"Galactica has been more than our guardian. She's literally a vessel into which we've poured all of our hopes and dreams. And when she's gone -- when we can no longer derive the security from looking out her window and seeing her massive bulk floating by -- then this life will be over. And a new life will have begun. A new life that requires a new way of thinking." -Gaius Baltar"Daybreak, Part One" felt very much like the first part of "Exodus": Adama preparing for what seems like another suicide mission against the Cylons, lots of set-up for the big confrontation, but all the real action saved for the conclusion. And if "Daybreak, Part Two" is even half as good as the corresponding chapter of "Exodus," then the series will be going out on an awfully high note.
But beyond moving pieces to their proper places on the board, the first part of "Daybreak" also takes the series back to its roots. With Ron Moore on script and Michael Rymer in the director's chair -- as they were together for the miniseries and as they haven't been since the first half of "Lay Down Your Burdens" -- it feels right that we open up with an extended look back on what most of our major characters (plus Anders) were up to in the months (and in some cases, years) leading up to the Cylon genocide.
There are still more blanks to be filled in -- What one-hour meeting was Adama so reluctant to go to? Is Lee drunk because Zak just died? Did Caprica Six really put Baltar's father Julius in the retirement community, or did she ease his pain the way she did the baby in the miniseries? -- but what tied all the stories together (except for Anders, but we'll get back to him) was the way they showed or hinted at our characters suffering devastating losses long before the nukes started flying over Caprica City. Zak Adama died in a Viper crash. Laura Roslin's family was wiped out by a drunk driver. Baltar had to care for an ailing father he openly despised (and vice versa).
And as I watched Laura step into her favorite fountain (last glimpsed, I believe, during her hallucinations in "Epiphanies") and let its water wash over her tears, and as I watched her carefully eating sushi and trying to act normal three months later, I began to wonder if maybe the grand plan for these characters isn't quite as grand as some of us want to believe. Maybe the reason that these are the people who have survived everything the Cylons have had to throw at them -- beyond luck, of course -- isn't a matter of destiny, or the work of the Cylon God, or any other metaphysical force. Maybe these are just the people who are gods-damned tough enough to take everything the last four years has thrown at them and keep on going. Maybe Laura Roslin has been able to keep it together after all this time because she already had her world taken away before the Cylons came back. Maybe she calls on the memory of that day the two cops came to her door when she needs to find the strength to get up off her death bed and hobble down to the flight deck, even though she can barely stand or speak, because she's not going to let her second family leave without her.
Because so much of this hour was devoted to setting up the true finale, there wasn't as much time for the big emotional wallops we've been getting throughout season four, but you'd have to be made of stone to not be incredibly touched by the sight of Bill Adama welcoming the woman he loves as she joins him on this suicide mission, and on Kara Thrace helping the president she admires stand up even as Laura's legs want to give out from under her.
Our trip back in time was also a reminder of just how much Caprica Six has grown and changed over the course of these four years -- and how much Gaius Baltar hasn't. She feels tremendous guilt for the role she played in the genocide; he's shrugged off the blame like water off a duck's back. She's no longer the slinky sex machine but a scared and strong woman; he's just found a new venue in which to pick up desperate would-be lovers. She crosses the red line and joins the mission to rescue Hera; he, despite staring long and hard at her on the other side, and despite having been shamed by Lee earlier over his life of selfishness, stays right where he is.
That said, I can't imagine a scenario in which Baltar doesn't have a last-second change of heart right before Galactica takes off from the rag-tag fleet. Though the writers haven't really known what to do with Baltar since the trial ended, he has to be a part of the grand finale, both because James Callis is such a great actor and because Head Six said he would play a role.
Why are so many people (including Doc Cottle, who has to be sent back for the good of the fleet) willing to join Bill on this foolish quest? Why, for that matter, is Bill willing to do it? This isn't like the New Caprica arc, where most of the galaxy's remaining humans were trapped down on that planet; this is one girl, and even though Ellen and the rebel Cylons talk about how important she is in the grand scheme of things, why would so many humans with practical survival concerns put themselves at risk for her?
I think the impending demise of the ship itself has everybody spooked, and contemplating, as Head Six suggests, that "The end times are approaching." They've been running for four years and almost nothing good has happened. Their supplies are dwindling, they're not making babies as fast as adults are dying off, Earth was frakked, and now the fleet's longtime protector is falling apart? I can see how that might put people in a less careful frame of mind, and/or how it might convince them that saving the Cylon/human hybrid is the only mission left worth completing.
Speaking of Head Six, with only two hours (really, around 90 minutes plus commercials) of the series remaining, I wanted to look back on that list of questions I asked Ron Moore in the wake of "Revelations" and see how many have been answered and how many are still hanging over the finale:
&bull: The identity of the final Cylon? Check. (Ellen)
• The origin and nature of the Final Four and how they're different from the rest of them? Check. (See "No Exit")
• The origin of the rest of the skinjobs? Check. (ibid)
• What happened to Earth and what happened to the 13th Colony? Check. (op cit)
• Who, if anyone, is orchestrating all of this? Maybe? (Moore said this one wouldn't be wrapped up in a bow, so we could read this as Cavil, or as the Final Five, or as a figure or force yet to be revealed in the final two hours.)
• Will "All this has happened before and it will happen again" be explained in some way? Maybe? (Again, we could interpret that as involving the cycle of human-on-Cylon violence, or there's something more at work.)
• The opera house? Still waiting on this one.
• What happened to Kara when she went through the Malestrom? Still waiting on this one.
• Identity and nature of the "head" characters? Still waiting on this one.
• Tigh and Six's baby, and whether that means Cylons can breed? Mostly resolved in "Deadlock."
• The fate of Boomer and whether there are other 1's, 4's and 5's floating out there? Check.
• Roslin's health? Pretty much check, as I don't see her walking away from the finale, one way or another.
Can Moore answer the remaining questions, provide satisfying endpoints to the remaining characters, and deliver a good mix of action and drama over the final episode? I've got faith.
Some other thoughts:
• Anders' locker room interview about being less interested in winning and losing than in the perfection and geometry of Pyramid is the sort of thing that would have gotten him ripped up and down the Caprica sports blogosphere, their equivalent of "SportsCenter," etc. And while it didn't thematically tie in with the other flashbacks (at least not yet), it did show that maybe Sam has been heading towards this hybrid status all along, that maybe he always wanted to be as much machine as man. That, and he likes to sit in hot tubs, regardless of his mental state.
• As the series comes to a close, we get our first real interaction between Adama and Hot Dog -- and, therefore, a nice moment between papa Olmos and his son Bodie.
• Speaking of Hot Dog, while I admire his gallantry and willingness to follow the Old Man into Hell, is Nicky going to lose three different parents before his third birthday? And if Baltar's staying behind, does Lee really want to risk having a less careful eye in charge of the reconstituted Quorum if he dies on this mission?
• Adama freeing the mutineers to go on the mission got glossed over a bit, but it felt like a nice touch to have Racetrack and Skulls go on one last scouting mission together.
• The presence of Baltar's father also provided a nice callback to the scene in "Dirty Hands" where Baltar tells Tyrol about escaping the farm where he grew up and changing his accent into something more cultured.
• Despite the ominous sound of Simon prepping his instruments during our brief visit to The Colony, I can't imagine that even this show would let the big rescue mission arrive after Hera had been dissected. On this one, I have to side with Helo over Athena.
• I also found it interesting that Helo didn't seem that mad at Tyrol for his role in Hera's kidnapping. (There were apparently some deleted scenes from "Islanded in a Sea of Stars" that showed how Tyrol wound up in the brig.) Helo's barely holding it together, and the only way he can rationalize what's happened is to compare Tyrol's relationship with an Eight to his own, even though Athena is everything he's always believed her to be, while Boomer's loyalties are ever-shifting.
A few pieces of housekeeping before I open it up to comments:
1. For the last time with this show, I implore you to remember the spoiler rule, which basically translates to No Spoilers. No talking about anything from the previews. No talking about anything you've read or heard elsewhere about what's going to happen in the finale. Period. Any comment that I find even vaguely questionable will be deleted, regardless of what else is in that comment.
2. I'll be seeing the final two hours of "Daybreak" on Monday night at a Sci Fi Channel screening, and there will be some kind of media Q&A afterwards with members of the cast and creative team. So I'll have my finale review all ready to go after the show ends on Friday night. And depending on how the Q&A goes, I'll post highlights or a full transcript of it around the same time.
3. On Tuesday night, I'll be going to yet another "BSG"-related event: Ron Moore, David Eick, Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell at the United Nations to discuss the series' approach to 21st century geopolitical issues with a trio of UN reps, moderated by Whoopi Goldberg (who, don't forget, is a big sci-fi nerd who played Guinan -- and worked with Moore -- on "Star Trek: The Next Generation"). Depending on how that goes, I hope to have a write-up of that sometime on Wednesday.
4. I was going to do my list of Top 10 (or, if I get wimpy, Top 15) "BSG" episodes ever for today, but got tied up with other things. I have a good idea of what I want on it, but as always with lists, I'm willing to at least listen to suggestions -- particularly ones that don't involve mid-season cliffhangers, season finales or season premieres, which is where many of the really obvious choices lie. It's not hard to point to, say, "Lay Down Your Burdens, Part 2," but if somebody wants to make an argument for something like "Flight of the Phoenix," I'm all ears.
Keeping all that in mind, what did everybody else think?