At the end of the review, I wrote, "If you step back and look at 'Crossroads,' it is really a story about hope." That seems far less true after seeing "Razor" and now "He That Believeth in Me," which reveals far more trepidation than hope. Clearly there is a fork in the road here. There are questions to ask and arguments to make. And it may not be long before sides must be taken. (Surely you weren't expecting uplifting things to happen in a Battlestar season premiere? Ye of too much faith.)
Kara Thrace has returned from the apparent dead, which happens right in the middle of a battle zone in a nebula where the Galactica is vastly outmatched by the Cylons. Meanwhile, the four Cylons unveiled at the end of "Crossroads, Part 2" — Tigh, Tyrol, Anders, and Tory — proceed with business as usual, fighting as Colonial warriors, but fearing that they might very well be capable of turning at any moment. In a powerful moment of subjective internal point of view, Tigh imagines himself shooting Adama in the head in a crowded CIC right in the middle of the battle. More powerful than the shock of the image itself is Tigh's anguish in the immediate beat afterward. To be at the mercy of things completely beyond our control is among the worst of all fears.
The opening teaser is a tour de force of chaotic, beautifully designed space battle action. It may very well be the most elaborate and well-made CGI action yet on this series, and that's saying something. Still, despite all the hardware and explosions and visceral impact (a civilian ship is destroyed with 600 people on board) the most haunting moment is played out in excruciating slow-motion, as Anders, in his first flight as a Viper pilot, has an encounter with a Cylon Raider. His weapons misfire, and the Raider, rather than blowing him out of the sky, beams its sweeping red light straight into Anders' eye — and then the entire Cylon fleet suddenly withdraws from a fight where they had every advantage.
So what has happened here? Was Anders sent a program by a Cylon that recognized him? The close-up on Anders' eye as it briefly turns red can absolutely not be dismissed, but the story plays its hand close, and Anders proceeds on as if unchanged by the experience. I'm still holding out hope that the Final Five Cylons play by different rules than the other seven, but one can't rule out any scenario based on what we see here.
Then there's Kara, who believes she has only been gone for a few hours when it has actually been nearly two months. Roslin immediately smells a Cylon trick. Is Kara a Cylon? Kara brushes off the idea as absurd, but cannot explain away the many holes in her story, like how she traveled to Earth and then to the nebula without an FTL drive in a matter of hours (or even two months), or why her Viper is brand-new, with none of the wear it had before she died/disappeared, or why her flight log is blank. She has photos from her orbit of Earth, but that's about it.
Roslin immediately takes to the "Thrace is no longer trustworthy" camp and seems firm in that belief. Not only is she unwilling to follow Kara's alleged path to Earth (which Kara describes as a feeling more than a science), but Roslin would just as soon have Kara thrown in the brig, arguing that the crew's closeness to Kara would be exactly what the Cylons are counting on as an avenue of trust to exploit.
About that, I have my own questions. Why did the Cylon fleet jump away when they could've wiped out the entire fleet? Either the writers are toying with us (or letting themselves off the hook of their own cliffhanger), or destroying humanity is no longer the Cylons' goal, possibly because Anders and other Cylon infiltrators are now (apparently) known to them to be in place. Either way, the motivation of the Cylons seems a bit muddled. They come out firing and then they pull a 180. Their New Plan must really be something.
For that matter, everyone on Galactica should probably now assume that simple destruction is no longer the Cylon goal. The Cylons could've destroyed the fleet, but didn't. So what do they really want? Perhaps answers about Earth? What do the Colonials have that could actually help in that regard?
Perhaps Kara is a plan meant to take the fleet in the wrong direction while the Cylons continue in the right one. Who knows? All I can say is: Kara is sure she knows. She is convinced she can find Earth, and every FTL jump following the original course (the wrong one, to her) is like a shock to her system, and her internal Earth beacon fades. In a powerfully quiet scene acted with great precision by Olmos and Sackhoff, Kara makes an emotional appeal to Adama to believe in her. But he can't, because the evidence brings up too many unanswerable questions.
There's another quietly affecting scene in the pilot's ready room, where Lee repeatedly watches his flight video of Kara's death in "Maelstrom." Adama asks him, should we believe our eyes or our hearts? The scene reveals the full complicated nature of the two Adamas' relationship, with both the love and the strained hardship. Like that first scene between them in the miniseries, where Adama never even looked at Lee, director Michael Rymer uses the physical space to suggest the emotional distance; here Adama and his son sit in the chairs on the farthest opposite ends of the row.
Interesting that Lee does not accept reinstatement when Adama offers it to him. His life as CAG is apparently over, and he talks of a job opening in the government. He also asks his father a tough question: "If my brother had climbed out of that cockpit, would it matter if he were a Cylon — if he always had been? When all is said and done, would that really change how we feel about him?"
It's one of the series' big questions, and it's an intriguing one. (Note that it comes from Lee, who has previously been in favor of destroying the Cylons completely.) The hatred for the Cylons runs deep in such a seemingly monolithic way, but when push comes to shove — if Kara is really a Cylon — then does it?
Apparently it does for Kara, who tells Anders she'd put a bullet in his head if she ever found out he were a Cylon. Not something you want to hear from your resurrected wife when you've just found out you're a Cylon. BSG relationships sure are tricky...
I think the point here is that it's not even clear anymore what it truly means to be a Cylon. Certainly not for the recently self-discovered four, who know of no hidden motives or agendas, and vow to kill themselves before turning on their comrades (not that they know if they would even have that choice). And how about the irony of six people in a room discussing the possibility of Kara being a Cylon agent — when three of those six are, in fact, Cylons? Yes, the layers of identity crises are most definitely stacking up here.
What didn't work so well for me was the subplot surrounding Baltar's new life as the subject of worship by a cult of crazies looking for ... well, I'm not sure. Faith in ... something. In Baltar They Trust, although I have no idea why. (Is it because of his prison manifesto? It's not mentioned here.) While I found interesting Baltar's struggle with himself, his past misdeeds, and looking for some meaning or sign from God, I found the cult itself to be underwritten and too broadly played. Strange, how Baltar's cult is so overwhelming young, attractive, and female. (This would undoubtedly be for the same reasons Caprica Six can sit in a cell every day and still look like she's had her hair and makeup done by professionals.) Also curious is how these civilians have their own private area in a large storage room on Galactica, where they can come and go (and beat people to death) as they please. Wouldn't security have something to say about this?
One of the cultists offers her body to Baltar on behalf of, I guess, the Cult Welcoming Committee. (Baltar gets just the cult that suits him, conveniently appealing to his natures as an egoist and a womanizer.) I did find interesting Baltar's witnessing of a miracle in the recovery of a sick young boy. I also liked the inevitable run-in with comeuppance via the man prepared to cut his throat, where Baltar seems quite prepared to die for his sins. But leave it to Baltar (earlier, with the young boy) to use prayer not only during a genuine crisis of personal conflict, but also as an opportunity to perform on his stage for his new followers.
Undoubtedly, next week's episode will answer the question of what happens after Kara puts a gun to Roslin's head in an effort to force the fleet to follow her. Lines will be drawn.
Footnote: Is there a rhyme or reason for when "to be continued" gets used at the end of a BSG cliffhanger? Sometimes they use it (like here), and sometimes they don't (like "Precipice"). I could do without it entirely, because we know a serialized show is to be continued. Duh.