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Battlestar Galactica “Daybreak, Parts 2 and 3” Review (4×20)

14 Sep

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“If there’s one thing that we should have learned, it’s that our brains have always outraced our hearts. Our science charges ahead. Our souls lag behind.”

Battlestar Galactica is, at heart, a series about the ways we interact as a people, about the ways we define ourselves and move forward as members of a civilization. It has its ideas about religion and science and technology and conflict, but what it continually returns to is the notion of humanity, humanity at both its best and at its worst. Through this well-developed cast of characters, the writers have assembled a group of people who have faced unending pain and heartbreak throughout their lives, yet still find solace and purpose in the flawed individuals around them. And when the show uses those individuals to convey the dark side of human nature, it oftentimes does so with the possibility of something better on the horizon. The capacity to destroy each other, the capacity to love someone else, the capacity to redeem ourselves…human beings have the capacity to do so many things, and it’s up to us to choose where we end up. Even though the execution of the final set of scenes runs dangerously close to the show taking sides about technology, the ultimate point I see for the series is that technology is not inherently bad; rather, what determines our fates is how quickly our souls can catch up to the science.

Of course, I do realize that intent doesn’t always match up with execution, and there are certainly flaws throughout that final half hour of the series. For example, I can see why the fleet is at a point emotionally where technology can be rejected, but at the same time, the logic to these scenes is haphazard and things move way too quickly here. It, along with the coda afterward, seem at first to go against the “ultimate point” I brought up above, but nevertheless, if you dig deeper, you can see the overarching themes of identity, humanity, and choice taking shape. In the end, it’s all about what happens next for the hearts and souls, and the coda is an open-ended question about whether or not we can “break the cycle”, about whether or not things will happen again. They’ve all happened before and can happen again, but will they?

Onto the specific characters, though, who are definitely the main attraction regarding this finale. I still hesitate to say “It’s all about the characters!” as if that automatically excuses all plot problems; after all, it’s really about how the characters and the plot intersect to make each other better. I’m of the opinion that Moore does well by this in the finale, structuring it so that flashbacks, action, and goodbyes all work nicely side by side. To start off, “Part 2” is one of the most exciting episodes of television I’ve ever seen, weaving in truly stunning space battle visuals into some good ‘ol shootout scenes and featuring awesome images like Centurions vs. Centurions. It’s a masterful special effects job, and the way it leads into the final confrontation with the CIC/Opera House bit is really nicely handled.

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As for the flashbacks, we really start to see the purpose behind them as the finale winds down. The present day events serve as a coda to the stories started in the flashbacks: Tigh and Ellen finally get to spend as much time as they want with each other, Anders–as the Hybrid–finally finds that “perfection of creation” he’s looking for, Baltar finally accepts the past that he once rejected, and Roslin can finally let go, to name a few. In particular, the ending to the Roslin-Adama storyline is as beautiful as television can get, and Olmos and McDonnell give us some amazing final performances as the series flies into the sun. “I laid out the cabin today. It’s gonna have an easterly view. You should see the light that we get here, when the sun comes from behind those mountains. It’s almost heavenly. It reminds me of you.”

I’d also like to touch on Starbuck’s ending, which is definitely a contentious topic from what I’ve seen. Even though we don’t get some big questions answered, I’m fine with the way the finale handles her. Yes, I can see some of the problems with the whole angel idea, but what I continue to come back to is this: is it a satisfying finish for Starbuck the character? I believe so. Her being some kind of angel is not as key as the fact that she finally knows her purpose, that she finally gets to be remembered for what she’s done. She’s Kara Thrace to the end, and she’s going home now. Starbuck. Ya gotta love her.

And so, that brings us to the fate of the fleet as a whole. This is a group of humans and Cylons who have been brought together through both desperation and hope, who all live together knowing that unity is better for them than conflict. This unity is symbolized by Hera, and acceptance of your identity and others’ identities is essential to the survival of the human race. A fresh start is being made on a planet that we know is Earth, but for these characters, Earth is simply a beacon of hope, something they’ve held onto over the last four seasons. It’s something they’ve dreamed about and fought over and even given up on. Now, they’re here.

“Earth is a dream, one we’ve been chasing for a long time. We’ve earned it. This is Earth.”

GRADE/SEASON/SERIES GRADE: B+

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OTHER THOUGHTS:

-I won’t be writing a series wrap-up post and I won’t be covering Caprica, so this will mark my final thoughts on the BSG universe (I welcome any thoughts on the series as a whole). It’s been a pleasure covering this show through its ups– “33”, all the season finales, the Pegasus arc, the New Caprica arc, the mutiny, etc.–and its downs: “Black Market”, “The Woman King”, “Epiphanies”, “Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down”, “A Day In the Life”, etc. It’s a show that had its lows, but also reached heights that absolutely blew me away.

– “What do you hear, Starbuck?” “Nothing but the rain.” I teared up.

– “So much life…” I teared up.

– “I know about farming.” I teared up.

-I’m surprised that some people seem surprised/angry about the heavy religious elements of the finale. If you have a problem with the way it’s handled, then that’s valid, but otherwise, religion has played a big role in this series since day one.

-The Cottle-Roslin scene early on in the episode is one of my favorites of the series. Cottle hasn’t had the screen time of most of these other characters, but he’s been one of the most enjoyable to watch. This has all meant a lot to him, and it has meant a lot to Roslin as well.

-I’d like to mention the theme of parenthood, which is a huge one throughout the series. It can be seen from the beginning of the human-Cylon conflict, and it’s one that’s especially emphasized in the finale.

-I have always had a crush on Racetrack. Also, fuck yeah, she can nuke them even though she’s dead.

– “Galactica has seen a lot of history, gone through a lot of battles. This will be her last. She will not fail us if we do not fail her. If we succeed in our mission, Galactica will bring us home. If we don’t… it doesn’t matter anyway.”

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-One more round of applause for Bear McCreary’s work throughout the series. Haunting, intense, sad, joyful…he can create any mood through the use of his music, and it’s been a pleasure to hear.

-As you may notice, I haven’t written about some of the things that went down in the finale: Cavil’s death, Boomer’s death, Final Five, Tyrol’s fate, Tory’s death, etc. etc. etc. It’s not that there isn’t more to delve into about the mythology and characters; it’s just that I feel like I’ve exhausted everything I want to say about the series. It’s a rich 75 episodes, but I’m putting a bow on my show coverage now. So say we all. Thanks for reading.

Photo credit: Syfy, Battlestar Galactica

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