I know the finale was broadcast last weekend, but I didn't get to see it until a few days ago. If you haven't seen it yet (or if you haven't seen the series at all and are planning to start), don't read any further because there are spoilers!
The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica earned itself a place in my list of "All-time favorite Sci-Fi shows" (alongside Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek: DS9, Stargate SG-1, X-Files, and Doctor Who (2004)) pretty much after the first season. During its run it was arguably "the best show on television". Although the series faltered a tiny bit during the 3rd season, I have never seen such a well-written show with fully-fleshed out characters, a gripping story line, complex existential, religious, militaristic, and moral themes, and gritty, exciting action. The success and superior quality of the show is further supported by the fact that it attracted an audience that traditionally doesn't watch Sci-Fi. In fact, many of my friends who don't usually watch Sci-Fi (to the extent that some of them actually dislike it) instantly liked the show despite its obvious Sci-Fi underpinnings. The themes of the show were especially valid in a post-9/11 world. Here is a (by no means comprehensive) list of issues that the series tried to address:
- The effectiveness of armed insurgency or suicide bombing
- Personal safety (or the illusion thereof) at the expense of personal freedom
- Civilian versus Military rule
- The importance of wearing the uniform, military service, and upholding the oath you swear when you sign up (an aspect that particularly appealed to me)
- Divine intervention, divine providence, fate, and destiny
- An examination of the human condition in the direst of circumstances (when the survival of humanity is at stake)
- An attempt to answer the question of what it means to be Human
The series had a message that was so pertinent and so valid, that the cast was invited to a summit at the UN. To quote Robert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, "You've got people thinking about issues that we try and get people thinking about every day."
Ok, now that I've done more than enough gushing about the show, let me go onto the finale. I know that this subject has already been beaten to death since the finale aired, but I want to put in my two cents. The finale was frakking awesome ok? A lot of people are complaining that the finale didn't address every single question that they had, and that there are some loose ends. Some of them are even complaining that the finale was a little too long, and even that the enter finale was a cop-out resolved by deus ex machina. Ok, they're entitled to their opinion... but really? Yes, there were some deus ex machina moments (like Starbuck realizing that the opening strains to Watchtower were actually FTL co-ordinates to our Earth) that require a leap of faith. But that's the point. I mean, what explanation were you expecting for Head Six and Head Baltar? Are they angels or demons? Schizophrenic hallucinations? No one really knows, and that's fine. The point is that there we don't know everything and that there isn't an answer for everything.
You could make the argument that the writers had too grandiose of a vision, and that they had too many plot points, leading to some that were apparently unresolved. But again, it's a matter of opinion, and it is quite subjective. For example, consider Kara Thrace. What is she? An angel? I don't know, and I'm fine with that. She was apparently born with a destiny and with a task to perform. From the series you can tell that all her life she has been searching for a purpose. Her entire life has been an existential crisis and a search for relevance and validation. This search is finally realized when she finally leads Humanity to a permanent home.
The weakest part, arguably, of the finale was after they find our Earth. The surviving population is apparently content to leave behind all their advanced technology and start a pastoral life on Earth. This didn't completely sit well with me. I found it a little hard to believe. One could argue that the human population on the ships haven't really been leading a good life for the past four years. They have essentially been refugees the whole time. I guess you could argue that wouldn't want any reminders of those difficult four years and would want to start completely anew. But I still have a hard time believing that the entire population would agree to that. In fact, when it became obvious that they had arrived on a pre-historic (150,000 years ago to be exact) Earth, I imagined that the population would probably split into two camps: one hanging on the the advanced technology, and another abandoning it completely. There would presumably be no contact between the two, and the technological group, to minimize their impact on Earth's indigenous population would perhaps retreat to an island that subsequently gets destroyed by a natural disaster. It seems like a neater conclusion to the story. But this wasn't the case, and even still, I don't think it ruins the overall message of the finale or the series.
Then you have the final few minutes where we find out that the colonials landed on an Earth 150,000 years in our past. Though the finale could have ended with the scene where Admiral Adama sits on the hill beside President Laura Roslyn's grave, talking to her while looking at the sunset, I think the final sequence presents a clearer message about the cyclical nature of human history, and about death and rebirth. I also liked how they pointed out Hera's significance to Humanity and Cylons in the end, when it is revealed that she is Mitochondrial Eve. Finally, I also liked the conversation between Head Six and Head Baltar at the end where they compare our current civilization to the past human civilizations on old Earth, Kobol, and the Twelve Colonies (playing into the whole "cylical nature of history"/"death-rebirth" concept) but also note that there is always a chance that humanity won't chose a self-destructive path again. I know that some people found the ending montage of the robots to be a little cheesy, but I think it was pertinent in the sense that humanity has always advanced faster in technology than in social maturity (Lee Adama talks about the same thing during the finale) and that we really need to be careful. With that, the series finally ended on a cautionary, though optimistic note.
Well, that's my two cents on the series finale. If I had to condense that into two words, I'd say it like I said before: Frakking Awesome!