The spoiler-free version is this: The series finale was quite good. It pulled together more of the ongoing plot threads than I’d expected, and featured many of the character, action, and philosophical elements which made the series enjoyable. It was annoying that not everything was revealed – or, at least, not to my satisfaction – but on the whole it was a solid conclusion to an ambitious series and a fond farewell to the characters.
The spoiler-filled review is after the cut.
The episode felt like two episodes melded into one, with an action-packed series climax followed by a denouement. Probably not an accident that it was structured this way. The first episode – rescuing Hera from the Cylon colony – was about as exciting as you could hope for: Galactica gets the shit kicked out of her (perhaps a little too much – it was hard to believe it could still move after the pounding it took) and then gets to kick some ass of its own.
I was pleased that Baltar showed some cojones for a change, and the way the dream in the opera house played out was rather clever. I thought Boomer’s reckoning was disappointing, especially since her change of heart didn’t ring true (or her betrayal a few episodes ago didn’t ring true – take your pick). Chief Tyrol’s face-off with Tory over her killing Cally was more satisfying – Tory was portrayed as such as unlikeable character through the series it seemed long overdue. Cavil’s choice to execute himself was less so, although since the series bent over backwards to avoid portraying the characters as good or evil, it would have been out-of-place for him to have been captured and executed.
Leading up to this episode I wondered how they would end the series. I was actually coming to believe that all the major characters would die in Galactica’s assault on the colony, and the surviving colonists would be left to continue their quest for a home without the Battlestar. That wouldn’t have been a very satisfying ending, but it would have fit the often-bleak tone of the series. But what we got was better than that, happily.
Early in the series I suspected that when Galactica got to Earth it would either be Earth in the distant past, or the far future, rather than our own time as we saw in the Galactica 1980 sequel to the original series. So I was pleased to be right when they got to Earth in the middle of the fourth season and found it was far in the future. So then I was pleased to be right again when they got to our Earth in this episode. Clever: There’s no reason there had to be only one Earth. And since much of BSG has been a series of cautionary tales, it made sense to show both ends of Earth’s (or Earths’) existence.
While the second half was well-done as a send-off to the characters, it was disappointing in several ways, too. It seemed implausible that all of the survivors of the colonies would be willing to turn their backs on their technology and go native and revert (as one presumes they knew they would) to a relatively primitive level of living. I guess the leaders would have either been able to sell this, or would have forced it on everyone, but it happened so quietly – especially after all the dissension in the fleet up to this point – that it was just hard to believe.
The big let-down was in the mystical parts of the series. Although useful as atmosphere, I never bought into them as actual supernatural events (this shouldn’t surprise anyone who knew me); I always assumed that there would be a physical explanation for everything, and looked forward to seeing what it would be. Certainly I never bought in to the idea that god was directing everyone towards this goal. (Sure was a brutal route to take: Kill billions of people so that tens of thousands can finally get to Earth and then revert to savagery.) I could deal with some bits – like the opera house – as being pure stylism, but the supernatural was crucial to the series’ overall plot, which was annoying.
Who were the phantom Baltar and Six supposed to be? Angels? Uh-huh. And what about Starbuck? Was she an angel too, since she was killed on old Earth? That’s a damned roundabout way to make things come about, and it basically makes the character feel like it was cheating the viewers. For what were some of the more intriguing mysteries of the series, I think they really dropped the ball on these.
Okay, getting past that: I’m a sucker for sentimental conclusions, which is largely what this was. Adama and Roslin’s conclusion was the saddest of all, of course, although certainly everyone must have known there wasn’t going to be another reprieve for the President. But at least she did ultimately fulfill her prophecy of bringing her people to Earth.
Seeing the crew break up, mostly to live on their own, was also touching, although what lingered for me afterwards was realizing that most of them would never see another living person and their lifetime would be measured in a handful of years and probably a great deal of loneliness. I’m not sure that’s quite what the writers were going for; it seems like Lee Adama, especially, deserved better than that. (It was entirely believable that Chief Tyrol would head off on his own, though.)
In the end, I’d have to say that the episode was more satisfying than not, especially considering the number of ambitious plot threads the series had built up. The big stuff got wrapped up and after a fashion most of the characters got a happy ending, which is certainly an achievement for a series which was always willing to kill off a character. I think could have been a stronger ending without too much effort, but this was pretty good. It was different, that’s for sure.