I almost hardly know where to start with a review such as this. Battlestar Galactica is finally over, after an unprecedented run over the past five or so years. Over the course of four seasons, a miniseries and film, Galactica has far and above exceeded expectations, and will likely be known as one of the greatest Science Fiction television shows to appear on our screens, indeed, one of the best television programs to have ever been created. There will be spoilers for the finale of this episode, so be warned.
The final episode has come amidst years of speculation and expectations, and was something that seems almost impossible to have been able to successfully wrap up a show with so much momentum and story behind it; yet, while watching on Friday night, I found my expectations blown away and replaced with genuine surprise throughout. There were many things that I had essentially accepted would happen - I predicted that Adama would die aboard the Galactica in a blaze of glory, that Lee and Kara would be finally united, that we would have a fundamental happy ending for the show, something to redeem the last four seasons of misery and heartbreak for the colonial survivors. But, in the way that good stories often are, Ron Moore and his fantastic team of writers have crafted something more. None of those predictions happened - Adama survived (although the Galactica was destroyed, for sure), Kara and Lee go their separate ways and the result is a fulfilling end, something far better than what I had predicted.
From the miniseries, Battlestar Galactica has remained a show that was consistently good, and one that held broad appeal to a wide audience. On the surface, for the first couple of seasons, the show was mainly a science fiction adventure, with space ships, action, robots and the vague notion that the fleet would continue on towards earth, giving the show's creators an easy out once the show started to wind down. But at the end of Season 1, the seeds of something far greater started, with the discovery of Kobol, which brought the show to something much more interesting, injecting religion, destiny, fate and a number of other heady concepts into the plotlines.
The finale itself has been described as brilliant, fullfilling and uneven by a number of reviewers, and each point has its merits. The finale is indeed well done, and a fantastic end to the series, but it is at the same time uneven, with the first half essentially an entire season's work of special effects work, and some of the best action that we've seen in the entire series, from ground combat against Cavil's forces, to some spectacular space sorties (although I have to say, my favorite space battles include the Battle of the Asteroid in Season 1, and the opening battle for Season 4). This first episode essentially brings everything to an exciting head, and brings out some of the best in the most unlikely characters. Baltar has his heroic moment after his talk with Lee about his self-centered nature, Cavill agrees to negotiate, and Boomer sacrifices herself to hand over Hera. It is here that we essentially learn the nature of the shared visions between Baltar, Roslin, Athena and Caprica 6. The climax of this part helps to fulfill Kara's destiny as well, giving purpose to the song that she has been hearing, and brings the story to its natural conclusion that has been building since the miniseries: she brings the fleet to Earth. Not the bombed out and uninhabitable Earth that they discovered earlier in the season, but the Earth that we now call our home.
Starbuck has been one of show's hallmark characters since the beginning, initially, because the character had been turned from a male in the original to a female in the new version, which caused much uproar from fanboys before subsiding. Since early in the show, Starbuck has been singled out as a special character, one with a growing significance over the course of the show, the highlight of this coming with her 'death' in the Season 3 episode Maelstrom, and her rebirth at the end of the episode Crossroads.
Kara Thrace's story arc has been an interesting one throughout the show, especially between her tent pole episodes You Can't Go Home Again, Scar and Maelstrom. Her story is complex, and where it would have been easier for Moore & co. to have simply explained away her special nature as being a Cylon, they resisted this temptation and made her something more - her true nature is never explained away, but in the finale, when Starbuck simply vanishes into thin air, her true nature almost doesn't need to be explained - there is a certain mystery and allure to her character that enriches the experience, and I believe that a straightforward explanation of her character would cheapen that.
Gaius Baltar is possibly one of the characters that has changed the most over the course of the series, beginning his life as a brilliant scientist who rejects the notion of a supreme being and religion, to someone who not only accepts the idea, but embraces it and that he holds a purpose in a larger picture. He fills the role between the side of faith and religion and reason and science.
Intertwining with Balter's evolution has been the presence of model # 6, known as Caprica. For the first chunk of the series, she really only existed in Baltar's head, until later on, when the Cylons split, and a number were captured or fled to the fleet. Capica, the flesh and blood model, likewise saw Baltar in her head. Both stated that they had destinies, that they had a place in god's plan. To someone like Baltar, this provided both amusement for the audience, but also an excellent story mechanism that helped drive his character, and provided some of the initial development. In the end, this ties together with Hera's fate, as well as the hallucinations that Sharon and Roslin saw.
Hera was a central part of the story from fairly early on, and she is essentially responsible for the last story arc of the series, with her capture and experimentation, and the subsequent rescue that the remains of the Colonial Fleet mounted to get her back. This has been building from the end of Season 1, where we learned that an upcoming hybrid child would have enormous consequences for the fleet. While a lot of the fanbase suspected that there was something to this, such as that she had abilities or something along those lines, this was something more simple, more elegant - Hera united the fleet and Cylon/Human factions, and brought forth a new era on their new home.
Halfway through Season 4, Kara leads humanity to Earth, where they find it bombed out and uninhabitable, after having found Kobol and New Caprica and left them. Having left Earth for new pastures, Starbuck once again brings humanity to salvation by randomly jumping the Galactica to safety after the battle with Cavill's forces, jumping right on top of the Moon and is joined shortly thereafter by the rest of the fleet, hundreds of thousands of years in our past.
As Adama notes to Roslin, Earth is an idea, and this is their Earth. In a way, this explains why the colonists never settled on the Kobol and New Caprica after the fall - this wasn't their Earth. Obviously, the story wasn't finished, but neither location would have provided any fulfilling conclusion to the human race - neither location was Earth. Earth, in this show, essentially provided humanity with hope, a reason to continue, and a home in which the slate was wiped clean, where they could completely start over. Kobol had too much history wrapped up in it, too much blood, while New Caprica was a convenient stopping point to appease political pressures, while sporting an unpleasant climate. The second Earth, our Earth, represented everything that Kobol and New Caprica didn't - a rebirth of society. The refugees rejected technology and in essence, everything that had happened before, to break the cycle and bring about Six's conclusion that humanity would not follow the same path that is had been consigned to before.
The last five minutes of the show proves to be the most on the nose and profound when it comes to delivering any sort of message in the show, as the episode jumps forward 150,000 years to modern day New York City, while Baltar's 6 and 6's Baltar (whom we now know are Angels or similar messenger) observes that society has become decedent with commercialism and technology, much like it had before in Kobol, the first Earth and Caprica, part of the repeating nature of parts of the show's mythos: "All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again." Yet, as Caprica notes, any complex system that tends to repeat itself will have its anomalies. The real question at the end of the episode, of course, is did the colonists break the cycle, or did they merely slow it down?
The balance between science / technology and human maturity is a theme that has long been used in science fiction. Numerous writers have talked about the subject, noting that our ability to create is often not outpaced by our ability to utilize our creations wisely. Such has been the case in Galactica's world, where humans create, but are ultimately destroyed by their creations, as we see throughout the show on Capria, Kobol and the first Earth. As the episode draws to a close with Jimi Hendrix's version of All Along The Watchtower, we are treated to a short series of clips of modern day robots, which had an odd prophetic feel to it - will we, in this world, follow in the footsteps of stories past, or, will we follow in Six's prediction that we will be the anomaly in god's complex series of systems?
The episode Crossroads ended with a Galactica version of Bob Dylan's fantastic song All Along the Watchtower, and so this episode ended with Hendrix's version, playing on a boom box in Times Square. While this was a bit of an odd choice for a musical selection for the show, there are many elements of the song that make this a fitting choice, one that has a lot of meaning wrapped up within it - in particular, the imagry of a god overlooking his creation, with its subjects trying to figure things out within - this fits very closely with the show, especially with this conclusion, to the song. It is an appropriate and fantastic way to conclude this fantastic show.
So Say We All.