Monday, March 2, 2009

Battlestar Galactica's Ending: Get Ready to Be "Soprano'd"

SPOILER ALERT: I'll be discussing herein the finale of the Sopranos (aired 2 years ago) as well as all aired episodes of Battlestar Galactica. However, I have no knowledge of future episodes, so there are no real "spoilers" here if you up-to-date on BSG.

Is it a coincidence that Battlestar Creator Ron Moore's final SciFi Channel blog post praises the (in)famously ambiguous ending of The Sopranos? You know, the one where the screen faded to white just before the climactic moment?

Is it a coincidence that it was posted almost 2 years ago, around the time that the BSG writing staff were likely breaking what would become the final season of the show?

I'm afraid it might not be a coincidence.

But much like recent BSG episodes: before I explain anything, I have to get you up-to-speed.

As of the airing of Friday's episode "Someone to Watch Over Me", there are only 3 episodes (a total of 4 hours of TV with the 2-hour finale) left. And ever since the end of the mutiny and the infodump of Final Five backstory, almost nothing has happened to get us any closer to a discernible resolution of the story. Don't get me wrong, events have occurred. It's just that, rather than approaching some type of stable state that gives closure to the story, we are running out of story time without getting any closer to finding a new home planet or setting up any permanent arrangement for the remaining humans/cylons. The Galactica, one of Bill Adama's two ailing Old Girls, is on the brink of collapse, while his other Old Girl, Rosslyn, has literally collapsed (via Deus Ex Angina). Pretty soon they are going to run out of ships to put the people on, and supplies to feed them with, and there don't seem to be any habitable planets in sight. And we can all agree it would come off as pretty contrived (and a disservice to the previous accomplishments of the show) if Galactica's last desperate jump just so happens to land them in orbit around a pretty green and blue sphere embraced by an oxygen-rich aura.

That's why these last two episodes since the backstory infodump have been so frustrating. They don't seem to be bringing us any closer to the end. This show has earned enough faith from me that I can tolerate having the carrot of the mythology withheld. I believe the writers when they say that these two episodes are basically key set-ups to give emotional resonance to the upcoming action and big reveals. I'm just holding my breath to see the ending, so I can view this season and the show as a whole, and go back and actually try to appreciate them for the character-focused, emotionally-driven pieces of drama that they are clearly meant to be. Right now I can't evaluate them fairly, because I want them all to seem a little more . . . climactic. I mean, we have someone on the ship (Ellen) who knows a lot of stuff that I as a viewer would desperately like to know, and I'd imagine everyone in the fleet would be dying to know. And yet she hasn't explained a thing beyond what was revealed a few episodes back. Her mumness seems contrived, as though it's a failure on the part of the writers to construct the story in such a way that she doesn't need to keep secrets.

But the reason I'm geniunely concerned about the slow pace of recent episodes, and the lack of any new "real answers", is that I'm starting to get the feeling that we aren't going to really get the answers.

As I've said in the past, I suspect that Daniel, the "missing" Cylon model, has been pulling the strings behind the scenes, even beyond Caville's level, from the Final Five's ship The Colony. He's been creating seemingly coincidental and miraculous events and manipulating people via the "Head Chip Angels" (such as the Six Baltar has been hallucinating since the beginning).

But putting together the lack of reveals in recent episodes along with Moore's love of ambiguity and shades of grey (which has served this show well in the past), I start to think that we aren't going to find out for sure if Daniel was pulling the strings. I think we'll find out what strings were pulled and when, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced that Moore is going to want to leave it up to us to decide who we think was pulling them. Was it some neatly explanable physical entity? Or was it some omnipotent One True God. I don't think he's going to tell us the answer.

I see further support in the seemingly ham-fisted way that the "reveal" at the end of the most recent episode was handled, when Starbuck realizes that the man she is playing the piano with is nothing but her own imagined/projected representation of her father. Ever since Daniel's existence was revealed in "No Exit" everyone's suspected that he's Starbuck's father. We really didn't need more clues, like that her father's name starts with D or that he apparently wrote (or at least taught her) "All Along the Watchtower", the song that re-awakened the Final Four at the end of last season. It makes me think that such a big deal was made out of these clues because they are the only clues we are ever going to get. Moore and Co. are going to leave us with enough clues to form our own answers, or, if we prefer, we can choose to think that it was all "gods doing" or whatever. We are never going to formally meet Daniel, and never have anyone sit down like they did in "No Exit" and just explain to us what the frak is going on. We'll be expected to infer from this past episode that Daniel is her father (or not) without ever being explicitly told by the show.

That doesn't mean I think we'll be left fully in limbo, or even without a satisfying resolution and completion to the series. I'm 100% positive every character will be given a weighty emotional conclusion to this part of their stories (though the survivors will be left to continue the rest of the story of their lives, this chapter of their lives will at least be wrapped up in an emotionally satisfying way). I think we'll get a good idea of what their futures will look like, whether they be on a new planet, on an integrated Basestar, or with the final destruction of the human race (only living on in the Hera line of hybrids). And we'll get a resolution to the core conflicts of the show, with some sort of decisive confrontation with Caville and his faction of remaining Cylons and some sort of explanation of the unexplained loose ends, such as where the Head Chip Angels come from, etc. But we might not get the full reveal we are looking for, because the writers want to leave the themes open to interpretation by the viewer.

I sincerely hope this is not the case because I'm so eager to get fully fleshed-out explanations of the "lore". But at the same time, maybe I'm the one who's wrong . . . so far the embrace of ambiguity has been key to elevating this show above the Stargates and Treks of the world.

We'll know in just 3 weeks.


Ixobelle said...

I've got a lot of loose ideas myself, but honestly they all sound pretty dumb.

You were dead on with Daniel, and as I watched that episode, I was pretty disappointed as well when he turned out to "not be there after all".

I think the one main rallying cry that were going to find is the mantra of "this has all happened before, and will happen again and again and again" that they keep throwing at us.

My own theory is that the entire crew, and basically the whole cast we've come to know, are all cylons. This 'adventure' they have is a memorial service of sorts, that they 'relive' every so often, to never forget how it all began. They send this crew out into deep space on an old ship with a handful of lead roles, and they relive the experience of finding their way home again. Like, maybe 'in the real world' humans and cylons are all intermingled, and one big mix now. But they create this cylon fleet, give them some memory of the planet being attacked, and just launch them out into space to work it out themselves. when they finally come to the resolution, and come to terms with one another, and find the way 'home', the home they return to is that which sent them out. like the whole thing is just a pilgrimage of sorts, or spiritual journey.

It sounds totally lame as I type it up, but it would kind of make sense.

starbuck has obviously already died once. maybe that was like an accident, and so they sent another copy to the fleet to help carry on.

whether the fleet is being followed by some massive resurrection hub/fleet watching over them, or if it's some actual planet they wind up "coming back to" is up in the air.

it would help explain why baltar sees cylons in his head, though, and how starbuck is able to come back, even though she isn't one of the final five?

Hatch said...

Whoa. That's really clever. All of the "it wasn't real" explanations I've heard so far (Adama wakes up in present day suburban Wisconsin and tells his wife Laura about this CRAZY dream he just had!) have come off as insulting to the viewers, but that "pilgrimage" idea would actually be pretty satisfying if executed well.

It would be appropriately mind blowing, and it would also explain how they could end up either:

1) finding a home planet without it being a big deus ex machina...they come from there and it's been there all along

2) everyone dying at the end. because they all get resurrected and get their real memories back and go "wow history is really cool/miserable!"

Oh please let it turn out that all of the characters are actually in a VR simulation as part of their history class!