If absolution waits quietly at the door until it’s opened, if salvation waits for the least and smallest among us all, then in a very real way we are all waiting for this moment: when Gaius Baltar realizes he was already redeemed.
“He loves you because you are perfect. You are perfect just as you are. We are all perfect just as we are.”
And as Lee leaves, weirded out, and Gaius holds his arms cruciform, and the followers go apeshit, and Six looks over at Tory’s face, and sees the beauty there, and smiles, because she’s won, and Gaius comes back from the edge, from the clarity of pain, he looks down, covered in blood and the fire of a new world, and wonders what just happened, as prophets often do, and the screen goes dark again.
I have problems with this, which we’ll get into, once we get past the spoilers, robots and rules of engagement below.
What is the thing you love most in the world?
Answer me that one, wouldja?
Don’t think I’m looking to make this a conversation about priorities, either; don’t say your family or your friends or your lover or your pets or “helping people” if all you’re trying to do is look good on the “decent human being” application you think I’m filling out. I’m not asking in order to judge. I’m asking to ask. What is the thing you love most in the world? What do you wake and sleep loving, what sings in your blood in those moments you hover on the edge of a dream and you haven’t yet opened your eyes? What lies on your tongue, what is the first thought you think in the morning and the last you think at night? What would you die before failing?
Now explain to mewhy you love it, damn you.
Try to write it out. Try to write it down so that it makes sense. Not just the thing itself, but why it pulls you, why it knits itself into you, muscle and bone. Worse, try to knit it into me, try to make me love it as you do, just by telling me about it. Try to whisper it to me so that I can whisper it back to you as my own, in the dark hours when nobody can sleep. Now imagine there’s a ship full of people, dirty and stinking with fear, who for 58 days have been half-listening to you talk about the thing you love most in the world, andthey don’t believe you. They’re thin with exhaustion, they’ve lost more than they started with, all around them is nothing but darkness, and you have to convince them that all of this is nothing, that all of this is just the limits of their sight, because you have a buzz in your head and a pull in your veins that tells you which way to go, toward the thing you love most in the world.
And you’re the sort of person who, when Laura Roslin tells you about what she loves most, you can see it and think it and breathe it and you believe her. But these people, they don’t know what that feels like, how powerful and terrible and intoxicating it is to be without doubt. They don’t feel it, the way it lifts you up, and their feet are firmly on the dirty, grimy, sticky deck of the Demetrius, and you’re trying to tell them you can flyand so can they. I think, if you put yourself there, it gets a little bit close to what Kara Thrace is starting to become.
So let me ask you another question. What would you do, for the thing you love most in the world?
I know, I know, anything. But really now, it’s easy and glib to say it’s a shorter list to write out what you wouldn’t do, but what would you do? The thing you wake and sleep with, the thing that twists itself into your guts in your moments of doubt and fear, what would you do for that?
Would you take the hand of the man who is your enemy, if he offered you a vision of yourself you could live with, a vision of a world in which you know who you are? Would you let yourself forget what that man is and what he is capable of, and reach out for his grasp?
Would you sit in a stairwell and speak with the man who raped and imprisoned you, who gave you a daughter and made her a lie, who led you down into the eye of a storm until you smashed your ship on the rocks of his promises? Would you listen to that man, and follow him into the black?
Would you turn a gun on the one person who stood by you when you returned from the old, apocalypted world a toasterfrakker and an outsider, who didn’t deny you when you loved a Cylon and had a baby with it, who always understood you on the level at which you’re now challenging her? Would you turn a gun on that person, if what she offered was the opposite of home and the Fleet, and everything you think you know?
Would you do these things? Don’t say you wouldn’t. From episode one if there’s one thing this show has taught us, it’s that we have no idea who we’re waiting to turn into, who we’re one apocalypse away from becoming. We all go into the cocoon thinking we’ll come out beautiful; some of us come out maimed. Don’t say it wouldn’t be you, because you have no idea what you would do, in the end, for whatever it is that you love.
So. There’s this show. One quick question: Who the frak is in charge of day care on Galactica and how does this work? Who’s watching Hera? Who’s watching Nicky while the Chief considers offing himself? What’s going on with these babies we’re told are so important? This pulls me out of anything to do with the Agathons and the Tyrols, every damn time.
On to Baltar and religion. This is where my membership in the Roman chapter of the longest-running cannibalistic crucifixtion cult in the history of the world interferes with my ability to read about sci-fi and keep my temper. I like arriving at my redemption via blind, painful, torturous routes and even then to be told I barely deserve it. I do not like Gaius Baltar showing up in a balloon and telling me he’s okay, I’m okay, God’s cool with whatever it is about us that’s fucked up, so just chill, mama.
I am not in the mood to have God go easy on me, and whenever someone comes along peddling this shit, I just think to myself, oh, how convenient, a gospel that says I’m great. Isn’t it something special that I am a special snowflake and God cherishes me. As much of an attention whore as I am, you’d think I’d love that, but I really, really despise it. It feels like a cheap appeal to neediness. It feels like I’m being played and underestimated. I can get approval from other places. I want challenges from God. And maybe this is the problem, is my and most people’s interpretation of “love” and “perfect,” which is to say that just because God loves me as I am doesn’t mean he doesn’t want me to stop being on balance such a catastrophic shithead all the time, and that just because he thinks I’m “perfect” doesn’t mean he thinks I’m done. But I can’t help but hear affirmation as excuse, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. It trips my wires the same way this bullshit “God wants you to be rich” pseudogospel does, which is that we’re putting on Jesus the unpardonable burden of making us feel better.
My version of God is kind of a demanding prick, come to think of it. In any case, I am not becoming any more un-skeeved by Baltar week after week, and it’s starting to bother me that I can’t see the beauty in this storyline, because the show’s very invested in it and I worry that I’m losing the thread.