In the third and final part of “Daybreak,” the future of the human and Cylon populations is put to the test, and the destiny of nearly every character is finally revealed. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Battlestar Galactica.
Oh, hope. You’re a funny thing to have. I think the final message of the show is one of hope, but even then, the beginning of the third part of “Daybreak” is like the writers wanted to give us one of the last reminders that they sure love making us feel miserable. Want to feel good things about the characters on Battlestar Galactica? LOL NICE TRY. There’s so much excitement here in those first couple minutes as the Final Five plan to use their knowledge of resurrection to send it to Cavil’s ship; even Adama has time to make a joke about how little he understands the entire process. Good ol’ Adama; I love that after all of this, he refuses to engage the complicated and weighty ideas of science and faith. He’ll still be a pragmatist and an atheist, and I honestly love that the show never takes his beliefs or experiences and changes them to fit the story, nor do they insult or belittle him for them. Until the very end, Adama just wants to enjoy his life, and destinies and prophecies be damned.
What’s fascinating to me is how all of this falls apart. I’d long put the events that set this up in the back of my mind, and I think the writers knew we wouldn’t expect any of these details to come back to be important now. But they did come rushing back as soon as Ellen Tigh stated that the Final Five Cylons had to share their memories with one another; Tory Foster panics, and then I panic. Cally’s death at the hands of Tory would come to light in the worst situation imaginable. Oh god, when she starts telling the others to keep in mind that they’re all fallible, I squirmed. And Cavil’s joke about two civilizations waiting on the Final Five is SO POORLY TIMED AND HE HAS NO FUCKING IDEA.
It really was an inevitable ending for Tory, wasn’t it? I mean, I hate it and I wish she didn’t have to die, but Tyrol had been set up for the whole season to react this way. He’d lost everything that ever meant everything to him, and upon learning that Cally died so Tory could protect her identity, he gave in to the nihilistic, endless rage that he’d been harboring for months. He grabs Tory by the neck, choking her so hard that it snaps. And in the ensuing chaos, all that hope is lost in a matter of sixty seconds. I don’t think I’ve ever reacted so ridiculously to a plot twist in my whole life. I couldn’t stop shrieking at the screen, at one point choking on my spit as I watched the Cylons in the CIC who were part of Cavil’s force open fire on everyone, believing we’d see even more people die. And we did, but I did not expect Cavil to use his pistol to shoot himself, mirroring the horrifying suicide of Budd Dwyer. (I was a kid when it happened, so I only knew vague things about it, but I later saw it in a media class in high school and it’s one of those things that you never forget. I did look this up, and it turns out I’m not the only one who immediately thought of this during this scene. As a heads up/trigger warning, I highly advise against watching this video, as I’m sure some of you will now Google it since you may not be familiar with it. To say that it’s disturbing is an understatement; I still can’t forget it and I haven’t seen it in over ten years.)
The situation continues to escalate at an alarming, terrifying rate when a rock hits Racetrack’s Raptor and her dead hand just happens to hit the button that sends off nuclear missiles, and I just lost it as the Colony is destroyed and sent spinning off towards the black hole. Would this be how they all die? The Galactica is essentially attached to the Colony, and the two are being sucked into the singularity.
And then Adama orders Starbuck to make a blind jump, and then my entire brain collapses from what transpires from this order. Those notes that made no sense to her or to Cavil turn out to work perfectly as FTL coordinates. (No, seriously, this blog entry has made me love Bear McCreary from now until the universe ceases to be.) I honestly adore how this jump comes with sets of flashbacks: we see her find her body on Earth. We see Leoben call her an angel. We see her tell Lee Adama that she thinks about death every time she gets into the cockpit. We see her claim that her biggest fear is being forgotten. So I started to wonder if any of this were true, or if Kara Thrace had found a way to be remembered.
But before we can deal with this, the effects of the jump are catastrophic for the Galactica. Tigh describes it as if the ship broke her back, her spine snapping. The Galactica will never jump again. They are essentially stuck wherever they are. The crew are littered about the CIC, some dead, some alive, and some in a distant place of shock and grief. One of those people is Galen Tyrol, who has no expression on his face. His flashback is of Cally, long before the two of them were together, and she catches him with Boomer. Her warning that he needs to determine who he can trust is never more haunting or prescient. Who can Tyrol trust? At this point, the man has never been more alone, more disgusted with himself, and more upset at what his life has become. His actions upset the last chance at a peace between the Cylons and the humans, and I don’t think he ever figures out just what a huge effect he had on the future of humanity.
We do learn that effect, though, as Roslin, clearly shook up from the jump, turns to Starbuck and asks her where she’s taken the Galactica for the last time. When the camera cuts to a view showing us an exterior shot of the Galactica, I gasped when I recognized the craters of our moon below the ship. As the camera pans to reveal Earth in the background, I shouted, “YOU HAVE TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME.” In the seconds that followed, I realized that I’d been tricked, that I’d been led to believe that the “Earth” I saw in “Revelations” was our world. But I’d never seen our moon. The show purposely never showed us a recognizable continent, and I fell for it completely.
It was clear to me that this was the case when we Earth up close and it’s not the irradiated wasteland it should have been. The idea of the fleet somehow traveling through time to a future (or past) version of Earth where an early tribe of humans existed was just a bit too much for me to accept, so it seemed obvious to me this was another Earth, our Earth. Kara Thrace led the fleet to Earth. The dying leader took her people to Earth. THEY FOUND THE FIRST FUCKING GROUP OF HUMANS jesus goddamn christ what is this show doing to me
I was simply in shock and I still sort of am. My entire view of this show, the context I’d put it in, was completely wrong. As Lee starts detailing his plan for the fleet, to get them to sacrifice their technology to break the cycle, I started to come to the realization that this show was now actively (and quite ambitiously) trying to give our existence a new mythology. Like the myths of the Greeks or the Romans, or the tenets of Buddhism, or the beliefs of Christianity, I understood that this was a way to understand our world and how it came to be. By spreading the fleet’s population over the globe, they would influence humanity to come, Cylons and humans mixed in with everyone. The Centurions, now possessing free will, are given the basestar to pursue their own freedom. I like that Ellen Tigh rationalizes the risk involved in such an idea because it seems that they’ve found a way to end the cycle that has repeated before and will repeat again.
What blows me away about this is that the show has created an entire mythology about the origin of humans, one that stretches hundreds of thousands of years before we ever showed up on this Earth, and that this mythology has its own prophecies, it’s own visions, it’s own ridiculous and exaggerated events that might make no sense to us or require immense leaps of faith in order to believe in. As someone who is fascinated by religion, I found myself falling more and more in love with this idea that the show’s point was to craft its “religion” over the course of four years, that all we were watching was a complex, hyper-realistic retelling of an amalgamation of origin stories.
But before I’d get the last bit of “answers” that the show was prepared to give me, I found myself more concerned where these characters would end up. It’s an interesting parallel to “Revelations.” I found myself asking, once again, where things could go from here. Earth was found then, and the dream of a static life was over; now, finding another Earth brings about a new set of possibilities, though they’re the first positive ones the survivors have had in a long, long time. So what are these people going to do now? This is their new home, and they don’t have much choice about it. It’s from here until the final moments of the show that I also believed I stopped commenting on the liveblog. I think I went almost fifteen minutes without saying a word, just after the set of flashbacks to give our characters their final bits of relevance. Watching Adama give Galactica a final glimpse before he’s the last person to leave (and in the Mark II that Tyrol’s team helped build him) was depressing, and I knew that this was the tip of the iceberg. It was time to start saying goodbye to these characters, and Adama starts it off by bidding goodbye to the one constant over every single episode of this show: the Galactica herself. “I’d rather spend the rest of my career,” he tells his interviewer in a flashback, “what’s left of it–on a broken down old ship, than to have someone sit here and question my word.” The man gave up retirement and got to see his ship through right to the very end.
Samuel Anders’s words are next, and we’re reminded of his goal to be linked to perfection and creation that he told those reporters so many years ago; now, a hybrid aboard Galactica, I can’t imagine a more perfect end for him. Linked eternally to the mathematics and physics of that ship, he guides the entirety of the fleet away from Earth, and they gently fly towards the sun, obliterating any chance for the humans and Cylons on Earth to use their technology.
Tyrol says goodbye to the Tighs, saying that he’s just tired of people–Cylon or human. But at the same time, his mistakes and choices are his, and even if he is exhausted by what people have done to him, he still has to live with what he’s done, and that includes killing Tory Foster. Going off to the “northern highlands of Earth” by himself is probably the best idea, because his character has lost so much since the opening of this season. Of all the open ends left hanging by this series finale, I might like Tyrol’s the most; I don’t want to know what he did or where he went, because his journey is so deeply personal. He still needs to figure out who and what he is, and I don’t necessarily need to know what that is.
Our last glimpse of the Tighs cues my thoughts of when it was revealed that Ellen was the Final Cylon. I was excited by the reveal because it meant that Saul Tigh might not end up alone. Of course, I’d forgotten about Tigh/Caprica Six, so there was that awkwardness to deal with. But the final flashback these two get is a powerful message about their relationship. All Ellen wanted back then was to be with her husband full-time, not just when he had time off, or when he could escape the rigors of his job as XO. Now, many years later, and the revelation that they’re actually Cylons, the two mortal beings have all the time in the world on this new planet, and her wish has been granted. It’s one of the only purely joyous moments in “Daybreak,” and I am so satisfied that not everything here is bittersweet and depressing.
Which means that it’s time for me to talk about, arguably, the two biggest emotional moments in this finale, and quite possibly the entirety of the series. When the camera cuts to Adama and Roslin sitting in the lush plains of this new Earth, I knew the inevitable had come, and I began to dread the moment when it would arrive. When Doc Cottle said that Roslin had 48 hours before the Battle of the Colony, I just sort of hoped that he meant that’s how long she could last before he’d need to find her. Even if he did mean that, it took on a new meaning as her vision faltered while she watched the herd of gazelle leap about on the African plain.
I didn’t understand what it was that Adama was going to do to give Roslin a better view, but I was already frightened by where this was heading. Roslin was clearly dying, and as much as I didn’t want to deal with it, the show wasn’t letting me get around it. Lee and Kara follow Adama as he carries Roslin to his Mark II, and three of them exchange bizarrely-coded goodbyes. Adama knows what takes Lee a few moments to admit: This is the last time they’ll see him. And so his greeting to Starbuck is a reference to something they’ve said all along, and she knows it’s goodbye. As they wave goodbye to Roslin, the scene focuses on Lee and Starbuck, and it’s here that the one major question left for season four is addressed: Starbuck’s identity.
When she tells Lee she’s not coming back, that she feels satisfied that she’s completed something that needs to be done, she questions Lee: What is he going to do with the rest of his life? I was touched that he decided that he didn’t want to just exist and rest and relax; he was on a new world, and that new world inspired a sense of discovery and desire in him, something he’d not experienced in a while. And then he turns to find that Starbuck has simply ceased to exist. I gasped, and then immediately felt so goddamn satisfied by that image of Lee standing amongst the green, waving grass blades in the field. In that one moment, “Maelstrom” was given the weight and emotional force it had when I first watched it. Kara “Starbuck” Thrace’s actions had a consequence, and her death was real and had meaning. There was no shitty retconning of that plot, there was no attempt to deny her agency or free will, and there was no denial of her experiences in season four. They were still real, she still affected people and the fleet, and whatever “power” sent her back to direct those people to Earth never bothered to intervene and control her. She did what she was “destined” to do, and after saying goodbye in her own way to Lee Adama, she was gone.
The truth is that I don’t want to know the details of who she was. I know others do, and I accept that. We want different things from the show. I hate comparing this show to LOST (though the similarities in their series finales are eerily obvious to me), but mythology only matters so much. I want closure on the characters, and Starbuck’s disappearance gives me that. If she was really an angel, spelling that out would have made me feel disappointed. It would have felt cheap and easy.
And as much as it pains me to admit it, if Laura Roslin had not died on screen, the end of “Daybreak” would have also felt cheap and easy. Her flashback with Sean Allison ends on a fantastic note: she commits to being on Mayor Adar’s campaign for president “all the way to the end,” and we see her commitment to William Adama. She stays all the way to end, as long as she can. The Mark II flies over a pack of flamingoes and her final words are a sentiment that represents her love and appreciation for the world around her: “So much…life.”
When her hand dropped (and even now, as I’m typing this), tears burst into my eyes rapidly. Here were the two characters I loved the most, the first real relationship I shipped on a television show, and before Adama could ever build that cabin they spoke of on New Caprica, Roslin passes away quietly at Adama’s side. But when he took of his wedding ring and put it on Roslin’s finger, I lost it. As I’m losing it now. I said in the comments that I did not just weep or cry. I sobbed in such an ugly, noisy way that I almost stopped “Daybreak” because it was distracting me. I remember trying to speak to my friend who I watched this with, because I was clearly making a goddamn scene in his apartment, and all I was able to get out was a choked, “SHE WAS MY FAVORITE CHARACTER,” before I just gave in and start bawling. Even typing these sentences now, I am so unbearably heartbroken that Laura Roslin died, even though the show couldn’t avoid it and the writers showed tact, love, and respect for it. It hurts, and it hurts so bad to even think about it. I just wanted them to be together, to live until old age in that cabin, and to enjoy the fruits of what they’d led their people to. Instead, Adama, overwrought with grief, points out the hills where he’s going to build the cabin he promised her.
And he’ll do it without her.
It was nice to see smiles on the faces of people I’d come to respect and adore on this show, and that these smiles were never robbed of the hope they had. I was ecstatic to see that Helo had survived, that he and Athena were off to enjoy their new world with Hera as a complete family. It was nice to see Romo in charge without it being ironic or cynical. Maybe in another life, this is something he’d be especially good at. Maybe this is that life.
As I regained myself, I wanted to feel good about this ending and not let Roslin’ death distract me; there was still a lot more character development and storytelling in these last few minutes, and even though I knew I’d watch this again, I wanted to take it all in this very first time. It seems that Gaius and Caprica get a happy ending as well after a particularly difficult journey for the two of them. Without giving away too much, the writers use the appearance of both their Head characters to help “answer” a few last lingering questions that Baltar and Caprica have. Again, it’s not a complete, thoroughly-defined answer. All we learn is that saving Hera is part of some greater plan, and that, for what it’s worth, their lives “will be less…eventful.” Even if it’s not the Great Big Answer some might want, I was, again, rather satisfied with the ambiguous nature of this all, especially since we get the full context of it all just minutes later.
But before we do, in just a single sentence, Gaius Baltar brings me right back to that delicate and vulnerable state of endless sobbing with just a single sentence:
“You know, I know about farming.”
Lost it. Completely fucking lost it, and I WILL NEVER GET IT BACK. The enormity of that statement, the emotional weight it carries for the character arc of Gaius Baltar…gods, it is just too much. IT IS TOO MUCH FOR ME TO HANDLE.
And then “Daybreak” dares show me an image of Bill sitting on the very hill he’ll build the cabin, next to a makeshift grave for her body, saying the must gut-wrenching statement of love that I have ever heard:
“I laid out the cabin today. It’s gonna have an easterly view. You should see the light that we get here. When the sun comes from behind the mountains, it’s almost heavenly. It reminds me of you.”
I’ve already seen quite a few comments from people around the web that they wish this was the final scene of “Daybreak.” I agree that it would be an utterly heartbreaking and beautiful end to Battlestar Galactica, and I would have been happy with that. BUT–and you knew that was coming–I think the final “epilogue” of sorts is necessary on some level to establish the “mythology” of this show as its woven into the fabric of our very existence. There’s a part of me that just simply loves when fiction attempts to give us an alternate timeline or history to explain events that are unexplained, and I’ve mentioned that before while watching Doctor Who and Fringe. While I must admit there are a few heavy-handed images–such as the use of archival footage of robots–I don’t feel dissatisfied with their existence. For me, it’s an ambitious attempt to create that mythology I spoke of earlier, of crafting a complex body of work that attempts to explain the human condition. If this had just ended at Adama, I don’t think it would have been at all obvious that this show was trying to say that we are all descendants from mitochondrial Eve–in this case, that would be Hera Agathon. It shows us that she was important to the survival of humanity, that there was a reason for Athena and Roslin to follow the guides of the Opera House dream, that everything that happened in the Battle of the Colony was not without meaning.
I can see how people would hate this, and I’m not here to really change anyone’s mind. I know people who despise the end to LOST and The Wire, and both those series finales I loved a great deal. I know it might be weird that an atheist would find solace and entertainment in a show that posits in-universe that some sort of being/force/God/gods exist and has been trying to guide humanity away from their repeated cycle of violence for hundreds of thousands of years across the galaxy. But I don’t view this aspect of Battlestar Galactica in real-world terms. It may sound redundant to state this, but the show isn’t real, and the final moments in New York City with Head Baltar and Head Caprica cement this for me. It’s not a real thing, but it’s an attempt to do what so many millions of billions of people have tried to do with humanity: explain how we got here. Explain why we are the way we are. Explain why things happen that can’t really be explained. Is the science bad? Oh, it’s ridiculously terrible, and I know that. It may very well be a cop-out to just state that a lot of mythologies have bad science, but to me, it works. It works because the science is bad, because it’s a flawed but powerful way to explain the origin of humanity and the origin of our cyclical behavior.
I don’t know that we have escaped any circle of violence, irrespective of the Cylons or not. The ending to this show, to me, doesn’t invalidate any of the themes, issues, or character arcs that I witnessed and experienced. It’s still a power reflection on the best and worst aspects of human nature. And aren’t our national and personal myths simply the same thing, whatever we seem to believe?
All of this has happened before, and it can happen again. Battlestar Galactica simply puts forth the idea that we can choose it one way or another.
The liveblog for The Plan will be at 10am PST on Saturday, December 3rd. I’ll probably have a bit more to say about this show on Monday, the 5th, when my review for the last bit of BSG material is over, but I do want to state what should be obvious at this point: This is one of the most touching and satisfying television experiences that I have ever had. I am in love with this show, and it’s something I’ll keep with me for many, many years to come. Thank you to all of you who bugged me to watch this. You’re all wonderful.
Tomorrow, we start a surprise! It will finish on Friday, December 9th, and then I start Mark Watches Buffy The Vampire Slayer on Monday, December 12th. ABOUT TIME.