Battlestar Galactica is dead; long live Battlestar Galactica

Mild spoiler alerts for the BSG finale, for those of you who care about such things.

After the final episode of Battlestar Galactica, (watched just this week — thanks, Hulu.com!) I turned to my wife and said, “That was almost anticlimactic.” No blaze of glory, no triumphant punctuation, no surprising twist. (Really, at this point, the notion of the “ancient astronaut” does not qualify as a plot twist.)

But the more I thought about it, it didn’t need to be impactful or surprising, it just needed to be perfect. I believe this series ended exactly the way it had to, with neither bang nor whimper, but with a soft sigh and a nod and rolled-up sleeves. No one gets exactly what he wants, not unless living among Lucy and the australopithecines is your idea of a good time. But if you’re on the run across all creation, having lost 99% of your species and, after losing about half of what’s left of that, you wash up on tribal, early human Earth, I suppose you’d better count yourself lucky.

And while I’m not positive 40,000 people would go quietly into a night of technology-free hardship (as our weary star-trotters do in the final minutes), I’m happy to believe, for the sake of all the characters I care about in the BSG universe, that this is exactly what they did, what they had to do. Again, that may not be splashy or uplifting, but it’s satisfying in the way that regular life is satisfying. “I got somewhere that’s better than where I was. I didn’t screw up. I did good.”

That’s kind of a messy, imperfect ending — which is, indeed, what makes it neat and perfect for this series. The Vancouver Sun thought this added up to “a new standard for bad endings,” but I just don’t see it. (The Sun‘s reviewer would have preferred to see everyone die in the big shootout at the midpoint of the finale. Wow, is hopelessness really so in vogue these days?)

What surprises me and makes me scratch my head the most is the reliance on divinity as a plot device. It’s one thing to, as BSG regularly did, inject your story with prophecy — that’s always a good plank to trot your story upon, nice and spooky and tantalizing — but the hand of God, or Gods (or It, as one character-in-the-know says toward the end) is really taking a leap isn’t it? Angels, apparently, have been characters of this show all along, in the form of invisible Six and Gaius. And then there’s Starbuck: Angel? Miracle? Reincarnated Cylon hybrid ghost? I’d sniff and dismiss her as deus ex machina … but in a show inherently about both deus and machina, I’d say it’s probably to be expected.

BSG got quite a “buy” from me in its earliest days. It impressed me with the depth of its characters, its struggles with morality and humanity, and its primal, man-on-the-run tension. Like any meaningful relationship, once you make a big buy-in, you’re in it for the long haul, through thick and thin. Where this finale felt a tad thin, I’m happy to pat in on the back and say, “You did good. You entertained me for a long time. You’ve certainly given me more than I gave you, so go ahead — ask a mild indulgence or two of me. I’m just in the mood to grant it.”

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One response to “Battlestar Galactica is dead; long live Battlestar Galactica

  1. Pingback: On the loss of ‘Lost’ « The Retort

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