Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gaius Baltar - He's the Motherfrakking Shit!

I saw the finale yesterday. I was blown away and excited and meh and disappointed, all at the same time. I might or might not be able to write about all that today, because I'm still an emotional wreck. But since this is a James Callis/Gaius Baltar blog, I want to write about my feelings of fulfilment regarding the character. I am so happy about that right now. Obviously, spoilers for those who haven't seen the final episodes.

I'd like to give a standing ovation to everyone involved in creating the character of Gaius Baltar. He was awesome and he got an awesome sendoff.

He was awesome as a womanizing egomaniac.
As a guilt-riddled, cowardly weasel.
As a scientist and visionary.
As a redeemed, better man.
Last, but definitely not least:
He was awesome as a head character.

The redemption of Gaius Baltar was beautifully done. It was subtle. It wasn't "woke up one morning and now I'm preachier than Bill, Laura and Lee put together". It wasn't "OMG I'm the mastermind behind all this" (which, honestly, was a slight disappointment for me, but it could have been super lame too, so I'm going to be happy).

This is what it was:
After all of my experiences
and all the guilt and fear
all the guidance
and all the mistakes
this is the man I am.
No longer of afraid of taking sides
or taking a stand.

Absolute best case scenario. This is how you write a character. This is how people, in real life, grow and are redeemed.

I'm honestly very surprised that Caprica and Gaius got together in the end. I didn't expect that. I thought Lee and Kara would be the couple to walk into the sunset, but this was so much better. Gaius crying and Caprica comforting him was one of the most touching moments ever between them. Caprica telling Gaius she's proud of him, and that's what was always missing, and Gaius pulling her into a passionate kiss... Wow. It was all a bit sudden, but I felt more wasn't needed, because these two have a long history together. They loved each other through it all. I guess I can confess I'm a shipper. And I feel totally validated.

The Opera House scenes were beautiful. Gaius got to fight alongside the good guys and save Hera. His speech about God was beautiful - not the simplistic drivel he's been spewing for the cult, but something new and true he'd found:

God's not on any one side. God's a force of nature, beyond good and evil. Good and evil, we created those.
The moral ambiguity of this show - one of my favorite parts of it - and the villains and good guys finally completely mixed: humans and cylons side by side, "villain" Gaius fighting for the greater good. To me, this was the best part of the finale.

I realize I didn't get around to publishing that post about Daybreak part 1, so I'll also mention the superb flashback scenes. (I do have a post, which I will publish a bit later.) I'm a bit disappointed there wasn't more to the father backstory in part 2. It was beautiful that we got to see Gaius' ungrateful, cranky father and the troubled relationship between them. The pain and desperation in the scene where Gaius is hitting his father was some of James' best. Acting. Ever. In the light of what Caprica did for him, maybe giving her the access codes wasn't a simple act of selfishness and lust. So maybe that redeems Gaius a little as well.

Gaius: "The things men do for love."

Caprica: "Love? Gaius..."

Gaius: "...Yeah, well, you know what I mean, don't you?"

Hee! It was kind of strange seeing James play old-style arrogant Baltar, the new redeemed Baltar, and HeadBaltar, all in one episode. These are three very different characters, and his acting was subtle and beautiful. Gaius, as he is in the final season, has a completely different body language and way of talking, even his voice has changed to some extent. HeadBaltar is, of course, arrogant and ominous on a completely different level.

I loved the little scene where they're looking at the tribal community and Gaius and Cottle discuss their discoveries with Adama.

Doc Cottle: "Their DNA is compatible with ours."

Gaius: "Meaning we can breed with them."

Adama: "You have a one-track mind, doc."

Gaius: (indignant) "What?! I'm talking about the survival of the human race, actually, not some... get-together with the natives!"

Adama: "You also have no sense of humor."

(Tigh does his ho-ho-ho laughter.)

Gaius: "... Right. Right. I'm sorry."
Hee! I loved that moment. Gaius seems fascinated by the natives, but also solemn and grateful - he sees a divine hand at work here. The atheist scientist now believes in God.

I'm not that happy with the idea of Gaius as a farmer - after all, his true gift is being a scientist. It was beautiful how he broke down and cried after he said, "I know about farming", finally recognizing that side of his life, where he came from. But for such an intelligent and ambitious man, it doesn't sound like a great future. I like to think he taught the natives about cultivation and medicine, maybe became some sort of wise man/doctor for them. And of course had lots of hybrid babies with Caprica - who knows, maybe the mitochondrial Eve wasn't Hera but one of their children? That's my fantasy.

HeadSix and HeadBaltar

I love that the Head Characters were there, and that both Caprica and Gaius could see them this time. I was seriously worried at some point that we'd never see HeadSix, let alone HeadBaltar, again, and that Gaius would be killed off five minutes into the finale, a hero but never mentioned again either. This was so much better.

So, Gaius and Caprica saved Hera - I was sort of hoping there would be more to the plan than that. But they kind of addressed that and left it open:

Caprica: That's it? That's all God wants of us?

HeadSix: God's plan is never complete.

(Gaius and Caprica give each other a look)

Gaius: Great.

HeadBaltar: But I think it's safe to say that from now on, your lives will be less... eventful.

(Head Characters disappear.)

I also love that HeadSix and HeadBaltar were in the very last scene of the series. James got to speak the very last lines of the show! I'm glad the Head Characters were real. It makes it seem worthwhile - the most disappointing thing would have been if they were just Gaius and Caprica's conscience, or hallucinations, or even cylon chips. I liked that they were a higher power.

However, I'm also unhappy, because I wanted to see an explanation. No, not spoonfed an easy and utterly unsatisfying answer, just some kind of resolution. Like, say, why they took the shape of Gaius and Caprica and still kept that look in our time. Maybe even just a flashback to Tyrol and Tory having visions of them a thousand years ago. Or were the man and woman they saw different? Were they HeadTyrol and HeadTory?

Or are Gaius and Caprica, like some fans suggested, avatars of some higher power beings? Is there a new Gaius and Caprica in every generation, or at least every point in time where God decides to reshuffle things? You know what would have been nice? Another Gaius Baltar walking in the crowd, and HeadSix and HeadBaltar following him. Something like that would have been vague but satisfying. I felt this was vaguely unsatisfying.

It seemed a bit confusing why HeadBaltar says "silly me" after saying God - or "it", whatever "it" is - doesn't like to be called God. The final read thru video - which is very touching - shows that the dialogue was edited and lost one important aspect, which was this:

HeadBaltar: "You know it doesn't like that name. In any case, it would have required mankind in all its flaws to have learned from its mistakes."

HeadSix: "Stranger things have happened."

HeadBaltar: "I think I'll take that bet. What are the stakes?-Silly me."

I.e., the stakes are - the fate of mankind. How silly of him to even ask.

I'm not sure what happened here. Did they decide that if they cut that bit out, somehow this will be a more cryptic ending? Was this intentional, or was it cut for time? The DVD's will contain an extended finale, so maybe we will see the full scene there.

It was still deeply satisfying to me that the final image of the entire series was HeadSix and HeadBaltar walking away.


I've always felt that Gaius Baltar is one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated characters on television. I'm sure many fans will still hate him, but to me, the fact that he got this ending shows that he's ultimately not a villain. He was a pawn in a greater plan. Humanity and cylons had to be destroyed and start afresh. A man needed to be so weak that he'd give access codes to a cylon to start it all. That was Gaius. Now that he's fulfilled that purpose, it was time for him to grow to be a better man, one that can be the father to a new generation of human/cylon hybrids.

His soul-breaking guilt can cease, and he can rest in the knowledge that HeadSix really was there and he's not crazy. He gets the respect of other people without needing the ridiculous hero worship of the cult. He's happy with one woman, whose respect and pride he has earned. This was a great arc and great character development.

Thank you Ron D. Moore, David Eick, Michael Rymer, and all the writers.

Most of all, I want to thank James Callis. Thank you for making and keeping the character sympathetic. Thank you for bringing the funny. Thank you for being subtle. Thank you for crying - especially in that last scene - and being so emotional. Thank you for the empathy you brought to the character.

Thank you for the scene where Baltar refuses to sign the death warrant. Thank you for the scenes with Gaeta during and after the mutiny. Thank you for saying "What have I done?" in the miniseries. Thank you for making Gaius a smoker - and for all the other smaller or bigger changes you made.

You, more than anyone else, made this character. Thank you so much for giving him to us.


Mojo said...

That moment when Gaius sobs at the end... broke my heart yet satisfied in ways I can't describe. It was beautifully done and is *the* scene I can't shake out of the entire finale.

Deniselle said...

I agree. It's probably the best Gaius and Gaius/Caprica moment ever. Sniff, James crying!