After a couple of low-key good but not great episodes, this was a truly outstanding episode! I'd put it up there with "Downloaded," "33," "Exodus, Part 2," "Crossroads, Part 2," "Collaborators," "Pegasus," and a few others as one of the landmark episodes of the series, and of television drama in general. (Spoilers follow.)
This episode reached the level of visual poetry. Both of the alternating storylines hit on all cylinders. Laura Roslin's exploration of the meaning of life and the possibility of an afterlife was completely engrossing. Her quiet talks with Emily, the other cancer patient, brought out emotional depth and a new side to the mysterious religious element of the series. The dream sequence on the boat along the river was serene, comforting and melancholic, all at the same time. It shows that there is hope, for all of them. Hope for happiness and hope for the return of loved ones past and present. At the same time, it signaled Laura Roslin's impending demise. But at least we know that she will end up in a more peaceful place than the Colonial fleet.
Emily had an interesting perspective on Baltar's religious sermons and his "Cylon god." She said that He isn't the Cylon god. He is the god of everyone. She said that the old Lords of Kobol seemed cartoonish and vindictive. Baltar is a flawed prophet and he may not even believe much of what he preaches. But Emily seemed to show that the question of the existence of the higher power is much, much bigger than the qualifications of an unworthy person like Gaius Baltar. Baltar may be similar to a sham television preacher while Emily shows that there is real substance to the faith, apart from undeserving leaders like Baltar.
The shootout on the Demetrius added pizazz early on while we got loads and loads of mythology development through the story of the expedition to the Cylon base ship. I liked Athena's speech to the other Sharon models, that they had to pick a side and stick to it, instead of being so wishy-washy and trying to cut and run. Then the Hybrid told Kara that she was the harbinger of death who would lead them to their end. Kara had ignored all of the other complaints that she was crazy, but the Hybrid's words shook her faith in herself.
The scene with the Number Six and Barolay was chilling. Six was acting on very human emotion, a burning desire for revenge. She reminded me a lot of Gina and her desire to go out in a blaze of glory. There's a definite suicidal/murderous streak in the Six line. Then Natalie made an enormous sacrifice, killing the other Six copy in order to maintain the truce between the humans and the rebel Cylons. Cold, very cold.
There were so many spine-tingling moments like that in this episode. I have to admit that a couple of the previous episodes this season didn't hit me like that. They had a moment or two like that and a good story, but they didn't jump out at me as mind-blowing stories. "Faith" does. This is exactly why I watch this series, for the intense conflict, the spiritual exploration, the tough moral choices during a time of war, and the continuing story line that has revealed strong character development beginning with the December 2003 miniseries and carrying on into 2008 and probably 2009. Amazing writing, directing and acting in this one. They really hit the ball out of the park this time!