Gaius has not so far been my favourite character on BSG, as those of you who read this will probably know. ;) However, I do find him absolutely fascinating and the Resurrection Ship arc provided a lot of material for reflection about Gaius. It also found me responding to him emotionally more than ever before—he was at his most sympathetic so far to me.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Gaius is how you read Six—-as cylon implant, as god’s messenger or as vision. BSG allows multiple possible readings of her nature. I’ve really enjoyed tracing to what degree she could be interpreted as a form of psychosis. If Gaius suffers from psychosis, Six is a hallucination, a reflected part of himself. Even the fact that she suggests she might be an angel could be taken as evidence to support this reading, since the folkloric interpretation of hallucinations is often that they are messengers from a deity or deities. Gaius is intelligent and would know this, and he may possibly be reflecting this knowledge and self-doubt through Six. If this is so, his conversations are fascinating since they read as inner dialogues.
In Resurrection Ship Part I, when Gaius and Six walk into Gina’s cell, we see their reactions before we see Gina herself. At first, their facial expressions are identical, then slowly Gaius gains control over himself in front of the guard, while Six’s own emotional response becomes more physically pronounced. Could this be read as Gaius ‘splitting’ himself? There is more evidence to suggest this reading in the scenes that follow with Gina, since Gaius asks Six to leave them alone. Six is not useful in this situation because she is too close, too emotional, too confronting.
But this reading doesn’t hold up entirely, because once Gaius is left alone with Gina, a real flesh and bone version of Six, but one so broken as to be almost past recognition, he responds with his own carefully metered compassion and love. I found his speech to Gina deeply affecting and entirely genuine, and I loved the way he talked her round from self-destruction to ‘getting even’. However the consequences of that act were chilling: once again Gaius literally directs the fate of humanity. The loss of Cain, for better or worse, changes destiny. Can we be sure that her death benefited humanity or is Kara right? Did the cylons just win again?
Lee is my POV character, so the second half of Resurrection Ship was emotionally confronting for me. I think supacat commented that Lee’s revelation that he didn’t want to come back from the dead felt like being punched in the stomach. I’d second that and say that it also left me with a huge black lump in my chest for the next few days. It wasn’t until second viewing that I could really move past a purely emotive reading.
I will be interested to see what is revealed about Lee’s understanding of what he experienced. There are many possible reasons why he may have reached this place emotionally but the following are the most interesting and convincing to me at this stage.
To Kara, Lee says ‘People have to have this: trust. Your word. My word. If we don’t have this, then we really are no different than the cylons.’ Kara interprets his words as a statement of comfort and support for her, since he has just promised to back her up. But Lee doesn’t seem to have intended them that way. He turns away from her repeatedly in the scene and only responds to her with a hug when she moves forward. He does so lovingly but resignedly. He is there for her, but he’s deeply conflicted. I would suggest that his words were intended not so much as a comfort but as an articulation of the deep conflict he feels about the action of killing Cain.
Why does he feel this? Firstly, he has been locked out of the decision-making process. Adama’s only words to him were ‘stay focussed, son’. He hasn’t spoken with the president. I’m assuming that Adama, in the brief time he had with Kara, told her little or nothing of his reasons. They are, at the very least, flimsy when recounted. Cain is being killed without a trial, without justice, without all the things Adama accused her of overlooking when she condemned Helo and the Chief. That his father and the president would act this way, and furthermore give him next to no context or reasoning for this decision, is deeply confronting for Lee. It goes against both the military codes and the democratic codes he believes in.
Lee deliberately seeks out his father and attempts to open a dialogue with him: he doesn’t accuse him or act insubordinately in this scene, he simply opens the door for Adama to provide him with some explanation, some words that will put the act in context. He receives next to nothing: ‘the decision has been made’.
I think Lee feels hollowed out by his predicament. He tells his father it’s not about backing Kara up or not. He would never have a problem doing that because she is more important to him than any moral code, as we saw when she was missing. The issue is the act itself and what it signifies to Lee. I think the absence of trust is at the heart of this—the absence of trust between his father and him (Adama has limited the information he gives his son), between the president and him (she hasn’t contacted him) but also more generally between Cain and Adama, the crew of the Pegasus and those of the Galactica. Lee is right: if no trust exists, they are all monsters, for they will all judge from a platform of suspicion and mistrust and not out of love.
Lee reads to me as someone who needs a sense of purpose and duty in life. Since the mass genocide, he has managed to keep going and find purpose in doing the right thing by his pilots, the crew, his father, and in upholding democracy. At times, including his mutiny during the military coup, these actions have proved ‘empty’ or pointless. At other times, as when he helped the president escape, they have proved instrumental in the continued survival of the fleet (would Adama have come to the decision to reunite the fleet if his son was not among the deserters?). However, Lee constantly underestimates his own abilities. What he is not looms larger in his mental landscape than what he is, and his achievements must seem like a drop in the ocean in comparison to the destruction of the rest of humanity by the cylons.
In recent developments Lee has lost even these tenuous purposes for continuing. He’s been demoted, his crew are fighting with the crew of the Pegasus, he found himself powerless to prevent Helo and the Chief from being sentenced to death and he only just helped prevent the two crews from opening fire on one another. Things are at breaking point and Lee doesn’t feel like he can contribute much. It is human to feel despair under such circumstances.
One of the things that all the humans are clinging to is a belief that there is something intrinsically unique and valuable about them: something not shared with the cylons. If they are not different, if they are in fact lesser beings, then why are they fighting to survive? This is ultimately the question Lee poses.
The circumstances by which he chose death, at least in the final moments, were superficially random: an accident that resulted in him activating his escape pod, the coincidence of a tear in his suit. Cause and effect. I do not think he himself knew how he would respond to being faced with death. He was shell-shocked afterwards. But what he found was that death was not so unthinkable, that it could in fact be a blessed release. queenofthorns explains this state very clearly in her episode review.
To me, Lee’s reaction is the flipside of Kara’s desperate struggle for survival against all odds when she herself was faced with death. The two responses are at opposite extremes of the spectrum but they reflect two opposing impulses present in the human condition: the will to survive versus the burden of self-awareness and reflection. Kara’s eulogy for Cain also draws on this idea when she says that we (humans) ‘double-guess’ and ‘worry’, and that this weakens us. Lee’s emotional state represents one human response to tragedy and meaninglessness on a grand scale. When a cylon is separated from the others and lives with humans for a length of time, when they become effectively more ‘humanised’, either through love and attachment (Sharon) or through victimisation (Gina), we have seen that they too contain these twin impulses: the desire to give up the fight and cease to exist (both Sharon and Gina seek suicide even more actively than Lee) and yet a survival instinct that defies all odds (both Sharon and Gina have not only lived but are getting what they most wanted: a child/protection/revenge). As always with BSG, the ultimate punch in the stomach is that the cylons are not that different from humans.
I have rambled for long enough, but I do want to briefly discuss the filming of the scene with Kara on Lee’s bunk. The scene was shot at such close range that its intensity was quite confronting. As a viewer it felt like we were overhearing something that we weren’t meant to: it was too intimate and personal. For that reason, having Dee around the corner helped because it showed both the intensity of the connection between Kara and Lee, and the lack of connection with others. Dee is a compassionate figure who would have sympathised with Lee (and appeared to do so when she closed her eyes while evesdropping), but her voice calling to him on the com system was not enough to call him back to himself and to life. The only thread of real connection he has left is with Kara, and the fact that his desire for release in death overrode even his intense loyalty to her will, I believe, haunt him. She may have shrugged it off but he will not.
A final note about trust and connection: BSG repeatedly presents us with situations where the personal bonds between one person and another dictate an individual’s actions and through them the fate of humanity. Lee suggests that meaning and purpose in life are also tied up in these bonds. So there is a doubling here: the survival of the human race comes down to the success and strength of multiple bonds between individuals. It’s a fascinating idea.
That was too long, right? *blush*