All right, so let’s talk about Church.
This post is much more personal feelings than theory. You might not agree with me and that’s fine–I understand that character deaths can be a sensitive subject and I am not interested in telling anyone else how they should feel. These are my personal feelings only. If you want Church back, you are welcome to want Church back and I’m not here to tell you otherwise. That said–
I really do not want Church to come back.
As of now, my working theory is that the holographic message is just that, a message, possibly something from when Epsilon was alive, possibly a manipulated voice recording or one constructed outright. While the word “Alpha” is clearly intended to make us think of Alpha Church, in context it sounds much more like he’s saying “This is Church from _ _ Alpha.” The double beat of static before Alpha makes me think he said “Crash Site Alpha,” but “Blood Gulch Outpost Alpha” is also a possibility.
My favorite variant of this theory, courtesy of a comment from CheshireOfStars here on the site (man I wish you could permalink comments), is that the message is a trap intended to draw the Reds and Blues out of hiding, potentially to finish them off for good. I’m hoping it’s something in that vein.
There are several reasons I do not want Church to come back.
First, I’m just not a big fan of heroic sacrifices being immediately reversed. I said the same thing right after [spoiler redacted] died in RWBY; while there are times when it works, I tend to dislike denial of death narratives generally, though it really does depend on how it’s done. I didn’t mind Donut coming back, because his death had been so senseless that it was never particularly about his character development (the point of it was to be senseless, to show that Wash was at the end of his rope), and thus he had a lot more narrative value being alive.
Church… well, Church is more complicated.
Epsilon didn’t exactly pop up as a fully formed replacement goldfish for Alpha Church immediately following his death. In fact a lot of season 7′s plot is Caboose trying to figure out how to give Epsilon a body so that… well, so that they can be friends, mostly. Epsilontucker on tumblr
wrote some great stuff here about how Epsilon doesn’t immediately take on the identity of Church, how it takes some time for him to decide that “I’m Church now.” He grows into that identity over time. So Epsilon isn’t really a “Surprise! Alpha’s not dead,” not in that context (no matter how much the writers themselves just wanted to bring Church back). If the Church in this hologram is a living Alpha or Epsilon or fragment of Epsilon (epsilon!Epsilon if you will), his appearance would be much more of a “Surprise! Church isn’t dead!” if in fact that’s what he is.
Then too, neither Alpha nor Epsilon died for nothing. They both made a sacrifice, though for different reasons. I’m pretty firmly in the camp that Alpha did know what he was doing at the end, and did it for Tex and no one else; your mileage may vary on that one. Epsilon we know gave his life for his friends, in a final selfless act that we now know allowed the Reds and Blues to not only win their battle but take Hargrove prisoner. It’s also strongly hinted that he was closer to the end of his AI lifespan than the beginning, and that that might’ve contributed to his decision.
I’m not going to say it necessarily cheapens a heroic sacrifice if the hero survives anyway, but I will say that I often find it unsatisfying. It’s not so much about believability, for me; it’s more that from a narrative standpoint, I feel like the writers are trying to have it both ways. They want all the emotional impact of a major character death in a dramatic manner, without the repercussions of actually losing that major character from the cast.
And I gotta say that on a show where it’s been done a couple of times, it gets a little old. To put it bluntly: make up your mind, Burnie. You either want to keep voicing your very special Halo OC or you don’t. (And for the record, I’m not laying it on Joe if Church comes back because I’m 99% convinced that would be Burnie’s decision either way.) If you’re done, be done. Let it go.
That’s the thing about Epsilon: his story is all about learning to let go. He’s the first version of Church who did. He’s the first one who decided to stop chasing Tex, to let her go and try to exist without her (and whether or not his forgetting Tex actually deleted her is another thing entirely and I’m not going to get into it here).
Epsilon and Carolina learn that lesson together, the importance of letting go and moving forward–and Carolina is very clearly doing her best to do that, even in her grief. She is the carrier of the Church legacy–she is the spiritual successor to Tex (and really she has been since the Chorus trilogy but that’s another post and one I need to make). Wash carries forward the legacy (and the memory, literally) of Church the leader of Blue team, but Carolina carries forward the legacy of the Church family.
Letting go has become a rather important theme in Red vs. Blue. Bringing Church back from the dead again does not play well with that theme at this point in time, regardless of which Church it is.
The “Alpha” in the message is certainly going to stir up theories that Alpha Church wasn’t destroyed in the EMP, so here’s why I don’t want it to be Alpha, specifically:
From both a character standpoint and a narrative standpoint, Alpha Church might not fit so well with the Blood Gulch characters anymore.
That doesn’t mean they no longer care about him. It doesn’t mean they don’t miss him. But he has been gone for years. Alpha being dropped back into the cast would be a major adjustment at the very least. If Epsilon was pissed at Wash taking his place on Blue team, can you fucking imagine how Alpha would react to that? Alpha never showed the kind of affection for Caboose that Epsilon developed over time; how would he treat Caboose? How would he treat Tucker? Hell, Epsilon was gone for mere weeks and acted shocked and affronted upon his return at Tucker’s (then) modest character development. How would Alpha act toward him, having witnessed none of his development since Blood Gulch?
Alpha and Epsilon were both Church, but they weren’t the same person. And I’m not saying I don’t like Alpha; I do, very much, and always have. But that’s not the question–it’s whether his return would make for a good story, and I feel that barring some very careful handling (of the sort that would take considerable time away from plot), no, bringing Alpha back to the cast would not be good story.
As a final note, I really, really do not want this season to become a direct parallel of Halo 5… but that’s another post.
In conclusion, I do not think bringing Church back in any iteration serves either the story or the extensive character development we’ve seen over the past several seasons, I don’t think it’s a good fit for the overall themes of the series, and I’m hoping the message is a red herring leading into some other kind of plot development.