I have mixed feelings about the season finale of Battlestar Galactica, which aired Friday night. Overall, the second season has been a lot less consistent than the first. Some episodes (Downloaded, for example) were as good or better than anything in the first season, while a couple (Black Market, for example) bordered on being downright stinkers. Lay Down Your Burdens, Part II contained elements of both the best and the worst of the second season.
At the very least, this episode confirms that Battlestar Galactica is surely one of the most exhiliratingly and infuriatingly adventurous shows on the air, if not the most adventurous. What other show would make such radical changes in its premise, changes so radical that I thought at first that what was happening in the last half hour or so would turn out to be a dream sequence? Going forward, if Ron Moore isn’t very careful, we could be looking back at this two-part episode as the time when BG jumped the shark. Worse, we have to wait until October for new episodes.
First, let’s dispose of one plot point that seemed just a little two convenient. Of course, that was when the Cylons suddenly abandoned Caprica. Even though there was the revelation that the Cylons are not monolithic and that there were some who thought that attacking the colonies and occupying Caprica was a huge mistake, it just didn’t seem believable that the Cylons would suddenly decide to leave in the middle of a battle. Their departure seemed only to be an excuse to save the asses of Starbuck and the rest of the landing party.
That annoyance disposed of, however, the rest of the episode had much to commend it. The electoral shenanigans were fairly believable, and it was good to see that Adama is such a straight arrow that he wouldn’t go along with the ballot stuffing once he found out about it, even if it meant Baltar became President. Also, even though Roslin didn’t appear to have specifically ordered the ballot stuffing herself, she did tacitly approve it, showing just how far she’s evolved since she first took the oath of office with trembling hand. Starting as a political naif, she’s now a hard-core political operative, but not so much so that she didn’t look at herself with disgust and back away from what she did.
Naturally, Baltar as President is just as huge a disaster as anyone would have expected. As he promised, his first order was to colonize New Caprica. The jump ahead one full year was quite jarring and radically reconfigured the show, revealing Baltar to be just as decadent and corrupt as we always knew him to be, cavorting with his harem and letting the fleet’s defenses deteriorate to the point that, when the Cylons came, Adama had no choice but to flee with the hope of coming back someday. It was also a nice touch that the nuke that Baltar had given Gina and that she had used to commit suicide and destroy the Cloud 9, turned out to be the clue that led the Cylons to New Caprica. On the minus side, the move to New Caprica was so abrupt, happening as it did over a mere two episodes, that the transition seemed rushed. In any case, jumping ahead a year, placing Baltar in charge, and now having the Cylons conquer and occupy the remnants of humanity shows that Ron Moore and his writers are utterly fearless. They’ve radically altered the entire premise of the show in such a way that could be very difficult to resolve, and Ron Moore has said that this is not a dream sequence.
Will it pay off? (And will it be worth waiting seven months to find out?)
I hope so. I hope Ron Moore has the vision and ideas to pull this off. He’s taken a huge chance radically altering the entire dynamic and premise of the show. If he does, the best seasons of Battlestar Galactica could well be in the future. If he doesn’t, the show will likely spiral into mediocrity, and I’ll be quite bummed that my favorite SF show since Babylon 5 couldn’t keep up a high level of quality for more than two seasons.
Has Battlestar Galactica jumped the shark? What say you?