we got to see of Gaeta. Hmm, now that I type this, I wonder if the characters name is actually a clue (out in plain sight).

Anyway, I did mostly enjoy it as BSG but figured the Sharon copy should have been aware enough in advance that he might be a bit upset at being used previously and actually look for him to attack her at some time.

Also, when in the world did she have the time to strip the "rubber" off of the needle-nose pliers? She didn't seem to know in advance that the ship was going to be off course, so how did she sabotage the tool box while they were all awake and vividly anxious? Even if I missed something and she did know, how did she know they would use "THAT TOOL" and then die by touching something hot with electricity? I believe I used some of my old Star Trek "it happened because they said it did" optimism there.

And lastly, unfortunately, I did not believe that they would all be fast asleep at the same time. Okay, they are trying to conserve air, but I figure that at least one of them would be working on the ship while the others slept, even with the reduced oxygen. Perhaps they could be wearing one of the suits they showed EVERYONE had and then would be yelling "FRAK" at the computer when it didn't come up with the answer they wanted, becuase BSG has shown that the humans are pretty single-minded in not giving in to the inevitable. I doubt that someone wouldn't have said "Hey! I'm staying awake to work on this!". Sort of as a watchman, at any rate.

Dear Diary. We all had such a stressful day, with being stranded and everything, that EVERYONE took a nap at the same time, more than once (even after a second person died). Hope that this time is the charm, we get rescued and I don't die too while no one is awake (crosses fingers). :)

Forgive me for being sarcastic/negative about that, but I kept asking myself how they could all be asleep, more than once, with nobody working on anything.

I enjoyed the backstory much more than the story. Oh, and I will never, ever watch "Lycans" for any reason because of the commercial I was forced to watch over and over again. They should have had a cookie that told them it was watched, then skip it for the remainder of the vids.

This is all my humble opinion, but I believe I watched closely and didn't miss any subtle clues. If I did, please comment on my comments.

As always, great reviews Jammer and I look forward to them with great anticipation after each episode.


Take care... Todd
misterd - Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - 9:59pm (USA Central)
I was wondering how this was going to tie in with the season, and putting such an enmphasis on Felix made me wonder if this was more build up to making him the last Cylon. But after watching the 2nd.. er 12th.. or 14th? episode of the season, its very clear where this fits in with the season. Man, I never really thought about how badly Gaeta has been screwed over by the rest of the cast!
Samuel Walters - Sun, Jan 25, 2009 - 8:51am (USA Central)
I disagree with the notion that the format itself is an inherent detriment. Rather, it was the story that BSG tried to tell through the webisode format that was the real problem.

The murder-mystery story was riddled with plotholes (such as neither the mechanic nor the Eight noticing that the rubber grip was missing -- are they *both* that stupid?). And while the New Caprica flashbacks were interesting, they broke up the already fragmented story resulting in a much more awkward pace.

Incidentally, if you're looking for the right way to tell a story in 10 webisodes, visit afterworld.tv and watch the NYC story arc. It's ten episodes long, fits into a larger story, and is much, much better than Face of the Enemy.
Matt L. - Mon, Feb 9, 2009 - 6:02pm (USA Central)
With "Risestence" I agreed with your complaints about video quality, but it seems kind of strange to have the same complaint here where the video quality is pretty fantastic. It's obviously not HD, but for those of us still used to SD these episodes are probably right on par with what we could get on our TV screens.

As for the story itself, I thought it was pretty good. It's even better if you when you take the mutiny storyline into account (and actually makes those episodes stronger). I don't think I'd consider it disposable, even if it isn't necessary it adds a lot of character motivation to Gaeta. Also I think the stuff with the rescue raptor IS important to the plot from a thematic angle, because it adds the tail side of the coin to what the Eight tells him about hope.
Robo - Mon, Mar 30, 2009 - 9:51pm (USA Central)
Was just thinking about this the other day..and then I remembered...

WE CAN BE SLAVES!!!!....(you know the rest)
AeC - Mon, May 23, 2011 - 1:30am (USA Central)
Umm, is there closed captioning on Hulu? I just listened to what Baltar whispered to Gaeta about half a dozen times and couldn't make out what he was saying. Anyone? Bueller?
Josiah - Sun, Jul 3, 2011 - 12:47am (USA Central)
This is a bit late, but I'd like to comment on Gaeta's conversation with Tigh. When Gaeta said, "Because you're a Cylon," that was downright chilly. He used just the right tone and inflection to show his utter distrust and distaste.
Nic - Mon, Nov 14, 2011 - 10:01pm (USA Central)
I also did not understand what Baltar said to Gaeta. Thanks for clearing that up Jammer.

Yay! An openly bisexual male character on a sci-fi series! Too bad this was only revealed in a 'webisode' and will probably not be mentioned again.

Thankfully I did not have to sit through the Lycans trailer. And the video/audio quality was "okay" (but still very far from the quality of regular episodes), but why weren't these included on the series' box set? Everything else is there, including "The Resistance" and countless deleted scenes. But not "The Face of the Enemy". Go figure.
Ryan - Sat, Mar 24, 2012 - 4:17am (USA Central)
@Todd - Unfortunately, "it happened because they said it did" pretty much sums up the entire series at this point. MacGuffins and Asspulls: The Show.
Naha - Thu, May 3, 2012 - 4:38pm (USA Central)
Guess I'm the only one, but I actually preferred The Resistance. Sure it was choppy, but I felt li that viewing it really informed how I took in the next episodes that followed it. In other words, the webisodes lacked continuity BUT I felt they made the drop into New Caprica less jarring. Meanwhile, The Face of the Enemy flows slightly better and does give us more insight into Gaeta (his past, his sexual orientation, and his mindset going forward), but like Jammer said, it was a bit too Agatha Christie for me. I'd reverse ratings and give The Resistance 3 and The Face 2.5 at best. Yes the standalone nature of the webisodes is problematic, but I agree w/ Samuel Walters' comment up above: "I disagree with the notion that the format itself is an inherent detriment. Rather, it was the story that BSG tried to tell through the webisode format that was the real problem."
Nebula Nox - Mon, Jan 7, 2013 - 8:37am (USA Central)
Frustration! I managed to watch the first 5 webisodes, only to be blocked everywhere for later episodes. Alas, I am outside the US...
JohnnyW - Wed, Feb 20, 2013 - 12:07pm (USA Central)
@Nebula: Simply download this Chrome extension:

https://mediahint.com/install_chrome.html

(Also acailable for Firefox)

And you should be able to watch them on Hulu outside of the US!
holoyo - Mon, Apr 22, 2013 - 2:19pm (USA Central)
Anyone else noticed racetrack actually said "oh fuck me" instead of frak? (webisode 07, talking to hoshi). I'm halfway through my third viewing of the series but it is the first time i watch the webisodes (not a fan of the format, by the way; but at least this one is basically a chopped normal episode).

I agree (and enjoy) with all your BSG reviews, this series is about a lot of jorneys, besides the actual fleet jorney. And Gaeta's one may be the saddest and darkest of them all
Alden - Mon, Aug 5, 2013 - 2:04am (USA Central)
@Jammer: To be pedantic, an ice cream cone without ice cream is precisely the point of an ice cream cone.
PeteTongLaw - Wed, Aug 13, 2014 - 10:43pm (USA Central)
I find the sound editing in the webisodes is pretty low budget. It really draws attention to how important good sound editing is for the main series.

I also noted that the Canadian accents of the actors playing Tigh, Racetrack and Hoshi are much stronger in the webisodes and basically non-existent in the regular series. I wonder why that is and if it relates at all to sound editing.

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