#BSG and #Religion: Flesh and Bone

‘Flesh and Bone’
The episode opens with President Roslin having a chamalla induced dream in which a copy of Leoben (Number Two) appears. Roslin wakes up and is informed by Billy that a Cylon agent has been captured onboard one of the ships in the fleet. This Cylon agent turns out to be none other than a Leoben copy. At the end of the dream, Leoben is pulled away, as if grabbed by some unknown force. Starbuck is sent over to interrogate the Cylon.

According to Adama, Leonben is a “very cunning maching. Manipulative, cunning. The only problem with Leoben isn’t that he lies. That would be too easy. It’s that he mixes lies with truth.” Sounds familiar. In some ways, Adama is painting Leoben as the Devil himself.

After a brief remark about the gods not answering the prayers of toasters, Starbuck gets down to business interrogating Leoben. It’s not until Leoben guesses who Starbuck is that he opens up a little more about Leoben’s mission in the fleet. According to Leoben, there’s a nuclear warhead somewhere in the fleet.

In a conversation that follows, Leoben and Starbuck have this exchange:

Leoben: You believe in the gods, don’t you? Lords of Kobol, and all that?

Starbuck: Why should I tell you?

Leoben: It’s not a trick question. I just what to see how much I got right. So you pray to Artemis and Aphrodite?

Starbuck: Where is the warhead?

Leoben: I was right. See, our faiths are similar, but I look to one god, not to many.

Starbuck: I don’t geie a damn what you believe.

Leoben: To know the ace of God is to know madness. I see the universe. I see the patterns. I see the foreshadowing that precedes every moment of every day. It’s all there. I see it. And you don’t. And I have a surprise for you. I have something to tell you about the future.

Starbuck: Is that so?

Leoben: It is. But we have to see this through to the end.

[There’s a brief pause in the conversation while some food is brought in to Starbuck]

Leoben: What is the most basic article of faith? This is not all that we are. The difference between you and me is, I know what that means and you don’t. I know that I’m more than this body, more than this consciousness. A part of me swims in the stream. But in truth, I’m standing on the shore. The current never takes me downstream.

Right about here, Starbuck shows that she’s not falling for Leoben’s philosophical and theological double talk. After pushing the food aside because it’s worse than the Galactica’s, Leoben is given the opportunity to eat. But, we also get a glimpse of Starbuck’s darker side.

Leoben: Starving. Haven’t eaten in days.

Starbuck: Kind of bad programming, isn’t it? I mean why bother with hunger?

Leoben: Part of being human.

Starbuck: You’re not human. [Pause] How’s your lunch?

Leoben: You know how it is. When you’re starving, anything tastes good.

[Starbuck give a nod and the guard punches Leoben in the head, drawing blood.]

Starbuck: Did that hurt?

Leoben: Yeah, that hurt.

Starbuck: Machines shouldn’t feel pain…shouldn’t bleed…shouldn’t sweat.

Leoben: Sweat. That’s funny. That’s good.

Starbuck: See, a smart Cylon would turn off the old pain software right about now. But I don’t think you’re so smart.

Leoben: Maybe I’ll turn it off and you won’t even know.

[Leoben get’s punched by the guard again]

Starbuck: Here’s your dilemma. Turn off the pain, you feel better, but that makes you a machine, not a person. You see, human beings can’t turn off their pain. Human beings have to suffer, and cry, and scream, and endure because they have no choice. So the only way you can avoid the pain you’re about to receive is by telling me exactly what I wanna know. Just like a human would.

Leoben: I knew this about you. You’re everything I thought you would be. But it won’t work. I won’t tell you anything.

Starbuck: Maybe not. But then, you’ll know deep down that I beat you…that a human being beat you…and that you are truly no greater than we are. You’re just a bunch of machines after all.

Leoben: Let the games begin.

[Leoben is punched again by the guard.]

Starbuck’s interrogation continues, only Starbuck ramps up the interrogation method, dunking Leoben’s head into a container of water. Leoben talks about destiny and fate, even eluding to the eventual discovery of Kobol, before Roslin shows up. There’s a brief exchange between Roslin and Leoben in which Leoben tells Roslin that Adama is a Cylon. After this, Roslin has Leoben executed by being vented out of an airlock.

Back on the Galactica, Starbuck pulls out figures of Artemis and Aphroditie and prays to them.

This episode highlights the role of prophecy. Leoben quotes the scripture, “All this has happened before and all this will happen again.” He even points out that Starbuck has a role to play, although, at this point, her role is still ambiguous. Prophecy is theme that plays an important part in the series and this is the first episode to highlight that theme.

This episode also serves as social commentary regarding the use of torture. Starbuck goes to great lengths to torture Leoben, but gets nowhere. There’s so much more that can be said about this topic alone…but I’ll save that for another time.

This episode goes down as another one of my all time favorites of the series.


About Craig

I'm a former American Baptist turned Agnostic turned Lutheran. I have a Master of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. I write for Simul Iustus et Peccator and Unsettled Christianity. View all posts by Craig

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