So Say We All

   21 March 2009, early evening

Battlestar Galactia ended its run on such a high note. The second half of season 4 was absolutely inspired. The series finale was great — except for the very very very end. And even that, I think I can forgive. Battlestar Galactica is excellent television. You need to watch it already.

I have no idea what to do with my life now.

My cousin thinks I’m a BSG apologist. So there are definitely mixed feelings over the finale.

Update: If people want to discuss the series in the comments, go nuts. So to all of you who haven’t seen the show or the finale yet don’t go reading the comments.

Update April 2014: It’s funny how different my feelings are about this finale now: I feel like they ruined the show. I should watch it all again some time.

 

Comments

  1. Don’t worry, still “The Plan” TV movie to look forward to

  2. I had similar feelings. The finale wasn’t completely satisfying and seemed a little heavy handed in ‘messages’. I guess they had to end up somewhere, and they felt the need to try and pull a ‘Planet of the Apes’ type ending. And the last minute? I just felt empty. It didn’t end how I wanted it to end (not to say I had a conclusion in my head). But still, a solid series overall. I too can forgive its misgivings, it must have been hard to come up with an ending that would satisfy everyone.

  3. I didn’t understand the theology of the final episode. So the BSG universe is explicitly monotheistic? The atheists on the show (Cavil and Adama) were wrong? And the human polytheists were wrong too?

    Also, in the end it seemed like the Cylons didn’t have a plan (despite the intro of every episode) and that everything in the entire series unfolded according to God’s plan.

    It was a bit odd that the show became so religious and anti-technology/civilization in the end.

  4. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of discussion about this in the Space offices – and not everyone liked it. I’m still deciding, but the presence of ‘angels’ in scifi is going to be questionable at best. It’s really not a trope that fits in well with the genre’s built-in ethos, I’d say. And it especially sucks when ‘angel’ means ‘uh, we’re just not going to explain that.’ I think the first half was more or less perfect; the second half flawed (some great emotional moments, but things that didn’t make sense) and the last few minutes pretty terrible (robot montage? really?)

    Here’s an example of something more interesting they could have done: the Cylon ‘God’ is a really advanced AI.

    Ah well, it was decent, stirs up discussion, and the show has been (unevenly) excellent for quite some time, so I’ll just be happy for some excellent sci-fi and not worry too much about it.

  5. I also thought, “Dancing Robots? Seriously?” What can you do. The first hour was pitch perfect. The second half is definitely what people are going to be complaining about. The episode would have been much better had they ended with Hera walking, or Odama on the hill. I think there were lots of great moments in that last episode, enough for me to be happy with things.

  6. The first bit of the episode was fun, with robot on robot smack downs and lots of exciting space battles, break-ins, shoot outs and death defying escapes. But the bulk of the episode was disturbing in a Phantom Menace kind of way that strips away all the greatness of the episodes that came before it. The entire premise of the series became a sort of horrible bastard child of fundamentalist religion and liberal internationalism. What was the series telling us, in the end?

    1. There is explicitly one male god, and everyone is part of His divine plan. Angels are among us and guide history. The atheists and polytheists in the show are wrong. There is no ambiguity or mystery to the theological universe of Battlestar Galactica.

    2. It is fine to kill people who do bad things, even if they are remorseful and are no longer a danger to you. And everything will end up fine as long as the bad guys all die, either through an act of God or their own cowardice.

    3. The only way to break the cycle of generational violence is for everyone to give up the essential elements of their identity and for everyone to interbreed. Not only are there no pure humans or pure cylons in the end, there are no tribal identities within the humans in the end. All previous religious, ethnic and political communities are forcibly obliterated as people are relocated across the globe. What about Baltar’s cult and the fundamentalist ethnic/religious minorities in the fleet? Well, since it sounds like it was a majority vote with no institutional mechanisms to protect minority rights, they were all screwed.

    4. Cities and civilizations are bad. They voted not to build a city? They decided to give up their “creature comforts”? Really? How did the minority who were elderly or ill or infirmed vote, I wonder? Technology and civilization aren’t just there to oppress, they are also a way to protect the weak and vulnerable. Hell, the president was kept alive for several seasons by the medical technology and institutions that the main characters dispense with after a glib five minute conversation. Admiral Gaeta would never have let that happen. Ha.

    5. Only the strong survive. What happened to those natives? Well, if Hera was our mitochondiral Eve and had a cylon mother and human father, doesn’t that mean that they were wiped out and replaced by the new race of settlers? Does that mean that the humans and cylons ended up being colonizers and ethnic cleansers instead of living in peace with the original inhabitants of earth? This is part of the problem with an ideology or argument that presents itself as pure and neutral, but in practical fact only serves the dominant power.

    6. “Consumerism, decadence, technology run amok”. That last scene was the most obnoxious and condescending of the entire series. It was also shockingly literal. That’s what the show was about in the end? Some kind of smug warning or reprimand from God’s white, yuppie, self-satisfied angels? That’s pretty rich for a show that was packaged and sold to consumers, was a vehicle for selling us things through commercials, and that depended on and glorified technology and hot actors. It’s also pretty rich for a God that seemingly created everything and everyone in the universe and then decided to roll his eyes at his dumb-ass creations.

    It was sad watching a great, complex and nuanced show flame out so completely and miserably in an orgy of literalness, condescension, fundamentalism and schmaltz.

    On the other hand, the kid who played Hera was so damn cute.

  7. Well said, Mahi. I’m not taking it as retroactively damaging though, mostly because I feel they chose the patriarchal God explanation as it allowed them to tie up the greatest number of outstanding plot holes, not because they felt strongly about it. It’s still crazy damning for them as writers, though. I remember hearing that Ron Moore didn’t know his overall arc for the show about halfway through it, and despite this setting off more than a few warning bells after what happened to Twin Peaks, I figured I’d let it slide, as the show had been so good. I think this can no longer be true – we have to expect that our show runners know where the hell their overall show arc is going. I’d never thought Lost would wind up being better than BSG, but that’s what’s happening, and I think that’s the key difference.

  8. If they scrapped the very very end then you can ignore a lot of your complaints about religion. The show was good because unlike other SciFi shows it didn’t try to explain everything with ‘science’ or magic. Starbuck came back from the dead. How? Who cares! You can probably think up all sorts of reasons as to how she could still be alive. And how she could disappear for that matter. That she is back moves the story forward, and isn’t so strange as to derail things is good enough. Similarly, I could have lived with them not trying to explain the voice in Gaius’ head. (And in Caprica 6’s head.) Even if by the end of the episode he’s convinced it is in fact God talking to him, it doesn’t matter, because that’s just how he interprets things. As the audience we can continue to assume he is crazy, that he Cylons put junk in his head, etc. With the last 5 minutes, you have Sex-Bot and Zoot-Zeus Gauis walking around talking smack, which kind of forces the, “Yes they are angels” thing.

  9. Yeah, I think you are right. Maybe they should have ended it with a very clear shot of earth or them landing on earth. All the explanations and moralizing was excruciating. It’s like finding out that the Force is the result of a high mitochlorian count. Why explain it at all? They should have gone with a surreal Prisoner-type ending that people would be raging and puzzling over for generations to come.

  10. Interview with Tricia Helfer.

  11. rc3 has another take on the whole mitochondiral Eve thing. Although, it's apparently not quite right.

  12. That was a really great article.

  13. It was a great article – good find.

    Okay, here are a couple things that came up in discussion in the office recently. First, what was the point of the Caprica flashbacks? That article says they show how the main characters wound up on the Galactica, but that’s only partially true, and then leads to the question: who cares? Also, didn’t we cover that in the miniseries? It felt like those scenes (that have really added up over the last three or four eps) were setup for a punchline that never happened. If I had to watch 15 minutes of Baltar-dad plotline just so I can say “and so the cosmic ballet continues” when Baltar becomes a farmer, that’s not a great signal-to-noise ratio.

    Secondly, how bullshit is the ‘let’s get rid of all of our technology’ decision? Mahi, you hit on this already. It’s frustrating because you know it only happens because it’s basically a requirement for the earth thing, or else we’d be finding the Battlestar buried in the Sahara or something. (Actually, that would be pretty cool.)

    I feel for them, since there were so many open questions that they couldn’t answer all of them in a single episode. But then again, resolution doesn’t require literal answers – it could have been handled with more mystery and ambiguity. And yeah, they were the ones who asked the questions in the first place.

  14. My friend Maya pointed out to me that it was absurd when, at the end, Tigh said to the Chief “For what it’s worth, I would have done the same thing if it had happened to Ellen” or something like that, referring to Tigh strangling the brown girl Cylon to death. But wait, didn’t Tigh kill his own wife a few seasons back? Ha ha. He killed her for the greater good. And that brown girl Cylon killed Callie for the greater good. What the hell is the difference? It’s like the people who wrote the finale had never watched the show before.

    And I agree that the Caprica flashbacks didn’t add anything to the story. They seemed like total filler. Which was a strange thing to add to a series finale.

    I do feel for the writers though. They clearly had no idea how they were going to wrap everything up. It must have been horrible writing that last episode.

  15. An interview with Ron Moore for TV Guide. He tries to explain why the ending is the way it is. I’m not so impressed.

    Thinking about the entire series, it’s clear the show peaked with the second season’s finale. I think the show took a dip once they left New Caprica. And I don’t think the show picks up again till Season 4, Episode 7, when they plug in the Hybrid and it jumps the Bay Ship away. I do think it picks up again though. I thought the second half of season 4 was pretty strong for the most part. My least favourite episodes were the ones that focused on Ellen. Making her the last cylon made her character kind of boring.

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