This Is a Blog: My BSG Addiction: Redemption

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My BSG Addiction: Redemption

In order to get over my addiction to "Battlestar Galactica," I'm going to talk the show to death until it's out of my system. What originally started as a one-off essay is too big for just one post. This is Part 3.

Gaius Baltar vs. Caprica 6

Before I get into it, can I just say Tricia Helfer is one hell of an actress. It would be easy for an actress who spends half the show half naked to fall back on her looks, but she never does. She pulls off multiple characters with ease. I swear she must have practiced for hours just to get the right intonation on "Gaius..."

Ultimately, the entire show boils down to redemption. The fleet finds Earth, and they set aside everything so they can break the cycle that apparently always results in a violent robot uprising. It a very powerful message that these enemies can come together and decide to live in peace for all time. By doing the right thing and purging the universe of those Cylons who just want to kill humans, it would seems everyone has earned the right to this paradise. While the humans more than deserve it, I don't think the show does enough to make the remaining Cylons earn it. We're supposed to just go with it because forgiveness is awesome, but it all just seems too simple.

The most clear way to lay this out is to compare Dr. Baltar to everyone's favorite Cylon, Caprica 6. Both characters start the show in sin. Both sins lead to the fall of mankind, but there are subtle differences that mean the world. Baltar gives Six access to the defense mainframe because he's a horn dog who honestly falls in love. He knows it's wrong, but he lives in a moral vacuum, and as far as he knows, she's just going to use the access to help her career. This is undeniably wrong, and in hindsight, it's a mistake that dooms billions of people to their death, but his actual mistake is not as bad as, say, knowingly orchestrating the genocide of all humans everywhere. That's Six's sin. The result is the same, but Six's sin is just so much worse and more malicious and down-right evil.

From there, both characters try their darndest to move toward redemption in the best way they can. Baltar is ultimately a coward, so overcoming his own self-serving nature is not a straight path. He lies about his Cylon detector, manipulates an election, and gives a thermonuclear weapon to a Cylon who uses it to kill thousands of people. Six, on the other hand, uses her fame amongst Cylons to convince them to stop trying to destroy the fleet. This leads us all to New Caprica.

Baltar's and Six's paths converge again, leading them both to their low points. Somehow the Cylons benevolent new plan involves subjugating, oppressing, and torturing the remaining humans. It's unclear Six's role in this, but how this is supposed to create unity between human and Cylon is beyond me. As the Cylons take more and more control over the humans, they use now President Baltar as their conduit. The coward goes along with everything, but it takes a gun to the head before he'll sign a death list, sentencing the human resistance to execution. When Galactica returns to liberate the humans, Baltar and Six have already broken their allegiances to human or Cylon. By finding Hera and giving her to Three, they stop her from dropping bombs and destroying New Caprica, but they're hardly redeemed.

Jump ahead to the Cylon Civil War. By this point, Baltar has helped the Cylons find Earth and Six has stolen a base-ship and joined the fleet. Baltar stood trial for his crimes and won, and now he sits as the leader of a monotheistic human cult. Six has turned her back on her people's evil plot, and does her best to help the humans. She even allows herself to be captured while everyone decides what this human/Cylon alliance will look like.

It's worth mentioning that Six now goes by Caprica 6. Everyone calls her Caprica, even the humans who lost their families when she destroyed that colony.. Her very name is what pulls us into the point of all this rambling. Let's not forget, she single-handedly performed the act that allowed the Cylons to kill billions of humans. She took down the defenses. She hacked the military computers. And now she proudly wears the name her people gave her because she accomplished all that. Somehow everyone overlooks this. Tigh knocks her up. The President bonds with her over shared visions. They even let her hold the Cylon seat on the new ruling quorum.

Baltar, on the other hand, has the most clearly defined character arc of the entire series. He starts in sin, hides in his cowardice, and never loses sight of his own innate immorality. He does, however, find God. I'm not saying he finds God, therefore, he's saved. After his trial, even though he was acquitted, people want him dead. To survive, he buys into his role as this crazy cult's leader. He spouts what's basically nonsense, but in doing so, he actually starts to understand the Cylon God. That understanding leads him to heroically join the finale's suicide rescue mission. More importantly, that insight into Cylon God, earned by diving into the pits of hell and emerging through salvation, allows him to talk down Number One in the crucial final moments.

In essence, Baltar represents the worst sins of humanity. All the human faults the Cylons used to justify the genocide in the first place, Baltar has more than committed, even embraced. Baltar becomes the embodiment of human salvation. He shows that, when it matters, even the worst of humanity can find good in himself. He's had his trial, he's had to face his sins, fess up to his wrong-doing, and ultimately work to earn his redemption. Given that his original sin was trusting a woman and bending the rules, I'd say he earned humanity's salvation.

Caprica 6, on the other hand, does not earn Cylon salvation. I'm not talking in abstracts here. One Cylon can earn salvation for the entire race. The show goes to great pains to explain how Cylons work by consensus. The seven consult their entire line, pick a representative, take a vote, and run with it. That means quite literally that every single Cylon is responsible for the human genocide. Even one Cylon stepping forward and offering herself up for salvation could save the entire Cylon race.

Considering the importance of Cylon consensus, it would be easy to say her sacrifice was turning on her own kind, but that's not actually what she does. Her break with the Ones, Fours, and Fives is philosophical. She thinks it's wrong to lobotomize the raiders, and she thinks the key to their survival is finding the Final Five. With no other recourse, she helps the humans, but not once does she own up to her sins. On New Caprica, the Cylons justify their occupation by saying humans cannot be allowed to evolve because eventually they'll grow their numbers and come looking for the Cylons who wiped them out. By not coming completely clean, Six never gives humans the chance to prove her fellow Cylons wrong. She never gives the humans a chance to forgive her. Baltar goes through a lot to come out cleaner on the other end. Six's sin was exponentially worse, and she doesn't do nearly enough to earn her salvation.

The show puts out their that forgiveness is the most important thing, and anyone not willing to forgive is not worthy of paradise. The Ones, Fours, and Fives have to die because they remain so ardently anti-human. Tom Zarek, Lt. Gaeta, and the season 4 mutineers have to die because they're so ardently anti-Cylon. Everyone else just gets to enjoy New Earth because they've learned tolerance. That's it? Considering the entire show becomes about the fight over the soul of humanity, that is simply too easy. It simply does not sit right that Caprica 6 never redeems herself. By extension, it never sits right that the Cylons get to share New Earth with the humans.

If humanity's big sin in the context of the show is the oppression of the Cylons, that means anyone under the age of 40 is totally blameless. On the other hand, the very Cylons sharing paradise with the humans actively took part in the genocide. Humanity's sins are more distant and abstract, yet we're still expected to hold the Cylons to the same measure of salvation. The end of the series absolutely needs to be humans and Cylons sharing New Earth. That is clearly the most satisfying ending. The show, however, doesn't do enough to redeem the Cylons, or even in the smallest way, Caprica 6.

Continue to Part 4

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