Tuesday, March 24, 2009

BSG Shows What a Series Finale Is Meant to Be

The one silver lining to the end of a favorite TV show is its series finales, with all the final twists, deaths, and closure it provides. And as anyone who saw Battlestar Galactica's swan song knows, it ranks among the best.

Now, there are certain tropes a finale must follow, and in a sci-fi show, that means a big, epic, kickass battle. And Galactica's final battle did not disappoint. With all the raiders flying around and the different teams assembled on Galactica and the Colony, it was like watching original Star Wars.

But more than action (although there was plenty), this episode was about goodbyes, starting right at the beginning. Ironic that Gaeta's boyfriend Hoshi got what Gaeta wanted not through betrayal but loyalty. Also that Apollo chose Lamkin, who once said Lee was the only choice. On top of the transfers of power there was gruff Doc Coddle choking up while saying goodbye to President Roslin. Peripheral characters all, sure, but BSG still treated them right.

As for deaths, the first big one was Boomer, which I would mark as Frakking Fantastic Scene #1. After a few seasons off, Boomer came back in a big way this season, first in rekindling her romance with Tyrol and then with her ever-changing allegiances. You knew she wasn't surviving the episode, and it was fitting that Athena was the one to gun her down. But that flashback to the favor she was repaying Adama makes the death hit even harder.

Frakking Fantastic Scene #2: The Opera House. They've been dreaming about that opera house for...how long now? Three seasons? And who knew how it could play in. But as Roslin, Athena, Caprica, Baltar, and Hera all roamed about Galactica, flashing to the dream, you could see destiny coming to life, like in a Greek tragedy. Yet as powerful as the whole scene was, I shared a little of Baltar's confusion that it all just led to bringing Hera to the CIC. By the end of the episode, that confusion is gone.

The Opera House also led to Baltar's Big Speech, a big theological speech that shouldn't have worked yet totally did. Maybe it's because Baltar's series-long arc has been so crazy it felt good to have him settle on actual faith. Maybe I was just so hooked after the opera house that I would have accepted anything he said. Either way, at a little over the one hour mark, the story seemed done. The Final Five agreed to give resurrection technology to Cavil, fulfilling the mantra of "all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again." A peace was made. Show over, right?

And then everything got completely and utterly frakked. As the Final Five dipped in the hybrid pool to share their knowledge, Tyrol learned Torrie's season-long secret that she killed Cally. Tyrol goes apeshit and kills Torrie. The bad Cylons start firing. Cavil frakking kills himself. The show takes us from closure to chaos in all of a minute. It's so rare to watch things come completely undone so quickly that the feeling is almost satisfying. That's not just Frakking Fantastic Scene #3, that may just be the best scene of the night.

It all comes down to Starbuck, given the responsibility to jump Galactica one final time. This seems like a bad idea, given that the hybrids keep saying "Kara Thrace will lead humanity to its end," but she can also play "All Along the Watchtower" on piano, so I guess that evens out. Thinking back to her childhood lessons from not-Daniel (I still don't believe Ron Moore and think he is Daniel), she mutters, "There must be some kind of way out of here" and jumps, with Galactica taking such a brutal and final beating at its landing there is no doubt of a second try.

All is well though, since where they land is a blue planet with vegetation and intelligent life that looks a lot like, well, Earth. That announces the real end to the story, and the beginning of 45 minutes of full-on closure. I'm sure many found this final goodbye section unnecessary and drawn-out, but after 4 seasons I think the characters deserve some time to say goodbye.

First there was Sam, who got one final act of "perfection" (as per his flashback interview) in piloting the fleet into the sun. He may have been put into a coma episodes ago, but I always held some hope he'd come out of it. The grace of his flight into the sun just made the death sadder.

Most interesting goodbye belongs to Starbuck, who disappeared into thin air after announcing her purpose was finished. It seems she was right about that skeleton on Old Earth: she really did die. Whether that makes her one of Baltar's angels or not is unknown, but she's definitely been resurrected since flying up next to Lee smiling about Earth. Sad for Lee, but as those flashbacks showed, it wasn't meant to be.

The more touching goodbye though was that of President Roslin. Her death was foretold from the miniseries, and should not have been any surprise. We all knew it was coming, and that she would just slip away quietly mid-conversation. That still didn't make it any easier to see her go, or to see Adama's reaction. RIP Laura.

Around the point we saw Hera running in the fields, I started thinking, "This can't be it. There's gotta be some kind of 'Thousands of years later' tag to show how 'All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again.'" And hey, I was right! Just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not also necessary. In that scene, Hera's emphasis throughout the series finally became abundantly clear: she's Eve! She mothered all of us (with who, little Nicky, Tyrol's ex-son?)!

We also got a kind-of answer about Head 6 and Head Baltar. Seems they're angels, fulfilling God or whatever "it" likes to be called's plan. That makes for a lot of religious explanations for all the big questions, but I think a show with gods, God, and religious prophecies can get away with that. With our world's version of "All Along the Watchtower" playing as MSNBC shows clips of today's robotics (Asimo is a Cylon?), BSG ended exactly as it should have ended. No cut to black, no "it was all a dream." The finale further cements BSG's place among the best sci-fi shows, and best shows period. So say we all.

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