In part one of the series finale, flashbacks give us an idea how so many of these characters got to where they are, and Adama and Starbuck make a last-minute decision to send the Galactica off with a fight. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Battlestar Galactica.
(For the sake of being able to talk about the many things this gigantic finale gave me, I’ll be splitting the review of “Daybreak” into three parts, each one corresponding to about five “acts” of the story. Because I have now seen everything, the spoiler policy for this show is now lifted, and you are free to discuss the other two parts of “Daybreak.” HOWEVER, THE POLICY STILL STANDS FOR The Plan. Any outside information from official sources is also totally welcome, as well as at least 40,000 GIFs of Adama and Roslin.)
The opening images of “Daybreak” set the tone and format of what is to come, and the story’s themes of nature and the beauty of life are heavy. Not heavy-handed, but they’re fairly obvious from the get-go. It’s fascinating that they are then re-contextualized and contrasted by all of the things that make life so ugly, harsh, deplorable, and violent, but that’s always been the nature of Battlestar Galactica: to show us that while life is not pretty, ordered, or just, it’s ultimately worth living.
The show has used flashbacks before, but there was something different about what we see here. We’re starting at the beginning to explain the ending, and the images and stores in Caprica City before the Cylons wiped out humanity give us portraits and windows into the lives of key characters who have journeyed a long way in the past three-to-four years. In one sense, it’s a surprise to see any of this, especially in the last real episode of the show. It’s one of many tricks that the writers of this show still had left up their sleeves, and it’s perhaps the best of them all. By giving us these parallels from a character’s “first” moment and contrasting them with their last, so many stories receive a much fuller and complete end to them.
We see Adama reluctantly pursuing some sort of job post-military life; Baltar, the millionaire science genius, parades about in a limo with Caprica Six; Laura Roslin is celebrating a baby shower with her sisters; Starbuck is preparing dinner for her boyfriend as Lee Adama arrives, meeting her for the first time. All these small glimpses seemed, at first, to suggest that at one time, the lives of these people were so drastically different, so much simpler than they are now. It seemed like a fairly simple explanation, that is, until we see a phone call distract Baltar from the attention of Caprica Six. Agitated, he insists that the person on the other end of the phone wait for him, or he’ll sue for abandonment.
When we are instead shown a scene finally introducing a member of Baltar’s family (in this case, his father), it’s as if we’ve never truly known Gaius Baltar. Now we know him. Now we know why he changed his accent, why he was so hellbent on pleasing himself and doing what benefitted him best, and why he was so alone. It might be the most illuminating bit of character development that Battlestar Galactica has ever given us, and it’s all the way at the end that we get it. Baltar wants nothing to do with his father, with his father’s way of life as a farmer, and his father simply wants his son to stop running from who he once was. It’s horrifying to watch because it’s a unique kind of violence that we witness, a way for Baltar to degrade his own past and his father in the process, who takes every opportunity to be as grating and irritating as possible, lashing out at those around him for it.
We also discover what exactly happened to Laura Roslin’s family, and why we’d never really seen them: the night of the baby shower, her father and her two sisters were killed by a drunk driver. Those drops of water seen in the opening montage are then given their full context: In a moment of extreme grief, Roslin wades into a fountain outside her apartment, other people watching on, and allows the water to wash over her. Water has a strong symbolism as a cleansing agent, and I couldn’t ignore the apparent references to baptism. Was Roslin washing herself clean of what had just happened?
But then we cut to a new drip of water, this time from the IV drip in the sickback, where Laura Roslin is dying. There’s no denying it anymore. And while the great leader is dying, so is the Galactica, and Lee has taken charge of stripping her of her parts to the rest of the fleet.
We’ve come to the end, and there’s no denying it anymore.
The images and scenes on Galactica are further signs that we have reached the final chapter, and Head Six even confirms as much to Baltar himself. “Humanity’s final chapter is about to be written,” she tells him, and assures him that he will be the author. The seeds for Baltar’s ultimate end are sowed here: Head Six helps push Baltar towards leaving his followers, towards redeeming himself, and towards giving for once, without thinking of how the situation will benefit him. It’s a fascinating parallel to what Caprica Six had done years before, putting Julius Baltar into the Regency, and giving him happiness, and she’d done so without gaining anything from the situation. (Though, to be fair, I think it could be argued that she saw this as a way to manipulate Baltar in order to gain access to the defense mainframe; even so, it still doesn’t negate that Julius Baltar probably was happy.)
A lot of what we see on Galactica early into this episode is foreshadowing, most of it down incredibly well; I didn’t figure out a single twist that derived from these bits of information. I don’t think I ever would have guessed what the notes from “All Along The Watchtower” meant, and yet we see Starbuck sitting with Hybrid Anders, unable to figure out what they could represent. Cavil is equally as confused by Hera’s obsession with dots, but it doesn’t deter him from viewing her as a further science experiment for him. Tigh insults Toshi gently about his poor cleaning, chiding him and suggesting he’ll never make Admiral. (WHO FUCKING KNEW??? PS: GIVE ME THAT SITCOM RIGHT NOW.)
Out of everything, it’s Tyrol’s reaction that’s the most striking and telling. We learn that he has been thrown in the brig for freeing Boomer, and that his detachment from humanity has come full circle for him. Ironically so, he now believes that there really is no hope for the Cylons, that they are untrustworthy, especially the Eights, and he tells Helo that there is nothing he should trust even in Athena. After having his wife taken from him, then his son, and then the only person who might have loved him, what’s left for him? Why should he support any of this? In my view, Tyrol represents an extreme dose of nihilism, one I admit that I expected to consume this show. I suppose that given what Battlestar Galactica had done in the past, nihilism was the only thing left for a group of people that had nowhere to go. And that’s what Galen Tyrol embraces.
It was hard for me to have hope at this point. I’ll be honest. The Galactica was falling apart, and its crew was spreading out amongst the fleet. And even when Hotdog inadvertently inspires Adama to give Hera’s rescue another try, the odds were squarely against the humans this time. COME ON. The Galactica was nearly dead, the plan is basically impossible, and it all hinged on a newly-formed hybrid who might fail them all. But for Adama, it represented hope, and I was reminded of him clinging to hope in the miniseries, lying about Earth to give the survivors of the genocide of humans something to believe in. And so he goes to Starbuck and Anders with an idea. It’s one that’s devoid of virtually any reason or practicality, but at this point, why not try? SERIOUSLY WHY NOT?
I think the first sign that I should have a box of tissues ready was when Adama told Starbuck that he did know what she was: his daughter. Like Lee’s statement before, it’s unconditional love for her, and it’s something that she needed more than anything else. It’s a leap of faith, one entirely free of any religions connotations, something I found profoundly satisfying about this story. Faith doesn’t have to mean faith in a deity; it can mean faith for the people around you, and I think that even until the very end, that is what this whole journey means to Adama.
I think that once you consider Anders’s own backstory, you’ll see the same theme pop up. Anders never once brings up the gods or God or any sort of religious belief at all. In a way, he’s the polar opposite of Cavil in terms of his attitude: he wants to experience the physical beauty of the world with all of his senses, and his very “atheist” religion is one of physics, biology, energy, entropy, and perfection. Again, it’s foreshadowing, but it’s done in a way that’s impossible to predict because we don’t have all the pieces. Instead, it’s a statement about the beauty of life, but one that differs greatly from what others believe as well.
Yet it’s important to acknowledge that while there’s a whole lot of character development in the first part of “Daybreak,” this is mostly a set-up for parts two and three. That set-up involves what Adama and Starbuck asked of Anders, something we’re not shown at first, but slowly discover as the news spreads across the ship. Hera was abducted from the Galactica, and to ignore that is to degrade the very idea of what the Galactica stands for. So Adama offers up the possibility: anyone can volunteer if they like to send the Galactica on one last mission, one last act of impossible desperation, sending her out with style in the only way they know. And so he and Starbuck very plainly lay out a line of red tape across the deck floor, visually representing the “sides” that people will take. What I love so much about this is that it’s a very familiar situation: going off of poor to nonexistent intelligence, Admiral Adama and Starbuck have come up with a highly improbable and difficult plan that is sure to end up in failure, yet they are going to try anyway. Isn’t this what we’ve seen over the past four years anyway? There are detractors, and the dichotomous nature of Helo and Athena represents the patterns we’ve come to known: one party is ecstatic and hopeful that the outcome will go well, and the other refuses to accept anything but defeat.
When the news reaches Roslin by word of mouth, she decides that sitting back and letting the world pass her by is pointless. It’s a great callback to her own past; three months after the death of her family, she agrees to go on a blind date, not content to let things happen without her. Sure, she’s a bit bullied into it by whomever sets things up on the other end, but the parallel is clear: What has she got to lose? A blind date or a blind mission; they both have pretty terrible odds, and the experience itself might be worth it.
It’s important, then, that Adama’s final inspirational speech is one that is deeply personal and fianlly admits that fact. He’s made a lot of personal decisions hidden behind military protocol and law, and now he’s casting those all aside. This is his choice, and no one should feel obligated into or guilty for their choice. He’s going, even if it’s by himself, and he could use the help. And the line taped to the deck floor becomes one of literal support, as crew members and military personnel shuffle from one side to another, with surprisingly more people supporting Adama than I’m sure he expected.
But did you think this wasn’t going to be without one of Battlestar Galactica‘s beautiful twists? We’d seen the Colony before, but now we see why we’d never been given a full shot of the entire thing in the context of where it was hiding. Racetrack and Skulls, let out of the brig after the mutiny, find out that Anders’s coordinates for the Colony are indeed correct. OH, AND IT’S SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO A FUCKING BLACK HOLE. Holy shit YOU ARE KIDDING ME!!!!!! This highly improbably mission now just became downright foolish. They’d have to jump into “point-blank rage” and hope for the best. HOPE. Because they sure as hell can’t last that long against the offensive weapons of the Colony, can they?
THIS ISN’T GOING TO END WELL, I thought. It can’t, right? Right???
To be continued tomorrow!