I’ve been thinking about the end of Battlestar Galactica all week, moving from satisfaction to disappointment and back again. At this point I can probably say with some conviction that I’m pleased with the ending. I’m glad that we were able to see the series having actual closure instead of the infinite displacement of finding home or the plan or the one true cylon god into the future demanded by the open-ended serial format.
Things I loved:
- The flashbacks. At first I was annoyed by them. I thought, this isn’t Lost, why are they playing with the narrative format in this last episode? It upset my expectations and felt gimmicky. They’ve played with time on the series before (“Downloaded” and “Unfinished Business” come immediately to mind) but for the finale, it seemed strange to finagle with flashbacks. I realized why they were there and what they were trying to convey. They worked to both fill in gaps in the character’s personalities (that Kara does not fear death, Lee has always been a cynical idealist – a contradiction but true – Adama will always belong in his ship, Roslin’s ability to stay strong and muddle through even in the face of trauma, Gaius’ vain egoism as a cover for self-loathing etc.) and to remind us how far they had come, how much they had lost, and just how much had happened to them. They reframed the story, highlighting that it’s about the people instead of the mythologies, mysteries, or even politics.
- Gaius Baltar knows something about farming. This was one of the moments when I probably should have reached for the tissues and didn’t. Gaius is the epitome of flawed humanity. He’s selfish, egotistical, and a coward with an “amazing capacity for self-deception.” One of my wishlist items for the finale was a redeemed Gaius, but in order for it to be successful he couldn’t go out in a blaze of glory. He couldn’t be a martyr. To do so would ring false. Lee acts a mirror for Gaius. He sees through Gaius and his throwing who he is back into is face and telling him that it’s not Lee’s expectations that Gaius cannot meet, but his own, Gaius is able to confront himself, which is of course what humanity must do as well – face itself and return to those hard questions. When he decides to fight, he’s still terrified of dying, but it leads him to his first act of selfless heroism keeping Hera safe.
- Opera House – you mean that’s it? Ah, the mystery of the Opera House and the shape of things to come. Well we’ve known for awhile now that Hera, the first Human/Cylon hybrid, is the “shape of things to come” and that the Opera House visions were somehow directly linked to her, but to have the visions lead directly to her protection and the direct confrontation between both factions in the CIC was pretty darn awesome. There was no big mystery or reveal, but her safety mattered more than almost anything else. Plus the way the present events and the visions were intercut was very effectively done.
- Cally/Chief/Tory – damn how those emotions always get in the way. Just when we thought that everything was really going to get tied up in a nice neat little bow – the human/cylon faction gets Hera back and Cavil and Co. get ressurection back – the messiness of emotions, anger, love, vengeance have to show up and muck everything up. Sure it’s another annoying dead female character, but that is an issue for another post. And poor Cally was finally vindicated.
- Starbuck the not afraid of dying badass chick who often makes really poor choices is the savior of everyone. Starbuck is Jesus. The promiscuous fuck-up, best viper pilot ever, and all around pain in the ass is the saviour of humanity. Think about that for a minute. Think about the full implications of Starbuck as savior. It’s just… gah!! Too fraking awesome to explain at the moment.
- Athena/Sharon face-off – she makes her own choices (i.e. programming is not destiny). Those of you with your keen serial television memories set to awesome will remember the speech Sharon/Athena gave to Adama on Kobol. Sharon/Boomer’s echoed it in a way that made her choice and her freedom to do so reverberate throughout the series. This rewards fans for paying attention, but also gives the series a sense of narrative/thematic cohesion. Huzzah for serial memory!
- What do you hear? Nothing but the rain. This more than almost anything (except for Gaius) made me sad to see the series go. I’m grabbing my gun and bringing in the cat one last time.
Things I loved not so much
- God did it – ugh ugh ugh. It’s one thing to argue that there’s a mystical something that’s bigger than humanity (and its children) in the universe; it’s quite another to argue that it’s a personal deity who gives a rat’s ass about the fate of humanity. I did however appreciate that it was Gaius, Mr. skeptic scientist man, who makes the argument for god to Cavil the robot atheist who is at least momentarily convinced by it. But having god be the dude behind the curtain just makes it all too easy for every weirdo question to be answered with, well, god sure is mysterious. Oh, but don’t call him that. Though really, how cool is it that it’s one true Cylon god and not the Lords of Kobol who are behind it all… hmm.
- Starbuck – my work here is done – and like that she was gone. This is annoying me less as time goes on, and I can’t honestly say why it bothered me, but it did.
- Hey how about we give up all our technology? – So Say We All! So, I was chatting with a friend (hi Tammy!) and she reminded me about how the issue with technology, which is supposed to help mankind, comes back to bite humanity in the collective ass (I guess the Frankenstein mythos is something our iteration has invented) was a central issue early in the series. It was subsequently dropped in favor of its mythological and political preoccupations. However, this does not excuse the randy randomness of the final hour decision to go native. I don’t mind that they went native, in fact, it makes total sense that when finding a new Eden one would feel the urge to leave all the messiness of the old world behind. But it was sloppy writing. It would have been more effective had they fleshed it out more – shown some level of contention – reintroduced the theme again – something to make it seem less random.
- Lord of Rings syndrome – too many damn endings. When the screen fades to black more than once – you have too many endings. It should have ended with Hera running through the fields. That would have made for a wonderful and meaningful ending, instead what we got was the train wreck that was the walk through Times Square.
- Times Square scene – or – Ambiguity? We don’t need no stinking ambiguity? Hey kiddies, in case you missed it, here’s the moral of our tale: Beware of the robots!!!! Had they done this in a more subtle way (and without that horrible robots montage) this could have been an extremely effective scene. The reveal that Hera is us and we are all part Cylon was great, and having Head Six and Gaius wandering around Times Square would have been awesome. But no – they had to have them speak. So, what could have been great, is instead a poor attempt at thematic closure. It’s an attempt to say “this is what this series is about,” which ends up selling the series short by reducing it to only being about the conflict between humans and robots/technology instead of a more complex rumination on what it means to be human and if being human is anything worth saving. I have more to say about this, but if you’re interested (and made it this far – ha!) you’ll have to wait for the article!
So, those are my initial thoughts. Overall, despite the fairly large gripes I had with the series finale, on the whole I found it very satisfying. So say we all.