Just when some of us were beginning to lose it, here comes "Faith" to set season 4 back on track with the sort of finer, subtle moments that its previous seasons were known and prized for. The show does so with such elegance and majesty that it is hard to believe these qualities were ever wanting.
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
It is easy to mistake a simply decent episode for a great one when one has been starved of true cinema in so long, trudging through the barren dunes of space with only the faintest glimpses of salvation on the horizon. But this oasis is no mirage - it is the real deal.
The mutiny aboard the Demetrius peaks when a panicked but determined Sam Anders shoots Felix Gaeta through the knee-cap (from behind) in an attempt to keep the ship from jumping back to the Galactica. In a season of Roslin spouting hypocrisies left and right and claiming monopoly on prophetic visions that are not influenced by Cylons, Sam's unwavering faith in Kara, even after her expressed threat to his safety back in "He who Believeth in me," is truly refreshing and engaging. Backed by Anders, Athena, and some woman I didn't recognize, Kara leads a party onto the ruined base-ship in an attempt to find a clue to the road to Earth. The scenes here are intense and surreal, seemingly feeding us answers and mysteries while drowning us in a sea of colors. Michael Trucco's performance as the hypnotized Samuel Anders is engaging and memorable, and long after the episode is over it is easy to recall him leaning in - as if in a dream state - to touch the water in the Hybrid's tank. This story - and his and Kara's performances - are alone enough to put the episode well above the rest of the season. Visits to Cylon ships are always dream-like and unpredictable, and "Faith" takes advantage of these qualities to maximum effect, killing one character and then another to 'even the scales.' Roslin's story is dragged out and inappropriate - we have already seen her preparing for her "imminent demise" two or three times. While this one is accompanied with a different religious experience than the usual one, it is hardly worth spending half of an episode on, especially when we know that this is just the beginning of this pre-death rambling. However, there is a magical moment in all of this, and that is courtesy of Gaius Baltar - for the first time since "He that Believeth in me" (closing speech) and to a lesser extent "The Road Less Traveled," where a misbegotten rant fuels character development on the part of both Gaius and Tyrol... for the first time Baltar's religious story is treated to a moment of surreal artistic beauty. The saving grace of the Roslin storyline is this subtle moment, and that is the calm, emotionless voice of Gaius Baltar droning on about religion in the background of every scene.
This is how it should have been done from the beginning - it IS droning, and should have been treated as such immediately. Does it matter if everybody believes in many gods or in the one true Cylon god (tm)? We still don't know, and this reviewer doesn't feel much is at stake either way, so the sermons have grown tedious. But the approach in "Faith" - one that accentuates the tedious nature of sermons in a way that manages to find a hidden beauty even for a critic such as myself - manages to convey the ever-reaching presence of Gaius's faith throughout the ship better than any of his sermons ever did, in a manner much more subdued and poetic.
It is disappointing that Adama, Tigh, and Lee are once again in such short supply; as is the fact that Helo seems to have forgotten about all the good times he'd shared with Kara, which is more than a little unfortunate. For a guy who speaks his mind and stands up for what he believes in - no matter the cost ("The Woman King," fighting for Athena's acceptance, turning down the genocide option in season 3) - he seems to have abandoned his friend Kara's cause pretty quickly. Is he so heavily invested in the President's visions that he won't give Kara the benefit of the doubt, especially when she needs a hand? Thankfully at least Sam is there to provide that support.. to give her that faith.
And it's his faith, among all the other brilliant moments in this episode, that bring back the Galactica of yesteryear. A Galactica you'll think had never left. -pW