Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Last Battlestar to Cross the Finish Line


Since I was so late on jumping on the Battlestar bandwagon (and I have to admit, it was Joss Whedon's unmistakable admiration for the show that finally had me Netflixing season 1), it now seems like I am the last person in the world to reach the final episodes, "Daybreak" Part 1, 2 and 3. After falling hard while testing out the miniseries - I mean, how can you NOT fall for this show, starting from the very first, mind-blowing, curiosity-raising scene - I went straight to Amazon to buy all the rest of the seasons. I caught up to season 4.5 before it was released this last month on DVD, so I had to wait, dodging Internet spoilers and feeling the ache of Adama-withdrawal, until I received the last DVD set in the mail. It was only last night that I finally finished what seems to me to be the most perfect ride I have ever experienced via television. I'd like to say that I'm being overly dramatic - but I'm not, and all you cynical bastards are just going to have to deal with it. I used to be one of those people - a sci-fi-wary doubter. Just because someone enjoys vampires, werewolves, demon-hunters and vampire slayers, doesn't mean they'd also enjoy fictional planets, robots, space cowboys and fighter pilots. Any decent nerd will tell you there is a big difference between fantasy and science fiction - and they'll probably use charts and graphs and a Powerpoint presentation to do it. But once Firefly proved me wrong on that account, I was more open to testing the sci-fi waters. What I discovered was a beautifully complex, deeply emotional, heart-wrenching and heart-filling show that left me feeling sad and happy, lost and found, drained and satisfied at the end of each and every episode I watched.

I never thought it was possible for a television show to allow the viewer to feel this vast array of emotions in one 40 minute period - I always believed that to be literary territory. I had only ever felt so connected and aligned with characters when they came from fantasy book series. It takes at least 3-12 novels (all 500 pages or more), all dedicated to developing several key plots and characters, for me to become so emotionally tangled and invested in a story. Yet Battlestar needed less than half a season to win me over so thoroughly. Even Buffy, my go-to show and the show I compare all other shows against, couldn't create this spectrum of emotion in just one episode. And that, my fellow Joss-lovers, is a tough truth to concede. But if ever a network was searching for the recipe for the perfect show, they'd only have to look here - at a small group of human survivors, fighting against religious and political upheaval, with cylons and traitors in their midst as they search for a new, and hopefully non-nuked, home. Of course, it's so much more than just that. Battlestar had in it's employ a group of fantastic, not just good or great, but FANTASTIC writers (insert shout out to Jane Espenson here) and a cast of the best actors that can be found today. When I saw Edward James Olmos signing autographs mere feet away from me at Comic-Con, I couldn't make myself walk any closer, knowing that I would forever and always see him as the wise and loyal father figure, filled to the brim with honor and goodness and not just a few inspiring speeches. Even though I know the difference between an actor and the character he plays, Olmos played Admiral Adama so well I know I will always have a hard time seeing him as anyone else. The same goes for every other, extraordinary actor on the show.

The fourth and last season of this show treated me like a wet towel, twisting me into knots and draining me of all my moisture. There wasn't one episode where I didn't at least tear up a little. This was never so true as with the last three episodes. Unlike the poor blokes that had to watch "Daybreak" Part 1, 2 and 3 through several weeks, I got to watch it all, uncut and extended, right through. No waiting for the next part to air, no getting up for dessert or answering my phone, just straight through, all in one terrifically wistful and terribly beautiful night. One box of tissues was not nearly enough. Akin to the end of Return of the King, Battlestar had several endings, each one that passed making me fear more and more it's final ending. But it was good, really good. I am a sucker for Disney happy-endings and this was anything but a Disney happy-ending, but it wasn't a bad end either. It was a realistic end - one that included many, many dead bodies, but one with a last hope finally realized. Lee Adama's beautiful mane of hair didn't hurt either (it was glorious, no?) - though at the end, I worried about how alone he would be for the rest of his life (Yes, I know he's not REAL, but I was still concerned!). It would have been nice to have just one other positive event at end the series (besides the humans finally finding a home) to offset all the loss. Thoughts of Starbuck and Apollo spending the rest of their lives together, exploring their new world, would have been a big help in getting me through the melancholy end to the series. Oh well, guess a gal can't have everything. And yes, the main emotion I felt at the end was sadness; sadness for all the lives lost and all the people unable to enjoy the beautiful new world that was found, sadness for the great relationships that never got to reach their full, awesome potential, and sadness for me, who fears she will never again find such an extraordinary and touching show on television.

Even while I was sneaking around spoilers before I finished the series, I still heard moans of Battlestar withdrawal throughout the whole of the Internet. I was fearful that once I finally finished, I would lie aching in bed, pinning for Helo and Starbuck and Adama & Son and nothing would fill the vast hole of their loss. Character withdrawal can be an ugly thing and only time can heal it. Luckily, Jane Espenson and other Battlestar writers, are giving us a prequel with the Caprica series in January, not to mention The Plan. Joss is also helping to heal the pain of withdrawal, by casting several Battlestar alums as guest stars in Dollhouse next season. I can only feel desperately grateful to him for giving me more Jamie Bamber (Apollo/Lee Adama) screen time. Yummmm.

And here ends a doubters tale of enlightenment. In trying and loving this show, I am an official sci-fi geek, and proud of it. If anything is worth the title, this show is. I can only hope to be proven wrong many more times over.

Good hunting!

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