The closest the series has to a proper protagonist in the first several seasons — the Only Sane Man, a Deadpan Snarker, and world champion Jerkass, though he does have moments of kindness. A neurotic and almost perpetually angry individual who barely gets along with his teammates, Church is the defacto leader of the Blue Team since their commanding officer, Captain Flowers, died of a heart attack (or an aspirin overdose; it's kind of ambiguous).
Church is killed in a friendly fire incident very early in the series, but quickly returns as a ghost, and later possesses a robotic body. Despite wielding a sniper rifle and acting as the team's designated marksman, he is an awful shot, often emptying an entire clip without hitting anything (in one incident, from two feet away from his target). He wears light blue/cobalt armor, though in "ghost" form his armor is white (and transparent).
Reconstruction offers some surprising character development that explains Church's ability to survive death and possess people: he is actually the remains of the Alpha AI based on the mind of Project Freelancer's Director. Church vehemently insists he's a ghost, not an AI, but is nonetheless willing to work with Agent Washington to fight the Meta, culminating in his erasure by an "emp" at the end of the season.
In Recreation and Revelation, Church is "resurrected" in the form of Epsilon. At first a mere shell of his former self, he slowly begins to reassemble his personality (with the help of Caboose, the other Reds and Blues, the Freelancer Offsite Storage Facility's database, and other digital records), as he tries to reunite with Tex. In the process, he mellows out considerably before trapping himself inside a broken Memory Unit to reunite with and save Tex, whom the Meta had previously trapped inside. Inside, he begins to relive the Alpha's memories of Blood Gulch, reconciling with his past, and realizing that despite the low points, his life was pretty good.
Throughout Season 9, he relives his memories of the Red vs. Blue war through a simulation inside the Memory Unit, eventually reuniting with Epsilon-Tex and reconciling his relationship with her. However, the Memory Unit begins to fail, as the world experiences quakes and he succeeds in resolving his issues with Tex by finally letting go of her memory and deleting her from the simulation. He resigns himself to death, only to discover that the Unit wasn't failing, but was being broken open by the Reds and Blues (now with Agent Carolina) as an attempted rescue mission.
In Season 10, Church, begrudgingly goes along with Carolina to find the Director, but they both unexpectedly warm up to each other, (much to the chagrin of the others). Church eventually remembers the full story of what he went through as Alpha and how he was created as Epsilon, but after having an outburst when the other Reds and Blues refuse to help, (at first) and what he saw the Director become from similar obsessions with the past, both he and Carolina finally decide that it wasn't worth it. After the Blood Gulch Crew crash on Chorus, Church and Carolina leave to investigate without saying a word.
Church and Carolina would later return in the second act of The Chorus Trilogy to save the Blood Gulch Crew from the Space Pirates, tell them what was really going on, and work together to save Chorus... as well as bickering with Tucker, who is initially pretty upset about what he did. In the final part of The Chorus Trilogy, Church eventually begins to wear down due to being both overtaxed by Carolina and him ultimately realizing just how old of an A.I. fragment he actually is. Inspired by Doyle's sacrifice, he erases his memories to give the others a fighting chance in their Last Stand against Charon Industries.
It remains to be seen whether this is truly the end of Private Church, but even if it is, his impact on the series is undeniable.
For information on the man he was based on, see Leonard Church's entry on the Project Freelancer page.
Associated Tropes For Church in General:
- A Father to His Men: Deep down, Church loves his friends far more than he would ever admit. While there's obvious examples like Epsilon's Heroic Sacrifice at the end of Season 13 that show how much he cares about them, there's also lots of subtler examples, such as him calling their mortal enemy O'Malley during Season 4 to take care of Tucker when the latter is incapacitated, offering to give Caboose The Talk later on in the aforementioned season along with debugging his "pet" Freckles in Season 12, and defending Donut when Sarge makes a Dude, Not Funny! remark about his (unknown at the time]] Disney Death in Season 10.
- Adorkable: He's very good at hiding it most of the time, but Church can be a massive dork. Easily the most noteworthy example of this is Epsilon-Church's Squeeing in the "MIA" miniseries when he gets an annoyed Tucker to say that It's Quiet... Too Quiet.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: A literal example: No matter the form, Church just plain can't hit a thing with that sniper rifle of his.
- Always Save the Girl: He's willing to risk everything to save Tex. Deconstructed in Season 9 when Epsilon-Tucker makes him realize how unhealthy his obsession with her actually is.
- Ambiguously Jewish: In Season 14, grave markers of his deceased incarnations all feature a Star of David.
- Anti-Hero: He has some shades of Classical Anti-Hero, with his hidden insecurities. But he also has bits of the modern variety, as he is a huge Jerkass.
- Artificial Intelligence: As revealed in Reconstruction, the Church in The Blood Gulch Chronicles and Reconstruction is the remains of the Alpha A.I., of which all other Freelancer Smart A.I.s in the series are fragmented Literal Split Personality situations. The next Church, in Recreation to The Chorus Trilogy, is the Epsilon fragment.
- Bad Liar: Church's skills at deception leave a lot to be desired. Justified In-Universe with Alpha-Church since he literally has his deceit (Gamma) missing from his head.
- Benevolent A.I.: Rude as he may be, Church is still a good guy all the way through.
- Bi the Way: More of a case of If It's You, It's Okay, as he's apparently fine with the idea of Tex being male in one of his cycles in the Memory Unit, but decides he might as well reset to try and get it right the next time.
- Character Development: Throughout multiple arcs and two different incarnations, Church evolves from a self-centered prick who cares only about himself and his girlfriend into a heroic prick willing to sacrifice himself for both his friends and countless innocent people. He also becomes significantly more empathetic and altruistic towards others as the series goes on, with him specifically going through a Defrosting Ice Queen process with Carolina in Season 10 and being completely dedicated to saving the people of Chorus throughout Season 13 - all of which is a far cry from the bitter jackass that claimed he Hates Everyone Equally in the Season 5 finale.
- Character Focus: He's unquestionably The Protagonist of The Blood Gulch Chronicles (except for Out of Mind, which was ultimately Tex's story), Revelation, and (arguably) Season 13 of The Chorus Trilogy.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: An utterly faint, reluctant, and (originally) dubious example of this trope, as he mostly enacts this because he's largely surrounded by incompetents that can't or won't deal with the bigger threat at hand. However, it's still strong enough for him to butt heads with Tucker in Season 12 when the latter starts being more proactive.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Has his moments.
- Cloning Blues: If he can be considered a clone of the Directornote .
- Cosmic Plaything: The universe rarely gives him a break. When given an opportunity to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, he (maybe) winds up responsible for his own death, Sheila and Lopez staging a robot revolution and Tucker getting shot with the rocket launcher. And that's not even getting into the fact he is (until Episode 17 of Season 10) just a broken off fragment of a once-complete Smart A.I., he's lost his girlfriend more than once, he gets trapped in the Epsilon Capture/Memory Unit for several months, and he isn't released until he lets go of said girlfriend, more or less for no reason, this time losing her quite possibly forever (though then again, it was probably for the better as she can finally rest in peace instead of being trapped in an endless and pointless cycle of failure).
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: He's not actually a moron, just near-incompetent and neurotic. But still, when it comes down to it, he is a remaining piece of a Smart A.I.. He also had a few moments in both The Blood Gulch Chronicles and throughout The Recollection where he actually showed himself to be a pretty efficient soldier/combatant.
- Deadpan Snarker: Whether it's in life or death, he still manages to out snark both his enemies and allies.
- Determinator: As inept as he can be, you have to give Church credit for trying sometimes.
- Of Reconstruction. That season is ultimately more Wash's story than his, but him learning that he's the Alpha A.I. and then dying at the end of the season are two of the biggest plot twists out of the entire show.
- Additionally, Epsilon-Church is only the Tritagonist during Recreation, as Caboose is that season's protagonist and Simmons is the deuteragonist.
- While Carolina is the ultimate protagonist of The Project Freelancer Saga, Epsilon is easily the most important character out of the present-day cast, with a large portion of Season 10 dedicated to Epsilon coming to terms with his anger issues and forming an Odd Friendship with Carolina.
- Epsilon once again gets this role for Season 12 of The Chorus Trilogy when Tucker becomes The Protagonist.
- Easily Forgiven: A variant, overlapping with Odd Friendship; Despite Donut having been the one to first "kill" Tex (a.k.a. his girlfriend), Church holds no ill will towards him. Heck, Donut's probably the only member of Red Team during The Blood Gulch Chronicles that Church actually likes, with him being visibly saddened when he heard of Donut's supposed "death" when the Pelican dropped on him in Season 4's finale. Church also tried to encourage Donut to stick up for himself more in Season 4, and even admits to Simmons during the same season that he thinks Donut "wouldn't hurt a fly." Epsilon also felt pretty ashamed of himself when he accidentally talked Tex into "killing" Simmons (actually Lopez) since it upset Donut so much as a result. Furthermore, Epsilon was audibly disgusted at Sarge for cracking a joke about Donut supposedly being dead when he was "rescued" from the Memory Unit. Finally, Donut was the first member of the Blood Gulch Crew that Epsilon was actually friendly and civil to after returning with Carolina in Season 12 before he & Tucker buried the hatchet.
- Exact Words: Both he and Tex often refer to their romance by saying things like We used to be together or We were inseparable or We used to be close." While it may all sound like typical romance talk, they're actually being completely literal: The Alpha and Beta A.I.s previously existed as non-metaphorical parts of one greater A.I. that the latter naturally broke themselves off from (with them previously having been akin to a binary personality matrix).
- Fake Memories: That non-sequitur about Tex beating Private Jimmy with his own skull? Never happened. Because Church was Private Jimmy!
- Fatal Flaw: Throughout both of his iterations (his Alpha iteration moreso than Epsilon), Church is quite clearly full of himself.
- There's a truly staggering amount of this trope leading up to The Reveal that he's the Alpha A.I., with it all helping supply quite the Rewatch Bonus.
- Blue Team's base in Blood Gulch is called "Blood Gulch Outpost Alpha/1-A." Church, The Leader of Blue Team, is the Alpha A.I. of Project Freelancer.
- In "K.I.T.T. B.F.F.", Church is able to understand Sheila and Lopez's letter (which was written in binary). While it seemed like just Rule of Funny in action at the time, in retrospect it serves as another sign of Church being an A.I..
- During "Why Were We Here?", Church is completely unaffected when O'Malley tries to possess him. Later on, it's shown to have been due to the Omega A.I. fragment returning to its origin.
- utterly unaffected by being left alone at a base for roughly fourteen months, apparently having not Gone Mad From The Isolation during that time. On the surface, it seems like it can be chalked up to Church's general misanthropy, but it would later make more sense after Church is revealed to be an A.I., and so it would be pretty reasonable for him to be able to survive on his own for long periods of time without any outside stimulus so he wouldn't go crazy. A more subtle case, but during Reconstruction, Church is
- Speaking of the above, there's another subtle and more pervasive example throughout all of The Blood Gulch Chronicles: All of Caboose's friends are machines, such as Andy the Bomb and Sheila the tank. Thusly, Caboose repeatedly insisting that Church is his "best friend" can be seen as a subtle indicator that there might be more mechanical facets to Church's past than even he's aware of.
- Relatedly, Epsilon's impending death and Heroic Sacrifice at the end of The Chorus Trilogy is given lots of foreshadowing throughout Season 13.
Sharkface: You're only safe as long for as long as that shield is up, and then you have no cover, and a failing A.I.
- "You Better Watch Out" has Sharkface making a pretty ominous comment towards Carolina concerning Epsilon:
- When Hargrove is talking about the improved Meta suit to Locus and Felix, he dismisses the idea of capturing Epsilon to run Maine's armor - stating that Epsilon wouldn't be powerful enough. In Episode 20, these suspicions are confirmed: Epsilon is forced to dissolve himself and destroy his memories to generate enough fragments to help Tucker operate the suit, effectively killing himself in the process.
- Easily the most blatant example, however, is in the background of a shot in the final episode - The flashing text on F.I.L.S.S.' computer monitor forms the sentence "Church dies at the end" for a few frames.
- There's a truly staggering amount of this trope leading up to The Reveal that he's the Alpha A.I., with it all helping supply quite the Rewatch Bonus.
- Freudian Excuse: Church's general misanthropy and Jerkassery throughout both of his incarnations is because of the horrific psychological torture he suffered through at the hands of the Director, with the Alpha having been pushed past the Despair Event Horizon and Epsilon literally being made of nothing but those traumatic memories until Caboose and the rest of the Blood Gulch Crew helped him form his own personality.
- Gender Flip: In one of Epsilon-Church's iterations in the Memory Unit seen in "Get Bent", he accidentally misremembers the Reds and Tex as the opposite gender, and when he reset it he misremembered himself as female in the following iteration.
- Grand Theft Me: Season 14 reveals that Church's original body was actually Private Jimmy, who was selected to be implanted with the Alpha A.I..
- Guile Hero: Grows into this as the series goes on, with him further developing his skills as The Strategist and The Smart Guy to make up for him being a Non-Action Guy.
- Hates Everyone Equally: The Alpha developed this mindset as a result of its Cold-Blooded Torture. Epsilon eventually starts to move past this as he gets more time to heal.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Both Epsilon and the Alpha eventually kill themselves for the greater good. The Alpha does so to detonate the "emp" in Reconstruction (both erasing the threat of the Meta and helping ensure Epsilon can get away so the Director can be brought to justice and Project Freelancer can be brought down permanently), and Epsilon fragments himself so as to run Maine's armor and save the Blood Gulch Crew in Season 13.
- Hidden Depths: He's actually Jewish, for one. And that's all without getting into the fact that he's actually a Smart A.I..
- If It's You, It's Okay: When he accidentally gets Tex's gender wrong, a few moment's thought proves that he's okay with Tex being a guy. The Reds, on the other hand...
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: A common thread throughout both of his incarnations is his utterly laughable aim.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: Definitely suffers from this. For as much as he boasts about how awesome he supposedly isnote , Church also has intense self-loathing issues and thinks incredibly lowly of himselfnote .
- Ironic Name: His last name is a term for a Christian house of worship, but Word of God is that he's actually Jewish.
- Irony: Despite being the Only Sane Man of the entire Blood Gulch Crew (his own Cloudcuckoolander tendencies aside), he's the only one who's actually gone insane - Twice, even!
- It's All About Me: Justified as for over a hundred episodes and change, it kind of was.
- It's All My Fault: More prevalent with Alpha than Epsilon, but it's still there. Generally speaking, Church often heaps guilt onto himself, to the point where the Director weaponized this aspect of his personality to create the other A.I. fragments.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Snarky, abrasive, immature and most definitely cares about all his friends... Even if he would never admit it.
- Killed Off for Real: It appears this way as of the end of Season 13, especially since the original Leonard Church (the Director) committed suicide at the end of Season 10, the Alpha A.I. was destroyed in the EMP blast at the end of Reconstruction, and the reincarnated Epsilon fragments at the end of Season 13, leaving both variations of Private Church dead.
- Knight In Sour Armor: Very cynical. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, he'll always try to do the right thing.
- The Leader: Considers himself a born leader, and is (unofficially) in charge of Blue Team by virtue of simply being the least incompetent of the group. Along with that, when the Reds and Blues work together to fight the Big Bad, he's usually the one to take charge due to both his natural charisma and him being the Only Sane Man on both teams.Tucker: I mean, Church wasn't the best leader ever, but he never made us run laps or do push ups or anything. He just took the blame when shit went wrong.
- Leitmotif: "Good Fight", by Trocadero. Oddly enough, he shares it with Wash (at least until Wash gets a Dark Reprise of "Big Prize" in the later seasons).
- Loving a Shadow: An literal In-Universe case. The love both he and Tex share for each other (along with most of the memories they have of being together) is either directly drawn from or a reflection of the relationship between Director Leonard Church and his wife Allison.
- MacGuffin Guy: Throughout The Recollection, the goal of various characters is to find either Alpha or Epsilon.
- The Masochism Tango: Dances this with Tex. Slap-Slap-Kiss doesn't even begin to describe the complex interplay of emotions between the two. The saddest thing is that they actually have probably the closest thing to a genuinely healthy romantic relationship out of any two characters on this show.
- Meaningful Name:
- An In-Universe case, with his name being shared by the Director of Project Freelancer (showing how Church is technically a "clone" - in a sense, at least - of the Director).
- He shares his first name with Saint Leonard of Noblac, a Frankish patron saint of prisoners in the Roman Catholic faith. Alpha-Church is a prisoner of Project Freelancer in one shape or another until his destruction at the end of Reconstruction, and Epsilon inadvertently imprisons himself within the Memory Unit until he's freed by the Reds and Blues at the end of Season 9.
- Additionally, "Leonard" is an Old High German name meaning "brave" or "lion-hearted." It's quite fitting for the series' Knight In Sour Armor.
- Non-Action Guy: As evidenced by his abysmal aim, Church's talents are not on the battlefield (with him instead evolving into a role closer to both The Strategist and The Smart Guy). Justified since his mind and memories were based after a Mad Scientist who never served in battle.
- No Hero to His Valet: Church has a habit of mistaking the fondness his peers have for him with actual respect.
- Only Sane Man: At first, he's the only one of the Blues that seems competent enough to get shit done. He also proves to be one of the most level-headed members of the cast even going into the later seasons.
- Other Me Annoys Me:
- When he meets "Leonard," Caboose's exaggerated mental version of him in Season 2, Church remarks that "This guy is kind of an asshole."
- Also, when he tries to take advantage of the time loop he's (ostensibly) stuck in to stop the bomb during Season 3, and meets a load of other Churches from alternative futures who failed at everything they tried. They bicker quite a lot.
- Both his complaints in Reconstruction about how annoying the A.I. fragments are, and when Epsilon comments that both the Alpha and the Director are "kind of a dick".
- Troll: He sometimes gets clever about messing with others. Notably, when Simmons disguised himself as a Blue during Season 4, Church saw right through it, but decided to pretend otherwise mostly to screw with him.
- Virtual Ghost: As a Smart A.I., the Alpha is one of Director Leonard Church of Project Freelancer. Epsilon is one, in a sense, to the Alpha.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Has this regardless with Tucker, though Epsilon takes until Season 10 to get to this point with everyone.
- Voices Are Mental: Whoever Church possesses anyone, they talk with his voice. Justified at least in Lopez's case, given he's also voiced by Burnie Burns... if not for the case that at first, Church was also afflicted by the robot's Spanish-only speech.
- Walking Spoiler: Despite the fact he is the closest there is to a proper main character, the fact that he is the Alpha A.I. based on the Director of Project Freelancer, and is later reincarnated as the Epsilon A.I. following the original's death in Reconstruction, and plays a major role in The Chorus Trilogy after being Put on a Bus at the end of Season 10, and dies for good at the end of Season 13 are all huge spoilers for the series.
- Weapon of Choice: His Sniper Rifle would be this for him if he could actually hit something with it.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The various time clones created from Alpha-Church's attempt to alter history are never seen again after the bomb went off. It is unlikely they have died considering that the others survived. Admittedly, Word of God is intentionally vague about whether there was actually any time travel happening in the first place during that story arc.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Or, "non-ghost," but either way this is called into question by the end of Reconstruction. Recreation and Revelation seem to infer that Epsilon-Church regards himself equally as human as his teammates, which they (even the Reds) seem to reciprocate.
- Younger Than He Looks: As an A.I., Church is likely no more than seven years old, though his fragmentation may have stalled his rampancy. Epsilon-Church is even younger; his "Church" form is likely less than two years old, though it's probably been on backup for a long time before then. However, not knowing the amount of time between the flashbacks and The Blood Gulch Chronicles, it is difficult to tell how old they are.
- Attribute: N/A
The original Artificial Intelligence acquired by Project Freelancer. Since they needed more, they subjected it to enough stress and mental torture to cause it to fracture, and harvested the fragments as partners for their special agents. What remained of the original was sequestered away at a backwater outpost, where it convinced itself that it was human based on the memory fragments remaining from the human intelligence it was based off of. In another major twist, Reconstruction's epilogue revealed not only was Church the Alpha, but the Alpha itself was based off the mind of Doctor Leonard Church, the Director of Project Freelancer himself.
The whole and complete Alpha himself shows up in Season 9. He's more or less exactly as flippant and cocky as Church, with the addition of being an utter genius and is slightly more civil to others. Season 10, on the other hand, shows his Cold-Blooded Torture and its aftermath.
Tropes relating to The Alpha/Alpha-Church
- Ambiguous Situation: There's ample evidence for the Stable Time Loop he's trapped in for the middle of Season 3 to be just a torture scenario Gamma concocted to keep him busy while Wyoming helped set up their stratagem to end the Great War, but there's also a subtle implication that it was Real After All due to the existence of Yellow Church and Captain Butch Flowers' death being an aspirin overdose. Rooster Teeth has refused to say which is which, and so it serves as a Riddle for the Ages.
- Amnesiac Lover: All of his memories of and feelings for Tex vanished when he sheared off Epsilon. Tex was naturally upset when she found this out. They eventually returned (albeit in a messed-up Fake Memories fashion) by the time of The Blood Gulch Chronicles due to the Alpha A.I. being able to regain at least some memories as it "healed" and it cannibalizing some of Private Jimmy's residual memories.
- Alternate Timeline: Parodied during The Blood Gulch Chronicles. When he tries to travel back in time during Season 3 to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, he learns that he's stuck in a Stable Time Loop because of You Already Changed the Past. Any deviations he makes from the loop manifests as another copy of Church pulled from that resultant alternate timeline that appears in Church's "present" and with which his memory "syncs" with (i.e., the Church who tried to Kill 'Em All is pulled into the "real" present and all other Churches automatically know what he tried to do despite that technically never happening to them). Yes, it's even more confusing and nonsensical than it sounds here.
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Had his moments with Tex. Church also tried to genuinely wish Tucker the best of luck before he set out on his "Great Journey" in Season 4 (though Tucker Comically Missing the Point served as a Moment Killer). However, the most noteworthy example of this trope in action is him screaming out in genuine anguish twice when he sees Caboose (a.k.a. the person he probably hates the most out of the entire Blood Gulch Crew) get killed in two of the Alternate Timelines created by Wyoming's Temporal Distortion Unit in "Same Old, Same Old."
- Badass Boast: In Chapter 19 of Reconstruction, with it being notable because he's essentially acting as an A.I. god talking to a fanatical zealot. That, and also his Famous Last Words.Alpha: Hi there!
Alpha: When it goes off, I'll be fine. It only affects computers, remember? And I, am a motherfuckin' ghost.
- Being Tortured Makes You Evil: While he isn't all that evil, the immense torture he suffered at the hands of Project Freelancer probably contributed to his vicious temperament.
- Berserk Button: Many, but mostly Caboose's antics and the Freelancer Agents.
- Body Surf: A trait that Beta/Tex, Omega, and (eventually) Epsilon all inherited.
- Boomerang Bigot: His fervent and justifiable dislike of A.I.s and Project Freelancer eventually makes him one of these during Reconstruction in a rather literal display of You Are What You Hate.
- Break the Haughty: He started out as a Servile Snarker to the Director. Then it got a whole lot worse for him as he was subsequently forced into countless no-win scenarios to repeatedly drive him insane.
- Broken Angel: Washington notes that, due to all the trauma Church has been through, it's impossible for him to access most of his A.I. functions.
- Despair Event Horizon: Throughout all the Mind Rape that the Director put him through (as Alpha was led to believe that the Freelancers were dying due to his miscalculations), he fragmented parts of himself, but remained stable enough to keep his memories. It was only when he was told that Tex died because of him that he finally broke under all the pressure and sheared off his memories. It's implied that Alpha-Church's general misanthropy is because he's still stuck here, as when O'Malley enters Church's mind in "Head Cannon", he finds Church's mental image of himself as the Alpha, but in a state where he's apathetic to the mental invasion and just can't care about anything anymore.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Alpha-Church, in the finale of Reconstruction, sacrifices himself to distract the Meta and their A.I. fragments long enough for Wash to activate the "emp".
- Empty Shell: Reduced to this state post-Mind Rape and before he was sent to Blood Gulch. He still showed signs of this after being implanted in Private Jimmy's body, only outgrowing it and forming a new personality after cannibalizing some of Jimmy's lingering memories.
- Famous Last Words:Alpha-Church: It only affects computers, remember? And I, am a motherfuckin' ghost.
- The Fatalist: After failing to alter the timeline during Season 3, he decides that everything is set in stone, but that one should make the best of it.Alpha-Church: No matter how bad [things] seem, they can't be any better, and they can't be any worse, because that's the way things fucking are, and you better get used to it, Nancy. Quit yer bitching.
- Fatal Flaw: Pride and Wrath. Not only is Church incredibly full of himself, but he also holds a hell of a grudge towards anyone that annoys him.
- Flanderization: At the beginning of the series, Church was merely a bad shot with the sniper rifle. By the time Reconstruction came around, he's unable to hit a target at point blank range despite firing an entire magazine full of rounds.
- Foil: To Sarge during The Blood Gulch Chronicles. The two of them seem to be the only soldiers that want to actually win against the other team, are verbally (and often even physically) abusive towards their subordinates (though they do genuinely care for them deep down), and have some troubling anger issues. However, while Sarge blindly hates anything associated with the Blues, Church hates the Reds, his own allies, and everyone else for much more personal and intimate reasons.
- The Hero: Lazy and self-interested, he tries to avoid this but gets dragged into this role for the majority of The Blood Gulch Chronicles. Furthermore, Reconstruction has him pull off one hell of a genuine and heroic Dying Moment of Awesome.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Sacrifices himself to distract the Meta long enough for Washington to activate the "emp", effectively neutralizing a vicious Serial Killer, permanently sabotaging Project Freelancer's horrific operations, and making it so Epsilon can escape and be used to bring the Director to justice.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Has absolutely horrendous aim. It goes from failing whenever he tries to use his Sniper Rifle effectively during The Blood Gulch Chronicles to being completely unable to shoot a man that's standing still less than two feet in front of him with a handgun and a full clip of ammunition in Reconstruction. As later proven, however, this is a Justified Trope - He is the Virtual Ghost of a Non-Action Guy, so it is pretty reasonable that he would be a terrible shot. Of course, it still doesn't really explain why he was given a sniper rifle in the first place.
- Informed Flaw: Project Freelancer supposedly removed his ambition, creativity, rage, deceit, fallibility, and fear. Needless to say, Church has those qualities in spades.
- Irony: While he's the ostensible Only Sane Man of Blue Team, he's actually just as driven as Sarge is on winning the Red vs. Blue Forever War.
- Jerkass: His final lines in The Blood Gulch Chronicles are basically a list of reasons of why he hates the Blood Gulch Crew. In Revelation, he turns out to have been a Jerkass Woobie all along.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite acting like a total jerk, it's shown that he does care for Tex (along with both Tucker and even Caboose at times).
- Literal Split Personality: All A.I.s aside from (to a degree) Tex/Beta are personality aspects that the tortured Alpha sheared off to protect itself, explaining why Alpha-Church has no problem reintegrating with his various aspects, such as Omega, or agrees with the logic of Delta, his own logic.
- My God, What Have I Done?: He's actually lead to believe this during his torture by his own fragments: Sigma, Omega and Gamma. As they manipulate and lie to him to make it seem as if his miscalculations were the cause of various agents' deaths, including Tex.
- The Neidermeyer: A far more subtle example than Sarge, but he's one of these during the early seasons of the show nonetheless. Endlessly sarcastic and condescending, he has no qualms about injuring or endangering his own men to gain meager tactical advantages and to satisfy his own personal goals. Even Tucker, the closest thing he has to a real friend in the show, is not spared from his vitriol; their first onscreen exchange has Church blowing up at him, his last words to his alarmed teammate had him confess that he hated him even more than the Reds, and he all but allowed the Blue Alien to ruthlessly throttle Tucker For Science!. It's little wonder that while Tucker is fond of him, he pointedly refuses to acknowledge Church as his C.O. (or any colloquialism that implies a position of leadership) when he tries to pass himself off as such near the middle of the fourth season.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Season 1 has him dreamily contemplate blowing up a entire planet with his newly acquired tank.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Has happened to him a total of three times, however, he is remotely fine with his last relocation as he's alone and thus doesn't have to put up with any of his annoying former team members.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: With Tex.
- Spell My Name with a "The": He's known as "the Alpha", though the "the" is omitted when speaking to him directly.
- Tomato in the Mirror: Though he denies it strongly before his death.
- Unreliable Narrator: In-Universe. If he tells you about something in his past, his account is probably less than accurate. It's not his fault, though, due to his Mind Rape as the Alpha and subsequent breakdown as Epsilon.
- Wham Line: In Episode 16 of Season 6. Not said by him, but to him, effectively making one of the bigger Cerebus Retcons in the series.Washington: Church, there's no such thing as ghosts. You're one of them. You're an A.I. You... are the Alpha.
- Worthy Opponent: Saw Grif as this on the Red Team in Blood Gulch, with him even admitting that he saw Grif as "crafty" and the only legitimate threat among the Reds.
- You Are What You Hate: Well, he didn't exactly hate the AIs, but he found them to be annoying and useless. Every such comment becomes utterly hilarious after The Reveal.
- Attribute: Memory
A Freelancer Smart A.I. formed out of the Alpha's memory centers. It was originally meant to be Agent Washington's A.I.s, but it had a mental breakdown inside his head, and was instead placed into storage. At the end of Reconstruction, it is the only Freelancer A.I. to survive the "emp" due to Caboose rescuing it and taking it back to his home base.
Throughout Recreation, Caboose eventually inserts Epsilon's consciousness into a new host (a Forerunner Monitor), and it assumes the identity of Leonard Church. It has also been shown to house the memories of the other A.I.s in it, and has used them to communicate to Caboose in the past. Epsilon spends Season 9 inside the Memory Unit, searching for Tex before he decides to "forget" her once and for all. When he is rescued from the Unit, he unwillingly teams up with Carolina to take down the Director. While at first the two don't get along, they bond over the course of Season 10, and eventually leave the Reds and Blues behind on Chorus to hunt down some space pirates Carolina caught wind of.
Upon learning of Control's malicious intent and the "third party" in the Chorus Civil War, the two infiltrate the Space Pirates' ranks to regroup with the Reds and Blues in Season 12. At first, Tucker is enraged at Epsilon for leaving them behind, but the two apologize and forgive each other by the end of the season. Throughout Season 13, Epsilon is noticeably growing weaker, and is unable to do anything to help Carolina in Episode 11. Onboard the Staff of Charon in the Season 13 finale, Epsilon sacrifices himself to allow Tucker to operate Maine's armor and have a fighting chance against Charon's last stand.
Tropes relating to Epsilon-Church
- A God Am I: Played for Laughs after Epsilon is uploaded into a Monitor body.
- Badass Boast: "I am not a 'thing!' My name is Leonard Church, and YOU WILL FEAR MY LASERFACE!!!"
- Badass Decay: Intentionally played out in Season 13 - Epsilon seems to be falling apart under the stress of both battle and old age, even shutting down altogether during the Sharkface/Carolina fight. Sharkface even called him "a failing A.I." earlier.
- Berserk Button: Being called a thing in Season 7, seeing Washington in Season 8 (since it made Epsilon recall trying to kill itself), and the Director in Season 10.
- Big Brother Mentor: He somewhat plays this role to Carolina throughout Seasons 10-13, what with helping her resolve several of her issues and trying to help her get accustomed to not being in battle-ready mode 24/7. It's notable however that she's helped him through his own problems at multiple points as well. He also starts to develop this mentality towards the rest of the Reds and Blues after he returns in Season 12.
- Bi the Way: When he encounters a male version of Tex in the Memory Unit, he states he's "cool with it", but decides that he still needs to find the actual Tex.
- Bungled Suicide: One of Epsilon's first acts after being "born" was to attempt to commit suicide in Washington's mind. Thankfully, he got better afterwards.
- But Now I Must Go: Church leaves with Carolina at the end of Season 10, to investigate discovered Freelancer artifacts with her away from the Red and Blue Teams. In Season 12 Episode 16, he admits it was kind of a jerk move to do so without even bothering to say goodbye.
- Chivalrous Pervert: In Season 10, Epsilon was transferred to a Mongoose. Carolina... well, rode him through the desert and into an abandoned stronghold. After they had a moment, Church sheepishly admits that he's rather uncomfortable over the whole thing.
- Cool Big Bro: Once he and Carolina find some common ground he starts to act like this towards her, although it's definitely a downplayed example.
- Despite both he and Carolina seeming to accept their sibling relationship, Epsilon is the first to verbally acknowledge it by calling her "sis," albeit during his predictive calculations of an ensuing gunfight which takes place at such high speeds that Carolina couldn't possibly have heard him.
- This behavior also extends to Caboose a bit during Seasons 12 and 13, as he's a bit more caring towards his companions and more willing to show it than he was in previous seasons. Instances of this include him debugging Freckles, calling Caboose buddy here and there, and reminding Tucker to pack Caboose a lunch and take certain vitamins when they're going out on a field mission.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Contrary to what he says and what Season 13 proves, he can reliably run multiple armor enhancements at once. It just requires deconstructing himself from the memories of the other A.I. fragments, essentially ending his existence as the Alpha reborn - and he does just that in order to power the Meta's armor for Tucker.
- Dead Man Writing: Before sacrificing himself to allow Tucker the power required to run the Meta's armor, he leaves a recording for the Reds and Blues explaining everything and saying goodbye, along with other messages he left to each of the Reds and Blues for them to understand why he can't come back this time.
- Death of Personality: While the Epsilon A.I. itself is still operational in its fragmented state - something needs to run the Meta's armor enhancements, after all - the fact that it lost the memories of the Alpha and all its fragments means that its existence as Church is as good as gone.
- Dogged Nice Guy: While Alpha is rude to Tex, Epsilon is very nice to her, even when she betrays him multiple times.
- Famous Last Words: Lamenting the fact that he'll never see the fruits of his Heroic Sacrifice: "Ain't that a bitch?"
- Heroic BSoD:
- He's utterly crestfallen after he realizes how much he screwed up when insulting the rest of the Blood Gulch Crew in "Change of Plans."
- Literally suffers one when Carolina uses him too much in the first fight against Sharkface, causing him to crash out of hopelessness.
- Heroic Sacrifice: He intentionally erases his memories and fragments himself in the Season 13 finale to give Tucker the power required to run Maine's suit. It's also tragically deconstructed in that, as Epsilon himself bitterly notes, he will never actually know if his sacrifice ever even amounted to anything in the end and he will just have to have faith that things will work out.
- Hypocrite: He spends the majority of Season 10 rightfully telling Carolina that she needs to let go of the past if she's ever going to be at peace with herself, yet he's still unwilling to let go of his own vendetta against the Director even when everyone else rightly points out that going after the guy won't solve anything and might get them all killed. Eventually, when Carolina herself realizes this, she just tells him what he's been telling her all this time.
- Image Song: "I Am the Best."
- Insult of Endearment: Quite affectionately refers to his Red and Blue friends as "assholes" during The Chorus Trilogy.
- It Only Works Once: Epsilon deconstructed himself so the fragments he would leave behind could run the Meta's armor for Tucker and let his friends survive against Charon Industries' Last Stand. Its revealed in Season 15 that it worked and everyone survived, but afterwards the suit became useless and shut down.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He inherited the Alpha's anger issues, but the major difference between them is that Epsilon actually acknowledges his faults and resolves to be more patient towards his friends. He eventually grows more docile as the series goes on, especially from his return in Season 12 onward.
- Killed Off for Real: It appears he's dead for good following his sacrifice in the Season 13 finale.
- Last of His Kind: As of the end of Season 9, he is the last remnant of the Alpha, with the original Alpha, most fragments, Beta, and Epsilon-Tex all dead. Then again, this may be a case of Many Spirits Inside of One.
- Left Hanging: The tragic nature of his death, as he laments in his final moments. Despite sacrificing himself to allow Tucker to use Maine's armor in the hopes of giving the Reds and Blues a chance of survival against all of the remaining Mooks aboard the Staff of Charon in Charon's Last Stand, he'll never know whether they survived, or whether his death made any impact at all.
- Literally Shattered Lives: In Season 13 Episode 10, when Epsilon falters under stress, the visions of the A.I. fragments slowly shatter apart, followed by Epsilon himself, showing his deteriorating condition. It happens again in the finale, when he sacrifices his life for good, and comprises the final shot of the season before the Smash to Black.
- Living Memory: Epsilon is, quite literally, the memories of the Alpha since at least before the split from it. He can also access other A.I.s memories if he has uploaded the information necessary. As of Episode 17 of Season 10, he "remembers everything", with his avatar changing from a glowing, blue, miniature representation to a full-sized character in white armor similar to how Alpha-Church was represented out of body in the original series. This signifies that he's become Alpha 2.0 — although it seems to wear off after he loses his temper.
- It's most notable with his interactions with Tex when compared to Alpha's, as Epsilon is also able to pull from the Director's memories of Allison and not just Alpha's half-ruined/corrupted recollections.
- Many Spirits Inside of One: To the point of being a Mind Hive due to the Living Memories of the other Freelancer A.I. fragments existing alongside his pseudo-Alpha main personality.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Word of God says that Epsilon can partly "copy" the memories of other people he comes into contact with onto itself, so as to explain why Epsilon-Church starts to increasingly see itself more and more as the original Alpha A.I. reborn. While it could likely be Hand Waved as Epsilon being able to access helmet logs and the like, the increasing level of detail that Epsilon seems to be able to recall from The Blood Gulch Chronicles in the later seasons (despite having technically never actually been there) starts to stretch plausibility and almost comes across as Epsilon magically copying the memories of the people around him.
- Mechanical Abomination: Originally had shades of this before he gained a better sense over himself by Season 10, what with him being a highly dangerous and near-inscrutable Mind Hive that was (temporarily) worshiped as a god and even had to resort to A Form You Are Comfortable With in order to communicate with others. Hell, the "Epsilon Incident" (where Epsilon tried to kill itself when it was implanted in Wash's mind) is treated more like Wash going insane from seeing an Eldritch Abomination than anything else.
- Mind Hive: More or less one due to Epsilon strongly remembering the other A.I. fragments, with Epsilon's psuedo-Alpha personality forming the "main identity" (so to speak) out of them all.
- Motifs: Frequently associated with glass, of all things. Like the Alpha, he's generally associated with the color white, and the memories he has of the Alpha's fragments are multicolored like rays of light passing through a prism. His primary personality is more or less an In-Universe "reflection" of how the Blood Gulch Crew (and Caboose in particular) saw the Alpha. Like a weapon made of hardened glass, Epsilon can be very deadly in a fight when used by someone else and with proper training, but is still delicate and can easily break if mishandled. The fact that he can manifest as a hologram and turn invisible whenever he wishes can even be seen as an allusion to how properly cleaned glass can create the illusion of being invisible. Finally, both his literal Heroic BSoD in the first Carolina/Sharkface fight in "Dish Best Served" and his Heroic Sacrifice in "The End" are depicted as him shattering into pieces like broken glass.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- Played for Laughs in Season 9, with both him and Tucker within the Memory Unit feeling super-guilty for inadvertently convincing Tex to kill Lopez.
- Played for Drama in Season 10 after he gives a blistering "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the rest of the Blood Gulch Crew in "Change of Plans." He clearly feels awful for what he's done as soon as he's done shouting at them, to the point where he's literally begging Caboose to not leave him (which is followed by Caboose leaving).
- Not Afraid to Die: Very accepting of death, almost to the point of being a Death Seeker. While his final sacrifice is made reluctantly, it's more because Epsilon had no definite way of knowing whether or not it would actually work.
- Ornamental Weapon: He's just a holographic projection with no physical presence, so there's really no reason for him to have a gun.
- Other Me Annoys Me: At one point while in the Memory Unit, Epsilon talks to another version of himself. One of them gets on the other's nerves so much that he punches his other self in the face (which hurts both of them).
- Pride: Epsilon shows a lot more of a boastful side than Church ever did at Blood Gulch. Shortly after being put in his first body by Caboose he gained a god complex when the Sangheili began worshiping him and wrote a song about himself titled "I Am The Best".
- Put on a Bus: He and Carolina leave at the end of Season 10, but make their return halfway through Season 12.
- Reality Warper: The Blood Gulch simulation in Season 9 is his creation, he can do what he likes to it in the Memory Unit. Arguably subverted in that doesn't necessarily mean it does precisely what he wants.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- Gives one to himself by proxy via the Epsilon version of Tucker in Season 9, as he calls himself out on his unhealthy relationship with Tex and how he's not taking her own choices and opinions into account within their screwed-up "romance."
- Later, Epsilon gives an incredibly harsh and brutal one to the other Reds and Blues near the end of Season 10's "Change of Plans," calling them out on all of the crap he's been given by them (whether intentionally or not). To his credit, though, he's instantly regretful and apologizes by proxy to the rest of the Blood Gulch Crew during the fight against the Tex Drones by calling himself "an asshole."
- Talking to Themself: Epsilon contains the personalities of all the Alpha fragments, including Alpha himself. He can manifest the other A.I.s separately, though Delta maintains that he's essentially just pretending they're separate AIs, rather than just memories of them, because he likes to have someone to talk to. "Room Zero" also has two versions of Epsilon himself within the Memory Unit, discussing what went wrong in the last iteration and what they could do differently in the next one.
- That Man Is Dead: Subverted. Epsilon-Church clearly distinguishes between himself and Alpha, but seems to fully identify himself as "Church". He still answers to Epsilon, though, which is what Washington and Carolina call him.
- Took a Level in Badass:
- After getting uploaded into a Monitor by Caboose during Recreation, he gets temporarily worshiped as a god by the Sangheili at Sandtrap and obliterates "C.T." with a One-Hit Kill Death Ray.
- Later on, after becoming just an "ordinary A.I." again with no Monitor body, he's still no fighter, but the stunts he pulled in Episode 21 of Season 10 (helping Caboose get angry, as well as splitting up to reach out to Tex) were pretty impressive.
- Again in Season 12 where he demonstrates what a Smart A.I. is capable of by working out the best and safest way for Carolina to knock out three incoming security guards.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: He's temporarily more antagonistic and bitter during Season 10, with it not being until "True Colors" that he starts to calm down again. Justified by him still trying to get over the Mercy Kill he gave Epsilon-Tex in the Season 9 finale.
- Took a Level in Kindness: He already started to show this as early as Recreation, with him being significantly nicer to Caboose than the Alpha ever was (though he still gets frustrated with his idiocy). However, it's most obvious after Season 10, as he's shown to be much less likely to snap at others over minor reasons, has a (somewhat) larger pool of patience, partakes in more playful manner/comments than before, and is overall more mellow than Alpha was.
- Of course, this is just in comparison to Alpha and any pre-Season 10 developments - He's still an ass, but is rather nice whenever he's in a good mood.
- Weak, but Skilled: From his return in Season 12, Epsilon seems to have fit this niche by A.I. standards. He's got access to recreations of every single one of the Alpha's fragments, who help him out (for the most part) and let him work out really amazing mid-battle calculations and plans. However, despite all this, Epsilon is still just an A.I. fragment rather than a whole Smart A.I.; he doesn't have the processing power to run several of Carolina's armor enhancements at once, and doing so leads him to overtax himself and crash.
- Wham Line: "I just remembered...everything."
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When Carolina expresses doubt about being able to find the Director when Tex couldn't, Church gives a surprising example of this:Church: Agent Carolina? If Tex was really the best, then she would be standing here right now. Not you.
Church: You're Agent Carolina! You don't need all these gadgets to win. You're already the best!
- He gives another example on Chorus when Carolina seems to have an unhealthy obsession with bettering herself.