Journey CompletedMarch 22, 2009
Screencap credit: Galacticabbs.com
Note: This is a review of the BSG episode “Daybreak Pt. 2”. Do not read this if you do not wish to be spoiled for the episode.
Like a procrastinating student leaving his big term paper to the night before, BSG creator Ron Moore left himself only two hours and eleven minutes to answer virtually every dangling mythos question the show has ever had, such as the truth of the Opera House, an explanation for the Head!People, the meaning of the human-Cylon hybrid child Hera’s existence, the significance of the Final Five, the true history of Kobol and the Scrolls of Pythia, the old-school Cylons and Hybrid we saw in “Razor”, oh and yeah, the identity of the supernatural force(s) guiding (or manipulating) many of the major characters’ actions on the show.
In the face of an overwhelming list of mythos questions to resolve and explain, Moore apparently decided to…duck the questions. Or at least most of them.
Instead, he wrote us a an action-packed hour in which the Good Guys ™ rescue Hera from the hands of the bad Cylons. Then he wrote us another hour in which said Good Guys found not-Earth and it was pristine but seriously lacking in creature comforts. But it was a nice, quiet place to wrap up as many character arcs in one night as possible. And boy did he try with that.
For this reason, I tried kind of hard to tell myself I didn’t like this finale, but the truth is I really did enjoy it. Before this past Friday, if you had told me that I would get a BSG finale that didn’t explain all the show’s mythology by the end, with charts and graphs explaining what the Head!People were, I’d have told you to expect me to start throwing things.
But I didn’t. Instead, I had a really great time with it. And I’ve come to peace with the idea that if Moore was going to wait this long and then give me the choice between a rescue story as tightly written as the Gaeta-Zarek mutiny arc a month ago, combined with a story that tried to give most of the major characters a sense of closure with their story arcs OR an episode crammed with another stilted infodump like “No Exit” (which I found totally intriguing, but would not want to be the finale), well I’d choose this.
Actually, even more than the mutiny arc, this episode recalled for me the Season 3 “Exodus” arc where Adama takes the Galactica on what he’s almost sure will be a one-way mission to defeat the Cylons and leaves someone else in charge of the Fleet. In this case, Adama left his Admiral pins with Lt. Hoshi, warning him that if he wasn’t back in 12 hours, he wasn’t coming back. It was such an unexpected surprise to see the man who had been spilling coffee on the navigation plotting table last week suddenly becoming the Admiral.
Oh, and Lee made Romo Lampkin president. I suppose a lawyer makes a better presidential candidate than a former Viper jockey, doesn’t it?
But really, what it came down to was that this was an episode for the B-team to shine and for everyone, even the long-vilified characters, to do heroic acts. Hot Dog gets to be CAG briefly, Racetrack and Skulls get to be lead pilots in a Raptor squadron made entirely of volunteers, and by accident, save the day for everyone. Roslin pumps herself full of drugs with only two days to live and starts working in sickbay as an out-of-her-depth-triage nurse. Boomer, at the eleventh hour, kills the Simon working on Hera and takes her back to her parents who have boarded the Colony. Also, after much guilt-ridden hemming and hawing last week, another B-team Galactica perennial, Baltar, gets an epiphany on the landing deck as he is about to abandon Galactica. He lets his flock go to safety into the Fleet, staying behind to defend the ship in a Marine’s outfit and an awfully big machine gun.
What then follows for the rest of the first hour is pretty much your standard action-packed search and rescue mission, but with some pretty great exceptions: For one, the dying Galactica is used, in an impressive bit of special effects, as a battering ram for our heroes to get into the Cylon’s Colony where kidnapped Hera is being kept, absorbing astounding amounts of exterior and interior damage to do so. Secondly, Galactica gets a Hybrid, as Sam is hooked up in the CIC to the ship’s systems, so he can communicate with the Basestar’s hybrid and confuse the Colony’s weapons systems. Thirdly, the Centurions loyal to the Twos, Sixes and Eights are painted with a long stripe of blood red so they be distinguished from other Centurions and fight side-by-side with Galactica’s Marines, not as foot soldiers or war machines as their forebears once were, but this time more or less as equals.
In the Colony, Boomer brings Hera to her parents and in an emotional moment, asks Helo and Athena to tell Adama that she “owed him one,” which flashes back to a rather cruel little scene where Tigh and Adama mock rookie pilot Boomer for her complete inability to land properly and threaten to wash her out and she thanks Adama for giving her one more chance, saying the fateful words, “I owe you one.” In a move that I found equally heartless (although I’m not a mother, nor have I ever had my child kidnapped for brain experiments), Athena tells Boomer bringing Hera back to her doesn’t change anything and shoots her dead. Boomer may have made some questionable choices here and there, but really, I feel for her. Once she was activated, she never got a break.
Meanwhile, around the same time on Galactica, Caprica Six, also running around as a Marine, stumbles upon Baltar, quietly sitting by a box of ammo and obviously pretty frightened of what he’s gotten himself into. With the heat of the battle coming ever closer, Caprica turns melancholy and confesses to Baltar that she’s always wanted to be proud of him and now she is, seeing him there trying to do his part. Shocked, Baltar pulls her into a passionate kiss that is quickly interrupted by Head!Six and Head!Baltar happily standing over them. To their amazement, both Caprica and Baltar realize that both of them see Head!People and that each of them can see and hear each other’s Head!Person.
Eventually, as Athena, Helo, Hera, Kara, Baltar and Caprica all run in the hallways of Galactica and Helo and Athena continue to bring Hera towards the CIC, Roslin is also in the hallways somewhere, taking a shot of painkillers on a break from sickbay. She promptly has the by-now familiar vision of Hera running in the Opera House and Caprica picking her up. The vision compels her to seek out Hera in the hallways, just as a Doral manages to to get onto Galactica and shoots Helo down. Hera runs off from them in fear and as Athena runs after her, she starts having the Opera House vision too. As Hera runs through the hallways, while all around her, Centurions and Marines are shooting off weapons and people are screaming, Roslin eventually finds and loses her.
Hera finally gets discovered by Baltar and Caprica, and it becomes clear that the Opera House vision has all along been a premonition of this moment here and now when all the Opera House vision participants must protect Hera. For the first time ever, Baltar sees this particular vision of the Opera House (which only Roslin, Athena and Caprica Six have been privy to) along with his own visions from back on Kobol. Together, all the participants in these visions realize that they are supposed to go “into the Opera House,” which they now understand is the CIC. The scene of their progression towards the CIC, which flashes back and forth several times between reality and the premonitions we’ve seen for several seasons now, is practically a shot-for-shot parallel of the Opera House vision, complete with an aping of the iconic glowing Final Five shot represented by the actual Final Five standing on the upper deck of CIC. It is probably the best moment in the first hour of this episode, and the biggest payoff of the show’s mythology, which isn’t even saying much.
But we are not done yet. What follows are rapid fire events: Cavil gets loose from a Marine’s grip and manages to get a gun on Hera, trying to escape Galactica using her as a bargaining chip. Cavil is surprisingly (perhaps to a degree that strains credulity) amenable to giving up Hera after Baltar tells him there is a higher natural force at work, but what really convinces him is Tigh saying that the Final Five will give Cavil resurrection technology.
All this is well and good and everybody’s happy, until Ellen explains that all five Cylons need to connect together in the Cylon goo, and while they are connected, each will know everything there is to know about one another. Tory panics as she realizes that Galen and the others will learn that she killed Cally. Her fears turn out to be not unfounded: In a fit of rage, Tyrol pulls his hands out of the goo prematurely and strangles Tory, which sets off an unexpected reaction in Cavil, Doral and Simon, who assume that what Tyrol’s doing is a trick. They open fire on the CIC, but Doral and Simon are shot dead and presumably trying to avoid capture, Cavil turns his own gun on himself.
It was extremely uncomfortable watching Tory being so viciously killed while her killer was essentially praised later for doing it. On a related note, I was not at all comfortable either with Athena shooting Boomer. I understand anger about having a wife murdered or a child’s life threatened. But the show seemed to be a little too unquestioning of either Athena’s or Tyrol’s behavior. Boomer certainly did some terrible things in kidnapping Hera and exposing her to dangerous experimentation. Tory’s killing of Cally was harsh and unyielding and immoral. But show, you can’t preach with one breath about retribution and then about breaking the cycle of violence with the other.
Meanwhile, in a chain of unlikely but kind of awesome events, Racetrack and Skulls, who have been killed dead by a stray asteroid during the battle, happened to have armed their nukes just before they were hit, in anticipation of attacking the Colony. Because those nukes happened to be armed, and because their Raptor gets at a certain angle, it poises their dead bodies to launch the nukes into the Colony and blow it to smithereens when Racetrack’s hand accidentally touches the nuclear launch controls. Meanwhile because fires are erupting in the CIC, the Galactica desperately needs to jump away, and there is only one jump left in the old girl.
Adama orders Starbuck to go over to the navigation station and jump the ship, to jump it anywhere, it doesn’t matter, as long as they get out of there. At a loss for jump coordinates, Kara puts her hand on the keys and then suddenly has a vision/gets inspired/has flashbacks of her Head!Father and decides that she must play the “Watchtower” song into the coordinates keyboard.
I totally should have seen this coming. In retrospect, it’s pretty deus ex machina.
But it gets the second half of the finale where it needs to go – which turns out to be our Earth. Yes, our Earth. It’s a much nicer planet, with pure bodies of water, plentiful game to hunt, and land to cultivate. It turns out to be our Earth 150,000 years ago. This gives the surviving cast a big reset button, and our heroes a beautiful home and a sense of peace in a sort of Cylon-Human Eden in Tanzania.
In a decision that I found ridiculous from a realism standpoint, but satisfying from an emotional standpoint, Lee basically decides for all the Colonials that they are going to try and blend in with the natives. They will send every bit of tech they have with the Fleet ships on automatic pilot, flying straight into the sun (led by Hybrid!Pilot Sam Anders, btw, who sacrifices himself without giving permission. Kind of creepy.) This means that the humans are going to scratch out primitive lives for themselves, hunting and growing food off the land. Our characters seems completely untroubled by how completely against the odds they will be in this. (Did these people not *live* through New Caprica? Oh right. Lee, Bill, Helo and Athena didn’t. Caprica Six probably doesn’t need to eat, and who knows if the Tighs or Tyrol actually need to.)
Also, I don’t really buy Adama’s contention that the 39,000 or so people in the Fleet that Hoshi brought back are going to be just fine with sending all their ships and technology into the heart of a sun. With this one move, and also by spreading themselves around the globe, they probably actually significantly lowered their chance of surviving as a species.
From long before we even met her in the Miniseries, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace has been a character wrestling with the weight and consequences of great expectations and a destiny as puzzling and frustrating to her as it has been to us. All of this was *not* resolved in the finale. And people looking for Lee and Kara to have more closure together walked away disappointed. However, the one bright spot was that Kara Thrace we saw last night seemed truly free of all that weight of being special. For about a year now, Kara Thrace has been living the life of a faux-Christ figure – a charismatic individual who was once very human but then died and came back to life with a single purpose – to lead humanity, to a place, yes, but really, the place is connected more to achieving a frame of mind
And then Kara announces she is done with humanity. She gives Lee a quick little speech about how her work is accomplished, so she needs to go. Lee doesn’t even really get to say goodbye, which seemed very wrong when I thought more about it, but you know, he seemed so liberated at that point, talking about climbing mountains and exploring the world, I couldn’t really be anything but happy for him. I know this must have been heartbreaking for Kara/Lee shippers, though. It did seem like that pairing got short shrift, after being such an integral part of Season 1-3.
However, those who love the Agathon family and/or the Gaius and Caprica romance got ridiculous amounts of fanservice in this finale. The Agathons are walking hand-in-hand with Hera into the horizon, teasingly bickering about who’s going to teach Hera to hunt, which I don’t think I’ve *ever* seen them do. (Um, seriously, do either of them *actually* know how to hunt? I think it unlikely. And didn’t they send their guns into the sun?) I have to admit my heart broke a little when it occurred to Baltar that he had treated his family horribly, all to avoid ever becoming a farmer, and that in the end, he caused all that hurt for nothing, because he was going to live out the rest of his days as a farmer. I liked that Caprica was there for him and it tied in beautifully with the flashback we saw in “Daybreak Part 1”.
Really, all the major existing relationships were serviced in some way or the other for the finale, with the exception of Starbuck and Apollo. Roslin died quietly in Bill’s Raptor and Bill put his wedding ring on her when she did, just like he did Elosha’s prophecy earlier in Season 4. He was strangely zen about it, given how he’d been reacting in Elosha’s prediction with sobbing, but then, part of me was just fine without watching Bill Adama cry or be morose anymore. The Tighs end up settling happily somewhere, while Tyrol decides what he wants to live away from people, on an “northern” island he’s discovered.
How strange is it that these people who have been like a family for the past four to five years are never going to see each other ever again? It seems so anti-climatic and anti-community, which is strange, considering how this fleet has often used the language of family and community to describe itself.
Ironically, it turns out that the Colonials will become an indelible part of the human family of Earth. Because 150,000 years later, Head!Six and Head!Baltar (who look exactly the same as always – still in the red dress, still in the pinstriped suit) are walking through present-day Times Square, coolly observing the city’s homeless people, its ever-upward spiraling technology and its “crass commercialism,” epitomized by the 50-foot digital screens broadcasting footage of robots dancing, or talking, some of them looking disturbingly human. It is a warning, a bit too obviously a warning, as our favorite Head!Couple look over the shoulder of a man reading a National Geographic at a newsstand (Ron Moore in a silent cameo) and they read aloud the text describing how scientists think they have found Mitochondrial Eve, which Head!Baltar and Head!Six reveal is actually Hera.
“Do you think they’ll make it this time?” Head!Baltar asks, sounding doubtful that humanity has truly broken the cycle of violence. Head!Six is also doubtful, but with a touch more optimism, reminding him that every mathematical system, however complex, can experience a spontaneous change that yields a significantly different outcome.
And so our show ends on an ambivalent note: On the one hand, the Colonials head into the supposed Tanzanian prairie with a mixture of grief for all that they have lost, but also with a sense of optimism about getting a clean slate in this repeating cycle of ascension and destruction. And indeed, they do make it, if Hera is any proof. But then, as our Head!People disappear into the crowds of Times Square, the cameras pans up to the giant neon screens there, broadcasting footage of the various ways our society is already using cutting-edge technology without much philosophical forethought – as entertainments, as objects of curiosity, and even sex objects.
And so, just as there are many of the show’s questions that will go unanswered in this finale, it also asks us to contemplate a dangling question about humanity’s future: As Lee says, “…our brains have always outraced our hearts. Our science charges ahead. Our souls lag behind.”
Seemingly, the question Ron Moore wants us to walk away from Battlestar Galactica asking ourselves is this: As humanity’s ability to invent and improve technology races ahead exponentially with every decade, as we invent computers that can learn, machines that can mimic our very existence, what will we choose to do with that ability? As we leap faster and farther forward in our ability to make anything we want happen, will we make sure our souls do not lag behind?