I'm not ready for Battlestar Galactica to end. I get why they couldn't do a whole 'nother season. And I believe they won't leave any plot threads, character arcs, or major chunks of the mythos unexplained. Little callbacks to clues and phrases from the last couple seasons keep popping up, as if to remind us, "Yes, we remember the show too, we know we have to explain Head Six, just give us a sec, okay? We have some great male bonding to work in here between Adama and Tigh."
But we shortcut the emotional context: the ebb and flow in the mood of the fleet. Because ever since Earth didn't pan out, the fleet has been hopeless. The beginning of the show riffed off 9/11; this season came just in time for the world economy to bottom out and for everyone to feel directionless. Where does the fleet - human and Cylon - put their faith now? And how do they maintain it? I'm not saying the series should delve into civilian life - that's never been the point - but they ran out of time for the long pauses and casual conversations that would have shown us just how hard they were hanging on by their fingernails.
Faith has to be the focus of the end of the series. Just as nations, the stock market and most of the other forces we deal with every day are largely imaginary, so is the future of the fleet. They've only been living in tin cans all this time because they think someday, they'll land somewhere. The show's mythos - its angels, Opera Houses, exploding suns and old religious tomes - are easy to buy because in reality, these folks could not survive without something like that to keep their heads screwed on straight. I mean, if they make it, it's a de facto miracle, right?
But machismo is the other thing that'll get us to the end of the show. I mean that in a genderless way - 'cause I don't believe BSG is sexist - but this is a military show, and before this we wrap, some ass has got to get kicked. Machismo's the easiest thing in the world to have faith in, because it's predictable and doesn't know any better.
Like tonight, when Adama, who's done packing his stuff for his new quarters on his enemy's - sorry, ally's - baseship, and has to watch his ship get stripped while the photos of the war dead are left behind on the walls, finds a picture of little Hera - abandoned, presumed lost and maybe dissected - and decides, this cannot stand. This little girl will be rescued, or he'll die trying.
I know I make the mistake of trying to see Battlestar Galactica in the context of current events. The show has plenty of real-world relevance, but first and foremost, it is always about the characters. Much of tonight's episode includes flashbacks back to Caprica, "before the fall," when we see Adama signing up for some one-hour task that he doesn't want to do; Roslin, losing her entire immediate family in a drunk driving crash, and being coaxed back into politics; Anders, revealing himself to a journo as a sports star with the soul of a physicist; and Baltar and Six, early in their relationship, when Six is so determined to stay in Baltar's life that she hauls his horny, cussed old dad to a top-notch retirement home, an act that's purely strategic for the Cylons but speaks to a deep trust and intimacy that must have grown between the two, before she used him to blow up the world. I won't dwell on these flashbacks here, since it seems like they'll continue or pay off next week. But I will say that while the "flashback to before the show started" thing is usually annoying - Friends comes to mind - I did find these engrossing, even though all of the cast members have aged visibly since the mini-series. But I guess that makes it more poignant.
A few plot points get advanced here, including Baltar's story. His "movement" - which has still not been explained welll (and by the way, they're still armed and crazy, right?) - now claims so many followers that according to Baltar's right-hand disciple, Paula, they're a majority on each of the civilian ships. Baltar approaches Lee Adama and asks for a seat in the fleet's new legislature. Apollo, who's not stupid, says no. But he goes a step further: he challenges Baltar to name one heroic thing he's ever done that had no payback for him whatsoever. Baltar can't, and admits: "You're right. I wouldn't trust me either." We're supposed to believe that he actually wants to redeem himself. But even in his own eyes, it's going to be tough.
And actually, near the end of the episode Baltar gets the chance to do something selfless. After Adama makes up his mind to rescue Hera, and after he gets the coordinates out of the Anders-hybrid, he calls everyone onto the flight deck. He lays a big piece of red tape on the floor and announces that he's going to rescue the girl. He'll take any volunteers - including anyone 15 years or older, including mutineers - but they shouldn't do it just to be nice, because this is "likely to be a one-way trip." All the people shuffle around, and in a very believable turn, a majority choose to stay behind.
But Caprica Six is in. President Roslin, who is weak and frail, stumbles in on her own power. Doc Cottle tries to come, but Adama turns him back. Starbuck and Apollo are in. And Baltar and his gang stay behind.
So it's on. Racetrack and Skulls, who are pardoned for mutiny, go on recon to the Cylon Colony. Quick recap if you missed last week: the "evil" Cylon's main base is a nasty-looking thing called the Colony, which is run by Brother Cavil (Dean Stockwell), manned by the tour guide Cylons, the gynecologist Cylons, and a shitload of Centurions, and as we learn tonight, is perched right on the edge of a "naked singularity," or as Stephen Hawking would call it, a black hole. There's only one way to approach it without getting sucked in, and that's to jump right on top of it, which is probably where they're pointing all the guns. And Galactica is already beat halfway to hell.
Listening to his closest advisors walk him through the scenario, Adama takes it in, looks at the charts, and says, "All right. Let's get to work."
• Two quick prophecy notes from Baltar: when Paula's convincing him to get into politics, Head Six pops up and tells him, "Humanity's final chapter is about to be written. And you will be its author." And later, when Baltar's talking to Apollo, lightly hits his resurrection theme again: "Galactica was the vessel into which we poured all our hopes and dreams." When it's gone, "a new life will have begun."
• As for Anders: "FIND THE PERFECT WORLD FOR END OF KARA THRACE. END OF LINE."
• I don't often take the time to praise Bear McCreary's score, but his theme for Caprica was especially good tonight, and was greatly to thank for steering these scenes away from simple nostalgia.
• Speaking of that, a friend of mine who's a Dylan fan was quoting "All Along the Watchtower" today. I told him, "Yeah, I'm pretty excited for the Galactica finale too." He responded with a look of visceral disgust.
• Oh, and we got to see Apollo and Starbuck hang out with Zak. That was some grade A fan service there.
• And in case you hadn't heard: next week is the two-hour series finale.