2.19.2009

NO WISDOM AT THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN

Many of us simply loved the complexity, sophistication, sleek style and nuance to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, but season 4.5 has made clear that all that came before has been abandoned like an unwanted child left by the side of the road. Big Daddy (Ron Moore) just wants to move on. Forget letting the story unfold at a natural pace with a fifth season, Caprica and other projects beckoned. Wrap it up.

Some stories, more than others in fiction, are about the reveals - the motivations and histories of characters, the significance of places our characters have been or are trying to get to, the hidden knowledge which will allow our protagonist(s) to complete their journey. If Battlestar Galactica, this version, were a trip up a sacred mountain to find the hidden knowledge - held by the aged monk living in isolation at the remote temple at the top, with the No Exit episode we learned that the hooker we got a blowjob from in the alley at the halfway point where we resupplied is actually the person with the answers and we don't need to bother going to see the old dude with the white beard on the mountaintop. There is no special knowledge he has to illuminate our journey of self-discovery. We can continue on up for a nice view, the exercise and perhaps a ponderous conversation, but he has nothing to offer us - the hooker has the "wisdom."

From a structural standpoint, Moore and his writers made some terrible choices [jumping the story ahead 18 months, Baltar messiah subplot, Head Baltar, Lee civilian leader subplot, Caprica pregnancy, Cylons wanting to find Earth, Ellen as the Fifth, etc.], but the superior nature of the drama smoothed those over again and again, until No Exit - which was simply a story-killer. There is no recovery from a mortal injury like No Exit. Finding "Earth" at the halfway point of Season 4 was bad enough - isn't the journey the thing? [Especially in an exodus story!] But the backstory exposition explosion from a minor character brought back as the fulcrum upon which the conclusion will pivot is beyond absurd, it was insulting and cheapened the story and the drama which came before beyond repair. Of all the choices the creative team had to choose from for the direction of their final season and the climax and finale, this is what they chose? They could have gone with the Lord Iblis subplot and a true confrontation between good-and-evil. They could have introduced the Seraphs from the original storyline. They could have chosen Roslin, Baltar, Adama or Lee as the Fifth. So many better choices.

We know because they'll told us that Moore and the writers' room had no grand design to the overall story arc and just made stuff up as they went along, and then found themselves boxed in to corners at times and thus just dropped things [glowing red spines during sex, Head-Six, etc.] ... but it is possible to do stand-alones and veer stories offtrack and keep the overall story moving forward in a series. The brilliant, campy series Lexx was able to do this. If you watch the entire series from beginning to end it is all-of-a-piece. When Kai sees the Higgs-boson calculator figure out the number in the final moments of the final episode it is infused with ironic meaning and is the fitting end to his character and his journey. It's just perfect. Lexx dealt with repeating cycles of time and didn't feel the need to spend an entire episode explaining it.

If Moore and the writers w
ere really ambitious they would have an ironic ending about how religion is a joke and nothing means anything - an especially bitter outcome for our characters who invested so much in their respective mythologies and the sides they took in the conflicts. When done well, as in one of the final lines of Zardoz, "Bred and led from the start," it rings out with realization and the irony is rich indeed, the bitterness almost sweet it is so complete. But I don't expect anything so grand now, instead we will get contorted and contrived resolutions which are not resolutions since there is a new show to hype and a new storyline - a backstory that came after the current story in its creative timeline - so conclusions will really be teasers for the new show and backward linkage to Daniel Graystone and early AI will take precedence over resolving these characters' journeys and the whys of it all.

So many momentous, surreal, powerful moments to the drama of the overall story are rendered moot or diminished with what came out of No Exit. The Kara-Six fight on Caprica. D'Anna's repeated suicides to enter that space between death and resurrection to catch a glimpse of what held such meaning for her: to see the faces of the Final Five - to know them and understand why they are so important to Cylons. The Rapture episode is one of the best, and creates that surreal sense of wonderment as the moment finally occurs and she steps into the starlight. The take-your-breath-away moment when Roslin, Adama, Kara, Lee (and Billie) are transported to Earth in the Temple of Athena and see the Stonehenge-like pillars with the star-pattern representations below the stars themselves. When Roslin saw the snakes and the Opera House and city alive in the recon images of Kobol. When Roslin had the dream on the boat in Faith. So many moments which soared and which alluded to a grand design and a satisfying payoff for the conclusion of the story.

I guess we'll be spending more time with the hooker.
[Note: I think Kate Vernon, the actress, is terrific, and especially like her 90's era Outer Limits ep]

3 comments:

Potiphar Breen said...

I agree 200%!

This is what happens to a smart storyline when the vision ends: a nasty death by writer's committee.

(BTW: Anyone think that the Writers Strike contributed to the lack of plot development fortitude to date?)

"Lost" is heading in that same direction too. Too many things to try to explain, like the foot statue with SIX toes. What is a simple answer to that conundrum?

I still believe that there is the REAL EARTH SOMEPLACE with 100% human beings on it - not the faux Earth of the Skinjob-inhabited 13th tribe that was nuked.

And that the one God concept has not yet been exhausted and could explain Kara's 100% brand spanking new Viper. Unless Vipers can resurrect, of course.

We will see...I'm not holding my breath.

Prediction: Let's look for a Sopranos-type of ending, shall we?

radii said...

@Potiphar

If Moore does the Sopranos fade-to-black then he would be shamelessly derivative in addition to being creatively lazy.

I think they end up at real Earth, present day, in the finale

That Magic Viper is quite a conundrum, but I'm sure Ellen's secret lab will hold the answer or maybe the piano player will sing a song about it

We'll get some kind of explanation for the metal Centurion model Cylons' "one true god" ... probably just a tossed off line again (since it is so momentously important)

Anonymous said...

I remember reading Moore salivating over that Soprano's ending so I wouldn't be surprised in the least. At this point it really doesn't matter how they wrap it up. See: no good option.