Okay, hands up, everybody who immediately flashed on Charlton Heston screaming, "You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!" at the end of "Planet of the Apes" when you got a look at the wreckage of the Brooklyn Bridge?
In many ways, that amazing final sequence -- tracking from Adama's hand holding the irradiated fistful of dirt, past every major character surveying the reality of their "salvation" (including little character grace notes like Caprica Six reaching out a hand to comfort new lover Tigh), and then to that iconic frame of the Bridge as evidence that this is, in fact, Earth -- could have been the end of the series. Sure, it would be a nihilistic as hell ending, and one that left many, many questions still to be resolved, but so much of the amazing "Revelations" (one of the best episodes in the history of the series) had such an air of finality to it that I would almost be okay with all the loose ends. The humans and Cylons finally had something resembling an actual peace (signaled by the amnesty for the Final Four, as well as the freedom of the previously-incarcerated Caprica Six), Roslin and Adama have found each other for however much time she has left, Lee finally and unequivocally became a man, and the rag-tag fleet (now half-Cylon) had finally made its way to a place called Earth... only to find it in even worse shape than old Caprica (where at least the buildings were still standing and Helo could occasionally whip up a nice breakfast).
And yet I doubt anyone can complain that there won't be enough to deal with over the course of season 4.5 (wahhhh... I want it nowwwwwww!), given that we still have to deal with:
- The identity of the final Cylon
- The origin and nature of the entire Final Five
- The origin of the rest of the skinjobs
- The fate of the 13th colony, and what role (if any) they played in the destruction of Earth
- The identity of the person/persons/entities that have been orchestrating all this, and what it means that "All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again"
- The opera house vision and the fate of Hera
- What exactly happened to Kara when she went into the maelstrom, and what she's really the harbinger of
- Roslin's health
- The true nature of Head Six, Head Baltar, Head Leoben, and all the other "angels"
- Tigh and Caprica Six's baby
- The whereabouts of Boomer and whether any of the 1, 4, or 5 models are still out there
I don't know, but we obviously have until early '09 (sigh...) to speculate on that, just as we all freaked out about the Final Four revelation at the end of season three. Right now, I want to sing the praises of "Revelations" as an episode, and not as a launching point for what's still to come.
Because, again... frak me. I watched this on one of SciFi.com's hourly streams, on a small screen, with a whirlwind of activity going on around me and I could not have been more riveted. Bradley Thompson, David Weddle, Michael Rymer and company outdid themselves on this, one of the busiest and yet most emotional hours of "Galactica" ever.
And I wrestled for a while with my feelings about it being only an hour. On the one hand, the condensed running time meant that a lot of major events had to be glossed over or outright skipped -- Athena getting sprung from jail to help plot the suicide mission against D'Anna, the reactions of most of the characters to learning the identities of the Final Four, etc. -- in favor of squeezing in the story and hitting the real emotional high points. But much as I wanted to see, say, Gaeta learn that two of the men who nearly airlocked him were Cylons, or Caprica Six finally understanding Tigh's motivation for his special private visits to the brig, the finished product was like a gourmet five-course meal where every course was the entree. Everything we needed to see was there, immaculately written, directed and played.
Take Bill Adama's reaction to learning that his best, oldest friend -- the man he had trusted over the decades despite everyone else in the universe telling him he was naive at best, insane at worst for doing so -- was a Cylon. After having Adama's reaction start off the way every fanboy's did -- first confusion, then denial, followed by asking how Saul could be a Cylon if he got old and went bald? -- we quickly proceeded to watch our fearless, stoic leader lose his s--t on an epic scale. Remember what I said last week about Mary McDonnell finding new, terrifying levels of brilliance every time I thought she couldn't be any better? Take that, double it, and you've got Edward James Olmos in the raw here.
What made Adama's breakdown especially painful wasn't just Olmos letting it all rip (though I know my soul ached when I heard that first guttural yell), or even the knowledge of how well Adama usually carried himself in a crisis (though that didn't help), but rather that pre-credits scene, seemingly unnecessary at the time, where Lee talks to Kara about being afraid of his father, and Kara quotes Leoben's philosophy that the only way for children to reach their full potential is for their parents to die. Leoben is, of course, an ass, and so a large chunk of this episode was spent proving him wrong. Bill didn't die, didn't even injure anything worse than his knuckles (not physically, anyway), and yet Lee Adama managed to become a man -- not the scared, confused kid who could occasionally playact a man in seasons past -- in his father's moment of crisis. There will come a terrible point in the lives of many people, if one of their parents happens to live long enough, where the roles will reverse and the child will have to play father to the man. The moment on the floor of Bill's quarters, when Lee held his crying father in his arms and told him that everything would be okay -- that Lee would make sure it would be okay -- was that moment for the Adama clan, and while Bill eventually pulled himself together and the old dynamic re-asserted itself, I don't think there's any more backsliding for young master Lee. This is who he is now, and it was touching and scary and absolutely well-earned to witness.
(As an aside: I've always admired Jamie Bamber's work on this show but never felt the writers quite knew what to do with Apollo, which is one of the reasons his rank and role has changed so often. I'm glad that, in the end, they found the right one for both actor and character to play, because he was outstanding.)
And let's not forget the behavior of the man on the other side of the Cylon revelation: Saul Mother-Frakkin' Tigh, as played by Michael Mother-Frakkin' Hogan and his amazing acting eye. Of course Saul would out himself under these circumstances. It's the ideal scenario for him, really: he gets to unburden himself of his horrible secret, potentially save the fleet, and then die before he has to deal with being around all his comrades who have discovered his shameful true identity. And so he walks, resolute, into his oldest friend's office and sets himself up to die -- wants to die, really -- and then stands, just as resolute and ramrod straight, in the airlock as he waits for the gambit by Lee (a kid he once had little use for, and here comes to respect) to play out, one way or the other. It's like the "Galactica" production team is testing Hogan to see how much he can give by taking away as much as possible -- "Okay, Mike, try acting after we cover up one of your eyes for the rest of the series!" "Okay, Mike, now you're going to stand perfectly motionless for half an episode where you're the emotional fulcrum!" -- and he keeps passing their tests with flying colors.
And then, of course, there's Mary McDonnell herself, so brilliant in playing a completely different Laura from the one we saw for most of "Hub." This is a Laura at peace with everything, because she knows she could die soon but has the love of Bill Adama, who is able to be around Gaius Baltar without the old homicidal impulses resurfacing, who even respects the selfish twit enough to recognize that he has a better chance than she does of getting through to D'Anna. For a half-second, I thought Laura's "Take him. That's good" comment to Baltar's offer was just her keeping herself out of the line of fire and making sure he'd be the first one executed if D'Anna lost it, but I quickly realized that she and Baltar moved past all of that when she saved his life last week.
And that in turn led to James Callis getting his own wonderful turn at bat, as Baltar tried to talk D'Anna off the ledge of mutually-assured destruction. Again, we shouldn't believe a scintilla of Baltar's transformation into man of God, given all we know of him over the years, but Callis has sold me on it, and therefore I buy into how even hardcore D'Anna might be inclined to listen to him when he explains how brute force never worked in forging peace with humanity in the past. Baltar believes his own spiel about how we're all perfect creations of God's plan and therefore should be forgiven all their sins -- as his mortal enemy Laura forgave him in his moment of greatest vulnerability last week -- and therefore he believes that D'Anna can be forgiven by humanity, and vice versa.
If there was a frustrating part of "Revelations," it was one more of design than execution, and that was Tory throwing in with her Cylon brothers and sisters and telling humanity to talk to the hand. They've been taking Tory down this path all season, and Rekha Sharma did a fine job playing every step along the way. It's just that, in an episode where every other character, human and Cylon, were almost unfailingly wise and noble and self-sacrificing (even D'Anna, scary as she is, was convinced this was the only way to save her people), seeing Tory ditch her old crowd to go hang with the cool kids stuck out. It wasn't a false note, but it still didn't fit with the rest of the piece, especially since Anders and Tyrol got relatively short shrift during the hour. I liked how Tyrol seemed so calm at the moment of discovery, how he shrugged and told Sam to fess up to the missus, and I loved how Katee Sackhoff played Kara's reaction to this news (betrayed and yet full of resolve to fix this crisis, her lying toaster husband be damned), but I feel much more attached to those two than to Tory and would have rather spent more time with them somehow than with her totally overestimating her underestimation of Lee.
But again, everyone and everything else was so perfect here that I can forgive Tory her moment of false superiority. From Adama getting his uniform back on through the shot of the Raptors entering the atmosphere was just pure, concentrated happiness for almost every character on the show (save Tigh and Tyrol) -- and so of course all that happiness had to be dashed, in as devastating a manner as possible.
And of course the show that uses robots and space ships with FTL drives to tell stories about a post-9/11 world would eventually wind up with all of its characters wandering around a ruined version of lower Manhattan.
Some other thoughts on "Revelations":
- I loved how the celebration montage paid so much respect to the history of the series. We had the smooch between the two longtime deckhands whose names I'm forgetting, a brief glimpse of the mining ship (who have always had it the worst of anybody in the rag-tag fleet), and of course Kara standing at the memorial wall, thanking Kat for her role in getting them there ("We made it, kid").
- At one point in his speech, Adama refers to them being on the run for three years. Does that make sense? We know at least a year passed before they got to New Caprica, another year spent there before the Cylons showed up, several more months before the Exodus, then a very long stretch of time covering the voyage to the algae planet, the build-up to Baltar's trial, and all the shenanigans of season 4.0.Seems like it should be closer to four than three, no?
- Another nice nod to continuity to have poor family-less Laird as the deck chief now that Tyrol got himself demoted.
- Since there's all this talk of doing multiple TV-movies after the series is finished, I could imagine them devoting an entire one to all the things that happened off-camera in this episode -- again, much of it revolving around everybody responding to knowing the names of the Final Four. As I've said, there needs to be a scene at some point where Tyrol and a Sharon (preferably Boomer, but Athena will do) sit down and talk about how life could've been very different.
- Now, why do you suppose D'Anna said that only four of the Five were in the fleet? We know she saw all five of them on the algae planet, and if she didn't recognize the fifth, she would just assume he or she was a random person in the fleet, so what? Was the fifth Cylon aready on the baseship (Helo? Laura? Baltar? Hot Dog?) and D'Anna didn't feel like spilling that news at that point? Is the fifth somewhere in the fleet but in a position where D'Anna knows he or she would never surface? Regardless of her reasons for (presumably) lying, I did like the way she cleverly informed Lee and Tigh that she was already in contact with the Four, implying that she was somehow communicating through secret Cylon means when she was just speaking loudly in the presence of all four of them.