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23 March 2009 @ 09:35 pm
thoughts on the BSG finale  
So I finally saw the BSG finale today. I watched the first hour over the weekend, and a couple coworkers and I watched the last 1.5 hours in a conference room as a long lunch break. I'd already read multiple comments on LJ and on various SF sites so I knew the reaction was not favorable.

Overall, I felt ... underwhelmed. The ending, especially the last hour, had many elements that I felt were too simple and too "deus ex machina". BSG was, at its height, a complex, gray, uncertain show that was all about what it meant to be human whether you were human, cylon, or something in between. My summary of BSG would be: being human is complicated, messy, difficult. BSG deserved an ending that was more difficult than this, that was more uncertain, that wasn't so clean and cut-and-dried and easy.



The first hour (last week) was mostly setup for this week's two-hour finale. There's not really a lot I can say about it, then.

I wasn't certain about the use of the flashbacks. Usually, flashbacks give us information that helps illuminate the current character, their drives, their motivations, what makes them tick (see LOST for examples of good flashbacks).

I didn't feel these flashbacks gave us much new about the character. They gave us information (Adama didn't want to leave the military, Lee gets drunk and chases pigeons) but I don't feel they really illuminated character. Two of them were somewhat interesting: Anders and Baltar.

For Anders, the speech was an intriguing look at the attitude of a Cylon towards a sport. However, it would have been more intriguing if we'd gotten it earlier in the series, *then* found out Anders was a Cylon. We, the watchers, could have pointed back to that scene and said "there was a clue". Now, we think "Anders is a Cylon, of course he thinks that way."

Baltar's flashback was so out of left field, it was almost crazy. I think it was supposed to illuminate why he was the way he was, why he was so arrogant and striving. But by now, it's too late. Maybe it was supposed to make us feel sorry for Baltar, but too late for that too. It could serve a role to show how Caprica Six manipulated Baltar, but we've seen that already too.

The second hour was great. Classic BSG at its hard-driven, morally-difficult best. The decisions to go on the mission or not. The all-or-nothing approach. Cylons and humans making difficult choices. The weird connections between Anders and the hybrid as a parallel of the human-cylon connection. And robots kicking robot ass! They certainly blew the special effects budget on *this* hour!

One of my favorite parts was the shot of the gigantic Cylon base ship, and then the camera goes down one of the arms and there's a teeny-tiny Galactica buried in the arm. You get a sense of just how massive the Cylon ship was.

The "opera house replay" scene was nice in that it attached more meaning to the Opera House scene. But man it felt way overdone. I was thinking "I get the point already, get on with it".

Where the finale started to go off the rails for me was Baltar's big speech to Cavil. It didn't feel right, because it started reducing the complex actions down to God's will. The smug-looking Head Caprica/Baltar, now being revealed as "angels from God", sure didn't help much.

How the deal broke down also didn't work for me. Geez, Tyrol, you couldn't have waited five minutes? And you weren't too thrilled with Callie when you found out she slept with Hotdog and the child was actually theirs. But now you care enough to scuttle any possibility of Cylon-Human "peace"? Please. I see how it could be seen as Tyrol's "human" emotions getting the best of him, but it didn't click for me.

And then the nukes are launched, by chance, when Racetrack's dead hand slips and hits the fire button? That's lazy, lazy storytelling. Too easy.

Here's how I wanted it to go: They make the deal. The resurrection information is transferred. All looks good, then Cavil pulls a double-cross. Adama says "Frak this! Nuke these bastards!" Nukes go flying, Cylon ship suffers tremendous damage and is being pulled into the black hole. Adama shouts "Starbuck, jump us the frak out of here! Anywhere!" Starbuck enters code. Jump.

I didn't mind the "Starbuck's jump coordinates are *our* Earth" aspect because it played into the idea of Starbuck's destiny and role in the series. I did mind Starbuck just out and disappearing on Lee. Easy storytelling. I wanted something more difficult, yet final, there.

The last hour was mainly just wrapup after wrapup. We're going to live off the land, integrate with the primitive society, and dump technology. Of course, we're not going to dump our nice clothes, and bedrolls, and suitcases, and jackets with zippers. And what's going to happen when one of those pieces of stuff gets dug up?

In the end, the last hour was a sequence of mostly overdone moments. Galen says he's found a nice island, northern, off a continent, and bagpipes play in the background. Tigh and Ellen have a flashback about spending a life together, all the time, and walk off into the weeds.

Baltar has a good cry because he's going to be a farmer, like Dad. But it doesn't mean anything to me, the viewer, because I learned about the farmer past 45 minutes ago. It's not like it's been a defining part of his character since day one. Baltar and Caprica get a happy ending together, and there's a lot of problems with that as they essentially started the whole thing and massacred billions of humans. Baltar has always been the most human of all the characters, being the most venal, self-centered, preservationist. So he gets a happy ending as a symbol of humanity getting a happy ending. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. Where's the price humanity pays for its arrogance?

And of course the final wrapup with Head Caprica and Head Baltar, excuse me, Angel Caprica and Angel Baltar, was a little too heavy-handed for me. "Will they do it again? I don't think they will, because things change. Maybe they've learned." Close with video of robots.

I can't say for certain what kind of ending BSG deserved, but this didn't feel like it. This ending was easy, simple, morally clean, and uncomplicated. The show was anything but that. The show was all about all the different aspects of what it meant to be human, and for it to reduce down to "it's all God's will" is, I feel, cheating what the show was set up to be.

So ends Battlestar Galactica. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

 
 
 
noybusiness: Leoben/Anders/Starbuck threesomenoybusiness on March 29th, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
Actually, Baltar's farmer past was established in "Dirty Hands".
jeffsoesbe: homer d'ohjeffsoesbe on March 30th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
I missed that. Not paying as much attention as I should, obviously!

Thanks for the clarification.
noybusiness: Leoben/Anders/Starbuck threesomenoybusiness on March 31st, 2009 01:36 am (UTC)
Yeah, he demonstrated his native Aerelon/Yorkshire accent for the Chief, who was doubting that playboy Baltar was qualified to talk about class struggle.

Personally, I think Chief wasn't that upset with Cally about the parentage thing. He only took a swing at Hotdog (to cleanse or something?). He told Kelly it wouldn't have made a difference if someone had warned him she was trouble, meaning he really loved her.