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Encountering puddles of light in BSG's 'Faith'

President Laura Roslin comes to Admiral Bill Adama’s quarters after finishing with one of her cancer treatments. She tells Adama about a dream she had—one remarkably similar to that of a fellow cancer patient's—that makes her wonder if there might be Something or Someone out there who loves and cares for them.

Roslin: Something is happening here and I don’t really understand it, Bill.

Adama: That you both had the same dream . . . means . . .

Adama stops and sips on his drink. He seems to be thinking of Roslin’s unavoidable death from cancer.

Roslin: What? Talk to me. What’s going on?

Adama: Kara comes back from the dead. I let her go off chasing her vision of Earth. Well she’s overdue. Lee turns in his wings. Helo, Athena, Geata—will I ever see those kids again?

Adama sips on his drink again. Roslin reaches out and puts her hand on his shoulder and rests another on his arm.

Roslin: Bill, look at me. I’m right here. Right here. We’re going to find it.

Adama: Earth?

Roslin: Together.

Adama (softly): I used to think it was such a pipe dream. I used to use it as a carrot for the fleet.

Roslin: What made you change?

Adama (a smile spreading across his face): You. You made me believe.

--from the end of Battlestar Galactica's episode, "Faith".
Maybe it was just the bleakness of the last few episodes of Sci-Fi’s Battlestar Galactica, but after Friday’s episode “Faith” I feel like the series found its heart again. Those previous episodes certainly took us to such a dark place that the puddles of light in this one seem almost like blinding oceans—all of which, as good stories do, give echoes of a greater Truth and Light.

A lot is going on in this episode, including several big reveals that propel the plot forward, further blurring of the line between Cylons and humans, and indications that more than one main character seems to be finding their way back—to the center that holds, to each other, and to faith. These characters have faced the darkness, stared into it and found a moment of light to strengthen them on the journey.

More obviously and episode-centric are Kara “Starbuck” Thrace and President Laura Roslin, but other characters like Sam Anders and Admiral Bill Adama also got their feet wet. Starbuck visions found their place in the present when she comes upon a moment she’d painted on the bulkhead above her bunk, which renews her strength and confidence in continuing to play her part in leading humanity to Earth. Roslin finally stares in the face her fear of what awaits her when she finally succumbs to her cancer in the form of a fellow (and dying) cancer patient—and finds that there just might be Something or Someone walking with her. Anders seems to be the only one of the final five Cylons who is making the right kind of choices even in the midst of the utter confusion and turmoil of discovering what he is (a Cylon); in spite of his anguish at the death of a friend at the hands of a Cylon—a human and natural reaction to loss—he nonetheless shows a deep compassion for and offers comfort to an Eight as she lies dying. And while Adama appears only briefly at the end of the episode, his genuine and warm smile for Roslin only deepens our awareness of the step into faith he’s taken.

But the aspect of this episode that most resonated brought me back to the simple truths about what brings us the greatest comfort and hope. Earlier in the episode, in the conversation between Roslin and fellow-cancer-patient Emily, Emily tells Roslin about a vision she had:
Emily: I had an experience that made me rethink all my perceptions.

Roslin: What kind of experience?

Emily: It happened the night after Cuddle told me that my cancer had spread to my liver and I’d never be leaving this place. I was on a ferry crossing a river and as we were approaching the other side, I saw all these people standing on the bank. And we got closer and I recognized them—my parents, my sister Kathy who died when I was 12, my husband, my girls. I was scared, for a moment—how’s this happening? But then I felt it, this . . . presence. Hovering all around me. Warm, loving. And it said, “Don’t be scared, Emily. I’m with you. Hold my hand and we’ll cross over together.”

Roslin (with gentle skepticism): A lot of people in our predicament have dreams like that, Emily.

Emily (with conviction): No. I was there. I felt the cool breeze coming from the water, the spray from the bow. Maybe [Baltar] stumbled onto something. You know, he talks about the river that separates our world from the next. That’s there’s more to this existence than we can see with our naked eye. There’s a power that we can’t begin to understand.
Later, Roslin suggests that the idea of anything beyond us is more metaphor than real. Emily cuts through her dribble with blunt honesty: “I don’t need metaphors,” she says. “I need answers.”

The presence Emily felt and the experience was more than a religion, philosophy or metaphor. It was real. Someone or Something was out there, beyond what we can see, and that entity was deeply personal and loving. And that brought comfort, peace and hope—with which the dying Emily moments later reaches out to and lavishes on Roslin in the midst of her own confrontation with fear and darkness. Her encounter with that personal and caring Something or Someone enabled Emily to love and comfort another even in the midst of her own suffering.

Interestingly this thread was echoed later—both in words and action—by Anders as he knelt beside the Eight who lay dying after trying to disconnect the Hybrid. While only a short while before his hands had held a gun to the head of another Cylon who had killed one of his comrades and friends, this time he reached out a hand in comfort and compassion, assuring the Eight with five simple words: “It’s okay,” he says, resting his hand against her face. “I’m with you.”

Those words bring incredible comfort to us—both when we hear them from God and when we hear or offer them to another. These scenes reveal good images of the greatest mandates, those simplest truths under which all other truths fall, the ones that guide us in living the life we were created to live: to love God and love others. This kind of love is the brightest of Light, the most blinding of puddles in the midst of great darkness.

Like Adama, I’m still extremely wary of the theology Baltar (and BSG) is peddling, but there were moments in this episode that echoed truths of the Kingdom, revealing images of what God’s rule and love looks like—and what happens when we walk in that Light. It’s not all there, but I appreciated the elements that were.

For a collection of posts about BSG on this blog, go here.

(Images: SciFi Channel) bsgctgy


Ken Brown said…
You said almost everything I wanted to say about this episode! Great analysis!

Just a few things to add: First, I like how they are forcing the Cylons to face death - real death - just like the human characters, especially in a context of asking questions about an afterlife. If there really is a life to come, it's not from the mechanical reincarnation they are used to.

Second, I loved that this episode didn't just retreat back to a more positive view of faith, but that it explored religious hope in a deeper way. The whole conversation about metaphor was excellent, though of course there is much more that needs to be said on the subject.

Finally, did you catch the fact that the Hybrid referred to Kara as "the reborn"? Sounds like it may have been a true resurrection after all, if the Hybrid (who, I believe we have been told, cannot lie) recognized her as something quite different than Cylon "resurrection."

Definitely their best episode since the season premier!
Carmen Andres said…
check out barbara niclosi's post on this episode. she deals with the "reborn" thing too - but wonders if the hybrid was referring to anders as his words echoed exactly what emily heard in her vision.

and i agree, the best episode of the season!
Don said…
Subject change: Thank you for recommending Petersons, Far Country. I got it and love it. Great guitars and orchestration, lots are new sounds, and the words and melodies are so moving. I listened to it tonight while visiting your photography, which I loved. What camera are you using?

Thanks again,

Don in AZ
Carmen Andres said…
glad you are enjoying peterson - our whole family loves his music! as to my camera, it is an older Olympus pocket digital camera my husband picked up years ago, heh. we make do with what we can here :)