Before addressing all the insanity on the show last night, I want to point out what’s probably obvious—the Adama/Roslin love affair is just another example of how television improves dramatically when writers relinquish certain crutches and fears, and instead tell stories that reflect the range of human experience. By finally getting over the rule that middle aged lovers should be shown in a non-passionate, desexualized manner, the writers accomplished the twin goals of writing some of the more intriguing characters on television and also moving forward this incredible mutiny plot that hinges so much on Roslin’s unwillingness to lead. Needless to say, congrats to them for also putting a woman into a role that you never see, outside of maybe “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”—as the critical leader, without whom the community falls apart. She’s like Jack from “Lost” in that way.
Obviously, after a whopper of an episode like that one, there’s so much to discuss. I appreciated that the writers didn’t pretend that there was any suspense around the question of whether or not Roslin was really going to come back—over and over it was said that she just needed some time to heal and think about what her new, non-religious life would be like. Which is why I want to focus my post (though I encourage you to talk about whatever aspects of the show you thought were intriguing) on the interesting anti-religious gear shift the show’s taken. I hope it sticks, because that would be brilliant and incredibly brave. It would suck if in fact it was just that everyone had a crisis of faith post-Earth that they recovered from.
But this episode pushed me more into thinking they’re sticking with this theme. It’s not just that Baltar went on a fascinating rant last week where he argued that god should be asking humanity’s forgiveness, though that’s an important issue. After all, when a person realizes that they have a better moral sense than the god they’ve been taught about, they’re either on the path to atheism or towards a fundamentalist worldview that views god’s capricious and cruel nature as all the more reason to fear him and try to curry his favor. The existence of Baltar’s fawning followers has always put his religious convictions into question, but now they’ve become all that more ridiculous. He told them all, to their faces, that he all but doesn’t believe in god, and what’s their response when he runs off to escape the mutiny? “We’ll pray for you.” In one ear and out the other.
Even more interesting is the exchange between Baltar and Roslin about religious convictions. They’ve been at something of a loggerheads on this issue since Baltar converted to the monotheistic Cylon religion, though it’s unclear if his followers or his opponents realize that he worships the Cylon god. But when Roslin pointed out that they’re both frauds, and he went along with it, I think that was a profound breakthrough moment for them and the show. Certainly, what Baltar does next is a little out of character for him—as soon as he picked up the phone and called Gaeta, I was sure he was going to sell everyone else down the river to save his own hide, which is his habit. Instead, he does the right thing and begs Gaeta to stop. Could facing up to the fact that there is no god out there guiding him cause Baltar to realize the only person who can redeem himself is himself?
Consider that the religious trajectory on the show, if I’m right, follows the traditional one of Western civilization: polytheism to monotheism to atheism. Even if it ends on a fundamentally irreligious note, the show has a soft spot (that many atheists share) for religion. It’s something that people in the past needed to get through certain points in their history, but there comes a time when the crutch isn’t useful anymore. As a way to get people together to look for Earth, religion was useful, but now that Earth has turned out to be nothing worth keeping, it’s time to set aside religion and start to look for news ways to understand the world.
Thoughts? Theories? What do you think will happen next?