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Some brief & very superficial notes about BSG.

I really can't really decide whether or not I like the ending. Dramatically, I thought the whole of S4.2 (5?) was a bit odd and abrupt and the ending at least made sense of it, because it wasn't about the survival of civilisation any longer, but its deconstruction. Judged and found wanting. OTOH it's a bit depressing, because in a way it makes everything that happened before meaningless, and on some level you're left wondering why you even cared about their struggle, but it's a somewhat interesting turn and I can live with it, even if it does seem a bit like taking the easy way out. Overall, what I sometimes wasn't happy with was the flow of the story—the change between the bigger arcs and the strictly thematic episodes seemed a bit abrupt sometimes, and some themes IMO lacked build-up. The whole 4.2 revolution arc could have been so much more interesting if it had better build-up and actually showed the consequences instead of rushing off into the finale. Which I do understand was due to the show getting cancelled, but still.

Generally speaking, my biggest problem with the show was its religion-heaviness. Maybe it's not even so much my atheism/agnosticism than my ex-catholicism that makes me bristle every time I hear someone talk about a 'one true god' and his plans, but in any case I can't see this as just abstract mythology and shrug it off. I liked the show a lot better every time it focused on the political themes—the Pegasus arc in S2, most of S3 (the arc about the occupation and its fallout until Baltar's trial, the inner-Cylon conflict), the Cylon civil war and the collaboration between cylons and humans in S4. Or as Adama puts it, 'I've had it up to here with destiny, prophecy, with God or the gods.'


Character by character...

Adama and Roslin: I never particularly liked either of them; Adama was too irrational and full of mood swings for my taste, and Roslin... well. What I said before. I liked her a bit better in the later seasons, but my fundamental opinion didn't change much. But I'm not going to lie, I was sniffing a bit in the end. And they had some good and touching moments in S4.

Lee: Remained a very blank page for me, right until the end. The only time I genuinely felt for him was in Unfinished Business, the flashbacks on New Caprica, shouting into the night that he loved Kara. (Really loved that episode, btw; the contrast between the early days of the settlement when they had so much hope for this and the bleakness of how it ended and the ugliness of dealing with the consequences. And the fight was a perfect metaphor for their relationship. I never was a fan of their star-crossed romance, but in that episode I really hurt for both of them.)

Kara: Like Aeryn on Farscape one of the characters I wanted to like, but in the end couldn't, not really. It didn't help that I hated her S3 arc with Leoben showing her her 'destiny' etc. via imprisoning her for months and playing mindgames with her while her husband at least got to blow things up, or the dream-reconciliation with her abusive mother. Sharon choses her fate; Kara is being pushed around all the time. Much of her arc is determined by her mother and her childhood (although to be fair that's also true for Lee; but he at least manages to break away in S3), even while she's fighting it to the point of self-destructiveness, then Leoben pushes her into accepting her 'destiny'/death, and when she's brought back, she's... what exactly? Even still herself? A personified compass needle pointing towards Earth? Discovering her own dead body on Earth was a quite strong moment, but nothing ever came of it, because she never knew what she was. And in the end vanishes into thin air. And I wish I weren't left with the vague feeling that for all the supposed gender equality this show didn't really know what to do with a female character like her.

Dee: Should never have married Lee and let him deal with his issues and Kara on his own, instead of dragging her into it, although at least he had the sense to realise that she was good for him, which Kara just wasn't and would never have been. I do get that with most of humanity extinct and the future of the rest more than uncertain you wouldn't wait around for the perfect and perfectly reciprocal love, but while I liked her a lot in Rapture, I think I'm starting to understand why people were so bothered about Martha pining (somewhat) after the Doctor pining after Rose. Her suicide was completely gratuitous, IMO. But so was Kat's death.

Sam: Supremely boring. I'm trying to think of a memorable moment, but can't.

Baltar: Made me angry a lot. Off the top of my head I can't think of a character on any TV show that annoyed me so constantly and persistently. S4 was the worst; at first I thought being stuck with the Creepy Cult of Baltar was extremely appropriate poetic justice, but then he started to preach monotheism and developed his self-exculpating, narcissistic belief system where God created us all perfect anyway, which conveniently disbands with any need for remorse or insight, and became a religious martyr of sorts, and, just, gah. The only interesting thing about him was that in a way he tended to be the touchstone for the show's (and implicitly the audience's) ethics. Lee's speech at his trial... That was very, very well done. Because my notes actually included something along the lines of that I'd have a lot more sympathies for Baltar's moral dilemma on New Caprica if he weren't such a slimy, egoistic, self-involved bastard. Arrogant, weak, a coward. Gotcha. Ouch. Which isn't saying that this made me like him, because as far as I'm concerned he doesn't even have interesting shades of grey. When he says to Tory 'I think I preferred it when you cried,' that's Gaius Baltar right there.

Number Six: For Christ's sake, how do you fall in love with Gaius Baltar, of all people. Enough said. And way too much talking about God's Plan.

Tigh: The biggest surprise. I'd never have thought I'd end up liking him, not after how he treated Kara in the beginning, or Sharon, and kept fucking up badly, even if already after S1 I had a bit of a soft spot for him that I wasn't so sure he actually deserved. And he continues to be an not exactly likeable character, but somehow he grew, and not just on me. What completely won me over was the way he dealt with finding out he was a cylon; the irony that this man who had always been so unsure and at odds with himself unexpectedly found greater peace and certainty with that discovery. Revelations was a fantastic episode, telling Adama, and offering himself up as a hostage against the cylons. Liked both how his relationship with Adama was portrayed, and the fact that the show didn't gloss over, but outright acknowledge through Ellen that these male friendships effectively often do relegate women to the second place, so I also really liked it that Ellen, as much as she irritated me sometimes, did get her ending.

Sharon: Liked her, in both incarnations. On some level she plays too much in the self-sacrificing female stereotype, but I really liked her struggle and strength and determination to chose her own fate and identity.

Helo: The other surprise; and not just because I never liked the actor a lot on Dollhouse. Starts out as a rather nondescript character, but I loved his absolute loyalty to Sharon and love for her, his slightly Don Quichote-esque tendencies in uncovering the murders in The Woman King, or preventing the cylon genocide in A Measure of Salvation. One of the really decent characters. I don't think I realised how much I liked him until I thought they'd killed him off in the finale.

Galen & Cally: Started out mostly liking him, especially in S1 with Sharon, but I also liked Cally quite a bit and have such issues with her arc that... *sigh*. Hard to say. At least she (or the writers) ultimately came to the realisation that the circumstances of her proposing to him were indeed a bit fucked up.

Gaeta: *sigh*2 His arc makes me a bit angry, and not just because outing a character (if only on the internet) right before turning him into a (mostly) villain is horrible timing, but also because I liked him a lot, his integrity, what he did on New Caprica, Collaborators and 'I'm not going to beg', and hate that at least to an extent they undermined all that. I wouldn't say that the turn his arc took was entirely out of character; at Baltar's trial you could see he blamed himself for in a way causing the whole disaster by insisting on uncovering the elction fraud, perhaps even suspecting his motives for that, and wasn't willing to make the same mistake twice, or at least that what I thought at the time was the reason for his lie. It's understandable that the loss of his leg and especially how it happened would have made him bitter, and none too happy about the alliance with the cylons, with or without the backstory in Face of the Enemy, which personally I don't like and would prefer to ignore. So it is somewhat convincing, but they could have sold it so much better. And leave him at least a shred of integrity, e.g., trying to put a stop to things once Zarek had the Quorum shot. And speaking of Zarek, I'd hoped for a better end for him, too, because I actually liked him in the New Caprica episodes and afterwards.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
un_crayon_rouge
Jan. 23rd, 2010 05:46 pm (UTC)
Even though for some reason this show pulled me into a prolonged fanish squee for whole *months*, I agree with everything you say here. Especially the religious stuff. Didn't like that either. At all. And Baltar/Six OMG the annoyance.

And thank you for liking Helo. I really don't get why the fandom is so big with the Helo-hate. He was a consistently good guy, and that's really something to be thankful for in a show like that.

But I'm not going to lie, I was sniffing a bit in the end. And they had some good and touching moments in S4. Good enough for me :-) Now that I think about it, I never *liked* any of them at all, and if you pointed a gun at my head I'd say I liked Adama more than Roslin, but I don't know... the squee just came over me. Maybe it was hormones :-)
solitary_summer
Jan. 23rd, 2010 06:33 pm (UTC)
There is Helo-hate? Why??? Fandom will never cease to baffle me.


I liked them a lot better in S4, when she finally let go of the whole destiny this, destiny that. Jogging through the Galactica. The one scene where Tigh is in Adama's quarters and there's Roslin coming out of the bathroom in a bathrobe and headscarf. Even the two of them on New Galactica talking about the cabin she wanted to have. It wasn't the usual kind of relationship you get on TV, it was interestingly written, and I wish I could have liked them more. So I completely understand the squee. :)
calanthe_b
Jan. 24th, 2010 05:40 am (UTC)
Part 1...
Agree with you totally about Starbuck - I always had the feeling that I ought to like her, I ought to be thinking that she was the best thing since sliced bread...but I just loathed her, because the writers were so invested in making her a hotshot princess, the daisiest daisy who gets away with everything, that they forgot about giving her any sense of ethics, personal responsibility, or even basic fair play, and just threw in the 'strong woman as abused child/chosen of destiny' cliche to be her get-out-of-jail-free pass instead.

And Baltar is a cockroach. Seriously. He performs the occasional necessary function, is by and large loathsome, and survives everything. :)

Disagree with you about Gaeta, though - I felt like he, Dee, Zarek and Cottle were the only characters who got out of Season 4.5 with anything even approaching integrity (though, yes, the writing for Dee was awful from about Season 2 on - they had no idea how to do a female Radar). Each of them, if nothing else, took a position that was clearly and logically informed by their past experience, and stuck to it: and Gaeta and Zarek were, I think, absolutely right about the utter vileness of Adam and Roslin trying to force a new Cylon alliance-read-occupation (given that they weren't allowed to protest or refuse Cylons boarding their ships) onto a civilian population that had a) watched said Cylons destroy their homeworlds, lives, and families, and b) survived the New Caprica occupation.

I think this is going to go over the comment limit, so breaking here...
calanthe_b
Jan. 24th, 2010 05:41 am (UTC)
...and Part 2!
I will say I was ambivalent about Adama and Roslin until the end of 'Collaborators' (more her than him; I never could quite like or trust him), when I realised how smoothly they'd punished the civilian population for voting for Baltar/New Caprica by stealth-installing military dictatorship under cover of everyone's gratitude for the rescue. Had no time for either of them after.

And while I haven't actually watched the finale, I've read a lot about it, and a lot of recaps, and I will say that the treatment of Racetrack, and the way that human women and robot men die while human men and robot women who are linked to the concept of motherhood via human men as the fathers survive, make me sick to my stomach. Women can only contribute as hunks of convenient dead meat or machines for bearing offspring? How colonialist is that?
solitary_summer
Jan. 24th, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
Re: ...and Part 2!
I see the problem with Kara a bit differently... She's strong only in the physical sense, but mentally a complete mess, and knows it, too. In a way that is a rather more stereotypically male characterisation, but IMO if she had been a male character, she'd probably have been given more of a chance to work through her issues, and one that didn't involve being imprisoned, mind-fucked and manipulated with an alleged child of hers for months. I don't so much see it as a get-out-of-jail-free-card, as the writers not knowing what to do with her once they changed the original character's gender, but decided (from what I understand) to keep a lot of his traits, except to saddle her with a strong self-destructive streak and as much issues as possible to take her down a couple of notches again. It's extremely obvious if you compare her arc with Tigh's, who fucks up bad enough often enough, but in the end gains some control over his life, despite discovering he's a cylon.


I find it a bit difficult to see S4.2 from an in-character perspective, because the pulling-of-strings and burning-of-bridges and preparation of the end is already too obvious, but while I can understand the reason for the rebellion, IMO Zarek crossed the line having the Quorum shot at the very latest. I'm not a fan of either Roslin or Adama, but they were in a situation that was almost impossible from the very beginning, and one where almost everyone fucked up even worse once they tried to handle it: Cain, Tigh, Baltar, and also Zarek. Zarek is good at spotting things that go wrong, and good at coming up with pragmatic solutions, but he has absolutely no conception of how to make things work in a positive and constructive sense. It's not just about murdering these people—like Lee said, none of their hands were clean. But doing that would have created an impossible situation even if the revolution had succeeded, because then it'd have been either Zarek as a dictator having dissenters executed like he had them executed, or full-out civil war tearing the remainder of the fleet apart. I can understand why he did it, and that there is a point where the momentum just carries you forward, and you realise you're a dead man if you don't move with it, but it'd have a complete disaster.


But I completely agree with your last paragraph. I didn't completely think it through like that, but that is spot-on.
calanthe_b
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:57 am (UTC)
Re: ...and Part 2!
This is again going to be very long and unwieldy - sorry! But I love having the chance to talk about this stuff. :)

IMO if she had been a male character, she'd probably have been given more of a chance to work through her issues, and one that didn't involve being imprisoned, mind-fucked and manipulated with an alleged child of hers for months.

I think if Starbuck had been a male character, as in the original series, there would have been no working through of issues because they wouldn’t have been seen as issues: the stereotypically ‘masculine’ types of behavior the character displays would have been accepted as ‘normal’ and positive, rather than explained as indicators of damage that had to be retconned into acceptability with the revelation of one abusive and one absent parent.

I don't so much see it as a get-out-of-jail-free-card

The reason I see it that way is that Starbuck is one of the characters who can never be acknowledged as being in the wrong, otherwise the whole plot falls apart and the completely unethical bones of the story they ended up telling show through in all their gory (lack of) glory (the other characters in this group are Roslin, Adama and Apollo: they could flirt with the suggestion that Adama and Roslin might not be doing the nicest things, but the divine inspiration/faith and belief before all story they were telling meant they couldn’t commit to it). So they couldn’t show her ever being held to account for anything, except very occasionally by Adama or Roslin, who had the authority of age and pseudo-parental standing. And even then, it was for the wrong things. Seriously, Bill, you’ll whack Starbuck and Tigh into the deck for compromising morale but not for attempted and achieved murder? What’s going on there?

It's extremely obvious if you compare her arc with Tigh's, who fucks up bad enough often enough, but in the end gains some control over his life, despite discovering he's a cylon.

Galactica has a huge problem with denying its female characters agency – that’s not specific to Starbuck (would that it were!). I think that is one of two big differences between Tigh and Starbuck: he is written as gaining agency over the course of the series, she is written as losing what little she had. But he’s also written as confronting his problems and his mistakes in a way that she isn’t.

It helps that he was given embodied problems (Ellen and Bill, alcoholism) that were always very much in the present, whereas Starbuck was given, disembodied, problems that were located in the past (dead abusive mother – and boy, was the justification for that one stomach-turning! – dead absent father and dead-because-of-Starbuck fiancé). They positioned Tigh’s problems as things that kept affecting him, and could be engaged with, but Starbuck’s as things that were fixed, had had their effect long ago, and couldn’t be engaged with, just had to be lived with – until, of course, she couldn’t live with them any more.

Did I ever give you the link to my rant about Galactica and female agency, by the way? If not, it’s here.

And on to the next comment...
calanthe_b
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:58 am (UTC)
Re: ...and Part 2!
the pulling-of-strings and burning-of-bridges and preparation of the end is already too obvious

Oh, boy, is it ever…

Zarek crossed the line having the Quorum shot at the very latest

Oh, true. But my reading of Zarek is inflected by my immersion in Criminal Minds, where the point is repeatedly made that for most criminals psychological development stops at the point when a person is incarcerated. Zarek might look like a fifty-something-year-old man, but at the start of the series, he’s still the same twenty-or-thirtyish political rebel who both endured and inflicted enormous violence and suffering, just with twenty-five years’ worth of learning strategies to survive in an intensely hostile system layered on top of it. His judgment processes are kind of impaired, and he has a hell of a lot of catching up to do, and when he’s under stress he defaults to what he knows best – how to stay alive in a prison system.

I don’t condone his actions, but I understand where they came from: the desperation and commitment, and the inability to get past the ways of doing things that have kept you alive until now.

then it'd have been either Zarek as a dictator having dissenters executed like he had them executed

I find it sourly amusing, though, that the murder of the Quorum would have doomed a Zarek-led government to failure, but was presented as something of an underhanded gift to Roslin and Adama – finally, they could do whatever they wanted without having to pretend they cared about those whiny incompetent civilians and their silly ideas about governmental accountability! And look, Bill gets to give his son a government all of his own to play with!
solitary_summer
Jan. 25th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
Re: ...and Part 2!
Zarek might look like a fifty-something-year-old man, but at the start of the series, he’s still the same twenty-or-thirtyish political rebel who both endured and inflicted enormous violence and suffering, just with twenty-five years’ worth of learning strategies to survive in an intensely hostile system layered on top of it. His judgment processes are kind of impaired, and he has a hell of a lot of catching up to do, and when he’s under stress he defaults to what he knows best – how to stay alive in a prison system.

Again, I agree absolutely.

And look, Bill gets to give his son a government all of his own to play with!

I was really rushing through the last episodes at this point without giving myself time to think about it, but at this point I was wondering how they would go on as a society after this, and it wasn't much of a surprise to find out that they weren't supposed to...
calanthe_b
Jan. 26th, 2010 03:41 am (UTC)
Re: ...and Part 2!
Above anon post was me, sorry - forgot I wasn't logged in!

at this point I was wondering how they would go on as a society after this, and it wasn't much of a surprise to find out that they weren't supposed to...

I think tonally that plot point might have worked a bit better if hadn't been presented as an unproblematic positive! But then they wouldn't have got to have their triple whammy of God Did It, Alien Astronauts, and History Repeats in the final scene. We're just supposed to be happy with the image of Lee going off to climb mountains or something without stopping to think that he'd better not cut himself on a bit of bark or get dirt in a broken blister, because, um, no antibiotics any more...
solitary_summer
Jan. 27th, 2010 10:47 am (UTC)
Re: ...and Part 2!
We're just supposed to be happy with the image of Lee going off to climb mountains or something without stopping to think that he'd better not cut himself on a bit of bark or get dirt in a broken blister, because, um, no antibiotics any more...

This! Not that it wouldn't have been hard, if not impossible to keep even remainders of civilisation and its benefits in any case, but to blithely throw it away like this without a second thought? Dying of diseases and injuries they could have healed before, or diseases they don't even know yet, women dying in childbirth, infant mortality rates rocketing, battling off predators and possibly hostile native with spears very soon? I can't quite figure out if this ending is deliberately pessimistic or just incredibly naive.
calanthe_b
Jan. 27th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
Re: ...and Part 2!
I'm inclined to go with insultingly naive, myself. :)
solitary_summer
Jan. 25th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
Re: ...and Part 2!
Word, word, and word on your rant. You gave me the link before, but I didn't read it then because I didn't want to be spoiled, but I think it was after Kat's completely pointless and random death in an episode that was only a filler anyway, that I wrote in my notes, wow, calanthe_b wasn't kidding about the increase in female suicides. And you're putting into words what always faintly bugged me about Athena's arc. Seen strictly from within the story it makes sense, since the cylons did after all more or less wipe out humanity, but put into a wider context it is problematic, and I could never entirely shake off the feeling that the fact that she was played by an Asian-Canadian actress sometimes added to the problem. Brilliant analysis; I agree 110% with every word. You've obviously thought about this a lot more than I did, because in the end I wasn't so invested or watching very carefully, but mostly wanted to know how it ends, even though on some level I thought I might be coming back for a more in-depth analysis eventually. (Which now that I've seen the end I doubt I'll be doing; it seems a bit... pointless.)
(Anonymous)
Jan. 26th, 2010 03:36 am (UTC)
Re: ...and Part 2!
And you're putting into words what always faintly bugged me about Athena's arc. Seen strictly from within the story it makes sense, since the cylons did after all more or less wipe out humanity, but put into a wider context it is problematic, and I could never entirely shake off the feeling that the fact that she was played by an Asian-Canadian actress sometimes added to the problem.

About Athena being played by a Korean-Asian actor, I read an interesting quote from Grace Park in the Season 4 companion, to the effect that she always kind of had in her mind the idea that Athena could never get too comfortable in the Fleet because she knew that people's acceptance only stretched so far (look at the way she's part of the crew on the Demetrius, a trusted voice, only up to the point when Pike needs someone to take a poke at). So the character really worked hard at being - in Grace Park's exact words - a 'model minority', and 'assimilating'.

It was never exactly in the script, but it was very definitely in the subtext, and intentionally. I don't think the writers would ever have unpacked that - it wasn't one of the palces they wanted to go, because Athena and Helo were their model human/Cylon couple - but Grace Park was clearly aware of the problematic situation Athena was in, and commented on it in her own way, as a performer.

And yes, the final episode does a rather brilliant job of making the whole of what went before seem utterly meaningless, doesn't it? I've never seen a show turn on itself quite so spectacularly before...
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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