Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The BSG finale

This show left me feeling confused. And not a good-confused.

I felt happy, i suppose, for the characters, but my actual emotional response to characters usually diminishes within minutes of a stories end and the narrative and thematic elements are the ones that ultimately resonate. And that being the case, it felt like a waste.

I mean, I liked the build to the final battle, I liked Baltar's decision to stay, and I was even a bit struck by the cuteness of this Earth being the real Earth and the other Earth not really being Earth - BSG has been filled with revelations that contradict previously accepted truths, so it didn't seem so unbelievable. I found Adama and Roslin, and Baltar and Caprica's, endings sweet and appropriate, even if I didn't really understand why Adama, the character, would resign himself to years of solitary life, and I didn't really buy Baltar and Caprica's reunion. (The latter, at least, had a certain logic to it within the larger format of the show. Which, it turns out, makes it pretty exceptional. Except that they should have been raising Hera, too.)

I disliked Kara's sudden disappearance and the show's refusal to explain just how she came back from the dead and just what she came back as. I also found it ridiculous that they could have so easily infiltrated the massive Cylon base, found Hera, and had so few casualties. Suicidal Final Battles need to show that the good guys have paid a price. This one didn't.

And I hated a bunch of things.
  • What about the Cylon 'plan'? We were told from episode one that 'They Have A Plan', and then one was never actually revealed? Was it simply that they were torturing the 'final five'? Because that's as near as I can get to a 'plan'. And that sucks.
  • Religion had always been used as way of critiquing societies for justifying their banal existence by way of laying claim to an exceptionalism that we should rightly be wary of. And how we're told that there is a god and the whole series has evolved according to his plan. ...say what?
  • We also have Lee deciding, unilaterally, to break up human and Cylon civilization and banish them to the various corners of the world. His rationale is that if they start over with a blank slate, they won't make the same mistakes. Except that this contradicts every bit of accepted wisdom on remembrance, redemption, and humanity's ability to learn from the past and imprve themselves - actively forgetting the sins and ignoring the oppressions of the past is the surest way to ensure that they would fall into those patterns again. I mean, for fuck's sake, wasn't that why the 'final five' travelled to the 12 colonies in the first place? To warn them because they had forgotten and would commit the same error? I wrote in a previous post that BSG has a troubling aversion to communalism and collectivism, and it seems that it pertains, too, to a collective memory. But collective memories are the best weapons against exactly the sorts of abuses and oppressions that this show ostensibly opposes. So this is a terrible lesson.
  • And what about that fucking awful ending? Here's a show that has tried (with varying levels of success) to push the human-Cylon conflict as a metaphor for WWII, for the War on Terror, for Israel-Palestine. And at the end, we find out that it was actually a metaphor for... well, actually, it wasn't a metaphor at all. It's message was the most literaly one possible - it was a warning about treating our robots well, because, you know, they might decide to turn against us and kil us. Are you fucking kidding me? Not only is it ham-fisted and absurdly preachy in its delivery, but it's also insultingly stupid. It is possibly the worst closing scene to a series that I have ever watched. Ever.
Geoff asked over on his blog how other people would've ended the series. Given that one of the few consistent thematic threads on the show was the need to prove that humanity deserved to survive and continue, I suggested that the show should not have properly ended at all - that the quest to prove your own worth is an ongoing one that will never be resolved, and so to will the fleet never actually find a home. (At least, not in the finale.) Most of the major characters should have died in the battle to give it some actual resonance and to allow the characters least fit to usher in this new existence the opportunity to redeem it. Baltar, Caprica, and Hera, at least, could have survived to return to the fleet, thus allowing one storyline to run full-circle from start to finish and provide satisfaction and assurance that they knew what they were doing all along. Maybe Roslin could ironically out-live Adama, only to die as they resume their search for a new home - and so Roslin's death, in closing the prophecy, signals that it is space itself that is their new home. It wouldn't even necessarily be depressing - there are plenty of ways to put some sort of optimistic spin on it, to give some small hope, or at least to make it seem like this society is one worthy of survival, even if it never finds a permanent place to lay down roots. Something like that.

But my god - what we were left with? It boggles the mind.

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