VodkaPundit

No Marigolds In The Promised Land

Fair warning: The following post discusses last Friday’s season finale (or mid-season finale, however you care to slice it) of Battlestar Galactica. If you plan to watch that show, consider yourself warned. Spoilers after the jump.

Another fair warning: I come not to praise BSG, but to bury it.

A lot of praise has been heaped upon BSG’s mid-fourth-season finale, “Revelations” since it aired on Friday night. Uber-critic Alan Sepinwall, whose brilliant dissections of The Sopranos were absolutely required reading, was just one among many observers to declare the episode one of the best in the show’s critically-acclaimed run.

As one of the very first US-based bloggers who told people to start watching this series in the first place, it gives me no pleasure to say that such praise is largely unwarranted. For all its technical wizardry and all the (mostly) exceptional performances, “Revelations” was just another slog through the morass of bad writing that’s plagued BSG since early in the third season. Let me count just a few the ways:

* Once again, a plot arc that had been building for weeks was dispensed of with a few unconvincing lines of dialogue. The big confrontation in the middle of the show just evaporated for no discernible reason (what, did Lee say, “Wait, Xena, Starbuck just ran in here with a goofy deus ex machina to get us out of this mess! Don’t shoot!”).

* Speaking of which, Lee Obama–uh, sorry, I mean Adama–got to deliver another eye-roller of a speech, one that would have won over no sane character–except that it did, because, er, well, that’s what the writers needed to happen.

* We got another heap of mystical mish-mash with no rhyme or reason, other than the writers needing to get out of a jam. It’s BSG’s version of the pseudo-scientific double talk that inevitably popped up in the last acts of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes–and it’s just as lame. I am perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief to get through a well-written plot point–but I’m not willing to expel it to excuse a lame one.

* Baltar went back to being not funny.

You know, if there had been a wrecked Statue Of Liberty in the last shot of “Revelations,” I would have had a great laugh. At least that would have been a memorable shark-jumping moment.

Having heaped on all this abuse, I will say this: at least the writers didn’t take the easy and obvious route for the ending, which would have been to make the humans and Cylons arrive at Earth in prehistory and become our ancestors. Choosing to have the ragtag fleet find a post-apocalyptic cinder instead of an Eden (or worse still, a present-day civilization–been there, done that, and it was really bad) was clearly the best choice dramatically. But beyond that…

There was so much wrong with this last episode, but really, it was just more of the same that long-suffering BSG fans have been subjected to over the past season and a half. It pains me to say it, but the show is suffering from a bad case of “Twin Peaks Syndrome” (a corollary is “Lost Syndrome”). It was clear from the start of the third season that, contrary to the old show-opening copy, neither the Cylons nor the writers had a plan. Lacking foresight and needing to fill multiple hours of screen time ahead of a ridiculously-delayed finale, they’ve resorted to the “plot twist of the week.” As Jonah Goldberg aptly noted,

I like twists and turns as much as the next guy, but they need to make sense with what came before. Swerving plotlines are awesome when they work. Plotlines that look like a bowl of spaghetti are a bore. The show’s non-concern with internal consistency has given it a soap opera feel, where every new episode induces a whiplashed “huh?”

I’ll keep watching out of loyalty and a desire to see the whole thing through. But it’s become a real disappointment.

Just so.

Plot gripes aside, the characters have been pushed through one unbelievable subplots after another, until none of them are even recognizable, much less worthy of the audience’s sympathy or interest. Taking Tigh, the most flawed, human (and best) character on the show and retroactively declaring him a Cylon–a move so goofy that the writers were compelled to put fan complaints in Bill Adama’s mouth during the last episode–is but one example. And for what? To generate a “wow” moment for a now-forgotten “cliffhanger?” Was that really worth it?

Like this entire season, the last episode was mostly an exercise in burning airtime until the producers could finally get around to actually advancing the overall story. And credit where it’s due, the last act was exceptionally well-crafted, and might have been kind of affecting… but only if I still gave a rip about what happens to these people.

Which I don’t. Not any more.