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Battlestar Galactica: What the frak happened in the series finale?

I thought about posting last night, but I’ve gotten into a rhythm this season with letting the episode marinate in my brain overnight and then posting on Saturday morning. I know a lot of people TiVo shows nowadays (myself included) and end up watching the episode later that night, the next day or the next week, so there isn’t a huge rush to get something up.

Was it a great finale? Absolutely. Was I blown away? Not entirely.

Let’s start at the beginning (which is always a good place to start) — more flashbacks of life on Caprica. Bill is thinking about retiring and entering the private sector, Roslin has a blind date with a former student, Lee gets to know Kara. Great, let’s move on.

Back in the future, Baltar’s vision tells him that he will “take mankind’s remnants and guide them to their end.” Last week, after watching him struggle with the decision in the hanger, I wondered whether or not Gaius would in fact volunteer to go along with the rescue mission. The truth is that it should have been obvious that he would. Creator Ronald D. Moore wasn’t about to take one of the main players out of the game in crunch time.

After an emotional scene between Roslin and Doc Coddle, Laura had a great line:

“Don’t spoil your image. Just light a cigarette and go and grumble.”

Then the planning began for the assault on the colony — that’s when the episode really got going. The final four move Sam to the CIC (more on this later) and Galactica prepares to jump.

Like just about every battle scene in the entire series, this one rocked. Galactica jumps in and immediately starts to get pummeled by the colony’s weapons. After the terrific rescue mission on New Caprica, the show had a lot to live up to, and once the birds were away and Bill ordered his crew to ram the colony, Moore and Co. had cleared the bar. It was very cool to see Lee leading a group of Centurions into the colony. Even when they’re on “our” side, they still scare the ever-loving crap out of me.

It’s still a little incredible that Kara’s group would find Hera so quickly, but Boomer came to their aid. She broke that Cylon’s neck (!!!) and got Hera out of there. It just goes to show what kind of an effect that little girl has on people/machines. After a great scene with Boomer, Athena, Helo and Kara — with Kara’s great line, “Uh, can we not tell her the plan!” — Athena kills her “sister” and the group makes its escape. When Boomer said that she owed the old man, I thought she was referring to the fact that she once tried to kill him, but apparently she was talking about one day when she was a rookie and Bill gave her another chance to complete her raptor landing. (Maybe it’s just me, but I think she owes him more for the attempted assassination.)

Meanwhile, on Galactica, Gaius and Caprica Six are chitchatting while they’re waiting for something to shoot. That’s when they both see both visions, who say, “You will hold the futures of humans and Cylons in your hands.” Now there has been a lot of speculation about what his/their visions represent, but they’re not crazy and they don’t have chips in their heads (or at least Gaius doesn’t). Moore said on “The Last Frakking Special” that Baltar’s visions were divine. They were guiding him down this path, and his storyline over the last few episodes revolved around his possible redemption. He turned over the keys to Caprica’s defense systems to his Six and that allowed the near-destruction of the human race. Granted, he didn’t know that’s what he was doing at the time, but he is still responsible for his actions. Anyway, Baltar starts firing his gun and it turns out that Lee and his gang are just around the corner. Then there was this subtle yet fantastic interaction…

Baltar: Sorry about that.
Lee: Doc, you did good.

Succinct and to the point, that was one of the most touching moments in the entire finale (for me). Lee has always been one of Baltar’s harshest critics and for Gaius to do enough to earn a compliment from him (which was no doubt boosted by the Doctor’s decision to stay on Galactica), it was a major milestone in Baltar’s road to redemption.

So Hera runs off as Helo is shot, and the whole opera house flashbacks begin. This was a very cool way to intertwine the show’s past with its present and give meaning to those dreams. I’m guessing this was Moore’s plan from the start. Usually, when you’re writing fiction, you know how it begins and how it ends, and you’ll figure out the middle later. I think once Moore introduced the opera house dream, he knew that it was going to come full circle as all the parties involved search for Hera on Galactica. The dreams made Caprica Six and Baltar look nefarious, as if they were snatching the girl away. But in fact, they had the best interests of the girl at heart. This all led to Baltar and Caprica Six taking Hera into the CIC, where the final five were positioned above them, same as the dream. Very, very cool.

All right, so somehow Cavil gets a hold of Hera, and instead of Bill or someone else putting a bullet in his “brain,” Baltar finally redeems himself. If he’s not on Galactica (the one true, selfless act that Lee was talking about earlier this season), then he’s not there to convince Cavil to give up the girl, and who knows how that confrontation ends. Gaius talks about the visions, refers to them as “angels” and gets Cavil to buy into the whole “let’s break the cycle of violence” plan, providing that the final five give the cylons the key to resurrection. Only the plan goes awry when Tyrol sees Torry’s memory of killing his wife — so he flips out and kills her. Cavil, ever the survivor, says “frak” and offs himself. This doesn’t make any sense to me.

Anyway, now it’s time for Starbuck to take over. Moore did a great job of setting up this scene. From the final four hearing “All Along the Watchtower,” to Hera giving the drawing to Starbuck, to her interaction with her “dad” in the bar, to her working with Anders to try to put the song into some sort of numerical connotation, it was a long, fleshed-out journey. Of course, the fact that she jumped Galactica to a second Earth (which oddly enough, has all the same continents as the original Earth) requires a huge leap of faith. It’s clear now that Moore is pushing the idea of intelligent design, which he (possibly) sees as a compromise between the inaccuracies of the Bible (as they relate to established science) and the finality of atheism. This is confirmed when Bill, Gaius, Coddle and a few others are observing a tribe of prehistoric humans walk by. The fact that humans evolved independently requires some sort of a belief in divine intervention.

At some point, Starbuck/Lee have a flashback to the time that they met, and it turns out that they almost slept together. But the most important part of the flashback was Kara revealing that she isn’t afraid of death. It’s not that she doesn’t know fear, she does, but she’s not afraid of dying, which was yet another clue that she was not human (nor cylon). Whatever she is — some sort of angel that walks the Earth, twice — she is built in such away that she’s not afraid of death, and this lack of fear has allowed her to do amazing things in her time with the fleet. Regarding the other flashbacks, I think we were supposed to see just how close Bill was to not being in charge of Galactica at the time of the attack and what it took for Roslin to convince herself that a move into politics was the right thing for her. I’m not sure why it took sleeping with her former student (though that’s admittedly a bit on the sketchy side, even that late in life), but that’s what it took.

Back to New Earth. Not unlike the finale to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, this one had about five or six endings. It’s understandable — the viewers want to know how each major character moves on, and it’s impossible to do that quickly. I think that this is why they decided to do a two-hour combined finale instead of breaking it up into two episodes. It just wouldn’t have worked as well separately.

All right, so the assumption is that the fleet is willing to give up all of their technology and live and breed with the natives. There’s no other way to explain the lack of technology, so I guess I’m willing to buy it. I just have a hard time believing that the fleet, after arguing about every little thing, would be so homogeneous in its position on this.

Back in April of 2008, I wrote the following on the blog entry for this season’s (first) premiere…

Based on what I’ve read, it does appear that the fleet will find some version of Earth this season. They could arrive in our past, our present or our future, or they could arrive to an alternate version of Earth. They could be the first humans to settle on Earth (maybe the two hybrid babies are Adam and Eve – though all the technology would be a problem) or they could arrive to a futuristic Earth that has the ability to fend of the Cylons. A grimmer possibility is that they arrive to find that the human civilization destroyed itself, not unlike the ending of “Planet of the Apes.”

It turns out I was almost right. (Mind you, this doesn’t mean anything — I floated all sorts of theories on this blog so I was bound to have one or two that turned out to be right.) They did find a “Planet of the Apes”-type Earth, but they found it early in the season, which opened up more possibilities for the finale. It was revealed that Tyrol’s son wasn’t really his son, so the Adam and Eve thing was out (which is probably good, since Moore is going with more of an intelligent design explanation) but it did turn out that Hera was Eve…mitochondrial Eve, that is.

So let’s see…

– After killing Torry, Galen is sick of people and wants to live and die alone. In about five years, I picture him sitting in a tent somewhere cold (with a huge, grizzly beard), wishing that he had some interpersonal interaction. Before he leaves, Tigh says that he would have done the same thing to Torry had she killed Ellen. Apparently, Tigh is the only one who is allowed to kill his wife…

– We were treated to a semi-useless flashback of Ellen and Tigh in the strip club where she says that all she wants to do is spend time with him. So now they get to spend a lot of time together. (How’s that going to work if they don’t have any booze?)

– Helo is going to teach Hera how to hunt. No, Athena is. No Helo is. I get it. They’re happy. (At least Helo didn’t die — when he got shot, I thought he might be Moore’s sacrificial lamb.)

– Bill takes off with Laura to show her some wildlife. The way he said goodbye to Lee and Starbuck (after saying, “I don’t have much time left.”), I thought he was going to fly off into the sun. After all, he can’t leave that raptor lying around for future scientists to find, right? So I’m assuming that after he buried Laura, that’s just what he did. (I’m not sure why he kept talking about the cabin after she died though. I think that’s where the title of the last three hours, “Daybreak,” came from.)

And here’s a tip: If someone tells you that they think their “work is done,” don’t look away. They’re just going to disappear. Starbuck is apparently some sort of angel (who can’t see Baltar’s angels) who was sent to Caprica to help guide the fleet to New Earth. Moore didn’t have a whole lot of options with her when he said that there would be no more “surprise cylons” after they revealed the final five. She couldn’t be a cylon and she couldn’t be human, because she found her body on Earth. So she had to be something else. So that’s what she was — something else.

And then there’s Baltar and Caprica Six, who decided to start a farm. Baltar knows about farming because of his dad, which was one of the purposes of his flashback. And this is one of the problems I have with Lee’s intention to break the cycle by saying, “no cities.” People are eventually going to settle down. When they learn how to grow things, they’re going to stay in one place, and that’s how towns are developed. When there are towns, there are eventually going to be cities. And when there are cities, there are eventually going to be killer robots. Or I guess that’s what Moore is saying.

When we jump forward 150,000 years to modern day New York, was anyone really surprised? It was a really cool transition — the camera hovering over Central Park before shooting up to show all the skyscrapers — and that’s when Moore actually made his cameo. He was the guy holding the magazine about mitochondrial Eve that the vision of Caprica Six was reading.

I get the sense that the vision of Six and the vision of Baltar are actually angels that can take any form. In this case, they took the form of Baltar and Six so that they could communicate with the real Baltar and Six. Moore left them in that form for the final scene for continuity’s sake, as it would have been strange to see two new actors in their place. Moore gets a little preachy here with all of the “technology run amok” talk, and the implication is that we’re headed towards destruction if we continue down this path. I’m not sure exactly what path he’s talking about, but given the montage of shots at the end, he’s most likely referring to the work being done in the world of robotics. I’ve heard this story before.

The vision of Caprica Six says that she thinks this time it will be different, saying that something unexpected may come up because “that too is in God’s plan.” This is when Baltar says something odd, and I’m not really sure what it means…

“You know it doesn’t like that name… Silly me. Silly, silly me.”

Okay, so he’s referring to a higher power, one that he knows well enough to know that “it” doesn’t like to be called “God.” I’m assuming the “silly me” comment refers to the fact that humans will have no other name for “it,” though he may mean something else. Thoughts?

Also, who knew that Bob Dylan didn’t originally write “All Along the Watchtower”? I bet that’s news to him!

So that’s it. The end of a great science fiction show (maybe the best ever?) and less importantly, the end of this blog. I hope everyone enjoyed reading my scatterbrained thoughts each week and that this forum allowed fans to enjoy the series a bit more. During the finale, there were two previews — one for “Caprica,” which I fully intend to blog once it starts, and another for “Battlestar Galactica: The Plan,” which is a two-hour event that shows how the cylons developed their plan to attack Caprica. I knew about the former, but not the latter, so needless to say I’m excited to see what Moore comes up with. I just hope that whatever it is, it doesn’t take away from the finality of the finale. (Try saying that ten times fast.)

3/22 Update: Here’s a link to an interview with Ronald D. Moore. He discusses a number of the last minute decisions, but doesn’t shed any light on why the fleet was so willing to give up its technology.

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