It's been a long time since the entire cast had something meaty to work with for an entire episode, and it shows. They ate it up like starved dogs (and this reviewer does mean that in the best way possible), producing some of the finest drama this season.
If the intensity of "Faith" came from its abstract qualities (no doubt induced by the base-star's neon lights) and hypnotic suggestions, then "Guess what's Coming to Dinner" must be a straight-forward traditional dramatic roller-coaster, full of ups and downs, twists and turns. And to the satisfaction of all, it seems our appetite was a fine match for that of the performers.
HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
Kara jumps the commandeered Base-star back to the Galactica as the Demetrius, under Helo's command, attempts to do the same - and fails. As Adama (oh, how we've missed you in command!) orders emergency jumps for the civilian fleet and launches the Galactica's viper reserves, tragedy seems imminent, when at the last moment it is none other than Tigh that saved the day with a gut feeling. This reviewer was instantly reminded of the show's premiere - the episode "33" - when Tigh had likewise successfully acted on a gut feeling, just to be praised for his command. In truth, this minute but pivotal scene proved just how much we've missed seeing the Galactica crew doing what they do best - studying not amateur philosophy, but battle tactics. Practicing not rhetoric, but war. Roslin has lost the support of the Quorom of 12 entirely, and it is Lee who comes to her rescue by proposing a meet and greet with the resident Cylon commander, in order to facilitate the new alliance (which seems intent to break up under doubts and uncertainties from both sides before it even breaks out) to the representatives of the people. Laura tentatively agrees, and the Six makes her case -- the rebels can lead Galactica to the mother of all Resurrection Ships, the Hub, if, in exchange, the fleet will assist them in recovering D'Anna Biers, whose line was boxed in season 3. Of course, this brings with it a whole new set of complications -- Tigh and Tory, both present at the meeting, are in fact two of the Final Five, and the Six's request for the Galactica to hand them over upon reveal does not sound very enticing. The entire episode is built on a solid foundation of quality moments, but none seem to reach for the stars, and no unifying strand seems to tie the episode together into a single entity - until the ending. Kara turns a blind eye to Roslin's past transgressions and leads her and Gaius to sort out the visions of the Opera House the President had been having since "Crossroads," the season 3 finale. As Hero disappears, forcing Athena to hunt her down, the key players from the Opera House vision re-enact their moves like rehearsed dresses. Only instead of the new Six taking Hera with her, she meets an angry Athena... and a dead end. The music, the familiar-yet-mystical vision all builds up to create an atmosphere of grand art, and just as it seems the set up for the next week is complete... the Hybrid is plugged in, only to shriek: "JUMP." And the base-ship, along with Kara, Roslin, and Gaius, does. Starting with "Faith," it seems Galactica is truly on track heading into its mid-season finale, mesmerizing its audience with visuals that could stand toe-to-toe to the Beatles' most avant garde, throwing subtle pitches of atmosphere left and right, finally having created some true conflict between its grizzled cast.
The problems dogging the episode are nothing new to the season - chief of which is Laura Roslin's descendt further and further down the slippery slope to religious tyranny. There's nothing inherently wrong with a character "going bad" - in fact, it can create for phenomenal drama! But when that character has never so much as done a thing to help any other character on the show, and has, in fact, seemingly gone out of her way to hurt others (insisted on keeping Hera from her parents, wanted to try Helo for destroying her means of genocide against the Cylons, attempted to overthrow an election, used torture on Gaius in season 3, wanted to see Gaius dead even though the evidence did not add up, etc...) starts calling Kara a Cylon for having visions of Earth when she in fact had just shared a vision with ATHENA and SIX, two known CYLONS, yet she never suspects herself. And then when she finds herself in a rut, it's Lee to the rescue with a plan to get her out of a tight spot. Then it's KARA to the rescue, of all people, when Laura wants to figure out her vision. She doesn't apologize for her behavior in the past, she doesn't attempt to make amends, she just asks for help and smiles. That's not to say that noble characters are the only ones this reviewer can stand - not at all! But if the character really is this nasty as we've been lead to believe, why is everybody else always standing up for her? Why is everybody protecting her? Every episode I watch I am waiting for somebody to accuse her of being a Cylon for the same reasons on the basis of which she publicly condemned Kara Thrace and sullied her reputation. Yet everybody is back at her side, and she is allowed to get away with murder just because she's on her death bed? Lately, the only times when Roslin proves a compelling character is as a foil to Lee, whom we cheer for and champion. Is that all she's become?
This quibble may seem significant, but it is all too easy to ignore in this whirlwind of an episode. The resolution of the Opera House vision ties together a splendid episode, raising the sum over the quality of its individual parts, and Felix's mournful, haunting melody (actor Alessandro Julliani's opportunity to show off his remarkable singing talent), echoing over the fade to black, does not allow itself to be denied. If only Lee had come to see him, and not Laura.