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Thoughts on the BSG finale

We finally got caught up on Battlestar Galactica. There are spoilers behind the LJ-cuts. I'm a little tired, so I apologize for rambling a bit.

Pros:
  • The music. From the homage to the original theme to the bagpipes for Galen's last appearance, Bear McCreary's score really set the mood. His blog post about it is worth reading.


  • Some people have objected to William Adama departing with no farewell to Saul Tigh, and no indication that he would see Lee again. My take on it is that we are leaving these characters at rest during a particular moment in time. They are absolutely exhausted from past events. Lee is now out of his father's shadow, with a whole world of freedom in which to do what he chooses. Kara's comment that, "He's not coming back this time," may primarily mean that Admiral Adama will not return. He is leaving that life behind, and will build a cabin as a memorial to what just Bill and Laura would have been. I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that son and father might cross paths again, or that Saul might come to visit Bill -- he was aware of Roslin's extremely limited time, and wanted his friend to have as much time with her as possible, I think. Laura was fading quickly at the end -- no time for farewells to everyone. Perhaps they'd said goodbye before, and that's why Saul and Ellen were moving on; maybe there's a scene that got cut that shows this, or maybe they felt that the friendship had been such a staple that there was no need for a big, sappy parting.

    Side note: I read somewhere that Mary McDonnell said that she could feel Edward James Olmos' tears on her hands in that scene, and it made her want to cry, too, but she couldn't because she was supposed to be dead. :) And yes, I wept a bit at the wedding ring moment.

    Lovely comment from idadebeautreux on this:
    She just wanted one last ride together. They both knew what would happen, and that it would happen soon - and that it was best if it happened away from where everyone else was working on starting life, not ending it.


  • Mary McDonnell was particularly good in this final chapter. It would be nice for her to be recognized with at least an Emmy nomination. I also liked Roslin's flashbacks -- she found a reason to live after great loss. I couldn't help thinking of poor Dualla, who found no such reason.


  • In this final arc, both cylons and humans had built dream houses in their heads. Very much appropriate for survivors looking for a home.


  • I can understand the people deciding to leave technology behind, though they may have come to regret the decision very quickly (they may have been ready to consider procreation with the natives, but had perhaps forgotten how often women used to die during childbirth). I'm sure they salvaged useful things, like clothing, food, antibiotics, books, and so on, but the reality is that those things would have eventually deteriorated beyond the point of usability anyway. They will not be able to synthesize their original medicines; they'll have to find new ones. While I wasn't entirely comfortable with how lightly they seemed to make the decision, it was a deliberate act to get on with things, rather than clinging to their past lives and delaying the inevitable loss. Most of all, it gets the writers out of a corner in terms of archaeological evidence. It requires a heaping helping of suspension of disbelief on our parts regarding the consensus, but I don't see it as some sort of anti-technology message -- more a declaration of independence.

    I'm not so sure about the logic of spreading out across the planet. It seems like sticking together for a time, pooling knowledge, and gradually budding off from a large center would be more sensible. I realize that they might all be somewhat sick of seeing one another, and perhaps haunted by the idea of repeating New Caprica, but still. Even if there were just an agreement for representatives to meet back at a central location twice a year or something to see how all the small groups were doing, it would make more sense to me.


  • I do like the way the symbolic names came full circle -- that at least the names of the founders lived on in myth and culture: Gaius Julius, Apollo, Hera, Adam(a), Athena, Thracian warriors, Galen=Gaelic (The Hills of Tyrrol are in Scotland), etc. -- though I'm not so sure how I feel about the way it was attained in terms of the primitives no longer naturally evolving ... then again, there's no Prime Directive in Battlestar Galactica, despite Ron Moore's Star Trek pedigree.


  • I loved Kara's interjection: "Would you mind not telling her the plan?" Apparently, someone on the writing staff has read the "How to be a Successful Evil Overlord" guidelines. :)


  • Kara was indeed the harbinger of death: she brought them to our Earth, and that was the death of the Galactican civilization. Bill Adama and Laura Roslin will be forgotten: their part of the arc, getting the people to the new land, is over. And yet, their actions set the course for human genetics, according to the story. However, it doesn't quite make sense that the hybrid seemed to be warning everyone away from her: blending the two sides and having both survive on Earth seems a much better option than annihilation. Maybe it was something non-ominous that just sounded that way because the writers wanted to boost drama and because stuff carried forward from the distant past can get muddled in translation. Another fan suggested that maybe it was two separate things: "harbinger of death" represented her steering them to dead Earth, and "you'll lead them all to their end," represented her guiding them to Earth II.


  • I'm particularly happy about one aspect of the resolution of Lee and Kara's storyline: the flashback made it clear that Kara was not just replacing Zak with Lee in her heart because the other brother had died: they were attracted to one another from the beginning.


Cons:
  • The most annoying thing about the conclusion for me was the significant reliance on "God did it/it's God's will" to resolve thorny plot points. For weeks, SciFi's commercials had said, "You will know the truth/All will be revealed," etc. We never learned who resurrected Kara or what she really was. I don't mind them leaving the "it" that Gaius mentions at the end vague, but with all that buildup, more explanation was needed for Kara's situation. It seemed like she was a spirit that wasn't ready to cross over, but who restored her flesh and consciousness? Moore's attempt to Gandalf Kara Thrace didn't work very well for me, though I'll admit that the wing tattoos from New Caprica were a nice touch (both she and Anders took flight at the end). Resurrected from the dead after sacrificing herself to bring salvation for her people ... oh, look, Christ imagery.


  • Anders' end seemed very odd for that character. Why did they kill him off? He could have allied with the Centurions. The only rationale I can see is that the plot seemed to deliberately be separating the remaining four of the Final Five cylons so that there was no chance of their knowledge being perpetuated for another cycle. Actually, I don't understand why the cylons didn't already have their own knowledge of how to build a resurrection hub, given the way information is passed on. Okay, they may have lacked the raw materials to rebuild, that's more plausible, but I find it a little strange that they wouldn't have known how to restart the process when the hub was destroyed. Seems like pretty crucial information.

    Despite that, I couldn't help thinking of the last three lines of "High Flight" as Anders guided the ships into the sun:

    And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
    The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand and touched the face of God.


    I'd think it was really heavy-handed that they put Flashback Anders in a bathtub for his interview were it not for the fact that Michael Trucco had suffered a serious injury in a car accident in December of 2007 in which he fractured four of his vertabrae. While he did make a full recovery, it was both prudent and kind of the writers to script it so that he could basically get bed rest while acting.


  • The Opera House: The what? In the what-what? All that for it just to be Galactica? If they were trying to be cutesy and refer to themselves as space opera, I don't think it worked very well. Ultimately, it was Gaius and Caprica Six taking Hera to safety ... and then Cavil got her again for a bit. I can tell that the Opera House was something they came up with early on as a back-pocket thing to use later, something they'd just eventually figure out, and then they kept using it, and it became more important, but they still had no idea about their destination, so the scramble to tie up that plot thread at the end is disappointing, given its previous weight.


  • Cavil killing himself was way too convenient. Yes, I know that Dean Stockwell suggested it, saying that in that moment, Cavil would realize that it's all hopeless, but ... after all that work, after coming so far, would Cavil really just say, "Oh, I can't have resurrection technology from the Final Five, so that's it for me. I'm done," and put a bullet in his own head? I think that marks the first time a cylon has directly taken its own life. However, there was no reason for him to give up at that point -- he had superior numbers. He could have kept Hera. I suppose from one perspective I can understand it, but it felt unsatisfying. Actually, overall, it felt like the cylons got short shrift on plot resolution. Surely Leoben merited a little more than "we're staying."


  • Hoshi. His promotion to admiral seemed a clear example of the writers writing themselves into a corner with Gaeta's storyline. It clearly should have been Felix Gaeta, rather than a character we barely know. I understand why they did what they did, but I'm still not happy about the way the writers treated Gaeta.


  • Things felt rather compressed toward the end. It was like Tigh and Caprica Six just sort of forgot about each other. Maybe that gets addressed in some sort of extended cut.


Other observations and questions:
  • The question of the manipulating being's identity:

    SIX: Mathematics. Law of averages. Let a complex system repeat itself long enough, eventually something surprising might occur. That, too, is in God's plan.

    BALTAR: You know it doesn't like that name. (in response to Six's dark look) Silly me. Silly, silly me.


    I really don't know what Baltar's last sentence means. Silly me? Is there an implication that when Six is speaking of God, she's not talking about whatever being they're working for, and she actually believes in an even higher power? Does it mean that Six is deliberately mocking their employer by calling it God? Given the mathematical experimentation that they mention, they do seem to flirt with the idea that any sufficiently-advanced technology appears godlike, and that this being can't refrain from tweaking the experiment along the way. I don't think it's God: if God is omniscient, then God already knows the outcome of such actions, and would not need to run an experiment in the first place.

    There's a saying that doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Are the writers saying that the being presiding over these circumstances is insane?

    I am not assuming a Christian perception of God, here, because I think the show has borrowed from a variety of cultures and religions. I'm just saying that some of HeadSix's counsel to Gaius (and I'm sorry, but I cannot cite a specific quote) seemed to imply that God was all-knowing. I'd need to go back and rewatch.


  • This one is kind of important. I am entirely baffled by the end scene between Kara and Anders. I was fine until I read a fan comment saying that Kara said, "I don't love you." I thought, "That can't be right." However, I rewound the Hulu broadcast a number of times, and that is what it sounds like she says. Now, either Katee Sackhoff's enunciation is breathy enough that we're all mishearing her, or that's what she really said. Why would Starbuck say that at the end? Why would she kiss him and then deny him in that way, especially given the transformations that have occurred? Does she feel that her Sam died, and that she doesn't love Hybrid Sam? I think her worldview is bigger than that these days, especially after her speech a few episodes before where she told him that it just didn't seem to matter that he was a cylon. Did she say that because it was what he needed to hear in order to let her go? I need to find a real transcript of this somewhere before I know what to think.


  • Why would Cally try to airlock Nicky if she knew that he was Hot Dog's son, rather than Galen's (Cottle said she knew)? You could say that she was irrational, but I'm thinking plot hole.


  • More on plot holes: the prophecies. Pythia said: "…the leader suffered a wasting disease and would not live to enter the new land." Roslin landed on Earth II. I can think of a couple of rationalizations: the promised land to Roslin was the house and life she and Adama would build together, and she never got to see that. You could consider Galactica itself to have a wasting disease, and it did not land on Earth II. Mostly, though, I think the writers just wanted to keep Mary McDonnell around as long as possible, and while I wish they'd done a better job with continuity, I can't blame them for that.


  • Do we have a clear answer on the identities of the joker and the thief? Which characters, if any, represent them in the story? I have several reasons for thinking Kara is the joker, but I also have a couple for her being the thief. Is she both? I have a few thoughts on how Roslin could be the thief, on how Gaius could be the joker. To me, Kara seems to best represent the joker from information in the series, but I'd be interested in hearing other ideas on this.


  • Was visiting Nuked Earth necessary to trigger the Final Five's memories of who they had been?


Funny or insightful comments from fans:

  • "Oregon Trail: Battlestar Galactica edition."

  • "Battlestar on the Prairie."

  • "And as for God, well, he's a guy with an ant farm. *shrug*" - andacus

  • "Overall, the wandering tribe had to visit Kobol, Old Earth, gather the Five, all these things so they'd have the information and the experiences for the information to be meaningful – and be motivated to break the cycle." - samuraiartguy

  • "God was a scientist." - jadedeath

  • "Battlestar was nothing if not heavy handed. It was inevitable that the finale would be that way to some degree." - avalon208

  • "Baltar spent his whole life in desperate avoidance of becoming a farmer on some hellhole, backwoods world...only to end up a farmer on some hellhole, backwoods world." - baroque_tragedy


Some have said that the writers played it a bit safe with the finale. That may be so, but I think at the end of a series, people want some degree of comfort and closure about the characters' resolutions, and I think they mostly succeeded with that despite some significant flaws. Not to damn with faint praise, but it was at least more satisfying than the X-Files series finale. I would have liked less glossing-over of Starbuck and the Final Five (zomg we maded teh cylonz, yey!), but it was adequate. However, it's no "Sleeping in Light." For starters, Babylon 5's prophecies actually worked. ;) It's also no "Beyond Life and Death," but that's likely just as well, given that I still find that episode of Twin Peaks to be truly disturbing.

Only tangentially related, but are we establishing a pattern for actor Tahmoh Penikett in terms of his characters having sex with a woman who isn't the woman he believes her to be? :)

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
mumpish
May. 27th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
This may double-post, LJ is being weird tonight ... if so, delete the anonymous one :)

Glad you finally finished it! It's late so I'll just pick out the things you are wrong about - erm, the things we disagree on:

I have a huge problem with the collective abandonment of technology - in fact, it's my biggest problem. The appeal of BSG was that it was less science fiction and more political drama - West Wing in Space. Characters had believable motivations, real human frailties, and - the writer's unjustifiable love affair with Gaius aside - realistic story arcs. Then, at the end, we're supposed to believe that a civilization that has been desperately running from a hideous threat for four years - a threat that isn't decisively gone, by the way - they just abandon everything for life as hunter-gatherers? Please. You build one city, and you start building ships again, double-quick.

But hey, here's a better idea - let's roll the dice completely on the sudden re-appearance of Cavil(s) and just possibly get entirely wiped out the following winter for lack of, you know, penicillin.

Conversely, I don't have a problem with the role of the supernatural, either in general or specifically in Kara's case, at least partially since they've been telegraphing it, loudly, since the original mini-series. It's not like they pulled it out of their ass. The revelation, the big answer of the show is: God(s) is/are real. The revelation isn't *how* they work, just that they exist. The show is a journey of faith, fulfilled, and in retrospect it colors just about everything I think about in the show; Adama's cynical ploy-for-hope at the end of the mini-series: was it luck or was he guided even then? Supernatural guidance also explains both Kara's pre-death visions, as well as her post-death reappearance. It explains Head Six/Head Baltar, and her sudden fourth-season physical ability.

It's a squishy supernatural story about angels and divine will. Deal :)

I think you're reading way too much into the Hendrix song. Anders was a rock musician; he wrote the song. It's a conceit of the show that even small details like this can be repeated. I don't think it means anything else.

Finally, my main remaining nit: Saul's age. All of the final five resurrect after the destruction of old earth, depart and after some unspecified time encounter the Cylons from the first war, giving them hybrids, biological duplication, and resurrection. Then it's 40 years from the first war to the second. None of the five are noticeably younger in the old earth scenes, which makes it impossible for Adama not to notice that (a) his friend never ages and (b) he was really old when they were both recruits. I realize this is something they probably considered a trivial throwaway detail, but they had four years to think about this, and nobody said Tigh had to be a Cylon.

That said, I agree with you about Roslin ... to keep the Mosaic symbolism in place, she should not have reached Earth. Having her and Adama in a heart-warming everything-worked-out scene was cathartic, but it was a pulled punch.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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