Bidding farewell to Battlestar Galactica and extending a royal welcome to Kings
When it was announced over a year ago that Battlestar Galactica‘s fourth season would also be its last, I was both thrilled and terrified. Thrilled because the show came dangerously close to losing its direction at several points during its junior year and, as Lost had already proven, setting an endpoint is a great way to get a series back on track. And that’s exactly what happened—despite a few dud episodes here and there (as well as one major creative mistake, namely the laborious and illogical twist involving the true parentage of Tyrol’s son Nicky) Battlestar‘s fourth year has mostly been terrific, as everyone involved with the show—from the writers, to the actors, to the special effects guys—have challenged themselves to outdo what they’ve done before.
And I’d argue that this final run of episodes may be the most daring (though not the most successful) arc the powers that be have attempted yet. A feeling of despair has always loomed large over the series—how could it not when the premise of the show involves the extinction of the human race?—but in the past, it’s been held at bay by hope: hope in finding Earth, hope in the leadership of President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) and Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos), and hope in humanity’s basic decency. With the revelation that the home they had been searching for all along was actually a bombed-out husk, those hopes vanished and despair ran amok. Over the past nine episodes, many characters have died (at their own hand and the hands of others), others have mutinied and even the strongest of them—that would be the steely Adama—have broken down. In other words, it’s been a rough few weeks for the folks aboard the Galactica and those of us watching their exploits at home. Series mastermind Ronald D. Moore could be accused of wallowing too much in emotional pain, but I admire how he’s remained committed to this unavoidably grim vision of humanity’s last days.
Which brings me to why I was terrified of tonight’s two-hour finale. After four years and some 80-odd hours of television, would Moore be able to craft an ending that would answer many of the show’s long-standing questions, send our favorite characters off in style and provide all the fireworks we expect from the final confrontation between the humans and the Cylons? In short, would he stick the landing? Or would he pull a David Chase and pass a non-ending off as an ending. (For the record, I still admire the ballsiness of The Sopranos finale, but I can’t call it a satisfying ending.)
Having seen the last episode, which airs tonight at 9pm on Sci Fi, I can reassure those folks still scarred by memories of The Sopranos‘ abrupt cut to black that there’s no such finale interruptus in BSG‘s farewell. This series does have an end—quite a few, in fact. I’m bound by an embargo (as well as common decency) from providing any spoilers, but I will say that I expect the episode to provide plenty of fodder for discussion. I don’t expect there to be much disagreement about the awesomeness of the first hour, which finds Adama leading a desperate charge deep into Cylon territory to rescue Hera, the half-human, half-Cylon offspring of Athena (Grace Park) and Helo (Tahmoh Penikett). This is the pedal-to-the-metal battle royale that’s been brewing for four seasons now and, man, is it worth the wait. The action is spectacularly choreographed and the intensity never lets up. Best of all, this sequences offers a sight that warmed my geek-loving heart: numerous shots of the new BSG‘s redesigned robotic Cylons kicking the crap out of the Cylon models from the original ’70s series. If these moments don’t make you stand up and cheer, than you better get your sci-fi nerd credentials checked.
And then, at the height of this gonzo free-for-all, the show literally makes a jump that completely changes the mood and tone of everything we’ve experienced so far. What happens in the course of the remaining hour will undoubtedly divide BSG fans. It’s been a few day since I’ve experienced it and I’m still sorting out my feelings. Overall, I’m pleased with how the show draws to a close; there are some beautiful moments in the final act and, more importantly, this feels like the right ending for the crew of the Galactica. At the same time though, the writing and pacing aren’t as smooth as they perhaps should be. There’s a clunkiness to the proceedings that’s distracting at times and detracts from the emotional power of the where Moore takes the story. In the past, BSG‘s grand thematic ambitions have led it to overreach dramatically and I think that happens here to a certain degree. But the more I think about it, the more I like how the show signs off from the airwaves. Sure it’s a little messy, but you’ll definitely be talking and thinking about it long after it ends.
We won’t be seeing another BSG anytime soon, but I’d like to make a quick plea for folks to start tuning into Kings (Sundays at 8pm), NBC’s hugely entertaining fantasy series, which premiered to low ratings last Sunday and is in desperate need of a viewership bump if its going to stick around. Set in an alternate America that’s ruled by Silas (the magnificent Ian McShane), Kings is a 21st century re-telling of the famous biblical story of King David. In this version, David is a young farm kid who becomes a war hero when he faces off against a Goliath—a massive enemy tank—and wins. Brought to the capitol, he is initially taken under Silas’ wing, but the older man recoils when he witnesses a miracle that makes it clear that David will one day replace him as King. That’s where the premiere ended last week and this Sunday’s episode picks up with lots more intrigue, as David is forced to go to extreme lengths to preserve the peace treaty his actions helped bring about, while unwittingly being targeted for an assassin’s bullet. Rich in detail and filled with terrific performances, Kings is shaping up to be a solid replacement for Battlestar. Here’s hoping a bigger audience discovers this unique, addictive series.
Click here to read about Battlestar Galactica‘s night at the United Nations