This Is How the World Ends: The last season of ‘Battlestar Galactica’


It’s 10 in the morning and I’ve been watching TV for two hours.

I can’t resist.

Battlestar Galactica ends tonight with a two-hour season finale, but the last season is running all day today. And I’m watching. I can’t wait until the season comes out on DVD to see how the story lines up when it’s all watched at once; this season isn’t fussing with standalone episodes, or short-term storylines. It’s for all the marbles.

So I woke up and started watching. I woke up to the triple whammy of “Sometimes a Great Notion”: the president in tears, our girl Starbuck burning her own corpse and poor, distraught Dee ending her own story. I’m now up to “The Oath,” about which I haven’t previously blogged. That’s the thing: I’m bummed that I didn’t blog about each episode as it aired. So I’m making up for it today. These will be scattered thoughts, and at some point I’ll have to take a break to, oh, eat, but I’m settled in front of the TV for the duration.

A warning: This isn’t an intro-to-BSG thing. This is commentary for those already watching. And because the show deserves it. But I’ll get to that tomorrow, when it’s over.

Here we go.

Previous post on “Sometimes a Great Notion”
Previous thoughts on “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”

Watching the first two episodes of season 4.5 again put things in interesting perspective. What stands out is that the most important lines are hidden, not buried, but tucked under the grand moments. Dee’s death still frustrates me, still makes me wish it had been someone else, but in retrospect it seems believable (for the character, acting as the illustration of Adama’s story about foxes that give up the fight and let themselves drift out to sea) and pragmatic (in that the show needed to pare down a little bit to get through these last episodes; even with some characters gone, it’s too busy).

But before Dee’s death, we see Lee telling her about the speech he gave — a speech we were spared watching (poor Jamie Bamber deserves more to do than just speechify). What he told the fleet, or the Quorum; I’m not sure, was that they’re free. No more destination, no more mythology to follow, no more visions of Earth. It’s scary, but it’s freedom. That’s the point. It’s so scary, some characters can’t face it. Whether or not Dee is really one of those characters is still up for debate, a bit, but what follows, in the mutiny, shows that it’s too much for the very person who claims to be all about freedom: Tom Zarek.

Zarek’s mutiny is in theory all about the Cylons, and about Adama’s welcome of them. He claims to want power to be in the hands of the people; he claims (in “A Disquiet Follows My Soul”) that a revolution is in order to put the world at rights. But watching this again, I think there’s more to it than that. Zarek watches the world change in ways he doesn’t like, and his response is to take over, turn it back to the way he thinks it should be. I’ve never trusted his claims; the only person who behaves the way Zarek talks is Chief Tyrol. Zarek is a self-serving bastard who shields himself with talk of “the people” to justify his actions.

But I’m getting distracted. I don’t mean to go over things I’ve already posted about. What I mean to do, with these eps, is point out things I should’ve seen before, and things that look differently with more of the story told:

• Kara and Felix in the mess hall. She should’ve seen it coming when he pushed all her buttons, made her furious, reminded her of everything he’s angry about, from the tribunal that nearly killed him (established – let’s remind ourselves of the irony – by Vice President Zarek) to the leg he lost after being shot by a Cylon. “Is that a threat?” Starbuck asks Gaeta. “You’re gods damn right it is,” he replies. But Starbuck, being Starbuck, thinks it’s all about her. It’s not.

• Roslin, jogging while the world tries to light itself on fire. She’s as lost as Dee was, but her response is to live – to live more than ever. And as she jogs, Bear McCreary’s score is fantastic, full of action movie drums and terseness, nervousness, but a nervous strength. (The more I read McCreary’s fantastic blog, the more I’m impressed with the BSG music.)

• “Maybe tomorrow really isn’t coming,” Roslin says to Adama. It’s another moment where the important part is tucked under the more dramatic one; the drama is when she asks him whether she has the right to live a little before she dies. She asks him that about herself, but tells him that he, too, has that right. She’s still putting someone else first, even in her selfishness.

• Gaius Baltar’s speech about the humans needing to forgive God, rather than be forgiven, is absolutely fascinating in light of the scenes with his father in “Daybreak, Part 1.” His father is a salt-of-the-earth farmer type; Gaius comes from humble beginnings. And, apparently, hates it. He asks what sins his flock has committed, what dark thoughts they’ve harbored, that their God would abandon them in space, but he’s talking about his own hatred of his father. Is his whole quasi-religion about this?

• “Every revolution begins with one small act of courage.” “Disquiet” ends with two beautiful shots, the first of which hides Gaeta behind Zarek as Zarek washes his hands. But he can’t wash his hands of this. Each one of them is trying to give more responsibility to the other; Gaeta asks if Zarek is the man to turn the world right side up again, which Zarek says he’s one of the men to do that. “I need a partner.” But he also wants someone else to get his hands dirty — or dirtier. Zarek’s not afraid to kill, as we see early in the next episode, but he does let an awful lot of the death and violence fall to someone else.

• Is Roslin and Adama in bed, in the last lovely scene of “Disquiet,” the last moment of peace anyone ges on this show? This quiet, sweet, simple moment?

On to “The Oath” and “Blood on the Scales.”
Then to “No Exit.”
Then to “Deadlock.”
Then to “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
Then to “Islanded in a Sea of Stars.”