Roundtable Discussion #5: A first chance to make a last impression - the Galactica series finale (Spoilers Galore)

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

Republibot 3.0:
Ok, let’s strike while the iron is still relatively hot here. Who here saw the finale? I did. Who else?

Charlie:
I saw it Saturday morning on DVR.

Deadpan:
I saw it, too.

Republibot 2.0
I saw the last 2/3rds. Or Part II, or whatever it was.

Republibot 3.0:
What did you think of it? Myself, I kind of liked it when I first saw it, but I was painfully aware that it was 40 minutes of chocolaty goodness swathed in 130 minutes of sour quince log. Upon thinking about it more, I find I’m increasingly disappointed with it.  There was just a lot of stuff that made no real logical sense. I realize that we’re dealing with an outside force manipulating events which overrides some of our logical concerns, but that doesn’t erase logic entirely, which I feel the second half of the finale really did.

Charlie:
I found that it made plenty of analogical, that is, literary sense. It also makes much sense as a post-modern text. In the first case it works as an epic: the old, flawed order must be torn down and a new order founded. The arrival at “new” Earth at the end of the show was as the arrival of Odysseus at Ithaca. In the second case the show is wonderfully post-modern in its willingness to allow some mystery in the universe and to make the resolution of individual character studies as important as that of the grand story itself.

Republibot 3.0:
Yeah, I did like that some things were left open, but not in a “Tune in next season for the spinoff” kind of way. That’s not what I objected to about it. Anyone else got any thoughts?

Deadpan:
It wasn’t as exciting and “series-ending” as I had hoped for. Sure, it ended but it built up and then spent way too long actually ending.

R2.0:
Quince log? That’s a bit harsh. I was impressed by a few things, and the hippie-dippy ending wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be. Not to say it wasn’t bad…. But I think I saw what they were going for.

Republibot 3.0:
So what was your favorite part of the finale? For me it was obviously the big battle sequence. Specifically when the Galactica rammed the Cylon Colony and marine boarding parties started rappelling out of the bow of the battlestar. In terms of cool factor, that’s the high water mark of the show’s visual effects.

Charlie:
Yeah, you can’t go wrong with a great epic battle, but there were many little moments I liked as well: Baltar giving up his messianic manipulations, Boomer choosing to do what’s right though it means her death, Starbuck’s disappearance at the end, the arrival at earth, the old Galactica music playing as the fleet headed toward the sun.

Deadpan:
I would have to agree with you. A topless #6 and Boomer fight would have been better but you have to take what you are given.

Republibot 3.0:
Naked lesbian catfights notwithstanding, you know the cylons - the rebel cylons - were definitely a low-key presence in the finale now that you mention it…

R2:
In terms of visual FX and pure adrenaline stuff, yeah- it was a cool sequence... if a bit of a harebrained battle plan (with apologies to Bugs Bunny). Yeah, it was good video if you didn't think about it too much. I liked the appearance (and importance) of the Old School (circa 1977) Cylons in this sequence as well.

But what I REALLY liked was some of the parallelism between this episode and the first few episodes. One of the things that made the Cylons so deadly a foe was their ability to take over networked computer systems... so how did the Colonials disable the cylon colony? Took over their networked systems. In addition, Baltar turned down a seat in the escaping raptor, as opposed to forcing his way onto it in the pilot. Laura Roslin was once again out of her depth as a medic- just as she was out of her depth becoming President. And during the fighting, she let the future of humanity slip away...

Republibot 3.0
Good point about the reversal of taking over the ‘net. I hadn’t noticed that. On the other hand, ramming The Colony worked so well that I kind of wondered if maybe Battlestars had been *Designed* for that, you know? There’s not much logical reason for that flattened arrowhead design otherwise - and all those doors in the front still *worked* after the impact, suggesting that maybe in the first war ramming base ships and sending in boarding parties was a fairly common strategy. But I grow distracted in my geekery…What was the lowest part of the finale in your opinion?  For me, I think it was the clumsy, tedious, and rather confusing fake-out between “The Real Earth” and “Our Earth,” which felt like a huge cheat. And the more I think about it, Hera as “Mitochondrial Eve” doesn’t really work.  In fact, so much that just was dumb, really, “Let’s all be hippies” and sending the entire fleet sailing in to the sun, and Adama’s entirely unimpressive non-end, and what have you. Gah.

Charlie:
I liked everything you said you didn’t like (though I agree about the “let’s all be hippies” comment to some extent). An epic journey needs an arrival and a founding of the new city (or the hope of that founding as in the Aeneid. In the archetypal epic action, the old order is torn down—it’s corrupt and needs to be changed. A new order must be built utilizing all that’s best in the old order. The flaw of the old order was materialism and mechanized slave labor. It is overcome through the joining of the cylon and human races, both in the action of the series and in the person of Hera who becomes the mother of the entire new human race—a race which at least has a chance to break the epic cycle of tearing down, founding, and ruling and move us truly toward the new Jerusalem to which all epic action aspires. That this new order is founded on the earth that we know gives the entire series meaning and grounding. That Hera is the mother of the new race of humanity shows why she was considered so important in earlier seasons—she is the key to human/cylon survival. As a post-modern text the last episode does a great job of attempting to solve the great Modernist quandary, a problem first laid out by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein. Remember the sub-title: The Modern Prometheus. The Greek Titan Prometheus gave more than just “fire” to man. He gave “techne,” the technical arts. That is, he gave us technology. But Shelley then saw accurately what might happen when man takes the divine gift and leaves the divine out: man plays god with technology and produces life, but that life is an abomination and man’s doom. Science fiction has played with the theme ever since. From the 70’s Forbin: The Collosus Project in which an AI computer takes over the world, to the Terminator films, the original BSG, Blade Runner, The Matrix films and so on, we are obsessed with the belief that technological man is bound to create artificial life and that artificial life will be our doom. What’s really crazy is that we keep working on A.I. machines anyway, and that’s the “moral” to the story at the end of the new BSG. Modernism offered no solution to the problem of technology and man as God. Post-modern BSG offers two solutions: put your technology away (for a while at least) and accept the guiding hand of God (a vaguely named and little known God, but he does seem to be the God of love Caprica Six said he was in the opening 20 minutes of the pilot episode).

Republibot 3.0:
Ok, I’m with you on the endless variations of Prometheus - and mad props for mentioning Colossus, by the way, one of my favorite overlooked unhappy-ending classics - but while there are undoubtedly archetypes and formats for epics and mythology, I’ve never been a big fan of Joseph Campbell who - I think - misses the point almost entirely, and I’m even less of a fan of the Joseph Campbell-as-watered-down-by-George-Lucas school, since that manages to miss not only the point, but also Campbell’s point as well. Neither bear close examination. The point of the epic is that the old order is incontrovertibly changed forever. As a subset of this, either the heroes of the epic end up with more than they had before on some level, or at least the promise of a better tomorrow. I don’t think they really did that here. The Old Order, the old cycle of time, was all-but-destroyed when the Cylons killed 50 billion people. If they finished the deal and wiped out humanity, then the cycle was pretty much done, right? Instead, we follow the dregs of humanity along as they manage to *re*-establish the old order, the old cycle of time, and they manage to throw away what little they’d saved in the process. So in the end, it’s an anti-epic, it’s not about change, it’s about conserving what’s almost destroyed. And then the discovery of independently-evolved proto-humans on earth renders all of this pretty much irrelevant anyway, since it violates the “We’re all there is” nature of the show. I mean, come on, even Red Dwarf never violated that basic rule about themselves! So what we’ve got here starts out as an epic about breaking the wheel of time and ends up being a half-assed illiterate all-singing all-dancing version of Stanislaw Lem’s “The Cyberiad.” [Pause] Sorry. Getting my dander up. Please do go on….

Charlie:
Having said all that, here’s what I hated: that awful line about God being beyond our categories of good and evil. We invented good and evil is spoken right beside the line about it being our choice to break the [epic] cycle of growth and destruction—but this very phrasing assumes a choice to do something that is “good” over something that is not. Anytime anyone (especially in Eastern and New Age thinking) talks about God being beyond our categories of good and evil they can’t explain what they mean by it, and they dehumanize God. God may certainly be more than human personality, but He’s not going to be less than it. But all such philosophies about the nature of God end up being too vague to be of any use or making God actually less than human/personal—a “force” which wills but does so without compassion and even without thought. The simple truth is we can’t think apart from categories of good and evil and anyone who wants us to is being hypocritical: they are, in essence, saying that it is “good” to think beyond categories of good. What they want, of course is for God to be transcendent—beyond—a truly godly God. But they fail to understand that the reason we are what we are is that we are made in God’s image—He may be more than human, but, again, not less than. The very reason we think in categories of good and evil is because God is the maker of them—He is not beyond goodness, He is the very definition of it. In this last episode of BSG they acknowledge this truth without realizing it when the Baltar and Caprica Six “angels” say there’s hope for breaking the cycle—that’s a desire for a “good” to occur.

Republibot 3.0:
To be perfectly fair - more fair than this show really deserves - I don’t think they were trying to “Dehumanize” God. I think they were trying to give Him a bit more reverence in the Islamic sense of the word, you know? “Al Lah” means “The God,” as in “The *only* God,” because calling Him by a Name is overly familiar and shows a lack of respect, though the Names of God are all valid, modesty demands a degree of formality and distance from The Divine. It’s a somewhat more formalized version of the way we as Christians call God “God” or “Lord” rather than use the “YHWH” name all the time. I think they were ham-fistedly trying to show some reverence for God by showing Him as being removed from puny human concerns like whether or not it’s wrong to take more pennies from the penny jar at the Circle-K than you need. I think they botched it, but I think that’s what they were going for. Anyone else?

Deadpan:
The low part for me was the hippie ending, as well. The fact that the show seemed to end about six times was also a bit irritating.
 
R2:
Yeah, the mitochondrial Eve thing was obviously not thought through. I think that Moore and co. were trying to get across a couple of things- 'the future is now wide open' and also echo a Luddite interpretation of Augustine's tenet that 'civitas' is mankind's ultimate rebellion against God.
And boy, did they mess that up.

Republibot 3.0:
Any character bits you liked? I liked Starbuck’s ascension, though I understand most fans felt rather cheated by it. And I suppose it was Gay Lt. Hoshi’s shining hour, that was sort of unintentionally funny.

Charlie:
I liked Roslin’s death. As one of the epic heroes of the tale, she accomplished what she needed to accomplish—she led the people to earth as the prophecy foretold. She was fighting cancer from the very beginning of the series. It was time for her to die, and she did, in a very nice and gentle way, with quiet dignity. I liked the story of Apollo and Starbuck back on Caprica—how they almost made love and then didn’t—it showed how they were never meant to be together from the start. And so she vanished, leaving Apollo to explore the world. I liked how Starbuck’s husband (I’m blanking on his name—one of the five) tells the story in the flashback sequence about wanting to meet perfection—thus we are happy to see him fly the fleet into the sun because he’s gotten what he wanted.

Deadpan::
None really coming to mind.

R2:
I liked Baltar, oddly enough. He redeemed himself... although being only an occasional viewer, I don't quite get why his knowledge of farming brings him such grief. Also, whoever did Roslin's makeup deserves an emmy, she looked like a cancer victim on her last legs. She should've died right before they landed, though.
 
Republibot 3.0:
Any character bits you didn’t like? I thought Roslin’s death scene was the very definition of anticlimactic, given how many times we’ve seen her on death’s door. And the big reveal that Caprica’s Ghost Baltar and Baltar’s Ghost Six are angels was…meh. It should have been cool, but it wasn’t.

Charlie:
I had a little bit of trouble with allowing Baltar to live happily ever after. He was the slaughterer of the human race and the definition of self obsessiveness almost to the very end. I suppose his one choice to stay and fight can be taken as a moment of grace, and it is true that he accomplished the one task he was set to accomplish: save Hera so she could bring Genesis to earth. He was the hero of a tragic epic, like Milton’s Satan or Melville’s Ahab or Lucas’s Anakin Skywalker in one sense: he stayed true to his nature (utter selfishness) and, in so doing, brought about the destruction of the old order. But usually such a hero dies. I think he should have as well.
 
Republibot 3.0:
Yeah, if there’s a poster-child for ‘Getting off Scott Free,’ it’s Baltar. Deadpan, what did you think?

Deadpan:
I wish I had an angel like Baltar had. Where does one sign up for one of those?

R2:
Oh, you're just irritated that Moore hid the 'Seraphs' right in front of your nose from the beginning.

Republibot 3.0:
No I’m not. Well, yes. No. Ok, really, you want to know what annoys me about that? It annoys me that he divided the seraphs in to two groups - the Final Five held most of the functional aspects of the Seraphs, and the “Head Angels” had the other functions. So yeah, I’m annoyed that he got away with that without me catching on, particularly since Ghost 6 said she was an angel from early on, and I didn’t catch it.

On the other hand, I *was* pleased with the revelation that the Cylon God was, more or less, actually God. I had feared right up to the last minute that they were going to pull a preternatural explanation on that one, saying “God” was the final five acting in concert, or a network of communication satellites left behind by Kobol or the memoirs of Jeffrey Sinclair from the 23rd century or what have you.  So I’m happy - and a little bit touched - that they went with a numinous explanation there rather than a strictly practical one. How’d that work out for you guys?

Charlie:
See my post-modern and God references above. I’m always happy to see a God who is there in the picture.

Deadpan:
It worked for me.

R2:
I think that they are actually doing a better job portraying God in Kings. This didn't work for me--- and what's with the "Stop calling Him that, He hates that name, you know"? What was with that?
 
Republibot 3.0:
I don’t know. That befuddled me as well. Is it a case of post-modern openness in the script, or merely sloppy writing? Who can tell. Who cares at this point? So now that it’s all over and done and said, do you feel this end justified the five years that led up to it? Was it worth our time and effort as viewers, or was it all just kind of pointlessly yanking our collective chains? Is this story made or broken by its final chapter, or is this a book who’s individual chapters are worth more than its (In my opinion) rather lackluster ending?

Charlie:
Except for the bad theological line, I find the entire ending utterly satisfying. It follows an archetypal vision of the movement of mankind toward its redemption, a movement patterned in the most ancient of classical works and the best of blockbuster films. This BSG series was a true epic, a tragic epic of tearing down followed by a comic epic movement of establishing an new human civilization. It’s the story that is worked out in the Iliad and Odyssey together, and, as I said, is patterned in great epic literature and film forever after. And all done with a post-modern twist to acknowledge the zeitgeist in which we find ourselves. It’s not a Christian vision of a God who reveals Himself to us a little more clearly (while leaving a healthy dose of mystery) so that we’re not left floundering on our own, but it’s certainly better than the kind of Modernist ending Isaac Asimov would have ended it with in his day. This ending was almost perfect.
 
Deadpan:
I will miss the show. It was something to look forward to every week (well, when it was actually on).

R2:
I couldn't pass judgment on the series as a whole, as I've not seen HUGE chunks of it (real life gets in the way... sorry) But I found this ending accessible, interesting and nicely done. Not a great end, but not DS9 finale bad....

Republibot 3.0:
Any big surprises in here? Anything you didn’t see coming? For me, it was Kara’s conclusion and of course “God” being allowed to be God.

Charlie:
I knew they would either give us a satisfying ending that acknowledged God and purpose or that deconstructed the whole genre into nothing but despair. I was hopeful they would make the right choice, and they did.

Deadpan:
Kara just up and disappearing did take me by surprise. I also fully expected the Galactica to go down in battle.

 Republibot 3.0:
As she should have. It's a sad end for a ship, being pointlessly scuttled by a buncha' damn hippies. Ok, Last question: Anyone have any interest in the “Caprica” prequel series? For me, no, I couldn’t give less of a crap about Craprica. (Invent your harsh epithets now, avoid the rush later on!)

Charlie:
Not so much interested in Caprica, but I am interested in the fall show in which we see the Cylon plan from their point of view. I noticed in the climatic fight scene in the C&C that the atheist cylon Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell) blew his own brains out—makes me think that he might have had resurrection technology set up for himself somewhere and we might see what happens to him in the future in this new Cylon-side show.

Deadpan:
I’m not counting the days until it premieres but I will watch it and judge it on its own merit. If it is what I suspect, a cheap shot at using the Galactica name to attempt to pump a show that has nothing to do with Galactica, I expect a quick demise.

R2:
None- although with no expectations whatsoever, it has an inherent advantage.....

Republibot 3.0:
Ok, well I’d like to thank all of you for taking part today, and please come back next time when our topic will be “Which kinds of clothes hangers are best? The springy ones or the other kind?”

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