By the time this series finale come to close, I was torn. On the one hand, I could see what the writers were trying to achieve with their decisions for plot and character resolution. I understood the notion of tying together the loose ends with a spiritual connection rather than a deterministic laundry list. But despite the understanding, I was disappointed. I couldn't quite give up on my desire for discrete answers. For quite some time, I sat back, thought about what I had seen, and tried to put my whirling thoughts and objections into coherent words.
And then I sat down to write this review.
Perhaps this is the kind of resolution that needs time to seep its way into a person's subconscious. Maybe a little bit of time provided perspective. It could simply be my tendency to reconcile as much as possible, out of a personal desire to put the best face on it for my own comfort. Whatever it is, it doesn't matter. Because the more I thought about the series, its underlying mysteries, and how it all come together in the end, it started to make sense.
I'll be the first to acknowledge that this will not work for everyone. A lot of people are going to reject what appears to be, on the surface, the use of "God" as a catch-all excuse for the dangling plot threads that always come with making the story up as you go along. That was my initial reaction as well. But looking back, I'm not so sure.
Spirituality has always been a critical element of "Battlestar Galactica". From the beginning, the Cylons were acting out of their understanding of "God's plan". They had come to believe that the survival of the Cylons required the blending of Human and Cylon, something that for them required "God's true love". It was this endless pursuit of what they felt God wanted for them that drove them forward.
The first season saw Roslin and Starbuck acting out of a genuine spiritual calling. Humans had visions and inspirations and invoked religious teachings from generations past. The writers constantly reminded the audience that "all this has happened before, and all this will happen again". That alone was evidence of a higher order connection, something ephemeral yet pervasive in the lives of Human and Cylon alike.
Over the course of the series, there were those who sought to reduce that element into the familiar. When Kara died and returned to life, how much speculation was there regarding the "Ship of Lights", as seen in the original series? How many times did someone equate the Cylon God to the original series' Count Iblis? Even I wondered if the guiding hand behind all these events pertained to the oft-mentioned but mysterious Lords of Kobol or, just as obliquely, the Cylon God.
But it's all just labels plastered on the same thing. The only difference is that the architect of this grand design is never seen or revealed; its presence is known only by effect. Someone had a plan for Human and Cylon alike, and it meant bringing them together into one species. To do that, this higher power decided that it was necessary to push and pull them in various directions, sometimes contradictory, to push them so far and so long that only mergence was a viable option.
Regardless of the label slapped on this higher power ("God", "Lucifer", the Lords of Kobol, aliens beyond our understanding, etc.), the net effect would have been the same. And that is, at its heart, a kind of agnostic metaphor for the modern world. Some agnostics hold that there may be a higher power, but the jury is still out on what that power is, if it truly exists at all. Those agnostics would say, "something is happening, the effect is undeniable, but the cause is so remote, so ephemeral, that we cannot yet define it".
It's hard to argue that the Cylons, due to their own issues, took what was given to them in terms of "divine inspiration" and turned it into a cause for violence. One might even say that this higher power knew this would happen. The Humans did the same thing, though much earlier, with the Phythian prophecies: partial information that was designed to lead them down a certain path, when the time came.
This was a grand design that required, at the critical juncture, near-constant adjustment on both sides. Thus the intervention of what Baltar ultimately termed "angels", though this is no more definitive than calling the higher power "God". These "angels", whether it be Head Six or Head Baltar or something within the Cylon "projections", were there to see that the end result was achieved. If they seemed at cross-purposes from one moment to the next, well, that's part of the equation because that's what happened. That wouldn't have changed had something more concrete been identified as the guiding hand.
Of course, the visions, dreams, and "angels" are all relatively easy to assign to this higher power; the real mystery is Kara Thrace. She was material, far more than even Head Six appeared to be on occasion. By my best estimation, Kara Thrace was assigned to play a unique role, as evidenced by her introduction to the music (representative of the guiding influence of this higher power). Was her suicide part of the plan? Looking back on "Maelstrom", it certainly could have been. Her restoration, and her quest to find answers, seemed to be part and parcel of the process of preparing both the Humans and Cylons for their eventual mergence.
Hera was equally important, because in a way, she was the desired end product of the mergence and the grand design. It wasn't to bring Colonials and Cylons together to propagate a new civilization together; it was to produce Hera and then ensure that she arrived on the new Earth in such a way that "seeding" the natives would spread her unique genetic code to a multitude of descendants.
One might say, in very loose terms, that certain Colonial and Cylon traits might not have been strong enough, genetically, to dominate in the cross-breeding with the natives of Earth. But Hera's genetic code, being the product of Human/Cylon genetic mergence, would resolve that problem. So the end of the episode suggests, even if the "mitochondrial Eve" concept was ultimately debunked: Hera, as the one true Human/Cylon hybrid, was necessary in some way to the viability of the native Earth population.
Of course, the treatment of this is far from perfect. It would have been more fitting if the Colonials and Cylons had landed in a time much closer to the modern era, perhaps around 15,000 years ago (as opposed to 150,000). This would have matched up with the vague timetable given by alternative history theorists like von Daniken and Graham Hancock. Hancock in particular likes to point out possible connections between different emerging civilizations and a potential "lost civilization". Linking that to the arrival of Colonials and Cylons, and their Earthbound distribution, would have been more elegant and would have tied into the original series in a somewhat more satisfying way.
Along similar lines, it might have been better if there hadn't been natives at all. The presence of native Humans is a nagging loose end, unnecessary to the story. It would have been equally possible for the surviving Colonials and Cylons to form small communities around the world, eventually losing what technology they had to time and wear. Hera still would have been the first of the true hybrids.
In terms of the music, while some might have wanted a more specific explanation for "All Along the Watchtower", I was fine with the explanation that was given. It reminded me, in a way, of how the higher-order communication with the Vorlons took place on "Babylon 5". Hearing the song had nothing to do with being a Cylon, other than the fact that the Final Five had to come together at a certain time to facilitate what Kara was meant to do. And the fact that the music was also the key to finding the new Earth, where the Colonials and Cylons needed to go once the conflict was over and done, was just icing on the universal language cake. Given the nature of the hybrids, it certainly seems that they were attuned to this celestial musical connection as well. (Many call mathematics the "universal language", and music is ultimately mathematics.)
Perhaps more importantly, by giving the resolution of the various mysteries a more incorporeal source, the emphasis was pushed (and rightfully so) to the characters and their acceptance of the end of their journey. Those resolutions were, for the most part, satisfying. Looking back on the past few episodes, not only do the more spiritual aspects of the resolution make more sense, but the emphasis on character is justified.
I can only imagine how much of the post-landing material was left on the cutting room floor. I imagine a great deal will end up on the DVD version. If you add up all the extra time that was given to the final 10 episodes, you've got several episodes worth of story, just on screen! Evidence, in my opinion, that Ron Moore could have produced a fifth season, had he been more confident that the SciFi Channel was going to keep it on the air.
But certain scenes never materialized. The final farewell between Adama and Tigh is probably the most obvious, but there were so many moments that still could or should have happened. I certainly don't begrudge them the time they took with the epilogue; the series finale for "Babylon 5" is nothing but epilogue, and it's one of the finest hours of television I've ever seen. I'm just not sure there was enough time to explore the ideas fully. (Also, if the finale all aired on the same night, instead of the first hour and the rest being split, it would have worked a lot better.)
The one point that needed clarification was Lee's pronouncement that they were abandoning the vast majority of their technology. The reason is simple: if they want to avoid the sins of the Colonial and Cylon way of life, they can't perpetuate that way of life. It has to start fresh. Also, the technology would wear down soon enough anyway, so why be reliant on it at all? It's not so much where they arrived, so much as the abrupt nature of the decision.
Unlike many, I liked the final scene, because it was not as obvious as it seems. Head Six and Head Baltar have some degree of optimism as they look upon the modern human race, but the montage at the end was a little less hopeful. Not the presence of the emerging robot population, but the connection to something Lee said. Lee noted that it can be a problem when our technology outstrips our ability to implement it wisely. The episode ends by lingering on a homeless man in Times Square, surrounded by the images of shiny new robot toys. Technology outpacing the heart of humanity? Perhaps, and if that was the intent, it brings the series full circle.
One might notice I haven't said a word about the rescue operation, the resolution of the Opera House, the final moments between Adama and Roslin, Boomer's attempt at redemption, or any number of other scenes worth discussion. Most of those scenes speak for themselves, particularly the final battle. It was one of the most intense of the series, even if it was remarkably straightforward. I also think it was obvious that the truce was never going to work, because they had to eliminate Cavil's forces. Sending the colony into the singularity certainly did the trick!
(One caveat: Watching the finale twice now, I think it's safe to say that the Cylon slugfest was a bit more than the effects crew could comfortably chew. In many scenes, the Cylons didn't blend into the background at all. In one case, one of the "old style" Centurions looked like he was standing in mid-air over the floor. Great idea, but it didn't quite pan out as they had intended.)
I'm not going to pretend that this finale was perfect. Far from it. As much as I can reconcile large portions of the series is it ended, other portions don't fit at all. (One glaring problem is "Home", and the constellation projection on Kobol. It doesn't fit the timeline or the explanations given this season at all.) This can be laid down at the feet of Ron Moore's preferred writing style. He doesn't plan things out; he sets up situations and lets them evolve based on character exploration. While he's often quite inventive, it doesn't allow for a strong finish. Contrast this to the style of JMS on "Babylon 5", where there was always a clear set of end conditions in mind before pen touched paper.
The ideal, perfect finale would have given a bit more resolution to certain mysteries, and would have been planned out in more detail ahead of the game. For that reason, while this gets a much better ratings than my first impression would have indicated, it's not a knock out of the park. But it did accomplish one thing very well: it has left me with a sincere desire to rewatch the series from the beginning.