Off Topic: Battlestar Galatica Finale Reaction

Monday, 23 March, 2009

*** SPOILER WARNING!!! ***
Obviously don’t click below if you haven’t seen it and prefer not to be spoiled.


Bit of background:
This started out as a comment to this Ron D. Moore interview and I expanded on it slightly. Some comments I was riffing on came from Osiris33*, Frakfrakfrak** and Artemis***.
I felt compelled to construct some of my thoughts into something that made vague sense. I was introduced to the show in early 2006 by a fan I met on LiveJournal. I think I watched the miniseries and first two seasons in about three weeks and was hooked from then on.

SO… A WIZARD DID IT?

I don’t think that the ending was all poor. Some of it was sublime and most of it made metaphorical sense. Lots of it was moving. I genuinely quite enjoyed the thing! Ultimately though, it’s become clear that RDM had a bigger and better idea on his hands than he could handle and the finale didn’t do the series justice. I can live with that, but it’s a let down to find out that a lot of those things you ascribed meaning to during the series were just meanderings and flapping about. Also, note to directors: There’s referring back to foreshadowing, and then there’s beating your audience about the head with it. Avoid the latter.

The concept of abandoning a civilisation, despite the thematic merits of the idea, felt contrived. I will buy that thousands of people can realise that what they were fighting for – the survival of the human race – they found on this new earth, and even that they put down without a fight, but that whole section is just so damn clumsy and rushed it feels less realistic than it probably could have.

I loved that Hera is Mitochondrial Eve, I think that was great, and the ideas surrounding genetic heritage, home, family, ancestry, connection to all life, all matter etc. etc. are infinitely more powerful, enduring and positive than anything mystical or supernatural. So yes, I found the ‘angels’/whatever concept deeply unsatisfying. I might just pretend that the ‘freed’ cylons – or even some other humans somewhere or something – evolved and came up with amazing resurrection-based technology and the ‘angels’ were a product of that. Not to mention how damn smug angel!Six and angel!Baltar were. Makes you question who this ‘god’ fellow – who apparently doesn’t like the name – really is. Again, I might just pretend he isn’t. I quite liked a lot of this blog post on the subject of the religious/supernatural elements and what kind of world we would be living in if they were real.

I maintain that the insertion of the supernatural only serves to make things less interesting, less wonderful, less impressive than they really are. I absolutely disagree that seeking to explore and understand and answer questions removes the feeling of being part of something ‘greater’ than ourselves, I find it actually solidifies that feeling. And as regards Starbuck’s conclusion, I know what people mean when they talk about being ambiguous and “opaque” in art but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know yourself what it is you want to say.

I don’t think the cylons were done any justice either. I would have liked to see the rebelling centurions lead the centurions at the colony to revolt, as had been hinted at, by removing their ‘dampers’ or whatever lobotomy-esque thing was keeping them under control. That would have given them a nice arc, in-keeping with the cylon tradition of defying their masters but this time with a positive effect. Cavill’s 180 from survival-at-all-costs and desperation to understand the universe to suicide also made zero sense.

Ultimately, I got all of it, I just wasn’t that into some of it. Looking forward to seeing the extended cut. Annoying that couldn’t have been the one that was shown. (Yes, I’m still buying the DVD boxset!)

Anyway. Thank you, BSG production team, for several wonderful seasons. I loved how intensely political and challenging and philosophical you were. Conceptually you were the best thing on TV for a while. Your action kicked ass, as did almost every character you came up with, and almost every arc you gave those characters. I feel a bit let down, but not enough to stop loving all the things you got so right, even if it now looks like a fair few of them might have been accidental.

Despite all my issues with the finale, and now the series itself, I’m still looking forward to ‘The Plan’. Jane Espenson is a bloody good writer. I will also undoubtedly check Caprica, the prequel series, out when it happens.

– – –

* OSIRIS33 SAID:
“[…] The finale was good enough, but it wasn’t good or memorable or special, like so much of the show was. They didn’t tell us what Starbuck was because they didn’t know. They didn’t have an interesting plot because they were out of ideas. And it ultimately suffered because they didn’t take any chances. A disappointing ending to a great series. But it was good enough. At least they stopped at the right time.”

** FRAKFRAKFRAK SAID:
“Loved the action. The ending just showed the writers had no “big picture” for the series. They just winged it and that’s why the ending was poor.”

*** ARTEMIS SAID:
“Regardless of how Moore tries to make the non-resolution of the mysteries surrounding Kara sound like an artistic choice, the reality is he wrote himself into a corner and couldn’t figure a way out. So we’re left with “it’s a miracle, God did it,” which is about as lame as “it was all a dream.” This, combined with the inexplicable choice to abandon the colonial way of life after struggling for so long against impossible odds to preserve it, and the fact that Hera didn’t really matter at all in the end, made the finale extremely disappointing. There were some great character moments, sure, but the story just fell flat in the end.”
– AND –
“I think how people feel about the mystical/religious stuff depends on our different expectations as we watched the show develop. I liked the religious themes when they were subtle and open to interpretation. All along, the Galactica universe included visions, prophesies, and guidance from non-physical beings that might be real or might be imaginary or might have a scientific explanation in the end. I would have been fine with things like the Pythian prophesies, the opera house vision, and even the head characters remaining possibly mystical and ultimately open to interpretation in the end. But I always expected more solid explanations for very concrete plot elements like Starbuck’s resurrection and the Dylan song.

So, for me, the finale suddenly changed the rules of the universe. We went from a universe with subtle, possibly-mystical elements that were very open to interpretation to a universe where God physically resurrects Starbuck, replicates an antique Viper for her to fly, whisks her body away to Earth for her to later discover, etc. Others will disagree, but I would contend that nothing in the series previously set us up to expect that this was a universe where such overtly supernatural things occur. I guess some folks took the God stuff very literally all along, took the head characters at their word when they said they were angels, etc. — I was expecting something more in synch with the subtle, ambiguous role religion plays in the rest of the series.”

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