The series finale only had one real question to answer: does humanity deserve to survive?
And the answer comes down to, well … yes. If we're nice to our robots.
So take a minute. If you have a robot in your house - even just a toy shaped like a robot, or a fucking coffeemaker or something - go pet it. Spend some time with it. The future's in your hands.
That's the message I took away from tonight's series finale, and while I think it'll deserve some more thought (and I am eager to see what you all make of it in the comments), I'm a little gobsmacked. I like to come in and try to make sense of what I saw right after seeing it, and this? I don't know. I want to think there's more going on here, but I think we're going to have to work on this together.
Or we could just blow it. Because that's what humanity seemed to do at the one-hour mark of tonight's two-plus hour finale. In the first half, Adama leads the Galactica on her final mission: to rescue the little girl Hera from the clutches of the evil Brother Cavil, in the heart of enemy territory, with a one in a million chance of success but a daring plan that might just see them through. The action and the dogfights and the explosions, the barrage on Galactica's creaking hull, the moment when Racetrack's dead hand sets off the armed nukes on her ship and wipes out the bad Cylons once and for all - that's great action. And we even get the observations of military tradition that always gave the show gravity, tradition, and import. That's Galactica at its finest.
Then, in the other hour, everyone settles down and builds a hut, or drops dead. We'll get to that.
The crucial part of the episode - the section where the show, and I mean the entire show, could have gone either way - comes in the middle. The Galactica crew came to the Colony to rescue Hera, a half-human half-Cylon who holds the fate of both civilizations in her DNA. While the good guys have rescued her and brought her back to the ship, Cavil and his troops are hot on their heels. All the major characters end up in the CIC, where the Final Five - including Anders, in his hybrid tub - stand up in the mezzanine, just like the Opera House dream sequences we've always seen, and Baltar and Caprica Six run in holding Hera, and that's when Cavil gets his mitts on the little girl. They're in a standoff. The guns fall silent.
And that's when Baltar finally saves the day.
He starts talking to Cavil. He whips out some Head-Spinning Bullshit +5. He tells Cavil, who'd be twirling a moustache if he had one, that he has to let Hera go. Why? Because they're called to peace. Strange forces have led them here. Something beyond "the rational." "I see angels. Angels in this very room," he declares, referring to Head Six and Head Baltar. "Our two destinies are entwined."
Cavil asks - and it's a good question - "How do you know God is on your side, Doctor?" After all, as villainous as Cavil seems, he has a point. His civilization - his half of the Cylon race - depends on resurrection for its future. Not only are Cylons unable to breed with each other, but Cavil's side just lost its last uterus. But Baltar keeps going. "God's not on any side." He's beyond good or evil. And only if they trust each other - and make a "leap of faith" - can they break the cycle of "birth, death, rebirth, destruction … ." The way he makes it sound, they could break this whole cycle - the whole "it happened before, it will happen again" - and maybe even transcend the mortal coil itself. I'm reading a lot into these fragments, I know. But hey, we the audience are taking a leap of faith too.
So that's when they broker a deal: Tigh tells Cavil that the Final Five will give him back resurrection. If the war ends, if Cavil goes his way and the rest of them go theirs, and if Hera stays on Galactica, then they'll download the specs for the technology to Cavil's hybrids. Adama signs on. A truce has been brokered.
Cut to ad break. Were your ads as cheesy as mine? Half the ones I saw were for debt consolidation agencies, and it seemed like we had another break every three frakking minutes.
Anyway: we have a truce, and it echoes the one on Kobol: the Thirteenth Colony - because of course, the Cylon headquarters is literally the Thirteenth Colony - will split from the rest, and pursue resurrection instead of reproduction. But something different happens this time.
The Final Five each have a piece of the technology, and they can only piece it together if they do a kind of mind meld in Anders' tub. There's just one problem: they'll know everything there is to know about each other. Tori is reluctant, because as you'll remember, she killed Tyrol's wife Cally not long ago and then passed it off as a suicide. Before she dips her hand in, she stammers that hey, we all have secrets in our past, and we've all forgiven people for stuff. She might as well have pointed at Caprica, who's been so far forgiven that they nicknamed her for her holocaust. We're all into redemption, right?
Well, Tyrol's not. After fucking up so badly just two weeks ago, in fact, being the key reason that all this mayhem had to happen tonight in the first place, Tyrol can't forgive Tori for her murder. Far from it. Although really, it's hard to argue that he was even rational. When he sees her memories, his hands jump out of the tub - breaking the data connection, and breaking the truce - and he strangles Tori to death. The secret to resurrection is lost. Everyone in the CIC goes batshit. Guns blze. Cavil realizes so clearly that he's done that he just shouts "FRAK!" and shoots himself in the head. Racetrack's post-humous nukes blow up the Colony. And Galactica jumps away.
Starbuck's the one who makes the jump. She punches in the coordinates from the "All Along the Watchtower Song" - the exact number is 1123 6526 5321. "There must be some way out of there," she says, which feels extremely forced. And zap.
The coordinates take them to Earth. Not the glow-in-the-dark Cylon Earth - the real Earth, our Earth. Look, there's Africa and everything.
The main characters from the series - the ones still left, anyway - each get a happy ending. Tigh and Ellen, Baltar and Caprica, Apollo, Adama, Helo and Athena and Hera - they all wander through the grasslands and make plans to hunt, and gather, and enjoy a simpler, less eventful tomorrow. Starbuck just vanishes in thin air, which you know she's going to do the moment she slips out of the frame while Apollo's going on about his rockclimbing plans. Roslin dies of cancer - and that choked me up - but she dies at peace.
The humans go back to a tribal civilization, throw away their material goods and creature comforts, and send their whole fleet of spaceships crashing into the sun. It's Apollo idea that they can "break the cycle" by shunning technology. Never mind that as long as there's wildlife, man will invent helicopters from which to shoot it. He thinks this time, if they throw away the apple, they can stay in Eden.
And then we skip forward 150,000 years to the present day, and the bottom falls out of the entire series.
No matter how I rationalize the arc of the show, I will never forgive Ron Moore for taking us to modern day Earth, putting himself into the scene skimming a copy of National Geographic, and telling us the reason that Hera's so special is that she's the "Mitochondrial Eve." And then, in a soul-crushing montage of images of real-life robots, we get the show's message: the cycle can repeat again, and this time it'll be our fault. Robots are amongst us. We treat them as spectacles and toys. But we must not abuse them. They will attack.
Setting that aside for the moment. I get that humanity's fate is not sealed. If humanity could learn to forgive - if we could instinctively accept redemption - there would have been a truce. Cavil's people would have gone off, which I guess is … well, I guess it doesn't really matter. If Cavil had survived, they would have repeated the cycle from Kobol. Without Cavil, we have one less enemy roaming the galaxy, but we still run the risk of repeating the cycle. So, I guess Cavil's basically just "the bad guy"?
As for the show's other mysteries - forget about 'em. Several times tonight, you could practically hear the bristles of their brushes as Moore and his crew painted themselves into a corner. The overt references to the Opera House dream seemed forced; it's not like Hera could have wound up in the CIC just by, you know, walking there. Starbuck never figures out who or what she is, which feels like a copout. And we don't get much of an explanation of Head Six or Head Baltar, except that they're immortal agents of God - through as Baltar growls satantically, "You know it doesn't like to be called that." I don't think any story has to give away all its mysteries. But there's a difference between, say, a David Lynch film - where the whole thing plays in a kind of ambiguous reality - and a science fiction show, where a rational explanation is presumed to lurk behind almost everything. If you found Y: The Last Man frustrating, this will drive you up a wall. In fact, a few of the plot points - Anders' tub in the control center, the arrival of humans on prehistoric Earth - reminded me not so much of any magnificent myths, as The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Except Douglas Adams meant to write a satire.
Also, a lot of basic and mundane things don't add up for me, like: if humanity writ large is doomed, then why do all these totally human cavepeople need Hera and the other colonials and Cylons to show up, when they could invent toothbrushes and the cotton gin and nuclear bombs all on their own? And why is Hera a common ancestor to most of humanity? Last I saw, there were 38,000 people wandering around the place, not counting cavepeople. The minute Hera stopped giving Cavil and the Galacticans something to argue about, she stopped being special, as far as I can tell.
Part of me is actually scared that, even though there are grand themes here - even though you can read this as suggesting that humanity will only deserve to survive if we are honorable, if we keep our word, if our hearts catch up with our brains, if we treat our children - both biological and artificial - with dignity and nurture them to be better than what came before, that "God's plan," whatever it is, is to test us and if we succeed - and I don't just mean punting, and going tribal, but if we really go through with evolution and invent the microchip and reach our test and this time we pass, then we win the celestial kingdom, and if we fail, a flood washes us almost completely away, or, wanting a flood, it's killer robots with nukes, and we have to try all over again … well, that would be cool.
But even though I can look back at the last four years and see all of that, I'm actually really scared that Ron Moore thinks his AIBO is out to fucking kill him.
• Big, big, big thanks again to all the commenters who make this their place to debate Daniel's role and how a naked singularity works and how all this works anyway. I can't wait to go back and forth on this one.
• Who told Jamie Barber and Katee Sackhoff that this was Sexy Hair Week?
• I was disappointed that the flashbacks to Caprica didn't lead anywhere more revealing. Adama doesn't like people questioning his word? We knew that. Apollo wanted to have sex with Starbuck? Yeah, I've been here the last four seasons, too. Baltar's da'? Gone. And Apollo never even won the fight with that pigeon.
• When Baltar and Caprica both realize they see Head Six and Head Baltar, it leads to a weirdly screwball comedy moment. I can see them ending up together, but the way it happened was clunky as hell.
• Forgot to mention, the Centurions win their freedom and get to leave for outer space in their own Base Ship. Do I smell another spin-off?
• In her flashback, when Roslin kicks her former student Sean out of bed and out the door, did anyone else think, "Yep, she's giving him the airlock"?
• Which is a bigger male movie star rite of passage: going full frontal like Harvey Keitel, or vomiting all over yourself, like Edward James Olmos tonight?
• Does tonight's wrap-up make you more or less interested in seeing the BSG spin-off Caprica?