“Perfection. That’s what it’s about. It’s about those moments…when you can feel the perfection of creation. The beauty of physics, the wonder of mathematics, you know? The elations of action and reaction. That is the kind of perfection that I want to be connected to.”
–Samuel T. Anders, Battlestar Galactica
After a long and winding summer, a toilsome and busy Fall semester, and now most of another full term, I draw to conclusion a season of my life and come to one more moment of the kind of Perfection Sam sought. I do not exaggerate much when I say that I feel God most when I invest my passion into the lives of fictitious characters and watch their story come to an end – when I see the evil receive their due and the good, their rest. It is in these brief instances of letting the breath run out of my soul and watching the little butterfly flutter into the light that I can feel the beauty of story, the wonder of a narrative. I feel the Perfection of Creation when I see some bit of it come to conclusion.
And I felt it at the conclusion of a long due challenge.
Exactly 200 days beyond the allotted timeframe, I finally came to the conclusion of the Summer Film Challenge 2011. It has been a difficult task to soak up so many great films in such a short time and I have loved every second of it. On Saturday, March 24, I watched the final piece of the challenge: the series finale of the cult Sci-Fi hit, Battlestar Galactica. Over the now 10 months of watching, the show has charmed and infuriated me. It had me screaming at the television and stunned to silence in my chair. I really did enjoy the whole thing and now it is my pleasure to break down for you the final season of BSG and my last thoughts on the show as a whole. Please be warned that this review will **CONTAIN SPOILERS** so if you haven’t seen the Fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, please refrain from reading.
Season 4 Analysis
Where to even begin!? This final season of BSG took me to almost every extreme of emotional response, and it is hard to find that place to begin speaking about it. Coming off of the absolutely SPECTACTULAR Season 3 finale, I had high expectations for this ultimate season and, overall, it did provide wonderfully.
Let me walk through Season 4 bit by bit to focus on that which I loved and that which I didn’t. As stated already, I loved the finale of the last season and was jazzed to start into Season 4. However, it didn’t quite kick off in phenomenal fashion as I had hoped. The two part filler film “Razor” was pretty good and it did throw a new wrench in the system (Kara being called the Harbinger of Death by the original Hybrid). Then the first two episodes, “He that Believeth in Me” and “Six of One”, kicked off and I was at least satisfied with the directions things were heading. Kara did her whiny-woman thing which was annoying, but the 4 Final Five members sought understanding to their new perception of life, so it all balanced out. However this does lead me to my first major issue with the season and, ultimately, with the show.
Battlestar Galactica is a hodge-podge of elements taken from varying places and put into a very unique and beautiful order. Early on in watching it, I labeled BSG as a Character-Driven story – meaning that the story action occurs because of personal choices by individuals or groups and by the needs and goals of those individuals (rather than by, say, the end of the world in 2012 which the characters merely react to). Yes, I know that a lot of the first two seasons is driven by the need to get away from the pursuing Cylons. However, if you look at it in light of the latter seasons, every action taken in those moments is directly linked to choices the characters made (e.g. – Boomer choosing to shoot Adama; Bill and Lee choosing to go back for the New Caprican’s; Choosing to seek Earth). So, with this understanding, I have to say that a lot of my hopes were thwarted for where the character arcs could have been taken. Instead of focusing on the lives of the ensemble cast that had been so wonderfully interwoven and built for me, the filmmakers chose sometimes to go in very plot-heavy ways that, while necessary, could have been handled with better timing and pace.
I present as evidence, with the most frustration that can be read into a blog post, the ghastly mishandling of one of my favorite character/story arcs: the revelation and subsequent demise of Cally Tyrol. The finale of Season 3 set up an atmosphere in which Tigh, Tyrol, Sam and Tori must do everything the can to keep their identity hidden. The most interesting and most important script event that could happen in the ensuing timespan is someone finding out what they are and then the tension that occurs because of this secret. Particularly, this was most potent for Chief Tyrol’s wife, Cally due to the fact that they have a kid and thus a forced, intimate relationship. And how is this extreme potential for excellent storytelling handled? In the course of half of an episode (“The Ties that Bind” – which has nothing to do with Tigh btw), Cally discovers that her husband is a Cylon, tries to figure out what to do with that, and is then promptly removed from the series in an effort to make Tori seem more evil! Her storyline ends before she is able to do anything with the information she was given!
I would not have so much of an issue with this if some part of this plot point had relevance. Tori already was fairly unlikeable and this did push her far down that road, but suddenly in the middle of the season I am supposed to care about her because she is one of the great and omnipotent Final Five who created this whole mess in the first place. They make a character I need to like highly unlikable…which kinda seems like a step backwards. Also, I again point to the fact that the majority of the drama in the first part of the season is dependent on who knows about the Five and what do the Five do to cope with their false memories. This plotline fades from importance to make way for an EMOTIONAL BREAKDOWN EXTRAVAGANZA, thus nullifying the entire purpose of this ever happening! I do think that it had to happen to someone but if you are going to focus there, DO SO!!! Don’t dishonor the dead by letting their story die for no reason.
At this point I am not even going to discuss that abomination that was the Deus Ex of the kid not being Tyrol’s. It serves no purpose other than to create the needed environment for the finale (cf – Roslin’s Stupid Cancer). The ONLY thing I can credit it with doing is giving Chief (one of my favorite characters) a really solid arc to play off in dealing with his wife’s untimely/unnecessary death. And while this was the most flagrant and frustrating of the random plot violations Battlestar Galactica incurred, it is the unfortunate endpoint of a number of similar plot issues throughout the show. The writer’s simply failed to plan ahead enough so as to efficiently and catharticly conclude each storyline and set up the finale perfectly. Please pardon the rant but this still really bothers me.
Now, I turn to the aforementioned emotional mire into which the story spiraled for the remainder of Season 4.0. Perhaps the only way I made it through the seven or eight episodes before the midseason finale was because of the continued promises by my friend, Ryan, that the show would eventually become good again. From “Escape Velocity” to “Sine Qua Non”, we watch as one by one each character breaks down, flips out, and generally becomes a whiny and sorry excuse for a character. Pardon my bluntness but honestly the main reason it took me so long to finish the series is because these episodes really sucked. In the grand scheme of things, not much occurs other than Kara discovering the Cylon Basestar which finally jumpstarts the plot. Everybody cries and flails around and exudes a level of angst that would easily give Teen Wolf a run for its money.
What annoyed me most (beyond that whole Cally debacle) was that some characters started to go in random and nonsensical directions, namely Bill and Lee Adama. Age before beauty, good ol’ Bill had never let me down until this period in which he becomes a love-sick puppy incapable of action and stops being that wonderful embodiment that Edward James Olmos created. Simply put, he seems to lose focus and thus character because he doesn’t seem to know what he wants (ie. – his writer doesn’t seem to know what he wants). His usual fortitude and determination leave him as he watches his surrogate daughter drive herself into madness, his ship slowly beginning to tear itself apart (Season 4.0 mind you), and generally his heart getting won over to the dying President Roslin. He stops being awesome and I really hated to see that.
I never did much like where they took Lee. He went from Kick-A Viper Pilot and Poster Boy for Truth, Justice, and the BSG Way, to some sad, confused puppy-like politician. I mentioned this in my Season 3 review and unfortunately I cannot say that 4.0 did him any better. He mourns Starbuck’s insanity, goes a bit batty himself and ultimately is forced to man up by the only true BAMF of the season: Romo Lampkin. It wasn’t until 4.5 that I started liking him again, but more on that later. One final thing to mention: Baltair’s harem (let’s face it, that’s what it was) was really stupid. I didn’t see a single guy in that group and it was both offensively misogynistic and horribly uninteresting.
To be fair, though, I do have to say that some characters at least managed to be understandible in their angst and some even excelled in it. While whiny Kara Thrace is whiny, she was at least decently portrayed in going mad because the circumstances around her justified it (like…her being dead…and stuff). Same thing with Colonel Tigh: after murdering his wife, leading a revolution, and discovering he is actually a Cylon, it isn’t all that hard to understand that he goes through a really traumatic and confused state. Michael Hogan played it phenomenally and was a tormented breath of fresh air to the story. Finally, I really enjoyed what they did with Tori in exploring what it means to be a Cylon. Examining the supposed unlimitedness of discovering you have a fresh start was a great, new, and interesting avenue which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Despite this, I would say everything before “The Hub” was a waste of time which contained only enough actual plot development to fill about 2-3 episodes. Really it was just a sorry excuse to let characters vent all of the pent up anger, frustration and sorrow they had from the entire rest of the show. Honestly the only thing I can see that it positively effected for the show was that it got the junk out of the way in time for the real stuff to start happening in the last two episodes of Season 4.0 and the entirity of Season 4.5. (Bitter? Much.)
Midseason Finale –> Season 4.5
“The Hub” was the turning point for my interest in the series. Finally, I got an episode that actually had purpose! The whole thing was wonderfully orchestrated and had some of the strongest moments of the show thus far. I was absolutely rigid with fascination as Gaius admitted to Roslin his role in the destruction of humanity and nearly had a heart attack when she almost killed him! It was a beautiful, cathartic moment of justice that was wonderfully resolved into undeserved mercy. A truly great Grace moment. Also, the reintroduction of 3/D’Anna was good and I loved the terrifying joke she makes that Roslin is the Fifth Cylon. It absolutely threw me and I loved that in a single episode, the stakes were raised to enormous heights as suddenly all the characters are mortal. This is what should have been happening throughout the rest of season 4.0 – building up to this moment.
And then “Revelations” came along and left me both stunned out of my mind and slightly confused. It was a great episode that did incredible story changes that I have never seen before, but it also is something that I highly question. Ultimately, this is where the season should have been headed the whole time: to the revelation (get it?) of the four Final Five Cylons on the Battlestar Galactica. I was glad that the show finally returned to that place. However it got there way too quickly because it had been neglected prior too the mid-season finale. Thus we were robbed of that emotional intensity when Kara realizes Sam is a Cylon. Instead of a moment beautifully subtle and isolated in anguish, we get a terribly cheesy catfight between Saul Tigh and Adama. I had been looking forward to that moment ever since I realized that Tigh must be a Cylon and I was sorely disappointed with the way that was handled. Overall, that reveal was a rather sorry moment for the show and it reaped the unfortunately malformed exposition it was sown in.
Now, I want to briefly look at the fascinating narrative element that Battlestar Galactica developed over the years that seems to defy all expectations. In almost every season, there is a common goal desired by most of the characters – a Home (1:Kobol, 2:New Caprica, 3-4.0: Earth). And in each season, the writers completely threw me by allowing that goal to be achieved in the most odd of places. The fleet finds Kobol almost instantaneously, is overrun on New Caprica before the season is out, and most importantly, finds Earth with 10 episodes left to go. And part of me loves that! I can never know where I am about to be blasted by some new and magnificent plot twist. On the other hand, the rest of the show seemed to lose focus precisely because the focus of the characters vanished. They had all invested some much in finding Earth that when the dream was shattered we got a lot of episodes that seemed to have no endpoint to head towards. I will speak of it more in depth shortly, but the Finale “Daybreak” could have ended anywhere – there was no place it had to end. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing but it isn’t great either. I will say that hearing Edward James Olmos mutter “Earth.” in the tag nearly made me lose all bodily fluid control with joy. 🙂
Simply put, 4.5 = Awesome! I loved how everything finally started to fall back into place and how each and every plot line began to draw to a head, beautifully setting the show up for a magnificent conclusion. Finally, my near-year long adventure was justified and made entirely worth hearing about it every five seconds from friends.
“Sometimes a Great Notion” gave the show the needed pump of the “life goes on” message to shove it onward for the rest of the season. Oh, and I physically screamed at my computer screen when Dualla commited suicide. That terrifyingly tragic event began the epoch in which I became engrossed in the franchise again. The next two episodes did a great job of bringing the moral questions of the show to a head (Can Cylons and Humans coexist?) and got everything in place for the marvelous fireworks of the Mutiny.
“Blood on the Scales” is certainly one of my favorite episode of the entire show. Never have I seen such a masterful orchestration of ramping emotions and tension, and rarely does such a Build result in as poignant an ending as this one did. This goes against what I said earlier about taking Cally’s arc too fast, but I felt that any further lingering on the mutiny would have been detrimental to the story arc. Gaeta, played by the wonderful Alessandro Juliani, runs the gambit of near tyrannical madness to enlightened and contented martyr. The juxtaposition of the long-overdue and extremely cathartic execution of Tom Zarek with the tragically somber farewell to our dearly confused friend Gaeta nearly had me in tears and was by far one of the best moments of the entire series.
Then “No Exit” finally provides us with the needed backstory and, though it was a little hazy in it’s construction, it was very satisfying and plausible. I can honestly doff my cap to the writers for the magnificent choice to make Ellen the final Cylon of the Five. I doubt anyone saw that coming, so well done to them.
But BY FAR, the best episode of the show (after the Season 3 finale) has to be “Someone to Watch Over Me”. The amazing exposition on the most interesting character (whose arc has been squashed) and her back-story gave me goosebumps and the crane shot of Kara and her father’s hands playing the theme made my cinematic existence worthwhile. I was blown away by the sorrow that Katee Sackoff was able to sell here and I think it was exactly what we needed to see why she is the die hard go-getter that she is. And Dreilide has to be the coolest name I have ever seen. 🙂
From there it only gets better. My only negative comment about the penultimate episode is that you cannot verbify a noun (cf – verbify). The set up was fantastic, the very literal line on the ground was a much needed emotional turning point for every character, and everything is well set for the final showdown. Ultimately, Season 4.5 is what Battlestar Galactica needed from the start and it masterfully maintained my interest all the way up until the end. Simply put: Redemption.
Series Finale: Daybreak
I was extremely nervous going into this final episode of Battlestar Galactica that it would turn out too much like the Finale of Lost: beautifully cathartic in the moment but woefully unintelligible as time goes on. However, it appears that my apprehensions were unfounded as the series that I have come to love went out with the most booming whisper I have ever seen. For this review, I will be breaking it down first by my opinions of the Finale and second, with a review of those things that went unanswered.
The greatest strength of the Finale was that they took as much time as they could to give every* story arc a proper conclusion. As I stated before, Daybreak really could have gone anywhere because up to that point the show didn’t have much ultimate direction. However, the episode started strong by playing on the wonderful setup provided by 4.5 and very clearly in Part 1 defined what the end goal was: Find and Rescue Hera as the Galactica’s final mission. From there the line was definitively drawn (on the ships deck) and characters made their choices. Everyone got that small moment to decide exactly which side they were on and my heart went with every single one who decided to stand with Bill. The plans were drawn up and the stage set, so as Admiral Adama so perfectly stated, “Let’s get to work.”
Part 2 was a firestorm of epic proportions – action that far exceeded anything they had ever done before, characters being pushed to their extremes, and every element coming back as beautiful payoff. The blending of the Opera House metaphor not just as a ethereal vision but as something of actual prophesy was magnificent and the finality of that final battle was everything I could have asked for and more. It was a joy to see the final confrontation of Cylon and Human occur in such awesome fashion.
My only qualms with the finale deal mostly with a few Deus Ex moments and some things that didn’t get a proper explanation. For starters, Starbuck’s sudden revelation that the notes from her song are the key to the last jump Galactica ever makes is a bit much. I did like how it was shot, but on the whole it doesn’t make much sense. Then again, not much makes sense about Kara Thrace anyway as she gets a nigh-on Fight Club exit from the show. I am not fully sure what was intended by the writers in having her vanish from the conversation with Lee as she has “completed her journey.” It left me wondering if she was supposed to be some figment of Lee’s mind but after a quick review of her role in the past season, I ruled out that possibility. To be blunt, we are left out in the cold as to exactly what it meant that she found her own body on Earth-1 and strangely similar to the Lorax, she is simply called back by the heavens…..or something.
The other minor plotline that lacked proper explanation was the random moment from the episode “Escape Velocity”. Baltar, being denied access to his brothel…I mean lounge…thing…gets beat down to the ground by the guard. Suddenly, the invisible Caprica 6 who has been guiding Gaius the whole time physically lifts him into the air to continue “standing up for himself”. This never gets explained, which I know is minor but it is something that cannot be answered for by the Finale. We see the god versions of Caprica 6 and Baltar but they don’t seem to do more than annotate and comment on the current situation. However that doesn’t spoil my happiness with the conclusion even slightly.
And now let us talk about The Ending. I have already mentioned my unease with the Deus Ex Machina of finding Earth-2 by instinctual jump. Beyond that minor bump, I thought it beautifully complex of the writers to entirely flip our understanding of the Timeline at the very last second. I had always assumed that this occurred well after the fall of Humankind on True Earth, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself being told that I was in fact descended from the likes of Sharon and Karl Agathon, Gaius and Caprica 6. Wonderfully unexpected, I loved the amazing reversal of perspective and found it fascinating. I am sure I will be ruminating on it for some time to come.
Every time during the last portion of the Finale that a shot preceded a break, I thought “this could be the last shot of the series.” Seeing the new Earth over the moon, Ander’s goodbye, the ships flying towards the sun, Bill staring off with Laura’s grave beside him – all could have easily been the ultimate shot for Battlestar Galactica. Yet, because it does end where it does, these little vignettes act as compounding cathartic moments that ultimately leave you sniveling and crying on the floor due to overdose of happyness (yes with a “y”). The conclusion of Laura’s long struggle with cancer is enough to loosen the tear ducts of any respectable human or skinjob. Lee and Starbuck’s final farewell, despite the confusing nature of it, was masterfully crafted. Each couple wandering off into the world to begin again brought on such a wave of catharsis that I cannot say that I was entirely conscious throughout it. 🙂
As for the true conclusion – “All this has happened before. But the question remains: does all of this have to happen again?” – I found it to be perfectly acceptable. Yes, it certainly was cheesy and it may have just been Netflix, but it seemed that the ADR was pretty noticeable. However, I thought it did do a great job of navigating the tricky moment of actual conclusion to a show. The audience, like a sleeping child, needs to be carefully slipped from the loving hands of the creators and placed back into their own environment. Like sending the Battlestar off into the sun, so we are sent off into the world having learned many a valuable lesson, having made new friends and now being more capable of handling the lives that we are to truly life. And for this purpose, the conclusion works masterfully – bringing us out of the world of the story and launching us on back to reality, having been changed and now found different from what we were before.
If you can’t tell, I was absolutely floored and enamored by the finale of a phenomenal series. It was both heartbreaking and amazing to bid farewell to people that I have come to care about and even, to a degree, love. The only thing I can compare this feeling to would be watching your child leave the comfort and care of your home to go off into the world. It is like letting go of a precious butterfly and watching it flutter gracefully on into the sunlight. It is with great sadness and great excitement that I say my final adieu to my wonderful friends aboard the now gone Battlestar Galactica.
Thank you for a marvelous show about love and loss, elation in small victories and the all-encompassing need for grace. Thank you for a reminder of my humanity and my mortality, and for showing me how infinite and unlimited my possibilities are. Thank you for 10 solid months of rollercoaster emotions – high and low – and for taking me through the lives of people whom I can clearly see myself in. Thank you for creating something that genuinely touched my life and that I cannot walk away from unchanged. Thank you for being the best Fraking show out there and I better see a teaser for BSG: Blood & Chrome within the year! 🙂 It has been a long and wearying journey and I part company with you now as friends, as allies, and as comrades of the Battlestar Galactica.
So say we all.
Final Review (Season & Series): 9//10
Thanks for sticking around so long. Over 4500 words later, I can finally say goodbye to the show, Battlestar Galactica, and beyond that, to the Summer Film Challenge 2011. I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every film that Ryan gave me for this challenge and I am pleased to announce that coming very soon will be our announcement for the
SUMMER FILM CHALLENGE 2012: APOCALYPSE EDITION!!!
Be on the look out for that soon. 🙂
Before I go, I’d like to share a few last minute BSG things with you for putting up with these longwinded reviews for so long. First, if you missed my reviews of Seasons 1 & 2, and of Season 3, feel free to check those out at the links. Also, I thought I’d share some of the humorous things I’ve come across about our beloved Battlestar: Saul-tines, a Letter from the President, and a visual map of the Timeline for the entire Battlestar Galactica franchise (in case you are a bit lost after all of that). And of course, the sources for all my information on all 4 seasons: IMDB, Battlestar Wiki, and Netflix.
Thank you all again so much for being apart of this moment in my life. I can’t wait to see what is coming in this next challenge and I highly anticipate another amazing season of reviews and ramblings here on the Soontobeangel blog. Please let me know what you thought of my review, of the Show itself, and of the Final Season of Battlestar Galactica. I love feedback and will respond to every comment I get. Again, thanks for sticking around and see you all again soon!