"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.