"God only loves that which is perfect, and he loves you, because you are perfect." -Gaius Baltar
"Sometimes, the right thing is a luxury." -Laura Roslin
Oh, boy. This will not end well. But it's going to be amazing to watch.
After laying low or being absent in the last couple of episodes, the Baltar/cult storyline returned in a big, scary way in "Escape Velocity," as Baltar, with a lot of coaching (and physical support, but we'll get back to that) from Head Six, hits upon a seductive, dangerous philosophy for himself and his followers. Some religions draw in their flock by telling them everything they do is in some way wrong (control through fear), but telling people that everything they do is correct because God wouldn't allow otherwise is even more appealing. Look at how Tory's justifying all her current behavior under the "I'm perfect" theory. On the ragtag fleet, where life is so awful and there seems to be no end in sight, who wouldn't be tempted by an anything goes religion, even if it's run by Gaius Baltar? I actually think Baltar means well, for one of the few times in his life, but he's letting Head Six make him her puppet -- at one point in a literal sense -- and this is going to get bloody.
Now, about that puppet moment. There have been times in the past where it seemed like Head Six was pushing Baltar around, but it could always be rationalized as Baltar physically reacting to the picture his mind was showing him. For instance, there was one early episode where Head Six seemed to be yanking on his tie, but when we cut away to the non-Baltar POV of the scene, we saw he was just yanking it himself. But there's no explanation for him getting up off the floor, in that way, other than Head Six physically doing it somehow. I've never bought into the idea that she was a hallucination, but the idea that she's somehow tangible, but visible only to Baltar, is a new and mind-blowing idea.
Whatever Head Six may be, she and Caprica Six (and Natalie, and Gina, and all the other Sixes, I'm guessing) share in common that belief about learning through pain. While some of the other Cylon models are more cerebral, the Sixes have always been physical creatures, forever putting themselves in situations where they wind up either dishing out or receiving pain. So while Head Six is talking Baltar into playing bloody martyr in front of his followers, Caprica Six's in the brig delivering a loving beatdown to poor, confused, Saul Tigh. (Can you blame Tigh for revisiting the Ellen thing? Not only did he murder her for working with the Cylons only a few weeks before she would have been given amnesty, but now it turns out Tigh himself is a Cylon. Of all the Final Four members, I'm stunned Saul hasn't eaten his gun yet.) And then, as if the beatdown itself wasn't disturbing enough, Caprica goes and kisses Saul Mother-Frakking Tigh? Is there any chance Michael Hogan wasn't kidding in that Letterman Top 10 list when he said we'd see him naked this year?
I think I'm officially out of superlatives for the "Galactica" cast. James Callis (who looks 20 years younger without the beards and Jesus hair, even though he's now doing the whole Jesus routine, down to chasing the money-changers out of the temple), Michael Hogan, Tricia Helfer, Aaron Douglas, Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos (who doubled as director this week, with Jane Espenson on script) were all so far at the top of their respective games that I didn't mind in the least that we got nothing on the Cylon civil war, and only the briefest glimpse of the Demetrius. "Galactica" has always been a grim, ugly show, and its actors got to show off their ugliest sides this time out.
I've always loved Douglas and am glad that Espenson's script finally brought back the Boomer-Chief affair and its messy end. I know I said last season that I believed Tyrol when he told Lee he didn't think about Sharon anymore, but how could he not -- and how could he not be destroyed by the realization of what he and Boomer could have had had he known the truth about himself back then? This isn't a show that rewrites its own history. (See also Tyrol bringing up Adama's threat to kill Cally during the workers' revolt led by Tyrol.) Tyrol and Cally's relationship was always dysfunctional, and it was always clear he felt he had settled for second-best (if that), and though he said flowery words about her at the funeral, he let his real emotions come flowing out when he decided he was no longer fit to run the flight deck. You could see him staring at the defective Raptor part and its unused replacement thinking, "Did I just forget to swap these, or was I programmed to forget?"
Most of the central characters in this episode were facing some kind of identity crisis. Tigh and Tyrol can't deal with the guilt of being Cylons and how that reflects on decisions they've made in the past. Baltar, having finally developed something resembling a conscience, wants to be neither exploiter nor hero, but as always can't resist whatever Six tells him to do. And Roslin, her death so close that she's starting to plan her own funeral, is so impatient to get things done before she goes that she keeps undercutting herself with the rest of the Quorum. We know she has every reason to fear Baltar, and that's even before he gives his speech on perfection and we see how that concept's going to spread like a virus through the whole fleet, but she's going about things in a way guaranteed to make people like Lee and Zarek push back, and to make Baltar look every bit the martyr she doesn't want him to be.
Some other thoughts on "Escape Velocity":
- I loved the moment when Laura suggests she might follow Bill's example and not read the last chapter of his favorite book, only to remember that -- oh yeah! -- she's dying.
- This episode didn't have the same nightmarish look as last week's "The Ties That Bind," but the image of Ellen-as-Six is going to stick with me a long time, even though I know it was just Kate Vernon in a platinum wig.
- Speaking of wigs -- and of characters morphing into other characters -- it can't be a coincidence that Laura's is cut in the same style that Helena Cain wore, can it? In her dying days, Laura's become just as ends-justify-the-means as ol' Cain used to be. How frakkin' scary is that?
- The Sons of Ares looked a little too much like the bandits from the Mad Max films, I think. Took me out of that scene.
- What kind of airbags do Raptors have that Racetrack and her navigator would emerge from that crash without a scratch on them?