The Courage of One’s ConvictionsJanuary 31, 2009
Note: This is an episode review that contains spoilers through Episode 4×15, “The Oath”.
In an episode where many are forced to ask themselves who they really are and which promises they will keep, none have more interesting reactions to this test than Bill Adama and the First Officer of the Watch who rises up in mutiny against, Lt. Felix Gaeta.
One really striking thing about the set up of this mutiny is how blind and complacent Bill Adama is before about the loyalty of his crew, despite the fact that he’s been seeing chaos reign on his ship for the last two episodes. Everything he has been using to give them hope in the face of horrific circumstances for the last four years has been demolished, and somehow, it doesn’t occur to him that another rousing speech alone about finding a new home isn’t going to cut it. Not when he’s asking them to embrace as allies the robots that killed their family and friends and nearly extinguished their species – without explanation, mind you.
This mutiny should not be quite as big as a surprise as it is for Adama. But he is still asking the question “What is this? What is this?” even after it becomes completely obvious what Gaeta is doing.
What makes this mutiny so difficult to watch is that neither side is completely right. Gaeta is correct that Adama is “not the leader you were” in the Miniseries, or even Season 4. He once elicited unwavering loyalty from his crew, and especially his faux children, none more so than loyal rules-follower Felix Gaeta. But Adama’s gone from calling Cylons “things” to these days, forcing his people to make an alliance with Cylons with little to no explanation, and absolutely no debate. To people with a more limited view like Gaeta, it must seem like the Admiral’s broken his oath and that as Gaeta said last week, the world is frakked, turned upside down. The leaders are placing the people straight into the hands of their enemies. No wonder so any people support Gaeta’s uprising to take what must seem like a dangerously compromised leader out of commission. Yet, we the viewers, who have more information about the Cylons, understand that Adama’s probably right about the alliance. Galactia won’t make it unless they take advantage of superior Cylon technology. As Roslin says in her speech, they’re running out of resources and time to find a habitable planet.
So how much better a leader is Gaeta than the man he replaces? Well, in some ways, he’s quite competent, maybe even better than Adama. He’s a smart, perceptive tactician, managing for the most part to hold off various wild cards that threaten to blow his cover as he sets the mutiny in place. Once he takes command, he multitasks well, managing to keep his wavering minons in line and quickly noticing the smallest of “off” details, which tips him off quickly to the fact that Adama and Tigh have overcome the guards escorting them to the brig and that the Raptor leaving Galactica is in fact an escape plan. He sees the the glitches in his plan coming faster than Adama did. In fact, this mutiny is a window into what kind of leader Gaeta could have been if he’d ever been given more of a chance to demonstrate it, instead of being stuck in the thankless job of DRADIS monkey for the last seven years.
However, it’s also clear that Gaeta lacks Adama’s gravitas, and so far, he seems to be lacking a plan beyond “take over the ship.” Also, Gaeta is working with the inexperienced “B” team in the CIC, having imprisoned the senior staff. When Roslin manages to use Baltar’s secret wireless equipment (which he uses for his religious broadcasts) to try and convince the Fleet to reconsider the coup, Gaeta has to briefly stop commanding to handle the electronics and cut off her broadcast, because no one else knows how. Furthermore, for all his really smart tactics, Gaeta is still blind in his own way. While he does show some signs of self-awareness (for example, responding to Zarek’s congratulations and adulations by saying, “We can polish our rationalizations later.” However, there is an inherent blindness in the fact that he has chosen to team with Zarek in the first place, whom Gaeta knows from news accounts and experience in the CIC over the years is capable of murder. He probably also knows at least a bit about the corrupt side of Zarek we learned about last week, given that Gaeta worked with him for a year on New Caprica.
What’s also interesting (in a train wreck sort of way) about this arc of Gaeta’s is that we also get to see him killing off parts of himself as he proceeds with his mutiny. In the throes of his blindness, Gaeta ends up going up against various doppelgangers of himself. Among the senior staff he has sent to the brig is Lieutenant Hoshi, who is not only his boyfriend, but as we saw in the webisodes, has many of the qualities that Gaeta once had earlier in the series – detail oriented devotion to his work, kindness, earnestness, strong loyalty. It’s as if Gaeta is putting away that side of himself. Another doppelganger we see suffer under Gaeta’s mutiny is Deck Chief Peter Laird, who Gaeta watches be killed by Zarek for merely trying to do his job conscientiously. Laird, who hasn’t been seen since the Season 4.0 episode Sine Qua Non, is a bit of a Gaeta in that he’s a gentle man who once stood up to an unconscionable order given by another admiral out of control (Helena Cain). So it’s telling that Gaeta’s mutiny kills Laird suddenly, mercilessly and for cold, logistical reasons. Gaeta is not ready for Zarek to kill Laird with a wrench, but he doesn’t verbally question it and seems to accept it.
While Gaeta is overall doing a credible job at accomplishing this mutiny, he is clearly in the process of killing off the last vestiges of his more earnest, innocent self to do it. Tellingly, when one of the ghosts from his more innocent past resurfaces via a phone call from Baltar trying to talk him down from rebellion, Gaeta can’t quite yet stop himself from taking the call, but ultimately rejects Baltar’s assessment of him as a good man who wants to do the right thing. Gaeta still may see himself as a good man, but no longer the kind described by Baltar, the kind of good man who was foolish enough to believe that following the rules would be rewarded in the end with a happy ending on Earth instead of an irradiated dirtpile and an alliance with humanity’s killers, who was foolish enough to serve in Baltar’s “corrupt administration” and believe that a Cylon would help him release political prisoners, not single them out for death. So it is no surprise that the episode ends with Gaeta giving the command to fire upon the escaping Raptor, without even knowing for sure who is in it (Baltar and Roslin, as it turns out, but for all he knows, it’s Tigh and Adama). It’s a cold, practical move in serve of Gaeta’s cause that all previous incarnations of Felix Gaeta could never have managed.
The Gaeta-Adama conflict is a fascinating one to watch, and I don’t see how this ends up without Gaeta being executed in ignominy. This makes me sad, because he’s always been one of my favorite characters, and his motivations and mistakes are intriguing to me. I wish they weren’t setting him up in such stark relief as the villain to Adama and Roslin’s heroics. Because ultimately, it’s his mutiny that is pushing Adama and Roslin out of their complacency and it may be pushing them to become better leaders again. But I don’t think anyone on the show will be thanking Felix Gaeta for that.
In other news, it was great to see Chief Tyrol being Chiefy again, being a leader, herding Baltar’s acolytes into action much like he used to herd his deck crew. Live or die, he and Tigh will be staying on that ship, faithful to Adama, despite their Cylonhood. That’s the kind of crucial information about the Cylons that people like Gaeta can’t possibly be privy to (only we the viewers can, really). It’s a shame, because it probably would have convinced them that the Cylon alliance could work, and none of this mutiny might have happened. The capture of all the Cylons into the brig is intriguing, and for Sharon, frightening, but I guess we’ll see more about that next week.
The Baltar-Roslin scenes seemed forced and random to me. So they’re both frauds? Huh. We the viewers have enough inside information to know that that is only partially true at best. They may have used religion for their own ends at times, but they also were hesitant true believers. I don’t need them to be believers in God anymore if they don’t want to be, but I’m a little annoyed at the retcon going on here that no, actually, they were both opportunists cynically playing the religious card. That takes back a whole season for Baltar and almost the whole series for Roslin.
Incidentally, I understand that Baltar gets to go to the basestar because it was his and Chiefy’s Raptor to begin with, but really, what is Baltar going to accomplish with his dangling plot arcs on the basestar? Who is there for him to talk to there? Leoben? Random Eights? I don’t see the point so far, especially when there’s an Opera House prophecy looming over him, Roslin, Caprica, Athena and Hera that needs to get resolved sooner and sooner with each passing week.
It was fun to see Starbuck and Lee back together again as buddy cops. But I must say I am still a bit disturbed still by Starbuck. She is both back to her former self and not. Her friends and loved ones are in a civil war and she’s all gleeful to be shooting Skulls and urging Adama to be ruthless and shoot a Marine in the back? (Did anyone else notice how creepy the music was when she tried to shoot the Marine?) Even Lee seems taken aback by her attitude. Her behavior with Hot Dog, someone she has always had a not-very-visible but definitely big-sister type of relationship with all series, seemed strangely “off” as well. Is this because she’s not really Kara?
Next week looks like it’s going to be even more explosive than this week was. While I do find all the running around with this mutiny plot exciting, I do wonder how they’re going to find the time to start resolving all the dangling questions of the series. Will this mutiny even connect up in any way to that aspect of the series? Stay tuned.