I’ve tried to anticipate what I would write for a final review that would be a worthy capstone to four seasons of reviews. I even tried my hand at a few ideas over the past few weeks that might let me go out in a blaze of snarky glory. None of them worked, and nothing I can say at this point will be entirely adequate, much like the final episode itself.
In this respect, I can empathize with our friend Mr. Moore’s plight.
Yet the episode itself, as a standalone, worked quite well in places. The second hour of the three kicked all sorts of tushy, what with the explosions and the blood-smeared centurionsand the old school Cylons and space dogfights and all the popcorn SciFi coolness you could muster. I had a great time. And seeing Earth, our Earth, was pretty fun. I have no idea, though, why Hera mattered at all. Suddenly she’s “mitochondrial Eve” from which we are all descended? Given that Earth was already populated when Galactica arrived, and that the Colonials scattered all over the globe, how is this even remotely possible?
Like that’s the only question left unanswered.
Still, you have to cut Moore and Co. a little slack. Nothing they could have said or done would have sufficed, even under the best of circumstances. It didn’t help that Moore painted himself into several different corners and then just stomped his way across the floor, hoping that you wouldn’t notice the mess he was making. Why did the Cylons attack every 33 minutes? Because. Why did they operate on Kara in “The Farm” and steal her ovaries? Because. Why was the Final Five’s history and mission so wildly convoluted and inconsistent? Because. Why was their earth nuked? Because. Why did the Cylons bother to nuke humanity in the miniseries in the first place? Because.
Because why? Well, because God did it.
Who would have thought that this would be the heart and soul of the reinvention of the Science Fiction television series: a literary device as old as time – the “Deus Ex Machina,” i.e. the Machine of the Gods. At the end of a Greek myth, Zeus of Poseidon or the God of Quality Footwear would wave his bolt or his trident or his shoe horn and make everything better. Or worse. Or like it never happened.
It’s cheap, it’s sloppy, and it’s the core of the “greatest show on television.”
No wonder so many devotees of this show are in an uproar. The discussion boards have been filled with theories to reconcile the improbability of all of Moore’s arbitrary twists and turns, only to discover that there are no explanations. God did it. God sent his sneering daughter Starbuck to save His Battlestar. God directed His servant Baltar’s hand to point out the ammo dump back in Season 1’s “Hand of God” episode. God sent lots of visions that didn’t make any sense and which were largely irrelevant. God sent a slutty angel in a red cocktail dress to help Baltar masturbate. God wrote “All Along the Watchtower” and taught it Anders, Starbuck’s father, Hera, and Bob Dylan, respectively. Did Jimi Hendrix use the jump coordinates from the song to help him kiss the sky? Maybe Jimi is the name God likes better than God. And, really. who wouldn’t?
No one likes to hear “I told you so,” which is too bad, since it’s usually so much fun to say it. Yet I take no joy in seeing this show’s devotees being so colossally duped. Indeed, a reasonable person could have looked at this show and its solid initial premise and its stellar cast – Sackhoff ever the exception – and conclude that something was happening here that was worth their time. Context, however, leads to a different conclusion.
This is a show that, from day one, was built on a foundation of contempt.
You can still see the reflexive disdain for the show’s source material in the comments of those who have followed the show’s hype but not its story. It’s impossible to read an overview of the thing without a ritualistic genuflection to the idea that the original series was hokey and trite and silly and filled with all manner of limburgerian fromage. So even when the new show sucks openly, apologists can take cover behind Dirk Benedict’s dated hairstyle. At least the new show didn’t have Muffit the Daggit! Or casino planets! Or Lords of Kobol!
See, the dirty secret is that much of the original show’s basic mythology actually did survive into this new incarnation. And when this show shined – and it did, on occasion, have its moments – it was following in the footsteps of its predecessor. Unfortunately, it always refused to acknowledge that that was what it was doing. Indeed, the producers were embarrassed by where they had come from. They were ever lamenting the fact that they were forced to labor under the leaden weight of the cheesy title “Battlestar Galactica,” which was holding them back.
Can we now collectively admit that this is a provably false assertion?
Consider: the only information people who tuned in to watch the miniseries had was that the show was named “Battlestar Galactica.” That was a name with a history and not-insignificant brand equity. So the miniseries was a ratings smash. Yet when the show went to series, the show lost a third of that original audience.
So who were the people who abandoned this show after the miniseries?
Wouldn’t it make sense to assume that a good chunk of them were people who liked “Battlestar Galactica” but recognized that this series bore scant resemblance to its namesake? As the show wore on, the ratings steadily eroded to the point where first run episodes were lower-rated than “Star Trek: Enterprise” reruns. This show should have been cancelled after the second season, yet it endured. Why? Because the network and the producers and the intelligentsia were proud of it. They were proud of the audience they were alienating. The rubes and hicks that couldn’t see how nihilistic gloom was infinitely more sophisticated than the heroic optimism of the original series weren’t wanted here. This show mocked their religion, their politics, their morality, and wallowed in the despair that marks the absence of the things they hold dear.
And then, in the end, God did it.
Suddenly, the tables are turned. The core diehards, the ones who followed Ron off the cliff, who bought into the miasma and the blackness, who somehow believed that all of this was going somewhere that would justify their investment of time, energy and passion – they get told that God did it. They now know what it is to be held in contempt by the show they loved. It’s not surprising that they’re not particularly happy about it.
What’s interesting is that Moore, in his finale, felt it necessary to provide a bunch of irrelevant backstory for characters that have been on display for four television seasons and the better part of six years. Adama’s lie detector test? The strip club? Roslin’s boytoy? Lee and Kara’s sexual near miss? What was the point?
The point, it seems to me, was one last, flailing attempt to give these characters enough weight so you would miss them when they rode off into the sunset. Which, by and large, you won’t. Too many of these folks were mean, nasty, vile people, and it’s kind of nice to be rid of them. The largest exceptions, in my mind, were Roslin and Adama, whose final scenes were, indeed, rather touching. Part of that is the stellar nature of the two actors involved, but these two characters were the only ones that maintained most of their integrity throughout. (Maybe Lee, too, although his denouement was pretty pedestrian.) Are we really going to miss the Tighs or Tori? Anyone else wish Starbuck had been thrown out of the airlock long before she Let There Be Light Rock?
It was laughable to see the Baltar flashbacks, which provided a limp retcon to make Baltar’s genocidal betrayal just a little less venal. I mean, come on. Baltar’s an interesting character, sure, but he’s not a good guy. He’s an amoral, self-serving weasel. And suddenly, he’s the one non-imaginary angel character with the direct conduit to Jimi God? How are we supposed to take that seriously?
The broader answer, of course, is that nobody should take any television seriously. In the immortal words of the Shat – who, I’m thinking, may have actually met Bob Dylan – “for crying out loud, it’s just a TV show!”
Yes, it is. But he disappointment comes from knowing that it didn’t have to be “just a TV show.” Like it or nor, that’s all we’re left with.