Monday, March 23, 2009

So Say We All

Well, Battlestar Galactica came to a close after four seasons with many ups and downs. Actually, more downs than ups for the survivors of the Attack on New Caprica, but on the whole BSG was a moving show about humanity, toasters, and powers at play beyond human understanding.

Two very good write ups of the finale:
Alan Sepinwall of the Newark Star-Ledger

Adam Whitehead/The Wertzone - Adam does (and has been doing) a spectacular job of review/summaries of each episode, so I’ll mostly just be throwing down my reactions to the series.


I’ve been back and forth with this show throughout its run, loving the miniseries and abandoning the series proper somewhere towards the end of the first season. I came back in the middle of the 2nd season and have enjoyed watching it throughout the remainder of its run, much to the chagrin of Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff who really hates the show. The end of the New Caprica storyline was terrific, as was the reveal of four of the final five Cylons. Looking back at Galen Tyrol’s character arc for the series, he didn’t exactly have the best of events happen to him, but of all of the final five, I think his reveal as a Cylon works the best and Sam Anders works pretty well, too. Colonel Tigh’s reveal sort of works in that it shows how deep the Cylons were embedded in Caprica society. Tory was not much of a character throughout the show for me, and her reveal and turn as a sinister Cylon was just sort of there. However, I feel the revelation that Ellen Tigh was the final Cylon felt a bit forced and almost grasping at straws. Ronald D. Moore has stated on many occasions that the writers didn’t have an explicit plan for where they want to take things (the way the folks over at Lost do) and I think this is most evident in Ellen being a Cylon.

For the most part, I really liked the mythology/backstory of the show, the Exodus of Kobol 2 Millenia before the show began, which hints a more vast swath of humanity in the galaxy. I liked the resonant parallels between the Greek Gods and the Lords of Kobol – things like that really helped me to enjoy the series.

One of the questions I (and I assume many fans of the show) had over the course of the series was whether or not the events depicted in the series take place in a far future or distant past from the 21st Century. The name “Earth” was thrown around casually with mythological overtones as a place that could be either a past home from which people on Caprica descended or a future destination where the show would end. We are led to believe the Earth found at the midpoint cliffhanger of season four is indeed our Earth having been decimated thousands of years prior to the rediscovery of the planet. Here we are given to think the Battlestar Galactica universe is very much in our future.

The final reveal is perhaps one of the most divisive revelations in the entire series. Granted some of the details surrounding this reveal are suspect under closer scrutiny. 35,000+ people abandoning technology for a clean slate? Helo recovers from what seemed to be mortal bullet wounds pretty nicely, didn’t he? Even if it was a bit of a leap, I was glad for that, since I liked him as a character throughout the series. How did Romo just become ‘appointed’ president by Lee? Kara “Gandalf” Thrace just disappears? What is she, Batman? Everything was part of God’s plan? This last half of the last season saw Adama very easily accept the Cylons as part of the crew and society after such animosity towards them. I also thought the first part of the 3-hour finale felt strained and overwrought with the flashbacks. Maybe if I watched the all three parts of the finale in one sitting it would have worked better.

Other details that seem to rake the fans ire worked for me specifically because there exist an indefinite element to them – specifically, a higher power had been moving events and that Head Baltar and Head Caprica were “Angels.” Caprica-6 and Baltar shared moment of realization seeing their “Angels” and their really worked. I also really liked Baltar’s speech to Cavil about seeing the “Angels/”

The whole God’s plan works on another level, too with two instances of literal Deus Ex Machina –Racetrack’s hand hitting the button that fired the nukes, which in turn destroyed the Cylon Colony. This of course led Kara Thrace typing in the coordinates for their Final Destination – Earth. Coincidentally, both cases of a seemingly God driven hand moving events is the right hand, an extension of God’s power. Kara typing in the numbers worked, but the dead hand tapping the button to shoot the nukes was a little more hokey.

There’s an old adage in Science Fiction that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic and the higher power and “Angels” could be seen as just that – supremely advanced beings that could be interpreted as God, but don’t necessarily have to be God. Iain M. Banks’s Culture universe, which includes supremely advanced Artificial Intelligences the size of planets is a parallel to this notion. I think the ending dialogue of the show pins this home even more when Six reveals that the way our society is depicted final scene of the scene of the series is part of God’s Plan.

"You know it doesn't like that name," Baltar says. Six only looks back in mild defiance. "Silly. Silly me," he replies as the two walk away into the metropolis

The sometimes disagreeable io9, echoes some of my thoughts here and it is another swerve from the writers. Is it God or some other higher power?

I thought the soundtrack/music, not The Music per say, was pitch perfect in the finale.

The final episode also echoes the theme and basis of the original series in that humanity is much older than what we believe it to be on Earth and that humans as they are today were, for lack of a better term, uplifted through the intervention of space travelers/gods – humans from Kobol and Caprica maybe. This argument was posed in the controversial book The Chariots of the Gods, which served as a major inspiration for the original series. Alan Sepinwall echoes something I very much agree with about the finale:

For that matter, the idea of the characters winding up on our Earth centuries ago pays homage to the original series, which posited that its characters' ancestors had started out on Earth in the distant past and had done things like build the great pyramids of Egypt.

Well, I know my little rant/review here does not cover everything about the finale and the series itself. Was it a perfect series? No, as I said above, I abandoned the series at one point so parts of it were less entertaining throughout. Was the ending perfect? I can’t really say that either, with the continual ending teases a la The Revenge of the Sith and The Return of the King. However, the episode still sticks with me and I wound up watching the finale again last night via On Demand and it worked just as well on the second viewing.

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