Saturday, March 21, 2009

Battlestar Gallactica Finale: Good, with some Meh

Ok, now that it's over, here's my rundown of the final act of what I think has been the best TV sci-fi series in history.

Yes, spoilers abound, so tread carefully.

Focus on character - top notch!

Toasters battling each other - super cool!

Revelation about Earth - figured we were going there, but handled well.

Big thematic revelations about God, Gods, et all - not so much.

However, what's beautiful about this series is that it's woven together many characters and themes over several years. The final five episodes did a marvelous job of bringing those together...mostly. Here's what I liked (or didn't) about each of those.


Dee - Though suicide was symbol of general despair of Galactica, felt this was the wrong sendoff for a character of such spirit. Wasn't prepared well enough.

Cally - LOVED...absolutely loved how Cally's murder suddenly resurfaces in final episode and was so tied to the drama. That's courageous writing, and it worked.

Zarek/Gaeta - The mutiny and the turn these characters took were essential to the overall thematic duality of the show. A powerful sendoff for two of the shows "glue" characters whose fates symbolized that of humanity as a whole.

Doc Cottle - Best written goodbye of any character. Yes, self-referential, but so what.

Racetrack - Her death was cut short, especially considering its pivotal role to the final battle. Where was her backstory?

Lampkin - Fitting punishment for such a cynic: becoming President.

The Replacement Admiral (whose name I can't remember) - Why not give this to a longer recurring character? These moments were wasted, especially considering the position ended up being meaningless.

Helo - Nice ending with Athena, but his final character test - the moment that he had to defy Galen's advice and trust his cylon girlfriend - was absent. Why? Sending her off while bleeding isn't trust; there was no real jeopardy. This set up wasn't delivered well.

Baltar - The Caprica flashbacks, father, farming comments at end all worked well. Seeing the flashback scene where Baltar offers Caprica a look at the facilities as a coda to the entire series was chilling, simply chilling, and so I know this character arc was handled superbly.

Laura Roslin - Lovely story, death handled well, perhaps one of the most moving characters in the series in the end. I must admit, I never really liked Roslin that much but the finale really brought me to feel for her. It was wise of the writers to sense that she had been a cold character most of the series and to give her a rich family life/tragedy was a nice touch to explaining who she was.

Lee Adama - Really felt he got the short shrift of the finale. What the hell was the bird metaphor for? Lee deserved a better written ending, his character felt weak. However, liked introducing his brother at the end. They really looked like brothers.

Bill Adama - Sitting on hill seemed an appropriate final moment. But the flashback scenes of his potential retirement (and "interrogation"?) were confusing. His decision to lead Galactica was muddled. For such an important character I think more thought needed to go into this. Would have preferred more about Adama's backstory and less about the ship itself.


Cavil (#1) - I felt Dean Stockwell's decision to have Cavil off himself was a fitting ending for him, though I would have liked to have had some dialogue to go with that.

Leobin (#2) - His prescience about Starbuck was never explained. This lose thread should have been sewn up (see below). Will we get more in "The Plan" miniseries?

D'Anna (#3) - Presumed her "boxed" model was lost when base ship was destroyed. But would have liked to have had some reminder of her before the end.

Simon (#4) - A bit of a mystery to the end, eh? Perhaps we'll get more in miniseries.

Doral (#5) - Stood around a lot looking Cylony. Never really got to know him either.

Caprica (#6) - Ah, now we get to one of the key characters. Her flashback scenes with Baltar were great, but in the end, we never got to understand her. I think this was a mistake and could have made the "Head" characters more interesting (see below).

Boomer (#8) - This two-faced character was always a problem throughout the series, but the final episodes handled her brilliantly. Loved the final flashback. Actually one of the more touching moments of the finale. Even so, the issue of "switching her on" as a cylon (in the first season) and whether or not she had the free will to decide her fate (as the final five cylons do) was never satisfactorily explained. It's as if they realized they made a mistake with her character and handled all the other cylons differently. The nice ending couldn't clear that up.

Athena (#8) - Her fight for Hera was well handled, though not exceptional. There could have been more here.

Tory - Never handled well, I thought, but her fate was fitting. Even so, why did she do what she did? She was always too much a cypher.

Anders - Well, what can you say, he went out with style. Beautifully shot, very majestic.

Galen - I like the idea that he ends up on a cold isle in the north. Is this supposed to be the origin of Gaelic? Even if not, it was a nice joke.

Ellen & Saul Tigh - I never bought that they were a couple that were meant for each other. More like one that hung around for shared addictions. I suppose that's what we're supposed to get from their flashbacks, but where are we supposed to take this? Something was missing here, in their trajectories.

The others

Hera - Yep, mitochondrial mother makes good sense to me. I know some laugh at this but the series seemed to know where it was going here and played it out logically.

Starbuck - Count me on the "what the frack?" side of the controversy over Starbuck. I really felt disappointed. Not just because I had bought into the Seven/Daniel/Father theory. But because a) if Starbuck is an angel, why doesn't she know she's an angel? and b) why can everybody see her and c) doesn't this just break with the reality the series has been striving for all along? I saw it as a story cheat, and they should have found a better way to stay in the world they had created. She can be a "symbolic" angel but to make her a real one is a deus ex machina cheat of the worst kind.

Plus, why kill herself trying to find the first Earth? This makes no sense, if she was an angel wouldn't she have ALWAYS been an angel? If God (or whomever) can send her back as an angel, why not send her back with a print-out of the coordinates to Earth 2? (And a heap of pepperoni pizzas for the crew, I'm sure they could have used those too.) Or why not send back a more deserving character - Billy, say, who probably had the most angelic nature of anyone on the show.

Not being Catholic I also don't by the "trinity" idea between Adama, Apollo, and Starbuck, that some writers have suggested and which I find a bit insulting since Adama would be the last person to equate himself with God. I liked the religious symbolism in this series but symbolism is different from a literal descent of an angel, which is just either preachy or insane.


I don't buy the "Watchtower" music thread. IF this is a code for coordinates to earth, how can Hera be born with it, how can the final five be activated by it, and how can Starbuck be taught it by her father? Either the writers think Dillon is God (which is, by the way, extremely teenagery), or they are saying Dillon merely discovered the song from the great cosmos (which is extremely silly), or they just fudged this thread that they had woven through the entire series. I don't buy it and it bothers me that they hung SO MUCH of the series on this idea that was not even 1/4 baked.

The "Head" Characters - Ok, here I laughed. The ending was so Matrix-y, I was like, come-on, can't you make up something more original? It was like the ending to Bedazzled with Elizabeth's Hurley's devil debating God on the Santa Monica pier. Again, it makes no sense that Baltar and Caprica are the only people who see these characters, and their effect on the trajectory of the series is so flippant that it again undercuts all the other good that had gone before. Here's the problem - IF they are figments, then they shouldn't be able to see each other's characters. At least that would have kept the reality a bit more consistent.

As you can see, I'm so irritated by the problems posed by these non-human/non-cylon characters, especially because they really undermined what was otherwise a great series and great finale. I really wish the writers had had more time to figure out these essential elements more carefully.

Even so, it still remains one of the best shows on television. If the writers had been able to resolve these elements, it could have been great all the way through.