Last week the final episode of the series aired amid promises that the story’s mysteries and loose ends would be resolved; but that isn’t precisely what happened. For the finale, the show took a sharp turn from gripping to baffling.
As ever, the character aspect of the show was front and center for the final episode, but unlike the four years that preceded it, this time it came at the expense of the plot. Here’s what I wrote about it in an e-mail exchange with my friend Maggie:
Long ago on Usenet, the awesome Internet film critic Mark Leeper wrote, about Bonfire of the Vanities,
…a comedy that ends with some dignified character summing up the film and making a sermon for more “decency” at the end has a hard time being all good either. In the 1950s and 1960s a Spencer Tracy or perhaps a Henry Fonda could sermonize and it would work. Here it is like getting to the bottom of an ice cream sundae and finding a chunk of prime rib.
I had the reverse sensation on seeing the end of BSG. It was like enjoying a really juicy steak for four years and discovering, only after popping it in your mouth, that the last bite — the one you wanted most to savor — is made of cotton candy.
Her reaction was stronger, she replied; she felt betrayed. So I composed the reply that follows — which will make sense only if you’ve seen the series, and of course it includes spoilers.
Feeling betrayed too, I’m casting about for a rationalization that can impose some sense on the finale, and I think I’m zeroing in on one.
First, look at things from [show creator] Ron Moore’s point of view. Whatever you think of his ability to structure a mythos, you have to acknowledge that in this age of globally connected obsessive fan groups, you don’t stand a chance of pulling off a legitimate surprise ending. To be legitimate requires your having planted clues, and you can be sure that the fan base will have located every clue, determined every permutation of which clues matter and which are red herrings, and constructed from them every possible ending long before the actual ending airs.
So what do you do, if you’re Ron Moore? Either you have to be cleverer than everyone else put together, which he’s not — or you go meta.
So you create the idea that there is a god, or there are gods, or some other force in the universe that takes an active hand in guiding events; you assert this force has a plan, we just don’t know what it is; you allow this force occasionally to populate the universe with persons who are needed to move things along, even if they have no right being there per the usual rules; and you claim that the motivations of this force are beyond the usual human concepts of good and evil.
In fact, “God’s” motivation appears to be exactly that of the audience: to be entertained. To that end, God — that is, we (and by extension, the writers) — will subject our most beloved characters to depredations horrifying and humiliating; we’ll even kill them off. It’s not good or evil, it’s entertainment! For the sake of entertainment, God — we — will create a holocaust. Never mind exactly why it happens, we just want to see how everyone will react. We’ll bring a character back from the dead, spaceship and all — not because it makes sense, but because it wouldn’t be as entertaining without her.
So Ron Moore = God, and he has a plan, and we just don’t know what it is. The fact that he doesn’t either just makes it more meta.