Spoiler Alert: The following concerns last night’s BSG finale, which tore away the skiffy veil of the preceding four years to reveal the bastion of fundamentalist religion festering beneath. Cast thy gaze aside if you are a spirgin and haven’t yet seen the episode. This post will still be here when you come back.
I suppose it may have been too much to hope for, that all those loose ends would weave together. Kara’s death, resurrection, and mysterious leap across the galaxy; Head Six and Head Baltar; Hera; All Along the Watchtower; The Opera House; The Temple of the Five. (And maybe it’s just me, but I personally would have liked to know how Cylon skin jobs can have fiber-optic ports in their wrists, and bands of LEDs along their spines that light up during sex, and nobody notices any of these things during autopsy.)
Too much to expect, I know. And maybe I wouldn’t have been expecting so much if Ronald D. Moore hadn’t gone out of his way to build those expectations. If he had just let the head characters fade quietly away (a perfect spot would have been during the Pegasus arc, when Baltar transfered his attentions from the perfect hallucinatory Six to the gang-raped flesh-and-blood one), instead of putting them front and center throughout so much of the fourth season. If he hadn’t kept reminding us of hybrid prophesies and shared dreams. Hell, Moore even told us we’d learn why the characters all spoke English and wore conventional earthly suits and ties (which I had assumed, up until that point to be merely a narrative convenience).
My first sense that something was amiss came with the whole final-five backstory: tacked-on ret-con, it felt like, a scattershot flurry of unrelated answers to a dozen different questions rather than a single elegant Eureka moment weaving disparate threads together. But okay. Put that behind us. Move on. You wouldn’t be rubbing our noses in the technical specs of Starbuck’s zombie viper if it didn’t matter, if there wasn’t some explanation for all those other mysteries. And so we watched enraptured as the 3-hour finale unfolded, and for the first couple of those hours, we were not disappointed. Pieces seemed to be moving into place: a naked singularity at the edge of the final campaign? Yes! Wormholes, time travel, a veritable utility belt of potential answers right there at the climax. And lo, it turned out that Ronald D.Moore did have an answer for everything, a single unifying answer that dotted every i and covered every ass, an answer almost mind-boggling in its stupidity simplicity:
God did it.
Yup. That was the big reveal, to past mysteries and to others freshly minted. Head Six, Head Giaus? Angels. How did D’anna see the Final Five at the Temple? A vision from God. How did the song that switched the FF into Cylon mode happen to contain the jump coordinates for Virgin Earth, a place neither Cylon nor Human had ever been to? Must be a miracle. What are the odds that the colonist stumble onto a world “a million light years away” from Caprica that just happens to not only support a humanoid population, but one genetically-indistinguishable from the colonists? “One might al\most see a divine hand at work.”
How did Kara Thrace’s body end up on nuked Earth after being crushed in the atmosphere of a gas giant light years away? Not even worth addressing. Why’d she come back in a brand-spanking new viper, why was that viper fine-tuned to the black box on Nuked Earth? God wanted her to lead them to the Thirteenth colony. So why did she keep getting lost when let off the leash? Why didn’t God just give her perfect knowledge? And while we’re at it, how can the constellations for the 13th Colony (as revealed on Kobol) be an exact match for both the 13th colony and our own Virgin Earth if those two worlds aren’t one and the same?
God works in mysterious ways.
It’s not that I object to the incorporation of divine elements per sé. Lots of fine fiction starts from supernatural premises, and I have no problem with it when done properly. But this is not one of those times. This is waving God in my face to try and cover up cheap and shoddy plotting. Every inconsistency, every mistake can be magicked away by invoking Divine Intervention. Speaking as a storyteller myself, the only narrative trick that might be more egregious would be “Adama woke up on Caprica, and it was all a dream…”
As the credits rolled, there were a few feeble and defensive mutterings among the assembled that BSG was about magic realism, always had been, and you had to accept it on those terms. Except not even the characters in that world accepted it on those terms. They used religion as a means of social engineering, or they accepted it as part of their own personal background noise, but this wasn’t fucking Hogwarts; these folks were empiricists, and they wanted explanations, damn it. So do I. And it’s a pretty feeble retcon to try and redefine the very genre of a show to excuse the fact that your writers painted themselves into a corner.
Moore, my man, you really let me down.
And yet, I liked so much about about this episode. The plotting may have been offensive, but the character arcs were beautiful. Roslyn’s death; Adama’s cabin; Baltar’s final, modest redemption. Even the ascension of Kara Thrace touched me emotionally; Sackhoff is a brilliant actor, and it pisses me off that anyone so wise could have been out of high school for barely a decade. The battle scenes kicked all kinds of ass. And though I don’t know why the Opera House was chosen for Metaphor Duty, I do think they pulled that element off quite nicely. I’m not quite willing to believe that forty thousand tech-dependent couch potatoes would so unanimously choose to torch all their technology and start living in mud huts, but okay: the planet was heartbreakingly beautiful back then, and after all, this was a civilization that had twice learned the hard way about the perils of advanced technology. The narrative underpinnings may have been a tawdry cheat, but the facade on the screen was a thing of beauty.
Bottom line: My heart was more than satisfied. My head wants to kick Ron Moore’s ass into next Tuesday. What did you guys think?