Monday, March 23, 2009

How Should BSG Have Ended?

Brad suggested I put this up after we had a conversation along these lines, and many people since have said to me "Well, what did you want?" Now we are not all screenwriters, but it might be interesting to get some notes toward what we all wanted and did not get.

For me, I think a key question all along has been Does Humanity Deserve to Survive. A good portion of the show had been blurring humanity and the cylons by putting them on the same footing (removing resurrection technology, having them fight with each other, ignoring the super-strength, ditching the sleeper agent thing where it seemed like they could be remote controlled -- ultimately the point of finding out someone was a cylon was you were finding out someone was a traitor, but since that was not the case for the final five it again seemed like a bit of a fake out to have them be cylons at all). So the real question was Does Everyone Deserve to Survive? Once you put that question in play for so long, I think you deny the possibility of some wonderfully happy ending, since if they do deserve to survive it is going to be a close call whether the should have (or why ask the question?). So for me I needed to see a significant number of folks just not make it -- the finale could not even give Helo a heroic death-- and those that did should not be walking though a green and pleasant land. They should be ok, but it should feel like life, not heaven. In fact I think I really could have gone for an ending in which someone made the call to just push everyone into the black hole, because the universe would be better without them, and maybe Hera escapes somehow, the last potential of two doomed civilizations. Maybe like some combination of Batman's resurrection in Final Crisis and Superman's story her little rocket lands on a caveman planet, guided by some less heavy handed version of the device that got everyone to Earth -- except now that I write that it makes no sense, because that radioactive planet needs to be the real Earth and not a fake-out. Brad said that he would have wanted the final five to suddenly "switch on" and do something monstrous, activate the cylon "plan" we have been hearing about in the intro to every episode since season one, and which seemed to have been just dropped. Maybe there was some reason why they needed to wait so long, and even have people accept them as Cylons (and let other cylons on board and paint the ship with cylon goo) before the last phase would begin.

I do not exactly have it worked out. One of the reasons it is so hard to think of a proper ending is that the writers really write themselves into a corner, which is why the God stuff came so heavy at the end -- it is the only way out of the box they were in. I have no idea what to do with Kara. She can't be like the Six that only Baltar can see -- Kara was different because she found her body and questioned what she was. But then I can't think of what she COULD be given how the show handled her. Some people suggested that she was a hybrid, the child of the never seen Daniel Cylon and someone, but I am not sure how that would work out.

Here is how the show should have ended: it should have been cancelled after season three so we could all complain that it was one of the great shows that died before it could have reached what surely would have been an amazing conclusion, like Firefly.


Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

It should have ended with season 4.0 - finding earth as a wasteland, losing all hope, cue credits. Leaving the audience with a sense of the survivors muddling on, forced to make the best of their situation, living but enduring punishments for humanities' hubris.

The ending of the show was, as you said, utterly terrible in every conceivable way, but it's also the only way this show COULD have ended. You very often (not criticizing or starting an argument) apologize for and excuse the show for its many, many deep flaws based on characterization and acting, but with a show as poorly plotted with as many flimsy plot devices and lack of follow through on basic ideas as BSG has always been, what other ending could we have expected? How many plot holes, blatant ignoring of plot points, and cheap, easy fixes have we endured on this show? The writers are good at coming up with situations, but terrible at actually resolving anything - this ending is just that problem, manifested on the scale of the show as a whole. Good premise, but they didn't know what to do with it.

Geoff Klock said...

When a show does so much right for so long I try to keep faith. Which leads me to support dumb stuff in the end. (I am looking at you Studio 60)

Voice Of The Eagle said...

I didn't LOVE the ending, but neither did I feel as burned as you did. It was an ending I could accept (First rule of fiction: you never have to accept the ending you're given).

I think I would have been really upset if the show had ended as you suggested - I don't like downer endings as much as you do.

Sue me, I like all the God/angel stuff, in particular because I have a question in my head about whether or not it's any being we would call "God." (Well, Gaius what does 'he' like to be called?)

Todd C. Murry said...

First of all, I was digging the finale OK till the Baltar speech and subsequent truce. The stuff before this and the mutiny earlier in the season are the most I've enjoyed the show in a while, because the action let me forget all the stuff that kind of fell apart. Some of the ending stuff on the planet wasn't to bad for what it was, it's just that the whole ending was terrible for what it didn't do... convince us that there was any point to all the "big questions" the producers seem to think they were exploring.

It would have been almost impossible to salvage, I think. A good ending could have exploited the presence of all the direct connections to the past they had embedded to make some concrete statement about the nature of the cycle they were trapped in. This would have involved us actually having some closure on Daniel and his relation or lack there of to Starbuck, how the final 5 exist today, and how the cycle extends back. I'm easy... this could have involved some sort of time travel, some sort of Robert Jordan "weave of the Pattern" thing, or whatever. I just think they had kind of fuzzied that stuff so much this season, that I don't know if it was possible to make that stuff concrete enough in order to hang all the political and religious statements.

A great meme would be "what episode did you realize that BSG was full of crap." I was a late bloomer - it took me till the Helo-prevents-the genocide-of-the-Cylons episode early in season 3 before I realized they had no clue what they were doing. I mean, the mid seasons lull shows always sucked, and there was some head scratching stuff in the latter half of season 2, but the Helo ep is when I realized there was no coherent there there.

neilshyminsky said...

The only ending that could have possibly remained 'true' to the show in any sense, I think, would have been a total non-ending. Echoing Geoff (and my own) suggestion that if the show is about anything then seems to be about determining whether humanity deserves to survive - symbolized most obviously in the quest for Earth - they admit that it's always an open question and refuse to give us an answer, allowing the fleet to resume its search for a new home without any particular hope or reason to think that they'll find it. Or maybe they give us some hope, but since we've been conditioned to think that all hope may be false hope...

Chad Nevett said...

Here is how the show should have ended: it should have been cancelled after season three so we could all complain that it was one of the great shows that died before it could have reached what surely would have been an amazing conclusion, like Firefly.

This is something I often say about shows (and comics) I really enjoy. It always sucks when they end "too soon," but it's better than slowly fading away a lesser version of what it once was.

brad said...

The Adama father and son team peer out at a field of cavemen and say, "Niiice, humans we can breed with! Let's get a closer look." And so they venture into the valley to see their primitive friends and see THE STATUE OF LIBERTY! And then an angel shouts SOILENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

brad: actually, that would have been awesome. I would have laughed my ass off.

Geoff Klock said...

I think the show should have put the final nail in the coffin of the Astronauts vs Cavemen debate by having the cavemen murder the fuck out of all of the 38,000 survivors and cylon. All your debates about morality mean nothing under the savage rule of cavemen, idiots.

Kenney said...

I liked the finale ok, until they got to the planet. That was just too happy an ending for the show to have.

I'm no writer, so I can't say how the show should have ended, but I don't buy that all of our heroes survived the impossible attack on the Cylon base.

Christian said...

Cthulhu comes, the primordial beings and terrible to boot, and kills fucking everyone. Cylons included. One of Cthulhu the Unimaginable's terrible tentacles grabs a hold of the screen and thousands of eyes in varing shapes and sizes, moving in altering speeds, turns them on the viewer. Cue credits.

But that's my solution for everything.

I haven't watched all of it yet, so I'm thinking about just skipping the last episode.

Seriously, what kind of ending, like really boiled down, could work? The Angel ending (doomed hopefulness, last fight)? The Mighty Max ending (the cycle begins again, but with new knowledge)? Skipping forward a couple of years and seeing the aftermath, but not the actual resolution?

Christian said...

Or maybe the coda, where the cylons narrate "And that's how we killed the oppressors" and then we see how oh so horrible cylons are treating their own offspring. Like in XXXombies where the zombie grandfather tells the zombie grandson about how they came to be and humanity died, and the grandson turns to the grandfather and says: "Gee, that was utterly retarded!" And Grandpa Z turns to the reader , blinking, and says: "It sure was, Billy. It sure was."

O said...

Some things I would like to have seen:

- More dissension in the ranks at the end: Someone should have objected to flying every ship into the sun and living off the land. Someone should have rebelled against or expressed dissatisfaction with God's Plan. Someone should have renounced this heavenly gift of a shiny new planet, paid for with the divinely-directed destruction of two civilizations and deaths of countless loved ones. Also, the Centurions should have lobbied to stay on Earth along with everyone else.

- The revelation of the Opera House as more than just a sense-memory rehearsal for the showdown at the CIC. Thematically, the Opera House visions implied that the next generation of humanity, the hybrid Hera, would be taken from and lost to both civilizations – Athena, her Cylon mother, and Roslin, the mother of the fleet – and ushered into the next stage of evolution by God's wildcard free-agents, Gaius and Caprica. Instead of jumping safely into orbit above Earth, Galactica could have crash-landed, with Gaius and Caprica as the two left to raise Hera. Or perhaps, during the final battle, Head Baltar and Head Six take corporeal form, kill off Gaius and Caprica, abscond to Earth with Hera to be "her human father and Cylon mother," leaving everyone else to die in the black hole.

- More ruthlessness on the part of the Messengers of God. See above.

- More of a connection between Cylon Projection and the full-sensory visions of the dead (Kara Thrace) and the dying (Laura Roslin and the character played by Nana Visitor).

- A more explicit suggestion that God is in fact something akin to the Gnostic demiurge. If the Cylon God is or believes itself to be the 13th Lord of Kobol, I'm curious to know what happened to the other twelve.

Voice Of The Eagle said...

This is how I might have done it:

-Revelation of Earth as our Earth and thus the true birth place of humanity and Cylonkind. Maybe some hand waving as the Lords of Kobel as being the names of early Battlestars.

-Kara is indeed the child of Daniel and thus the first Cylon/human hybrid.

-Hybrids as the fullest extension of Resurrection technology (i.e. molecular structure automatically regenerates without need of downloading, etc.)

-The dramatic goings-on with Gaeta/Zarek, Boomer/Athena, and Saul/Ellen mostly retained.

-Kidnapping of Hera and Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny with Cavil occurs. Galatica is destroyed and Adama being Adama, goes down with the Old Girl. Roslin goes down with him.

-What’s left of the fleet (and surviving characters) transfer to the Cylon Baseship. With acknowledgment that the fleet’s recourses are rapidly dwindling and trust of the Cylons still tenuous, those remaining chart a brand course to an unexplored galaxy, unsure if they'll even make it half way.

-Final line of dialogue; "So say we all." Roll credits.

brad said...

That's it VoiceOfTheEagle... That's the ending that should have been.