The final 'Battlestar Galactica': a stunning goodbye to a magnificent series
Doesn't it seem like all the great shows end badly? Case in point the controversial ends of "Seinfeld," "Friends" and "The Sopranos." Does anyone even remember what happened on the last episode of "Dallas" or "Star Trek: The Next Generation"? Shoot, even the finales for "Sex and the City" and "Six Feed Under" had their detractors. Considering the uneven results of the past nine episodes, there was certainly a fear that same fate would meet the beloved "Battlestar Galactica"
Isn't it great that after all these years "BSG" went out with a frakin' bang?
[Warning: major spoilers after the jump. Again, if you have not watched the show, you may want to wait before diving into this recap.]
One of the reasons "Galactica" gained such a hardcore following of non-traditional Sci-Fi fans is because it didn't just transcend the genre, it transcended television and became almost cinematic. Now, that's pretty hard to do when a majority of your scenes take place in a windowless spaceship, but creators Roland Moore and David Eick and their writing staff did such a fine job of creating memorable and rich characters that the series could weather the necessity of a 20 episode season even when it was torturously strung out by Sci-Fi (or SyFy, whatever) over a year (or more). Happily, the numerous plot lines and dramatic conflicts all came together the finale that is pretty close to pitch perfect.
The previous episode, "Daybreak, pt. 1" set Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) on a collision course with the evil Cylon Cavil (Dean Stockwell) to retrieve Hera, Boomer (Grace Park) and Helo's (Tahmoh Penkiett) wonder child and the key to the survival of both the human and the Cylon races (or so they think).
You could write a book waxing over all the little details the finale provided like the surprising number of old school Cylon models throughout, Roslin's one night as a cougar, Adama wasted and throwing up in the gutter, but in a broader view the episode really falls into three traditional arcs and a prologue. Let's dive in shall we?
It has been awhile since fans got to see the finest ship in the fleet go full bore and the finale didn't disappoint. This was movie quality special effects (Galactica punching through the colony ship!) and hundreds of vipers and Cylon raiders going at it. There wasn't anything groundbreaking here, but the scope and large number of shots explains why even after completing photography early last summer, Moore, Eick and crew were working away at the final edit until the very end.
Tucked into this battle were two pivotal moments: Boomer's sacrifice, wonderfully explained in a touching flashback with Adama and Colonel Tigh (Michael Hogan, who deserves some plum movie roles after all this), and the revelation of what the opera house dream had been about all along. The plot point was planted in this series so long ago, it's pretty remarkable if this was really what it was always intended to lead up to. That's some major confidence in your long term vision.
The Double Twist
Even with an hour plus to go, it seemed plausible that the proposed peace between the Colonial fleet and Cavil's Cylons could be real and work. Hadn't the show always been an allegory for the western world and the Islamic one? Predictable yes, but plausible and a fitting resolution to the decades old conflict. Couldn't the continuing cycle be averted here?
No so fast.
Before they meld to provide the olive branch of the resurrection secret, Tory (Rekha Sharma) warns her fellow "Final Five" that they should forgive what any of them have done in their current and past lives you know something is up. And appropriate allegory or not, Moore and Eick instead decide to let the characters take over. And when Chief snaps Tory's neck there were no doubt reactions of "What the frak?" could be heard from viewers across the country. The battle begins again and Adama realizes only a jump will get them out of this. Cue Starbuck and the mystic song that has haunted her, the Final Five and Hera's drawings. She take a chance on her theory that the song represented numbers and punches them into the jump drive. Fade out!
(But before we get to the second half of the twist, what about that anti-climatic death of Cavil? Resurrection is gone. There is no chance for him to wake up somewhere else and after "the plan" and years of scheming, he simply puts a gun to his mouth and ends it. The one questionable moment of the episode in this writer's opinion.)
When they come too, Galactica is almost ripping apart. The ship soon stabilizes and they try to figure out where they are. They pass a small, but familiar moon. And in the distance....Earth! Our Earth! So, that means the desolate "Earth" they discovered before wasn't really our planet, but a planet they called "Earth." Sneaky guys, very, very sneaky.
Goodbyes and Tearjerkers
Let's be clear, the build up to Roslin's death was pretty dragged out. So much so, that you have to give credit first to McDonnell for making it compelling and heartbreaking after so many episodes. No matter how her "death scene" was handled it was going to be hard to avoid cliches. And yet again, they succeeded. Was there a dry eye in the living room when Adama picked Roslin up to bring her to a ship for one last view of this amazing new world she fought so hard to find? Beautifully done.
And speaking of teary moments, Adama must have mistakenly said goodbye to Galactica, what five, six times? But watching Olmos get into that Viper, shoot out of the empty starship and fly over her hull one more time? Well, that makes up for all the teases we've had before. If only a classic Captain in another established Sci-Fi franchise had such an opportunity.
The rest of our beloved crew? Anders wakes up for a moment (although Starbuck doesn't hear his last words) and executes the perfect throw, but guiding the fleet's empty ships into the sun (to the musical strains of the original and very recognizable "Galactica" theme) Apollo is going to explore the new world, Helo and Athena appear to have found true happiness with Hera in their midst, Chief will appropriately be the father of the British Isles, Tigh and Ellen finally have nothing stopping them from just each other and Adama will spend the rest of his days looking over the grave of his departed Roslin, no doubt seeing her on the other side.
Starbuck? It's still unclear why she was considered the "Harbinger of death" for both humans and Cylons, because in reality she was a true miracle, an unexplainable angel. And fittingly, there was no special effect of her rising to the heavens, when it was time to go, she was just...gone.
One character who has not been given his due in this recap is Gaius Baltar. If "Galactica" is a show championing faith, it's also one championing forgiveness. The man whose selfish needs lead to the destruction of Caprica comes full circle here. He is willing to sacrifice himself by joining the mission. He convinces Cavil that peace is possible. And later, a final and huge revelation is made in another flashback: Adama gave Six access to Caprica's defense codes (he wasn't aware she was a Cylon at the time), because he loved her. Something we never would have assumed or thought possible. His ultimate motivation has really just been the actions of a heartbroken soul. And before he and Caprica Six move on, he breaks down when he realizes he knows how to farm...because of his father.
"All this has happened before and it will all happen again."
That refrain has haunted the series almost since its inception. Many may think the final scene of the Baltar and Caprica Six angels walking through modern day Vancouver, er, New York was one ending too many, but for a series like this it was a fitting epilogue to give hope that the cycle really can be broken. There is always hope for a better day.
And yet, the series ends with a sly wink: a montage of contemporary robotic advances.
Bravo Mr. Moore and Mr. Eick. Well done.
(And on one last note, fingers crossed Universal thinks better of their current plans and doesn't soil the memory of this amazing piece of art by rebooting the whole franchise for a one shot feature film.)
What did you think of "Battlestar's" grand finale? Share your thoughts below.