Thursday, 9 June 2011

Battlestar Galactica: My Frakkin' Look Back

Beautiful. Lyrical. Poetic.

Frakkin’ awesome.

The finale of BSG didn’t sit right with me the first time I watched it, two years ago (Frak! 2 years?). Recently, I started my rewatch of the entire series, and I just finished it again a few nights ago, and I have to say, I thought the finale was perfect.

As well as all those words listed above, which could also be applied to the series as a whole.

As with the Lost finale, and really all good TV show finales, it was never about answering questions (although we did get some, if not all, of them answered), but about the characters. And the way BSG decided to show us this was in the flashbacks to their lives before the fall, each of which were incredible and showed us exactly how these characters came to be the ones that we’ve watched over the last four years. Laura Roslin overcomes personal grief and chooses duty over self pity and defeat, just as she has done countless times over the course of the series. Bill Adama refuses to compromise his integrity and chooses the more difficult, but the right, option as we’ve seen him do many many times. Gaius Baltar comes to accept his upbringing as a farmer that he’s tried to deny for so long as he goes off to grow crops with Caprica Six, who he’s loved from the very start even if he didn’t realise it. Saul and Ellen Tigh finally get to live happily together; not as two of the final five, not as 2000 year old Cylons, but just husband and wife. Boomer makes her choice and gets a little redemption, even if it ends in her death; she’s still determined to pay the old man back. Lee learns that he has to let go if he wants to move on. Sam achieves the perfection he’s been searching for all his life.

And Kara? Well, she’ll never be forgotten. She leads the humanity to its end, just as the hybrid said. Although in a much happier way than what we thought when we first heard it.

The flashbacks were the perfect compliment to the present day actions, showing us just how much the characters had changed, but at the same time how they hadn’t as well. For example, Adama’s change of heart when it came to Hera’s rescue; initially he thought of it as a suicide mission and chose to keep searching for a home. He knew it was the smart thing to do, for the continued safety of the fleet, but it wasn’t the right thing. That’s the kind of man the Admiral is.

The finale encapsulated everything Battlestar Galactica was about: a treatise on the human condition, science, survival, politics, friendship, love, some awesome space porn and most importantly faith.

I reckon most people who didn’t like the finale concentrate on the faith aspect being the weakest, or Starbuck Ex Machina, as it were. For me, it wasn’t a problem. I don’t know if your own personal viewpoint would have affected your enjoyment of the resolution to Kara’s story but for me (at least the second time around) I thought it worked perfectly. Kara was an angel, from the point she returned after blowing up. An angel sent to guide humanity to Earth, which admittedly sounds awful when you say it, but watching it in the finale it’s a perfect fit. Faith had always been a part of the BSG universe so I can’t understand the people that say they were unhappy with what happened in the finale. From the very first episode, Head Six (the one only Baltar can see) tell Gaius that she is an angel sent from God. He doesn’t believe it then, and neither do we, but come the finale we discover that that’s exactly what she is. And a fit one at that.

The naysayers will always blame the whole “God did it” thing as the reason why they hated the finale, but it wasn’t so cut and dry as that. If you look at the run up to the finale, you could say there was a divine hand at work for the whole thing. Bear with me on this because I might be a little sketchy with the details. Starting with Kara’s return: if she hadn’t, Adama wouldn’t have sent her onboard the Demetrius to find Earth, Leoben wouldn’t have found her, the rebel Cylons wouldn’t have formed an Alliance with the fleet, the final four wouldn’t have been discovered, which would mean that they wouldn’t have told Kara that there was something different about her pristine Viper, it wouldn’t have been checked to show that it had the co-ordinates to Earth, they wouldn’t have discovered Earth as a nuclear wasteland, the fleet wouldn’t have lost hope, Dee wouldn’t have killed herself, Gaeta wouldn’t have begun the mutiny, which in turn meant Sam wouldn’t have been shot and then hooked up to be a Hybrid. Yes, all this could be argued as a coincidence, but once you put it in the context of Starbuck disappearing in the last moments of the finale you have to admit that all these events began with her returning from the dead. As a Leoben told her way back she is “an angel blazing with the light of God.”

But if you want a more grounded example, take Baltar. His conversion from sceptic to true believer over the course of the last series is what lead him to fulfil his place in the Opera House shared vision between Six, Athena and Roslin, which is something that has reached as far back as the first season finale. And it is his conversion that enables him to give a sincere, impassioned speech in the CIC to Cavil to halt the battle going on between the Cylons and the fleet:

"I see angels, angels in this very room. Now, I may be mad, but that doesn't mean that I'm not right. Because there's another force at work here. There always has been. It's undeniable. We've all experienced it. Everyone in this room has witnessed events that they can't fathom, let alone explain by rational means. Puzzles deciphered in prophecy. Dreams given to a chosen few. Our loved ones, dead, risen. Whether we want to call that "God" or "gods" or some sublime inspiration or a divine force we can't know or understand, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. It's here. It exists, and our two destinies are entwined in its force."

You gotta have faith.

But also, some space porn doesn’t hurt either.

Battlestar Galactica was never a show that you watched for the action, but when it did happen, it never disappointed. The finale was no different. After a few episodes with not much action, or even any scenes out in space for the most part, they threw it all into this one. In fact the first 45 minutes can be described in one word: Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!!!!!!!!!

The attack on the colony was quite possibly the greatest battle we’ve ever seen on Battlestar Galactica, and there’s been a few, with so much going on yet everything being completely coherent and possible to follow. It’s hard to describe a space battle and do it any sort of justice but suffice to say it was frakkin’ incredible looking. If I could pick out one moment from the battle, it would be the sight of rebel Centurions fist fighting (!) with the bad cylons, among whom we had some original Centurions (as in 70’s Galactica centurions)! A full forty five minutes of heart thumping, pulse pounding action.

Once the fleet arrives on Earth, lead there by Kara inputting the song (All Along the Watchtower) into the FTL, the endings are all perfect wrap ups for the characters. But I reckon Laura and Bill’s endings had the most impact by far. After leading her people to Earth, Laura passes away peacefully after getting a tour of the new planet. As Bill cries, and puts his wedding ring on her finger, I defy you not to feel at least a little emotional for these two characters. And our last scene with Bill, talking to Laura’s grave about the cabin he’s going to build, the one she always wanted. You’ll excuse me if I got a little verklempt at it.

"I laid out the cabin today. It's gonna have an easterly view. You should see the light that we get here. When the sun comes from behind the mountains, it's almost heavenly. It reminds me of you."

If the finale had ended there, it would have been perfect. However, it didn’t and then we have a little epilogue, 150,000 years later. In Times Square in New York. I recognise that the writers were making a point of saying that Earth is just like Caprica and Kobol before it, and therefore will probably destroy itself they way those two planets did – the “all this has happened before” mantra that had been repeated throughout the series, but Six has the hope that this time we won’t destroy ourselves. It wasn’t a necessary addition, as Baltar and Lee had expressed similar sentiments earlier in the episode, we didn’t need another reminder of what might happen. It was fine as it was. And also, the shots of advances in robotics, while Jimi Hendrix’s version of All Along the Watchtower played, seemed to point towards the series’ overall message being “DON’T BUILD ROBOTS, YO. ROBOTS IZ BAD!” It doesn’t spoil the finale for me, but it left a bitter taste after all the brilliance that came before it.

Overall though, I’m much happier with the finale the second time around. I think it’s due to watching the entire series in a short space of time, rather than over 4 years as I did before. Plot threads that you can forget week by week become a lot easier to follow if you watch the episodes in quick succession. And if you’re doing a rewatch I highly recommend firing through it as quickly as possible.

And now, a run down of my favourite BSG moments:

- Boomer’s a Cylon! What the frak!
- Adama getting shot by Boomer. We’d thought she’d overcome her Cylon nature, but then BOOM! Double tap in the Commander’s chest.
- The Chief’s Blackbird fighter. A rare almost happy episode of BSG, as the Chief brings the deck crew together to make a new fighter. And he calls it Laura. Just lovely.
- The entirety of the Pegasus arc. The peak of BSG at the time, highlighting the differences between the two crews, with the horrific discovery of a beaten Six model, the sheer hatred towards the rapist crew of the Pegasus, the first appearance of resurrection ships and culminating in the death of Admiral Cain.
- The whole episode of ‘Downloaded.’ An episode from a sympathetic Cylon view. Genius television.
- New Caprica. All of it. Possibly the peak of Galactica foe me. It never hit the same highs after this. Not to say the rest of the series was bad, but this was it at its best. The Adama Manoeuvre is probably the coolest thing I have seen in a TV show ever.
- The season 3 finale. Final four revealed, Baltar acquitted, Starbuck returns from the dead. Still the biggest mind frak of a finale ever.
- The discovery of a nuked Earth. We’d had some gut punches in BSG before. This was probably the biggest.

So, after my rewatch I think Battlestar Galactica might actually be my favourite TV show of all time. It’s brave, it’s thought provoking, it’s exceptionally well acted, it’s exciting, it’s frakkin’ incredible.

So say we all.

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