No Marigolds In The Promised Land

Fair warning: The following post discusses last Friday’s season finale (or mid-season finale, however you care to slice it) of Battlestar Galactica. If you plan to watch that show, consider yourself warned. Spoilers after the jump.

Another fair warning: I come not to praise BSG, but to bury it.

A lot of praise has been heaped upon BSG’s mid-fourth-season finale, “Revelations” since it aired on Friday night. Uber-critic Alan Sepinwall, whose brilliant dissections of The Sopranos were absolutely required reading, was just one among many observers to declare the episode one of the best in the show’s critically-acclaimed run.

As one of the very first US-based bloggers who told people to start watching this series in the first place, it gives me no pleasure to say that such praise is largely unwarranted. For all its technical wizardry and all the (mostly) exceptional performances, “Revelations” was just another slog through the morass of bad writing that’s plagued BSG since early in the third season. Let me count just a few the ways:

* Once again, a plot arc that had been building for weeks was dispensed of with a few unconvincing lines of dialogue. The big confrontation in the middle of the show just evaporated for no discernible reason (what, did Lee say, “Wait, Xena, Starbuck just ran in here with a goofy deus ex machina to get us out of this mess! Don’t shoot!”).

* Speaking of which, Lee Obama–uh, sorry, I mean Adama–got to deliver another eye-roller of a speech, one that would have won over no sane character–except that it did, because, er, well, that’s what the writers needed to happen.

* We got another heap of mystical mish-mash with no rhyme or reason, other than the writers needing to get out of a jam. It’s BSG’s version of the pseudo-scientific double talk that inevitably popped up in the last acts of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes–and it’s just as lame. I am perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief to get through a well-written plot point–but I’m not willing to expel it to excuse a lame one.

* Baltar went back to being not funny.

You know, if there had been a wrecked Statue Of Liberty in the last shot of “Revelations,” I would have had a great laugh. At least that would have been a memorable shark-jumping moment.

Having heaped on all this abuse, I will say this: at least the writers didn’t take the easy and obvious route for the ending, which would have been to make the humans and Cylons arrive at Earth in prehistory and become our ancestors. Choosing to have the ragtag fleet find a post-apocalyptic cinder instead of an Eden (or worse still, a present-day civilization–been there, done that, and it was really bad) was clearly the best choice dramatically. But beyond that…

There was so much wrong with this last episode, but really, it was just more of the same that long-suffering BSG fans have been subjected to over the past season and a half. It pains me to say it, but the show is suffering from a bad case of “Twin Peaks Syndrome” (a corollary is “Lost Syndrome”). It was clear from the start of the third season that, contrary to the old show-opening copy, neither the Cylons nor the writers had a plan. Lacking foresight and needing to fill multiple hours of screen time ahead of a ridiculously-delayed finale, they’ve resorted to the “plot twist of the week.” As Jonah Goldberg aptly noted,

I like twists and turns as much as the next guy, but they need to make sense with what came before. Swerving plotlines are awesome when they work. Plotlines that look like a bowl of spaghetti are a bore. The show’s non-concern with internal consistency has given it a soap opera feel, where every new episode induces a whiplashed “huh?”

I’ll keep watching out of loyalty and a desire to see the whole thing through. But it’s become a real disappointment.

Just so.

Plot gripes aside, the characters have been pushed through one unbelievable subplots after another, until none of them are even recognizable, much less worthy of the audience’s sympathy or interest. Taking Tigh, the most flawed, human (and best) character on the show and retroactively declaring him a Cylon–a move so goofy that the writers were compelled to put fan complaints in Bill Adama’s mouth during the last episode–is but one example. And for what? To generate a “wow” moment for a now-forgotten “cliffhanger?” Was that really worth it?

Like this entire season, the last episode was mostly an exercise in burning airtime until the producers could finally get around to actually advancing the overall story. And credit where it’s due, the last act was exceptionally well-crafted, and might have been kind of affecting… but only if I still gave a rip about what happens to these people.

Which I don’t. Not any more.

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17 Responses to “No Marigolds In The Promised Land”

  1. Brickle Says:

    Is “Twin Peaks” syndrome related to “X Files Syndrome?” Where the writers figure it doesn’t matter if it makes any sense, just make it weird enough and the audience will lap it up?

  2. rbj Says:

    I enjoy BG, but Babylon 5* is still the best. I suppose having basically one writer for the whole arc is what did it

    (*By which I mean seasons 1-4. Season 5, not so much, but for that I blame the network in not guaranteeing JMS that last season so he had to wrap things up in the 4th.)

  3. William Young Says:

    I agree: this show started sucking when they turned the colonials into Palestinians in the final episode of season 2, and then season 3 just plummeted like a meteor into irrationality and stupidity, with the high achievement of idiotic story telling going to whoever put Baltar on the Cylon base ship.

    If you ever listened to the RonDMoore podcasts, it’s clear he had absolutely no clue what to do with the series, and he’s supremely lucky he had a top notch cast and excellent production teams. And now, hell, the colonials make it to earth: anyone remember the season one interview with Olmos in which he predicts that the colonials will never make it to earth?

    There is so much wrong with the entire BSG concept that it’s a wonder it got four seasons to play with.

    But seriously: Babylon 5?!~~?! That show so sucked I couldn’t even get through the pilot episode. Sheesh…

  4. doug quarnstrom Says:

    Even though I still really like the show, and even like it more than most of you still seem to, I do have to agree with the overall points you make.

    Which is sad. It would have been nice to have a perfect product of 4 really well-thought-out seasons to watch over and over again.

    Oh well.

  5. Roger Fraley Says:

    There was not a huge amount of anxiety over whether the humans would get to Earth or not. We knew they would and it generally would mean the end of the series, except for taking care of the Cylons once and for all. So the only interest was when they would show up and there were only three choices–as you said, pre-history, currently or in a future unlike the current history. So they picked the last. Whoo hoo! (Sarcasm) It is idiotic to make Col. Tigh a Cylon; so they have to keep repeating it emphatically to try and sell it. No sale for me. The robotic Cylons didn’t have the technology just before he and Adama were first friends. The only remaining interest I have revolves around the repeated ‘prophesy’ that Starbuck will doom the human race. It’s a remaining interest that is but a feeble remnant of how much I enjoyed the show from the beginning two parter. Oh well, indeed.

  6. doug quarnstrom Says:

    Well, one thing to be grateful for is that it IS ending. I mean they could torture it to death bu running fifty or so seasons of increasingly retarded contnet (like ER). Thankfully the pain will soon be over.

    What do we watch then? I like The Tudors, but I can see it not being everyone’s cup of tea…

    doug

  7. mojo Says:

    So they FINALLY manage to get to Earth, and it’s wrecked!! Nuked out!

    Oh, the IRONY!!lebenty!!

    Now – What else is on?

  8. MWSlover Says:

    The only thing missing would have been to have a Charlton Heston look-a-like ride up and say, “You think this sh*t is bad?!?! Go 200 miles west and you’ll find damn dirty apes running the place now. If you see James Fransiscus, tell him I am heading underground to find the Alpha-Omega Bomb so I can end this and get on with other acting opportunities. Adios suckers!”

  9. Steve Skubinna Says:

    Crap, I’m glad that I never got sucked into the new BSG – mostly because I hated the old one so much I wasn’t going near it, however good people said it was.

    Jeez Louise, finding a wrecked planet and discovering at the end that it was called – Earth! (gasp!!!) is so far beyond cliche that I’m astonished anyone had the stones to recycle that old gag.

  10. narciso Says:

    The alternative, would have been a dark reworking of the Hitchhiker’s Guide version of how humanity arose; a ship full of telephone sanitizers, public relations flaks, and hairdressers.

    Why is this Earth, a more devastated place than Caprica ever was, which suffered it’s own nuclear attack. Why didn’t they monitor
    the radiation from orbit before making first contact. Unless some rogue faction of Cylons found their way thay, not long before
    the Colonials.

  11. rbj Says:

    The other alternative was for them to find present day Earth, take a good look around, and decide they’d rather take their chances with the Cylons.

  12. Achillea Says:

    But seriously: Babylon 5?!~~?! That show so sucked I couldn’t even get through the pilot episode. Sheesh…

    The B5 pilot — in fact, the entire first season — sucked. Then they ditched Sinclair and got somebody halfways competent in the F/X department starting in the second season and the show turned something worthwhile. Still not a patch on Firefly, or even Stargate, but pretty good … provided you don’t count the wretched spinoffs like Crusade.

    I watched the first season of BSG and found myself in an extreme state of Don’t Care. On a technical level (acting, f/x, etc.) the show was great, but it just didn’t move me. I looked at Adama’s bloody body in the big season finale, shrugged, and never went back. I sensed that whiff of entirely-too-pleased-with-ourselves pretentiousness that now seems to’ve come to fruition.

  13. Charles Purvis Says:

    I disagree completely with the notion that BSG is on a downturn, at least in terms of my own enjoyment of the series, the writing, and the terrific acting.

    I’ve heard the gripes–what about the “plan,” how can Tigh be a Cylon–but I just don’t care about this stuff. It seems likely to me that the writers had some notion of what the “plan” might be, but decided to take the story in other directions, once they got the storylines up and running.

    That’s OK with me, as long as I’m enjoying the story they’re telling. And I am.

    As for all the complaints about the Final Five, I just don’t get what people are complaining about. Moore has explicitly said that the Final Five are different . . . which is what all the complaints come down to!

    I’ll wait and see how they account for these differences before I decide I don’t like it. Until those hole cards are flipped over, we don’t have enough information to make the judgement. In my opinion.

    YMMV.

  14. Ian Wood Says:

    I like BSG, in the way that fanboys and gals embrace the cheesiness of their favorite things. Not that it’s my favorite thing, really, but it looks nice and stuff happens and it’s all gritty and explodey and whatnot.

    That said…what blew it for me was the notion that the Colonies also had somebody who wrote All Along The Watchtower.

    I mean, come on. What the hell.

  15. Lyric Mezzo Says:

    In watching the first couple seasons of BSG, I was intrigued, but still miffed that people thought this was somehow the best sci-fi show ever on television, when Firefly only got 13 episodes.

    I hung on for awhile – until they started comparing the colonists efferts to win free of the Cylons on that crappy planet with the “insurgents” in the Middle East. This was a rather heavy-handed political commentary that was probably intended to “make people think.” Instead, it just pissed me off.

    I think I’ll go watch some more of Season 2 of Babylon 5. My brother promised me that once out of Season 1, I’d be hooked. I may not be hooked in the sense of Firefly hooked, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting the next disc in the mail!

  16. Lyric Mezzo Says:

    How embarrasing….I should check the spelling a little better before posting.

    Typo – should be efforts, instead of “efferts”

  17. Pundit Joe Says:

    Y’all were far tougher than I. I stopped watching long ago.

    With such a large cast, I expected to find sympathy with at least one character. Sadly, I grew to loath every one. lol A more miserable group of people I have never seen. I actually began to hope they would all perish just so they would quit bitching. lol At that point I figured it was best to stop watching.

    Oh well, I’m glad some folks enjoyed it.

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