Finally got the chance to finish watching Battlestar Galactica the last week or so, including the two-hour finale last night. I was almost dreading the viewing, for several reasons. First off, the initial several episodes of the final season were very bleak and in some respects tough to watch. I was worried Eick and Moore may have lost the plot and were spiraling towards infamy. Second, BSG has been the best show on for several years and even if some elements had begun to feel played out as they entered the 4th season, I was sad for it to end. Finally, I was worried about the actual ending.
TV shows have had some pretty terrible endings. Consider X-Files or The Sopranos. You also have shows that simply don’t have endings, they have one last episode that ain’t much different, except it’s worse because the show has lost its momentum and creativity, which is why it’s been canceled or pulled in the first place. Or they become these awful maudlin exercises with the cast taking their final tearful bow. Occasionally you have endings that are satisfying and memorable. MASH of course, and Seinfeld, and Family Ties (I always get choked up when I think about Michael J. Fox finally making it back to 1985 in time to take that truck down to the lake…)
BSG set the bar pretty high. You always knew, by the way they structured the episodes, followed a pretty tight narrative line, and frontloaded certain characters with an array of portents, destinies, and thematic signposts, that Moore and Eick had an ending in mind. With all the great press and awards the show has received (though ridiculously, no Emmys for anything other than special effects), with frakkin’ Whoopi leading a retrospective on BSG at the United Nations, you might have some concerns they’ve started taking themselves too seriously. Always a problem in the entertainment industry. And yet the writer in me can appreciate total commitment and immersion into the story.
So what’s the Beemsville take on Battlestar Galactica’s ending? Read on after the bump. Massive spoiler alert, naturally.
First of all, let’s agree that the first hour and twenty minutes or so of the finale were masterful. The pacing the visuals, the build-up and execution of the Galactica‘s final desperate raid on the Cylon base – awesome. Many, many Hollywood filmmakers can only wish they could produce such seamless cinematic storytelling. There was just enough setup with the requisite number of visual signposts, just enough melodramatic dialogue, just enough of the gritty combat sequencing we’ve come to expect over the years. I confess, I was a little frightened here. I assumed that Eick and Moore would kill off a few of the main characters – they haven’t been squeamish in the past – and the fact that they didn’t reave a few more should’ve probably clued me in to what was coming.
I loved the sequences of Lee, Kara and their Centurion allies taking on the evil Cylons in the hallways (did you catch the intermingling of classic 1978 Centurions thrown in for good measure? Geektasitc!). I loved how the final definitive nuclear strike was a complete stroke of luck – a nod to all those action/action sci-fi flicks, including Star Wars Episode IV, where the hero only has one shot and he nails it!
I dug the intercutting of the old prophetic visions from Season 2, with Athena, Gaius, Prez Laura, and Caprica 6 all chasing after Hera. You knew it was coming. Just as you knew the finale of the sequence was coming with the Final 5 perched above to look down upon all the woe they had wrought with varying degrees of sorrow, defiance, and hope. I couldn’t help but cheer when the Chief choked out Tory – after all she’d done to him and the others, she earned it. And you didn’t really think providing Resurrection to the Evil Cavil and his minions would work out did you? Even though you felt yourself yearning for a peaceful solution… Cavil, had shown himself to be an utter sociopath and complete beyond trusting. It’s ironic that one of the Final 5, Chief Tyrol, probably saved everyone through his blatantly emotional human reaction to the betrayl by Tory.* I even enjoyed the bit with Kara finally (and exhaustively) fulfilling her destiny and keying in the faithful jump sequence.
But my very favorite part of this episode would have to be the reemergence and final monologue by Gaius frakking Baltar. Yes, Dr. Baltar, in his final bid for redemption, having finally committed a selfless and sincere act by going with the Galactica assault team and locating Hera, gets his one last chance to bloviate for the sake of humanity. And he nails it. The Evil Cavil is no match for his tongue. Even Adama and Prez Laura seem moved by his logic. And why not? This time, this time, Gaius is completely truthful, compeltely forthright. Because if he can’t believe in the possibility of redmption for humans and the Cylons, he can’t very well carry that belief through for himself.
In a lot of ways, Baltar’s trip through the Heroic Journey is a signpost for the series. After all, it was his betrayal that helped make the Cylons’ initial nuclear strikes on the colonies so lethal; he’s the one who fell the farthest, had the greatest climb to complete. And he’s always been compelling, because of his frailty, his survival instict, his own manic need for acceptance and forgiveness.
I was glad to see Baltar in the spotlight one more time. His character had pretty much become a sidebar over the past season, what with the wanky prophetic sermonizing and the growing of the cult. After his trial there just hasn’t been much for ol’ Gaius to do. You can only get so much mileage out of a damaged self-delusional genius, after all. But Gaius frakking Blatar had his moment and it was grand. As an admirer of fictional characters, I can say without reservation that he will be missed.
And speaking of bloviation, this post has grown nigh epic in length, and we haven’t even reached the end of the ending. So tune in next time for Part II of the BSG Finale in review.
*But did anyone else find the Chief’s reaction a little disingenuous? I mean after Cally’s death, didn’t he pretty much admit to himself and others (including Baltar) that he never truly loved her that much anyway, that he was just settling after Boomer left? He pretty much left the kid to the biological father when he found out about Cally’s indiscretions. And when Boomer played him like a violin leading up to the finale, didn’t the Chief all but admit that she was still his true love all along , the one he thought he was meant to be with, the one he still yearned for?