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This town’s religion – Battlestar Galactica ‘Daybreak’

Tricia Helfer as Six

Tricia Helfer as Six

I’ve been on the Battlestar rollercoaster since July 2008, when I inhaled seasons 1-3 at a worrying rate (up to 5 episodes per day). Here was a series that pressed all my buttons: Greek and Roman mythology, political intrigue, an epic sweeping journey, girls with guns, real world analogy, deep philosophical issues…and all of it IN SPACE. I’ve loved it wholeheartedly.

But…

Last week’s finale has engendered a very mixed reaction in me, which is gradually settling into disappointment. Details are after the cut (because you really don’t want to be spoiled for this if you haven’t caught up…or maybe you do?), but please be warned I am going to say some negative things. If you can’t handle that then please move along. I also don’t need patronising. Trust me, I got it. I just didn’t like it. I welcome discussion but I don’t need to be told that I’m too stupid to understand.

A little recap: flashbacks of pigeons and fountains and Laura in an ugly dress and cute pyjamas. Adama decides to man up and go save Hera, sending the G off in style as he does so. People volunteer.

Adama gets everyone psyched up for their impending doom. He makes Hoshi admiral. G jumps in by the Cylon Colony (you know it’s evil because it’s all gnarly). Bang bang bang. The centurions have a boring CGI fight. Lee and Kara walk around with guns. Hera runs off, Laura and Athena follow, Caprica picks her up. Zomg, it’s teh opera house! Only it’s the CIC. The Final 5 go all glowy, even Gootub Sam. There’s some more flashbacks in there like Adama and Tigh in a strip club and Adama pukes.

Cavil grabs Hera and cackles madly while holding a gun to her head. Gaius gives a speech about faith. Cavil’s like…what? Tigh offers resurrection. Cavil bites. The Five dip their hands in the goo and suddenly everything goes crazy. Chief chokes Tory and Cavil shoots himself in the head. Dorals dying all over the shop. Out in space, Racetrack’s frozen corpse falls on a button and fires nukes at the Colony. Starbuck mashes the keyboard like she’s playing the piano with Papa Thrace and jumps them to…EARTH! Our Earth! 150,000 years ago? Wtf?

Everyone musters out and the menfolk perve on the natives. Lee decides it’s time to go back to nature and the ships go into the sun, piloted by Sam. Laura’s basically at death’s door so Adama takes her on a final joyride to see some flamingoes and then she dies and he just sits by her grave moping. Everyone else scatters around the planet to…what, exactly? Gaius and Caprica reconcile and decide to become farmers. The head folk reveal they’re just what they said they were, angels of God. Lee says he’s going exploring and Kara…vanishes. Into thin air. Chief goes to found Scotland. Modern day. Heads Six and Baltar are chilling in New York, as Ron Moore reads a magazine article which reveals that Hera is our Mitochondrial Eve. Montage of robots + Watchtower, the Hendrix Version. Fin.

Yeah, now I type it all out like that it seems even more dumb. But let’s start with the positive:

Stuff I liked:

– Baltar. Baltar/Caprica, finally undoing the damage of the hideous Tigh/Cap storyline, which I never bought into. I didn’t cry at all until Gaius said he knew about farming, and his face crumpled. It’s a testament to James Callis’ absolutely amazing talent that he could make that line the most affecting in the whole thing. Here was Baltar, a man who tried so hard to escape his past, to run from his love and his faith – and ended up right back where he started. His story was dropped a little in series 4 but all worth it for this great resolution.

– Laura – it was right for her to die, finally. Could have been done better (echoing ‘Faith’, perhaps) but still moving.

– Sam – at least he got a dignified death after being reduced to plot device #351. And he got to say goodbye to the woman he loved *grumble*.

Stuff I found hilariously cracky:

– the whole middle bit from Chief choking Tory to Earth. It was like that bit in Mulholland Drive where they zoom into the blue box and everything’s up side down. I don’t know, something about having crazy eyed Chief strangling crazy eyed Tory while the hybrid/Sam yelled ‘noooooooooooo’ and Cavil said ‘frak it’ and blew his brains out was just….ridiculous. Not to mention dead Racetrack saves the day. But I can’t say I hated it. It was just bizarre.

– President Romo. REALLY?! They couldn’t have dragged poor old Wallace Grey out from retirement? Also, democracy totally thrown out of the window, which made Lee look like a massive hypocrite especially with his flashback speech to Kara. Was this the point? Somehow I doubt it. But again, I can live with this decision. I just found it bizarre.

– CIC = opera house. Huh. Was really irrelevant though because Gaius and Cap hardly did anything except spout some stuff about faith that didn’t even make a difference. But maybe I’m just bitter that my predictions about Gaius and Cap being the only ones left to raise Hera weren’t correct (even though that would have fitted so much better with Head Six’s prophecies in s2).

– the fleet decide to live on Earth with absolutely no technology (and no guarantee about the centurions coming back HELLO NEW CAPRICA!). We can rationalise this decision as ‘the writers wanted to link it to modern Earth but no archaeologists have found raptors’. This is the only way I can deal with this (metatextually) because otherwise I feel horribly depressed about everyone we loved just dying off in various horrible ways.

Stuff I disliked:

– KARA. It’s no secret she’s my favourite character from the whole series. She may even be one of my favourite fictional women of all time. She was complex – a bundle of emotions, a woman who loved and hated, dreamed and feared and lived for the fight. I totally get that she ‘ascended’ or whatever. I get it as a culmination of her ‘destiny’ (although mashing the keyboard wasn’t really a great feat). I just DON’T LIKE IT. Kara Thrace to me was so much more than her destiny. She was human, even after she came back from the dead – her fear and confusion showed us that. She was capable of loving Sam. She was more than a pawn of God. And to snatch all that away in a second? To deny her the chance to really live, having finally come to terms with herself? Or even dying a glorious, hero’s death? Frakking cruel. Even Racetrack got more than that.

– Kara/Lee. Sorry, I’m a shipper. That’s not to say I haven’t been totally aware of the flaws in their relationship. I never imagined they would just go off into the sunset and have babies. But they didn’t even get a proper goodbye. Not to mention the flashback that basically told us they were ‘broken’. I know I’m not alone in believing they loved each other, and believing they were something good at the end of the day. Now the whole story is undone in a moment. Broken. The lovely moment in ‘Islanded’ was clearly just a little present from Mr. Taylor, who we all know is sympathetic to the cause. He clearly knew what was coming.

– Family. Lee and Bill had one of the most interesting relationships on the show as they gradually rebuilt their bond. I am horribly saddened by the thought of either of them being alone, as was implied. Laura was Bill’s ‘sine qua non’, but Lee was his son. Don’t even talk to me about Bill/Saul.

– Irrelevancy of the Final 5. Sure, they gave us the nice circular backstory of ‘No Exit’, but in the end what did they contribute? Nothing. Like most of the characters, really. Except God.

– The way that most of the key themes were undermined:

-> Humans and Cylons are the same underneath. But that doesn’t matter because they won’t live together anyway, and turns out some of them are really evil and deserve to get wiped out like the nasty machines they are.

-> Parents need to die so the children can take over. Except when everyone throws off their responsibilities so neither parents nor children are doing anything constructive. Not seeing any succession in the finale, sorry.

-> You cannot run from the things you have done. Except you totally can by just pretending it never happened and throwing all the evidence into the sun.

-> This has all happened before but it doesn’t have to happen again. Dancing robots suggest this is a lie.

On this note, I want to mention the God aspect. I am 100% atheist, if that makes a difference. I didn’t hate it as a whole, because I think it was obvious from at least season 1 that there was a higher power at work, and I have really enjoyed the religious bits. I just think it was ultimately used in a really…lazy and too unambiguous way. Saying ‘God probably exists in this fictional universe’ is fine (see Kings). Saying ‘God exists in this universe which is your universe by the way and oh yeah he did all the stuff we can’t be bothered to explain’ is not fine. I’m kind of mad for the Colonial polytheists that not only did Pythia turn out to be crap (Roslin landed on Earth, which wasn’t even Earth), the Cylon god *is* the one true God (I desperately wanted the Lords of Kobol to be involved because that would have been awesome). Also, the OTG is a bit rubbish. Planning to break the cycle and then letting it (potentially?) happen all over again? Fail.

I suppose the whole thing is rather depressing because what did the whole saga of pain and violence actually achieve? The Colonials disbanded, abandoned their culture and their civilisation. The only female line to amount to anything was a hybrid’s. Essentially everyone just did what God told them to and nobody learned anything except ‘life’s a bitch’. And then you die in childbirth or get eaten by lions. I have a hard time believing Ron intended me to take this away from it all, but maybe he did and I should give him the credit he deserves.

What would I have done differently? I liked the suggestion that was floating around a while ago that Earth was the afterlife. Maybe have everyone fall into the black hole and wake up on the other side of the river. Or wake up on Caprica, with another chance to play the game. Or keep it as is (with a few changes, like Kara going off to live her life in peace with or without Lee as your preference takes you) but take off the heavy handed coda. Have Six walk through New York like Caprica in the mini. Allude to the idea they’re in our universe but don’t state it. Imply they’re angels but don’t state it. Or something.

This wasn’t my story to tell, though, and maybe I just read the themes and characters entirely wrong this whole time. I’m sorry for sounding really bitter right now. I’m trying not to let this colour my view of the whole show. I will rewatch, in time, and maybe I’ll be able to reconcile the ending with the rest of it. BSG is a brilliant, brilliant show for the most part, and it has raised my expectations for everything I watch. It’s a testament to how in love with it I was that I am able to feel this disappointed by it. Not only that, but it’s introduced me to some of the most intelligent and interesting fans you could hope to meet.

See you on the other side, folks.

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4 Responses to “This town’s religion – Battlestar Galactica ‘Daybreak’”

  1. Great summation; agree with you on all points. The ending kind of ruined the rewatch factor for me too. I can’t sit through all those mysteries now, knowing that they’re largely meaningless and they happened because “God felt like it.” Boo!

  2. Well said. And very well summarised, Neil. That’s exactly how I feel. I probably will end up rewatching, as I already have the DVDs. But I’ll try to ignore the larger plot and the mysteries, and just concentrate on the character stories.

  3. You sum up my disappointment with this too. I was started to feel the “oh no its gone way overboard religious” in the first half of season 4 with Baltar’s story. I really preferred dad Adama’s atheist views “that’s a bunch of horse shit he’s peddling” There were good moments in the finale, but to be honest when you start to analyse them it all falls away badly. I put a review up on amazon to vent my anger and a few blogs (made me feel a bit less repressed) if anything the acting made the finale if little else. They did a lot of writing off long drawn out ideas during the series, the pythia thing, the eye of jupiter (or whatever it was called) the final 5 (or was it the 3 stooges?) bullshit. I still can’t believe he made the faith stuff actually real. We should have had the warnings with RDM’s past experience with SF Star Trek generations “nexus” if that ain’t heaven i don’t know what is. DS9 dealing with prophecy etc It was kept a bit in check probably due to the Star Trek Bible. But the signs were there all along……..If only he’d kept it allegorical…………..so it goes.

  4. Loving this pithy and hilarious summary! You really brought out the ludicrousness of much of the finale, particularly the madcap insanity in the CIC before jumping to Earth. I actually burst out laughing when Cavil blew his brains out, which (while momentarily enjoyable) was obviously quite depressing in retrospect considering that it was supposed to be the climax of what had been a superb and moving series.

    One of the most heartbreaking aspects was the inexplicable decision of all the characters to live out their lives in complete isolation from each other. This not only made no logical sense (i.e. probably reduced their life expectancies on Earth to a week each) but seemed to make a mockery of deep bonds between members of the Galactica family which had been at the series’ emotional core.

    Anyway… seasons 1-3 were superb. If only I could purge my brain of the finale…!


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