Battlestar Galactica

Season 4 Episode 21

Daybreak, Part 2 (3)

Aired Friday 10:00 PM Mar 20, 2009 on Syfy

Episode Fan Reviews (63)

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  • The Deconstruction of Falling Stars

    And so we reach the end. A mini-series and four seasons later, we get to have the final revelations. (Note: I refer to the finale simply as "Daybreak 2", as I'm not constrained by the needs of iTunes and the double-header was listed as a single-span "feature length" episode when aired on the UK's Sky 1 channel.)

    It was patently obvious that the final episodes would split the ranks of fans that have followed Adama, Thrace, Boomer, Cavil, Tigh and Tyrol et al. Let's be perfectly honest here: BSG climbed some marvellous heights through its time on air – but it has also plumbed some depths we could probably have done without. There can be no mistaking the magnificent consistency of the show was only maintained through the mini series and the first two seasons; and even then, by season two – as fabulous as much of it was - cracks were beginning to appear (take "Scar" as an example). Certainly, by season 3 it was pretty evident the writers were scrabbling around to try and keep things moving forward while not entirely clear on where they actually wanted to go, and season 4 has been, it's very fair to say, patchy. Episodes have either been enjoyed or loathed, with little half-measure between. So the finale was always going to be between a rock and hard place. No matter what Moore et al did, it was inevitable that they'd pee-off someone or other in the process. And given this, they opted to go in the direction I think it fair to say few of us anticipated given the series' overall dark tones: a happy ending. What's more, it's a happy ending that only really addresses two key issues that have marked the show throughout: religion and technology, using both to frame the closure to the arcs of the principal characters. Technology, and its ability to impact our lives, to affect our perceptions of the future – to influence and even control our everyday actions – and whether it is necessarily a "good" thing has very much been at the centre of BSG. Face it: the Cylon wars were about this very fact when you strip them of the whys and wherefores, all neatly encapsulated in the strap line originally used for the mini series: "never create what you can't control". Religion also has been at the centre of BSG right from the get-go. This is so fundamental that anyone feeling betrayed by the notion of "angels" in the finale, or that Moore et al went for a "cop-out" really need to go back and watch and listen to the preceding 4 seasons very carefully. Given what has gone before, no-one should be at all surprised that the writers were so finally decisive on the idea that humanity is being watched over by higher powers that uses angels of divine intervention to influence and guide us. True, elements of this revelation were not well handled – something I'll return to later – but to dismiss the episode because of this is really to miss the point entirely. And there was absolutely nothing wrong in selecting these themes as the frame to the final episodes. Indeed, had they not been addressed then there would be a massive hole sitting at the end of the Galactica mythos.

    Now, we could have had a much darker ending: while saving Hera, some, at least of our lead characters could have met their ends. Galactica herself could have been lost in the assault. We could have been faced with the collapse of hope, the destruction of dreams in a maelstrom of hurt, death and despair which fulfil the mantra first uttered by Leoben: "All this has happened before, all this will happen again." As we witness the cycle starting once more. But we didn't. Does that lessen the outcome at all? Well, on the whole no, it doesn't – although I do admittedly say that with one or two reservations. In the majority of respects, the finale was good – in places very good. But I would stop short of calling it "great" as some have over-enthusiastically cheered. "Great" for a science-fiction series finale comes in the form of Babylon 5's "Sleeping In Light", and while I'm going to get a lot of thumbs-down for this next statement: "Daybreak" was not as well-written or structured as "Sleeping In Light" – and the disappointing fact of the matter is that it could have been. In saying this, I would point out that the fault is not solely with the finale itself; its roots lie some way back in Season 3 and were nurtured through some of the many faltering steps witnessed during the latter half of season 4. Given this, I really don't think it is unreasonable to sum up the experience of watching the final 2 hours of BSG as "satisfying". Where criticism is warranted, it is not at the idea of "divine intervention" seemingly coming out of nowhere; nor is it in Cavil's action in blowing his own head off – he'd lost the tactical advantage and he'd lost the strategic end-game: that went as soon as he handed over Hera. Similarly, and in difference to the howls from those who are comfortable with the story, Tyrol's action towards Tori IS utterly in keeping with his character. If anyone is really in doubt as to what he felt for Cally (his love for Boomer notwithstanding) – then I suggest you go back and examine his reaction to Cally's death and the grief he suffered thereafter. Add to this his recent gutting by Boomer – the way she manipulated and used him to get to Hera – and it is pretty obvious there is a wellspring of anger within him that is just waiting to be released. So really, it is simply NO surprise that he throttles Tori when the revelation of her crime finally emerges. And as for Baltar's "Head Six" and Caprica's "Head Baltar" – both are absolutely logical and fit the frame perfectly. Never mind that many of us (myself included) wanted something different from this, the fit is absolutely perfect. Not only is it in keeping with all of "head Six's" commentary about God and there being a plan and higher purpose – it also explains exactly how Baltar survived the nuclear strike that razed his home in the mini series: he was touched by God; rescued to fulfil his destiny. No all these threads fit the weave of the BSG tapestry perfectly. Yes, the realisation is a little rushed, but that's down to so much time being wasted elsewhere. Again, while the flashback sequences in "Daybreak 1" and "Daybreak 2" were nice vignettes, the majority of them didn't actually add anything of significance to any of the characters that we didn't already know. So what if Adama has been on the verge of retiring prior to getting the Galactica assignment? Did that really reflect on his actions throughout the series? Did those moments (the gratuitous vomiting shot or the polygraph test) really tell us anything insightful about him that we didn't already know? And Roslin losing her father and sisters – did that really give added understanding about who she is? No. Right from the mini series we were given enough back-story to her character that we could understand her early motivations ("we have to stop fighting and start making babies"….) and witness her transition without feeling in any way distanced from her. Similarly, her one-night stand did little to reveal her early political motivations….

    The only two vignettes that made any real sense were those of Thrace and Baltar – and even then they are tissue-thin. To take Baltar's first: this had two functions. The first was to establish that really, deep down, after all is said and done, it wasn't just sex with Six/Caprica – it was LOVE; now, had we seen something of this prior to the episode, then the flashbacks wouldn't have seemed so clunky. Better still, they wouldn't have been needed, thus given time to expand other elements within the finale. And both Caprica and Baltar have been aboard the Galactica for some overtures to have been made between them. Left to a matter of flashbacks to establish this apparent deep-seated love jars with much of what we actually saw in the mini series and the early episodes of BSG. And the second reason for Baltar's flashback is also weak in that it is really only there to support one of his final lines, "I do know how to farm," something that would not have made the slightest sense, but for the "Daybreak 1" revelation that his father had been a farmer…. Finally, there is Thrace's flashback. While it plumbed the background of her relationship(s) with Lee and Zak, coming at this stage in the story, it wasn't really needed, as nothing was shown on screen that we did not already know. Rather than give depth, the flashback rather seemed a contrivance in order to give credence to the notion that Thrace was pre-ordained to fulfil a destiny – but again, we already knew that, so there was nothing intrinsic in her flashbacks that contributed to the arc of the finale. Take out the 10+ minutes devoted to these flashbacks in "Daybreak 1" and you have 10 minutes to better establish what needs to be portrayed now.
    And one cannot mention Starbuck's flashback without considering her part in the finale. Again, many have cried "foul!" here, or have tried to plumb the "meaning" a little too deeply. While her disappearance was just a little too pat, too romantic, in execution – the revelations around her were most certainly not; not were they out-of-character. Throughout the show, it has been obvious that Kara Thrace has a unique destiny; not just because Leoben rabbited on about it as long ago as Season 1, but because time and again, Thrace found herself at the epicentre of key events in the survivors' journey. And she died and was resurrected so – like Baltar – she could fully complete her role in the unfolding events. But where Baltar had a "guardian" in the form of "Head Six" to occasionally prod him in the right direction (probably because he'd otherwise be unable to see past his own ego), Thrace was left to muddle things through for herself. She didn't need a guardian to prod or reveal what needed to be done, because at the end of the day, her innate abilities would compel her to do what was required, so "God", somewhat capriciously, left her to get on with it. So there was nothing foul or wrong or stupid in her exit from the show. She had fulfilled her purpose and done so in such a way that she would not be forgotten – Lee would see to that; what's more, she was already dead – there can be no doubt of that. Ergo, there simply was no reason for her to remain. And for those of you hung up on the "Thrace is an angel?!" bit: forget it! She isn't and wasn't. She was human through-and-through. Even after her resurrection, she was STILL human. She had not "transcended" or anything else. She had simply be brought back from the dead, together with all her angst, foibles, fears and wants. There is no betrayal in her character whatsoever in the finale. Rather the reverse: there is a perfect continuance. Even at the end, she is still unsure about many things; she simply knows that whatever else, she has fulfilled the greater part of her destiny and it is now time to let go….

    If there is any criticism at all in the way her part was handled, it was in the intimations given that she was somehow "angelic" in nature – particularly the selected flashback dialogue from her first meeting with Leoben. This was a mistake on Moore's part, and has unnecessarily muddied the waters. No, all the "religious" angles in "Daybreak 2" are actually present and correct; they are justifiable on many levels and are entirely in keeping with the broader "arc" of the show. As such, they offer a very satisfying conclusion, primarily framed against some of the most action-driven scenes witnessed throughout BSG's run.

    For me, the culmination of these threads was most perfectly exemplified as the meaning of the opera house was finally revealed. I say this not only because it was, as I'd always suspected, a metaphor for the Galactica itself, but because the flow of the two scenes - protecting Hera on the ship and the flashbacks to the opera house, perfectly set-up Baltar's monologue that occurs in CIC: realisation dawns on him and we seen vision / dreams come mesh perfectly with reality, right down to the Five up on the gallery, gives us perfect closure to that particular arc while pointing the way to the final resolutions.

    If only the final 30 minutes had been so beautifully and believably framed; for it is within these that the episode demonstrates hubris and ultimately does cheapen itself in its overall convenience. In saying this, I'm not critiquing the individual closures we see: the aforementioned departure of Thrace; Roslin's death; the goodbyes and splitting of the survivors. No, all these elements work and are fitting for the characters and the story. When "Daybreak 2" was in pre-production, Moore allegedly wrote on a whiteboard "It's about the characters, stupid" in order to emphasize the heart of the story, and these little vignettes, the farewells, underline this perfectly.

    What is at fault is the background against which they are set – and the missed opportunity. While technology may well have been at the root of all humanity's woes, discarding it so readily is, I'm afraid, just a little too trite and speaks more of Moore's own views on things than it does of the BSG story. It's also hard to believe that 38,000 people – people previously shown to be unwilling to let go of creature comforts to the extent of participating in black market enterprises; who were unwilling to let go of outmoded (from day 1 following the Cylon attack) modes of government, who rarely looked beyond their own immediate needs, would all to a man, woman (and child) give unanimous support to Lee Adama's "vision". And even if it was necessary to get rid of the ships (questionable at this point in time, even given the fact Galactica was crippled), it's hard to see that they'd do so with such ready acceptance that it is the right thing to do. If nothing else, the medical facilities on board just one of the larger vessels could prove invaluable. So what if their DNA is compatible with Earth human DNA? The fact remains they were entering an entirely new biosphere, exposing themselves to any number of diseases and illnesses unknown to their bodies and from which their immune systems may not provide sufficient protection; similarly, who is to say the "common Colonial cold" might not be a fatal epidemic if caught by the natives?

    No, the "let's leave technology and start over" was all a little too pat. Supplies run out; equipment breaks; machines break down. Nothing lasts forever. As such, there was no reason they could not utilise the technology they could carry / take with them. Even if it broke down / ran out / wore out after a few months / years, its very presence with them might better help them establish themselves on this raw and wild planet.

    Moore has frequently pointed out that certain types of TV science-fiction are a little too sanitised, too perfect, too clean….too utopian. The irony in this ending for BSG is that he has pushed it into its own utopian conclusion: the evil technology is gone, everyone is free from their burdens and free to build a wonderful new life on Earth, free from the mistakes of the past! Sorry, Ron. That's just a little too pat, too easy. And it is the major reason why the finale is satisfying rather than outstanding. What, then, of the 150,000 year fast-forward to the "present day"? Well, despite my critique above, I have little in the way of a problem with it; in most respects it was the perfect bookend. The "heads" are there, contemplating all that has happened and cogitating on all that may yet happen. The dialogue is perhaps a little too sappy compared to what we'd expect from BSG, but it works. And while we do get the over-arching note of optimism from Six that the cycle may have been broken – for now – the underlying hint, visually and verbally, is that the break may only be temporary. Even as Hendrix plays, the camera pans across destitute people beneath glowing plasma screens showing glossy robots and human-like androids; and as it does, one cannot help but hear those words once more: "all this has happened before….all this will happen again…" in the back of one's head as the picture fades to back.

    Fitting. Completely and utterly fitting; hope tinged with warning.